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The Departure

3 Apr 2010

Reseda, California, to Agua Prieta, Mexico
1,251 km

On November 30th I left Los Angeles. My starting point was the Panavision parking lot because it is where my mother works, so it was where to say goodbye to her. Also, it is where much of the preparation work on the motorcycle was done and I could not leave without thanking Dan Charleston, the Panavision Facilities Manager. 


I left in the early afternoon and it was sunny, warm, and windy, riding east into the Palm Springs desert, where I took my first night’s rest. An easy warm-up ride. On the way there I stopped at Chaparral Motorsports in San Bernardino where I bought a few last minute things. I met an old biker in the parking lot. It was very windy and he was the only other person that I saw riding a motorcycle that day. He was thin and sinewy, gray was in his long hair and his handlebar mustache. He smoked cigarettes as we spoke.

“A bike trip – very cool, man. I was gonna take a cross country trip last year,” he said. “Was gonna meet a few women along the way that I met on the internet along. But it didn’t work out.”

That night I dreamed of someone from my past and I woke up wondering if the dreaming was the closing of a chapter or a leftover yearning, or if there is no closing of chapters and in fact no such thing as pages or chapters, only what you carry with you from one place to the next.

The next day I rode through the vast desert and the scrubland of eastern California and Arizona. I rode fast along the Interstate, more than 85 mph, the motorcycle humming, vibrating beneath me, the wind, the sun, and the music from my iPod, wondering if the planes that fly overhead and scan with their radars could see me on my motorcycle and if I would have a stack of speeding tickets waiting for me when, if, I return.

My next stop was Phoenix where I visited an old friend who is a doctor doing her residency there. She is lovely and beautiful and I never understand why she hasn’t a boyfriend but I blame it on her pickiness and on her being a dedicated doctor. We met another old friend for dinner and he is also a doctor. He was exactly as I remembered him from high school and that is a very good thing. We had a few drinks and we reminisced.

Later, after more drinks, I told the story about how, when I was working in the Superdome during the Hurricane, we had to move a 600 lbs. woman from the Superdome to the Arena where the Hornets play. There were two small maintenance vehicles to drive the non-ambulatory patients and we left her for last. Finally, when she was the last, we gathered together five of us and took positions. She was seated. One cradled her head and one was at each of her arms, one had her right leg, and I had the left. I took her by the ankle but it buckled when we tried to lift. So I brought my hands higher, above her knee, and, lifting again, my grip slipped upwards from the sweat and my hand penetrated into her labia, which was grossly enlarged and exposed below the Muumuu. It was warm, wet, and went deep. I gasped. I knew what I had done. She knew it too.

We lifted her onto the flatbed and, driving with one hand on the steering wheel, the other hanging limply, I drove the longest drive of my life from the Superdome across the overpass to the Arena. We left her on the flatbed because the army cots were not sturdy enough. I bolted looking for a bathroom, only now, three days after the storm, the power was out and there was no water pressure. I went from bathroom to bathroom until I found a facet that gave a trickle, a precious trickle! I loaded my hand with liquid soap and scrubbed, and scrubbed. And scrubbed.

After Phoenix was Tucson to visit my cousin who is also a doctor and also doing her residency. She had just broken up with her boyfriend and we talked about that and about doctor stuff. That night I stayed up late to write my Will and my Power of Attorney for Health Care. Then, lying sleepless in bed I thought about how tomorrow I would be in Mexico and what would I do if my bike were stolen along with all my things. It took a long time to calm myself and, when I finally did, there were only a few hours left before the sun would come up.

I had had a great visit with my old friends and my cousin but that day, riding in the pale sunlight and the warm air, south towards the border, I was ready not to talk about boyfriends or especially about anything related to doctoring for a while! On the way to the border I stopped in Tombstone and I took a photo of my motorcycle in front of the O.K. Corral. Then on to Bisbee, which is far more picturesque: nestled within a canyon, narrow streets and pretty storefronts. In Douglas I stopped at the post office to mail my Will and Power of Attorney. The postal clerk knew each person that walked in, addressed them by name, and knew whether to speak in English or in Spanish. It was a curious thing, something that you figure exists somewhere in the world but that you have never seen before and never expected to see or certainly be part of.


Crossing the border was very easy. On the Mexican side I parked in a dirt lot. There was a security guard with a uniform and a sidearm, slouching in a small chair, one leg bent and the other extended out, drowsy under the midday sun. I secured a lock to the motorcycle’s disc brake and fixed a cable from the fork to a steel pole. Inside the customs office there was no line, no migrants, no rush, and almost no movement. I explained what I wanted to do; the paperwork was done; the fee for the vehicle permit was paid; and suddenly I was outside, the sun on my face, warm but not hot, a breeze, and then stillness. Oh shit! Now what?

I hate to stereotype – don’t we always say ‘I hate to do this or that’ immediately before we go on to do exactly what we say we say we hate to do? Anyway, I hate to stereotype but Agua Prieta is exactly what you think of when you think of a northern Mexican town: small, wind-swept and dusty, few signals and no street signs, a place to pass through on your way somewhere else. I rode through it quickly – stopping only to determine which way was south – and soon was on Federal Highway 2 headed towards Chihuahua.

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