The Road to Wrestlemania XXVIBy
The silence is thrilling, the emptiness all-encompassing, the involuntary smile on my face is so wide it hurts. All of this can only mean one thing: A scant three hundred fifty days from the last time we set out – Rain Cloud Follows and I are once again doing it, we’re on the Road to Wrestlemania.
Last year’s Road took me, my riding buddy Dark Meat Snack (and occasionally my girlfriend Fiona) on a long and winding commute to work from California to Houston, the site of Wrestlemania XXV. This year’s version of Wrestlemania – the XXVIth – is being held at the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, AZ. In a straight line, the UoP stadium is around three hundred fifty miles from my adopted home in California. I figured with a little creative planning and Map-kining, I could make this year’s commute to work last a few days and at least fifteen hundred miles.
The 2010 Road to Wrestlemania Map-kin
For various reasons (a marriage in Abi’s case and a new addition to her sister’s family in Fiona’s) this year I am riding the first half solo – not such a bad way to go if you ask me. My route the first day takes me up 395 in California, a pleasant backroad-ish route, until I’m involuntarily tagged into a spirited but annoying game of Pass the Ass.
A white pickup truck races past me, pulls in directly front of me and sloooooows down. I then turn up the wick and pass him. This driving exhibition, more boredom induced that road rage, continues for about eighty miles until I’m finally tired of it. At the Trona cut off, I fake Mr. ‘I-Love-My-White-Truck’ out, turn off 395 onto Trona Wildrose road, and am once again peacefully on my way to Death Valley.
I stop at a breathtaking scenic vista high above an incredible valley for a few photos, and am amazed at what happens next. As I set up my shot, a fighter jet comes screaming out of the sun, wags his wings back a forth a few times at me then races away over the mountains.
I smile as the jet disappears in the distance, then notice another flier watching in mutual appreciation, or possibly jealousy.
Not ten feet from me, a Chukar partridge sticks his head out of the scrub, intently watching the activity. He coos and honks away, saying, “Hey Dude, take my picture!” I oblige, then he whoops it up, flaps himself into a frenzy and also disappears into the distance. As I start putting my camera away for a second time, I notice something out of the corner of my eye in the direction my feathered friend flapped off to. Brown, vaguely car shaped and way, way down in the valley, I wonder what it could be.
Pulling out my big lens, I realize the brown lump is a car, or at least it used to be. The owner must have taken a serious wrong turn many years ago.
Happy with my decision to stop and the pictures it provided, I realize that daylight is already starting to be at a premium, and if I’m going to make it to the Furnace Creek Inn in Death Valley before sunset, I’ve got to crank it up a notch. I mount up and rapidly descend towards my eventual home for the evening.
Along the way, a tempting road side sign offers a tempting distraction. Though somewhat in a hurry to get a room before nightfall, I’m always willing to sacrifice the destination for the day.
It’s not hard to figure out what happens next. Yielding to temptation, I turn right down the 3 1/2 mile dirt road down to do some sloppy dual sport riding and bust some ghosts, of course. Sunset be damned!
As far as ghost towns go, Ballarat is definitely one. Not a good one, but at least there is one deserted building that is somewhat interesting.
Rain Cloud Follows handles the dirt road like a pig in ballet slippers, we’re slippin’ and slidin’ all over the place as we make our way back to the pavement. The fighter jet makes a return pass overhead, low, fast and loud!
Life is good.
Before I left home, I decided to take one ‘Ghost Rider Tribute’ picture per day on this ride. Ghost Rider, for those few that live under rocks and don’t know, is Neil Peart’s excellent book about life and motorcycling. That book is one of the main reasons I ride as much as I do.
Here is today’s tribute:
All this ridin’, off roadin’ and photographin’ in the desert makes a guy hungry and thirsty. I stopped to top up both me and the bike in Stovepipe Wells.
The sun paints the sky as I brush the last crumbs of apple pie off my well insulated belly. Rain Cloud Follows and I race deeper into the desert with our night’s home of the Furnace Creek Inn locked in my sights.
Unfortunately, when I got there, I found out there was no room at the Inn. I guess they expect people to make reservations, which would mean they also expect people to know where they are going ahead of time. I hate making reservations, because then I’m stuck having to be somewhere at the end of the day. As they say, the adventure begins when the plan derails, and now, in the desert at night without a place to stay, I’m on an adventure.
Checking the GPS, I realized there isn’t much out in the desert in the way of hotels. I briefly considered going back to Ballarat, because I knew of at least one building with a vacancy. No roof, but at least vacancy. Then I find another hotel, right across the state line in Nevada called the Longstreet Inn. Beggars can’t be choosers, so I head that way to try and sort something out.
My oasis turns out to be the place where elderly weirdos hold their elderly weirdo meetings. But, at least the Longstreet Inn has a room, and not long after I check in I easily figure out why. This is the kind of place where the bartender gets mad at you for expecting him to get you a drink. After waiting and enduring a long, “What the fuck do you want?” stare, I finally am able to toast the Best Day Ever, substituting Jameson for Macallan in honor of my patron saint, Patrick.
I wander over to the sad looking slot machines, and am soon on a roll. Bells keep ringing, and I keep winning. Pretty soon I am up, way up. The little voice of reason, the one I almost always ignore, shouts in my ear, “Take the money and run!” For once I do the sensible thing and hit the Cash Out button.
Excited to be instantly rich, I quickly realize two things. One, instead of dollars like I thought, I was only playing for nickels, and two, instead of printing a slip that I can take to a cashier, this is a first generation slot machine, and by hitting the Cash Out button, sixteen hundred nickels are slowly clank-clank-clanking their way into the tray.
The worst is yet to come. The grumpy bartender is also the grumpy cashier. He gives me the Stink Eye as patiently I sit at the bar with my brimming bucketful of nickels. Finally, with a great big sigh, he trudges over to me and just stands there. After a minute of hoping I’d just vanish, he asks if I want to cash in my nickels.
“No, I want to buy another beer!” I paid for a Corona with 110 nickels, and, being the generous soul I am, I even tip this grouch with two more of my newly won nickels. I take my nickel bucket back to the room, and am soon fast asleep, with visions of deserted roads still to come dancing in my head.