April 01, 2009

Moped Diaries: Day One

The start of a new series

That site should give you an idea of what I want to ride.

The cold gray fog still shrouded San Francisco, wrapping its misty arms around the towers and pooling in between the buildings. In the narrow back alleyways of the Western Addition, I woke up, I looked at the big ben clock on the nightstand. Six thirty four. The slow whirring ticking sound resonated on the table. I sat up in bed, rubbing my thighs briskly through a pair of old basketball shorts, blinking in the cold sunlight streaming through the shutters.

The hot tap rumbled as the steaming water emerged out of the tap into the dirty porcelain basin. I washed my rough face and brushed my teeth and packed my toothbrush. The canvas leather saddle bags sit by the door, ready and waiting to be mounted. One final check around the apartment, it will be a long time before I see this place. I grab the pairs of saddle bags and sling them over my shoulders. With my free hand, I grab the square leather case with smaller things, and the small camera case. The door behind me clicked, I locked the deadbolt and walked downstairs, nearly stumbling down the narrow flight of stairs.

Outside, the cars rush by on Hayes street, not noticing me or even giving a second thought as I begin to strap the saddles onto the pannier carriers on my new Derringer moped. I stand back and admire the handiwork, the craft of how everything just fell into place with each other. The drop head handle bars, the chrome plated twin vee engine, the heavy sprung Brooks saddle, I was ready to go. Ashton is supposed to meet me at the corner of California and Arguello and I take off, setting the chronometer as I go to keep track of how much time I would spend on the road. The pedaling part would come later as I speed up hills, through Golden gate park and arriving at California and Arguello.

Around ten minutes later, I hear the whinny of a 1972 Pierce engine with Ashton in the seat. We shake hands, we grab a coffee in the gas station, and stop one last time at the bicycle shop. We wait outside for a few minutes until a skinny girl in flannel and tight jeans opens up the shop. We wander in, pick up a set of ten extra tubes, several extra tires and an extra pannier basket. This one is going on Ashton's moped since one fell off on the way over. We fill up the last time before we leave San Francisco for our journey north. I pulled the heavy pea coat up close, tightening the crash helmet and adjusted my mirrors. It's time to go and make the pilgrimage.

Sailing down Park Presidio with the traffic is exhilirating, coasting down the road through tunnels and up slopes, we find ourselves crossing the golden gate bridge, north into Sausalito and the rest of Marin county. Our engines pumping warmly between our legs, we cruise at a comfortable 30mph through on side roads, winding up on narrow coastal roads, finding log cabin like buildings nestled into the network of trees. Minutes turn into hours and there never seems to be an end to the ceaseless forests and windswept beaches. Here and there, our bikes emerge from the woods in a road cut into a mound, the sand blowing from dunes over our heads. Crooked slat fences undulate into the landscape. Falling and rising and collapsing and in some places gone. Cattle here and there dot the cold fields. Grey clouds moving only so still as if a statue in a museum were moving in the corners of your eyes. We run out of juice 8 hours into the trip. We are now halfway between the border of California and San Francisco.

We pedaled for another few hours, until the weaning hours of darkness began to settle. We pulled off into the side of the road, locking the bicycles to a fallen tree and to each other in opposite directions. I pull out the old pup tent my father gave me as well as a tin of beef and a tin of mixed vegetables. For the longest time, I knew Ashton to be vegetarian. I knew for this trip, he would have to at least eat some meat and he obliged. The tins sit under the burning propane flame. He lights his hurricane lamp and darkness begins to envelope us all around. We pitched along a fence along highway one. The only people who would bother us were the CHP and I doubted that they would really bother with a lonely stretch of road alongside the ocean.

We shared stories, dreams, hopes and what we were expecting. our sleeping bags unravelled into the tent and the light out, we began to fall asleep. We lay there for a little while before we broke into conversation again. We just couldn't believe what we were doing was actually, finally happening. We had been planning this trip since the second year in college when I was at Berkeley and he was at SF state. He had an obsession with the moped since high school and I was and still am into fixing up my 1970 Raleigh Imperial road bicycle. He would laugh, I would too. Sleep caught our better sides and we were out for the night.

more later! Stay tuned.

1 comment:

bdub said...

beautiful. cant wait for the next leg of the journey.