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My Big Red Couch

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Vegas Baby - Episode No. 3 - Rollin' the Pannier

Aaaaaaah, el Eh! I love el Eh! Isn't that what Randy Neuman said? I think I developed emphazema from my less than 24 hours in el Eh.

8:30 my alarm goes off. That's about 7 hours sleep (about an hour more than I usually get at home) so I'm rested and ready. John (the van driver) and I had agreed to meet at 9 when he got off shift. I hopped into the shower, dressed and was in the lobby with bells on (what the hell does "with bells on mean?) at 9am sharp. The morning clerk said "he told me you would be coming down and he was asked to work until 10. Can you wait?" "Sure." I had packing to do.

Back to the room with lobby coffee and a lobby donut (yeah, it's not on my diet but I'm traveling and I know in the dietary fine print there's a travel clause that says there are no negative consequences from eating what you want when you are traveling). I pack my gear and sit down with my maps and redraw my route.

In Alaska I know the roads. Not ALL of the roads but I know enough about our 9 highways not to get lost. This was el Eh. They have more miles of highway in el Eh than the entire state of Alaska has paved, dirt or probably game trails. So, I went over my planned route again and rewrote it on a sheet of paper from my yellow legal pad. I had borrowed Michelle's tank bag (thanks Michelle) and stuffed my riding notes into the map window. I don't need a map window at home but it came in pretty handy in America. So, all coffee'd and donut'd up I waited for 10am and John.

At 5 till I went back down to the lobby and John was waiting in his Chevy Blazer. Damn. This was nice. I hopped in and off we went. He told me the van driver job was his part-time gig while he was studying Criminal Justice at some school and working for TRW doing credit reports during the day. "I've got the worst credit and here I am telling other people about theirs." We shared a laugh over that and I assured him that mine wasn't all that good anymore. He told me about his kids and I about mine. He was just a regular guy and I will not forget his kindness.

The motorcycle rental place was 8 miles from the Econolodge (according to Mapquest) and his route was nearly identical to the one off the web. There was a nice big sign that said Moturis about a fenced lot full of motorhomes. But there was no entrance. Just fence.

We went partially around the block and through an alley that brought us to a gate that was not locked. There was an office trailer inside the fence and I figured that was where I needed to go. I offered John some gas money but he wouldn't take it. John, you are such a nice guy. Thank you again.

I headed for the gate and John headed home. I climbed the steps to the office trailer and the sign on the door said "Knock and wait." I knocked and waited. And knocked and waited. This wasn't working.

There was a shop building outside the gate and there was a guy over there power washing a motorhome so I figured I'd hassle him.

"Hey! Are you in charge?"

"No. You need to go inside and see Guido."

Guido? Is this el Eh or Nyork? Is my ridicule of big cities too obvious? As it turns out Guido is either German or Austrian with a thick Guvinator accent. He's helping a couple with their motorhome and he'll be with me in a moment so I wait. No coffee in their waiting room. That's bad. I like coffee. Free coffee.

Once he comes in Guido and I chit chat about bikes. Guido reminds me of Seymour Butts (if you've got Showtime or a decent porn collection then you know who I'm talkin' 'bout). He doesn't have curly hair but his build and facial features are similar. He doesn't ride anymore because of his back. He used to commute on two wheels but now he lives closer so he doesn't. He's been in el Eh for about 5 years but he hasn't ridden anywhere but in the city. He's nice and as helpful as he can be. He quizzes me about the bike and I pass. It's a GS and I've got an R bike. I ask him some questions about the panniers (I don't have bags on the Rockster) and he shows me how they open and close. He has a little trouble getting the bag to latch but it finally clicks on.

We do a fairly thorough walkaround of the bike. Guido notes that the panniers are scuffed up and there is a decent sized ding in the exhaust guard. The bike has about 15K miles and I am only the second renter since new tires were put on. They've still got the little nubs sticking out on the side and when I question Guido he says "the last guy must not have turned much." I'll say. Goal #1, break in those tires and wear off those nubs.

The paperwork is done, I'm geared up, I've got the bike and I'm off.

Now, John didn't take the exact route to the hotel that I had gotten from Mapquest and I had spent some quality time with my maps (which I left at back at the Econolodge) and I had a good idea of how to get back to the hotel without exact directions and I had nothing but time on my hands so I took off back towards the hotel. I went out onto Compton Blvd heading West then turned North onto Vermont Avenue. I knew Vermont and Century Blvd intersected so I headed North getting a feel for the bike.

Overall I was pleased with the feel of the GS. It was a more standard seating position than my Rockster and I should have asked Guido to roll the bars back a little (my finger tips are still numb from a touch of carpel tunnel). The seat, while comfotable, was narrow and totally reminded me of my Kawasaki KLR 650.

Comfortable with the bike after a few blocks I started to take in my surroundings. Vermont Avenue from Compton Blvd to the north is a mix of residential, mostly California bungalows, with businesses at the intersections, fast food and gas. It was Saturday and there was an abundance of yard sales (no garages on the bungalows). Had I the money, the inclination and more time (yeah, I had plenty of time but I wanted to ride) I would have stopped and browsed. Ain't nothin' like a crack pipe brought back to the family from the hood to say "I love you." Again, I digress to a stereotype.

I cross the railroad tracks just before Imperial Highway and the left side pannier passes me as it rolls down the street. WTF!!! Luckily I'm going less than 40 mph in light traffic. I turn around onto the sidewalk and come back close to where the panier has come to a rest. Damnit. I don't want to have to pay for that.

Traffic has passed. I run out and pick up the pannier. It doesn't look like anybody hit it but it is scuffed up pretty bad. It's a hard plastic case and it's got some serious scuffs on the top but all of the mounting hardware is still intact. I set it on the mounting brackets, pop the mounting latch up, then press it down but it won't go; it won't latch. Damnit. I don't need this. There's a little hook that comes out when you press down on the latch and it reaches up and grabs the bottom of the mounting rail but it doesn't come out far enough. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

I whip out my knife (which I had handily packing in my checked luggage) and used it to pry the hook into place. After a minute or two (and the offer of assistance from a couple passers by) I had it hooked back on. Fuck. Now what.

I hopped back on and kept heading North. I got to Century Blvd and, not knowing exactly where I was turned right, heading East. Century Blvd peetered out after about a half mile. There can't be more than one Century Blvd so I must be going the wrong way. I took the next left north, then another left back to the west and a final left on Vermont Avenue headed south back to Century. The damage to the bags wasn't that bad but, fuck, I wasn't comfortable with going further the way the one bag seemed to be just barely hanging on so I decided to head back to see Guido.

I got back to Moturis about 11:30. I walked into the shop and Guido asked me what was up. For the record I DID NOT CUSS. I may have wanted to but I did not.

"One of the bags came off in traffic. I think it's OK." Guido came over and took a look.

"It wasn't on there right," he said. "See this tab. They're both supposed to be mounted inside this tab before they are latched. The last renter must not have put them back on right." The last renter? You were showin' me the bags before I left. You should have noticed. I didn't say this, I thought it about 5 miles down the road, but Guido was a good guy. He said, "I've already noted that the bags were scuffed. I'll just update the information to say they are extremely scuffed." I believed him and off I went again.

I hopped back on the bike and went less than a block. My stomach was telling me it was time for personal fuel. On the corner opposite Moturis was McLunch (reference afore mentioned dietary clause). I popped in, ordered a couple $1 burgers and went back to the bike to dine. It was warm. My encounters with the locals were all pleasant. I have no complaints about el Eh (cough, cough, cough). But seriously, other than the haze, the air wasn't noticably different. It didn't taste different. Maybe I'm just used to the poor winter air quality in Anchorage.

So I'm standing next to the bike eating my burgers when a dude in an Oldsmobile rolls into the parking lot and gives me a story about his wife using his car and leaving the gas tank empty and leaving his wallet at home and needing to get across town to work and beggin for money. Is that an el Eh thing? Drive-up begging? That's too cynical. Fearing road gremlin retribution I dug into the pocket of my riding jacket and gave him about $2 in change. I have never ridden through a toll booth (with the exception of the Golden Gate Bridge) but I usually have at least a couple dollars in change in my right front jacket pocket. It wasn't money I would miss and it was good karma if it DID help. So, off he goes.

I noticed that the clock was wrong. I checked the receipt from my lunch and whipped out my knife again to adjust the clock. 11:45.

11:45!!! Fuck. Hotel check-out is noon. I'm 8 miles away and check-out is in 15 minutes. Fuuuuuuck.

Scarf and go. I'm on the move again back up Vermont Avenue to Century Blvd. I turn the right way and I'm back at the Econolodge by 12:10. The day clerk (same as this morning) tells me that they've already cleaned my room but that my key still works and my stuff is there waiting for me. Dang. Who would have figured the Inglewood, CA Econolodge would be that efficient? Certainly not me.

My stuff was all there and seemed to be in order and back in the lobby the clerk said there was no extra charge for my few minutes of late. Is my cynacism betraying me again? Maybe it isn't like that in el Eh, but they're damned hospitable in the Wood. Yo Wood!!!

The gear. I've got Michelle's tank bag, my tail bay, my helmet bag and my laptop backpack. The tank bag has all of my electronics in it (GPS, CD player, noise canceling headphones) and mounts right up. I decide to stash half my clothes in the helmet bag and stuff it into the right pannier. I don't trust the panniers so I opt to put the backpack and laptop in my tail bag behind me. It doesn't mount the same as on the KLR or the Rockster but I get it monkeyed together and pull on it for a few minutes until I'm satisfied that it's not coming off.

Casa de Juan (aka Inglewood Econoldoge). My room was on the third story (the air conditioner at the top of the picture directly above the bike). Can you say "Hood?" Posted by Hello

The "view" out onto Century Blvd. Peaceful urban setting by day, Ho'ville by night. Posted by Hello

Loaded up I'm ready to truely begin my ride.

Next stop, Episode No.4 - (What's Left of) Mullholand Drive

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