Okay. So, the two small burns on my fingers are not unrelated to the bigger story I'm about to tell; but the burns are now minor annoyances from adjusting a bag that consistently slides too near the motorcycle's exhaust, and fries my fingers in the process. Yet myburned fingers are important to this story because the tale is about burns of one kind or another—both literally and figuratively, such as burns from a desert blasting unbearable heat, a burning desire, a burning passion, and, burning mad. And, before anyone responds that what I did was crazy, let me say first and say it loud, I have no regrets. Actually, I'm glad I had がまん (gaman), which, as a student of the Japanese language, means to me, to persevere and endure, to have patience, to hang in during a tough situation—at least that's my interpretation. During my ordeal I also thought of another of my favorite Japanese phrases: 仕方が無い (shikata ga nai), which means nothing can be done about it, that something is beyond one's control. Many interpretations exist about the positive and negative implications of both terms, I will avoid that discussion. I'll add one more saying that is of English origin: "Be careful what you wish/pray for, you just might get it," which to me is deeply cautionary advice designed, in my view, to insert pause and perhaps to even discourage one from venturing out. It seems to suggest that while wishes may come true, they might not show up in the way one expected—or wanted--so be forewarned. My philosophical problem with this phrase is beyond the scope of this report; however, I contend that one obvious issue with it is that it ingrains, intentionally or not, a hesitancy and warning that what you go after, might not turn out the way you want, so think twice about your quest. To that I say, "nothing ventured, nothing gained."
After arranging the DrySpec bags and feeling confident that they were well-positioned on the bike, I left Holbrook, AZ sometime around 8am. Ordinarily, I thoroughly check the GPS route against a paper map and figure out the best path of travel. However, my enthusiasm to get on the road made me skip the check that morning, which would burn me later. The weather started somewhere in the low 80s. I road quite comfortably for approximately 50ish miles and stopped just to do a quick bag check and down a drink of H2O. Good thing I did. The problem bag was at it again! It was not just near the exhaust, it had slipped and was riding on the exhaust. Fifty miles previous, it was hoisted far above the exhaust to avoid that very situation. My less than two week old bags now sport a nice burn spot. Two burned fingers, one burned bag. It's getting hot in here!
I repositioned the bags. I must say that this bag problem is perhaps 50% user error. I have now learned how to position the bags so that they are never near the exhaust and the gas tank is now unobstructed. Now they slide forward rather than downward. I will maintain forever that the bags set up shouldn't be as challenging as I've found them to be daily—regardless of whether new or old strap positions are used. I'd love to see Twisted Throttle do a YouTube set up of my combo of their bags on the BMW F800GT—and ride it for some miles. Something about the rear sides of this bike and the bar around the sides, with the protruding prong on each side, make positioning and keeping the bags in place, and away from the GT's exhaust, difficult at best! I've become rather obsessed with these bags.
Back to riding...
The farther west I rode, the higher the temps. I had planned to get to Encinitas, CA, an approximate 550 miles ride from Holbrook before dark—I had plenty of time. Of course, I was assuming an uneventful ride. I donned a white mesh jacket, summer gloves, helmet, sun glasses, and summer(ish) riding pants. Physically, I was comfortable. In hindsight, I now know that traveling via I-10 West was not the wisest decision. At all. It's the desert! First, there were few places to stop for a break once I was deep in the desert. Second, the temps increased rather dramatically but I remained focused and seemingly fine. At the onset, I was not uncomfortable. Yet. I sang in my helmet, conjugated some Japanese verbs and kept myself entertained. I even stopped the bike on the tiny strip of ground along the side of the road to take a few pictures. I drank water or Gatorade—sometimes both when I stopped. By the way, water and Gatorade taste awful when they--and the drinker are hot.
In an hour it was sweltering. By the time the temps reached 110 degrees I felt it but not in the most debilitating way. Yet. I continued on. I saw zero motorcycles on the road. I saw few cars, After several hours, I realized there was no turning back. Literally, there was 仕方が無い (shikata ga nai), nothing I could do about it (at that point). I distinctly and deliberately thought がまんする (gaman). Just hang in there, I told myself. This can't go on forever. I thought too of slaves who worked in blazing fields without respite. Did the heat of working in cotton fields feel like the burning furnace this ride was turning out to be? I continued pushing through the windy blasts of smoldering air. The way through seemed endless. Eventually, my legs felt heavy. I felt corseted in plastic wrap. Increasingly, my helmet felt like a vise. It was impossible to breath in fresh air because there was no fresh air, just bursts of broiling ether that felt like I could spontaneously ignite at any moment. Still, I persevered. By the time I had traveled over 300 miles, the temps had fluctuated from 100 to 114 degrees!
It took me more than five hours and more than 380 miles to travel from Holbrook, AZ to Desert Center, CA., where according to the GPS McGoo's gas station was ahead on the right. Just 14 more miles. I needed to get off bike, which I had been on without a stop for a long time. I did finally see McGoo's sign. I felt exhausted, hot and arid. I slowed to turn into the large, sand and graveled parking lot. After traveling on a flat, smooth surface for hundreds of miles, the abrupt change in terrain was jarring to my sensibilities and I struggled to steer the bike forward. I cautiously pulled into the lot, slowed the bike and brought it to a dead stop. I put my left foot down, then the right. I sat for a few moments. I searched for the kickstand but couldn't find it. My left foot felt disconnected from my body. At that point, the bike and I did a slow motion clockwise descent into gravel. I could not keep the bike upright.
On the ground, I reached for the kill switch. I slipped my leg clear from under the bike and stood up. At least, I thought I was standing up. I felt woozy and discombobulated. Either I was swaying or the world was spinning. I could not apply the skills I've used before to lift my bike. I couldn't even walk straight, let alone bend my knees. My fuzzy head couldn't remember how to lift the bike. I stared at my bike as if looks could will it upright. The parking had about three cars in it. But not one single gas pump.
I stumbled--literally--to the McGoo's store. I reached for the door but it kept shifting farther from me. I finally caught the moving door handle and made my way into the store. I was met with a blast of freezing air that slapped my face and stunned my senses. It felt heavenly.
I asked a man at the check out counter if he would help me lift my bike. He and another man in line immediately followed me outside. One of them asked if I was okay. I said I was but my mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton. They lifted my bike with ease. I put the kick stand down. I think I thanked them. Because of the deep gravel and the fact that the bike was simply laid down rather than dropped, there was no damage to the bike at all. I wobbled back to the store and bought a bottle of water and Gatorade. I could barely get the funds together to pay the cashier. She asked me if I was okay. I slurred something about being hot. I saw a small wooden stool in the corner of the store and asked if I could sit inside until I consumed the beverages. She thought it was a good idea. I sat down and felt instantly worse. I felt ready to upchuck . I downed the Gatorade in seconds--it seemed; the water, even faster. The cashier, who didn't seem overly busy, kept chatting with me. After 20 minutes my legs still felt like they were borrowed from someone else. I continued to drink water. The cashier recommended that someone there could take me to a nearby fire station to check my vitals. I agreed to go if I didn't feel better in a few more minutes.
After another 15 minutes my head throbbing started to quiet. The cashier said, "You're sweating! That's a good sign." The store owner told her to give me a bottle of Pedialyte, "on the house." She ordered me to drink it all. I did. Thirty-minutes later ,I felt 100% better. Not yet normal, but 100% better. I continued to sit there, not sure my legs would work. Soon a woman, who had run out of gas entered the store. She had walked from her car to the McGoo store. "I know what the GPS says, but we're not a gas station." She said she would call Triple A, but the owner responded, "Sometimes they come, sometimes they don't." I remained at the store for a long time. I did not get back on the bike until I felt normal. I thanked the owner and cashier who kept me company in between business and entertained me with stories of people with similar and far worse fates in Desert Center, CA.
Feeling “normal” I left. The owner told me where I could stop if I needed to. “In about an hour or so, you'll be getting away from the desert. He recommended I check myself at Indio, CA. Indio was less than 50 miles west, Encinitas was still over 200 miles away. Perhaps it was residual delirium, but I felt I could make it to Encinitas long before dark. Mathematically, I could. Gaman suru! I breezed through Indio feeling confident, strong and less hot. The hot crosswinds were annoying but bearable. I don't recall exactly when things began to get ugly again it just seemed to come out of nowhere. I first noticed the winds. The day had been hot and windy, but these new winds were different, angry even. So strong that I had to wrestle the bike to keep it in my lane. Counter-steering...was key to making it through.
Somewhere along I-10 and west of Indio, I saw a sign warning of sand storms, zero to low visibility, gusty winds—situations that this city woman is unfamiliar. Fortunately, the temps were as much as 20 degrees lower than the desert! But the winds had picked up considerably. My bike swayed across our lane and sometimes edged into the adjacent lane. The wind was in control. I felt trapped in a brutal wind tunnel! The confidence I had regained from the desert experience was beginning to lag and the exhaustion returned with a vengeance. Then I saw something I'd never seen before—except in the early stages of a Chicago snow storm. The ground began to dance.
Swirling sand, churning and twirling boogied above the ground. The sand was pushed about by a weighty wind that whipped about in unpredictable directions. All of my synapses were on heightened alert. The bike felt light and ready to take flight any minute. My arms, especially my not yet fully healed rotators cuff was taking a lickin'. Then, visibility took a pratfall. The vigorous ground swirling was now way above the ground, circling the air space. Although the warning sign lights were not flashing, the winds were fierce, the sand was surging and the fact that I had just survived the burning hell fires of the desert all made me pull off at a North Palm Springs, CA exit. I had traveled about 85 miles since Desert Center, CA. A gas station was right off I-10. When I stopped the bike, I was solid on my feet—a good sign. After filling up, I called my friend and left a message that I was stopping for the day. I didn't make sense to push it for another estimated 125 miles. When she retrieved my message she said the wind in the back ground was so strong that she could not hear me. She left a message to be safe and to check in to confirm. I found a hotel right off I-10 W and checked in. Even the Bates Hotel that evening would have been a welcome relief.
Checked in, unpacked the bike, and cleaned up. I found sand inside my helmet, nose, and my eyes...this trip is blinding me! I reclined on the bed and despite it all, felt pretty dang good to be safe and done for the day. Next time, I will do as I usually do, which is to check the GPS along side a paper map. Remember also to check how the GPS is “enabled,” because it routes based on parameters I set. I had my GPS set for shortest distance, which was via I-10 West, through the desert. The two alternate routes, which would have been far better—and safer—were only 20-25 miles longer than the desert route. But the GPS is a device that needs human input for best output. Oh well...live and learn.
Now that I successfully have persevered through, it would be foolish to regret any part of this unanticipated adventure. It's all part of the journey, all part of playing the hand you've been dealt. I vow to be wiser next time. When I'm 85 (and riding a trike) this solo two-wheeled experience will make me giggle and tell small children that back in the day, I rode my motorcycle through the searing desert and pushed through blasts of blistering heat to visit close friends in southern California. Was it worth it? Heck, yeah!
After a good night's sleep and confidence restored, the ride the next morning to Encinitas, my first southern CA stop with friends, was a breeze—both figuratively and literally. But once I was clear of I-10's windy nature, the rest was smooth motoring. After a short stay in Encinitas, I'll head to La Jolla, Santa Ana, and