"I like the way your sparklin' earrings lay against your skin so brown
And I wanna sleep with you in the desert tonight
with a billion stars all around.
'Cause I got a peaceful easy feeling and I know you won't let me down
'Cause I'm already standin' on the ground.
"
- The Eagles, Peaceful Easy Feeling"

TODAYíS ROUTE:
Los Angeles, CA to Death Valley, NP: Beverly Boulevard to Santa Monica Boulevard West to I-405 North to I-5 North to SR-14 East past Palmdale, Lancaster, Rosamond to Mojave, continuing North on SR-14 to US-395 through Pearsonville, Little Lake, Dunmovin, Olancha, SR-190 East to Stovepipe Wells. (
MAP)

THE DETAILS:
Itís 2:30 PM and Iím just starting to leave Los Angeles. And Iíve got 300 miles to go to reach my planned stop for the evening. And the sun is going to set in less than four hours. And that means Iím screwed. Iíll need an average speed of 75 miles per hour. And that just isnít going to be possible.

Why am I so late? Well, Michele and I ended up hanging out till 4AM, shooting the shit about my trip and watching the video Iíve been shooting on the 55-inch television. I didnít get up till 11. Then we went to brunch at Jerryís Famous Deli on Beverly Boulevard, a real Hollywood kind of place, and we even saw a star. Weíll I donít know if you can call Steve Hytner who played Kenny Bania on Seinfeld a star, but Iím sure his mother thinks so. And no visit to L.A. is complete without spotting someone famous, even a visit that lasts less than a day.

L.A. is not a motorcycle friendly town, and Iím glad to get out as fast as I came in. The problem here is people are too concerned with themselves to notice anything else, let alone the motorcycles theyíre about to run over. Theyíre checking themselves out in the rear view mirror, reading movie scripts and talking on their cell phones. Actually, if you drive here and youíre NOT talking on cell phone you can get arrested.

Hey, I love L.A.. I just donít usually like to spend more than 24 hours here. Michele was quite gracious to put me up for the night. Her place is great and her dogs are very cool. But Iíve got to get moving. It will be dark when I get to Death Valley and Iím hoping there wonít be many, if any, animals on the road.

Right away, I run into a huge traffic jam on the 405 heading north into I-5. Traffic is backed up for miles. I donít do it often, but Iíve got little choice, so Iím lane splitting to get through it. This is not fun, but I think itís legal in California. And the reason for the traffic jam? Oh, there is no reason. Itís just L.A. and this is just the way it is.

Once I get past Mojave, the cars disappear and the road opens up. I was supposed to go to the Manzanar Historic Site, but thatís out of the question now. There are no Park Services or federal facilities at the site anyway, so thereís no place to get the stamp even if there is one. There might be a stamp at the Eastern California Museum in Independence, another 10 miles past the site, but itís Sunday and theyíre probably closed anyway. Either way, I canít find out now, but Iíll save about 50 miles by skipping it.

In Olancha, I turn towards Death Valley, and the sun is already behind the Sierra Nevada Mountains. As I head into the park, the remaining light is glowing all around the horizon. Pink hues, edged by a dark blue sky, circle around me in every direction. And slowly the stars start to appear. Ten minutes later itís very dark.

Ron Ayres, in his book "Against The Wind", his account of the 1995 Iron Butt Rally, writes about how much he enjoys riding at night. If youíre a long distance rider like Ron, youíre bound to do a lot of night riding. Your visibility is cut to less than half, but Ayres really prefers those times, alone on a deserted road with the stars all about. Itís a special feeling, with everything thatís past the throw of your headlight out of view and the road zipping by through a narrow beam of light. And the stars are just hanging there. Youíve moving along, but the sky stays perfectly still. Itís like youíre riding on a beam of light, and as you turn, youíre spinning around the sky on a turntable.

I stop at an overlook on the western edge of the Panamint Range. I canít see anything down in the valley I just crossed, except slowly moving dots of lights, making their way over the Argus Range. Theyíre cars driving down the road I just crossed, 15 miles away. The nearest town of any size is at least 100 miles from here, and the natural darkness reveals a nighttime sky filled with countless stars. Even with a half moon rising in the east, I can see the Milky Way. This is truly awesome. Now I know why Ron likes this so much.

Happy Birthday to my buddy Ted Saland, or Teddy Ball Game as we like to call him. Ted, I now know what itís like to live on two wheels for a couple of months, but I still have no idea whatís itís like to be you. You are an inspiration and a real hero. Keep on rolliní on.

THE DAILY TAKE:
Miles Today: 262.5
Total Miles: 18,444
Time on Motorcycle: 3 Hours 58 Minutes
Average Speed: 66 MPH
States Visited today: 1 (CA)
Total States Visited: 32
National Park Service Passport Stamps: 0
NPS Stamp Totals: 137 Stamps, 29 States
Weather: Sunny and Warm (Enough Already!)
Number of days since I last rode in the rain: 28 (September 19th, Park City to Moab)

SEEN ON THE ROAD:
"This is Godís Country so donít drive through it like Hell." - Sign at Mobil Mart Gas Station in Olancha, California, on US-395.

RANDOM PASSINGS:
Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. I got another speeding ticket.

Iím heading north on route 14, past Mojave, and Iím just cruising, trying to beat the sun. The road is straight for miles. And I donít see the cop riding behind the 18-wheeler. He is definitely going to turn around, and thereís nowhere for me to hide. Iím nailed. But the officer is really nice about it. He gives me a big break and writes the ticket for doing 80 in a 65. He said if I was actually doing 80, he wouldnít have even turned around. Iíll keep that in mind.

So how fast was I actually going? Iím taking the 5th. I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may incriminate me.

 


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