Even though we live in Portland, we’re not really cyclists. We ride our bikes on nice days, but we have no cycling credo. Our mountain bikes (yes, we’re that behind the times) have nothing to do with our identities. They sit in our backyard, along with the lawnmower and old lawn chairs. When it rains, one of us goes out and throws a tarp over them.
But we had visions of ourselves biking around picturesque downtown Santa Fe, where I was going to be doing some research at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center. Neither of us had ever been to Santa Fe, but had done enough Googling to realize that as the Oldest State Capital in the Nation, the streets would probably be too narrow for us to tootle around in our 27′ RV. We’d had visions of parking it in a nice RV park just outside the city and riding in every morning. That there are no RV parks “just outside the city” never occurred to us, and we also forgot , if we ever knew, that Santa Fe is 7000 feet elevation, while our neighborhood in Portland is 22 feet. That’s another story for a later time.
There are two ways to get to Santa Fe from Portland. The long, boring route sends you down the sad spine of California, cutting over at Bakersfield and taking I-58 through the Mojave desert and Arizona; the shorter, recommended route involves the scenic by-ways of Idaho and Utah. We didn’t even consider that one because my daughter is going to school in San Francisco and, more importantly, there’s an In ‘n Out Burger in Redding.
For many native Californians who live elsewhere, the Double Double served animal-style is our madeleine. Even those of us who swore off Big Macs after having been traumatized by “Supersize Me,” cannot say no to In ‘n Out Burger. Every time we drive down the sad spine of California we stop at the first In ‘n Out Burger we come across (In ‘n Out Burger is a California institution. There’s one in Las Vegas. I’ve heard there just opened one in Dallas. But there are no In ‘n Out Burgers in the Pacific Northwest. Not one.
But weirdly, even though the main reason we took the unattractive, longer California/Arizona route was In ‘n Out Burger, we didn’t stop at our usual In ‘n Out Burger. We were too busy digging our new RV lifestyle. Hey look! Here we are rolling down the I-5 and I can unhook my seatbelt, stagger back to the galley and make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I can even take a quick pee! It’s no worse than going in a train, plane or boat. All while rolling along.
Things got bad near Berkeley. Note to California, you are not Zimbabwe. That washboard stretch of the 580 needs to be repaired, pronto. It was around ten o’clock. We’d been driving non-stop for twelve hours, because we could, and Jerrod had realized an hour earlier that he needed glasses. Everything inside the RV rattled, the plastic sections of the hull shook and shifted, the glass platter in the microwave, the pots and pans in the drawer beneath the stove. It was the same sound an old plane makes during a bumpy landing. We trundled through the toll booth on the Bay Bridge, arguing about whether we were making a mistake even coming into the city in a 27′ RV. A hundred yards or so later a red car pulled up on the driver’s side, the girl in the passenger seat madly gesticulating at Jerrod.
“Yeah, I know I know! I’m driving a behemoth and have absolutely no business driving this thing into the city,” he shouted out the window.
This was the gist of it. Actually, he cussed them out, most unattractively.
Then another car passed on the other side, and the driver and passengers were madly gesticulating. It occurred to me that maybe Jerrod hadn’t cut someone off but that something was wrong with the RV. I looked in the side mirror and where there had formerly been the front half of two front bike tires strapped snuggly to the bike frame, I glimpsed the handle bars and front tire of one bike, hooked on one peg of the bike rack, swinging around in the breeze.
Mad swearing from me. The s-word, the f-word. “We lost one of the bikes!”
We crawled along the Bay Bridge at ten miles an hour. There is no stopping on the Bay Bridge. The world as we know it will end if you stop on the Bay Bridge. We jounced over the rumble strips. We waited to hear to hear the squeal of brakes, the crash of sheet metal as our remaining bike bounced off the rack and on to the hood of the car behind us, belonging to the most litigious people in California. Nothing happened. We took the first off-ramp, Fremont/Folsom, pulled into the Greyhound Bus Station, and found the blue bike gone, the gray one attached by a single strap.