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The Kill Zone
By Cameron Weckerley
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Rated "PG" by the Author.
A motorcycle thrill ride through Los Angeles at rush hour
Halloween 2006, Darkness falling, the purr of the Beemer comforting between my legs and in my ears. I had just spent the day with an extraordinary person. A type of hero actually, although some would consider him an anti-hero. The interview with the famous world-rider had gone much longer than expected and shaken my world-view badly.
New ideas were swirling and coalescing trying to form coherent new paths in my brain. The light was failing fast even at four PM as I headed west into the high desert. Pushing the edge of the envelope in the game of CHP vs. Motorcycle I raced back toward the wind farms I had seen on the way in, hoping to photograph them at sunset. The haze that had been in the air all day hung thick between the mountain ranges turning everything a pale pink. Many great photographs came and went untaken as no likely places appeared on the freeway. Finally in desperation to get at least one decent shot, or at least a photo record of the trip I pulled as far off the freeway as I could and snapped a couple.
Of course, the CHP immediately showed up. He was a young, thin cop. In addition, he was bored looking out here on the desert slab. The bored look worried me. Now he has someone to play with I thought. Fortunately, he merely looked me over and said, "This is not the place to do that." With that, he was on his way and I pulled out reluctantly behind him.
Back on the freeway just as the light begins to fail completely. The most dangerous time. What was already a washed out day turned into a solid gray with almost no contrast, and it was rush hour
Passing through Palm Springs the freeway narrows to three lanes. Trying to stay in lane 2 and keep some modicum of an escape zone around me, the twighlight conceals a badly constructed seam running down the middle of the lane. Front tire keeps catching it and shimming the bike.
The traffic continues to slow to a crawl periodically at major interchanges. Nearing the Ontario airport land one is suddenly ablaze with yellow warning lights. Wide Load. Now a difficult choice. Switch to lane one and put myself in the kill zone against the temporary concrete barrier or pass next to the flashing yellow caravan. I make the second choice. After passing the second of the chase vehicles, I began the run next to the wide load carrier itself and wondered why it said wide load. Does not look wide to me. Until almost too late. Unmarked and dark the edges of large coils of wire protruded from the sides inches from my helmet. A very near miss, but no time to ponder it.
In the Ontario airport zone now, traffic crawls. I must continually flash brake lights at cage drivers approaching from the rear to keep from being rear-ended.
Next to me, a pair of excitable young ladies in an expensive convertible weaves in and out of traffic erratically while gesticulating wildly in frustration and talking without pause on their cell phones. My treasured speed and agility useless here to avoid there almost continuous near misses. And the bike overheating badly now. It is not made for this stop and go riding.
Finally the freedom of the high slab at darkness. It is cold now but does not bother me much as many hours pass in the Zen like trance of lonely slab, rider and bike. After long hours in the saddle, the mind and body adjust to the demanding paradigm of monitoring traffic and machine and the mind at last calms. Time seems to become irrelevant. Truly the most precious of times. And yet, when the exit for home finally shows itself the last clutch pull as the engine unwinds for the final time is sweet!
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