Thursday, August 17, 2006

Never, Ever, Never, Ever Again

top pic - sierra nevada to the west of hwy 395
next pic - road to nowhere in the Sierras]
last pic - road to LA and, eventually, Hell

Day 16 August 17 Thursday - 360 miles.

When does doing 85 put you in the slow lane? When in LA. That’s where I ended up, with my son and his expecting wife. To get here, though, takes some explaining.

I left Lone Pine at about 9 in the morn (all times are mountain time), and could tell that it was going to be a hot day. Still, I had on my leather chaps (they make me look so sexy) and my leather jacket.

The Sierras, including Mt. Whitney, one of the highest if not the highest, jutted up from the plains on the right. Unlike the Rockies, or even the Appalachians, where the rocky heights are introduced gradually by foothills, the Sierras thrust themselves upon you without any getting-to-know-you time.

I drove south, staying around 70, thinking about how the land had changed ever since coming down from 89. There, 395 just south of the 89-395 junction was lined with huge cottonwoods. Sadly, many of these majestic trees had white crosses affixed to their trunks. Here, scrawny junipers took their place.

I gassed up, then looked at the map and realized I had missed my turn to the west on J41, which I thought led me to Sequoia National Forest. So, I backtracked 8 miles and turned to the west.

I came upon skid marks in the road and two men with plastic bags who were walking the shoulders. Needing directions and information, I stopped and started up a conversation. The men told me that the REAL Sequoia forest was considerably to the west and north, but that the current road, though very rough and tricky, would give me some great sights.

After we talked for a little, I asked them what they were looking for and one said, pointing at the tire marks, “A friend of ours died here yesterday.”

I expressed my condolences, and asked, judging by the evidence, if their friend had run off to the right, overcorrected, and then flipped. He confirmed my suspicion, adding, “I think it was a cell phone death.”

Apparently, there was is no cell phone service where they all lived back up in the mountains and they usually checked their phone once they got to this particular section of the road. In his case, if this was the contributing if not causative factor, he must have been distracted with fatal results.

I decided to take the road up into the mountains. Over an hour and a half later I was back down at the wreck location. It was just going to be too long and too filled with unknowns to continue on that very rough and very tricky-to-drive road. But, it sure as Hell led up into the high valleys of the Sierra Mountains.

I continued to drive south on 395, leaving the High Sierra behind me. It heated up to 95 and the wind continued to blow in my face from the south. I set the cruise control on Rock and Roll. The road undulated and undulated and undulated…I was riding ocean swells, passing cars, trucks, and anything else that was slower than I was. Yeah, right, this was soon to change.

Then, 395 ran into the north side of San Bernandino and into I-15. I got on the interstate thinking that I was finally going to have an easier time of it. Wrong!

The closer I got to San Bernandino, the faster and tighter the traffic became. OK, now I’m going over 80 in a wind that did its best to intimidate me…and intimidate me it did. The interstate took a severe drop through a series of curves and I swear to God that I thought I was going to die. I hate the middle lane…no where to go if a problem occurs. If I take the right lane, then impatient drivers race into it in order to get around vehicles in the middle lane. The left lane is just hauling ass. I finally decided on the left lane…if I was gonna go out, I wanted to be sure to do it at full speed ahead.

I’m going 80 and 85 and spot a Harley rider up ahead. I tuck in behind him but can’t hold on…he speeds away. I then spy a trike (a three-wheeled Harley) and jump on his tail, regardless of what lane he wants, figuring that the two of us make a more formidable obstacle for the lane-changing, cell-phone-talking, cut-you-off-at-the-knees idiots driving Escalades and souped-up Hondas.

While the last 100 miles to I-15 were pretty bad, the last 70 into Fullerton were even worse; the worst was only horrible.

I never knew I could drive so long and so fast with my head between my legs, kissing my butt goodbye.

Highpoint of the day: morning coffee.
Lowpoint of the day: the last drive to LA.


powder day said...

Makes you appreciate I-49 and I-20. They seem pretty tame compared to I-15. Are you still going for San Diego?

Mike Sledge said...

No, Charles, Jes is coming up here tomorrow...then she and I will both leave Sun late afternoon...I want to get the hell out of Dodge before the Monday morning traffic.

BTW, I did see the butte where Harry and Judy have their house.