Part 11. A Side Order of Ham and the End of the Trail

The next morning we woke up at an un-Godly hour of 06:00 in order to be on the road as early as possible.  Still remembering our desert heat adventures during the West Coast trip of 2 years ago, we weren’t in the mood to repeat the heat exhaustion experience.  Even though the previous 9 days of this trip weren’t suggestive of any excessive heat, we were in sunny California, and we weren’t taking any chances!

At 06:30 in the morning, when we rolled the bikes out of the hotel parking lot, the weather was very comfortable – not too hot, not too cold, just right.  No sign of rain, gale-force winds, or ice on the fuel tank – this was positively a good sign.

By the 10th day of our adventure we were a bit overdosed on sights, so opted for a straight Interstate line into LA.  The 91 miles between Needles and Ludlow, our next planned stop, included an almost 70-mile stretch of road with no services or gas.  Following the unwritten rule of any road trip of “Tank when you can, eat when you can, and pee when you can”, we filled our gas tanks before leaving Needles.  A quick calculation confirmed that this should be enough to bring us to Ludlow before we start panicking about running out in the middle of the California desert.

Welcome to the Ludlow Cafe!

The biggest surprise of the day was of culinary nature, and awaited us in the nondescript Ludlow Café on the other side of the “gas-less” stretch of the Interstate.  By the time we reached Ludlow, we were more than ready for breakfast.  Knowing full well that for an average European a standard American breakfast was a free ticket to the emergency room due to its size and nutritional value, I decided to be smart.  I would not order any of the mouth-watering set breakfasts, so temptingly outlined on the menu, but will go for the sides instead – one fried egg, a side of hash browns and maybe some additional protein thrown into the mix.  “A side of ham” for $5.20 looked like a really good idea, so I added it to my order.

While waiting for the breakfast to be cooked, we browsed through the café’s impressive collection of “books about life”, ranging from “How to Confuse the Idiots in Your Life” (I desperately need this one!) to “The Disgusted Driver’s Handbook” (might come in handy as well…) by one Ben Goode (probably not his real name).  The books alone make a stop at the Ludlow Café worth your while, and you could browse through the random selection of table copies strategically positioned on each table together with cutlery and napkins, or buy your own personal copy in the gift shop.

The food arrived promptly, and I was in for the culinary surprise of my life.  “The side of ham” thrown into the mix at the last moment, turned out to be a humongous slice of a whole pig’s buttock, the size of my head.  I was hungry, but much as I tried, I barely made a dent in it after fighting with the thing for almost an hour.  I had to apologize profusely to the scary-looking cook covered with tattoos, but the waitress came to my rescue, adding that I was not the first customer not to have managed the task.

The Side Order of Ham…
I gave it a good shot

We rolled onto our bikes, and continued direction LA.  This was out 10th day on the road, and we were all overdosed on sights – we were looking forward to putting the kickstands down for longer than one night, and were anxious to reunite with Nika and Andy in the film studio, pretending to be a city, pretending to be a film studio.  We farsightedly booked a hotel next door to their digs in Little Korea, and the Shelter Hotel became the our home for the next 5 days, and a welcome pit stop for our mighty steeds at only $20/night for a spacious parking spot in their underground garage.

Korean barbecue

The rest of the day unfolded in a whirlwind with drinks in a nearby corner bar waiting for our room to be ready, a trip to a laundromat to get some clean clothes (after 10 straight nomadic days on the road we started running out), and a hearty meal at Jjukku Jjukku BBQ next door with Nika.  We left sated (somehow, the humongous “side of ham” have mysteriously disappeared from my stomach by the evening, having undoubtedly positioned itself comfortably in my butt) and smelling of barbecue invaded one of the famous local watering holes – the HMS Bounty Bar at the Gaylord hotel.  The place was perfect to continue with our alcohol-infused program: it combined history with easy-going atmosphere and superb selection of drinks.  We celebrated and the reunion with LA in style!

The following several days blurred into one endless party – old friends and new friends, bottomless Mimosa Saturday brunch at the Saddle Ranch, followed by un-identified bright blue shots, crashing a random rooftop pool party on Hollywood Boulevard (there were no witnesses or photographic evidence!), more alcohol, reunion with more old friends in a rock-N-roll bar (the name of which completely escapes me), carrying one of the new friends to the taxi for home delivery – all in all a perfect Los Angeles weekend!

Un-identified blue shots

5 days later, we had to go back home – time does fly when you are having fun!… We packed our shit back into the bags, strapped the bags back to our bikes, and delivered our trusty steeds back to the Eagle Rider. All in all – it was a great trip! We covered
2,539 miles (4,086 km) in 10 days, rode through pouring rains, gale-force winds, snow and sun, partied in Los Angeles, crashed parties in Hollywood, and had the best times we won’t remember with the friends we can’t forget. What a ride!

Bye-bye, Los Angeles!…
The last stretch of our Route 66 trip – from Needles, CA to LA

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