Thursday, September 15, 2011

Epilogue: California Love

As of today, I ended my trip exactly one month ago. Under normal circumstances I'd probably say, "Wow, I can't believe it; it seems like only yesterday I was blasting up the PCH, with nothing in mind but a vague idea of the direction I should be going." But, of course, I've been in Law School for a month, where every 10 minutes of class time is more intellectually demanding that, let's be honest, most of that last three years of my life. So my trip seems a bit dream-like, vague, and far away.

That's a picture of Monterrey, just a bit west of the hostel I stayed in. I spent the early afternoon, after arriving in town, at the Monterrey Aquarium. I went once when a was a kid, and I enjoyed it almost as much the second time around! It was fairly crowded, so I spent more time trying not to knock over little kids than I would have liked, but the large viewing tank was as peaceful and awe-inspiring as I remembered it. The jellies were as trippy, too.

"Like, whoa, maaaaaaaan."

The trip up from Monterrey was uneventful, but it was nice going inland a bit, seeing the farm land just a few miles east of the Pacific. I was also shocked by how desolate the area just south of San Francisco is. Halfmoon Bay, outside of it gaudy golf retreats for overworked silicon valley drones, reminds me a lot of Green Harbor. The Miramar Beach Restaurant is a perfect west-coast analogue for the Fairview Inn in Brant Rock. More avacado, less lobster, but similar.

After Miramar, the city of San Francisco began creeping in; finally, 1 mergers onto 280/101, and you start seeing rows of Victorian pastel apartments, city buses, and finally the southern edge of Golden Gate Park. Luckily it was clear enough that, cresting one of the last hills before the park, I caught a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. Home at last!

A quick photo op of the bike in front of the Law School later, and I was meeting up with Alice for a gospel brunch. The trip was, effectively, over.

So what was the best part? That's an impossible question, but a few places stick out in my mind now, one month later. The quaintness and neighborly goodwill of Jarrett's place in upstate New York. The great beer of Ypsilanti. The majesty of Chicago's architecture. The time-from-another-place that is Atlanta, Illinois. The oppressive heat of St. Louis. The backwater labyrinth of country roads in Missouri. The funkiness of Kansas City, and the good company and good riding with Harry Mallin and his Brammo. The surprising grandeur of eastern Kansas, and the post-apocalyptic isolation of western Kansas.

Then the exciting appearance of the Rockies. The exhilaration of leaning the bike over as far as I dare, as fast as I dare, around treacherous mountain passes. The feeling of entering a totally new world as the mountain are beaten down and spread out into the plains and plateaus of Grand Junction and Utah.

Words can't describe the national parks of Utah, but these images will never leave me, as long as I live.

Finally, the return of Civilization in Las Vegas, and the vauge feeling that we must have taken a wrong turn somewhere if we consider Vegas an oasis in the desert.

And then: CALIFORNIA. At first its just a collection of license plates, but heading up into the San Bernadinos, the feeling of California just seeped out from the air. The smell of pot at the camp ground in Big Bear. The cloud of smog over LA. In'N'Out. Sushi and palm tree with Annie Murphy downtown. The frantic pace of the 101, and the undeniable chill of Santa Montica. The unified weirdness of San Francisco.

And I think I like it.