Forest fires and bikers

I’ve been watching the KTLA online feed of the North fire. The fire crossed the 15 near the Cajon Pass and is traveling unhindered on its way. The wind funnels up the pass and drops down onto the flat. I don’t think it will bode well for any homes in its path.

In another life well-lived, I spent 4,000 hours of helicopter flight time on forest fires in northern Canada. A lot of it came back to me in a huge rush while watching the feed. I had to load a mapping program to follow the progress of the news helicopters as they patrolled the perimeter with eyes high in the sky. The resolution of the camera from 8,500 feet is phenomenal.

There were no DC-10 airtankers back in the old days.

But I digress.

I couldn’t resist centering the map over a former favorite watering hole.

The usual suspects were in Fontana at a biker rally. One p.m. (that’s right, one in the afternoon) came and went, and, being the irresponsible, thirsty louts we were, we saddled up and headed for the 10. At the 215 we turned south and pulled off at La Cadena. For the uninitiated, it’s the home of the Club 215, a peeler bar renowned for nothing in particular but for being two stories high, with a balcony.

It was also on the way home, if you took the slight detour I outlined.

We liked the place because we could get out in the fresh air, wander around, and watch the sights – of which there aren’t many in Coulton. The girls liked it, too. Since we were the only ones in the club at that early hour, they wandered in and out to chat. I won’t go into details, but by early evening, it was long past time to herd the lads home.

I knew that, because beer bottles began floating down from the second story balcony to explode in the parking lot. Seeing as I was the only illegal in the club (I checked – there were no Canadian girls performing), and being of sound mind, I made an informed decision.

It was time to roll.

With the able assistance of a couple of the ladies, we managed to get the boys down the stairs without anyone falling down. Out in the parking lot, it was an entirely different story.

Tommy threw a leg over his Sporty, collapsed the kickstand, put both feet on the pegs, and headed on his way, eager to be in the wind. The problem was, he hadn’t bothered to light the fire. He promptly fell over with both feet on the pegs while still gripping the bars.

Much laughter ensued.

Eventually, we managed to get Tommy untangled and out from under his Sporty. We made sure to keep him on the bike as we helped him up. Once we got him straight and level, I started the engine, put it in gear, and slapped him on the back.

Away he wobbled.

It was a simple matter to head south on the 215, hit the 60 at Box Springs, and meander on down the road on the 10 to the 62 turnoff. I got to ride sweep to clean up the debris on the way home.

It was an uneventful ride on a normal California day under sunshine and blue sky.

I miss it sometimes, but not often, now.

Saskatchewan rest areas

Picnic by the shitter

A rather nice rest stop along the TCH that runs through Saskatchewan. Do you eat your sammiches before, or after?

I have no idea who planned this well-placed little gem of a rest area. It’s on the Trans-Canada Highway running through the vast wasteland known as Saskatchewan. Does anyone but me think that stopping for a picnic beside a shitter is a tad overdoing it? Does one make use of the facilities before you partake of the sandwich, or after?

In any case, it’s certainly more welcoming than what you get while traveling through Northwestern Ontario. There you only get access to a tree–sans flag. Or paper.

Speaking of trees, it is rather nice to see trees by the side of the road with one’s facilities on the bald Prairie. As you can tell by the proudly flying flags, the wind whips across that Prairie faster than you can put it in the rear-view mirror.

No deposit, no return

Closed and forgottenAfter crossing the great expanse of nothing called Manitoba, I was looking forward to taking a much-needed break just inside the Ontario border on Highway 17 – otherwise known as the Trans-Canada. There’s a nice little rest area off the highway, tucked away in tall pines. Tables, washrooms, drinks – all available there.

Okay, there used to be a rest stop there.

The dumbasses in control of those little things that make all the difference when one is traveling the highways and byways in the once and former great Ontar-i-ari-ari-o have decreed the place to be closed. Now one must once again search out the nearest tall – or short (no prejudice here) – tree to urinate, defecate, throw out trash and generally cause and create mayhem.

Welcome to Northwestern Ontario

Isn’t this a pretty picture to behold on your first visit to the grand Province of Ontario? It’s hard to tell who does highway maintenance these days. Probably no one.

For all, it’s a return to the snowplow turnout to make deposits like wild animals roaming the deep, dark woods, huffing and puffing and snuffing out a spot to do our business. The north is given the privilege of contributing billions to the economic life of southern Ontario, while the buffoons governing the province force travelers and citizens all to piss against trees and bury waste in the moss.

The lovely and accommodating snowplow turnout in the north

The lovely and accommodating snowplow turnout complete with shitty diaper in the middle of it all. If you hold it until you get to southern Ontario, you’ll be able to avail yourself of an actual rest area designed for people, not animals.

Too bad, so sad.

But don’t despair, good traveler! If you can wait until you get to southern Ontario to urinate and defecate, you will be warmly welcomed into a rest stop such as this.

Carpenter John: 2

Part 1 is here.

I had been on the road since six a.m. in the heat, and it wasn’t getting any cooler as the day wore on into evening and darkness. Finally I was beginning to get tired. On the city’s east side about six miles out I stopped for fuel and a burger. That got me feeling a little better.

I waited for the light to green up and then I turned east and was gone one more time. I had another two hundred and change to go. And there he was, pulling up behind me again. He must have stopped somewhere for a break too.

I was making a steady 70. My next break was down the road, 90 or so ahead, just inside the Ontario border. He pulled in behind me. No big deal. I figured I might as well find out where he was headed.

He introduced himself as John. From Montana. A carpenter, of all things. When he mentioned that, I could see by his hands. They were definitely carpenter hands.

He was making about 145 to a tank, so I pulled out a map and donated it to the cause. I circled his gas stops all the way to London, his destination in southern Ontario. I told him about the short cut across Lake Huron. Bikes were first on and first off. He seemed happy to hear that, because it would knock a good 350 miles off of his voyage.

Before we pulled out, he called me old-timer and thanked me for the help.

Yeah, I guess I am an old-timer, at least in the riding department.

The road was two-lane now. Another 30 and it was a stop to get fuel, then 85 more to my destination where I’d be stopping for the night. Beside me in the twilight at my destination he wobbled off the light, running in the right of my lane. He thanked me for the help again and turned off for gas. I waved.

A little farther down I checked into my motel. It was almost dark. When I was unloading, I heard him go by. He had to be in London in a day and a half. It was certainly do-able, because I had done it. I figured he could too.

*

I’m almost tempted to wonder if there was something biblical in nature going on during this encounter, but being the sinner that I am, what the hell would I know?

Carpenter John: 1

Part 2 is here.

When I ride, I like to ride alone—unless there’s a woman involved. Over the decades I’ve become wary of the RUBs and other associated newbies who took up riding last month—or last year. Down south I would ride sweep on the shop’s local runs for newbies. In fact, I liked to be bringing up the rear. It was safer there.

I was never happy with what I saw during those rides. Although I probably could have made my excuses, I toughed it out and had a few laughs along the way at the ineptitude of many of the riders who had bought their sparkly new motorcycles from the store.

Yeah, I’m an independent.

*

I watched the bike merge into traffic. His ride was loaded with a tent, a sleeping bag and probably more camping gear in the saddlebags. He must have been coming from a campground just a few miles to the south. When he waved on his way past, I checked the time: 1100. I had already been on the road for five hours.

His plate said he was out of Montana. Nice riding country.

Another fifteen minutes and I pulled in behind him at the gas pumps. During pleasantries I discovered that he was headed down the road another 130 miles. We were going to the same place.

Perhaps I was confused by his leathers. They were well-worn, not new by any stretch. He wore a beanie, with plenty of faded stickers plain to see. His boots were well-scuffed too. A red bandana was around his neck. He used it to cover his face when he was riding. Sometimes that can be a giveaway, but this time I didn’t think so.

When I pulled out he was just walking in to pay.

When he passed on the four-lane, I was paying more attention. His riding stuck out like a sore thumb. He pulled ahead, but he remained in the number one lane, first on one side of it, and then on the other, back and forth. I remember thinking that’s not right. In fact, I know it isn’t.

Then he slowed down.

Wary now, I eased over a bit, just off of the left side of my lane position. I didn’t want him suddenly pulling over and running me off the road. He wandered back and forth, then ahead, then behind, still in the number one lane. What the hell, I was thinking.

He’s wandering. He’s weaving. He doesn’t know where his position should be. He can’t hold steady speed. I didn’t have to tell  myself twice to get the hell out because I know all the signs. I twisted the wick and moved on. Rapidly.

I never saw him again for another two hours or so.

More on rest areas in Northwestern Ontario

I was riding through Northwestern Ontario, as I am wont to do on occasion, when I needed a break. As anyone knows who passes through on the only highway that goes anywhere, there’s nowhere to stop and take a break. Well, nowhere, that is, until one comes across a snowplow turnout. You remember those, right? They’re the ones famous for their No Parking signs.

They’re also renowned for urine bottles, beer cans, pizza boxes, trash, junk and other miscellaneous articles that people discard while traveling on the highway to nowhere–otherwise known as Highway 17. Those turnouts are nicely paved though, aren’t they?

A lovely snowplow turnout

The ubiquitous snowplow turnout in Northwestern Ontario, home to urine bottles discarded by truckers, beer cans, pizza boxes and dirty diapers. How attractive.

I could be wrong, but wouldn’t a couple of trash receptacles solve some of the problems surrounding these places? I know it’s a bit much to ask, but how about a porta-potty or two also? Of course, that would require that someone come around occasionally to empty the things, but, hey, welcome to the 21st Century, Ontario.

I know, I know, it’s an added expense for the taxpayers, but given that for decades the provincial government has taken all of the money from Ontario’s resource-rich north to fund Southern Ontario’s flagging economy, it’s only fair that the government should put a little back into the region in the form of garbage cans and shitters.

All the pretty trash

All the pretty trash. That’s the diaper in the middle of the turnout surrounded by the miscellaneous trash from the turnout ditch. Nice.

 

Hula-hoop honey

It was about a thousand miles ago…

She was standing on the median, thumb out. Hitchhiking, obviously. The trouble was, she was on the cross-street median. I wondered if she was an amateur–but only for a split second–because she was doing a dance with a hula-hoop. That got my attention for sure.

No amateur, this.

I rolled up to the gas’n’go. When I pulled out, she had disappeared from the median. Her act got her a ride, I thought, and well-deserved, too. But no, there she was, about a hundred yards down the highway. Her thumb was out and she was calling my name, twirling her hoop and grinning to beat the band as I rode up.

I did what anyone with a spare seat should have done a lot sooner. I hit the binders and stopped. We were headed to the same place. As it turned out, her eyes were bigger than her gear, and there was no possible way that I could strap it and her on board at the same time. Since she wasn’t giving anything up, I high-fived her for ingenuity and went on my way.

Another time.