Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I DON’T DO MY OWN WORK on either of the bikes. Neither the Guzzi nor the Beemer. Long ago, dad convinced me that I wouldn’t be good with my hands – unlike my brother who could fix a space shuttle – so I’ve never pursued the honest work of a mechanic. Rather, I leave that to others. That way, if I want the thing serviced or fixed, when it comes home from being serviced or fixed, it’s serviced or fixed. Sure, I’ll carp about the nearly 4 figure bill that accompanies a 24K service and tire, but about eight miles and a couple of sweeping curves later, all is right with the bike, the wallet and the world.

Fortunately, I’m only a couple hour walk from the BMW guy; and unlike many, only 41 miles from my Guzzi guy. But that’s a bit more than two hours on the hoof. Hell, back in the day, Father Junipero Serra would have positioned a rest stop at about the half way point. (Recall the Padre’s plan was to place a missions “about a day’s walk” from one another, building 21 or so at twenty-mile increments along the 400 mile El Camino Real in early California.)

I LIVE IN A COMMUNITY of the eastern suburbs of Sacramento. The drive between here and there has become a freeway run where subdivisions and strip malls run together; where town or city boundaries are marked by signs rather than passage into open space; where sound walls protect the neighbors from the highway noise and where you don’t really need to go to Sacramento for much, because so much can be had at the local Galleria.

The localest of Guzzi dealers recently moved to southern-most Elk Grove, another twenty or so miles south of the capitol. Similarly, There is little but housing tracts and shopping centers between downtown and there – certainly no ground left for the good Father to build an additional site for soul saving or over-nighting.

THE KIND FOLKS at Elk Grove Powersports picked up my Breva in the middle of what was going to be a ten-day stretch of rain – a good time to have service performed. The fare would be a buck a mile, with the first 25 free. “No hurry,” I said as the driver pulled away. “I’ll pick it up once the weather clears a bit.”

Cool, I’m thinking. I can put my money where my mouth is regarding the practical and ecologically sound practice of engaging public transportation. Heck, last summer, a week and a half in both New York City and Boston found us frequently on the subway or MTA and never more than a few minutes on foot from our destination. Granted, granted, granted – things on the east coast are a bit more condensed than here, and the infrastructure for mass transit’s been in the ground for quite some time.

While the Breva was in the shop, I did some research about our public transit: I can pick up a bus at the nearby community college. It will take me to a light rail station about eight miles away. Light rail will take me into town. Alternatively, I can take a commuter train from the station about a half-mile from here and ride it or a bus into town. From town, at a light rail exchange point, I can catch an express bus to Elk Grove, although the earliest one leaves at 3:20 in the afternoon. It will take 70 minutes to be “expressed” down to Elk Grove.

There, I’ll need to make connection one of several locals, hoping I end up on the bus that will take me within about 2.3 miles of the dealership, arriving sometime before the shop closes at 5:30, if all goes perfectly. Alternatively, I can take light rail south from the city about 4 miles, catch a bus to a Shell Station in the heart of a stucco encrusted subdivision and then call for a taxi to shuttle me the final ten miles.

It seems the Sacramento area transit system, like computer technology, is still in its infancy. Ignoring that about this time 100 years ago, folks could hop on an interurban car in Chico and make the 90 miles to Sacramento in less than a day for under a half a buck and continue on to Oakland if they so pleased, public transit in my immediate area has buckled under the pressure to build further and further out linking populations with lane upon lane of freeway.

Movements to improve our area transportation by including diamond lanes (which we do have) or extensions of light rail are met with howls of protest about how diamond lanes serve to reduce people’s choices (huh?) and how public transit must self-fund or it is another step toward socialism (like taxpayer funding of roads and highways is not.)

I’VE USED LIGHT RAIL into Sacramento for shopping or to visit a museum or to take in a conference, when I used to take in conferences. But I’d never been confronted with the unwieldy task of traversing the greater metropolitan area using the hodge-podge of public forms. It’s not impossible, but I did find an alternative.

Brother Tim owns a classic late-80s Acura. He heard of my plight and volunteered: the ’88 Legend could use a road trip since most of his driving involves a Prius. He delivered me to the motorcycle shop in timely luxury. Along the way, I pushed him to tour the showroom and, perhaps, rekindle his long-ago experience on two wheels. He’d own a Honda 400-four.

But Brother Tim is a wise young man. Today, his passions include tennis, downhill skiing, long walks on the beach and a good bottle of wine now and then. He dropped me off and was on his way.

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press

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