It’s been a week since Heathrow airport where I last posted. So much has happened. I feel that if I don’t summarise, I’ll have to serialise.
Let’s start at the beginning and see how we go.
On arriving at Los Angeles international airport, California welcomed me. What I mean by that is that instead of the usual trip into the basement to have my past travel history dragged up during something that feels very much like an interrogation, I was instead treated to a brief chat and fingerprinting session and told to have a nice trip.
That day for me had started at 5 am. 17 hours later I found myself sharing an Uber with a gay couple called John and Chris. They were hilarious and we chatted all the way from the airport into LA as they shared stories from their past trips to the city and told me about all the ‘fabulous’ clubs I should go visit.
But there would be no time for clubbing. After dropping them off I got to a grotty looking wee stained Sunset boulevard and met fellow Hells Nerds, Gary and Phil at the motorcycle hire place MotoForAll.
Gary is one of the elders of the tribe and and amazing rider. Possibly the best rider. He’s been riding bikes for so long I wish I was there to see his delight when the pneumatic tyre was invented. Phil is an old friend whom I’ve mentioned more than a few times in my writings. Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and of course Northampton pre-empted any of the adventures we have had on motorbikes, and he is one of those friends who would help you move a body.
They had picked up their bikes the day before and already managed a few miles around LA. Gary had booked the capable, sensible BMW R1250RS and Phil went for a zippy, agile Aprilia RS660.
My bike was there waiting for me. A replacement to the one I had booked. That one was broken so I would now be riding An Aprilia Tuono V4 1100RR Misano. It looked as dangerous as it was powerful. And at 170 odd bhp it’s the most powerful bike I’ve ever ridden. And most probably will ever ride. I’m hoping these trips will be possible on electric bikes soon. As it stands this really is a guilty pleasure.
We only had to trundle over the road to where we were staying that night. The trip was to start the following morning.
The hotel was tidy but had seen better days. It wasn’t a shit hole but it had a disreputable edge.
Amongst the tourists like us, some of the residents appeared to live there, others may well have just used it for short bursts of horizontal work.
With no bike locks, I was a little nervous about parking three fancy bikes in the open. Especially as they could easily have been rolled away in the night. But the guys told me not to worry. The bikes were insured. As were we.
The hotel was hosed down every day. Most likely to keep both the dust and pollution at bay.
We fitted phone holders on the bikes and checked them over. On closer inspection Phil’s bike had a nail in an almost flat tyre, so it was decided that we would head back to the rental place when it was open and get them to fit a new one. The tyre on it would never make the trip.
Later that night we headed out for food at a local Brazilian restaurant. Old friends raised glasses, caught up and ate their fill.
Full of beer and food we headed back to the shared room and did our best to get a decent night’s sleep.
The following morning I was still on UK time and woke early. The others were not far behind me and at 6:30am we roamed the boulevard with the challenge to find a coffee shop that wasn’t Starbucks.
Nothing interesting or independent was to open before 8:30am and so we clocked up some steps, watched the pavement residents of this partial skid row awake and returned un-caffinated. 30 seconds after getting back Gary spotted the hotel breakfast room. Filled with all the usual stuff you need in your gut to start the day and yes… even coffee.
Phil rode his bike to have them work on it and me and Gary walked to watch the tyre getting fitted. We were aching to get on the road.
With a new tyre and a slightly overly tightened chain we could finally load the bikes.
Gary’s bike was perfect for strapping baggage to and thankfully I didn’t have to worry about tying my holdall to the small seat on the back of my own bike. All I had to worry about was a bikers backpack loaded with all my tech and water bladder.
With the morning delay we were certain the traffic must have died down and we rolled out onto Sunset Boulevard to began our journey south.
How wrong we were. The traffic was crazy. A slow moving tailback as far as the eye could see. So the only thing we could do was lane split. In England I’ve never really called it anything. Just like in Asia and most of Europe we have just always done it. It’s not the same as filtering as that is when you are moving between stationary vehicles. Elsewhere it’s known as white lining, stripe riding and lane splitting. Specifically riding in between slow moving cars as you make your way down the road. This is as normal in the UK as it is in California.
But Not for Gary. He’s from Massachusetts where as with all the other US states bar California, lane splitting is illegal. Perhaps not for long though. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, Missouri and Texas are thinking of legalising lane splitting.
We followed the polluted concrete gully of molten metal as fast as we could. Weaving back and forth from lane to lane. Feathering the breaks in between spurts of acceleration. I was on high alert as I still didn’t know what my bike could do. I knew that it could deliver far more power than I needed on the open road, so here in a 15 mph traffic jam I needed to be delicate so as not to launch myself through someones rear window.
We rode for close to an hour and the end was in sight. As the traffic opened up I felt light and fast, free and cooler as we gained speed. Actually I felt too light and too cool.
It was then, while my bike still carried me forward, I froze in horror.
I wasn’t wearing my backpack. I must have left it in the skid row hotel. But we’d checked out so it must be sitting somewhere outside.
In it was my laptop with weeks of work. Two almost finished presentations I needed to deliver the following week and all the tech needed to do my job.
I pulled up alongside Phil in a frenzy trying to signal to him what had happened. I was slapping my shoulders and back as if trying put out a fire while screaming “My bag my bag!!”
Phil finally realised what I was saying and we peeled off the freeway. We would have to go back. All the way back through the traffic. All the way back into LA.
And for what?
What’s the chance my bag would still be there?
Thanks for reading. All spelling mistakes are intentional. ;-)
Part two of this saga is here…
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