Monday, July 14, 2014

So Whatever Happened to "Jesspa?"

Remember this post? It was all about some girl named Jess and her Vespa scooter and a post on the infamous adventure motorcycling mega forms ADVrider.com where some guy discovered her blog and her plan to motor west and the ensuing trash talk that took place.

Then I followed up with this post because once I linked to her blog, Jess followed that link back to me and I had a brief chance to chit chat with her personally and discover more about her.

I liked her. I wanted good things for her. I wanted her to go on her trip and discover that she's made of better stuff than she knew.

I wanted her to set a positive example for all the young women who hear nothing but "you can't," "it's not safe for a girl," and other dream killing bullshit that people lob at us whether they mean it "that way" or not.

So what happened?

She didn't go.

She caved to Real Life pressures and set backs and allowed them to talk her out of her dream. She registered on ADVrider just so that she could post in the thread about her and tell the smelly boys (and girls) something to the extent of "I hope you're happy."

Which-- naturally-- wasn't exactly the point of all the trash talk to begin with. So "happy" might not be the appropriate word, but: Way to prove them all right, Jess. Way to live down to peoples' expectations of you. Way to live down to your expectations of yourself.

Then she set comments on her blog so they had to be approved, then she just made the whole thing private.

I had hoped she would at least go back to the drawing board: rethink her trip timing and her budget; save up some of her own money; try again.

Instead-- she seems to have simply disappeared. Folded up her ideal and quietly crawled back into obscurity.

My heart breaks for her loss in doing so. The adventure she will not have, what she won't learn about herself, the reinforcement of her lack of self confidence.

But it's her life and her decision.

If you want to read some great blog stuff from and about real life, every day females to whom it never occurred to listen to a bunch of nay sayers tell them what they can't do, I recommend catching up on these:

http://www.feyala.net/
http://nomadgals-klr650-adventure.blogspot.com/

Friday, June 27, 2014

This is NOT a "Road!"-- May 24&25, 2014

I had grand plans for Memorial Day.

Alas-- the week before Memorial Day arrived but the birthday rack that the BF ordered for Pinkfoot had not. This would impede my plans to do a nice, leisurely ON PAVEMENT loop up through Oakhurst, along the 49 into Sonora, across Sonora Pass (108) and then down and back via Yosemite National Park.

Google maps boasted a mere 649 miles for my loop and I thought it should be no terrible feat for us to accomplish this on a couple of DR650's along well-maintained tar-sealed roads over 3 days.

But not having a rack on Pinkfoot meant not having much options for proper packing of my shiny new Nelson Rigg Adventure Series roll-up-tail-bag-majigger.

In other news: I got a new tail bag!

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It's orange.

It's the same one the BF has, only the larger size (and orange) because I could NOT find any discussion on the Internets about these tailbags (plenty of talk about the saddle bags,) let alone any sort of comparison between the "medium" and the "large." So I go the the large. It's huge. I'll do some sort of review post in the future.

Suffice it to say, it was not going to attach well to the back of the DR without some sort of rack.

And coming straight from our first-ever moto camping adventure, we were both feeling pretty mellow...and poor, since we immediately sought to resolve some of our gear issues by taking advantage of REI's Memorial Day sale... and buying a new tail bag (did I mention it's orange?)

None of which, btw, arrived in time for the Memorial Day weekend either.

By Wednesday, I wasn't at all sure the BF was even interested in a 3 day tour of the Sierra Nevada so I sort of let it slide.

By Thursday, he was all giving me flack for not having a plan for the weekend ride.

So I spent an afternoon combing through Google Maps myself, picking out a route to get us up to the Dinkey Creek area above Shaver Lake. Afterall, I AM on record as saying I wanted to take 12S09 up that way. I combed through all those squiggly little lines that represent things that I rarely consider "roads," and I decided on a TO route and a FROM route that I thought I could handle and even probably enjoy.

But the next thing I know, my stupid-head boyfriend is also studying the maps.

Do you know? I actually BELIEVED we had AGREED on a route? That we had actually WORKED TOGETHER to CHOOSE a round-trip loop that would be scenic and fun FOR BOTH OF US.

HA! I should have known better.

I was even all easy-going about his plan to take over the "berry patch road" in both directions.

Fool that I am.

So we loaded up pretty much the same gear we took the weekend before-- I brought my precious (yes, do say that like Golem) Western Mountaineering Versa-lite sleeping bag as an extra top blanket, since we'd both been pretty cold the weekend before and it gave me an excuse to use it. And I packed everything into my new tailbag (it's orange,) but otherwise, we were packed very similar to the last trip.

We got a reasonable start on Saturday morning. We wound (really? "WOW-nd" is spelled the same way as "woooond?" coincidence?) our way through the foothills to the Vallerjo station in Squaw Valley/Dunlap/where ever it is, then up and out to (dramatic music and ominous tone) THE BERRY PATCH ROAD.

I was in good spirits. I'm invincible. This is great. I've done this before and I can do it again........

!!!

The BF: "Are you ok?"

Me: (wiggling my fingers and toes) "Yep."

The BF continued past me to park his bike and walk back up to help, but I was already up and even had the Wombat back on the rubber side.

I'm gonna have a nasty bruise on my hip but other than that, the Wombat and I seem fine.

bruise

The BF: (upon noticing the action camera still mounted to the gas tank of the Wombat) "Were you filming?"

Me: (looking disgusted) "I'm fine, thank you."

The BF: (chastised) "Just sayin' it'd have been cool, that's all."

Last time we traversed 12S09*  I got hung up on a couple of places where deep ruts ran across the road in a manner that the Wombat scoffed at, but the Wombat's rider was not willing to take lightly.

This time around, I kept telling myself that my problem had been that I'd hesitated too long. I knew the patch was coming up, just assess your path and GO!

I almost made it. At the bottom, the rear tire just didn't quite keep going and ended up sliding sideways, into the rut (very deep rut) and out from under me.

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The hill is much steeper than it looks and the ruts are much deeper: Just picture me and the Wombat taking a dirt nap in the middle of the picture.

But we kept going, to the next section which had given my grief the last time. The BF was ahead of me, he went across, stopped, got off the bike, and... I thought... came back to spot me. His hand signals said "stop..." "stay to the right...." and then he got distracted and wandered off!

So I figured he figured he had done his job and was now busy doing something that had nothing to do with me. So I proceeded carefully and made it around/across/along the next rutted up section a little annoyed because I could have used a little more spotting!

It turns out, he wasn't even "spotting" me! He wanted me to just stop and wait altogether while he watched a rattlesnake make its way off the road.

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I didn't even get to see the rattlesnake. (hrumph) I LIKE snakes. I mean, I'm glad I didn't run over it...but it would have been cool to see at least.

Onward we travel! Down to the river, where we invaded some family's camp site to get down to the water and cool down. On our way back up from the river bank, as we were mounting our trusty steeds, some lady comes down the path just to ask us if we're "hot" in our riding gear.

Yeah Lady. It's 100 degrees outside. It's hot. No matter what you're wearing.

So we headed off for this "dinkey/trimmer" road that will take us up, up, up in elevation to cooler temps.

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The road was kinda dry, dusty, and boring-- just how I remember it when we did it on 4 wheels in the distant past. But not too intimidating and I felt pretty proud of myself for keeping it in 3rd gear.

Eventually, the road got narrower, with a steeper cliff on the side of it, long sections of freshly-dumped gravel, interspersed with sections of "Thank the gods it's not wet" red clay-- and cows. Lots of cows.

More gravel, then rocky, then gravel, and up, up, up.

I did pretty well, although I was not a fan of the gravel, but in my head I kept thinking, "I know it's been awhile, but I don't remember this road being like this."

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Eventually we popped out on the main road, decided to go straight to our camp area and set up. With the bikes, we were able to make it way, way past most of the campsites to the very end of the trail and pick out a great spot.

We set up camp, and then bee-lined it to the Dinkey Creek store on a beer run. We settled on a 6 pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Partially because it seemed like an appropriate choice for a night in the Sierra Nevada, partially because it came in short bottles that fit reasonably well in my cooler-panniers. This time, I brought a dry bag that we could put a 7 pound bag of ice into!

The Dinkey Creek store closed at 7 p.m.-- as soon as we walked out.

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Hesaid wants to ride across this bridge SO bad-- in his defense, it doesn't say "don't."

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So we headed back toward camp, but as soon as we came to the turn off (I think it's 12S09-- I know, I'm calling all roads by the same number) he stopped. I pulled up alongside him and inquired. He wanted to "go on more beer run" into Shaver.

I just don't understand why? A 6 pack of beer between the 2 of us is plenty of both beverage and alcohol for one night.

But he insisted we did not have enough beer-- he really just wanted to keep riding.

I hit reserve on the way into Shaver, so we also got gas. And ONE 24 ounce bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to round out our compliment. Seriously?! ONE more bottle of beer? THAT's "More beer run?"

I also made him give me the liner to his moto-jacket. I was wearing my mesh gear, which had done wonderfully through out our day, but the high elevation, early evening, setting sun aspect of Beer Run Part 2 was a little chilly. Not that his liner fits my  jacket, but the the extra layer made a big difference in enjoying the ride back to camp.

When we parked the bikes under our tarp-garage and discovered that the action camera had been filming.

Hmmmm. I was kinda saving the battery life for the ride home, when we would be on new territory. I didn't mean to be filming. I had no idea how long it'd been recording. Or what it had recorded. Turns out, we captured the best part of our entire ride (the beer run) and gave us a great example of how the little camera works in low light conditions!



I'm having some trouble adjusting to this new boyfriend who doesn't insist on a campfire every night. He's always been all, "What's the point of camping if you don't have a fire? How else are you going to cook the steaks?"

I'm also having some trouble adjusting to this new boyfriend who doesn't gripe about not having steaks for dinner.

We know fire restrictions will be in place soon, after a couple of dry years here in California. I figured he'd be all about having a fire while we can, but he's been more about learning to camp without one.

So I made a tasty dinner out of a pack of rice-a-roni with a freshly chopped jalapeno, a couple cans of chicken, and some jalapeno jack cheese thrown in. I added too much water :-( but it came out like a thick gumbo :-)

I was pretty pleased with our dinner. I'm sure 3 bottles of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale had nothing to do with that.

We sat in our little tripod chairs, ate dinner from our squishy silicon bowls-- he with his new folding spoon, or fork, whichever one he chose, and me with my amazing PURPLE titanium Snow Peak SPORK. I love this thing! I think sporks are amazing implements of pure genius! Drinking our beer, chilled with plenty of ice, watching the stars shoot across the sky.

This was the second night of the camel-leopard meteor shower which ended up being a pretty big dud, but taught me a new constellation which I can't find in the sky, as well as teaching me that the Latin word for "Giraffe" is essentially "camel-leopard."

The "top-blanket" Western Mountaineering Versalite proved to be muy caliente and we slept warm and snug (it couldn't be the beer, we had beer last weekend too.)

The BF let me sleep till well after sunrise and we enjoyed a tasty breakfast of store-bought cinnamon rolls and Coco-cafe (for me, I don't know what he drank,) because he doesn't drink coffee, and I didn't want to boil water to make coffee when A. I didn't want a hot beverage on a warm, sunny morning, and B. it would have impeded the packing process. But if you haven't discovered Coco-cafe-- it's coconut water with expresso and milk, like one of those bottled Starbucks frappacinos with the hydrating properties of coconut water. Pretty tasty stuff.

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Packed up and ready to head out! We gathered our dead soldiers and trash into the ice-bag, strapped it to the back of the BF's bike and headed back to Dinkey Creek.

We stopped at the ranger office where we recycled the glass, bought an updated map of Sierra National Forest, and had a chat with the docent about how awesome our bikes are.

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Topped off the tanks at the Dinkey Creek store, bought a couple new (non-alcoholic) beverages and headed uphill to check out Courtright and Wishon reservoirs. It was a beautiful road and a great ride. I still take my corners pretty slow and the BF gives me grief about "keeping up [my] speed" and "staying close" to him.

I roll my eyes and keep riding my own ride.

We've camped at Courtright before, but we'd never been to Wishon. People keep telling us that there's a "store" at the "marina" at Wishon. I saw a store, but it in no way resembled a marina. I saw a boat ramp, but nothing that resembled a "marina."

We went across the dam, and came back.

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Crossing the dam at Wishon

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A long, steep boat ramp at Wishon.

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Courtright Resevoir

I was pretty unimpressed with Wishon. We stopped at a scenic overlook for awhile and chatted with a couple on matching Harleys. Pretty bikes that screamed "take me somewhere!"

I liked that she said she wanted her own bike. I didn't like that she said her bike weighed 900 lbs without her on it! No way I'd be picking THAT up! But then... no way I'd be taking it down the Berry Patch Road.

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Our bikes look so tiny and unkempt next to theirs!

She told her husband that they needed to get bikes like ours so they could go on rougher roads.

I told her she was far more adventurous than I am. Then I launched into a tale about life with the BF and all the pathways he has led me down that weren't roads.

He insisted that every place we have been has been "on a road."

(insert ominous, foreshadowing thunderclap here)

We all decided it was time to get to our respective next destinations and, one by one, we each filed out of the parking area. They, back to their "cabin" (no one has cabins at Shaver Lake, everyone's "cabin" turns out to be a 3,000 square foot, 2 story house) at Shaver Lake, us to our inevitable DOOOOOOOOOOM! (Cue arriving storm)

I thought I knew which road we would be taking home. I thought it would be the road with the little sign that said "Pine Flat Reservoir 30" that we'd passed on our way up.

But no. Of course not.

I follow (I have GOT to stop doing this!) the BF as he explores a few turn offs. He finally goes down one with a locked gate across one "road," a "no trespassing" sign on one "road," and then I watch him twist the throttle and disappear up a gravel pile and around a giant rock.

Seriously?

No. Really. Even as I followed him, I looked at the gravel pit that I was embarking upon and spoke aloud the words, "Are you f!!!ing kidding me?"

And yet. I followed.

This was not a road. This was not any sort of pathway that was meant to be traversed by civilian vehicles. And then I found myself in a forest of these signs:

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Great. And now I'm going to get sprayed with raw sewage without notice too.

I gingerly edged past the last chance to turn around and retreat. I found myself on a narrow ledge along a sheer cliff. A ledge that no one in their right minds would refer to as a "road," a ledge that was covered in jagged rocks the size of a much bigger fist than I was waving at the BF's back.

But only for a moment, because I needed that hand for the death-grip I had to keep on the Wombat's handlebars.

I tried. I really, really tried to make peace with my inner dirt biker. But I DO. NOT. WANT. A. DIRT. BIKE!!!!!!

Just put your feet on the pegs and GO! Stand up! Lean back, keep your weight off the front end, and GO!

Uh uh. NO go. Feet down. 1st gear. Power walk.

Man, can that TW go slow!

Rock crawling like my old XJ did, one rock at a time.

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I hate this man. I am DONE. This is IT. I am DONE. When I get through this alive, we are having a TALK. Either the BIKES go, or I do! This is EXACTLY what I meant when I said "I don't want a dirt bike." This is EXACTLY the sort of terrain I do NOT want to ride over. This is EXACTLY the sort of terrain that I do NOT think is "fun." This is EXACTLY the sort of terrain that makes for a single man.

Why couldn't I have ended up with a Harley guy? Why don't I have a 900 lb touring cruiser? To ride on ROADS? Sweeping, paved, well-banked ROADS.

By the time he stopped and waited for me to catch up to him, I was the very epitome of a frantic, hysterical woman. He asked me how I was doing and I opened my modular helmet to screech through my tears all the things I just said.

He said, calmly and matter-of-factly, "honey, I'm sorry. I didn't know it was going to be like this."

How could he not know? I knew the moment we left the pavement!

He snapped down his helmet, put his bike in gear, put his feet on the pegs and zoomed off like the road was made of butter. Well, probably not butter, butter probably makes a pretty slippery road. The point is, he did it like it was easy.

So I started back with my power walking the Wombat across the rock road of doom.

There were some sections where I had my feet on the pegs and my hand on the throttle. There were some sections where there weren't softball-sized, jagged rocks of death a foot deep on the "road." There were sections where there wasn't a 3,000+ foot sheer drop off the side of the road. But not for very long, and the absence of these features were invariably replaced with something just as treacherous.

There were a few more places where he stopped to wait for me. Where I threatened to disembowel him. Where we looked at the map to see how long this section of "road" was before we'd get back to the Blackrock road that cars could actually travel on.

At no point did I consider turning around and going back the way we'd come. I can read a map, I could see that we'd already done about half of this, I knew what lay behind me, I didn't figure it could get any worse by continuing onward.

At one point, the road went down a steep hill, all switch-backy on the side of what, for all intents and purposes, may as well have been a talus pile... switch back, switch back, switch back... I could see where the ground became level. I could see where the level ground was dirt. REAL DIRT! Not just smaller gravel, but ACTUAL DIRT! At the edge of a large pond.

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I could also see every damn switchback with its 30% grade, stretching out before me, covered in these stupid rocks, slowly descending to solid ground.

And I could see the BF merrily skimming along across the top of them, feet on pegs, hand on throttle, zip zip zipping along, turning around each switchback, descending to the level earth, as though he was enveloped by some sort of Spell-of-not-falling. I watched him reach the level earth. I watched him stop and look back up at me, waiting for me to catch up.

I had my bike off. 1st gear. Ignition off. Hand on clutch. Hand on front brake-- no, no front brake on this shit. Foot on rear brake...no. Both feet on the ground! Hand on front brake. Pull in clutch, advance 6 inches. Hand off clutch. Hand on brake. Walk forward 12 inches. Hand on clutch, advance 6 inches....

Tears. Deep, wracking sobs of hysterical anxiety and inadequacy. Bargaining with the gods. Hate. Hate this stupid man that I live with not just for continuing to take me on terrifying adventures that ARE NOT FUN for me, but because it IS fun for him. Because this all comes so easy for him. It come so natural for him...

I was having a serious melt down. I'm not ashamed to admit it. Most women I know would have had a melt down. OK-- most women I know wouldn't ride their own bike to begin with, let alone off a paved road. But I feel VERY vindicated in pointing out that I have insisted from the beginning that I did NOT want a dirt bike! Not because I don't want to ride on dirt roads, but because I don't want to ride like a dirt biker. I don't want to stand up on the pegs, I don't want to just keep my feet up and nail the throttle, I don't want to break the rear tire loose, I don't want to drift around corners.

I'd like to ride a Harley. A big, pretty pirate ship. Looking good and feeling mellow.

And then. As if on *#&@!ING cue. That SOB I call a boyfriend-- the same one that I had, just at that exact moment, been cursing the day his parents met-- turns his bike around and RIDES BACK UP THIS TALUS PILE HE CALLS A ROAD.

Back up the 3 steep, rocky, switchbacks that I have left to make it down alive. Just zip, zip, zips back up till he's stopped next to me on the 3 foot ledge he calls a road.

And I LOST IT!

I told him that I'm so *!&!ing glad that this is so *!:&@ing easy for him and I'm so !*@&!ing sorry that he has to wait on me because it's so !*@&!ing scary for me and I can't @*!&!ing just ride down it like it was nothing, but for him to !@*!*!ing TURN AROUND and @*!&!ing RIDE BACK UP just to @*!&:!ing throw it in my face and @*!*@ing rub it in how much easier it is for him WAS NOT HELPING!!!!!!!!!

And he looks at me a little confused. And he says calmly and matter-of-factly, "I was just coming to report on the road condition."

Even in that moment, when I was ready to hurl him off the cliff to his end, I recognized the "my life is a movie" moment. I stayed relatively calm. I COULD SEE the road all the way to the level, beautiful DIRT earth. What-- praytell-- could he have to report?

So I gathered my wits. I wrestled up some Zen. And I asked, as un-hysterically as I could under the circumstances: "OK. What is the condition of the road?"

He said-- with the sincerity of a 4 year old explaining why he just brought a bucket of snails into the house-- "It's rocky."

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O.

M.

G.

Did he really? Did he really just pull his little "looky how easy it is for me to ride on this crap" stunt to tell me the road is ROCKY?!!!

Yep. True Story.

I couldn't kill him right there and then. I was too busy hanging on to the bike with my knees and the steep, rocky road surface with my toes through my boots! I had every intention of killing him once I reached level ground, but by the time I got there and had the Wombat parked by the pond, he was making a peace offering of a really old Milky Way candy bar that's been riding around with us since before we got bikes at all.

[side story-- short version: Once upon a time, when the BF was a young'un, his uncle lived in Wyoming. Every so often, his parents would load him and his sister in the back of the wood-panelled Griswold-mobile and drive the family to Wyoming to visit. On one trip, his mother packed a bag of tortilla chips. The tortilla chips rode to Wyoming-- and back-- in the rear of the wagon, completely forgotten. Somehow, taking a bag of tortilla chips for long road trips became a family tradition. Fast forward to 2007ish when the BF and I started dating and we purchased a Kingsize Snickers bar for a camping trip-- and didn't eat it. In the 8 years that we've been together, our Snickers bar has enjoyed many a road, camping, canoe-- and now, moto trip. Since we don't eat the Snicker's bar (it IS 8 years old, afterall) along the way we have purchased other candy bars-- that haven't been eaten.]

I guess the Milky Way was the most expendable/most palatable of the 3 candy bars that were enjoying the ride.

Now I feel bad about eating the candy bar... like we were all friends, had come so far together as a family-- but that Milky Way had the red shirt on. It was only a matter of time.

So the BF was spared.

The road surface did not improve greatly. I spent a lot more time walking the bike over the jagged rocks of doom that someone thought made a suitable road surface. But at least it was mostly level and there wasn't a 3,000 foot drop to one side.

Then I caught up to the BF at the creek crossing.

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It was picturesque enough and all. And, at some point in this "road's" history, it had been outfitted with a fancy concrete ford. But this is not a road anymore. I don't care what the BF and his map say. And the creek has carved a nice little niche out of the bank on the far side of the ford. Which wasn't very scary. What was scary was that my exit bank was not a nicely sloped little ~whoop~. No. More like a WHOO-OOP! Steep enough that screwing up could set me sideways on the ledge of the concrete ford, halfway down a 2 foot drop in the creek. No bueno.

OK. No problem. Just don't try to do it slow. Just aim so I hit the bank straight-on, and stay on the throttle... Difficulty? THAT TREE!

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The tall pine trees... they were in the way.

So I stood in the creek for a long time, staring at my path of egress, enjoying the the cooling effect as the water slowly penetrated the little meshy patches on my boots.

Ahhhhhhhh.

Wait... whaaaa????

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Oh yeah, cross the creek.

I was pretty emotionally drained at this point. Full of "what if I screw up" thoughts. I seriously considered having the BF just come ride the Wombat out of the creek.

But if I do that, then I have to live with the fact that I did that.

So I kicked it into gear and went for it. Popping up over the bank and stopping just short of the tree without managing to topple Dr. Feelgood in the process.

Yay me.

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Shortly hereafter, there was a road off to the right that intersected what we were on. It looked SO MUCH MORE like a road! But he shook his head and continued forth.

Over more rocks. And sticks-- no. Not "sticks."  "Branches." Possibly "limbs."

And then.... [insert the sound of angels singing]...the road surface turned to soft, moist, cushy, forest floor humus (not to be confused with hummus, which I like, but he does not.) I don't even care about the insane number of pine cones-- I love riding on this stuff. Yeah. Maybe it can get slippery, but at least it'll be a soft landing!

I was so excited. I thought we were finally on track to get off all those rocks and hook up with the actual road that would take us down to Pine Flat Reservoir.

But, just past the giant boulder in the middle of the big clearing, the road ended. Just *POOF* gone. What appeared to have once been the rest of the route was overgrown with 6 foot high manzanita bushes.

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The BF finally had to utter the words, "This is not a road."

That's what I'VE BEEN SAYING for a mile and a half!

So we turned around, figuring this meant that our intersection HAD to be that little driveway of a road that veered off to the left just a ways back...

...have I mentioned a "driveway like road" that veered off to the left? No? Oh! Maybe because it was such a non-event that even in the recollection contained in this trip report, that road was so innocuous as to go unnoticed.

But now we turned around and headed down it. To a big, flat, turn out of NOTHING!

So the BF contemplated his maps for a moment and looked up at me. He said I was not going to be happy. He said that we needed to go back up, through the branches and limbs, through the rocks, but not quite to the creek again-- and take that road.

You don't say?

So that's what we did. And VOILA! Look at that: a ROAD!

Not a big, fancy road. But something that I am willing to call a "road." In fact, almost immediately upon turning onto it, we encountered traffic. Actual traffic. Other living, human beings in vehicles. Something I hadn't seen for awhile.

So began our descent of Blackrock Desert Road... no. Wait. That's where Burning Man is. Blackrock Canyon road. Yeah. I think there's a "Canyon" involved. I mean, in the name, there's DEFINITELY a canyon along the road!

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Ahhhh, sweet dirt road. Switchbacks. Switchbacks. Switchbacks... more traffic.

This is the extent of the roads-less-travelled that I am willing to explore by bike. Most of the people I know would still be ashen with terror from this road; they have no idea where this road is when I speak of it. This road is still one of America's forgotten byways-- while STILL BEING A ROAD.

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Yes. Totally willing to ride on this!

Blackrock road was pretty. And fun. And even, eventually, paved. It switchbacked its way down the mountain, into the hills, under pipelines from the Big Creek hydro-electric project... or maybe another hydro-electric project (turns out, there are a few.) We were on the east side of the mountain, so we stayed in shady areas most of the way down. We got views of Blackrock Reservoir-- a reservoir I didn't even know about until this trip.

We crossed "bridges" that were really just spots where there was no ledge blasted out of the cliff-- not scary. I enjoyed them! Although, the sadist in me wants to take our mothers for a car trip along them. (evil snickering)

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Yup...willing to call this a "road" AND I enjoyed it! (I hear my mother cry everytime I see this photo.)

Suddenly, the BF wasn't behind me. I ended up having to turn around on the single-lane, blasted-ledge road (BUT A REAL ROAD!) to make sure he hadn't gone over the ledge. Oh sure! By this time, I actually DIDN'T want him dead!

So I cruise back up the road to find Dr. Feelgood resting on the side of the road (not that there's much "side" available) and there's the BF, up on top of a big boulder that's just sort of hanging there-- clinging to the side of the road, much in the way that rocks don't. Except this rock. Which is.

All I can think is, "YOUR MOTHER SAYS 'GET DOWN FROM THERE RIGHT THIS INSTANT!!' "

But he explains that there are these commemorative plaques on top of the rock.

WTF?

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The BF's view from on top of Memorial Rock.

Who puts plaques on top of rocks? Maybe I'm just jealous I didn't think of it first.

We continued downhill, through the community of Ummmmmmm.... Blackrock? Balch Camp?

Not a soul in sight. Kinda creepy and X-Filesian. I just want to get through this weird place now.

And we did. All the way down to the metal bridge that crosses the Kings River just upstream from Pine Flat Reservoir.

I'm knackered. The camping was great. But I fell down yesterday. I don't like falling down. Falling down is the exact opposite of what motorcycling is supposed to  involve. I don't care about all the people who tell me that falling down in dirt doesn't count-- I'm not a dirt biker, I'm not supposed to fall down. It's been a long day. A very long day. We've been in the saddle for over 8 hours. And I've already lived through navigating through several outer circles of Hell.

And now. Here we sit. At the crossroads of Take the Berry Patch Road UP to 180 or Ride-all-the-way-around-the-lake-and-through-the-peacock-place to the 180.

13 miles up the berry patch road. 45 miles around the lake
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An hour and a half up the berry patch road. An hour and a half around the lake.

We "discuss" our individual concepts: He feels that the berry patch road is the shortest distance between two points.

I feel that there is a higher likelihood of disaster on the berry patch road-- especially considering the level of exhaustion I'm currently at-- and that it takes the same amount of time to get around the lake as it will for me to navigate the berry patch road.

He's mostly quiet. He wants to take the berry patch road. In his mind's eye, he views it as a shortcut.

I'm not taking the berry patch road. End of story. How can it be a shortcut if it takes the same amount of time? Besides-- I have enough gas to go around the lake.

OH! And did I mention my new Rotopax?

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From our night in camp, using my Cyclerack rack as a beer holder-- but check out the shiny (dusty) red Rotopax!

I have enough gas.

I'm going around the lake.

I head a disgruntled, "The decision has been made." As Dr. Feelgood roars back to life and falls into line behind me.

It didn't take long for him to blow past me and disappear out of sight ahead of me. I'm grumpy. I don't understand why he can't just shrug it off after I've already fallen down on the damn berry patch road AND made it down that awful sewage field he keeps calling a road!

I think I've been a helluva good sport and I think I deserve a little easy, paved, road.

Grumble grumble...grrrrrrrr.

And now he's just gone. Cuz he can go faster than I can, AND he's more comfortable going faster than I am. I round curve after curve around that lake and don't see him.

He must really be upset with having to go around the lake. He usually stops and waits for me at some point.

Grumble grumble....grrrrrrrr.

I am bargaining with the gods again. I just want my gas to last until 180. I look at my trip odo-- "just let it make it to 100." I don't want to have to stop and unhitch the Rotopax. I want to make it to the gas station. I don't want him to be all like, "You said you had enough gas."

And I'm grumpy. Because he's all irritated that I don't want to go up that damn berry patch road.

And then I catch up to him. And he takes an unexpected turn, down a BOAT RAMP!

Well I don't know why he's going down the boat ramp. I don't know what he's thinking. All I can do is follow him.

It's a very steep boat ramp. I hate going downhill. At least the Wombat has that amazing first gear engine braking. This is really kinda scary. What the hell is he doing?!

We get near the end, before the ramp becomes actual boat ramp, and the he veers off to the left toward the dock.

I really don't think he understands AT ALL how much more difficult it is for me to maneuver my bike(s) on less than solid, level ground than it is for him. He does it easily. For me, it's a constant challenge to stay upright. Turning left on the ramp meant that one whole side of the earth had fallen out from under my right foot. Keeping the bike in a left-ward lean was essential. Good thing I was already in 1st gear!

I came up beside him, just off the ramp, on the relatively level ground that would lead down to the dock. I am not a happy camper. I want to know just what the hell he is doing and why I had to come down here?

He's that same 4 year old with the snails and he's all, "I thought they'd have a Pepsi."

Seriously? All this for a Pepsi?

Somewhere deep inside me, the idealistic 15 year old girl who was all optimistic about Love is deeply touched. I hear her say-- in a voice very like my 15 year old niece's-- "awwwwww, that's SO sweet."

Because, somewhere deep inside me, that 15 year old girl realizes that my boyfriend is attempting to make a very sweet, romantic gesture by seeking a Pepsi to share with me and sooth our road weariness.

But the jaded, tired, bruised, 44 year old woman who has to ride back up a freakin' boat ramp is not impressed. I still hear his bitter tone when he says "the decision has been made." I'm still convinced that he's irritated that I won't ride up that berry patch road.

This is no time to get all mushy.

Sure enough, we have to follow a truck up the boat ramp and I end up stalling on the incline. I hate this. I am all swear words that would make a sailor blush while I restart and try to get up to the level road without falling over or stalling again.

He just doesn't understand. He doesn't understand that this is challenging for me, or why, or how.

Which just makes it worse.

But we made it to the gas station in Squaw Valley or Dunlap or where ever it is without me ever having to stop and switch to reserve.... thank you to the gods.

And we got a Pepsi. And a peanut butter Snicker's bar (which we ate.) And I got it in my head that he wasn't mad at me for making him ride around the lake. Or, at least, he wasn't mad at me anymore.

We made it home just past dark on Sunday night with an entire extra day of our weekend left. So we brought in our gear, started dinner, and cracked a celebratory beer...and another one...and another one...and another......

Good thing we had Monday off.

The next day, the BF opened his shiny, new, Sierra National Forest Map that he purchased at the Dinkey Creek ranger station...

Guess what's NOT a road? (anymore)

notonthemap

He's already talking about going back UP it.


[PS: It took 2 weeks to get this written up, we had MANY conversations about the trip and my perception of it.... He claims that I AGREED to the oh-so-not-a-road section of our return trip with full understanding that I was agreeing to "explore" a section of  "road" which one of our 4 wheeling guides rates a "3."

Obviously our night in camp wasn't the only night I put away 3 beers!

Note to self: Must remember to do trip planning STONE. COLD. SOBER. from now on!]

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Our First Moto-Camping Trip: May 17&18, 2014

It took me all afternoon, and 2 trips to Sport Chalet, to get our gear packed into our available luggage and strapped to the bikes. I'm still wrestling with the emotional impact of coming to terms with the apparent fact that my days of gram-counting, ultra-lite travel appear to be left in my single-girl youth.

Oh well. I have the BF now. I guess that's a worthwhile trade....

Hmmmmmmmm....

(in one hand) 15 pound pack; warm, comfy sleep in Western Mountaineering Versalite 900 fill goose down mummy bag.... (in other hand) 70 lbs of stuff between two bikes that I have to ride on "roads" that are not roads only to spend my nights shivering, freezing cold because the boyfriend insists on rectangular sleeping bags that mate together so we can "snuggle."

Yeah. Yeah. Definitely worth the trade. Sure.

Well, it is what it is and this is what it comes to. At least we are FINALLY going moto-camping!

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But we won't be doing it here apparently! Good thing we just stopped for a snack.


There was a "Wooden and Classic" boat show at Bass Lake on the 17th, so we decided this was as good an excuse as any to start our moto-camping portfolio.

The packing was by far the hardest part of this trip for me, but I finally got everything we needed onto the bikes. We opted to go ahead and pack kitchen and food into my bear canister, just in case. A lifetime of camping/hiking in the Sierra Nevadas often tends to give one an appreciation for a bear-proof food container.

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I ended up with a 30 inch duffel on the back of the Wombat. Made a comfy backrest though.

The route was lovely-- all along actual paved ROADS. Twisting through the foothills and up into the mountains just south of Yosemite Nat'l Park. We got gas and enjoyed lunch in Tollhouse, then continued on up in elevation through some beautiful scenery to the tiny town of North Fork-- which boasts itself as being "the exact center" of California. From North Fork, we aimed for Bass Lake. The ride was perfect.

At Bass Lake, we found ourselves at an entirely different boat show than we'd expected. And not a single one of them in the water. Apparently there was also a classic speed boat show too.

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But boats that aren't even in the water aren't very interesting to me. There were some fancy paint jobs, some low-rent Boat Bimbos, and a Dos Equis tent that didn't offer any beer whatsoever to this thirsty, road-weary traveler.

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Boat Bimbos in Daisy Dukes and high heels.


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Beerless beer tent-- is that even LEGAL?!

I was over it all pretty soon.

We toured the little seasonal lake community on foot, walked down the marina, shared a mediocre ice cream ("mediocre" ice cream?! I wouldn't have even thought it was possible for ice cream to just be "meh.") and briefly entertained the notion of inquiring about a room at the hotel... ahhh, the opportunity to eat steak in a restaurant, drink beer all night, and sit in a hot tub.

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I might be getting old.

But I've been whining about camping for a year now and we had all that gear on the bikes... it was time to find this fabled "Whiskey Falls" campground that the BF said we were camping at.

So we saddled up and headed out, taking the scenic tour around the lake. Which is how we discovered "Miller's Landing" and the ACTUAL "wood and classic" boat show. Unfortunately, the boat show had officially ended at 4 p.m. and we didn't happen upon it until around 4:30. So all we could do was walk down the dock and admire the boats tied up there while their owners were probably enjoying a few rounds of beers and sharing tales of how awesome their boats are with eachother instead of us.

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Naturally, I really like the little fiber glass boat. I dig the "I'm driving my car on the lake" look. Which should not be taken to suggest that I didn't do my fair share of drooling over some of these beautiful Chris Crafts.

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But the clock is ticking and we don't even know where our campground IS! So we saddled up just as a couple of two-up cruisers pulled in alongside us at the parking lot.

The ladies hopped off the backs of the bikes and headed for the bar, one of the guys came by to gander at our little bikes. He seemed pretty impressed that I ride my own, although he was pretty sure I'd be growing out of my 200cc Wombat pretty soon.

I assured him that I had another bike just like the BF's at home, but I love my TW.

(Hmmmm, maybe I should install the kickstart kit on the Wombat? That would've impressed the Harley guy, huh?)

So off we roared, back to North Fork for a top-up of the gas tanks and some beer-- which presented new challenges: My mini panniers are made from small, lunch-box style coolers. They hold a 6 pack of cans and have an expandable top for dry goods. I saw them last year and thought they would make really cute panniers. The BF wasn't convinced they were going to last long, but for $14, we figured it'd be fun for awhile. They've lasted nearly 5K miles and are still holding up, and have been great for carrying drinks and snacks on numerous jaunts.

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So it seemed reasonable that it'd be easy enough to pop a 6 pack of trusty Bud light into one side and tie a bag of ice on the back and go, right? Hmmm. Well. Errrr. For starters, not many gas station/mini marts sell 6 packs of Bud Lite in cans. 12, 18, even 20 packs? Check. Long necks? Check. A surprising variety of quasi-micro brews? Check.

Eventually we found beer that fit in the cooler. Ice, on the other hand, was a more difficult quandary. I ended up with a duffel bag that was nowhere near waterproof. So it didn't seem like the best plan to strap a 7 pound bag of ice to the back of the Wombat that was just going to melt and drip and saturate my stuff. But the BF's tail bag is a tight little bundle that really didn't allow for adding a bag of ice either. In the end, the lady at the Chevron station/mini-market filled a plastic grocery bag with ice from the fountain soda machine and we managed to cram it into the cooler with the beer.

Note to self: Plan for obtaining and transporting beer and ice in the future.

Have I ever mentioned that it's the BF who does the map-obsessing for our trips? It's not that I can't read a map, or don't own an impressive collection of my own, or even that I'm not interested in planning our routes-- it's just that the BF loves it SOOOOOOOO much. So the BF is my navigational unit and I follow him with the faith of a woman who knows she can find her own way home if he leads her down one too many trails that he insists are "roads."

And so I followed him. He said we were looking for "Casca Del Road." He turned right, I followed him-- completely blowing the ridiculously sharp hairpin turn that took me uphill to the right on a road that darn near folded back on itself in a manner that reminded me of a science fiction story I once read about a 4th dimensional home
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%22%E2%80%94And_He_Built_a_Crooked_House%E2%80%94%22

I found myself over the yellow line, in the lane of oncoming traffic, VERY relieved that there wasn't any oncoming traffic and chastising myself for being so sloppy. It'd been a long day-- I was probably tired. I scolded myself and promised to stay more aware.

As I returned to the proper lane and headed up the very steep incline while my heart beat returned to normal, the boyfriend pulled over to the side of the road. I continued on. I hate stopping on an uphill, and he didn't make any gesture to indicate that I should also pull over. But he wasn't behind me, so when I found a relatively level spot, I pulled over and waited for him.

He finally pulls up alongside me and tells me that he's pretty sure that "Casca Del Road" is probably supposed to be "Cascade Road" -- seeing as how we'd just passed a "Cascade Road."

So we turned around, headed down, went around that crazy hairpin turn again-- this time easier because it was on the downhill and we got to do it in the outside lane, but I took careful note-- this was a particularly HAIRY hairpin turn!-- and took Cascade Road.

It was like a two rut driveway... I think I heard banjos. If this was the road to Whisky Falls, I'm not sure we need to go camping afterall! But I followed him up the hill, around the turns, past the hovels-- all the way to the dead end in some guy's gravel drive way with his hound dogs running out to meet us.

*gulp*

The BF navigated his retreat with aplomb. I, however, do not have the physical command of my bike that he does. I cannot simply stand up OVER the bike and turn it around underneath me and then just sit back down and go.

No.

My feet don't even reach the ground entirely-- not even on the TW. So I do my pushing with my pelvis. With the balls of my feet firmly planted in 4 inch deep pea gravel. What an adventure! My "reverse" gear is less than reliable and my forward is likely to result in my feet slipping out from under me. All the while, two giant, drooling, inbred, hillbilly dogs are headed my way.

And do you think my knight in shining armor stays close by to protect me? Nope. He's halfway back up the damn road.

Fortunately, the dogs were less than interested in eating me. They arrived at the end of their yard and stood there drooling in my general direction with a curiosity that suggested they wouldn't actually attack until I appeared unable to fight back.

So I managed to get the Wombat turned around and caught up to the boyfriend where he was stopped dead in the middle of the road, head down, studying the Garmin in consternation. Eventually, he looked up at me and announced that "What'd'ya know? There really IS a road called 'Casca Del.' "

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Yay. I get to go around that inter-dimensional hair pin turn again.

Which, by the way, really IS a ludicrous angle. I'm not sure I could do it in the car. It's just a crazy M.C. Escher-esque experience. But I did manage to stay on my side of the line the second time around.

We found this infamous "Casca Del" Road, made our turn, and the off-pavement adventure began.

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I'd really wanted to take Pinkfoot on this ride, but Pinkfoot didn't have a rack yet (another story entirely) and the BF was pretty sure some of the road would be dirt-- he is coming to understand my feelings about dirt roads-- so he figured I'd be better on the Wombat. As it came to be-- he was wise.

The sign said "Whiskey Falls 9" so I checked my odo when we made that turn. The pavement ended, but the road was still easy enough. Then more pavement. Then more dirt. Then there was a fork in the road... and we, we took the road less traveled. Naturally!

We stopped at the Y intersection. There was no signage to indicate which way to go. The BF studied the map again and confidently proceeded to the right.

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I should know better than to follow him.

We rode along a nice enough forest trail. Nothing too strenuous. It got a little rocky, but not scary. And then we came to another fork in the road. This time, both forks had signs-- facing the other way! So he went one way and I went the other so we could see what the signs said to travelers coming from the other directions. My sign pointed to his fork and said "Whiskey Falls 5"... ???... we had already come 7 miles.

So we headed the way the sign indicated. And that's when we hit the rocks. And the ruts. And the scary. We came to one point where I had to stop and ponder the steep, rocky hill that lay before me. The BF parked his bike at the top and walked back to spot me-- but it was too late, I'd already chosen a line, downshifted, and crawled up. Like a boss!

He seemed impressed.

There was only one other section that slowed me down-- I stalled on the uphill on a section that was more gravelled drainage ditch than trail. I hate stalling on an incline. And in gravel. But I eventually got all my levers and pedals co-ordinated and made it to the top.

To the sign. That said, "Whiskey Falls 2." When it had already been 4 miles since the "Whiskey Falls 5" sign.

So, 13 miles from the "Whiskey Falls 9" sign, we coasted into the campground and picked out a spot.

The campground was great. Only one other group was camped there and they were great neighbors-- calm and quiet.

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We opted not to have a fire-- even though fire restriction weren't in place yet and we could have-- because we were pretty tired and didn't want to sit up late waiting for a fire to die down.

We parked the bikes in our site and got to set up our new tarp for the first time so now the BF understands why I wanted the tarp. It makes a nice garage.

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I like this picture because it looks like I have a Panda hat on. Not actually pictured: the tarp.

We had a picnic table in the campsite and was that ever a score! Nice to be able to set things out and have a place to sit and cook and stuff.

Once everything was set up, we made dinner-- nothing fancy, just some Pasta-Roni noodles with canned chicken added, but my "chicken isn't meat" man was surprisingly delighted with it.


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Sleep was as I feared, however: Cold. There is much I have to say about the subject of sleeping well when camping, and about the array of sleeping bags and pads I have collected over the years for just this purpose. The BF wants rectangular sleeping bags that mate together so we can make one big bed and "snuggle." I appreciate his romantic notions, but I just want to get a good night's sleep and avoid hypothermia.

When we started dating, I invested in a pair of very-hard-to-find rectangular DOWN sleeping bags-- one rated to 0 degrees F, one rated to 20 degrees F-- that mate together, in an effort to have a boyfriend who would go backpacking with me.

We have done very little backpacking in our 8 1/2 years together.

I very much wanted to take those down sleeping bags on this trip. But try as I might, I could not get them to squish down small enough to fit into the luggage we had. Compression bags might get added to the "to-get" list. Strangely enough, I can squish them into the backpacks, but I think shape of the bag has something to do with it. Maybe.

So I ended up packing the sleeping bags that we bought just for moto-camping last year, before we went moto-camping. They are thin, synthetic fill, floppy blanket things rated to 40 degrees F. And I had absolutely NO faith in them to keep us comfortable below 60.

So I pulled out the best of the Thermarest collection. My beloved Neolite pad for me, with its 3 inch thickness and 5.6 R value insulation...mmmmmmmmm. And my very first Thermarest from before I knew what a pain it was to carry everything around for several days days for him. 24 inches wide, but at least I figured it'd keep him warm.

So we spent most of the night shivering. He wanted me to spoon up against him to keep him warm, but that meant slipping off the edge of my pad, onto the ground because my pad is coffin shaped to cut down on weight.

He finally put on an extra layer of clothes and I dragged his moto jacket over me and we got some sleep.

Breakfast was croissants with Canadian Bacon and cheese, packed up camp, and stopped by the falls before heading home.

We met a mountain biker at the falls who was in an exceptionally good mood. She had just ridden her bike up 10 miles from the main road. I'd have been in an exceptionally good mood too if I had accomplished that! So we took her picture for her and asked about the road condition...seeing as how she had come from a different direction that we had.

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So I made it known that I intended to follow the mountain biker back down to the main road, instead of navigating the same TRAIL that we had come up.

Guess what? It was actually 9 miles to the main road via that route. And, that route was totally doable by passenger car. A little rocky in spots, not nothing intimidating and nothing that made me curse my boyfriend or question my desire to continue to refer to him as such.

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Our ride home was lovely with a stop for lunch at Bear Mountain Pizza in Squaw Valley where we ran into a couple of the Central Valley Dual Sporter clan as they were leaving after a long day of apparently not making it down the trail they had attempted.

First moto-camping trip was declared a success. Although we did immediately set about making a list of gear to upgrade and a few things to add... Fortunately, REI's Memorial Day sale was in progress.