Just to show Americans how your home looks and seems to us furriners, let me tell you about an evening in my life in southern California.
Contrary to the song, it does rain in southern California. It certainly did this night, although it might also have been thinking about snowing. I had crossed the Mexican border at Tecate and found myself confused. I wanted to head east, but I wasn’t sure how to achieve that – and the border stores did not have maps. Everyone, I was assured by an otherwise very helpful chap at one of these establishments, had digital ways of showing them where to go. He was genuinely puzzled by my insistence that I preferred paper maps.
Anyway, I went the wrong way but finally found I8, which promised to take me east to sunshine. It lied: as the evening drew in, the weather, cold already, turned more and more moist as well until I was riding in a cold, wet fog with varying rain showers. Not knowing any better, I pushed on. My body gradually shut down as I rode. I’m sure you know the feeling.
A sign promised a casino and hotel, but somehow I missed the correct turnoff and found myself on a vast, rain-swept parking lot dotted with a few deserted-looking semi-trailers and a closed, deserted-looking office which was, apparently, the delivery area for the casino. I gave up, perhaps too early but my optimism was failing. I returned to I8.
Dipping out of a particularly chilly cloud, I spotted a sign for the Back Country Inn in Boulevard. This was looking good; it was the first advertisement for a motel in quite a few miles. I focused on looking for it, and was successful: there it was, visible down to the right through the icy showers sweeping I8. But of course by the time I registered its presence, I had passed the turnoff.
I’ve got to admit I then broke the law. Instead of continuing to the next turnoff to turn around, I simply took the slip road accessing I8 and rode down the wrong way. Yes, yes I know I was acting against the very basics of the American way of life. Sorry, but I was beyond caring about niceties of road etiquette. Sue me.
I rolled into the parking lot of the Back Country Inn to find it deserted. This is not usually a good sign. A nagging memory of an Alfred Hitchcock Presents program did not make me feel any more confident*. The office light was on, a lone beacon in the gloom. I pulled up, climbed off the borrowed MotoQuest V-Strom 650 and squelched towards it. The small room was empty and forlorn-looking. I searched in vain for a bell and settled for knocking on the door facing me.
There were shuffling noises and then it opened, revealing a short bloke who looked exactly like the kind of actor that Central Casting would send in response to a request for the motel attendant who checks the heroine into the motel where she will promptly be assaulted by zombies.
As usual, appearances were totally misleading and he turned out to be helpful and pleasant, and I was not at any stage confronted by zombies. When I asked about dinner, he suggested the local pizza joint but didn’t think they delivered. My downcast face must have been properly miserable, because he said, “Tell you what, feller that owns it also owns this place. Reckon he might make an exception.”
Then he rang the pizza place and handed me the phone. Yes, the voice on the other end said, on a night like tonight he would deliver instead of making me get back on the bike. Would he also pick up a bottle of wine for me? Nope, couldn’t really do that. Ah well.
The feller from the pizza joint arrived just as I finished sorting out my wet clothes. He handed me the pizza and then waved me out to his pickup.
“You said you wanted a bottle of wine? Well, hop in.” He drove me through the rain to the local store, which had quite a decent selection of reds. He also made a couple of suggestions, and when I remembered that I no longer carry a corkscrew – Australian wines come in screwtops – he took down a corkscrew from the display on the wall, extracted it from its plastic bubble and opened the bottle for me. Then he put it back into the bubble and on the wall, and drove me back to the Back Country Inn.
This is the kind of motel owner I’d like to meet all the time. I’m sorry I didn’t get his name. I even had to remind him to take payment for the pizza; he was all set to drive off. Both the wine and the pizza were excellent, by the way. I slept like a top and in the morning the sun was out and the whole world looked bright. Boulevard CA: there is not much to it, but I recommend what there is to you.
*It was an Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode “Goodbye, George” which included a road trip along Highway 80 through Boulevard. Who says I’m heading for senility?
(Photos The Bear. There aren’t any of the actual event because I don’t like to expose – sorry – my cameras to rain.)