Saturday 1 November:
I declare this Day 1 as this is where the adventure really starts as we set off on our great journey across the US.
The good thing about starting the adventure in LA is that you can pretty much guarantee good weather: it is always sunny in California.
It was somewhat disappointing, therefore, to wake up and find that it was raining!
This meant that there had to be a change to our planned route. First though we had the challenge of loading up the bike. I thought we had packed light, but clearly not light enough – it was a definite struggle to get everything in. I was glad that we didn’t have the miniscule panniers of the Fat Boy, and was looking on in envy at the spacious luggage allowance of Paul and Kate’s Electra Glide.
We fought our way through LA and I was glad to be able to follow blindly as Andy and Paul worked out where we were going – if it was down to me we would still be there. This was something a baptism of fire for the first proper ride on the bike, especially in the rain, but it could have been worse – no-one actually made any serious concerted effort to kill us, which is apparently the norm for LA.
We intended to head north out of LA on Route 2, attracted by prospect of twisty roads rather than busy Interstate I10. That takes you through Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains, passing to north of highest peak: Mount San Antonio at 10,064 ft (3,067 m), also known as “Mt. Baldy”.
The problem was that it was clear from the valley that the mountains were shrouded in cloud, and what was rain in the valley was snow in the mountains. Everyone was amazed as that is very unusual this early in the year. Just our luck!
With heavy hearts we decided that it would be far too reckless to go ahead with that route, so instead we skirted along the south of the mountains on the I210 before joining the I15 as planned. This was pretty miserable: cold, windy and wet. I was beginning to question the wisdom of rejecting the screen that is normally provided with the Softail as standard – the bike looks so much cooler without it though!
Joining the I15 still took us fairly high, but by this time the worst of the rain was behind us and we found a McDonalds to get coffee and thaw out.
From here we joined Route 18 and 247 crossing into San Bernardino County and the Mojave Desert. We passed through some areas where we had clearly just missed the rain, leaving us with just the road spray to contend with, mixed with a low sun bouncing off the shiny, wet roads.
Finally the rain became a thing of the past. It still wasn’t exactly warm, in the 60s Fahrenheit, and it was extremely windy, but the roads were superb and the views incredible.
We went around Yucca Valley onto route 62 running just north of Joshua Tree National Park, where we stopped once again for coffee. I don’t remember the name of the cafe, but it was very nice, although the service lacked something in efficiency. The waitress managing to get a large percentage of the very simple order wrong and take quite a long time about doing it. Andy, who tends to take a while to relax into a holiday, was not impressed and there was some degree of ranting.
We decided to visit the Joshua Tree visitor centre whilst we were there to get passes for tomorrow and once again there seemed to be a degree of wilful misunderstanding about Andy’s request for a pass for two riders on two bikes. This was doing Andy’s blood pressure no good at all, but had Sharon and Kate almost wetting themselves with hysterics.
“You should have asked if she has a sister who works in the cafe” said Sharon, to much renewed mirth all round.
Once recovered we headed off on the last 15 miles or so into Twentynine Palms, where we had rooms booked in the Holiday Inn Express.
As far as I could see, Twentynine Palms is just a town stretched along the main road, with the Holiday Inn toward the far end of it; and a very nice hotel it is too. Our revised route was shorter than our original planned route – just over 180 miles rather than 210, so we arrived earlier than planned. This gave us time to relax a little before heading off to dinner at the Pizza Hut opposite.
All tired from the day’s travels we retired early. The clocks go back tonight, but we have decided to use the extra hour in the day rather than have a lie in – none of us are sleeping beyond 5am anyway – so we plan to have the bikes packed by 7am tomorrow, before breakfast.
Miles today: 182
Total miles: 182