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Old 02-22-2011, 12:21 AM   #1
MotoMind OP
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Rain, rain, rain, rain... (CA: SF to SD, Feb 18th)

I rode from San Francisco to San Diego last Friday and it rained the whole way as a winter storm unloaded on the West Coast. I don't think I've ever been that wet and cold in my life, outside of bodyboarding without a wetsuit in the Pacific Ocean in winter.

My Aerostich leaked like a sieve and I was soaked from the waist down after only 150 miles. Those first 150 miles were perhaps the worst, because I could feel the cold water slowly creeping in at my groin. Later, it was everywhere. I could accept that. My gloves also leaked, and despite heated grips, every 10 minutes I had to hold the exhaust pipe on the right and engine case on the left to keep my fingers from going numb. Any faster than 70mph and the wind would rob as much heat from my body as the grips could pump into it. Every so often I'd stand up and do squats and rows on the bike to get some circulation.

I didn't stop except when the bike needed gas because I was worried I'd find an excuse to quit. I sliced each 200-mile leg into quarters, and those quarters into fifths, and willed myself on. The only respite from rain was the plain between Bakersfield and the base of the Grapevine, where rain was replaced with blue skies and driving desert winds that could take my KLR from a top speed of 105 mph down to 60mph at full throttle--and that was only if I could keep my head straight against the gusts. But the break in the rain was an opportunity to dry off and make time against approaching darkness, so I did everything I could to keep the pace up, drafting off cars and semis to slingshot ahead.

The Grapevine ahead lay shrouded in dark cloud and mist among the Tehachapi Mountains, the I-5 a rising causeway seeming to lead straight into the kingdom of great Boreas himself. The rain was colder than before. I battled going faster, in hopes of finding warmer air ahead, and slowing down, to cut the wind chill. Finally cresting Tejon Pass at 4100' I broke my rule about stopping and pulled into the gas station for warmth alone, having taken note of the dubious line of communication that I had with my fingers.

I drank hot tea, and tried to warm up while using the Arab proprietor's banter about Middle Eastern politics as an ongoing cognitive test for hypothermia. A man walked in from the rain with a shredded sidewall. The local sheriff watched from a tall chair in the corner of the room. I stood under an air vent in the false ceiling, but found I was getting no warmer. I left and didn't get gas.

As I descended, the shivers went away and I began to feel more comfortable. Perhaps my body was adapting. I thought of Apsley Cherry-Garrard and his companions (part of the fateful "British Antarctic Expedition" of 1910), who trudged 60 miles through the total darkness of Antarctic winter to Cape Crozier, where they could find unhatched Emperor penguin eggs. In temperatures between -40F and -77F they man-hauled all of their equipment, including sleeping bags they would thaw out every night with the warmth of their bodies, and which would freeze back into solid planks the next day. They survived, but suffered such cold that Apsley shattered most of his teeth due to chattering.

I still monitored my hands, but the water in my suit began to warm up and with the 'Stich cutting the wind reasonably well, it formed a stable insulating layer. The LA traffic started, and I had little patience. I took to lane splitting under 30mph despite the rain. With soft bags cinched tight and large Baja-style headlamp aimed high, it felt no more challenging or dangerous than a normal commute.

I stopped in Burbank for gas, and feeling gregarious I started a conversation with the attendant. He'd moved from Sacramento to "make it'" with what he hesitantly described as his heavy metal band. "Heavy metal?," I inquired, "Like Iron Maiden, or Black Sabbath, or death metal or black metal?" He leaped on the last, and confessed that he was trying to make "modern black metal, sort of like Windir." Windir, of course, is some of the best black metal ever made. The man behind Windir, Valfar, got stuck in a snowstorm in Norway and froze to death before he could make a crappy album. My newfound friend pulled up a demo track on his cell phone and a blistering rush of blastbeats and icy riffs filled the 76. I contemplated with arms crossed and nodded my approval. I departed into the waiting grimness.

Traffic and rain mixed into a slurry mess of taillights and spray. I exercised a Northerner's ignorance of protected carpool lanes and raced on. Before long the traffic faded and the musty scent of seaweed wafted over the highway. After 10 hours on the road, I was in San Diego.
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Old 02-22-2011, 01:14 AM   #2
the darth peach
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Old 02-22-2011, 08:16 AM   #3
MotoMind OP
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Location: Oakland, CA
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Even if I owned a waterproof camera, I would not have stopped to take pictures that day. All I could really handle was the rain, the cold, getting warm, and rolling on so I could get out of the foulness...everything else seemed irrelevant. Maybe I'll mount a cam for next time.
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Old 02-22-2011, 08:25 AM   #4
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I could feel your cold (and pain ) from your writing. Thanks for sharing your story. I wouldn't stop to take pictures too if I were you.
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Old 02-22-2011, 08:25 AM   #5
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SO then what you be saying here is that.......ya had a fucking good ADV ride & didn't have to learn the language either.

Well put about the gas stop.
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