The nice part about ending day four by not doing anything story-worthy and falling asleep to Robocop, is that we at least woke rested for our final day. Once again, it was far too hot for the early morning hour and we were on the road as quickly as possible.
We had another 100 miles of the terrible 8 before we caught California 111 north towards Mecca. We stopped for gas at the base of the 111 and noticed some poor sucker dressed in leathers, hiding in the shade. His Ninja 1000 was strapped down with gear. “Which way you guys coming from? East? It windy?”
The brotherhood of riders is always interesting. I’ve always been a way bigger fan of getting off the big Ninja than getting on her, and touring in leathers always seems silly, but the idea that this poor guy was about to experience the hell I just endured overshadowed all of that. In the end, we’re all the same guy in the same pursuit of the same dream and we just looked at each other like “I’m sorry for what you’re about to go through, but we made it and you’ll be okay.”
First stop was Salvation Mountain. Salvation Mountain is a giant art project built and painted onto the side of a large hill by Leonard Knight as a tribute to God’s love for the world. Pretty much every rider out West made the pilgrimage at some point to meet Leonard, who passed away earlier this year. Whether you share the same faith or not, it was incredible to see how this place is still being taken care of and how it garners the respect of believers and atheists alike. The way people have come together to spread the message of love touches everyone who passes through it regardless of their beliefs and it’s a powerful place.
Behind Salvation Mountain is Slab City, which is Bureau of Land Management land (read: no rules or public services) that has become an RV/shanty city erected in the desert. The people police themselves and generally just want to be left alone, except for Saturday nights, when they all gather at “the range” for what most closely resembles a block party. Jeremiah and Billy have a crazy story about how Billy’s helmet was stolen there when they were visiting years back and how the entire “town” came together to get it back and show the boys that they were good people. The rescue effort was lead by a man named Jimmy, who greeted Billy and Jeremiah like they were his best friends as we arrived around midday. Luckily we caught Jimmy just before he left Slab City on a “rock and roll tour with my ol’ lady to wherever my cash will take me.” Truly a beautiful human.
Jimmy accepted our gift of beer and directed us further into Slab City to a place called East Jesus. This was my first time at East Jesus and they call their little city an experimental, habitable, and extensible artwork that has been in progress since 2006. Walking around East Jesus, my mind was absolutely blown by the art. Next time, we’ll be sure to give them a heads up that we’re coming and try and get the full tour. If you’re going yourself, be sure to read the rules for visitors.
Our final stop was Bombay Beach. Bombay beach looks straight out of the Hills Have Eyes. It was once a tourist attraction for Hollywood stars until the salt content in the water began to kill everything it touched. Today, many of the buildings have been half torn down by vandals and the beach is full of fish skeletons. The remaining inhabitants like it this way as it encourages most people to leave them alone and the only place to visit in town is the local bar called the Ski Inn.
The Ski Inn is always happy to accommodate weary travelers with cheap beer and burgers and is always full of characters. Josh danced to Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins while the bartender tried to get Jeremiah to take his shirt off because he “wanted to see his tattoos.” The walls are covered in dollar bills drawn on by previous visitors and I can honestly say it’s worth stopping if you’re passing through.
We left Bombay Beach and made our way back into civilization. The 111 connects with I-10 in Palm Springs, at which time it started to officially feel over. Ninety minutes later I rolled the bike into my garage, dropped my gear on the floor, and plopped onto the couch to catch up on Game of Thrones.
This trip went wrong before it even started and I still haven't ridden to the Grand Canyon. We rode great roads, got mad at each other, fell over, drank beer, made fun of each other, and shared 120 hours of adventure and laughter. Getting home, I don’t want to see those guys, a motorcycle, or a helmet ever again. I’m already planning our next trip.