When I was planning this trip and getting advice on what to see and roads to avoid, a friend who owned a motorcycle shop told me not to ride in LA. The drivers are nuts. They are reckless and wont see me. His friends in LA dont ride bikes for that reason. I'd heard the same thing from several other people. Part of the reason for this adventure was to get away from traffic and go back to nature, so it seemed like no big deal staying away from LA.
When I was in Santa Barbara, I remembered that there was a Vietnamese monastery that I heard about a few years back when I was staying at a Soto Zen monastery. A fellow guest gave the Vietnamese monastery a raving review, that the monks there are smiley, play guitars and laugh a lot. That was the complete opposite from the serious, super-focused Japanese monastery that we met at. I love both approaches and plan to visit both again in the future.
The Vietnamese monastery, called Deer Park, had an opening for the weekend. It only cost $25 a day for a platform to pitch my tent, three vegan meals a day, a hot shower, and flush toilets. The guests are expected to follow a strict schedule along with the monastics. The location is beautiful- chaparral and oak trees. Bunnies hopping around every where. Lots of lizards, hawks and buzzards. No internet. No cell service. ;-)
You rise at 5am, meditate for couple of hours before breakfast. Participate in some kind of work for about four hours, like shoveling sand, gardening or preparing lunch. Then there's lunch, some free time, a meeting for the guests to watch a Dharma talk on a DVD which went over how to properly invite a bell to sound (basically that means how to ring a bell). Then there's another session of mediation, dinner, and the evening is free. I was hard pressed to make it until 9pm. I slept great while I was there.
Following The Heroes Journey, you cant just waltz into paradise. You have to earn it. For me, that meant riding through LA to get to the monastery.
Of course I left late from Solvang, taking longer then I expected to load up the bike, (I'm sure I'll have a system down the day before I head home). I rode from Solvang, the Danish capital of America, down Highway 101, through Santa Barbara, connected to Highway 5 and kept riding though Hollywood and LA to get to Escondido.
At the very first place that I camped in Santa Cruz, I found an orange safety vest, freshly washed and hanging on a branch. Before leaving home, I was debating about buying a vest but decided against it because you dont look cool wearing one and I feel like if I wore it then people would rightfully assume I was scared and I dont want to put myself in situations where I feel in danger. I grabbed the vest and hopped that I wouldnt need to wear it.
Right before Hollywood I was starting to get pretty nervous. I saw a motorcycle shop from the freeway and bought a spine and chest protector. Joe, the motorcyclist who I met at the beginning of this adventure, was shocked that I wasnt wearing leathers and a spine protector. I didnt know that I should. I pride myself on wearing high quality, full textile gear that's armored, which I'll talk more about in a future post as to the gear I'm wearing.
I suited up for battle. I wore my brand new spine and chest protector (I figured a $140 of armor was cheaper then spinal surgery), and I donned the orange safety vest, besides the rest of my gear. It was now noon and the meters to get onto the freeway were on. Can you believe that? There was so much traffic. Thankfully, as a motorcyclist I'm allowed to ride in the carpool lane, far away from the majority of the idiots. I didnt have any close calls. It was really cold in the morning, then it got super hot. I didnt want to stop to take off layers for fear that traffic would get worse, so I rode on.
The ride from Solvang to Escondido took way longer then I expected, so I checked in late to the monastery. Good thing they are so forgiving there. I felt like I accomplished something really big. I rode through LA and survived. Not that I want to do that again, anytime soon.
Read more: The California Motorcycle Tour 2014 Table of Contents