Category: Road Trips

Palm Springs Window Reflections

Palm Springs Window Reflections

Having my picture taken isn’t fun. I hate the way I look.

Sometimes I go through the process of taking selfies to try to work through these feelings. At this point, it seems like a futile effort to come to terms with the aging person that I am.

When I look at the person in the pictures it’s never the person I feel like on the inside. Geeeeezus, who the fuck is this old bag with the tired eyes?!

What comes next is an exercise in tallying up all of the things that are “wrong” with me and then spiraling into a loop of self-loathing. Is this normal? Sometimes I feel like it might be. I mean, who isn’t plagued by some level of feeling like if they just had <insert thing here> then they’d feel a million-bajillion times better? Is it all just a matter of degrees?

Taking pics in my riding gear or with my helmet on, or even wearing my glasses feels much easier. There is a sense of safety in being covered in some way. You see me, but you don’t. I prefer that.

Who would’ve ever though just showing yourself to the world as you are, would be such an act of vulnerability? 🤷‍♀️Especially considering you walk around all day doing just that.

Anyway, this was me, in my safety suit, reflected in the SHAG store window in Palm Springs.

Stay weird, friends.

A Yeti, an Art Gallery, a Kickass Road – This must be Ranchita, California

A Yeti, an Art Gallery, a Kickass Road – This must be Ranchita, California

In December of 2016, I was in California taking a week-long riding trip. I flew to LA, rented a bike and wandered about. While heading towards Borrego Spring on Montezuma-Borrego Highway, I passed a Yeti in Ranchita. Often people will ask me how I find such things. In this case, it was pure serendipity.

So was this little roadside art gallery. You just never know what you’re going to find out there in the world, do ya?

One of the patronages of St. Maurice is to the Brotherhood of Blackheads. I myself have not-so-great skin, but damned if I’m joining a club about it.

Saint Maurice

A place of subtle old fashioned
virtues an escape from …
present into a softer more
gentle way of life and opening
up to light and the weather
a sense of real luxury
the kind that cannot be
measured by monetary standards
a level of tranquility
a sweethnes[sic] of tone
an uncomplicated
round for the ongoing

Party of One – Wednesday Night in Breezewood

Party of One – Wednesday Night in Breezewood

In the past couple of years, I’ve cruised through the town of Breezewood, Pennsylvania a handful of times. Not because I was seeking it out, but just… because. If you’re riding along Route 30, it just happens. One minute you’re buzzing through nothing much and then whammo! You’re smack in the middle of a kaleidoscope of chain restaurants, hotels and gas stations.

Breeeeeeeeeezewood. There is something so lovely about the name. I imagine walking through waist-high grass wearing a floppy straw hat, with the wind tumbling the ends of my hair in Breezewood. The sun would gently kiss your golden tanned shoulders in Breezewood. You can twirl and twirl and fall down laughing under a bright blue sky in Breezewood. In truth, you’re more likely to have to scrape off the hot gum you stepped in, on the edge of the curb, in Breezewood.

As a northeastern suburbanite, the presence of so many chain establishments isn’t in and of itself strange. It’s more the juxtaposition of traveling along the bucolic rolling hills of Route 30 into an entire town that is essentially a highway rest area that is a shock to the system. Then there is the matter that Breezewood, as crazy as it sounds, is the onramp between I-70 and the PA Turnpike.


photo source – Wikipedia

On my way home from West Virginia, I found myself at both the proverbial and actual crossroads in Breezewood. I’d already logged 300+ miles in the saddle for the day. And since it was near dinner time, I was faced with a dilemma: do I continue home, knocking out another 300+ miles on the slab -or- just pack it in for the night and continue on the following morning? Something about the Bonneville helps me find my take it easy vibe and so I opted to stay in franchise-heaven.

Every motorcyclist who passes through town must ask if they can park beneath front door canopy of the Holiday Inn Express. While checking in, the girl at the desk made sure to include that I needed to park my motorcycle in an actual parking space in the stream of instructions that she recited by rote. I’m not even sure she took a single breath as the words flowed forth and she pointed to the direction of the elevator.

After getting settled and having a shower, I decided to set off on foot to grab some dinner. The nearest restaurant was a place called Bob Evans. I’d seen the name scrawled in cheerful white letters many times on highway attraction signs so I figured – what the hell.

Not knowing what to expect I was surprised to find that I had to run the gauntlet of impulse purchasing before finding the person who would seat me for dinner. If you told me that their retail maze lost three elderly ladies to starvation each week, I wouldn’t be surprised.

“Dearest Henry,

I am writing this from a makeshift shelter that I fashioned out of tea towels with wine grapes embroidered on them.

Things here at the Bob Evans gift shop aren’t looking good. Somehow I got separated from the group. One minute we were looking at miniature license plates and monogrammed umbrellas and the next thing I know I was wandering alone in a vast sea of Intercourse and Blue Ball shot glasses.

My dear, I fear the worst. Go on without me.

Ever yours,
Margaret”

Needless to say, the front of the restaurant was a store full of useless, folksy junk. The upside, of course, is that if I ever find myself in the market for a t-shirt that says “You are the bacon to my eggs,” or a jelly for any occasion, well, now I know where to go. Though at my age, my eggs just want to be left the hell alone.

What I’ve come to realize is that I really don’t like chain “diner” food. Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, Bob Evans, Waffle House… they all have a loyal following but the appeal is lost on me. Their food is meh, at best. Some towny diner’s omelet will always be better but how much of that better-ness can be attributed to the ambiance, I can’t say. I suppose like my penchant for Holiday Inn Express, people find comfort in knowing what they’re in for each time.

When the host made his way to the podium to seat me, he grabbed a single menu out of the stack and said with pitying flair that arced up to a squeak on the end, “just onnnne?” Indeed, Chip, it’s just me, a party of one at a Bob Evans in Breezewood, Pennsylvania at 8 pm on Wednesday. Maybe I should start saying No, party of two and then motion to an imaginary friend.

As a solo diner, you get to be a fly on the wall. As you sit in your silence the conversations that go on around you find their way to your ears. Because you aren’t focused on anyone across the table from you, your eyes are free to roam around the room and take in things that are overlooked when you have company.

When traveling, I like to bring my notebook to dinner. While unwinding from the day’s constant motion I try to record whatever I can remember. I find it therapeutic.

Have I ever told you that I have a deluded fantasy life? In it, I am far more interesting and important than I am in my real life. I like to pretend that everyone notices me writing and that they’re dying to know what I’m writing about. There are two stock fantasy people who write in my notebook at dinner – the novelist and my go to: the food critic. I don’t even know why that idea appeals to me. It’s ridiculous, really, especially considering the places I find myself dining. The Moons Over My Hammy had a slightly smoky flavor with a smooth finish.

When the waitress sauntered over to take my order, she said, “is it just you tonight, honey?” (what is it with these people?)

As I ate and scribbled, I watched the goings on of the restaurant. At the table closest to me was a couple in their late 60s, maybe early 70s. Throughout their whole meal, I didn’t see them exchange a single word. Not. One. And while it could be that they’ve elevated in their relationship to be able to enjoy a comfortable silence together, I projected my own feelings on what I saw. It was like two people sleepwalking. And at that moment, I realized though I was alone, I was not lonely.

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch – Oro Grande, California – Route 66

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch – Oro Grande, California – Route 66

A Whimsical Wonderland

In January of 2017, I was riding my motorcycle on a solo trip through California. I followed a leg of Route 66 back towards Los Angeles. That’s where I learned about Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch.

Route 66 Sign in Oro Grande California

January 2, 2017, was a gray morning, I cruised along Route 66 through Oro Grande, California on a rented Triumph Tiger 800. Amongst the dusty scrub, I rolled up to an oasis.

Welcome to Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch

Motorcycle road trip Elmer's bottle tree ranch route 66

The ranch was an unassuming place. When I pulled up and parked it almost felt like I was trespassing. I wondered if I could just walk in? Or if I needed to pay? Or how this all worked. But, there was no one there but me.

I figured, what the hell and made my way towards an opening in the fence. The welcome sign quelled my fears about trespassing.

welcome sign at Elmers Bottle Tree Ranch in California

Yup, I had the place to myself. I silently walked among the bottle trees listening to the wind make squeaking, tinkling music across the assemblages.

Elmer's bottle tree ranch - motorcycle road trip

My only wish? That the sun was out. Seeing the light reflecting through the different colored glass must be magical on a bright blue day.

https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-r7TThS6/1/3c970a92/X2/i-r7TThS6-X2.jpg

Aside from the bottles themselves, the bottle trees are also adorned with found objects and other assemblages.

old cash register at Elmer's bottle tree ranch
motorcycle road trip to elmers bottle tree ranch

You know I couldn’t help but smile to see a hat tip to motorcycling.

old gas pump at Elmers Bottle Tree Ranch in California

A lovely Coco-Cola relic.

Coca-Cola sign at the Bottle Tree Ranch in California on a motorcycle road trip of route 66

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch is definitely a place to get your kicks on Route 66.

route 66 sign at elmers bottle tree ranch

A forest of beautiful bottle trees.

bottle trees at elmers bottle tree ranch

Listen for the hypnotic twinkling sounds of the ranch:

 

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Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch
24266 National Trails Hwy,
Oro Grande, CA 92368
Google Maps

One Year Later: My Desert Awakening Went Back to Sleep

One Year Later: My Desert Awakening Went Back to Sleep

One year ago today, December 28, 2016, I stood in the golden sun of the California desert taking in Salvation Mountain. The day shimmered with magic, possibility, and the excitement unique to being on a journey.

sal·va·tion
noun: salvation
1.
preservation or deliverance from harm, ruin, or loss.
synonyms: lifeline, preservation; means of escape, help, saving, savior

During my week of desert solitude, I found and lost myself a hundred times over. Each new vista that spilled away to the mountains that sit at the edge of eternity breathed new life into me. The cycle tore me down to the raw meat of who I am – weak and scared, and then mile by mile, it built me up again. I found salvation in the controlled burn.

By the time my ride came to an end, I thought I came away with some understanding. I was so sure that I took with me a change. But here I am, one year later, and I don’t think I have. I am that same uncertain person who went fumbling around in the desert for answers. How could I have learned nothing?

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