August 17th – Arcata is a Hard Town to Leave

I woke up rested, and excited to get back on the road, though still a little apprehensive about the electrical situation with the bike. Nothing to be done about it now, though. We ate breakfast, and began to pack the bike, earning the usual laugh of admiration at how much shit we can pack on one bike. We thanked Leah profusely for letting two strangers stay with her on such short notice, and set out on the road once more.

There was a pretty heavy fog, but the temperature was absolutely lovely. Traffic was very light, and but for the low rumble of the engine, we were alone in the quiet foggy forest. We’d decided to just wait until Oregon to get gas, where it would be much cheaper. I was really starting to get into the ride, enjoying the cool air on my face, and the smooth ride of my new suspension, when the engine gave a sputter. And then another. Shit! I had been hoping for 2 days without problems, but it was only 30 miles later and the engine was giving out. Another moment or two of labored combustion, and it was out. I threw the bike into neutral, and looked for a place to pull over. As luck would have it there was an RV park immediately ahead, and I coasted swiftly into the entrance, hoping our momentum would carry us all the way up the very long drive. It turns out there was a slight incline, so we ran out of momentum about halfway. Between me walking it, and Gianna pushing it from behind, we got it the remaining 100 feet to a parking lot. Of course, my phone had no bars, but Gianna’s phone had one. AT&T doesn’t really cover California, but we’ve always had signal with Verizon, even in very remote places.

I called my insurance company for the second time in 2 days, and they promised a tow truck with an hour an a half, which I thought was pretty good for how in the boonies we were. The ocean was perhaps 500 feet on the other side of the highway, so we made our way there through the tall grass to wait. I was pretty sure my alternator was dead, and figured that would be a pretty expensive part to replace. I did my best to not panic about this latest setback. Smoking a bowl by the ocean is a pretty way to stay calm.

The tow truck arrived right on time, and we began the ride back to Eureka. I was taking it to North Coast Cycle, the shop we’d been outside of the day before. The owner had impressed me by blindly fixing a throttle problem in 5 seconds, and he had been recommended by the VW owner who had jumped us a couple days before. The truck driver was friendly, though had a somewhat disconcerting lack of concern for the lane markings on the road. We eventually made it to the shop, and unloaded the bike.

The shop is filled with an eclectic assortment of classic, custom, or otherwise unique bikes, and what few patrons loiter about have a very “Eureka” feel to them. Let me explain. While Arcata is a small college town full of stoners, Eureka is more of a small industrial town where people use a lot of methamphetamine and get really meticulous about growing weed. It has a very grungy kind of feel to it, and is appropriately called “Eur-tweek-a” by Arcata residents. The mechanic peered up into the bike, and identified a shredded alternator belt as the problem. That was actually pretty good news. The part would cost only $25. Unfortunately, it had to be shipped from San Francisco, and it would be at least a week. Also, because these bikes are such a bitch to work on, the labor estimate was about $300. The shop owner offered me $500 as-is for the bike, which I politely declined. If I could just get it to Portland, it would be worth easily $2000-3000. This was looking to be less expensive than anticipated, but possibly still could end the trip. Additionally, we had been counting on being able to sell some of the weed we’d picked up in Arcata in Portland. How there would at least be a week delay on that.

We looked at the massive pile of all of our shit, and began to despair a bit. Our transportation was proving to be incredibly unreliable, and now we were stuck in Eureka with no bike, no way to carry the amount of equipment we had, and nowhere to stay while the bike was getting fixed. We decided to get some army top loading duffel bags, so I googled up an army surplus store. It was about a mile away, so we began to walk, leaving our luggage in a pile at the shop. There’s a lot of homeless drug addicts in this town. We eventually arrived at the army surplus store, and picked out two large top loading duffel bags with backpack straps. They were $20 each, and pretty fucking massive. Hopefully we’d be able to pack our immense pile of equipment in there. In retrospect, I would pack a motorcycle trip like you’re going to be backpacking, instead of like it’s a light car trip, which is what we did.

I really started to lose hope walking back to the bike shop with our hobo packs. I’d really fucked up. I’d abandoned my business and blown all my money on a trip that may have been too ambitious from the start. I was pretty much out of money, and wasn’t even sure how I would get home at this point. If the next 4000 miles were as expensive in repairs as the last 4000 miles, there was no way I’d be able to ride the bike home, and at this point I didn’t even really have enough money for plane tickets. Was this the story of how I accidentally moved to northern California? More immediately, I wasn’t really looking forward to hauling over 100 pounds of equipment each on foot into the woods to camp for a week. In my self-loathing, I picked up a couple items off the Wendy’s dollar menu on the walk back. Each step we took closer to the bike shop I again enumerated all the ways I had totally fucked myself over.

As we sat on the pavement carefully tetrising all of our things into these huge bags, my phone gave a bloop. I had a new email. I pulled my phone out, not daring to hope for rescue. It was a reply to a couch surfing request. My heart lept as I read the word “Accepted.” We had been rescued! One of the people I’d sent a request to in Arcata had gotten back to us, offering us not just a couch, but an actual bed for the night. Despair gave way to elation as I called the number Kristen had given us. I thanked her for saving us, and explained we were stuck in Eureka. Being stuck in Eureka is a terrible and frequent affliction suffered by those who live in Arcata, and they all have great sympathy for the condition. Kristen’s roommate Gianna, or Gigi, had a car, and they could come pick us up. We finished packing our things, and went to sit on the curb and wait for our rescuers.

Perhaps 30 minutes later, a white SUV pulled up and parked across the street. Out of it stepped our two beautiful, and might I say busty, brunette angels, smiling with arms open. We hugged, and loaded our shit into the back of the vehicle. We stopped at a gas station where I discovered the cheapest way to get cash in this area. I bought a $0.15 Reeses peanut butter cup at the register, and got cash back. I gave Gigi some money for gas, and we headed back to Arcata. As we arrived at their old wooden house, my phone rang. It was the bike shop. They’d forgotten to ask for the key to the bike, and I’d forgotten to give it to them. Fuck. This would mean a public transportation adventure the next day.

The house had pretty eclectic decorations, and was buzzing with activity. One of the roommates, Hilary, was still moving in, and they had been hosting several other couch surfers. Mike and Mogli were leaving as we arrived, presumably making room for us. Mogli had a degree in accounting, and was traveling barefoot holding a tea kettle. He seemed like a very interesting person, and I’m a little disappointed we wouldn’t be getting to know him. Also staying with us were Dan from Whales, and Allen from Los Angeles. Dan and Kristen soon left to see the John Butler Trio in concert. Allen brought over his girlfriend Anja and cooked up some pasta with vegetables in a butter cream sauce. It was pretty tasty, and he had a lot of interesting stories to tell.

A little bit later in the evening Kristen’s friend Kobe stopped by. He was a cheerful fellow in a plaid shirt and a trucker cap studying music at Humboldt State. Of course, we all had weed on us, so the bowl smoking quickly commenced. We smoked bowl after bowl while sharing travel stories until Kristen and Dan got home. At that point we switched to spliffs. Allen told us about growing weed at the top of palm trees, and Kristen told us of her summer trip to China with her friend Fiona. Dan had just gotten his law degree in England, but regretted the decision, and was on a world trip to find himself. We must have smoked dozens of spliffs over the course of the night, and we all went to bed very late and very stoned. I really liked it here, and was incredibly grateful to be here instead of probably still hiking into the woods to find camp.


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