It was a dark and stormy night, near freezing to boot. The perfect time to start riding a new bike, on brand new tires on the interstate. According to the developing trend in my motorcycle travels, every journey, like every story must start that way. I'm now three for three, riding from Saskatchewan to BC? Leave in torrential rain, harder than I've ever seen, late in the afternoon, then ride long days staying ahead of a storm.
First leg of this trip It wasn't raining at first, although late at night and dark, but it made up for it quickly by opening up once I couldn't do anything about it.
Second leg of the trip I started early for once, but made up for it by riding through the night in freezing cold again to stay ahead of a storm.
And now, after almost a solid month in Sacramento California, we're back on the road, and the weather is the same. I wish I'd bought a lighter helmet though, my neck is getting really sore, but the lighter one was 90$ more, mine was on sale for 100$, now I think I know why.
Always get nice weather after a couple days stopped when I won't need to ride for a while.
Not much to say about the interstate, it was fast with enough lanes for even the worst driver to have space, which of course meant they all felt the need to get as close as humanly possibly to us. With so many lanes I don't see any good reason for passing on the right, but pickup truck drivers(4) and General Motors SUV drivers (2) took it to a fine art. The fine art of passing a motorcycle at night in freezing rain is a complicated matter of timing you see. It's important to only pass on the right, next you have to crowd up to the line as close as humanly possibly or even over it a bit if you can. The ideal passing speed is as fast as possible, that way you can cut back to the left without needing to use a signal, as your bunper a few feet in front of the bike is all the signal a rider needs. Bonus points for timing it so that the bike will be passing a slow car, the smaller the space to squeeze through, the more points you get, since you'll be doing a good deed, giving the bike and rider a good shower and cleaning for the next mile. The two wide open left lanes don't offer nearly as much artistic opportunity, or chances to be charitable.
For anyone arriving in San Francisco via I-80 there's a 5$ toll to get in. Cash only no cards, and no way to turn around. They'll send you a 25$ bill in the mail if you like instead though, I'm hoping I get one, if I do I'll frame it. After reading other people's experiences crossing the bridge in the day, I'm glad I did it at night, light traffic, with the bridge and city lit up made for a beautiful view, the city is much more magical, felt like being an airplane gliding in to land. The smooth precise throttle control and steering Aurora has after Larry Cargill got finished with her surgery completed that feeling.
Leaving Sacramento at 8pm in the rain I rode to San Francisco, crossing the Golden Gate bridge at night I was actually able to poke along slowly without being packed in miles of cars, the ride felt like descending to land as a bird in a beautiful city of lights. I discovered a new ability of my front tire, the knobs follow the grooves in the pavement like a needle on a record, a very disconcerting experience at first.
As requested by a reader(which means the following is entirely their fault, and I hope they feel guilty for it.)
I'm having adventures already.
Aurora got a break for this one however.
I found a hostel on the internet, and remarkbly for those who know me, actually navigated my way there in only one try from memory of seeing google maps in Sacramento. No parking out front so I rode around and tried some hills that are so steep you're not allowed to drive up them(so of course I went up and down and almost tipped over). That was plenty of fun, but wasn't helping sort the parking. I found some proper motorcycle parking in front of Cafe Trieste, and went in to buy a tea. They took cash only, and I didn't have any on me, but the guy working loved bikes, owned several in the past and we talked bikes for a long time, then he gave me a free tea and sent me on my way saying "oh, the hostel you were looking to stay at is just around the corner, you can just walk over from here." I unloaded all of my gear, since I have everything but the kitchen sink, including a full sized claw hammer, it was heavy. Two saddle-bags, large rear pack, small backpack, tank bag, cooler with tarps etc in it, tripod bag, helmet and a spare rear tire. A lot to carry on foot, in a full insulated suit and armored jacket. Arriving at the hostel after 20 minutes hard work, a lot farther than just around the corner. Thankfull to have made it as my gear weighs more than I do, only to discover that they were full! They knew of a hostel just a couple blocks further, which turned into 14 blocks by the time I'd walked past it and back again. I would walk as far as I could, at first I could make it three blocks, stop and rest and lift it all and go again. By the end I was lucky to make it halfway down a block, and get moving again only with the realization that I had no other options, and a fair bit of cursing. I could feel every muscle in my back, and actually had muscles give out, something I haven't done since I quit working as a stone mason.
Finally someone in a bar saw me stumbling past, spotting the helmet and spare tire realized I wasn't just a nutter cursing at thin air and carting about a bizarre array of bags and a tire.
He came out, grabbed my bags, and took them inside, looked up the hostel on a computer, which was back the way I had just walked and told me I could leave my stuff there until I'd sorted out the hostel. Turned out he was a fellow rider, with a KLR250 for getting around San Francisco. I wouldn't normally trust my stuff to anyone, but at that point I wouldn't have cared if they sold it so long as I didn't have to carry it one step farther.
Dave, the manager of Pacific Trade Winds, the hostel I'd missed turned about to be another rider. He came down and helped me carry my bags back, poor guy had a speed triple stolen here. That story led to a sleepless night of worrying about Aurora for me. Definitely a great place to stay. The girl working the desk even stayed past the end of her shift to get me sorted out with a bed etc. As a bonus, on the weekend there is free parking out front of the hostel all weekend until 2am sunday night when the lane reverts back to bus only. If you are passing through on a bike, I don't think you can find a better place to stay. The beds have enormous lockers underneath that could even fit hard bags, or in my case 5 bags a helmet and a tire. The hostel is brilliantly run, and the cleanest nicest I've ever stayed in. Dave even knew all the local hidden spots to park a bike for free indefintely. Meals were all shared, and the age of the other guests ranged from 18 to 60, everyone talking and eating made for a great stay. Dave took us out for a night on the town, he knew of a Castro bar with an 80's night every monday, with 80 cent beer and 2 dollar drinks. For those of you who aren't from the USA, the Castro is the gay area of San Francisco. That was a different experience, I sadly managed to offend a friendly couple. A guy and his partner; either the most perfectly transgendered guy I've ever seen, or who was actually a girl invited me over. I didn't really expect someone to be quite so forward, or ask for what they wanted quite so bluntly, I do wish that someone had a chance to take a picture of my expression however. I was pretty embarrassed. In my defense, if I'd asked a girl something like what I was asked I bet I'd have been slapped, or had a drink chucked at me. I felt a bit bad, different rules for different places, but still, I wouldn't have minded at least being asked my name first.
The bar mixed the stiffest drinks I've ever come across, a large glass full of vodka with a small splash of whatever juice you were hoping for. Two drinks was enough for me, so I retired to a couch with all our coats for the rest of the evening. Proving that age is no barrier, the older gentlemen from the hostel, a filmmaker from Iran and a British traveler came along. They broke out some incredibly dance moves, if I can move like that when I'm their age, I'll feel younger than I do now.