Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Next 136 Miles: 9 Hour Ride on 3 Hours of Sleep

About a week ago, we came home to discover that our little diabetic, blind  Aussie had decided to spend his afternoon chewing off the hair on his paw.

We have no idea why, maybe he was just bored: we checked for fox tails and other stickers, for bee stings and other insect bites, but found nothing to suggest he had any reason to start eating his foot other than he needed something to do.
Nothing sadder than a blind dog in a cone.
Parker has never been the world's smartest Australian Shepherd, he's been getting by on his looks. So who knows what he was thinking?

He kept chewing on his foot, no matter what we did. I tried wrapping it in vet wrap, but he ate that. I worried about it getting infected-- diabetes and all-- but I also worried that he'd get sick from licking off anything I put on it.

We finally put the cone on him on Saturday evening. This did not go over well with Parker.

He uses his face a lot to get around the house and tell where he is. With the cone on, he couldn't get his face anywhere near anything, so he had no idea where he was. Plus, he tends to get anxious (and eat his foot, for instance,) so he was not about to sit down and attempt to sleep with that cone on.

We planned on getting an "early" start on our Sunday ride, and we'd had a long Saturday, so we went to bed early....

Well; we went to bed, the BF went to sleep. I, on the other hand, tossed and turned and tried to ignore my pathetic, lost, blind dog as he restlessly wandered the house making a racket like the ghost of Marley...

SCRRRRRAAAAAPE went the edge of the cone against the wall as he bumbled down the hallway. CRASH! went the edge of the cone as he walked into the couch. CRASH! went the cone as he walked into the dishwasher. CRASH went the cone as he walked into the trash can. SCRRRRRAAAAAPE went the cone as he bumbled along the living room. SCRRAAAAPE went the cone as he came bumbling back through the hallway...

It was 3:58 a.m. when I finally got up and took the cone off of him. It was 7:15 a.m. the next time I saw the clock, when the BF was hovering over me, reminding me that we wanted to get an early start.

Our approximate route, from home to Dunlap and back.

Via our standard Out-of-Dodge route, we headed east around 9 a.m. with intentions to do our first will-need-gas-before-we-get-home trip.

We got chased by our first dog, a German Shepherd that meant business. He was standing vigil at a property we've passed several times on previous trips, but this was the first time we've ever seen him. I was pretty glad the BF was in the lead, gave me a chance to see the dog before he saw me.

I grew up riding bicycles on these roads and I've had to out pedal many a dog in my day. So the good news is, no one panicked. We both saw the dog, waited till he was almost to us and then revved it up and watched the poor pup dejectedly plod back to his lair.

We were having a "hey, let's check out this road" sort of day and ended up taking a little detour that led us away from Hwy 245 and right by the slathering jaws of another dog.

Actually, the chocolate lab looked more like she wanted someone to play with-- but we didn't slow down to find out. She was chasing, we were gone!

The Elderwood store I mentioned in the last Post.
It sure is nice to be able to make a clean get away without having to pedal at warp speed!

Eventually, we got back on track and came into Elderwood via Ave 384.

Here's a picture of the bikes in front of the little store I told you about last time. Hopefully it'll be a store again someday. Especially if we're going to be making a habit of riding past it on 100 degree days.

But it wasn't 100 degrees yet when we headed through on Sunday morning.

We stopped for a brief moment under the oak tree at the random picnic table again. Had some water and discussed our next leg of the route. Then we were back on the bikes and headed up Hwy 245 toward Badger, on the lookout for the Dunlap/Miramonte turn off.

It was nice riding through Badger-- a small (tiny) mountain community at a high enough elevation that it's mostly pine trees and out of the heat of the Valley. Mmmmmm... that was nice.

And those twisties were a little less harrowing this time. I'm still in no danger of "carving" them up and I still felt bad for the BF having to hang back behind me, but I was feeling more relaxed with them this time and even having a little fun.

We found our turn off and made it through the tiny community of Miramonte where I spied a sign that pleaded with traffic to slow down... I checked my speedometer and figured they surely didn't mean me with my tire screeching 19 miles per hour, so I remained calm and carried on.

A Turnout with a View
We stopped for some photos along a turn out with a nice view.

About that time, we both decided it'd been awhile since breakfast.

Our plan was to take the windy roads out to Hwy 180 and then brave the busy road out of Kings Canyon Nat'l Park (Hwy 180) for the few miles to the gas station in Squaw Valley... or maybe it's in Dunlap? I'm not sure what the official address is.

Getting onto Hwy 180 was, by far, the scariest thing I've done on a motorcycle thus far. It is a very busy road, and we joined it at the bottom of the twistiest portion out of the Nat'l Park, just as traffic is starting to speed up to make up for all the time they've lost on the twisties higher up. Not unusual at all for cars to be sailing down the hill at 70 mph. And here I am on my little go-go gadget Wombat 200 with the throttle open, pushing 55 mph and trying to stay out of they way!

It was only about a mile to the gas station, but I still pulled over twice to let faster traffic pass.

Almost 70 miles to the gas station!
Once the bellies of the bikes were topped up, we headed further down the hill another mile or two to top up our own tanks. This was the lunch we'd been looking forward to: Bear Mountain Pizza.

If you're ever on Hwy 180 headed to, or from, Kings Canyon National Park, you can't miss it and you should stop and have a bite to eat. The pizza is pretty good, the sandwiches are great.

We opted to split a pastrami sandwich and an order of "bear paws--" they're take on garlic cheese bread sticks. The BF had a Pepsi, I drank a small vat of iced tea.

We got laughed at by some Harley types. I call them "Harley types" because I sure as heck didn't see any other bike out in the parking lot when we rode in. I locked my helmet to my bike, the BF opted to bring his in with him. So we walk in, choose a table, and start de-gearing: helmet on the extra chair, sunglasses and gloves on the table, unzip/un-velcro and jackets off and over the backs of the chairs, then I bent down and unzipped the side zippers of my amazing Olympia Airglide riding pants (I also have the matching jacket... hint hint, Olympia, in exchange for the shameless plug, you can send the SWAG to my office at 113 N Church St....)

Bear Mtn Pizza in Squaw Valley-- No, not THAT Squaw Valley.
But I digress... so there we are, looking like some sort of yuppie Beemer-riding world travelers and there's this table of wind-worn, jeans-wearing types near by. I noticed a couple of the ladies at the table watching us and then their heads were together and then the whole table glanced our way and then erupts in laughter: I very much interpreted it as a little people watching going on-- with us as the people-- and imagined the commentary to be something along the lines of, "OH MY GOD, BECKY! Would you look at her GEAR!"

I definitely detected an air that they may have felt we were overdressed for the ride.... good for them. I love my gear, and I love my skin. Scars are only cool if you live to talk about them. Did I mention I like my gear? (cough cough, Olympia?)

In the end, the folks at the table were very nice. They chatted a bit with us and asked us how the riding was. We told them it was pretty nice out there, better than last weekend. And they wished us a happy, safe ride on their way out.

After lunch, we zipped and velcro'd everything back on and agreed that some sort of seat covers should be moved to the top of our to-do lists for the bikes. Those seats get HOT sitting out in the sun, even for a few minutes.

As we rolled out of the parking lot, a couple of Harleys rode in... my first thought was "So did those guys go home and get their bikes?" but I'm pretty sure it was an entirely different group of folks.

So we rolled out onto Hwy 180 for another half a mile or so till the turn off for "Geo. Smith Road."

The bikes had a parking space with a view
 while we were having lunch.
I swear the road signs in these parts look hand painted. The road is actually "George Smith Road" on the maps, but it's labeled "Geo Smith" and I prefer that. I makes me think it's named for a guy who makes things out of the earth. Like a metal smith... a "geosmith."

Well anyway...

The weather still felt darn near pleasant as we rode through the winding, rural roads that make up the Squaw Valley/Dunlap area. Up, over, and around hills we went. Enjoying the ride and on the lookout for Sand Hill Road.

Geo Smith road took us up some steep hills, and then around some creepy turns. The Wombat and I held it together and pulled over whenever traffic came along. We found Sand Hill Road and headed out of the hills and back to the low, flat, hot Valley floor.

Gah. That's where the 100 degree weather was. We'd already traveled more miles than either of our other rides, and home was sounding pretty good at this point...

Turn out with a view on Boyd Drive
But we couldn't just head straight home, first, we had to go back to the toilets!

Since that meant going back the way we came, we decided to cut across Boyd Canyon Road and get back on Hwy 245 and travel back through Elderwood again. For one thing, it meant keeping to the higher elevations for a little longer, and another rest and water break at the random picnic table.

Boyd Canyon road is scary in a car. It's one of those classic, one lane, steep-as-hell, mountain-up-one-side, sheer-cliff-on-the-other, twisty-isn't-the-word-for-it mountain roads you see in cartoons. Yeah, it's got a serious view, but one thing they keep telling you about riding a motorcycle is that you should look where you're going because you'll go where you're looking-- so who can enjoy the view?!

Not to mention how steep the climb was. Find a low enough gear to keep climbing in and keep on the throttle, you don't want to have to downshift on that grade, you don't want to stall! Getting going again on a hill that steep requires feats of coordination best not tested in an area where you may actually encounter traffic.

"I think I can... I think I can... I think I can..."

Seriously: If you're local to our area, find Ave 416 on the map. Head east. When you start seeing the big, yellow caution signs that say "Boyd Drive not recommended for trucks and buses" keep going. When you hit the bottom of the hill, downshift. Let me know if you disagree with my assessment. (Locals who drive the route regularly not eligible to play.)

But there are a few turn outs and we did stop for some pics that just don't adequately show the view.

A little tweaking in the photo editor and you get a better feel for what it looked like in person.
He climbed up for a better view. He wanted me to climb up there too. My riding boots are not hiking boots.
 So here's a view of the BF looking at the view instead of a view of the view from where the BF is.

Eventually, the scary part of the road gives way to more scenic vistas that aren't 3000 feet straight down. We turned back out onto Hwy 245, took another short rest at the picnic table, rode through Elderwood again and began our search for the sight we rode past in the morning.

Trip odo, under the speedometer needle, on Dr. Feelgood:
 a whole extra mile over mine.
We really need to get better at stopping for this sort of thing when we see it the first time, but the BF is still acclimating to a hobby that involves stopping for photos and I'm still acclimating to a hobby where the BF lets me stop to take photos-- as long as he never gets a GoPro, this moto thing might be good middle ground for us. (ahem, GoPro people? Or if any of GoPro's competitors want to send along one of their cameras to prove they're just as good? We'll be happy to test it for you. Just sayin')

We found the right road, but turned the wrong way. As soon as we did, I knew it was the wrong way, but the BF continued up the road anyway. In the long run, this means his final odometer reading is a little higher than mine.

We turned around and found what we were looking for and headed home along our standard Charter Oak/El Rio Road route. The German Shepherd must have gone back inside, he didn't come to greet us again.

When we reached the stop sign that I've come to determine as the entrance to our neighborhood, my trip odometer said if we just did 4 more miles, I'd be able to report that our 3rd trip was as long as both our 1st and 2nd put together... I opted to let it slide.

As we waited for our garage door to open, while sitting in our driveway, the BF asked if we had to make the extra miles for a perfect 140... I just shook my head. I think we came close enough:

Final mileage tally according to the Wombat: 136

And what about those toilets? Well, we've had a lot of fun coming up with captions for the sight and reasons they'd be out there.

They were just sitting out there, in front of all those beautiful citrus trees and roses in bloom. We'll let you make up your own story:

We think it's a Build Your Own Rest stop Kit.

PS: Parker is doing fine.

Friday, June 7, 2013

What the Hell is a WOMBAT?!

In case you haven't figured it out by now, I'm one of those folks who names my vehicles. It was never something I intentionally sat down and thought about when it started. When I started driving, my friends began lovingly referring to Mom's 4 year old Chevy Citation as "the Blue Bullet."
The Real Deal: Wombat

My own first car was a 1985 Nissan Sentra, after several years of being driven by a teenager it becoming the  "Timex car" because it sure as heck took a lickin and kept on tickin.

The next car? A 1991 Hyundai Excel which took 5 years to earn the name "the Tumbleweed of love."

Then the Tonka Toy (1997 Toyota RAV4,) the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast (2002 Nissan Pathfinder,) my beloved "Drippy" (1991 Jeep Cherokee,) and my current Jules-- aka Johnathon Livingston Sentra Rodriguez (2009 Nissan Sentra.)

The names just happen. Except for Drippy, who came with his name.

But then we got motorcycles.

The DR650's didn't take long to earn their names. While recovering from the broken wrist, the BF patched my DR up good and right and by the time I was back on her, she had managed to lose about 2 inches of height. (yay!) The lowering required a shorter kickstand to maintain the proper angle, so the BF ordered a new stock kickstand and had a local welder work his magic with it. Better than new! Except it was now bare metal that needed a coat of paint to prevent rust.

Naturally, I went with pink. I like the just one thing pink on the gray and black bike. So the kickstand is pink and the BF soon took to calling her "Pinkfoot."

He has this entire mythology wrapped around the "Mysterious Pinkfoot," like Sasquatch or something. People are supposed to only semi-notice the pink kickstand and forever talk about did they see that? or did they not?

I doubt Pinkfoot will ever achieve legendary cryptozoological status, but the name has stuck.

Once we decided we would be adding the TW200 to our stable, it just seemed natural that the T-dub would need a more suitable name than "T-Dub."

So I started working with the existing initials "TW" and threw out some ideas:
Terrible Weasel
Terrific Wildebeest
Terrapin Wonder

And Tipsy Wombat.

A tipsy wombat of a different sort.

The BF immediately took to "Tipsy Wombat" and that's what we've been calling it ever since.

Plus, when we load up the Fat Cat and the TW together to take off road, it's really easy to say "Fat Cat and Wombat."

Niece #1 on the Fat Cat... does not go fast enough for her...
oh Lord! I fear she's gonna want a Ducati someday,
thank God she's not MY kid!


Obviously, the BF's bike couldn't be the only one without a name. So now his own DR650 has been dubbed "Dr. James "Jigsaw" Feelgood." I mean, of course it had to a doctor, right?

And, just for the sake of reference, here's a pic of the infamous Honda Fat Cat.

So there you have it. When (if) you're reading through all my motorcycle stories and you find yourself wondering "what the !#*! is a wombat?"  Well, it's an adorable animal from the land of bizarre and adorable animals-- Australia, of course.

But if I'm talking about riding one, I'm referring to my Yamaha TW200:

The Wombat is a 2013 Yamaha TW200. Purchased the day before Easter with .7 miles on the odometer.

I bought it because the Fatcat was so much fun to ride and I told the BF that if the DR was that easy to ride, I'd be more enthusiastic about riding.

Suddenly I had a TW, the next best thing to the Fatcat and street legal-- even if it tops out at about 55 mph! And, indeed, have been enjoying getting through my own break-in period by breaking-in the TW before the DR. So all those "break in" posts refer to the Wombat's and my first 600 miles together. Eventually I'll grow into Pinkfoot too... but I love this little bike!

Tipsy Wombat: TW200

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Biker Break-In Period: The Next 80 Miles

 Another 80 miles on the speedometer and under my belt.

Never mind the 100 degree temps, there's no water in our local river, so we won't be canoeing-- that means another trip on the bikes. Besides, we need the riding experience.

We made our way out of town along a similar route as last time, stopping by the Chevron, toppinp up gas tanks and downing a soda before meandering our way out of city limits. This time we opted to avoid any left-hand turn signals that don't know we're there.

This map shows our approximate route there. Google maps is not the friendliest to us when trying to map out our routes, so it's only approximate. And you can't really see the details of which roads are which so if it's really important to you, you'll have to look things up for yourself...
The route there: home to Sister's Mountain House via Hwy 245

We left town via Lover's Lane to Houston Ave, back around Cutler Park, over the river, and east on El Rio Road, around the corner, over the tracks, along Venice Hill and a quick meet up at the Charter Oak again. This may well become our standard for getting out of Dodge, so don't expect me to outline it in every ride report.

I agreed with the BF about heading up Millwood/Rte 245 through Elderwood, but made sure he understood we would be making a photo stop at the random rose garden first:

They help with polination for all the orange orchards, but these roses seem so random in the middle of  nowhere.

It made for a great photo of the bikes. And look! I even managed to strap a small collapsable cooler on the back of the Wombat! Cool water on a hot day made big difference.

We wound our way up Hwy 245 (I'm pretty sure it's a "highway," mostly it's just a two lane, windy road through the country,) past what used to be a really nice little country store in Elderwood... oh how we both miss that store.

There was a fire about a million years ago-- 10?15?-- and although the building got repaired, the store never re-openned. If I had the money....

We did stop to observe a moment of reflective silence for the little piece our our youth now gone, and agreed there was just something better about a good, cold Mug Rootbeer from that store. But we didn't get off the bikes and I haven't quite perfected the camera-at-the-ready method of enroute photography yet... maybe I'll add a photo of the store later.

Dr. Feelgood (DR650) in the shade.
I've always loved driving through the tiny, rural "town" of Elderwood. I don't know who owns and maintains this little resting spot at the big bend in the road, but it was nice to have a chance to sit and rest, have a cool drink of water and discuss our where-do-we-go-from-here plans.

While we rested at the picnic table, we waved at several other riders coming and going on the road. It was a hot day, but this is a popular road for motorcycles; all those twisties! And, of course, Sister's Mountain House at the top of the hwy for a refreshing beverage.

The BF watching the traffic with the Wombat.
We decided that, hot or not, we were having a good ride. So we would go ahead and continue up to Mountain House and have lunch.

So I futz'd with my gear and we got back on the road: I swear, I am going to be great at being one of those Starbucks type riders. Standing around, adjusting belts and straps and zippers and velcro. I love my Olympia Airglide gear, but the precision timing required for helmet, sunglasses, then gloves, then velcro on the sleeves of the jacket... it takes me 15 minutes to get put back together. Matt has a modular helmet and zippered jacket sleeves-- he just puts down his face shield, on with the gloves and he's done.

So he waited patiently for  me until I was back in my gear and in gear, and then I headed out onto the road.

We got really lucky with about no traffic on the roads at all. I am oh so not having fun "carving up the twisties" just yet, and this road gets twisty! First lean in one direction, then lean the other way. I ended up in 2nd gear on the TW-- and let me tell you! 2nd gear on a Yamaha TW200 is dangerously close to "any-slower-and-you'll-fall-over" slow! I felt bad for the BF; I knew he was behind me on the Suzuki DR650, trying not to run over me and not having much fun. But he was super patient and didn't gripe.

the Tipsy Wombat: Yamaha TW200
We get a lot of people telling us how proud/amazed/impressed they are that I'm willing to get back on a bike at all after the stupid drop/trip/fall/broken wrist incident. And the BF hears from a LOT of other guys about how jealous they are that his lady is willing to ride with him-- and on her own bike-- so I think he's extra willing to go slow with my little Tipsy Wombat (that's what we call the T-dub) and let me find my own pace on the roads.

The twisties made me nervous. I guess I haven't earned my genuine biker-chick status yet, but I stayed in my lane and on the road, even if pretty slow. Well... I'm talking "slow" for a motorcycle. LOL! If I'd been maintaining those low 20's speeds in the car, I'd have been on quite a wild ride.

I have no idea what the other bikers took those twisties at, when I noticed the Harley's that passed us while we were sipping water at the picnic table had stopped at a turnout, I pulled over to let them pass. I don't need to get in their way and ruin their ride.

By the time we arrived at Mountain House for lunch, I was feeling pretty proud of myself for making it through the twisties without having a panic attack. I know I'll eventually get far more comfortable with the leaning-into-the-corners thing, but for now I'm still getting used to just maintaining the speed of traffic. Which is hard enough on a bike that's lucky to get to 55 mph!

We enjoyed some Pepsi and sandwiches and decided we needed to get back on our way. We chose our route homeward, the BF waited patiently while I futz'd with my straps and velcro, and then helped me get the bike pointed down the hill... the Wombat is almost a perfect fit for me, if the suspension would just compress another 1/2- 1 inch when I sit on it, I'd have better leverage for pushing it around when the ground underneath my feet is less than level.

Then we were off, headed down Dry Creek Road. Which apparently doubles as hwy 216.

The route home: Sister's Mountain House to home via Dry Creek Road

I did better on the twisty Dry Creek Road headed down hill around the curves, even though we encountered more oncoming traffic on this road.

When we got home, the BF told me he was really impressed with me as I was getting pretty low in some of the corners. Not dragging my pegs low, but pretty low. Which kinda freaked me out to hear. I didn't feel like I was leaning into the curves, I felt like I was downshifting to damn near "stop" and inching around corners! Good thing I didin't drag my pegs on any of them, I'd have probably freaked out and just fallen right over!

But seriously, it's good to know I'm doing it right, if slow. You're supposed to lean into those curves. I can't wait till it stops being blood-curdling terrifying and starts being grin-tastic fun.

At the bottom of Dry Creek, we pulled over by the river, had another cool water and realized that our soft sided cooler is oh so less than actually waterproof.

I was pretty heartbroken when the cooler fell off the rear of the Wombat and all that icy cold water made a shortlived mud puddle by the rear wheel. I was hoping to dump it over my head before we headed home.

And if we're going to be making a habit of getting off the bikes for even a few moments, I'll be looking for some sort of soft, towel-like seat cover: the seat warms up fast in the sun!

I tried to get a coupld of shots of the bikes that would show the river and the Sierra Nevada in the background, but our valley air is too thick to show the mountains and the high, over grown river bank didn't really do much for showing the water.

Oh well. Still not a bad shot of the bikes.

I have to admit, at this point we still had about 25 miles till home. I was tired. It was hot. The Wombat isn't the smoothest ride and I am starting to understand why everyone gets a custom seat.

My throttle wrist was starting to feel like my broken wrist does all the time now and my shoulder was sore. Basically: I wasn't having fun any more. I just wanted to go home.

We turned into our neighborhood with 79.5 miles on my trip odo. I just couldn't let it go at that, I led the BF on a couple of lazy loops through the 'hood until I was satisfied that we had done a full 80 miles.

For our next ride, we're thinking of an overnighter to Springville. But our summer weekends are filling up fast, so it might be awhile before we can get to it.