Day 1 (July 10) Los Angeles

It would be embarrassing to dump the bike right in the Eaglerider parking lot.  This was a real fear of mine as we arrived to pick up our rented Harley Davidson Sportster 883s.  The biggest bike I had ever ridden up to that point was a 250cc Suzuki, and I’d only had a few hours on it.  My next biggest fear was that I would stall the bike and look like a complete newbie (which of course I was) right in front of all the Harley dudes.  When we arrived at Eaglerider, our bikes were parked out front waiting for us.  It became immediately obvious that we would have to wear backpacks (or rucksack as Tom would say) because the saddle bags were small.  There just isn’t much storage space on a Sportster.  I also decided I wanted my own Helmet, as the Helmets available were not full face helmets but rather 3/4 helmets without the chin bar.  We would have to make a stop at a bike shop before we left for the trip.  I also wanted to get used to the bike in a quiet area (as opposed to say an LA freeway).  We got kitted up (I had bought an armoured leather biker jacket in Santa Cruz earlier in the trip), started up the bikes (I love that sound), and rolled out.  I didn’t stall it but I revved the shit of it.  I made it out of the parking lot without dropping the bike.  Victory was mine.

I soon discovered that the Sportster was not the bike for me.  At 6’2” I was just too tall for the bike.  My legs were cramped after riding for less than an hour because my knees were up around my ears.  How would I make it 5 days?  After I bought a helmet and Tom finally bought a Jacket (he must have tried on about a dozen jackets at 5 different stores) we returned to Eaglerider.  I upgraded to a Heritage Softail Classic  This is the bike I had always pictured when I thought of a Harley.  She had 1450cc, floorboards, three headlights, silver coated engine shinning in the sun, and she weighed in at an impressive 3/4 of a ton.  I dubbed her Shelley II after a horse I had ridden on a previous adventure (a great story for another time).  Both Shelleys were a bit fat but beautiful and strong-willed.  Neither liked to be overtaken, both loved to be pushed.  Shelley II, like her predecessor, would turn out to be a fantastic ride. 

<IMG src="/images/14229-13631/ShelleyI.jpg”><IMG src="/images/14229-13631/ShelleyII.jpg”>
Shelley I (left) and Shelley II (right)

I managed to get Shelley II out of the parking lot without dropping her.  Our goal was to avoid freeways and get out of LA on highway 1 (“the one”) and make it to Santa Barbara.  I had already stalled the bike on a left hand turn.  I just wanted to get out of the traffic and onto a quiet country road.  Soon I got my wish, but it was more than I had bargained for.  We ran out of daylight shortly after Santa Monica, and worse the fog rolled in.  It was hard to see the one’s many treacherous sharp turns.  I had never taken a corner at highway speed, and now I was losing my virginity on a dark foggy road.  I was loath to go too slow because I did not want to get hit from behind.  At the same time, I had poor control of the bike around the corners and it felt like I was taking them too fast.  At times I would drift over the centre line or towards the side of the mountain.  The headlights from the oncoming traffic were blinding, and I had to completely guess on some corners.  I thought to myself: “What the fuck am I doing here?”  I was downright petrified.  My arms and shoulders were sore from gripping the handlebars so tightly.  I had knots in my stomach.  I wondered if I would have any fun at all on the trip.  I thought about proposing that we shorten our planned route.  My nerves would be shot if I had to go another 5 days on the edge of my seat, wondering if I was going to crash on the next turn.  My mind wasn’t helping, painting all kinds of horrible scenarios: that car is going to turn right out in front of me, the truck beside me is going to suddenly change lanes and run right into me, a deer is going to run out onto the highway…

By the time we stopped for the night in Oxnard, I was physically and mentally exhausted.  Tom had had a near miss on a curve: while looking in his rear view mirror he misjudged a corner and had to hit the brakes causing him to skid towards the mountainside.  I went to bed feeling traumatized.  I knew going in that it would be a challenge to go on a Harley adventure, but this was quickly going past the point of being fun for me.

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