After 4 days stranded in Porterville, California my package from Dave containing a charging system arrives at the motel. I install the diode board and the motor turned over charging the new battery. Just what I needed. With mobile freedom at my grasp it’s time to blow this joint and was done so with torrential rain in the forecast. No matter what it was time to leave. No looking back Porterville is left behind and the California country two-lanes take me and the machine in and out of the fruit fields as crazy wall of thick cloud marauding in from the west foretells my future.
Making just a couple of miles of travel on California 99, water drops from the thick grey sky in heavy sheets flying sideways from the wind and flooding streets of Goshen instantly. The weather was angry and mean with horizon obscured and the drainage having problems keeping up with the sudden flow. Instant refuge was found in a derelict truck-wash and I pull the motorcycle into the first bay. It was shelter but even the dry spots got wet as the wind pushed the rain haphazardly wherever. I paced about in my stall and drank a beer as the weather entertained the idea that this may be my address tonight if it keeps this up. Push the bike out of sight and no one is the wiser. It’s scroungy grounds but if the situation is right I wouldn’t overlook the possibilities. There’s nothing good lying about, oil containers, uncovered water tanks and blown in trash caught in the bush and three dead box trailers. Though upon one of the trailers a squatter tag was found scribbled on a sagging side. See, someone found themselves in just that right situation and slept here for the night. If it comes to sleeping it will be on the stepped platform in the stall. Damn the wind still finds a reach around my wall with a wet kiss and all I can do is tuck in and make the most out of it. An hour goes by and I step out in the steady drizzle to stretch the legs and a change of scenery. A $5 Footlong is purchased as carryout and I go back to my stall where lunch is accompanied by another can of beer as the rain continues to drop. This goes on for another hour and a half just waiting out the weather and walking in circles as the elementary school across the street rings dismissal. At least they get to leave but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else besides drinking beer under this here down and out truck-wash.
But then there’s a change in the atmosphere, a heaviness is lifted as the clouds disperse and no more water is added to the rivulets running down the crested road into the gutter. I give it a good 30 minute wait-out and with not another drop I scoot north on the California state highway. 50 miles were under the tires from Goshen and pushing 4:30 PM there was no plan in pushing it any farther and with the eyes were peeled scoping the east side of the 99 for a place to tuck in. It’s farming area and the fields stretched wide here in the valley where the highway traces along the railroad towards the town of Madera lying just up ahead. Approaching the edge of the municipality a leaning barn somewhat concealed in an olive grove with a for sale sign catches my eye. Worthy of a check, the entrance into town immediately leads through a maze of speculating housing developments and cul de sac dead-ends that attempt to persuade me away from the frontage road leading to the potential squat spot. Approaching rush-hour the traffic is building on the 99 and this two lane appeared to be a locally known by-pass, I pause a moment in a pullout across from my destination and let the handful of vehicles pass and the I dart up the dirt driveway once it was clear.
Covered by the grove the motor is killed hiding behind the grange and I listen; A dog barks to the south and the wind through the naked trees rattle along with a piece of tin hanging off the side of the barn and the hum of the wheels running north and south. Dismounting the bike the helmet is removed and a good look is given to the surroundings while creeping the grounds quietly and slowly. There’s trash about and a blown out trailer house sits in the turn-about out front. Hopping up into the mobile home where a wall should have been the floor is covered in chunks of particle board and glass, looking into the bathroom the tub is even worse shape and there will be no sleeping here tonight. The rain begins to spit and the sky is grey again, a quick look around the dirt for nails and screws I push the motorcycle in under the best patch of roof held up by sparse remnants of support timber.
The structure has seen better days and led to wonder how long the ‘For Sale’ sign has been posted. The rain is hitting on the tin roof and floor remains dry while observing the remnants of this place. Empty dusty boxes for carburetor rebuild kits along with oil and fuel filters for trucks and tractors. Signs in both spanish and english state the minimum wage at the soon to be hourly wage of $5.15 dated 1997 and cards with the colorful names of Rosales, Perez and Cavillo hand-written in ink to keep track of time and olive bucket count. The pickers must have lived in the trailer is my guess. Has it been vacant here for 17 years? It looks like the place was forgotten and left to rot into obscurity. People once worked here and with the hum of work and the spanish language there once was an idea of profit, pride and labor with the dirt. I wonder where Rosales, Perez and Cavillo are now and if they are well? They ate lunch here in the shade evident from the fast food trash and their children must have been out here too with stuffed animals and other items scattered about that keep kids entertained. Places like this do it for me, places that time has forgotten and left for me to dig around in.
Sun goes down and the rain lets up and the travelers upon the two roads turn on the headlights. No one has any idea I’m here tucked-in here on the outskirts. Maybe they do and just don’t care. The evening is spent with what remains of the beer and a sandwich, a touch of tunes to accompany the breeze which before long caution is tossed to the wind and I’m barking along with the sounds. Grinning with blear and no more drink or food and a dead jukebox the blanket is thrown on top of the dirt and with boots on I fall down and roll over on my back drifting at the now revealed stars through the vacancies of the barn. I’ll slip out of here early, before sunrise, and it will be as if no one was ever here.