On the Lookout for Bright Eyes

Days 28-41 – Las Vegas, NV, USA to Los Angeles, CA – 8,134 km

‘I’m going bad in my stomach,’ I said. ‘I’m going bad very quickly.’

‘It was your idea to come here,’ she said.

‘I know but that was before my stomach went bad,’ I said.

‘Ok, love, do you want to turn back,’ she said.

‘No, I want to keep going,’ I said, ‘but just know that my stomach is going bad and it’s paining me to keep going.’

Jess on The Strip

We were walking north past Caesar’s Palace on Las Vegas Boulevard. It was a Sunday but that didn’t matter because it was nighttime and The Strip was dressed to the nines and packed with tourists. We had arrived in Vegas that afternoon after departing Mesquite just as quickly as we could be packed up and out of the miserable motel room where we had stayed the night. After about 50 kilometers on the I-15, we branched onto Highway 169 and took it through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. This was a beautiful desert road that gentle meanders through the hills that surround the country’s largest reservoir. The weather was cool but sunny and there were plenty of motorcycles out, which kept us constantly waving the biker’s salute.

When we reached Las Vegas, we grabbed a quick view of the casinos along E Flamingo Rd before we reached Silver Sevens Hotel & Casino. We had picked Silver Sevens the night before because it offered a three-star room for less than we were paying for our scumbag motel room in Mesquite and because it was close enough for us to leave the bikes and walk to The Strip at night.

After checking in, we went down to the casino because we had a few hours before we were scheduled to meet up with Megan and Marshall whom I had met on my first motorcycle trip and who had so generously let us stay in their condo when arrived in Seattle three weeks before. When we were leaving after four wonderful days at their condo, I had called Marshall to thank him and review the checkout procedure.

‘It’s my pleasure. We’re glad you enjoyed it,’ he said. ‘Just water the plant by the window if it needs it. We’ll be in Vegas during the week of the 20th. Let’s meet up if it fits your itinerary. You can stay with us at our friend Ben’s place when you’re here.’

It turned out that October 20 fit perfectly with our itinerary but we gratefully declined the offer of accommodation because we decided we wanted to ‘do Vegas’ even if that only meant a stroll up and down The Strip.

In the casino, Jess stretched $5 over more than half an hour on the penny slots and I tripled three dollars on quarter video poker only to watch her give it all back trying to fill in straights.

‘The thing of it is I’ve never gained enough comfort at the blackjack table to be able to enjoy the thrill from it,’ I said as we drank a beer and she squandered my video poker winnings. ‘And, besides,’ I went on, ‘I can only enjoy it if I am prepared to lose the money. That way it’s like I’m paying for the entertainment like if it was a movie or the batting cages or something. Right now, the thought of losing a hundred bucks at the tables is that it’s a day or two knocked off the end of our trip.’

‘Yes, love, I’m with you,’ she said without raising her eyes from the screen. ‘Now is it better to hold the pair or go with the four that are all the same suit?’

In the evening we walked up the street to Höfbrauhaus, which Jess had earlier that afternoon decided would be our dinner destination.’

‘Did you see? They’re doing an Oktoberfest with a band. Tell Megan and Marshall we want to go there!’ Jess said through her riding helmet when we pulled alongside at a stoplight.

Dinner with Megan and Marshall was a highlight of the trip for me. There was some catching up and getting to know each other better and plenty of great talk about motorcycle traveling. We also met their friend Ben whom they had gotten to know when they all lived in Thailand.

An evening of Oktoberfest at the Höfbrauhaus

‘Ben will stick around as long as he can,’ Megan explained. ‘He has a date tonight.’

‘A late dinner?’ I asked.

‘Drinks,’ he said, ‘It’s a second date and dinner is to much commitment.’

We ordered German sausage dishes, which were shoveled into our faces almost upon their arrival at the table, and then we talked – mostly with Marshall and Ben – while we poured beer into our overstuffed bellies.

‘I’ve just had to accept that my days of participating in an adult conversation are over for a few years,’ Megan said when she returned to the table after chasing down their daughter Coco at the big fountain.

Jess and a burro

‘It was a really great feeling for me seeing them,’ I said to Jess as we left the Höfbrauhaus after dinner and began walking towards The Strip. ‘I was so impressed and envious of them doing their motorcycle trip together and now I’m where they were and it feels every bit as good as I imagined it would. I’m ready to go south now.’

I said this as we walked shortly before my stomach went bad and then I didn’t say too much more after that except occasionally to make sure that Jess was still aware of the troubles I was having with my stomach.

Jess at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley

The next day Megan, Marshall, Coco, and Ben went rock climbing in Red Rock Canyon and Jess and I crossed Death Valley. There were only a few viewpoints that I was interested to see and no hiking trails that I felt compelled to follow. Maybe it was because I had gotten my fill for a while from the five national parks over three days in Utah or maybe after the evening with Megan and Marshall my thoughts had turned to the Latin America leg of the trip.

If my thoughts had escaped from the present, riding always has a wonderful way of keeping me planted in the moment and traversing Death Valley was no exception. Jess and I moved through the national park at our own paces as we had decided we would do after our blow up in Utah. She first went on ahead when I lingered at Dante’s View then I caught up briefly at Zabriskie Point and finally we reconnected later at Furnace Creek.

Jess rides Highway 190 in Death Valley

Late afternoon was creeping into evening as we stopped along highway 190 near the west entrance to the park to add layers of clothing and shovel down a granola bar and an orange. It was nighttime as we left the park, riding slowly and cautiously and on the lookout for bright eyes that would denote wildlife in the road. We spent that night in Olancha where the 190 meets Highway 395. The next day it was south on the 395 into Los Angeles for 10 days of rest, refit, and, as it happened, dental work, before continuing on south into Mexico.

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