Meeting Henry (Miller)
It was colder than expected the morning we got up to meet Henry and we were tired. One of the cats had been sick the night before so Patti, in particular, was up late worrying about him. She had not wanted to fall asleep too hard in case he should prove to need immediate medical attention in the middle of the night. However, she had decided she needed to get some sleep and had taken her pills late. We needed to have rubber on the road by 5:30 and when the alarm went off at 5AM she was, well, there is no other way to say it really… still narced. The morning had also proven to be colder than we anticipated so that entailed attaching the Pannier bags to the bike and finding and packing some extra layers. Which is no small feat if you have seen our bedroom.
We were late and Patti was narced, I actually wondered for a few minutes if I was going to have to bungee her to the back seat. Our ever good natured traveling companions thought proved true to form and were pleasant and ready to go when we got to Taft. To get out of Taft one must take the ever pleasant highway 33. 33 can be wonderful or horrible depending upon ones point of view I suppose. The landscape is one big desert populated only by and endless array of oilfield equipment. Which in these time is half inoperative. Patti sort of humanized the equipment by noting that the pumps which were not working looked forlorn compared to those that were. Eventually Highway thirty-three joins with Highway forty-six, the infamous “Blood Alley.”
At the junction of highway thirty-three and highway forty-six, truly in the middle of nowhere lies Blackwell’s Junction. A dumpy little which claims to be the last stop James Dean made before fatally crashing his porche into a tree a bit further down the road
Paid cash for beef jerky and a couple of monsters at Blackwell’s and went to wolf them down in the parking lot. Lewis had searched the rather tatty looking map looking for the elusive, but fabled to exist alternate route across the mountains to Big Sur. The guy behind the counter at Blackwell’s, who looked like he had grown there, when queried about the map he seemed to not even be cognizant of its existence. “I don’t know nothing ‘cept where 46 goes,” he drawled. Pretty typical for a place that also sports what could possible the worlds cheesiest sign, a 40 foot tall James Dean Head made out of wooden tiles. By this time the drugs in Patti had started to wear off and she was feeling less narced, and hungry.
Highwy 46 in spite of its colorful name is for many miles just another indescrimiante long flat slap that passes alternalely through desert terrain and artificilay watered aqriculture. Impatience is the watchword of the day here. Much breath has been spent towards the cause of widening the road, however it remains largely a two laner with lots of unsafe passing going on
So on to Paso Robles and the every popular Denny’s there
After breaking out the dueling laptops at Denny’s in Paso to search for the secret passage across the mountain through the Ventana Wilderness we believed we had found it. Highway 101 to the G18 looked like the likeliest route. At the corner of 101 and G18 lies the small town of Lockwood there’s a dumpy little store run by a dumpy little man who charged me way too much for an energy drink and wouldn’t let anybody use the bathroom. I wouldn’t recommend stopping there. We did however get somewhat cryptic directions to the next turn, the mysterious Fort Ligget.
Indeed down the road was a very official looking turn off for Fort Ligget which led to a very impressive looking checkpoint with gun-wielding soldiers. Heart sank as Patti and I pulled up to the checkpoint. In front of the guard shack was yet another very official looking sign stating all visitors onto government property must submit registration, proof of insurance and drivers license. That certainly seemed to leave me out. Lewis and Christine were parked on the other side of the checkpoint, sitting in their ‘dub looking at us quizzically. Putting on my best charm I explained the situation to the gentleman at the guard booth. He seemed skeptical, and even more so when I produced and expired insurance card, just barely expired but expired nevertheless. Incredibly he wrote out the requisite little blue pass and let us pass. Very strict speed limits posted along government road along with other ominous warnings. So, since Lewis always drives like he’s moving farm equipment, it seemed the safest course to follow him through the “forbidden zone”
Which, although, being forbidden was quite engaging... The road itself was of high-quality and there were small streams and lakes interspersed between open meadows and forest canopies. A nice place NOT to speed through actually. At the other end of the fort was another checkpoint where the blue passes were turned in and then the road takes on a completely different character. It gets much steeper and narrower as it ascends deeper into the Los Padres national forest. Steep, narrow and full of switchbacks, defiantly a first and second gear ascent working the way up was technical and difficult riding and can be wearing. Until that magical moment when one reaches the crest of the hill and the whole Big Sur Valley and Coastline comes into view.
The descent is shorter than the ascent but it is equally steep and technical. It is problematic in the sense that there are so many good pictures to take and no place to pull off the road to take them. Also a little treacherous on the descent because there have been many recent washouts which haven’t been entirely cleaned up.
Meanwhile, people’s bladders are getting very full and there is just simply no place to empty them. I found out later that Lewis in the car ahead of us had been regaling his wife Christine with tales of how Henry Miller used to like to come out to the cliffs of Big Sur and Urinate over the edge. Nice guy that Lewis.
Eventually reached the bottom of the hill and met up with the bustle of holiday traffic on Highway 1. Then headed north looking for the nearest bathroom which happened to be at Lucia Lodge. The girls got in line for the outside restroom, mercifully not too long of a line. Lewis and I surveyed the interesting collection of cars and bikes parked out front and debated whether or not to stop there for lunch or continue briefly north to Nepenthe.
Lucia won the day when we went in and found more bathrooms.
The view from the patio of Lucia lodge is unbearably beautiful
....To be continued
Meeting Henry Pt 2
After lunch at Lucia and a marathon picture taking session the beemers and dubs once again headed north for the Coast Gallery and our ultimate destination, The Henry Miller Memorial Library. The Coast Gallery was a disappointment because the one beautiful second floor café has been closed and taken over by residents. Good for them I suppose but it is a loss for the public at large. There is still some interesting Henry Miller stuff there and some incredible hand-made tuned percussion. Lacking the café though our stay was brief and we headed for the library. Upon nearing the library we noticed an unusual amount of cars in the vicinity. When we pulled up we were informed the library was closed for a wedding. Wow what a bummer. Not only that but the lack of parking was so severe that I had to park the beemer in some very questionable dirt and gravel. A decision I was to much regret later.
The irrepressible Lewis however made his way past the double parked cars, through the wedding party and back to the library. Quite a sight it was too to watch him wend his way through the tuxedo clad crowd wearing his colorful Mexican poncho and Birkenstocks. Turns out the library proper was open and we followed Lewis’s progress through the penguin crowd. The actual library, it would be more accurate to call it a bookstore, was much smaller than I anticipated. Just a shack really where Henry never actually lived. It belonged to one of his friends. Was an interesting time watching the wedding party out on the patio get drunker and drunker and perusing the collection of books which one would not be likely to find any place else. Henry Miller is a kindred spirit and inspiration to a wide variety of disparate individuals. For examples rockers Henry Rollins and Patti Smith have embraced his work and his esthetic and, in fact, three of Rollins books of poetry are for sale there. Violent, disturbing work that, but I’m glad it has an outlet.
After leaving the gallery, a minor disaster. I told Patti to meet me on the other side of the road after I had extracted the beemer from her precarious parking position. Turns out her parking position was more precarious than I thought. Even thought I had put her on the center stand, as I mounted her one side collapsed into the mud and bike and rider went down hard. Not much damage to the bike besides the already tortured right hand mirror. Or so I thought.
All the way home though there was a funny noise I couldn’t quite identify. I kept thinking it was low tire pressure, but that turned out not to be the case. I didn’t find out until the next day that apparently the final drive seal had been knocked loose and that the bearing was slowly chewing itself to bits.
Which brings us to the present moment as I await parts to repair it for the next ride.
Our veteran travellers share their tips (and great stories) for staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure.
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