Wednesday, August 8, 2007

To Fresno and Back*

*With apologies to Audie Murphy and Fresno.

As you know (backstory here), Me'n Mrs. G went to Fresno to pick up her new sled last Saturday. The motorcycle part went very well, the folks at Harley-Davidson/Buell of Fresno were friendly and professional and treated us beautifully and everything went smoothly, exactly as planned. No glitches whatsoever. They threw in a coupla $24.95(!!!) T-shirts, a chrome license plate frame, and a coupla nylon ratchet-type tie-down straps that had secured a new Hawg in its shipping crate.

Those tie-downs saved my ass. I had one set with me and was prepared to buy a set if I had to, but I didn't have to. Please enjoy the funny visuals of, a) the service department wise-ass who stalled the bike trying to ride it up the loading ramp into our pickup and then just sat on it while sorta paddling with his feet and exhorting two of his minions to push faster, dammit!. Even I got a kick out of that one. I've loaded hundreds of bikes into trucks and never saw that before! Pushing someone else's fat ass up a ramp is usually not in the cards. Heh.

Funny visual b) yours truly sweating all over the new bike in the 100° Fresno coolth whilst trying to figure out how to tie down a motorcycle I'd never tied down before into a pickup that had never had one tied down in it before, using only locally available materials and 40 years experience. The comp tie-downs did the trick. I was a little leery of ratchet tie-downs without hooks before, but they were what was called for given the lack of tie-down points on this bike, and now I kinda like 'em.

Kind of a sad commentary on our litigious society was that the deal closer guy had Mrs. G sign a buncha places that she had declined things like the extended warranty and insurance (we had our own) so when something went wrong later on we couldn't come back and sue 'em. We're old school - you get the money, we get the bike, we'll take it from here, see ya around. Not everybody's like that, and I don't blame 'em one bit for taking precautions.

"...the havoc Gord and Mrs. G are wreaking on the people of Truckee with the new bike. Heh ...- comment by Fixer.

It's a nice thought, but the only thing that got any havoc wreaked on it was me'n Mrs. G. We're talkin' climate change and deteriorating infrastructure pretty much from here on out.

We left home a little after 6AM, just after daylight. Temperature was 44°. Naturally, as we came down outta these hyar hills and the day progressed, it warmed up to about 98° by the time we got to Fresno, which is smack dab in the middle of California's Central Valley. Nothing unusual about a hot summer day in those parts, so we were expecting it.

What we didn't expect was the pickup's thermometer to read 111° when we passed back through Sackatomatoes Sacramento at 5PM on our way home. That's pretty warm, even for there. Thank you, Mr. Toyota, for that lovely air conditioner! An hour and a half and 6000 vertical feet later when we got home, the temp was a gorgeous 76°, thus reaffirming why I like living in the Sierra, which on many days is the coolest spot in the whole state.

Interestingly enough, the very next day Sacramento set a new record for its lowest high temperature for the date ever at 76°. Go figure.

I think a 67° swing in the same day might be a 'personal best' for me. Maybe I'll go from the top of Mt. Whitney at dawn to the depths of midday Death Valley to try and beat it, but I'd have to go out of my way to do that instead of just going about my business like on this trip.

Get your motor runnin'
Head out on the highway
Lookin' for adventure
- Steppenwolf

I-80 down to Sac ain't too bad, except for the aroma of fryin' truck brakes. US99 from there on south is fuckin' junk. The fast lane's pretty bad, but the truck lane's worse. The next time you slice a tomato or put on a cotton shirt, they rode in a big rig up or down that road from farm to market. As a result of all that wear, the surface is more like glued-down gravel than pavement. It's bumpy and potholed as well, and it sucks. It doesn't get resurfaced very often because that would cost money and impede commerce. It might get fixed more often if it collapsed, but it's got nowhere to collapse to. It's actually somewhat dangerous to drive on and there are accidents on it all the time. It's scarier'n shit, too. It had my full and complete attention for the lovely 320 miles we enjoyed on it. I only used it because it's the only direct route to where we were going.

I-80 back up into the mountains is just as bad. Every item labelled Made in China (or, increasingly, Hecho en China. Heh.) that comes into this country through the Golden Gate heads east to your local Wal-Mart up I-80 on a truck. A tremendous amount of truck traffic passes right by my house every day.

Exacerbating the problem is the weather conditions in the mountains in winter. The big rigs are clawing for uphill traction with several sets of tire chains. The snowplows haul ass in a shower of sparks and sand to keep the road clear. Thousands of folks in a mad dash to take their money to Reno don't help. Then there's the Chinese Gambling Tour Buses...(shudder!)

I-80 through the Sierra gets fixed pretty often because it gets real dangerous in the wintertime. Folks crash all over the place, and it closes the road for hours, not to mention the time and expense of emergency responders. If you want a thrill, picture a big rig swapping ends in front of you on an icy downhill slope that you can't really stop on either. All you can do is try to slow down without sliding out yourself. You just sorta aim your rig and look for a soft cheap place to hit. Real 'pucker power'. In between fixin's, I-80 gets pretty bad pretty quick.

I'm not really snivelling about road conditions. They're the way they are because of overuse and under-funding for maintenance. It's the way it is for a lot of reasons and I'm used to it if not happy about it. Folks who use those roads every day probably don't even notice it. I'm a lot happier stayin' up hyar in the hills and hidin' from the world under my porch. I have friends there.

Some stats: Total mileage for the day was 525. Elapsed time was 12½ hours. One stop each in either direction for food, to take on fuel, and to drain the dogs. $60 for gas and $40 for breakfast and lunch out, which leads us to what I call "Gord's Theorem" - "These days, a hunnert miles costs twenny bucks". The corollary to which is, "Why, tarnation, I remember when ya could spend a week in a nice whorehouse fer less'n that!"

The mission was successful and a good time was had by all. The trip kicked our ass for a day or so, but everybody's fine now. Thanks fer puttin' up with my rant.

Keep your eyes on Fixer & Gordon for a 'first impressions' post on the new bike in the next coupla days.

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