Monday, July 16, 2007

San Francisco

once we had ridden across all the deserts, we then had to ride through the winds that keep them so dry. california has some un-freakin-believable winds. we didn't quite make it all the way over to the pacific coast highway (Highway 1) but we did ride the Historic Camino Real (Highway 101) which parallels the 1 on the eastern side of the Coast Range. it's not as twisty, or as pretty, but it's faster for it. as an added bonus and a surprise, one of our friends from bakersfield finagled a little time off from work and joined us in the morning for our ride out to the 101. we enjoyed a fantastic twisty ride with gorgeous and unique scenery, a local guide, good eats, and great company. here we are, taking pictures of each other taking pictures:

the winds made the 101 just as exciting as the pch, i promise! i've heard other people tell stories of riding down the freeway with the bike leaned over like it was in a turn just to balance out the wind. and really, deep down, i thought they were exaggerating. motorcyclists are just a skosh shy of fishermen for dramatizing things.

so there i was, riding my behemoth of a bike up the 101 freeway in california, and i had to lean her over to keep her flying straight. it was bizarre. my friend (in the pic just above) who was riding with us from phoenix to san francisco has half as much engine as i do, and with her passenger, she had twice the load. her engine was maxed out, so we slowed down a bit below the ambient speed. even then, the wind made handling the bike an electrifying experience. and i mean that literally, in the sense that every single one of my hairs was standing on end... and my senses were crackling with the sights and sounds and smells... and the hot, dry air made me feel baked and chilled at once... i was aware of every truck on both sides of the highway... and all the passenger cars jockeying to get past the trucks and each other... and the yawning golden valleys on either side of the road waiting to eat me up if i leaned too far or not far enough, misjudged the wind, or misread a car's intention. by the time we hit the traffic jam rolling into san jose, i was ready for a break.

we did just almost require a tow truck to get my girlfriend past the exit to Cupertino, CA, where her beloved mac HQ is located.

then, after about 10 minutes sitting still on the outskirts of san jose in our black safety gear... we decided that we'd had enough of a break from the wind and we began my initiation into the most simultaneously civilized and barbaric practice in motorcycling: Lane Sharing, aka: Lane Splitting. in california, while this practice is not specifically allowed by law, it's not illegal; and as a practical matter, if you want to get anywhere in the gridlocked traffic so common there, you have to do it. so basically, a 4 lane freeway becomes a 7-lane freeway, with bikes running between the cars. at very low speeds this is tolerably safe, even if it is white-knuckling to the biker. studies have shown that it actually improves cyclist safety because it cuts down on the oh-so-common rear end collision that occurs when a distracted rush-hour driver fails to see the bike because they're looking for something car-sized. ask anyone who has ridden long in california, and they'll tell you all about their personal safety rules (usually a speed above which they won't try it) and the number of mirrors they've dinked or the times they thought OMGIMGONNADIE! i had been leading up to that point, but i declined the privilege during this exercise. and, even with my behemoth of a bike, i made it. we stayed reasonably close together, went just a few miles an hour faster than traffic, and when the traffic started moving consistently, we just slid back into a gap in the regularly-scheduled lane space. i'm not sure whether i liked it or not. it was definitely a mixed experience, but that's what i said about snow-skiing before i learned how to stop. well, i knew one way to stop, but that was basically to throw myself into the snow, and the results made for a very MIXED experience of skiing. it was always exciting, but not always fun.

this was us in california, one of my favorite pictures from the trip:

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