Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Mexico or bust....

Sunday morning found me hung-over from the fall party at Alasdair and Lauren’s. Not too bad though, I took painkillers before suffering too much. The main feeling was not being very with it to play croquet; I buggered up every shot I took just about. My game did improve a bit towards the end, after having a couple of beers. Last night I pretty much drank continuously, didn’t feel so pissed though, which continues to be the case really. I can be drinking and it doesn’t seem to get me staggering, or being incoherent. I did find myself being morose when Susan, jonny’s girlfriend, wanted to talk about Cai and offer support if I ever need it. Different views of people reflect how they are, obviously; the view that we can’t deal with this trauma alone is a dodgey one. Eventually it must be us, ourselves, who actually deal with such emotional turmoil. I’m not saying support and guidance has no place in this, a shoulder to cry on, an attentive ear, a caring hug, they all have their benefits and they ease the pain and loneliness. It’s not solving anything though, it doesn’t exorcise the demons. OK, having someone there to hold you, while you let the tears flow, can be nice. It can also make you feel weaker within yourself, uncomfortable with your dependence on others to help you through. And no, I do not think people should be pushed aside, I don’t think isolation is the whole answer either. For me isolation could easily lead to a deep inversion of my emotions and sentiments, I need people I am comfortable enough with, to express my grief.

I do need to be able to talk, but this doesn’t always need to be a close friend, or even a person I know. Talking about Cai can be enough, the person doesn’t have to know he’s dead, enthusing about his virtues is therapy anyway. Relating memories of our lives together, letting the world know how special my son was is a wonderful therapy; it needn’t be a sorrowful one either. More and more I find myself talking about him to people, without telling them he died, or merely mentioning that fact without elaborating. It can feel strange acting as if Cai isn’t here, as if he doesn’t exist, chatting as if I didn’t have a care in the world. The simple fact is though, he isn’t here, but accepting that and acting accordingly hurts! I know I’ve got to get on with doing things, without constant thoughts of Cai, too many thoughts become unbearable. Frequent tears do nothing to improve life, I wonder how much of the grief is self perpetuating, how much more it hurts to retell of the pain; does it still have a lot of meaning or is it just becoming a vicious circle. I know that isn’t the case, fortunately, so I can discard that notion immediately. I also know I shouldn’t feel guilty about getting on with life, enjoying myself; it’s so important to start acting as if I am alone. Fuck it, I am, whether I like it or not! So I shouldn’t feel crap by acting that way, let’s hope putting it into words will help that sink in.

On the subject of the bike, I dropped it wheeling backwards on Saturday. My foot slipped in the gravel and down we went, bloody embarrassing! There was a definite positive side to it though, it was so easy to pick up. Despite it falling over down slope, the boxes made it a doddle, there was so much to grab hold of, wherever you wanted! Under motion the balance is exceptional, no hesitation leaning over, right over! Fully laden tonight I gave it a decent trial, I couldn’t tell any difference than the boxes empty. The tight bends on the mountain roads were a breeze, I gently lay the bike right down and throttled nicely out of every bend; getting lower and faster with each one. All I can say is there is nigh perfect distribution of weight, and no shifting of luggage no matter how hard I try to crank it round bends. What can I say but, BBBBBBBBBrrrrrrilllllllllliaaaaaaaaantt? I got enough food to last a few days and chose a nice rich coffee to use in my new, unbreakable, cafetiere. Aren’t I the bloody luxury biker now, eh?

Tuesday’s route was fairly straight forward, route 150 from Upper Ojai to Santa Paula, then interstate 126 onto the 118. I used this as a shortcut through the edge of Oxenard, onto the Interstate 101, which took me to LA and the Interstate 405. A slight detour was made into Thousand Oaks, to the Kawasaki dealer, for my leaner pilot jet. Another detour was made before leaving the 405, I managed to buy a spare visor from another parts supplier, one of the few who sell Vox helmets. Once clear of LA I joined Interstate 5 heading south. This would have taken me all the way to Tijuana, but I didn't want to use this border crossing, it’s very busy and difficult to find all the places to pay tourist tax and import tax. Tacate is supposed to be much less hassle, so I took the 125 to highway 94, which goes straight down to Tacate.

Not long after clearing greater LA the sky became heavy with smoke, almost blocking out the moon. It was really dense and got thicker quickly. It was so surreal, thick smoke making it dark and spooky, ash highlighted in my headlight and as it got darker the glow of fires could be seen behind the hills. By the time I got near Spring Valley signs declared Highway 94 closed, bollocks! What the frigging hell am I going to do, apart from going via Tijuana, which I really didn’t want to do. I stopped at a retail park; the fires were in full view on the hillside, only a few miles ahead of me. I hadn’t realised the extent or seriousness of the wildfires, the car park was full of RV’s and campers of people who’d been evacuated. It appeared more like a community outing, people with chairs in their pickups watching the progress of the fires. They were jostling for good views for photos, and the flaming hillside did look fairly impressive, I couldn’t be arsed to get out the camera. More importantly, I was desperate to find a way around the fires. Finding out highway 8 had been re-opened was all I needed, motorcycles had only just had a restriction lifted, the wind had dropped so was deemed passable. OK, it was passable, because I got along it! But great care was vital and it had to be done at slow speed. If I went any faster than 55mph the stability was risky, below 50mph and I didn’t have enough speed to make a straight line against the wind. There was no foretelling which direction the next gust would come from, nor how strong it would be. I rode for an hour, then chatted to a couple of border guards, who told me the 94 east end, to circle round the blockages, was in fact closed also. Holy shit, what choice do I have left? Take a breather and give myself time to calm down, and consider my options.

I’d already overshot the S1, the short cut to the east end of the 94, but there I sat at the intersection of Interstate 8 and route 94, only half an hour from Tecate. I woke early and getting ready was quick and simple, on the road by 9.30. As there was no road block at the end of the 94 I thought it was a good start. It didn’t last more than about twenty miles, up popped a sign, “road closed”, bollocks! There wasn’t a police blockade so I decided to ask how far I could get, hoping to reach Tecate and cross the border. At first it was disappointing, only two miles along the road there was a road block; luckily I meet two local guys. Their first question was, “what sort of bike are your riding, is it a street bike?” Once we established my bike’s type, and basic layout, they came to the point. Simple, continue to the road block, turn left and go along to the end of the tarmac. Continue on the dirt track until reaching the border fence, turn right and just follow the fence all the way to Tacate border crossing. Wow, what a treasure; what a great chance meeting. How lovely it was to come along to the police road block, indicate left and just turn off, not even giving them a chance to say a word or signal for me to stop.
It turned out to be a reasonable track, not too loose, and not too much gravel. There was a constant presence of sand, some sections were very steep with rocky outcrops, and there were some really steep downhill sections; they made me ride with the utmost caution. Having passed a couple of border patrols I didn’t think there was a problem, the third one stopped me and asked where I was going. It posed no problem for him; he wished me luck and let me on my way. I was only a few miles away from Tacate. And then who should come along, Mr Officious! Twenty question time ensued, he wasn’t impressed, and claimed the border was closed. Well, I really didn’t believe him, so assured him plenty of people had seen me and said it was fine to be using the track. He wasn’t going to believe me, I just said clearly I’d have to ride back out from Tacate, after he stated very clearly there was nowhere to stay at the border. Well he let me go anyway, and as he drove off the other one had come along. I couldn’t believe it, he told me to find a hole in the barrier and go through. And I’d only just turned around when Mr O came back, shit! Then along came the helpful one, is this going to get complicated or what? Actually no, a note was taken of my name etc, Mr O turned round and just advised me to get across the border anyway I could. Well fuck it then, off I go, next stop Mexico!

Oh, how I wish it had been that easy! Whilst trying to find a suitable place a Mexican border guard saw me riding along the barrier and started watching me. No way was I going to risk Mexican jail, which I felt sure would happen if I was picked up by them. So on to Tacate, which was closed, and involved a check on my credentials. It wasn’t actually any problem and the guys were friendly enough, they were actually apologetic about having to check my ID, along with being perplexed at my attempts to get to the border.

Despite the 94 being closed, I had to use it to get away from the border; the eastern route was used as the other way went up into Jamul, which is the worst area of the wildfires. On the way back to Interstate 8 I had to go right past a fire front. No, it wasn’t a large one; in fact it looked very insignificant. It was pleasant to be stopped to talk to a cop, he was a real KLR fan, he wished me well and bade me farewell. But what a bore, I had to ride up to the 8, all the way back to San Diago and then down to the border, I didn’t go to the Tijuana crossing though. There is a truck crossing about five miles east of it which I went through instead, I didn’t stop at all which worries me. I don’t have an import document and I haven’t paid tourist tax. Maybe I can try and get these tomorrow, I’m sure someone said at one time I could get these in Ensanada. I’ll have to see tomorrow, I passed the tourist information kiosk so I’ll find it in the morning and sort out what I need.

The end of really surprised me; an awful panic attack gripped me once I stopped in Ensanada. I felt desperate to turn around and go straight back to Ojai, ETS was needed in a double dose. All I could think was what the hell am I doing, how could I possibly manage this trip, how can I cope with being alone. I felt so cut off, by language alone. That’s what induced the fear, the anxiety attack! Oh fuck, I felt so alone, consumed with a desperate need to talk or be with someone; someone I knew and could trust. It was so hard not to break down completely, I felt so strongly like bursting into tears; I made do with a couple of tears rolling down my cheek.

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