Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring Break Day 6

Going for a ride is always a great thing, but getting home is even better. You have the joy of the memories from the ride and arrive home safely. What a great feeling!

But, I get ahead myself telling the story. The last day of my Spring Break ride and I woke up to 20 mph winds. I packed up the room, showered, and carried my things to load Piggy. I noticed the American Flag I fly off my luggage rack was missing. I was ticked to say the least! Then I started looking around and it was laying on the ground, just under the car parked next to Petunia. I picked it up and thought it had been broken off, so I put into the Tour Pack, cursed a couple more times, and headed out. If not for the wind it would have been great riding. I'm learning that I don't like to ride in the wind. Especially when it 20 mph or higher. This is when I remembered last year, when I heading to San Francisco at Spring Break. Around Modesto the wind was blowing in gusts to 50 mph and gaining strength. The attendent at the gas station said it was getting really bad up the road. GETTING really bad? I turned around and came home that time. At least now I was heading home and stopping didn't appeal to me.

At a rest stop I took out my flag and looked at it. It hadn't been broken off after all. Almost worse, it had been unscrewed and thrown on the ground. Unscrewed about 3/4 of an inch. Since I check it regularly and it hasn't loosened its self in the nearly 6,000 miles its been on, it couldn't have just fallen off. But, I guess the idiot could have taken it and not thrown it on the ground.

I argued with myself about the route I was going to take home. Take California 95 out of Needles to I10 to Phoenix, or Arizona 95 to Lake Havasu and back roads to Wickenburg. I chose to ride in Arizona and it turned out to be the right decision because the winds died down to almost nothing. It was warm in Arizona and the sun felt great. As a matter of fact it was warm enough that I switched to my half helmet. Normally I use a full face helmet on the highway, but on the back roads at a slower speed I felt comfortable with the half.

Other than the wind my only problem today was not stopping to take pictures. I made sure to capture the sunrise, but after that it was just riding. I left Mojave around 6:15 and arrived home at 3:30. The ride was over, but Spring Break still had a week left. This year appears to the last for two weeks off in the fall and spring. I will miss being able to ride for a week and spending a week with Nancy also.

Some facts and figures from my ride;

Gas stops 18

Gallons used 78.53

Total miles 2640

Average miles per gallon 33.6

Pulling Petunia was a breeze and having the ability to camp is what I was looking for. Not taking into consideration that the weather would be too cold this time of the year was just me being me. Maybe I'm getting soft in my old age, but a nice warm room after the freezing days in the saddle was just the ticket. Summer is coming and camping will be better. That is if the mosquitos leave me alone. But, I hear that Listerene mouthwash in a spray bottle will keep them away. We will see.

Todays route

View Larger Map

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spring Break Day 5

I woke up at 4:30 on Day 5 to rain. Looking out the motel window I saw it had rained and was still sprinkling. The parking lot was one big puddle, but at least I had covered Petunia and the seat would be dry. I laid back down and tried to go back to sleep when I realized if I waited I would be going through San Francisco in rush hour, in the rain. I got up, showered, loaded up, and was on the road at 5:15.

The rain had really stopped by that time and the temperature was about fifty. It was a very pleasant ride until just outside San Francisco. It started as a light drizzle and worked its way into a fairly heavy rain. I rode in the right lane because it was dark and hard to see through the wet visor on my helmet. At least I had the sense to put the clear visor on. California drivers don't let a little thing like rain get in their way, as they still drive 80 and faster. Horns blaring, lights flashing, and I'm sure several one finger salutes to the guy holding them up as they race to their important destinations on this Thursday morning.

And then I was on the Golden Gate Bridge. That was an experience all of its own. Now these wonderful Californians were welcoming me by pulling into my lane and forcing me out of their way. Kind of the way you do in a bumper car at the fair. Yes, I felt their love for me. I could see the rain being blown across the Bridge at a horizontal angle and the wind was picking up. And then..........the toll booth. Me the city boy with my wallet safely stored in the Tour Pack. Yep, I had to stop, get off, open the Tour pack, take off my gloves, get my wallet, close the Tour Pack, get back on Petunia, open the wallet, give the attendant a twenty, WAIT while he gave me change, and then be told move along your holding up traffic. The toll was $7.50 because I am a three axle vehicle. Like a one ton truck pulling a backhoe I guess. Lucky for me there was pull off a couple of hundred feet ahead and I rolled there to put the change in my wallet and put my gloves back on. I waited until all those lovely folks I had held up went past before I continued. Thought that might just make it better for them to be ahead of me.

These pictures were taken about 8:30 outside Salinas. It was still overcast, but the rain had quit and it was becoming a nice day.

About 10 I was on State Route 198 heading toward Coalinga on a great twisty road. The scenery was spectacular and these pictures don't do it justice. It was so green that it looked like it had been painted. It also was beginning to get warm and I took off my jacket for the first time in four days.

The rest of the day was mostly uneventful. US 99 to Bakersfield, to State 58 toward Barstow and the wind was really starting to kick up. I did run into a group of seven guys from Northern California traveling to Laughlin just east of Bakersfield. They were happy to claim they had already ridden 800 miles today and stopped for an hour or an hour and a half for breakfast, depending on who shouted the loudest, and had been at the gas station for over an hour. I was impressed? They said I could ride with them, but I knew I wouldn't go as fast as they would because of the trailer and common sense. Sure enough, when on the road again off they roared like a bat out of Hell, with arms outstreched over their heads, weaving from lane to lane, cutting in front of cages, and acting like fools. It isn't a wonder when a cage sees a single bike they think it is OK to pay them back for a group of morons like that.

About 3:30 I was getting tired and made the decision to stop at the next Motel 6 I saw. I spent my last night on the road in Mojave and was really glad to get out of the wind.

Todays route

View Larger Map

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spring Break Day 4

Morning 4 finds me finally making my way to the coast. The thing that has to be done on this ride is traveling Highway 1. The Coast Highway. So, I leave Red Bluff at 6:45 on State Route 36 heading to California 3 and Fortuna. The man and woman at the Motel said there shouldn't be any problem crossing the mountain because of the nice weather they have had for the last week. They also said they had gone to their cabin the past weekend and it was very nice. As I was leaving the woman laughed a bit and added, "But, we couldn't drive into our driveway, we had to walk in." I wonder why I didn't ask any questions?

This is what I found that they said wouldn't be a problem. Snow!!! and lots of it!! and cold!! 26 air temperature and -5 wind chill!!! This was the most technically challenging riding I have ever done. Once I was in the mountains there was no sunshine at all. The snow had been plowed, but there was water and ice on the road and it was the most twisted road of the trip so far. Add the fact that guard rails were non existent and that could lead to a huge drop off if a mistake were made. This 100 miles took almost four hours and I never got above third gear. It was very tiring and extremely cold. Over the mountain I only saw three cars and all of them were going in the opposite direction from me. I didn't get more pictures because it was too cold to take off my gloves and the stopping points were very limited for a motorcycle.

Finally I was down to lower ground and the weather front I had been hearing about all week was coming in. It was very overcast and damp. In Leggett, I found the turn off for Highway 1. I was just about to the ocean and it started to rain. Still no sunlight, the trees would have blocked it out anyway, and more twisty roads with many turns of 10 - 15 mph. It was 50 miles of very slow going, but traffic was never a problem.

Then..........finally the ocean and Highway 1. Cold, overcast, and foggy.

It was still beautiful and cold, but the rain had stopped. I stopped in Fort Bragg for gas and coffee and had a conversation with a older guy who was from Louisiana, not far from where I was born. Even though he has been in California for 45 years he still talks fondly of being in Louisiana. I asked his advise on a route to take and he suggested taking Route 20 getting off the coast. As he put it, "There ain't no good way to get out of here." So, at the turn for Route 20, I continued down the Coast Highway just because I'm hard headed. By Stewarts Point I was wishing I had listened. I was getting so tired that I was having trouble operating the clutch, shifter, and brakes. It was a feeling that wasn't very comfortable. I fially found a road that would get me out to Highway 101 and into Santa Rosa for the night.

This, hands down, was the most difficult day of the trip. I thought I had ridden in the cold before, but I hadn't. The cold just drained me and made everything more difficult. Part of the problem seemed to be that there wasn't any sunshine except right at sunrise and I never got warm until I stopped and took a hot shower.

Todays Route

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spring Break Day 3

This is the beginning of a beautiful day. It is about 41 degrees with a clear sky. The plan for today is to follow California 49 from Mariposa to Grass Valley and cross over to I 5 and make my way to Redding. The biggest part of today will be on two lane less traveled roads.

This is the view looking over the side to the road I will be going down. Just after I took this picture a school bus was climbing up this mountain to collect the kids for school. I wonder if they realize how great a view they have? It was on this section of my trip that it almost ended. I was following all of the suggested speed limits and just enjoying the beauty of the ride when a Johnny Rocket was traveling way to fast for a right hander. As I was leaning into a blind left hander, he appeared completely in my lane. It was eat the cage or run off the road. I chose to run off the road even though there was a car behind me, only 18" between the asphalt and mountain, and a 6 - 8" drop. As I went off the road I down shifted, hit the throttle as hard as I could, leaned left, planted my foot as hard as I could into the ground, and held on waiting for the thump and resulting crash. But, somehow Petunia, Piggy, and I missed the car, the mountain, and pulled out of the off-road excursion. At the first place I could stop I did to check to be sure everything was OK. The guy following me stopped also and said he couldn't believe that I didn't go down. Well, that made two of us. I swear it almost felt like I was being picked up and set back on the road. The result was a scuffed tire on Piggy and the leather torn on the toe of my left boot. And the Cager? He didn't bother to stop. My reaction - Damn, I won't be able to wear these boots to school anymore! But hey, a hundred dollar pair of boots is better than the alternative.

On my way I wanted to eat at small family run cafes. But, it seemed that they all were closed. Until I found Sue's Cafe on Main Street in Angels Creek, California. This Cafe was perfect. From the friendly locals, to the owner Sue Berry, to the kitchen being open, to its small size, to the great food at very reasonable prices this was exactly what I had been hoping for. It is a real shame that there aren't more people like Sue who have the commitment to the history of this type of cafe.
This is looking south and north on Main Street in Angels Creek.

View of the Tuolumne River. All in all this really was the best day of riding so far. The reality of back roads is sinking in for me - you can't make very good time, but the scenery more than makes up for it. The end of day 3 finds me in Red Bluff, California. I am half way into my ride and I won't make Oregon, but I also wouldn't change what I've done. I have found some great roads that I want to travel again and now when I see the map colored in of where I've been California will be almost as dark as Arizona.

This was todays route

Spring Break Day 2

I was up and ready to ride at five, but it was pitch black outside. I tried to go back to sleep, but it didn't work. I broke camp at six and started off at 6:30. It was still dark, but getting lighter. Where I camped was actually at sea level and it was a bit nippy and windy when I started out. Nippy would become the least of my troubles in the next two hours.

I was headed to Mammoth Lakes. As I climbed out of Death Valley it got colder and colder. I stopped and opened a pair of hand warmers and learned a valuable lesson. You see, a person needs to plan ahead when using hand warmers because it takes 15 - 30 minutes for them to become warm. I needed them warm 30 minutes ago. So, I also put my bar mitts on and discovered another problem. With the bar mitts I couldn't operate the turn signals, or cruise control. With them on my fingers didn't have the room to operate them. Because there wasn't anyone but me on the road I decided it would be OK. At Lone Pine I had to stop and find some warmth and coffee. The waitress said, "Look we got one of them fools on a motorcycle. Where might you be going hon?" It was 20 degrees air temperature and 0 wind chill. She then told me most of the roads I was planning to travel were closed and there would be ice and/or snow on the ones that were open. So since she lived there and I didn't want to get any colder I made the decision to turn around and look for a warmer route.

I choose to backtrack and go across 178 into Bakersfield. From there I would go north on I 99 to Merced and 140 east to Mariposa. In Mariposa I stopped at the Visitors Center and the lady got me a discounted rate of $49.95 for a motel with WiFi service. It was a very nice motel and close to options for dinner. I tried to connect to the Internet for an hour, but my lap top just wasn't having any of it. I will be checking to see what I did wrong when installing the wireless cardbus adapter.

I was only 43 miles from Yosemite, on the west side, and the road into it was closed because of snow and ice. So much for my plan of going around to the warm side of the mountain.

On a brighter note Petunia has now been getting better mileage. It is up to 33 mpg. Partly because of the slow pace and possibly that the wheel bearings are finally seating in. Here is the route that I took today.

View Larger Map

Spring Break Ride Day 1

I will be posting the trip reports after I return because of lap top problems that prevented me from posting from the road. The best laid plans as the story goes.

Sunday morning, 6:15, just gassed up, and ready for my adventure. Leaving without knowing exactly where I may end up is part of the excitement of this trip.

As I headed out I 10, about 20 miles from Phoenix, I noticed the right turn signal on Piggy wasn't working. At the first rest stop I had to check that out because I don't want to ride for a week without a turn signal, especially a right one. The load had shifted slightly and pulled the ground wire from the connector. A quick repair and I was off again, relieved to have all the lights functioning properly.

The weather seemed perfect as I left with mild temperatures. About sixty miles into the ride the wind started to kick up a bit. I also noticed my gas gauge was dropping at a rapid rate. I anticipated a drop in gas mileage, but it was really dropping fast. For a mile or two I thought about turning around and leaving the trailer at home. But, with the spare gas on board I was committed to pulling Piggy with me. At Quartsite the result was 127 miles on 4.7 gallons of gas for only 27 mpg. I wasn't expecting a nine mile a gallon drop, but I continued on.

On to Blythe and left onto California 54 toward Needles the wind really kicked up. At times it was difficult to determine which direction it was coming from.

The low desert all looked about the same through this part of the trip. The wind continued to blow so I stopped for coffee and breakfast in Vidal. It was a nice, 50's style diner with a Western motif that I'm sorry to say I neglected to take pictures of. I should have also taken a picture of the waitress, a woman about my age who still thinks that Daisy Dukes are a fashion statement. But, she was nice and the food was excellent. North of here, around Searchlight, in the road work area, I missed a turn I should have taken and ended up on the outskirts of Vegas. Lost on the first day, in an are that I know! That doesn't bode well for the rest of the trip. However, as it turns out this mistake didn't add any time or miles to the trip. It just about evened out in the end.

I arrived in Death Valley about 2:30 and it was about 90 degrees. In early March it was 90! I guess I know why folks cross it at night in the summer. But, crossing at night causes you to miss out on all of the sights.
This was my accommodations for the first night of my trip. Camping at its finest. This is almost the true experience of roughing it. What you can't see is the out house with flush toilets. There was also a store where I bought a calling card because there isn't any cell service at 198 feet below sea level. The only problem I had here was I forgot my pillow at home, on the washer, as I was taking it out to load. A leather jacket is great for the cold and rain, but for a pillow it is worthless. So, about eight it was dark, I was tired, and I slipped into my sleeping bag for a restfull sleep. It was about that time that the boys from the Air Force started their low level flights over Death Valley. Two ear splitting, earth shaking, passes that you could hear and feel for miles as they approached and departed the area. I fell asleep thankful for all of the brave men and women of our Armed Forces.

Here is the actual route I took today to get to Death Valley.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Final Preparations

The excitement builds as departure time approaches. I have checked, rechecked, and triple checked. My conclusion is that the only guarantee is I will be leaving and heading west, prior to going north. I really want to go to Seattle, but I don't want to box myself into riding on the Interstate. As I added to my profile it is now time to take the roads less traveled, slow down, and see what I have missed in the haste of my youth.

The 2008 HOG Touring Handbook is filled with scenic two lanes that seem to be calling me. I think of my favorite Arizona roads and how riding them never gets old. To bypass that in California and into Oregon seems wrong just to say I rode to Seattle. All of my prior jaunts into California have been with an agenda and time limit. Interstate riding was demanded with that kind of schedule. While this ride does have a time limit that doesn't really require an agenda.

So, Saturday will be spent doing the house work that I need to get done, giving Petunia a bath, and waiting. Waiting for Sunday morning to arrive, so that I can leave on what should be a great adventure. An adventure where I remember to use the camera, not just take it. Where I slow down and look for a place to stop and enjoy the beauty of the ride. One where I can really learn it isn't about the number of miles, but the quality of those miles. Maybe, this is where I grow up.