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Rattle Snakes and Double Takes 
Hells Nerds 2022 Part 04
Coachella to Running Springs
Not the best sleep. Not because of the room. That was fine. Me and Phil shared one and Gary another so the temperature and noise levels were pretty good.
My lack of sleep was down to me not listening to my body and deciding midnight was the best time to sort out my onward travel to Austin. It wasn’t healthy to step out of the moment and consider work, but it’s been a while and after this trip I was to be heading east into Texas to deliver a few days consultation. I needed to figure out the when, where and how, but all I seemed to do was google in circles. It’s not unusual to be planning one journey before another has finished, but after a couple of beers and very much in need of sleep it was only going to end one way. With me staring at the ceiling thinking about how I used I thrive on travel logistics but now just want it all sorted out for me.
Of course I eventually fell asleep but woke less than refreshed. Checking my messages I saw that while I had been sleeping my wife had found a reasonably priced room in Austin and booked it for me. It was one less thing to worry about and immediately put a spring in my step. All I need now is to have the flights confirmed.
Packing the bikes ready for the off, we joked that it wasn’t a question of if something might go wrong today. It was most certainly a question of what will go wrong.
We decided to get some miles done before grabbing breakfast and 40 mins later found ourselves in Jitters Coffee House, Banning. The place was clean, the coffee seemed popular, but the food order was forgotten and a welcome sight when it finally arrived.
Me and Phil had decided on oat milk flat whites. Gary (pictured above) went for black coffee and was the only one that looked like an actual biker.
For breakfast I went for a breakfast burrito. A simple portable food, famous in the US since the 70’s but most likely originating somewhere in Mexico. It’s often looked at as junk food. Probably as McDonalds used to sell one in the 80’s. But I’m yet to find one that’s uninteresting. On this occasion mine was filled with scrambled egg, cheese, potatoes, onions and jalapeños, all squished into in a tortilla. This set me up for the day. Made me a bit windy but there is no one to offend when farting on a bike.
Back on two wheels and ready for action we only made it a few hundred yards before hitting a rail crossing.
These freight trains are fun when racing parallel while crossing a desert. The best bit is signalling the driver to honk the horn. It never fails. But while waiting for them to pass if you’ve seen one container you have seen them all.
It wasn’t too long before before we found ourselves on some great albeit undocumented roads. I missed being able to hit record on the GoPro. We did stop to take photos at a look-out point that warned us about the local wildlife.
There were so many stunning vistas that you try hard not to get desensitised to them. It was also a challenge for the phone to capture the feeling of being there. There is an awe to be had for the landscape and a respect for its nature.
We spent a fair few minutes in this spot but it was only after we left did I realise that the place might have had some importance to me.
As we sped along the roads above my land, I was aware that somewhere round here my father lost his life in a car accident. We had not seen any steep sided roads with cliffs one side and sheer drops the other, so I don’t feel we had ridden them yet. But I remember while mulling over conversations had many years ago, that his ashes were scattered from a ‘giant boulder with a scenic view’.
Maybe there are lots of these spots with massive boulders over looking the valley. I’d like to think that this particular look-out point might have been where my late father’s ashes were scattered. Many of the people who were there are gone now. If there were others, I never knew them. Either way it’s an inspiring place to hang out. In person, or in memory.
Not long after these thoughts we pulled up and decided to swap bikes. Phil had already tried my bike and thought it too fast. Fun, brilliant, but with far more power than was needed. Gary didn’t need anymore power then his humble BMW could deliver in order to scare us, but his curiosity had him wanting a go. So we swapped bikes. As Gary familiarised himself with the Aprilia Tuono and it’s bloody loud pipe, I relaxed feeling quite at home on the BMW. A far more sensible bike.
After a wee break I headed off down the mountain to find a bend in the road I could wait at. The plan was to film the guys on my phone as they sped past. I might not be able to capture rolling footage with the GoPro but I could at least steal a few action shots of the guys with their knees down blasting round a sweeping corner.
I guessed I was only a few minutes ahead of them so rushed to get into position. With my earplugs in I decided to film everything coming round the corner so as not to miss them.
Five minutes passed. Then ten. Then twenty. Something was not right. If someone had crashed I should have heard sirens by now. Unless they had both crashed and no one had seen it.
I was about to get on the bike when I wondered if they might have been stopped by the police. We had seen a few marked and unmarked vehicles in the area but nothing for a while. If Gary had been stopped on my bike he might not be insured. He certainly would not want me rocking up on his bike and complicating any story he might have fed to the officer. So I decided to wait a bit more.
I managed 45 minutes of staring at trees before I had to go find out what was up. Jumping on the bike, I was all the way back up the mountain to where we had gone for a wee when I found them. Sitting looking dejected against a wall.
Gary and Phil had stopped for gas and when the time came to ride off, the bike wouldn’t turn over. The dash warning lights freaked out and a fail safe meant the engine wouldn’t start as the oil was too low. If they hadn’t stopped to fuel up, and continued riding through the twisties, the engine could have have blown: basically it would have seized or something equally apocalyptic in engine terms. Four very expensive Italian pistons instantly fusing with their equally expensive cylinders. If this had happened while cornering, the back wheel would have locked and you’re screwed. Unless you have your wits about you and can get the clutch in quick. Back in the day people racing old school two strokes would ride with a finger on the clutch just in case. Probably not a commonly used skill now.
Thankfully though, we didn’t have to pull Gary out of a tree. No idea if I was originally given the bike void of oil, or if the desert riding had burnt it all away.
When I found them, the drama was over other than them waiting for the litre of fresh oil to settle and the engine to cool.
I grabbed a drink and waited with them. Gary told me he hated my bike and wanted his own back. I obliged. I still liked the Aprilia though. Probably a tiny bit more than I had. For all the invisible, complicated, micro chip filled boxes stuck on motorbikes today, I quite like the ones that control my wheelies, stopping my from flying off the back, and now this one, that stops your bike becoming a molten meteor on a tight bend.
It wasn’t long that the computer told us the bike was now safe to ride and hoping this near disaster was all that was going to go wrong today, we eased our way down the mountain. I rode a little slower than normal and kept an eye on the dials.
For late lunch we found a decent place overlooking Great Bear Lake.
We were used getting large portions, but with one plate of rice and beans and another with sizzling veggie sausages each we really could have shared one meal between two. Bellies busting we hit the road for the last leg.
On one corner as I eased myself past a car that had half run itself off the road, it suddenly reversed, wheels spinning, missing me by a few inches. I caught up to tell the guys about my close call only to see Phil ’s number plate finally snap off and hit the road.
We pulled over in order to retrieve it and Phil waved wildly at the traffic, warning them not to run it over. A pickup truck driver looked at us quizzically. With a bonnet as high as your shoulder he probably couldn’t even see the road, let along the plate. And promptly ran over it.
The days are certainly not boring. Occasionally annoying. Phil was annoyed. But I couldn’t help but giggle in my helmet.
Licence plate tucked into his jacket and looking like he was out to cause trouble, we finally made it to Running Springs and Giant Oaks Lodge. Pleased we had made it in one piece and looking forward to the luxury of a cabin each.
While Phil relaxed, Gary dumped his bags and decided he needed to ride a 50 mile round trip to the local chemist. He’d left a mouth guard back at the restaurant. It stops him grinding his teeth when riding and he needed to replace it. I was not going to leave this lovely little place, so unpacked, washed myself and some clothes, then hung them up to dry.
I then took out my amateur radio. At over 6000 ft asa there was a lot to listen to and while chatting to a local ham, I learned about how important radio was on a mountain with limited and sporadic phone coverage.
A while later Gary returned. He’d made the 25 miles only to get there and find the mouthguard in his pocket. Thankfully I’d asked him to get a chapstick so it wasn’t a totally wasted journey. ;-)
He said at least it was an exciting ride. On the way back and travelling at an unknown and probably questionable speed, Gary had to swerve to miss a gazelle-like policeman who’d appeared out of nowhere and sprinted across the road. I asked Gary if the police officer took chase. He told me he was not sure the officer even saw him. I remember thinking “…man that’s fast.”
Right now, everyone is clean, smiling and getting ready to head out to a Mexican place for beer.
Looking forward to an uneventful evening.
Part one - Escape From LA / Part two - Still Escaping LA / Part three - Road Movie / Part four - Rattle Snakes and Double Takes / Part five - Between Fear and Reason / Part six - Milk and Beans / Part seven - Back to the beginning.