Sunday, November 2, 2008

DAY FIFTEEN - or "Where the heck was Barstow?!"

Friday, 31 October 2008.

Happy Hallowe'en. I woke up this morning to the sound of nothing. It was weird. The Viking family had gotten up and gotten ready for school and work without making any noise apparently. They were letting the old dude sleep, I guess. After staying up talking late into the night, it was nice to sleep in a bit without worrying when check out time was. Mrs. Viking had made cranberry muffins before heading off to work and we stood around chatting for a bit before it was time for me to hit the road. Like the other cachers I had met so far, the Vikings were gracious hosts and even nicer in person than they seemed online.

After leaving Lompoc, I headed toward Los Angeles. The 101 spent some time running right along the coast again. It was a warm beautiful morning for riding and the views of the beaches and the ocean were much clearer than they had been farther north. There were dozens of buses full of migrant workers on the road headed for the fields. Each one pulled a trailer with a couple of porta-potties on it. I hadn't really thought about bathroom breaks in a farm field. I passed the buses pretty quickly to avoid any "sloshing." It was interesting to see these folks in fields within yards of million-dollar homes right on the beach, making a couple of bucks an hour breaking their backs. It gave me something to dwell on as I rode on down the highway.

Although it doesn't look far on a map, it took more than three hours to get from Lompoc to Rancho Cucamonga. I was going to meet a cacher named Webfoot after his teaching job was done for the day, so I arrived with more than an hour to spare. I found a coffee shop with free wi-fi and sat for a while drinking Chai and browsing. The barista was an interesting gal. I at first thought she was wearing the scarf around her neck because the boss wanted her to hide a tatoo. Turns out that she had gotten a nurse friend to sew large stitches into her neck Frankenstein's-monster-style for Hallowe'en and was hiding them to keep from freaking the customers. She must have been a Mac user ("10% of the market, 90% of the weird").

I finally met Webby at the appointed time and we went back to the coffee shop. My original intention was to just hang out and socialize for a bit then hit the road again. It turned out that he and his family had already made plans to invite me to stay for dinner, though. So I changed plans and followed him home. We stopped on the way so that I could find one of his caches in a nearby park, then we went on to his house. It was still a couple of hours until dinner time, so we had plenty of time to sit around and chat and walk to the local grocery for dinner supplies. I got to meet Webby's sons and Jack, their lovable but lunatic dog, then Webby's wife when she got home. After sitting around chatting for a bit, I got to have a second delicious home cooked meal in as many days. This time it was salmon and vegetables, followed by home-made cookies-and-cream ice cream. EXTREMELY good food once again.

It was dark by the time dinner was over and trick-or-treaters had started knocking at the door, as well as parking outside to go through the local haunted house set up by one of Webby's neighbors. All this action was making Jack completely nuts. I still wanted to at least reach I-40 at Barstow before I stopped for the night, so I decided to leave the Webfoots (Webfeet?) to try to calm their poor dog. I had greatly enjoyed the food and the company and was glad to have met this family, but it was time to hit the road. I didn't want to be out on the highway for too long on a Friday night.

An hour later my gas tank was almost empty as I rolled into the outskirts of Barstow on I-15. I stopped for gas at the first exit but then rode on again, intending to find a hotel on I-40. Turns out there wasn't one. I have no idea what happened, but I expected a decent-sized city to be somewhere near the intersection of two major highways and it just wasn't there. The usual gas stations, hotels, and fast food joints that populate every exit near any decent-sized city disappeared as soon as I merged onto I-40. So did the exits. A few miles after I first changed highways, I came to the next exit. There was one Bates Motel-looking inn tucked under the overpass and I decided to skip it. The highway sign said there was another town about 40 miles down the road, so I decided to head for it. It was still just after 8 pm so I figured I had the time. Another bad call. The "town" of Ludlow consisted of one truck stop and one seven-room motel with a sign that said to ask at the truck stop if I wanted a room. The only room left had three king-sized beds in it, but no internet or even a telephone. They wanted $70 for it. I asked the overworked register-jockey where the next hotel was. He told me I could head back to Barstow or I could drive another 90 miles to Needles. Wow. I dug out the cold weather gloves and hit the road again. It was really wild to drive through unlit desert for an hour and a half, passing very few other vehicles and even fewer exits, none of which seemed to go anywhere. I saw more stars that night than I had seen in one place in years. It was peaceful and almost meditative, but became a little lonely after more than an hour had passed. Finally, just as the isolation of it all started to creep me out a little, a slight glow on the horizon let me know that I was approaching civilization again. I had reached Needles. I took the first exit with any sign of commercial activity and pulled into the first crappy motel that had "Free Wi-Fi" on the sign. I paid the nice lady at the front desk, checked the bedspread for cockroaches, and crashed. This had been a lot longer drive than I had planned (like two hours longer) and I was freaking tired. I guess the blogging could wait another night. I had ridden 433 miles today, putting me less than 60 miles from 5000 for the trip. I even ignored the freight trains passing by just across the road and fell into a pretty good sleep.


Webfoot said...

Looking at the picture of the two of us, you look like you were ready to crash right there.

Tee said...

Jay, I feel badly now that I didn't offer to cook. I could have made dinner...although you would have missed that awesome burrito if I had.

I'm so glad you got to meet other people with whom you've built a friendship. Amazingly, the thin atmosphere of the internet can support some powerful kinships.

I remember what it was like to be just so very tired while driving across the country. There were times when a well-lit gas station looked as secure as Fort Knox, if not an inviting place to sleep in my van for a few hours. I can't imagine not having a "luxury" like that.

Still lovin' reading about your adventure and seeing the pics.