After what may have been the most expensive fuel I have ever partaken in the continental United States, the climb became even more pronounced and the road narrowed through the rock and a sensation of claustrophobia couldn’t help but be felt where attention to the detail of the road was all that could be done, be it the straightaways or the hairpins.
Hit my auditory senses without warning bouncing off the canyon walls, ‘SHHOOOOOOOOOSHHHHHHHH’, ‘Keep pushing in the turn Houston.’ I yelled at myself with thoughts of Bike’s rear-end or motor spontaneously exploding, “WHAT THE FUCK?”. The sound wasn’t fleeting as it hung in there and I continued pushing on the inside bar, trying not to be distracted, ‘CRACK!’ and then it carried off in the distance and it dawned on me, fighter jet. He had to be right on top of me to feel the power as I did and the adrenaline was still pumping, I had to get off the motorcycle.
I jumped off laughing like a bastard at Father Crowley’s Point when Dan pulled in and his reaction the same as we watched the jets showing off up and above and in and out of the folds of the Panamint Range. A subtle rumble to the south, “Here he comes again.” and we braced ourselves with shit-eating grins when he came into view so damn close overhead I could swear I could spit at him, ‘SHHOOOOOOOOOSHHHHHHHH’, ‘CRACK!’ We had our own little air show of maneuvers as they danced overhead. This is nothing out of the ordinary here in the American Southwest, ever since dropping south of Quartzsite, Arizona there’s been more military jets than birds.
Riding higher than we’ve been in a few days we meet where World’s collide, a collision of dead desert and the Eastern Sierra sentinels capped in white. Here it is standing right before me and I still doubt. Can’t make any sense of it, incomprehensible really, all new territory and enough of it can’t be absorbed for calculation. We’ve climbed in elevation which is all that can be down coming from below sea level but here the floor is desert and just to the west is a literal wall that only nature can build, the Eastern Sierras. Here in the valley of fault the weather is mild and pleasant in the 70 degree range but up ahead a white dust held high in place on the peaks more pronounced the farther north. I imagine the Donner Party looking at this blockage farther north and I get a shiver, this is a desolate country, imagine it then with a laugh at the situation and location, Dan bump-starting his ratty ass /5 BMW and off towards Olancha, California.
We’re going against the grain here, it’s the end of the holiday weekend with heavy traffic heading south on the 395 back to Los Angeles and our thoughts are on Bishop 80 miles ahead of us and it was approaching the time to think about a squat for the night. Making the town of Independence, we cruise through and see a brown camping marker for Onion Valley Road leading to the Sierra foothills. It was a county campground which meant it wasn’t free and I urge to go another couple miles closer to the mountains where the trees started. And there Dan and I found what was being looked for, Inyo National Forest. Standing on pegs looking down the sandy roads where the trees grew along the creek, one track stood out and it placed us well off the pavement from view . The wind was blowing and our tuck-in offered a block, a fire-ring was built and dried scrub collected amongst the clean smelling sage. I couldn’t get it out of my mind, it was bothering me being perplexed by the temperatures where we stood in the high 50′s with the sight of snow right just right there, not miles away but right there. I don’t think we should be able to do what we’re doing this time of year in this location, something aint right. I remembered hearing the snowpack is not where it should be and it was evident. There was snow but it looked sparse. Regardless we’re here, it’s mid to late February, we didn’t need a fire for warmth only visual satisfaction where we enjoyed our whiskey and talk.
It was the following morning when my questions of the weather were answered by a local in Independence, “This time last year it barely got above 0 degrees.” she said topping off the cups of mud.
“What about the passes west of Bishop, will they be open?” Dan asks.
“There’ll be signs saying whether not, north of town.”
And with that Bishop was where we headed.
No luck, “Jag off’s!” Dan hollers at the large sign stating that all three passes are closed which meant one thing, go back from where we came from. An 80 mile trip north so we could go west was out of the question and it was back through Independence on to Olancha. Yep, 80 miles back from where we came. Heading for fuel to make the trek back south is when my turn-signal switch decided to disintegrate and the right signal couldn’t be turned off, laughing at me in orange blinks. Taking the cover off the switches I broke the internals to the signal switch and the laughing stopped. “Ha!” I say to you ya bastard. Time to point where I going.
On back through Independence and back through Olancha we went farther south where western access could be had at the southern end of the Sierra’s. The land was back to a khaki brown and scrub, elevated desert and we find a wonderful road, California 178 towards Lake Isabella. The road twists this way and that climbing and dropping and all over again I wanted no end. From the drying up low down lake the road takes an impressive climb into the Sequoia National Forest. It’s getting late, by late I mean 4 PM, and Dan decides to stay out another night before heading back home to the Bay.
Dropping not to far from Bakersfield where the road and river raced, we found our squat for the night on the only forest road to found, a nice tuck-in up spot where trash and shooting seemed to be the regulation closed in by a pasture and pens with troughs. We made camp and enjoyed our company with the bright Moon. A handful of cattle playing follow the leader behind the one wearing the dull clanking cowbell. When the coyotes howled the bell stopped and after a minute of hesitation the rattle would begin yet again until the carrion would yip again. This game has been played since the beginning of time. Passing the plastic bottle around the fire with periods of talk or moments of silence the night couldn’t be any better as the stars flickered their torches above and we signaled from below.
Here we are in California. That’s all right. Hanging with a bud I met in Arkansas two years back at a GS Giants shindig. Again, another meet-up out on the road with someone I met on the road. Just like the collision landscapes on the goofy ol’ World, I am now finding myself colliding into Friends. This happened a week or so back, what’s the chances? Dan my brother, sharing nights by the fire, larfs on the side of the road with a bump start and the simple act of scooting around the country, cheers and carry on.