I awake during the night to find that it has gotten unpleasantly cold. I stumble outside of my tent to relieve myself and look up. Stars. Billions and billions of them. The constellations are lost in the overwhelming numbers of points of light in the sky. Finally, after nights of monsoon season in New Mexico I have seen the night sky as it appeared before the advent of electric lighting. It is impressive.
I slip into my rainsuit to stay warm. I'm ok inside my sleeping bag, except my head sticks out. This plagues me the rest of the night, as I can put my head in the bag but then I can't breathe, or I can leave it outside the bag and feel my body heat being sucked out of me. In the morning I find it hard to move, the cold seeping well into my bones. I am sluggish, but I need to press on, as I have to cross the Central Valley again and I still have a 1.5 mile hike to do before I leave the Forest. Amazing. Yesterday I started out sort of cool, warmed up close to my limit of tolerance, and now I am freezing cold and shivering. I look for the camp host to pay him for the site, but he is nowhere to be found, so I guess my night's stay was complimentary.
In spite of the cold, I climb onto my bike and begin the journey to the north end of the Forest and the North Grove hike. It proves worthwhile, as only a few moments out from camp I spot a small black bear cub scampering across the road. Knowing that where there is baby there is mother, I slow to a complete stop. A few cars pass me each way, wondering about this fool stopped in the middle of the road looking into the trees, but I know something they don't, so who's the fool? Alas, this is my only sight of the bears that are rather active in this area of the country, as likely the mother had already crossed the road and the two were well on down the hill.
I stop for a very pleasant hike around General Grant Tree (he was a gentleman and negotiated like one) and then do the more arduous North Grove hike. All told, I spend about a hour and a half walking, but never has it been so fun. I leave the park and see the sign indicating 16.5 miles to the next gas. It will be close.
Actually, it isn't even close. The steep hills have fooled my gas gauge and my bike sputters and stalls almost immediately outside the park. The ranger at the exit told me it was all downhill to the gas station, and so I have to see just how correct he is. I shift the bike into neutral and begin the long trek down the mountain under the power of gravity and gravity alone. Occasionally I coax a little more power out of my bike from reserve in order to pass slower cars, but I am reluctant to do so, and actually pass one truck and trailer while coasting. The driver refuses to use any of the many pulloffs, and repeatedly I have to use my brakes, losing valuable momentum. Ahead I see a long stretch where there are no cars coming, but it winds through several blind curves. The driver ignores another pulloff, and I have no choice. I pull to the inside of a left hander, using the oncoming traffic lane. I gain some speed and ground with the smaller radius, but it is not enough, so I have to stay beside the truck. I don't look over, but from my periphery I can see the driver looking at me, shocked. My bike is completely silent, no rumbling motor, and I am passing him. Another corner, and I am the front fender. Incredibly enough, the driver does not slow and may have even sped up briefly, but another left hander turn too sharp for a long truck and I am ahead of him and into the right lane. It takes five turns and a half mile of being in the left lane, but I pass a very rude idiot and add insult by doing it while coasting. I feel quite smug.
But smug is not gassed, and I run out of momentum with no gas in sight. I hope I saved something in reserve, and get the bike to the top of the coasting-killing hill. Sure enough, 1/4 mile from where I stopped, is the gas station that is 16.5 miles from the entrance to the north end of the Forest. 16.25 miles of pure gravity driven twisties, and if I haven't gotten the message by now that this trip is charmed, I am too dense to be doing this anyways.
Charmed or not, this trip still has a lot of miles to go, and a lot of them are through some very hot grounds. Fresno, 105. Los Banos, 106. I stop in Los Banos for lunch, and in spite of the heat, I fall asleep on a park bench. The heat is unreal. The farms generate humidity and the air is now actively heating me instead of cooling me as I ride down the road. I stop in Gilroy and rest some more. I travel less than an hour more and stop in Morgan Hill. I can't go anymore. I go into a Burger King and order their largest vanilla milkshake and water. The clerk tells me it's 110F. I can barely sit up as I pour the rapidly melting shake down my throat. I begin talking to a retired couple about possible motels in the area. I know I am only a short distance from Cupertino, and this heat makes it impossible to consider camping. The couple, I have to say, were a bit different. The fellow had retired from IBM, and they spent their days traveling to Burger Kings in the area around Monterey Bay where they had retired to. Apparently the senior citizen discounts were providing a good bit of their daily food intake. Remind me to invest more for my retirement.
Morgan Hill was not a good place for a motel. I did stop at one hole in the wall, expecting to get some reasonable prices, but $50 is too much for me. I press on, running alongside Hwy 101 on a side road that eventually crosses I-85, which I get on. I have not seen any motels since I left Morgan Hill. I ride I-85 until I hit I-280 and head toward San Jose. I find a complete lack of billboards, so I am at a loss to locate motels. By sheer coincedence, I see the Apple campus off the freeway. I exit and go to the campus, hoping that someone there can recommend a place to stay. I check out one fellow's recommendations (way too expensive), and I see that motels and hotels are not a priority in Cupertino, or San Jose, or Saratoga, or Los Altos, or Sunnyvale. I got to the Apple campus at 5:30pm. The sun sets while I am still looking for a motel. Completely frustrated, I head back toward Morgan Hill. I exit the interstate a few times, looking for rooms, but none are to be found. Finally, after I am practically resigned to riding all the way back to Morgan Hill, I see a sign for a motel and I exit. Suffice to say, it was in a less than well off part of San Jose and was not much more than a hole in the wall ($10 deposit for phone calls). Regardless, I am completely exhausted, too tired to eat, too tired to shower, and too tired to stay awake and care how crappy the room is.July 17, 1998
And I must say, it turns out to be well worth my while to have added the 400 miles out of my way to have gone to Apple. While I only got to see an iMac from behind a glass window, the talk and hints and goodies that Wade and George plied me with more than made up for it. By the way, Steve Jobs' office is above the visitor's entrance, on the left, top floor (in case anyone was wondering). I wish I could talk about more, but I am under NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement). The campus is gorgeous and the mood is upbeat as Apple announced $101 million in third quarter profits and the stock has soared to $38. I have to thanks George and Wade for their hospitality, Wade for the lunch and the Newton 100 (it's COOL!) and George for giving me some space on his living room floor to save me from having to fight the mass exodus that occurs every Friday, as millions of people try to flee the confines of Silicon Valley. I am truly exhausted as well, having crossed Central Valley twice in the last two days, so another free night's stay is most welcome.Email me gtkelly domain dialectronics.com