It's Wednesday morning. Instead of getting up and going to work like a normal day, I get up before sunrise to take Amtrak from here, San José, California to Baker (no, not Bakersfield), California. Baker is at the entrance to Mojave National Preserve.
Almost everything I need for the next two weeks (I hope), except water, is packed inside my four saddlebags—two front and two rear. I mount the saddlebags on my bike and ride the short quarter-mile from home to the downtown San José train station.
View of the Mojave National Preserve, just beyond the freeway, from my room at the Bun Boy Motel in Baker, California
First, I have an Amtrak bus ride from San José to Stockton leaving at 7h, then a train ride from Stockton to Bakersfield, then another Amtrak bus from Bakersfield to Baker.
One great thing about this trip is that I don't have to dismantle my bicycle and put it in a box, or anything like that. Not all Amtrak trips work out so well for bicyclists, but this one is perfect in that respect.
My large rear saddlebags get checked as baggage, and my bike goes under the bus in the storage compartment. My smaller front saddlebags come on the bus with me as carry-on baggage.
The bus ride to Stockton is pleasantly uneventful and there aren't too many other passengers.
The San Joaquin train for the trip from Stockton to Bakersfield is equipped with bike racks, which is a really nice touch.
The parking lot outside my room at the Bun Boy Motel is almost empty tonight
A couple other cyclists get on and off the train during the ride and also use the bike racks. At Bakersfield, one other bicyclist, who boarded in the southern part of the Central Valley, remains, and he transfers his bike to the bus along with me. He gets off the bus at Mojave, California and rides to where he left his car, a few miles away from the bus stop, near the airport.
After a brief stop at Barstow, where no one boards nor quits the bus, I'm on the final leg of my transit trip. I arrive in Baker, California a little after supper hour. The bus stops and takes a break at Baker's Carl's Jr. restaurant, where most passengers go inside to order something.
I'm at my new home for the evening. I stay outside and mount my saddlebags on my bike. A woman returning to the bus from the restaurant is curious about the big mass that my bike has turning into and asks where I'm going. I tell her about the Mojave National Preserve just on the other side of the freeway from where we are, which she didn't know exists. I try to assure her that it's restful out there, full of solitude, and definitely worth visiting. She's intrigued, but doesn't seem convinced.
The lights of the Mad Greek restaurant glisten in "downtown" Baker
I ride down the main road in Baker toward the motels and stop at Alien Fresh Jerky, which wasn't here when I last passed through Baker five years ago. I try a few jerky samples at the cash register, but can't decide, so I buy three bags of differently flavoured beef jerky. Two of them are spicy varieties, which is important to me!
I ride down the road and check in to a room at the Bun Boy Motel. Things have gone downhill since I last stayed at this establishment. No more telephone in the room, the mattress is uncomfortable (and I'm not very demanding about mattresses!), and the switch on one of the lamps is broken.
These are unimportant superficial things, but what really bothers me is the incredibly strong cherry-scented deodourizer in the room that assaulted me as soon as I first opened the door. I walk around looking for the source of the smell, hoping to discard it, but I can't find it.
Oh well, I'm only here for the night and it doesn't really matter.
I go across the road for an oversized, meaty "Greek combo plate" at the Mad Greek and return to the room afterwards to wind down for the night.
I'm looking forward to starting the trip tomorrow morning and am trying not to be impatient! I get out my maps to study and watch a bit of TV while I wait.