Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

End of Another Year

And so another year comes to a close.  I'm sitting in San Diego, CA, just like I was a year ago, waiting for my flight back to Seattle.  It's funny how things tend to repeat themselves.  It's sunny and warm here today, and while the weather is nice, I am looking forward to heading home to Seattle, and curious as to what 2010 will bring.

I wrapped up a nice Christmas in Salt Lake with the family -- and once again left after hugging my grandma good bye, wondering if it was the last time I would do so.  She's 94 years old, tired, and as she says "ready to move on".  I don't think any of the rest of us are ready for that though.  I've been meaning to write something about her and how special she is to me -- one of the New Year's resolutions I suppose. In fact writing more is going to be more than a "resolution".  I have the column gig at Quick Throttle, and am exploring the book idea, having met with a retired publisher in Salt Lake who is a friend of my step-father Ron.  To truly be a writer, one needs to write every day.  I've got a file of "LJ" post ideas I've not acted on.  Good Lord willing I'll be able to follow through with it.
Flying out of Salt Lake to San Diego it was clear and nice, and although an inversion was starting to trap the gunk in the air over Salt Lake, the mountains were above it all and as always an indescribable sight.  Much like Mt. Rainier in Seattle, these peaks rise to about 11,000 feet from the valley floor, but don't look nearly as tall as the valley is at 4,500 feet.  Nonetheless, this is the hometown -- a place I can still find anything without a map and where it's doesn't feel like "home" but I always feel like I'm coming back.

In San Diego, just like last year, I picked up a rental Harley for a run over the mountains to Palm Springs to spend some time with my friends Madelon and Mildred.  Getting out of a big unfamiliar city is always a challenge, and I was a tad lethargic getting up in the morning, so I left San Diego at about 1030 heading Northeast in the warm sun, which turned a bit cooler the higher up into the mountains I got.  Who would have thought it was this cold going to Palm Springs!  I had tucked a sweater into the saddle bag of the 2010 Street Glide and put it on at a stop for some pie at the "World Famous Julian Pie Company" in Julian, CA.  With a name like that you have to stop right? 
So I had some pie (two slices of apple/peach), some coffee, and poured over my map and journal.  Life is good.  That just might be a shot for the cover of my book, assuming I ever get off my ass and write it.  A journal, a map, and some pie on a road trip.  Just give me an open road, a map to guide me, and some food along the way.  Like I said, life is good.  As is always the case, once I hit the road, felt the sun, and got out of traffic and enjoyed the open countryside the headache vanished and my mind cleared up.  The new bike had a radio and so I jammed to some songs without having to use the I-pod as I cruised the quiet back roads from San Diego over the mountains to Palm Springs.
 Dropping down out of the mountains into Palm Springs is one of the best little motorcycle roads in the world, CA-74.  I will gather that the last 10 miles into Palm Springs there isn't a single stretch of "straight" road (but then again there is nothing straight about Palm Springs so it's probably appropriate.)  It got warm again as I got lower into the Coachella valley, so by the time I rolled up to Case Del Madelon, I was a bit warm again.  It's only about 85 miles to PS from San Diego if you go the freeway, but if you take the back roads with a stop in Julian for pie, you can stretch it out to 170 or so.  All in all it took me about six hours to get there.  But it was six hours I didn't seem to notice.

I woke up the next morning to wonderful sunshine, blue skies and the smell of the desert flowers.  I thought to myself, "hey this isn't so bad -- I could do this".  M&M have been spending the winters here for as long as I've known them, and it's mornings like that where I totally come to understand why.  There is nothing like the desert when it's nice and warm and the cactus flowers and orange blossoms are out, the lawn freshly mowed, and the promise of a nice day looms.
I have been getting some rather bad headaches the last few days so I treated myself to an afternoon at the Auga Calliente spa for a steam/sauna/massage which seemed to do the trick, while M&M went out to see their new home under construction.  Real estate has crashed in California and they are getting a new custom home for a steal.  They are also trying to make me an offer I can't refuse on their existing condo.  It's oh so tempting.

The next morning I had to head back out to San Diego, rather reluctantly again.  I got the bike loaded up about 10am again and looked up at the mountains to see some dark clouds.  I didn't think much of it, figuring they would burn off, and when I checked the weather for several towns along the way there was no sign of rain.  Getting out of Palm Springs is like navigating through a list of old and mostly dead celebrities, with streets you would only find in Palm Springs.  Head East on Dinah Shore to Bob Hope, turn South and cross Ginger Rogers, Gerald Ford, Frank Sinatra until you get to SR-111, then turn South and cross Fred Waring.... and on and on.

Once I got to the foot of the mountain, I could see the clouds still up there, but decided I'd head up anyway, although I could smell the rain in the desert air.  The first twenty five miles up the hill were as fun as any on a bike.  Gliding in and out of those endless curves, climbing in elevation, all the while jamming to some good southern country/rock music.  But once I topped out in the Santa Rosa mountains, the sprinkles came, and the higher I got, the more rain, until I was soaked through as I had no rain gear.  At that point, all I could picture was the Julian Pie Company and pulling off to get warm and have some pie.  The road I loved riding up on became the enemy as I was battling nature and wet and cold. 

I pulled off at the JPC and went inside looking like a drowned rat, dripping water on the floor.  The lady behind the counter took pitty and gave me a cup of coffee without even asking and said "warm up", and they let me stand by the ovens baking the pies.  This of course made me hungry -- so two more slices of peach/apple and another coffee I was good to go -- heading back out into the rain and west on CA-74 towards Ramona.  In Ramona I was looking for a turn off onto a side road but missed it in the rain, and so decided to just keep heading west towards the (gasp) Freeway.  But I was tired and wet and ready for the barn, and was kinda glad actually to see I-8 and headed back into downtown San Diego and the Holiday Inn Express.  While I could have used a nicer hotel with a sauna/spa/hot tub, I settled for a long hot shower.

Naturally today was much nicer returning the bike to San Diego HD, and would have been the perfect day to ride back from Palm Springs, but then I would have been even more sad to turn it in and head back to the Northwest.  I hung out with my friend Chris ironchefpinoy  who helped me get the bike back and took me to lunch at a taco joint just north of the border where I was the only non-ethnic in the place.  Good tacos too!

As the final moments of the year tick down, you stop and reflect on what happened, what didn't happen, and hope that this arbitrary day in the calendar that signifies a new beginning actually does signify that.  What is it about January 1 that gives us "permission" if you will to start things new.  Why can't we do that everyday of the year?  Why do we wait until the year end/year beginning to do that?  Nonetheless, it is a new year, and the hope of a fresh start, a new way of thinking, a new life -- a better life, looms on the horizon and everything seems possible.

Lets hope so.  Happy New Year!

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