After passing through 48 states on my journey, I finally get around to visiting California. Home of the Beach Boys! We spends some time in Los Angeles, reconnecting with some old friends and visiting song place 87 of 92, Pasadena.
Saturday, September 7th, 2019
Oro Valley, Arizona, USA
West we go!
I was rolling by 6:15am. The worst heat of the day tends to “sleep in” a little bit, so I wanted to log as many comfortable miles as I could. My plans for the day were certainly ambitious, so getting an early start was paramount.
When this day began, I considered myself fairly well traveled. I could claim 48 states and 30 countries in my lifetime travels. However, my resume contained one glaring deficiency: California. I still had never been there. It’s not that I’ve been avoiding it, it’s just a weird statistical anomaly.
Intrepid readers of this quality publication will know that we reserve the “turned around, black and white, helmet raised” photo for special occasions.
Reaching the 49th state of our trip (and our lifetime) definitely qualifies:
It is still too early for me to claim that I have been Everywhere, but at this point I think I am at least able to say that “I Get Around.”
I was sort of expecting the scenery to get lush and green right away. But unbeknownst to me, I’d just entered a brand new desert, the Colorado Desert. Much of this area is actually below sea level.
I stopped in the town of Coachella and went to their library. It was just 12:30pm and I already had over 350 miles logged. Nice. The security guard at the library was a biker and gave me a warm welcome to California. I didn’t really need the extra warmth though, since the temperature was already over 110 degrees (44 C).
I had stopped so that I could watch the Husker game, organizing some media while doing so. They ended up losing in overtime, taking four hours out of my day and a good chunk of my sanity with it.
I really tried to enter California with a completely open mind. Being raised in a place that is more traditional, there is definitely no state that is more often lambasted for their policies and personalities. I was intent on not letting any preconceptions cloud my experiences.
That said, my first attempt to conduct commerce in the Golden State was a bit frustrating. All of the gas pumps in the state have a “vapor guard” on them. Good idea, but it doesn’t fit the design of my trunk. In order to fill up, I either had to trickle it in or find a way to jam the nozzle in and do a full Sword In The Stone yank to remove it.
Once the nozzle shuts off, there is no topping off. You would have to swipe your card again to restart it. This means that I can’t accurately gauge my consumption for each tank. Finally, none of the stations in this area accepted credit cards and there was an additional fee to use a debit card. And of course, gas was much more expensive.
With some undetermined amount of gas in my tank, I got back onto I-10. This section was one of the windiest I have ridden on my trip. The multitude of turbines indicated that this was normal conditions.
I wanted take a spin through Joshua Tree National Park, so I hopped off of the highway and headed north. I didn’t see too much there. This was probably the worst day for my knee which I had fallen on a couple of days prior, so I wasn’t up to any hiking.
The Joshua Trees were another one of the interesting plants that I have seen during this chapter. They seem to grow to a uniform height, then just branch out from there.
I went up to an overlook called Keys View to watch the sunset. It was neat to see so many instagram pictures being born.
I need to come visit again because I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. That’s understandable though, since this is one of those places where the streets have no name.
I had used up all of my daylight, but I still had quite a few miles to go. I normally avoid night time riding on the open road, but riding freeways at night doesn’t bother me too much.
The drivers weren’t quite as bad as I thought they would be and I was able to wind my way to Aliso Viejo without too much incident. So where was I going? Almost two years ago, an ADV rider in Virginia invited me to stay at his place (this post). Let me reintroduce Larry:
He was sharing a house with a guy named Doug who I believe is still a supporter of this quality publication. During that visit, I also met Larry’s girlfriend, Peggy, who lived in California at the time.
Peggy had invited me to stay at her place once my trip passed through this state. She wrote “CA is waiting” as her signature. I’ve looked at this message often, especially on some of my cold nights. I especially remember reading it after my first night in Argentina. I had camped in below freezing temperatures and California seemed so far away, like it was almost a figment of my imagination. Now I was able to see that California, indeed, had been waiting for me.
We didn’t have much time to interact as my arrival was late. I did get to meet their housemate, Nihar, whom I would enjoy getting to know over the following days.
I believe this day marked the first time I had ridden over 600 miles while also stopping to watch a four hour football game. 🙂
Note: Perhaps it is of note that the place I was staying was not “Los Angeles.” People in the area seem to only use the term “Orange County.” Because I didn’t have time to learn how many cities are in this city, I usually just said “The Greater Los Angeles Statistical Metropolitan Area” (while using finger quotes) anytime I wanted to make an observation about the area. 🙂
Sunday, September 8th
Zero miles. Lots of words. Nice place to work.
Monday September 9th
This city in northern “Greater Los Angeles Statistical Metropolitan Area” was set to be song place 87 of 92.
I started with a little ride up the Pacific Coast Highway. This was my first time seeing this ocean since I was in Peru.
I got to see Laguna Beach, Long Beach, Short Beach, Tall Beach, You Beach-a, Beach Joyful, Beachy McBeachington,…. (sorry, all of the beaches kind of run together for me.)
It was a full two hours to reach Pasadena. I stopped first at the visitor’s center and had a great conversation with the ladies there.
They implored me to not use the fallacious term “Rose Bowl Parade” in this account. Indeed, the Rose Parade predates any football activities in the area. The first edition of this New Year’s Day festival took place in 1890. It is watched by millions of people each year.
The Pasadena City Hall is a real sight to see.
On the adjacent corner their are sculptures of Jackie Robinson and his brother, Mack. Both of them grew up in Pasadena.
I knew that I wanted the Rose Bowl to be the backdrop for my official Pasadena picture, but wasn’t sure if I would have a hard time getting Annie into position there. It turned out to be pretty easy. They even put up a Honda sign just for us. How thoughtful.
Heisman pose? Gotta at least try:
I saw a few more things in Pasadena and walked around for awhile. Nothing struck me too strongly, so I decided to just move on. Pasadena is one of those song places that doesn’t really need me to tell its story. Everybody already knows about it. I prefer to focus my time and words on places that are underrated or overlooked (…or that don’t exist anymore).
I had a picture quest in Holywood which I’ve been planning to fulfill for years. It was a fairly tough one to get, especially since I wanted to get the whole “family” in the photo. Also, after laying on this particular sidewalk I should probably make sure my vaccinations are up to date. Worth it!:
Tripod/selfie stick set up:
Johnny’s star-neighbor is crocodile hunter Steve Irwin. FYI: Hank Snow, the original singer of the Americas version of my song, does not have a star on the walk. He probably deserves one.
Right when I parked, I met a guy who was selling tours from a little folding podium. He helped me find Johnny’s star and commented, “This is a special moment for you, isn’t it?” He told me that he used to tour with James Taylor and we listened to a song of his together from a little bluetooth speaker.
It was quite a process to get everything back on the bike…Sonic, windshield, sign…so we got to chat a bit more. When I was ready to leave, he asked…almost implored…that I listen to one more song with him. “Wandering.”
There was something magical about this moment. As the music played, the din of the busy street seemed to mute itself. We stood there in silence, just letting this beautiful song wash over us.
“…and it don’t look like I’ll ever stop my wandering.”
I walked around a bit more, taking in the craziness of Holywood Blvd. The shops, the costumes, the herds of tourists….I guess it’s something everyone should experience at least (at most?) once.
One of the things I was most excited about experiencing in “The Greater Los Angeles Metro Statistical Area” was Beach Boys history. This group was so groundbreaking, so influential and their music has not only stood the test of time, but seems to become more impressive with age. In the Anderson household, whenever you heard Beach Boys music on a Saturday morning, you could be sure that Mom was in a serious cleaning mode.
Brian Wilson is probably the contemporary musician whom I most idolize. The more I learn about music, the more I am blown away by his contributions to production, composition and arrangement. He’s an absolute national treasure.
Naturally, I wanted to visit the Beach Boys Museum…wait…what?…seriously? THERE IS NO BEACH BOYS MUSEUM! All that exists is a landmark at the site of the Wilsons’ childhood home in Hawthorn. The house was torn down for the 105 freeway.
This is not enough.
Even in the souveneir shops in the area, I don’t feel like the Beach Boys are getting their due. It is easier to find a t-shirt of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, even Johnny Cash.
Music aside, it is impossible to measure the impact that the Beach Boys had on the outside perception of California. How many people have journeyed west seeking the sun and fun of their songs?
Though I feel there is definitely a level of disrespect towards such immense homegrown talent, I think I should stop short of making a broad statement about Southern California culture. Still, I couldn’t help but think how celebrated The Beach Boys would be if they were from Nebraska. There’s some cultural incongruity which I can’t quite define yet…
Sorry for the soap-box lecture. I guess this bothered me more than I thought!
I took the long, dark freeway ride back to Orange County. I did stop to partake in the most iconic culinary experience one can have in California:
Tuesday, September 10th
Another “business” day. I got some writing done in the morning, interrupted by a minor earthquake. Just like when I saw the volcano erupt in Guatemala (this post), I felt like I should call the cops or my congressman or something. The locals didn’t seem to think it was any big deal. 🙂
After I burned my clutch in Arizona, Wyoming George had instructed me on how to test it out to see if it needed replaced. Apparently it is easiest to force the clutch to slip at high speeds in high gear. George said that once it slips under those circumstances, “You are about two days from walking.”
I wasn’t able to make it slip during the preceding days, so I felt OK about its condition going forward. George did tell me that I should dump my oil since there were now lots of clutch bits floating around in it. I did this in Larry’s garage.
Larry, the poor soul, is without a motorcycle currently. Lisbeth, his GS 1200 pictured earlier, is still back in Virginia. In the most comprehensive display of my incomparable benevolence, I allowed him to take Annie on a spin around the parking lot. This is the first time I’ve let someone do this with her fully loaded configuration. I had taken Lisbeth for a spin in Virginia, so it only seemed fair.
I must confess, it was quite strange seeing her roll around from a third person perspective. What sort of sadistic individual would put a trunk like that on a motorcycle?
I had a wonderful evening with Larry, Peggy and Nihar. I can’t imagine having better hosts in “The Greater Los Angeles Statistical Metropolitan Area.” 🙂
Wednesday, September 11th
Before leaving for work, Nihar added his signature to Annie’s fender. He is originally from the state of Assam in Northeast India. His was surely the first Assamese signature!
The phrase he wrote means “I am a traveler.” There is a great song by this title that he shared with me.
This song actually has a verse where the singer lists all of the places he has been, from Mark Twain’s grave to the Volga River. I hope Nihar will take on this quest someday!
Larry and Peggy made some additions to their original signatures and removed Pasadena from my list.
My two-coast hosts! Thank you so much, guys!
It’s still hard for me to know what to make of “The Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Statistical Area.” Obviously there’s something to it, judging by the millions of people who call it home. For me, I will be eager to come back to visit my friends there. Besides that, it will probably take a Beach Boys museum to pique my enthusiasm.
5 to go!
Keep it rosy, everybody
Realtime update: I’m in Reno with my cousin and his family, probably for just one more night…then Winnemucca and Crater Lake. I’m not super excited about the start of Autumn, but I think there’s still enough enough time to finish up before it gets too cold. We’re close!