To The Oceans, White with Foam. Or “Sarah and the Big-Ass Bag”


December 31, 2013 by realbkw

beach-kalmus12Zuma Beach
I had travelled to LA with my niece, Sarah, who was nineteen at the time. On the surface it sounded like a great adventure, and in reality it was. For the most part. I useta could be a real bitch. Yeah, I can hear my family now, in unison, saying “Ya think?” I could apologize for it now, except that I’m the kind of person who thinks actions speak louder than words, and I hope my actions over the past, most recent couple of decades have made up for the actions of the first couple of decades of my life. I have a difficult time expressing remorse and regret, verbally. But I’ve softened over the years, for the most part!, as many people do. I can still be a hard-ass, and opinionated, and annoying. I try to keep that in check though, and now do a pretty decent job of it, usually. There are even times when I can be intimidated, and times where my soft underbelly has been exposed and, suffering excruciating pain or facing fear I have been reduced to tears. And not just tears, waterfalls accompanied by wracking sobs. Not too many people have seen it, and those who haven’t probably find it hard to believe, but it’s happened.
Anyway, back to the early, usually fun loving but sometimes bitchy and demanding me, and the trip to LA. Poor Sarah, whom I love sooo much, experienced the brunt of my frustrations when things went wrong on the trip.Sometimes I didn’t have much patience. Hopefully she remembers more of the awesomely great times we had, though. Like sweeping up the desert bugs off the floor in the Malibu canyon “apartment” before she climbed into her sleeping bag at night!
Okay, Remember, this was back in ’94. Before everybody had smart phones or even personal computers. The internet was in its infancy, relatively speaking. We were just beginning to get inundated with mail from AOL. Not e-mail, but physical junk mail, in the form of installation discs that you pretty much got every week in your real mail box. Back before it was called snail mail. The closest thing we had to GPS was a TripTik from the local Triple A office. You remember, right? AAA? Your parents had those silver oval AAA stickers on their cars? And people carried change (you remember coins, right? Real coins, not Bit Coins, whatever the hell those are) so we could make phone calls using public pay phones. Yes, we actually had to park our cars to make calls, even though by then there were drive-up pay phones, so you really could make a call from your car, even if you weren’t rich and driving a Mercedes with a long antennae on the roof and a telephone handset connected by a coiled phone cord to the phone installed in your car’s console. Yeah, those were the good old days, when the only driving distraction we faced was trying to open a CD case with one hand while holding that new-fangled flavored coffee in the other hand, which kinda was controlling the steering wheel.
So with the help of Triple A and a glove box full of maps, Sarah and I started our adventure. I drove east to pick up Sarah and say good bye to family members, and we took a ceremonial east coast plunge into the Atlantic, knowing our travels would end with a plunge into the Pacific on the west coast of California. It would truly be a cross country trip. Well, excluding Alaska and Hawaii. Which, let’s be honest, we really think of them more as exotic vacation places than states. I mean we would be driving across states like Iowa and Minnesota. No offense to hawkeyes and gophers but nobody thinks of those places as vacationland, nevermind exotic. I don’t care how many lakes Minnesota has, it’s still not high on the list of places one dreams of visiting. And speaking of non-exotic places, our first stop is Pittsfield, MA, heart of the Berkshires, where I grew up and Sarah still lives. It’s a pretty good place – to be from. Aside from my oldest sister and Sarah’s family, I don’t know too many people who still live there. It’s a nice little city in a beautiful area that has persevered through some really tough times, which is a big reason why so many people left. It was a GE company town which GE practically abandoned, triggering a migration and the subsequent closing of many businesses. But like I said, it has persevered and re-invented itself and people are starting to rediscover it as a pretty good place to live and raise your kids. But I digress.
We stop at Sarah’s house to pick up her stuff for the trip. We had already borrowed my youngest sister’s new mountain bike and mounted it on the Camaro’s bike rack, alongside my mountain bike. We were gonna have some fun on this trip, dammit! Anyway, with the Camaro’s trunk being as small as it was, and me needing to take stuff for living in CA instead of just visiting, I had limited Sarah to just one suitcase and a backpack. Well, I don’t know where they found it but Sarah comes trudging down the stairs with the biggest fucking duffle bag ever made. I’m talking bigger than an army bag. I’m talking how-in-the-hell-are-we-gonna-fit-that-in-the-trunk kinda big. Oh. My. God. Ho. Lee. Shit. THAT was a big-ass bag. I think my sister must have placed a special order for it from LL Bean. If the US had a snowboarding team back then, the whole team’s snowboards AND boots woulda fit in that bag. No lie. Well, maybe a little lie, but still, it was damn big. The only thing to do was tell her she could take it if she could carry it because I sure as hell wasn’t going to try to lift it. With some maneuvering we managed to jam it in the trunk. It was big enough to take up the entire backseat but since the Camaro had T-Tops and we weren’t planning on keeping them on much, we couldn’t leave anything IN the car.
So we said our goodbyes and off we went, jumping on The Pike (Massachusetts Turnpike, you know, the highway from James Taylor’s Fire and Rain) and heading west. I had planned the trip as a two week road trip, with stops along the way but with enough flexibility to fit in spur-of-the-moment fun. The planned stops included Cedar Point in Ohio, then the Roller Coaster Capital of the World! From there we’d spend a couple of days in Chicago, cross Iowa and make our way to South Dakota. After touring the Badlands, which was like being on another planet, we hit Mt. Rushmore. Then it was Wyoming, where we naturally spent an hour or two picking out the perfect cowboy hats, which we probably wore for two days and never again. We headed towards Denver, overwhelmed by the sight of the Rocky Mountains, and then hit Aspen. We had thought to ride our bikes down the mountain at Aspen but their rule was, if you wanna ride down you have to make your own way up. It’s a big mountain. A really big mountain. And we weren’t prepared to climb it while lugging our bikes. So we decided to just ride around town and then drive to Snowmass, where they would hook your bikes on the back of the chairlift and give you a ride up! And what a ride it was! The view was, literally, breathtaking. We got to the top and split up. Sarah rode the fire road down, which was easier than the single track route I chose. Easier but not easy! She was a trooper! I had a lot more experience and was really looking forward to jamming down that hill. But I ran into a little problem on the way down. At one point I caught a silver flash out of the corner of my eye. Soon I realized it was one of my front brake shoes. Yes, brake shoes are those pads that clamp against your wheel to provide stopping power.
As anybody who rides a bike knows, most of that stopping power comes from the front. And I, whilst traveling down a very steep ski hill at a high rate of speed, had just lost the use of my front brakes. Fortunately I had eschewed the use of the sneakers and toe clips and was wearing my hiking boots, so I hit the back brakes, locking up the wheel, and dragged my feet until I slowed enough to be able to turn uphill, which allowed me to stop. OMG! What a rush! I was able to control the rest of my descent, but going slow kinda took the fun out of the ride. There was a bike repair place on site so I was hoping to get a quick fix and head back out, but the loser tech wouldn’t fix my bike without an appointment, nor would he sell me a new brake shoe. Thanks for ruining my day.
Biking Snowmassmoab biking
Our next stop was Moab, Utah. Remember, this was ’94 when mountain bikers were just discovering tiny little Moab. I called ahead and made plans to get my bike fixed while we settled into the condo we’d rented. Which just happened to back up onto the red rock hills of Moab! More beauty! So we got the bike fixed, loaded up with lots of water, and went riding. We also did some climbing on the red rock, which was quite a challenge. So far we were having a kick-ass time. A meandering rafting trip down the Green River was amazing. Laying in the raft, looking up at the most gorgeous blue sky with towering red rock walls on both sides! I can still see it in my mind. Then we left the natural beauty of Utah and hit Vegas for a couple of days. Eek! Culture shock! And Damn, Vegas gets hot in July! But it was fun. From Vegas it was a couple of hours to LA. We hopped in the car and giddily hit the road, knowing the west coast was our next stop.
And speaking of stopping, this is a good place to stop for now. I purposely left out a lot of details. Mostly because this is a blog about the journey I’m on now, but this journey started with that trip to LA, and I’ve been hanging on to those memories for a long time. Sometimes they are what help me get through; through the day, through the night, through the pain and the challenges. So I’m sharing them. They’re helping me meet this challenge, so they’re an important part of the story. A story which will be continued in my next blog post.

One thought on “To The Oceans, White with Foam. Or “Sarah and the Big-Ass Bag”

  1. Susan says:

    You are really bringing me back in time…it is great hearing about all the details of the trip and A time when life was good for you!

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