We arose this morning a mere 10 miles from the border of Mexico, but the best motorcycle routes in the area were closed due to snow. We wanted to reach Barstow, CA without doubling back along the route we’d already ridden, so we huddled at the IHOP across the parking lot for breakfast, planning and commiseration.The scene of the crime. Ed’s bike is on the right, ready for a fast getaway to avoid embarrassment and accountability.
Fortunately, Tom borrowed my Butler Maps last night and while I worked on the blog, he worked on some options. At breakfast, he laid out his plan. Our final route, below, was very close to what Tom had planned.
Ed generously offered to pay for breakfast but then stiffed the poor waitress with a 14.33% tip ($6 on a $41.87 tab) when we left. Leaving 20% would have cost Ed another $2.37 but saved him the embarrassment of me outing him here.
Speaking of outing Ed, his conversion to a BMW addict is now complete, so from here on, I shall occasionally refer to him as “Herr Gerber.” Since his shenanigans yesterday enabled him to make almost the entire ride on one of the warmer, more comfortable bikes, Tom and I decided to hang onto our mounts today. Herr Gerber rode entire 330 miles of today’s tour on his Harley.
I should be nicer to Ed in this blog, I suppose. After all, at our first stop, he said, “Ian, you’re doing a really good job leading this ride.” But that was a very serious mistake.
If you’ve ever listened to Kenny Rogers sing, “The Gambler,” you may recall the line, “You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.” That’s because you should never, ever tempt fate.
The second Herr Gerber complimented me, I felt my heart fill with dread. I wind up leading most of the rides I’m on – not because I want to, by the way – and every time another rider compliments me, I do something dumb later that day. In this case, Ed paid the price, but it happened this evening and I’ll get to it.
Our trip westward out of El Centro along I-8 was chilly but fun; the traffic was fast and relatively light and it’s a fun road for an interstate.
The plan called for us to exit the highway before we reached San Diego and head north over some passes. So, we left the interstate, had lunch and then proceeded into the mountains, only to see warnings of ice ahead – as well as several cars approaching from that direction with alarming amounts of snow on their roofs.
We looked into this development and found out that one leg of our intended route was still closed due to snow. The way we learned this was that I stopped to check road conditions, the other riders pulled up behind me and then Tom announced, “I’m going to call the Sheriff’s Department.”
This caused a brief moment of panic for Ed and me, as we thought perhaps Tom was going to turn us in for various traffic violations and we could not IMAGINE for a MOMENT when we may have, for example, ridden above the speed limit. But Tom was actually calling the authorities to get their insider information on road conditions, which is something that would never have occurred to me but worked great.
In a day in which we shot few photos, Ed contributed this picture of Tom and I looking up road conditions. As you can see, touring by motorcycle is nothing but constant fun!
Speaking of Tom, he remarked at dinner last night that he was glad Ed joined us for the ride to serve as blog fodder, thus taking the spotlight off of Tom. But the real reason I don’t make fun of Tom is that he hardly ever does anything worthy of mockery, other than his surprising and shameful gambling addiction:
The sign on the left advertises the “Golden Acorn Casino.” As usual, this caused Tom to pull over by the side of the road and shake off his jacket so he could find loose change. After losing $1.75 in less than a minute, he forlornly got back on the bike and we took off again.
Ed is a lot like me (sorry, Ed): impulsive, talks a lot, a little crazy, etc. The primary difference is that I’m writing the trip blog and there’s no reason for me to admit to my foibles when I can describe Ed’s instead. Ed did say today that he should write a retaliatory blog, so perhaps you will be able to read the other side of the story someday. You may have guessed that I occasionally embellish certain events of the day or perhaps add a little color here and there. Rarely to I make up outright lies — probably not more than four or five times per blog entry, in fact.
Back to the ride: We found an alternate route and the roads were clear and the traffic was moderate. Additionally, we were entertained by one suicidal pickup truck driver who passed all three of us on a double yellow line, then passed the truck in front of us while there was oncoming traffic and then blew through a red light.
Personally, I’m speculating that he may have been angry that – allegedly – a few miles earlier, three motorcyclists passed him (safely – or so goes the rumor) on double yellow lines because he was driving significantly under the speed limit for about 20 minutes. There are many pullouts on the route, accompanied by various signs instructing slow drivers to use them and he ignored these until the motorcyclists (if this is a true story) became very frustrated. If any of this is true, I’m on the side of the bikers.
We experienced one highlight and one lowlight as we neared Palm Desert. The highlight is CA 74, which descends the from San Jacinto mountains into the Coachella Valley:
We stopped at the scenic overlook at the top:
If you look carefully, you’ll see the road cuts back numerous times on the way in Palm Desert. It’s amazing, fun, exhilarating riding.
We could see the Salton Sea off to the south.
Just before I snapped this photo, Tom exclaimed, “Oh my God, what’s that smell? Ed – is that YOU?” (We had Mexican food for lunch). Ed claimed the odor was from the Salton Sea and pointed it out to Tom, who did not believe him.
Once again, we improve upon the spectacular scenery by standing in front of it.
Riding that crazy twisty road into Palm Desert was entertaining, but as we approached I-10, fate decided to punish Herr Gerber for complimenting my ride leadership. This situation was thus:
We were on Monterey Avenue approaching Doris Day Drive and, beyond that, I-10, when the light turned yellow. I was using Google Maps to navigate and this particular app waits until the last second to give you audio instructions regarding turns (I can’t mount my iPhone on the rental bike, so I’m relying on voice commands).
I checked my mirrors and saw that Ed was dangerously close behind me (as usual) and in the lane to my right while Tom was prudently about 50 yards back.
Here’s the scene, courtesy of Google Maps:
I could see the exits on ramps onto I-10 ahead of me but I had no idea which one I needed to take. I could also see that there was no place to pull over and that meant if I chose one exit and Tom – after waiting for the light to turn – chose the other one, we’d be riding in opposite directions.
Now, I should point out that before we left on this trip, I went to the trouble of removing the Bluetooth headset from my wife Penny’s helmet, charging it and giving it to Tom – who never installed it in his rental helmet. Thus, all communications while riding have to be done visually.
I made a lightning-fast decision and it turned out to be the wrong one: I braked hard to stop for the light. That was no problem for Tom, since he was well behind us, but Herr Gerber was on the Harley, which among its many charms, has lousy brakes and no ABS. As a result, while my German-engineered performance touring motorcycle stopped quickly and without drama, Ed locked up the brakes on his Harley and squealed to a stop somewhat past the cross walk.
Now, this wasn’t as dangerous as it sounds. He came to stop before the light turned red; he just happened to be in a less than ideal location when he did it. The drivers of the cars at the intersection politely waited (or perhaps they were shocked by the sound and fury of the Harley’s rumble and squeal) as Ed frog-walked the bike back out of their way.
I looked over at Ed and called, “Sorry about that!”
Ed looked over at me and said, “I thought about going through the intersection!”
“You probably should have done that,” I suggested helpfully.
Normally, I take full responsibility in these situations, but given the IHOP incident, I elected to assume only 14.33% of the customary amount of blame.
Tom, who had safely come to an unexciting stop (the best kind) behind us, apparently thought all of this was quite humorous because he surprised us at dinner by sharing this photo:
That skid mark is from Herr Gerber’s Harley. As you can see, he has now safely backed up so that the cross traffic can proceed.
It’s obviously cruel to laugh at the misery of others, but Tom could not stop chuckling as he told us about this “great picture” he wanted to share with us. He was curious to see how I’d use it. I hope you’re satisfied, Tom.
That was not the last adventure of the evening. We exited I-10 north to cut across the desert to Barstow on two-lane roads. The sun set and it grew cold, very dark and the roads were sometimes extremely rough – which was a bummer on the BMWs but I’m surprised Herr Gerber has any teeth left.
My last ride leadership failure of the day nearly came back to bite me as we approached Barstow. The bike I’m riding is known for its phenomenal range, mostly because it comes with a seven-gallon gas tank (huge for a motorcycle). Thus, when Tom and Ed gassed up earlier in the day, I still had half a tank, so I decided to wait. What I failed to take into account was that the last 81 miles of road into Barstow lack even a single gas station. I watched in dread as the gauge moved towards empty and then lit up with an orange warning — truly an “idiot light.”
Fortunately, we made it Barstow, where I learned I still had a (theoretical – motorcycle gas gauges aren’t very accurate) 28 miles left.
I filled up at the first gas station and we checked into the worst Best Western on our southwest ride. The rooms are not terrible, but they come with an unusual accessory:
We discovered that the Barstow Best Western is located adjacent to some very active railroad tracks. While this is no doubt convenient for hobos seeking cheap accommodations, it’s inconvenient for the rest of the guests.
However, we headed out for a good dinner at the Idle Spurs Steakhouse, which serves tasty food in a…well, eclectic environment:
I asked this patron if he was afraid the Idle Spurs would run out of prime rib. “I’m petrified,” he answered.
Barstow is the home of the Western American Railroad Museum. They must keep their non-exhibited items at local restaurants. This vintage sign hangs over the entrance to a large terrarium-like room that eliminates table space for about 40 diners. Odd business decision.
A couple sharing a romantic dinner.
We toast the end of a long, fun, adventurous and tiring day.
As I review what I’ve written tonight, I fear I may have come off a bit negative or perhaps acidic. Actually, we had a great day of riding and I’m going to miss traveling with these two goons. I’ve never ridden with either of them and you just don’t know if a new group of riders will have chemistry but the three of us certainly do.
Tomorrow, we head back to Las Vegas to return the bikes by noon. Tom and I have flights out at 4:40 and Ed is staying one more night before flying back Tuesday morning. I can’t wait to go home and see Penny, Blaine, the dogs and cat and to get back to work. But it’s been a terrific trip so far and I hope these blog entries give you a feel for what it’s been like for us.
I’ll check in one more time tomorrow – thanks for reading.