Ball bearing in the wind


450 + 150 + 40 = 640

640 lbs.

That’s the combined weight of a Kawasaki Ninja 650R with me and 3 days of gear strapped to the top of it. You can imagine just how strong the crosswinds were to be blowing that kind of weight left and right across an 8-foot wide lane like it were a ball bearing in a Pachinko machine.

During the last 19 miles of what was otherwise a spectacular 675 mile ride up and down the California coast through Mendocino, the great redwoods, the land of Big Foot and up to Eureka, I all of a sudden was in a blender of 50 mph wind. A blender that Moses himself may have plugged in.

Humboldt County gas pump doesn't want you "smoking" near it.

Humboldt County gas pump doesn't want you "smoking" near it.

My speedometer said 55 mph. I could hear the motor running and exhaust blaring. And I clearly was pointed west, but I felt like my tires were stapled to the asphalt while taking vicious southbound left hooks of wind to the right side of my head and rib cage.

During normal conditions, you ride vertically to go straight. Leaning left to turn left and right to turn right. But on a stretch of road no more than 20 minutes from home I was leaning hard right to go straight while dancing precariously on the left yellow line of the road. If you’ve ever looked at the shrapnel of debris just left of that line, you know it’s not a good place to be driving anything short of an Abrams tank or a water buffalo.

As I looked down at that yellow paint directly under my left foot there were no words, but only that “oh fuck” feeling that under these circumstances aren’t words but is in fact a state of being. Like happiness. Or anger.

At rest in Mendocino

At rest in Mendocino

About 2-3 minutes into this ridiculousness, the thought of pulling over crossed my mind. I quickly dismissed that option because waiting on the side of the road for the wind to die down would guarantee on thing and only one thing for when I decided to restart my motor: darkness.

Head down. Maintain white knuckle grip. Lean hard right and keep front tire pointed west.

The problem was there were 15 more miles of this hell to deal with. I tried to psyche myself up for the challenge like I was a character in a Steinbeck man vs. nature novel.

“King Kong ain’t got nothin’ on me!” I shouted in my already very noisy helmet.

“King Kong ain’t got nothin’ on me!”

Looking back now, it sounded very little like Denzel and a lot more like “Gingko’s main God almonds on knee!”  Whatever. It got me through the first few miles of this last leg of my trip.

But like any motivational speech, I got bored with it quickly and had to find something else. For some reason Lieutenant Dan jumped into my head. I couldn’t get the image of him shouting at the heavens on Forrest’s boat out of my mind. As I continued to take shots to the head and chest from the wind I thought “why the hell am I challenging God to knock me off my bike?!”

Stupid is as stupid does.

It took me about 30 minutes to ride through those 19 miles. I got home and immediately felt good about myself. Not just because I got through that windstorm. But I completed my first real motorcycle adventure. 675 miles. I survived retirees driving RV’s that were pulling SUV’s up narrow, winding roads. I survived a plate of bad tuna on the first night of my trip. I survived stoned neo-hippies walking aimlessly across my path. I survived soccer mom’s driving while text messaging.

A million dollar view worth the ride, Advil and Pepto Bismol

A million dollar view worth the ride, Advil and Pepto Bismol

15 minutes after pulling my bike gear off while folding laundry, I actually thought maybe King Kong had nothing on me…

That giant sucking sound isn’t the wind. It’s the air of my ego leaking out of the ball-bearing sized hole in it. While I may have cheated a severe limp and some road rash, I couldn’t escape the one universal truth in life: No one — not King Kong, not Lieutenant Dan — has the constitution to lie in wet sheets.

– Jose Mallabo

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  1. #1 by jenny on June 22, 2009 - 9:31 am

    definitely non-scented dryer sheets

  2. #2 by aaron on June 22, 2009 - 9:33 am

    And what about nearly nose diving into a 20 mph corner with a bump the size of Kilimanjaro right where it shouldn’t have been. Nice recap of the windiest part of the ride.

  3. #3 by Jose on June 22, 2009 - 11:41 am

    I’m still too frightened by the Kilimanjaro dive to write about it.

  4. #4 by aaron on June 23, 2009 - 10:27 am

    I don’t know which was worse – that or the blind corners coming out of nowhere at speed. I think I’ve developed a right arm the size of Hellboy as a result.

  5. #5 by Jeff on July 9, 2009 - 8:11 am

    Dude: Great story. Reminds me when i lived in CT and my only transportation was a Kawasaki 440 LTD. Try riding in 25 degree weather with icy conditions after drinking all night…I knew I was f&*% up when I thought “if I am going to drink and rive I need to get a car.”

  6. #6 by Jose on July 12, 2009 - 8:48 am

    Jeff :

    Dude: Great story. Reminds me when i lived in CT and my only transportation was a Kawasaki 440 LTD. Try riding in 25 degree weather with icy conditions after drinking all night…I knew I was f&*% up when I thought “if I am going to drink and drive I need to get a car.”

  7. #7 by Peter on August 2, 2009 - 5:44 pm

    I added your blog to bookmarks. And i’ll read your articles more often!

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