Unhappiest Place on Earth

Last month, I decided to ride a motorcycle I bought in Hollywood back home to the Bay Area. This is the story of how I did everything wrong.

There were only two things I did right that day: the first was to travel light, with a backpack containing only the bare essentials; the second was to have a shop go over the bike beforehand and fix any problems (I didn’t want to get stuck in Kettleman City).

My “plan” consisted of a vague departure time and a rough estimate of how long I would ride between stops: one hundred miles. Right off the bat I can tell you that both of these ideas were pipe dreams. According to my cursory glance at the weather report for that weekend, it would be chilly but tolerable (wrong).

I would be leaving on a Sunday because I needed to work in the East Bay on Monday morning but had plans already for that weekend, which meant I needed to get home the fastest way possible, hence my decision to take the 5.

For those that don’t know, there are two major roads that connect LA to the Bay. Highway 1 is a beautiful coastal route, with great motorcycling roads and even better views. Unfortunately, the 1 requires a multi-day plan, and I only had one day to make the trip. So that left me with the ugly sibling, Highway 5. That road is a straight shot right through California’s Central Valley, and allows travelers to make the trip in less than six hours under perfect conditions. The Central Valley is California’s agricultural honeypot, which means every single one of your senses will be attacked on your way through it. From the dustbowl storms we’re having because of the drought to the ever present stench of the factory farms, your trip is a guaranteed preview of hell itself.

For that Saturday I had arranged to drive from LA to Las Vegas with a friend for a night of heavy partying (idiot), and after sleeping it off (nobody sleeps in Vegas) we would drive back to LA, hopefully arriving by noon (hadn’t even finished checking out yet). Recovering from a trip to Vegas is like swimming through molasses: it’s slow, uncomfortable and once you’re through it you’re going to need a shower.

So the plan was to make it back to LA early enough for me to have a solid amount of sunlight for my trip, which is laughable because traffic between Las Vegas and SoCal on a Sunday is designed to ruin your day. By the time we made it back to my bike, the sun was setting and I hadn’t eaten in hours. But because I had to work the next day, I strapped on my gear and threw a leg over my trusty steed. I had a mission to accomplish.

Now is where I tell you I at least had a comfortable bike, something that wouldn’t kill my back for the upcoming multi-hour ride. I’d like to tell you I rode a Goldwing and had an onboard stereo, adjustable windshield and heated seat, but I really can’t. Instead of a sensible machine built for the occasion, I rode this behemoth:


Why did I do this to myself?

The 2004 Suzuki GSX-R750 is an overpowered, uncomfortable, gas-guzzling, excessively loud brute that vibrates more than my uncle’s nervous Chihuahua. Like I said, I did everything wrong.

Part two coming soon.