August 12th – I’m on the Road to Nowhere

We woke up in the peaceful woods of the Stanislaus for the last time this morning. We’d picked up a new can of propane from the camp store near the park entrance the night before. It had been acting a little odd, seemingly over-pressurized. It would take some effort to sort of push the stove onto it against the pressure from within. We did get it to work for dinner the night before, and breakfast this morning. When I removed the stove from the tank after cooking breakfast, instead of the tank separating quietly and neatly, it began to geyser propane out the nozzle at a rather alarming rate. We went and stuck it upright off away from our camp a ways, unable to stop the rapid escape of flammable gas from the tank. We packed up the rest of camp while we waited for this tank to finish discharging it’s gas. Three hours later, the bike was totally packed, and that can was still expelling propane at a pretty alarming rate. It seemed incredibly unsafe to try to attach this unlit flamethrower to the motorcycle, so we unfortunately abandoned it in the woods, still spewing forth it’s toxic gases. My sincerest apologies to the environment, I promise to make it up someday.

We rode down out of the mountains, and away from the park. It was a lovely, smooth ride until we got stuck behind a large truck going through some particularly sharp switchbacks. Eventually it pulled off to the side to let us pass, for which I was very grateful. Swooping fairly quickly down the rest of the mountain, we were soon cruising through central California once more. We stopped in Oakdale to get some coffee and food, and plan our next move. At this point, we really weren’t too sure what the next step was, except presumably to drive north. We ended up a Starbucks, and used their free wifi for a couple hours trying to find farms or intentional communities we could go work-trade for lodging at. At this point it became abundantly clear that this was entirely the incorrect way to arrange such things. Or rather, it was entirely the wrong time. Apparently you have to contact these places months and months ahead of time in order to provide them free labor. Crazy times when there’s a waiting list to do free farm work. We also sent out some couch surfing requests in Santa Rosa and Arcata. Eventually we became rather famished sitting in the Starbucks, and so moved across the parking lot to the McDonald’s. We were feeling pretty poor, and figured it couldn’t do that much harm.

Oh how wrong we were. Thirty minutes down the road, our bellies were undergoing their own Arab Spring movement, revolting against our oppression of the digestive system by means of fast “food.” We pulled off the highway, and stopped at an abandoned lot by the side of the road to smoke a bowl, hoping to quell the Stomach Rebellion. A neighbor noticed us, and popped outside to tell us to watch out for fire ants around the lot, and then went back inside. A couple bowls and a liter or so of water later, we felt well enough to get back on the road. Ugh. Fuck McDonald’s That shit is not food.

Driving back through the bay area, I again found myself weaving through traffic, a feat I would not have been bold enough to attempt just weeks before. At some point another biker got on the road, and I believe tried to invite us somewhere. I was ultimately unable to understand his shouting and gesturing over the road and wind noise, and carried on without him. We came into Santa Rosa around evening, stopping at the Trader Joe’s for some more food. We still had not received a response from our hopeful couch surfing contact here, so it was time to seek out alternative lodging plans. We definitely could not afford to stay at a motel again. We headed to the REI to get more propane, arriving just as they were locking the doors. I think the fact that we pulled up on such an overloaded motorcycle, clearly on a grand adventure, convinced them to open back up for us. I noticed they even had to reopen a register to make the transaction, but we did successfully get our propane. The REI employees were very helpful, and recommended a couple local parks we could try to find camping at.

As usual, we were trying to camp on the weekend, and the parks we investigated were completely full. Turns out you really, really need reservations to go camping in California parks. If you don’t have a reservation, your best bet is to arrive at the park as close to morning check-out time as possible, or camp in national forest and bureau of land management land. Sadly, we weren’t particularly close to any of that, so we decided to try something we’d been hoping to avoid. Lots of people along the trip had told us that you could camp at Walmart for free, so we looked up the nearest Walmart, finding it to be in a small town just north of here. We pulled in, rode around to the back, and pitched our tent for the night.

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