I carry the panniers to the bike. Then the dry bags. Then the tank panniers. And the tank bag. I stuff items of questionable purpose or utility into the top box. Loose ends get stashed in the tank bag. Other things are jammed into the pockets of my riding jacket. I gotta get out of town. I’ve pushed my luck. Ready or not. All I can hope for is time in Northern California to regroup and tweak the bike and the packing.

Riding a motorcycle is the ultimate freedom. It truly captures the spirit of travel and being on the road. As I pass push on through the traffic of Los Angeles, the smell of rubber on pavement, spewing diesel and drivers holding cigarettes out their window turns to sweet sage, onion, garlic, and finally, as I make it to Los Banos on the 5 freeway toward San Jose the stench of thousands of bovine. As the sunset over the coastal range, a large flashing highway sign warns me of strong and gusting winds on route 152, which will take me to Highway 101 to Mountain View.

My plan is to stay with my friends Ken and Robin and get an early start the following day. My GPS tells me only 50 minutes until I arrive in Mountain View. But a long line of cars stacked up on the winding and twisting Pacheco Pass forces me to halt. It’s 9 pm. After a few minutes of waiting, I cruise to the head of the nearly half-mile line of cars and trucks. As ten or more firemen and policemen scurry across the pavement, it looks like a war zone. I can’t recognize the vehicle. A fireman with his yellow coat flashing and reflecting in my fairing brings two body bags to the alien-looking vehicle. I turn my head away and motorcycle off. Not what I wanted to see. I felt for the families who are still wondering why loved ones are late coming home.

The police officer tells me two people died because of a drunk driver and advises me to take an alternate route to Mountain View. I arrive at 11:30 pm.

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