Today we got up and packed our bags. We were going to go to the last meeting of NCOM--the bike blessing.
Before we left the hotel casino Dad got a cup of coffee at the lobby, where we met with Chaplain Dean and Chaplain Gryder. We got on our bikes and as a group set off for the park, where the blessing was to be held. Unfortunately we left Dad's coffee--but at least it wasn't like running out of gas fifteen minutes into the ride.
When we got to the park we started the blessing by praying. Only a few people had come, but that did not make us quit.
After that one chaplain (not one of ours) would walk up to a bike, pray over it and then dab it with a bit of oil. Everyone's bikes were blessed, including ours.
Then it was time to get back to riding. Dad, Chaplain Dean and I planned on taking it easy, since we would have two days to go 500 miles down California into Rancho Caucamonga, CA, where the Run For The Wall begins. We were going to split with Chaplain Gryder, who had a hotel reserved at Rancho Cucamonga. Then we would take a route through some of California's countryside and camp in one of the state parks.
But things did not go quite as planned. In addition to the already high California temperature, the road we were taking through California got very close to Death Valley. As a result, it was very hot. Not even the wind blasting me in the face cooled me down.
We got a hundred miles through the trip and stopped. We fueled up, got some drinks, did the usual gas station routine. But then we did something else. We found a shade tree and parked our bikes under it. Then we sat down and just talked for a whole hour or so. I don't think any of us had really planned on doing this and I don't think any of us had done this before. We just sat and talked and enjoyed the coolness of the shade. We all found it thoroughly comfortable and it was the perfect kind of a break from the road.
But soon we had to get up and ride on the road.
The land was beautiful, with sloping snow capped mountains to our right and to the left a flat plain with more mountains at the edge of the horizon. I looked at what seemed to me water, then found that I had seen a mirage. The heat made the plains shiver and wiggle and it looked strange.
We also came close to a lake briefly. It almost looked like a huge mirage, but when I saw the beaches I knew it couldn't be.
When we finally came to the next stop we looked for a way to get to some of the campgrounds. The man at the gas station said that the roads were closed and would not be open until June. We looked for any open roads, but the only one we could find was near Rancho Cucamonga. We might as well go there because Chaplain Gryder said that he had an extra bed at the hotel and we could stay with him there--if we could squeeze Chaplain Dean in with an air mattress like we did in the hotel during NCOM.
After an expensive lunch (the burgers cost five dollars!) we set off again. The trip was still hot, but evening was finally coming. And with it, cool air.
We found a problem at the next gas stop. Chaplain Dean's rear tire was nearly worn out! There was no tire service anywhere near and since the roads were all closed we could not camp! There was only one thing to do: keep riding and pray that the tire would last for two and a half more hours.
It was definitely getting cooler. I was no longer hot and, as the sun sank below the mountains to the west, I started to get cold.
Dusk was here. Traffic picked up. It was getting really dangerous. If Chaplain Dean's rear tire were to blow now, he could easily get run over by the increasing number of semi trucks, some of the most dangerous vehicles to encounter when riding a motorcycle--especially when it was dark and the bikes were even less visible.
One car went into the opposite traffic lane. The driver chose a really bad time to try and pass, because many cars were coming toward the driver now. It quickly swerved back into our lane, nearly hitting the cars, then nearly hitting us and then cutting off Chaplain Dean from us. I suddenly knew that this was what NCOM had been trying to prevent--close crashes and close calls, like the one I had just experienced.
We stopped at the final gas station before Rancho Cucamonga. Chaplain Dean's rear wheel looked really close to burning out. We could now see the small, thin wires that held the tire together. We hoped it would last the final fifty miles.
I watched and prayed for Chaplain Dean the whole way, looking backwards every few minutes (and soon every few seconds) as the traffic got tighter and tighter and filled with more semi trucks. If the tire wore out now he was almost sure to get hurt--or worse.
But as we finally rolled into the hotel parking lot at about 9:30 that night, we knew everything would be okay.
And still the day (or night, by now) was not over. Because it was a Sunday night we had to search for fifteen minutes on foot. Finally we found a place to eat. We had not eaten since midday and now we were starving.
After dinner we finally got to bed at 11:30 that night.