The End of the Road

Route 66 is done. I made it to Santa Monica Pier. Sort of. Good enough.

Yesterday I made my way to Carolyn’s place in Monterey Park. From here on in, Route 66 becomes just one of the many roads that criss-cross this area of seemingly endless urban sprawl. The only thing stopping the sprawl is the Angeles National Forest.

It still exists, though, marked as Historic Route 66. I hopped in Carolyn’s car and rode with her for some errands she needed to do. This let me get the lay of the land without having to worry about navigating at the same time. Having seen some of Route 66 in this area, I was convinced that I didn’t need to drive the last leg through all the cities between here and the Santa Monica Pier. I’d take the highway.

So that’s what I did. The Kawasaki KLR650 is not a great highway bike, but I installed a larger front sprocket to raise the gearing and give it more top-end speed. Originally it was to keep the engine RPMs down on the 55 mph New Hampshire roads I used to ride. Today it would let me push it up to 65 so I wouldn’t get mowed down on I-10. I learned that my Shinko 804/805 big block knobby tires don’t like speeds much higher than that. I’m glad I didn’t get them installed until after the track day.

It was an easy ride to the end of the 10, and I followed my Garmin’s directions all the way to the pier. Then there was a problem: no parking. There were pay lots, sure, but there were also a lot of “no motorcycles” signs. I brought the bike because I thought it would be easy to park. So much for that idea.

Google gave me no clues about where I might find a place to legally stash the bike for a little while to go walk the pier and find the end of Route 66 sign. I explored the roads in the area and found nothing. I ended up accidentally rolling into one of the big parking areas with no way to go back the way I came. They told me to just follow the signs through the lot to the exit. I paused in this lot to program the Garmin to take me back to Carolyn’s, and to get the shot of the Santa Monica Pier to prove I was there. Then I hit the 10 eastbound because I’d literally gone as far west as I could go. The motorcycle that had started at the Atlantic Ocean at the end of August had made it to the Pacific Ocean on November 1.

It was a bit anticlimactic. I was expecting this to be more of an event. But being alone, and not being able to stop, get off the bike, and wander around, I wasn’t really able to savor the moment. I’m certainly enjoying the comfortable temperatures, though, even if 60s are a bit chilly for Southern California. Maybe I can do some more research on motorcycle parking, and go back on a warmer, sunnier day that will be better for hanging out on the beach, and dipping my toes (or all of me) into the Pacific for the first time ever.

On my way back east on I-10, I got to try something on my motorcycle I’ve never done before: lane splitting. Throughout most of the US and Canada, how DARE motorcyclists split between lanes, going to the front of the line at red lights, and passing stuck cars in stopped or slow-moving traffic! But in California (as well as the rest of the world), this behavior is not only permitted, but encouraged. Cars and trucks actually make room for you to pass them between lanes. Back where I grew up in Massachusetts, you’re likely to get blocked, cut off, or have a door opened into you!

After getting over my initial “Am I really supposed to do this?” anxiety, I was amazed at how well it worked. There was no concern about inattentive drivers plowing into me from behind since I simply filtered through the stopped traffic. I did nothing crazy, maybe 10 mph faster than the speed of traffic, until 35-40 or so, when I’d blend back into the normal travel lanes and rejoin the regular flow of traffic. It wasn’t all passing all the time, either. Sometimes there just wasn’t room, so I held my position until there was. Sometimes people would move over within their lane to give me more room. Other times they’d adjust their speed to stagger their vehicle with the other one I was blocked behind, enabling me to carefully weave between them.

Doing this went against every instinct I had for safely riding in traffic, but I was amazed at how well it worked. For once, I actually didn’t mind the slowdowns. It turned into a game of figuring out how to pick my way through traffic and get through it just a little bit faster. It’s amazing, and it works. I’d never want to commute by motorcycle into most major US cities because of traffic and safety concerns, but I completely understand why Carolyn commutes into LA on her bike as much as she does. Not only is it fun, but it’s also faster than a car!

I took care of some other business today since my mail arrived. The most important thing in there was my van’s registration renewal. It’s now officially legal until the end of 2022. My ARRL Volunteer Examiner renewal arrived as well, so I’m authorized to continue participating in running amateur radio license exam sessions. There’s apparently an active club in Quartzite. Maybe I can hook up with them while I’m in the area and help some people get licensed.

I also got my WiFiRanger Spruce back today, having been sent back and reflashed after going completely unresponsive on me. Not only does it work absolutely perfectly now, they actually managed to save my configuration settings! I was sure that I’d be getting it back in the same condition it was in when new, losing my settings and automatic login information for every WiFi network I’ve used between New England and Illinois, where it died. That’s perfectly normal for a reflash on devices like this. Instead, it’s even better than new, fully functional with all of my settings intact. My network is back.

The end of Route 66 may have been anticlimactic, but it’s still been a good day.

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