PHOTOS | KEL McINTOSH
(settle in with a cuppa, it's a long one)
LA to Vegas
Nothing like being drunk and 17hrs out of your regular time zone to wallop a good night’s sleep into you. I wake up groggy and scratching my head, unsure if yesterday actually happened. First things first, I need a coffee, then I can sort out my continuing phone dramas. Being LA, all I have to do is exit my accommodation to be confronted by a Starbucks, where I order what I think will be an iced black coffee (in liquid form) yet the beverage I am presented with somewhat resembles a cupcake. I shrug. Probably need the sugar; not feeling as sweet as usual.
Next, I'm off to the T-Mobile. I pretty much walk in and say: “Give me unlimited calls and data”, which they did, or so I thought. No one explained to me about different carriers having varying coverage, but more on that later. Armed with a functional phone, I head back to the sanctity of my airbnb for wifi, aircon and an ensuing wild telephonic goose chase. Looking up some bike hire places online, I start ringing around. Eaglerider stood out to me because they have so many locations around the place, and I like that I'd always be close to one of them in the event that a) something happened to the bike or b) something happened to me. I dial up Eaglerider LA. “Hi, I’m wanting to hire a bike for the next three weeks. What do you guys have available?" The bloke just laughs at me. “It's four days before Sturgis.” “I know this, I’m going to Sturgis.” “Ma’am, (I hate it when they call me Ma’am) people are making reservations for next year, like, now. There are no bikes left.” He keeps laughing as he hangs up. I stare at my phone with an “oh no you didn’t!” look of horror plastered across my face.
El Coyote (once again) open their arms and liquor cabinet to me, where I knock a couple back, rather put out by the phone incident somewhat disheartened by the whole thing. This is when genius struck: “I’ll just continue along my intended route until I find somewhere that will rent me a bike or I find one to buy!” Easy. I should probably just move to Hollywood - I clearly do my best thinking at El Coyote.
I walk back to my room to start looking up transport options to Vegas. Now remember: I'm already a bit toasted and am operating the internet, so there's a good hour or so of refining my LA x NY playlist on Spotify (yes of course Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild is on there... I am occasionally predictable AF) before I remember why I left the Cocina. Back on track and on the Googles I discover the cheekily named 'Lux Bus'. Intrigued, I phone them, giving my credit card details to someone who sounds like they are in their kitchen, and *bam!* there's a bus leaving the next day from a hotel nearby and it's taking me to Vegas.
The following morning, I get an uber to said undisclosed hotel (actually can’t remember nor be bothered to look it up since you probably don’t care and it doesn't play an intrinsic part in the story). I tentatively leave my duffel bag with the doorman while I nip inside for un café negro and a cream cheese bagel. Upon wandering back outside to eat it amongst the pigeons, who else but Denis Rodman walks past. Of course. It is 7am in Hollywood. The Lux Bus shows up (just quietly, I love saying Lux Bus) and it turns out it’s only a temporary Lux Bus. This one is taking us to the Anaheim depot where we will get on a REAL Lux Bus. The depot is as concrete and offensive as one would expect. I completely expect a bin chicken to walk past until surrounding American accents remind me how far away from Sydney I am (seriously, that depot was as soulful as the ICC). After about 45mins of registration and dicking about, we board the REAL Lux Bus (Lux Bus, Lux Bus, Lux Bus) and it ain’t luxe. But whatever. I have aircon and have been 'allocated' my snack (diet coke and a pack of salted chips – the healthier choice) in a reasonable timeframe. The host is this wild Russian woman whose name I desperately wish I could remember (I’m inclined to say Natasha but I think I’m extracting that information from the part of my brain that stores old episodes of Rocky & Bullwinkle). If you ever really want to know the political climate of a country, have it explained to you by someone who is sinificantly drunker at 8am than you were the night before. Natasha kind of reminds me of a Russian Amy Sedaris, and despite her regular attempts at crowd participation in her routine she is wonderful. The Lux Bus sets off for Vegas and I settle in with a Kills/Dead Weather playlist and sleepily gaze out the window at the cabbage palms and telegraph poles whipping by. We are advised that we will be stopping at Barstow in a couple hours.
Barstow truly is Satan’s nutsack.
It’s a truck stop that resembles a scene out of Mike Judge's Idiocracy. I don’t care if you are walking and dying at the same time: Barstow isn’t worth your soul. Hunter S. Thompson indicated in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas that it was “somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold”. This part of the book suddenly seems even more harrowing, being that I am experiencing Barstow completely unaffected by drugs and only slightly hungover.
We make it out of Death Valley, and thanks to our comrade hostess, I am now armed with the knowledge that Joshua Trees only grow at certain altitudes. As we start heading onto off-ramps declaring we are in Vegas, I realise I haven’t actually booked anything and thus don‘t know where I want to be dropped off. I start frantically searching my Qantas Frequent Flyer app for accommodation. This is firmly knocked on the head by timezones and a bit of backwards thinking.
DID YOU KNOW: If you are in America, you can’t book a place for that night on the Qantas website or app, because they live in the future and according to them, today is yesterday and you are in the past. Whoever said “don’t worry about the world ending today, because it is tomorrow in Australia” obviously didn’t have a metric shit-tonne of Frequent Flyer Points to burn. What a load of shit.
I book a room at Bally’s Hotel and Casino directly through the Bally’s website and only because it’s supposed to have a rad pool and bar. Let’s just insert here that I hadn’t been to Vegas before, and I don’t gamble. Like, ever. I’m that person who doesn’t chip in for the office sweepstakes on Melbourne Cup because, ffs, it’s a circus ring of death. The only time I have gambled was the $20 I chucked through the pokies on my 18th birthday at the Mercury Hotel in Newcastle, lost it immediately, and thought “fuck this shit, that was two schooners and a pack of durries (well, it was in 2001). The frantic gambling that confronted me in Vegas was, well, confronting. It was a tragic and insecure display of cash money and so not my scene. I’m all for a hedonistic four-day bender but the way these people were desperately shoving as much 'fun' as they could into a long weekend before going back to their soul-destroying day jobs was just heart-breaking. We’d driven past Trump Tower earlier. I felt nothing but nausea.
Once at Bally’s I decide to forgo the swim until I have my ride and/or next leg of my journey sorted. Eaglerider Las Vegas is only a 10min cab fare away so I have a quick shower and head downstairs. Walking into Eaglerider Las Vegas, via their buzzing workshop (a veritable sea of gorgeous Harleys and Indians, with the occasional Triumph and ATV), I feel a little anxious but mostly hopefully. At the counter a bloke by the name of Tim greets me. “Hi Tim, I’m looking to hire a bike for three weeks”. He makes a face. Not good. “We really have next to nothing available”. “I’ll take what I can get mate, just need a ride”. He looks through his inventory. There might be a Triumph T800 – he’ll need to check IRL. He pops out the back. I hover around the counter and get chatting with Leann who also works there. She asks what my plans are, where I’m going etc. “Hope he finds something out there”, she offers hopefully. Tim walks back in. “You’re not going to believe this. We just had a 2015 Scout come in four days early, do you want it?” “Oh my fuck, YES”. Finally, a ride of my own. Someone out there is clearly looking out for me.
We get cracking on the paperwork and the legalese. Anyone who has ever complained about the time it takes to hire a AUD$20,000.00 vehicle can get back in their box. Sure, between insurance, ID checking, and the fact that they were in their busiest season of the year, it takes about 45mins but I’d say I got off lightly. Tim starts to indicate to one of the mechanics to get cracking on the pre-departure service. “Don’t panic mate, I’m planning on departing tomorrow.” I inadvertently save myself a day’s hire rate, which is good because I get a bit of a lump in my throat when I go to make the USD$5,800.00 transaction on my card for the hire of the vehicle for three weeks. Everything is finalised and the darlings even arrange a shuttle drop-off for me back to the hotel.
Back at Bally’s, I think about that swim. Not feeling great. I figure I’ll get a slice of pizza and a beer and try for an early night. Eaglerider opens at 8am and I want to try get at least 3hrs riding in before it gets too hot out in the Nevada desert. I sit in Food-Courtia, watching more Idiocracy extras shovel food in their mouths before returning to wedge a stool up their arses in front of a slot machine. I’m feeling unsettled and can’t quite shake it. I walk up to my room, open the door and start thinking about what I need to do to prepare for tomorrow. An immediate panic attack sets in. “What the fuck have I done? How the fuck do I get out of this? I am going to die.”
If you’ve ever had a panic attack before, you will be familiar with the physical response: the full-bodied reaction that convinces your body that you are actually going to die. It’s like a cross between a heart attack and respiratory failure, except your mind can’t get the message through to your body that you are not, in fact, in any real danger. It doesn’t help that your mind is contributing to the whole debacle by telling you how what you've just done is the stupidest thing ever, and how, at worst, you’re gonna to get yourself killed, and, at best, you'll be permanently disabled or have a severe head trauma that will make you a burden on your parents forever. I am desperately trying to think how to get out of it, but I can’t face the shame of quitting. It would have to be like a really, really, really good excuse (like explosive Carolina Reaper chilli diarrhoea or that the bike hire place blew up during the night or Nevada ran out of fuel/was taken by escaped aliens from Area 51). My heart pounds as if it is being smashed by a kick pedal. The pounding raises up into my neck and throat. I feel sick. My body screams with pain. I am sweating and freezing at the same time. I am in full body distress.
Now I am a firm believer that salt cures* everything: ocean, tears, and savoury foods. If you can get a hold of one of these solutions, you will be fine. In my panic I am not hungry and too paralysed with fear to find a pool so I burst into tears. Full bodied, shaking, howling, 'I would give up my antique cigarette tin collection to have my mother here right now' kind of tears. After what seems like another lifetime, the wretched howls slow to a constant sob. Next salt cure: I run a bath and chuck in the contents of every salt sachet I had pinched from each servo/diner/bar/cafeteria encountered since Sydney airport. Probably not enough to do it but I need to do something. I get in the bath and continue to sob. Another lifetime passes. The sobbing slows. My heart is still thumping.
Out of the tub I start drinking glass after glass of water. I settle into acceptance. There is no alternative. I started this; I will damn well finish this. Heart still thudding, I crawl into the delightfully tacky king size bed of Bally’s and make a pillow fort. I want my mum (I’m tearing up even just writing this).
I put my head down on the pillows and sob quietly, for what is going to be a very long night.
Part 3 coming soon
*salt does technically do this anyway
For the pedants, I know the Isak Dinesen quote refers to sweat, tears and the sea but I am not much one for exercise and generally find savoury foods all the more soothing.
Kel has the face of a siren and the mouth of a drunken sailor. She enjoys dancing up a storm to Slayer and 1930s jazz, whispering sweet nothings to her CM250 ‘Bronson’ and delicately adjusting her carburettors, but can also tell you the genus of Magnoliophyta. Kel is our Associate Editor and Project Manager, and has the organisational prowess of a circus ringmaster, using it to crack the IVV team into shape with colour coded calendars and to-do lists.