After nearly five months in Palm Springs its time to head home. The temperature is getting almost unbearable (especially since I'm carless and on the motorcycle - idling in a long light when it's 100+ is not fun). Plus things are piling up back home in Seattle. I didn't intend to spend this long in the Desert, but circumstances changed. I'm glad I did though. I got to know and love the Coachella Valley even more, and I made a lot of really good friends, got a start on the Madelon and Mildred book, and got my first gallery exhibition of my photography at a new art gallery in downtown Palm Springs. Plus my "biker tan" is well along already this year, though my legs are still way too white. I even flirted with buying a condo there and put an offer in on one but it didn't work out. So all in all it was a good almost five months. FIVE MONTHS! Its funny to say that, and even weirder to think that by the time I'm home we will be nearly in June and almost half-way through the year.
Over the weekend I shipped up a bunch of clothes and stuff I'd bought here via UPS, and got myself organized and packed. Early on Tuesday morning I loaded Angus up with the T-bag and duffel and set off from my quaint little condo I'd been staying in and headed out of town on Palm Canyon Drive and past the wind turbines that I always find fascinating. It was already in the 90s at 830am so that tells me it's time to go home. To be honest it was a bit tough. Palm Springs is starting to feel a bit like home, and I'm really going to miss my daily visits with Madelon and my time with my friends. But I'd also been looking forward to heading home like I said. It's a mixed bag of emotions for sure on both ends -- mine as well as the sad faces from the folks I'm leaving in the desert, and the sad faces back home of friends who think I've abandoned them and moved for good. Truth be told I feel at "home" in both places now. I'll miss Palm Springs after a few months in Seattle (although I'm back there in a scant three weeks for the Gallery show, but it's only for two days.) I almost don't quite know where "home" is right now.
It honestly didn't feel like I was headed home either at first, driving out of Palm Springs and up the canyon and into the Morongo Valley and into Yucca Valley. It actually didn't feel like I was homeward bound until I turned onto CA 274 and wound up out of Yucca Valley and the road pointed decidedly Northwest. Only then did it feel like I was headed home. My internal compass must have triggered I guess, but as the road angled Northwest my brain went "home". I do love riding in the vast empty spaces of the West, with their almost endless vistas and sparse traffic and even fewer signs of life other than the road itself. The solitude allows me to think and ponder, which is why I keep a notebook handy and often stop to jot down thoughts -- usually at stoplights, but sometimes just to the side of the road.
It stayed rather hot all across the desert, through Barstow and up US-395 into the Owen's Valley and along the East slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I was slowly roasting like a rack of ribs on a bbq for half of the day, and although I had put sunscreen on when I left, the spray bottle had somehow vibrated out of it's pocket on my bag and I never reapplied it until I bought some as I passed a drug store in Bishop, CA some 5 hours later. Hence I have some interesting sunburn patches and my tan arms from five months in the desert are even darker. But as I climbed up past Bishop, with the Mountains off to my left it got significantly cooler and very pleasant. It reminded me why I love long solo trips like this. Just me and Angus, curving along mountains and rivers on a lightly traveled two-lane US highway through small towns and past ranches and farms. I especially love going down roads I've never gone before, and this is one -- in fact it's about the only way out of California and headed North that I have not taken! But alas it's still in California and up here in this neck of the woods I paid over $5 a gallon for gas for the first time in my life. $5.29 in Walker, California -- high in the Sierra's.Leaving Walker I followed the Walker River down into the Carson Valley plain into Nevada, and into a town named "Gardnerville", I only wish I hadn't booked a hotel 30 miles up the road or I would have liked to have stayed in a namesake town just to see a reaction when I pulled out a credit card. I rolled into Carson City, the Nevada State Capitol around 7pm after 490 miles on the road. I haven't ridden that long in one stretch in a while, and although I'd been riding daily in Palm Springs, it was only in city traffic and usually no more than 30 miles a day at most. Sitting that long on the bike uses a whole different set of muscles and it takes some getting used to for sure. Thankfully there is a hot-tub in the hotel to soak away the ache.