04/14/06 1 AM
Gottago and I were on the I-10/ I-15 interchange at the same time today. But we weren’t in the same car or even headed in the same direction. I was headed west, having finished a long day of work, my last day of work in the desert. She and Ray were headed east. I realized my journey had begun as I approached my hotel room a few hours later.
I hate freeway noise-the sound of engines and tires fighting gravity amplified by bridges and overcrossings. I passed by a few motels backdown I-5 because they were right on the freeway.
But midnight came and went, punctuated with a low fuel light in the middle of nowhere. I paid $3.29 a gallon at a station I could see for miles, like a mirage bright and indistinct.
I’d said that I wanted to sleep during my journey to San Francisco, after leaving Palm Springs at 9PM, no sooner than Valencia and no later than Lost Hills. I’ve done exactly that having arrived near Buttonwillow.
I have a special passenger on this leg of the journey: a shiny red cruiser bike with whitewalls and a basket. The bike is a great gift from a friend. I’d gotten word of the gift before I arrived, so I brought down my bike rack, one of the “hang it off the back” kind.
I also arrived and departed Palm Springs with some of my backpacking food, mistakenly believing I’d have time to tackle a few small tasks. That, added to what I had left in Palm Springs from past visits, meant my car was reasonably full. I’d stacked what I could directly behind me so that I could still see out half the back window.
Out of that back half of the window, I could see half of the shiny red bike. I guess I could see some cars too. When I turned on my turn signal, the blinking warm light reflected on the whitewall of the tire. Break lights revealed an arc of red behind me. I like my new bike.
The Grapevine is a section of I-5 (a major West Coast north-south highway), north of Los Angeles, that goes up and over Tejon Pass and drops the freeway into the central valley. It’s full of trucks, steep grades, turns, and other joys of driving. It’s also full of pot holes and bumps. Flying along the freeway, I looked back and thought, “Is the bike moving back on the rack?” a couple of times, but I trusted engineering. “It won’t fall off. It just won’t,” I thought.
Then I got into a particularly, let’s say wavy, part of the freeway. With one particular jump I saw the half of the bike I could see fall away. It was silently gone.
I looked back to see the havoc I’d caused on the freeway. I quickly felt irresponsible because the bike (my new bike) was going to cause an 80 MPH night-time smashup. A look back revealed smooth traffic.
Had it landed on two wheels and coasted off? Had it ascended on the first day of Passover? Where the fuck was my bike? Why wasn’t there skidding and erratic lights?
An exit, lined with semis parked for a nap, was within maneuvering distance. I tiptoed, as much as one can tiptoe with a car, shoulders hunched, off to the side of the exit. During that transition, I looked out the driver’s side mirror. I saw a whitewall tire at a wild angle connected to unidentifiable shiny red parts. What?
I put on the flashers and got out of the car. The bike was hanging by one support, contorted into the most unlikely posture;unlikely in that I can’t believe it was still attached. Unlikely in that the bike was nearly wheel over wheel inverted. I couldn’t believe that it hadn’t been flung from the car.
The basket played a key role in the salvation of my new friend. It had become caught in the rack support, lodging the bike in its unlikely pose. I looked. The bike did not appear scratched. The car did not appear scratched.
I tied down the bike with the extra-long securing straps, turned off my flashers, and set back into the chumble of the Grapevine.
Later that night I passed hotels that were right on the freeway and almost ran out of gas. All that so I could end up here. Near Buttonwillow is reasonably crowded, but I did get a single room for under $40. My room is, however, practically cantilevered over I-5. The hotel is at an acute angle to the freeway, and I have the second floor corner room that’s closest to a bridge on the freeway. I will sleep fine, and it’s funny that I got this room, the noisiest of rooms. Arriving after midnight, one can’t be too picky.
My new bike is in the room with me under the TV where there’s a dust shadow of a desk on the wall behind it. I’m going to sleep.
Oh, Gottago and I were aware of our synchronicity because we were on the phone.