Last week I needed to ride up to Murrieta from San Diego to pick up a rack for my saddlebags. I've lived in San Diego since 1956; I've learned on these roads and run over stuff on them.
Roads are part of our culture, our history and our lives. They are also part of the big memory map of your “who.” You may ride the same road over decades with myriad purposes.
Going up I-15; I started driving that route in the 1970s to commit falconry, in a Datsun pickup with a hawk in the camper. Temecula wasn't “Wine Country” back then, it was wide fields full of dove, rabbit, jackrabbit and, in the south end, peacocks.
Following a stint in the Army, back home, I was driving up I-15 on the weekends to hit Lake Elsinore, a really prime hang glider spot that accommodated both beginners and expert pilots. One can hover over the Ortega Highway and watch the motorcycle group dynamic from above as they head to the Lookout Cafe, where the hang glider pilots used to launch back in the day of low performance Rogallo wings.
After exploring the Great Northwest for a few years, and a stint as a motorcycle messenger in San Francisco, I wound up back in San Diego where it smells right and the hills aren't covered in trees.
There I was, riding up I-15 again. At 5:00 am. With fishing poles.
The freshwater fishing craze didn't last long. There's just something about freezing your butt off at 4:30 in the morning that doesn't outweigh the joy of hooking a poor, stupid farmed trout. Not by a long shot. It's like shooting fish in a barrel. We will someday discuss the joys of riding home from a 2 day ocean trip with a frozen 40 pound yellowfin tuna bungeed to the back of the bike. (I was a one-woman parade. People on the freeway were honking and giving me thumbs up!)
I wound up back on I-15 after the fishing spree to protest a destructive cult that has a “secret” compound north of Hemet. A wonderful lady who lost a son to that cult lived in there, and opened her home to us critics, picketers and suppressive people. There were parties, and car chases, and private eyes lurking in the shrubberies and following us to the store.
Through time, I-15 has been the highway to several different pursuits. It hasn't changed. It's the same old road its always been. It is a boulder in life's stream.
Like streams, roads follow ancient pathways of least resistance. Some of those roads have been lost to time, but others, like the Silk Road, are historical treasures. Centuries of earth packed down by dusty feet and animal hooves, wagons and carts of traders, travelers and adventurers don't just vanish. Often times, roads used today have their beginning in antiquity. Others were lost until modern technology “rediscovered” them.
The Silk Road was an ancient trading route connecting China with central Asia. Running an east-west route, in its heyday it was an important factor in trade and exchange, traveling through many little oasis towns that eventually faded away as the silk trade shifted to shipping goods by sea.
The Silk Road has become a historical curiosity studied by scholars. By comparison, one of California's earliest roads has been consumed by contemporary life. In the early days of the missions, El Camino Real connected a network of missions laid out in a series of one day walks. A pilgrim could always count on shelter at the end of a long day.
Much of El Camino Real has vanished under freeways and other roads, but in some areas it carries its own name under a layer of asphalt.
Highway 66 is another example of a partially consumed road. There's very little left of the original, but we cherish it as it holds our national memories celebrating the automobile. For some, a journey on the remnants of Highway 66 is a pilgrimage, an homage to a way of life gone by not so long ago.
Roads link us to our past and our memories. For some it goes no deeper than “Remember that great steak we had at that Denny's that one time?”
For motorcyclists, it can remind us of tasty days on twisty roads, or that time Bob fell over in the poison oak. You think of people you used to ride with and wish they hadn't moved to Utah. You remember the more spectacular days you've had, glorious falls, pantingly hot summers resting in the shade with a bit of cold adult bev, spending an evening swatting bugs and listening to bluegrass after a long day of assaulting the curves. You remember that place you will never go again because their hot dogs dyed the bun pink.
The highways hold the memories of Everyman. Whatever reason brought them there, these are often memories that don't stray far from the freeway. They dip their toes as they goes.
For us, the highway reverie is just leading up to the main event, when we jump off the exit to pounce on an afternoon of carving more memories out of the California back country.
Get out there! Memories aren't gonna make themselves, and summertime is upon us!