October 13, 2002 GMT

A friend lends me his bike for a fortnight in sympathy and I spent a day riding round San Francisco, up and down: phew, a view of the bay over the brow, and then zoom, I am tipped front forwards, engine roaring and brake pads earning every penny. Sizzle sizzle goes the fluid. Fun fun fun.

Still struggling to adapt to the way of driving though. It is so laconic, streets are poorly signed, indicators are rare (they are the same colour as brake lights to aid disguise): big lazy overpowered cars with buckets of torque and a thirst for gasoline nosing around.

Time for a trip. No big Harley, no Goldwing, no vast set of cylinders, no leather waistcoat, no beard, no knuckle dusters, no gun, no deerskin gloves, no wedge of dollars, no tassels on my bags, no blond, just a battered old Honda and two luggage boxes to match, always the contrary one. Go east young man. Seems about right right.

It takes me all day to make Yosemite Valley, stopping frequently for knick-knacks and sandwiches.

The park is lovely. I enjoy the ride. There is a big vertical climbing rock centred in the valley like it was made for gazing groups at sunset. Unfortunately the KKH has a million of these, even more massive and dramatic. I like it here, but am glad I haven’t paid for it. I am caught in the trap of comparison, a darned foolish place to be, but I can’t get out right now, so I’ll just have to let it pass.

There are no cheap camp spots left by six, and it’s $64 for a tent, so I ride out with the last orange rays. Drivers repeatedly pull out on me on the freeway, and, remembering what sloppy drivers Americans are, I slow down. Four thousand revs in just fine. It gets colder and colder as I move west. People in automobiles are looking at me now: “Hey hon’ that guy is wearing shorts, on a motorcycle”. But I am happy. Happy in that way that I suspect only bikers know. There’s a joy to it that has never left me, ever since the first thrill of twisting and flying. It’s hard to explain. ‘I don’t want to be here right now, I want t be there’, so, I’ll put the key in, throw over my right leg and see what’s it’s like, quietly satisfied that, in getting over there, the experience will be intense and full to the brim. I have never driven a car, but I know that it is nothing like this.

People never learn their lessons. Wore only my shorts yesterday down Highway One, figuring on scorching hot California June day. The icy breeze off the Pacific burst that baloney bubble bigtime. The hypothermia detracts from the super road-a real beauty, probably the best coastal road I have ridden. It's why the Beach Boys exist. A glorious Bay ‘round every twisting corner. Cool as.

I turn left inland on Highway 58. Up in the hills a big cat runs across my front wheel as I enter a sharp righthander-a flash of brown gold, the size of a dog, like an adolescent tiger. Wowsy wow. Never seen a lynx before. Only know ‘em as big point scrabble options. Guess I scared it out of the bush. A tip for nature lovers: use hard engine breaking if you want to see the best.

I can’t bring myself to buy a $4 map, so I have to stop and ask people in gas stations, “Is this the way to Las Vegas?” It feels comic: today I am the little guy chasing the big American dream. Just one break is all I need man, just one goddamn break. Is that too much to ask? Luck be a Lady tonight…

It’s three hours to Vegas. My friend Suzanne gives me a number to call if I get put in jail. Strange. What does she think I am like?

Posted by at 04:11 PM GMT

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