Monday, October 28, 2013

On Road, Off Road, Broken Down and After Dark-- the "Epic" Ride

 Back when the BF was trying to talk me into dual sports and out of a nice, cushy, super sexy cruiser, he was very fond of suggesting that we could "go down the Berry Patch road all the way to the Kings River."

It would probably be comical to anyone outside of our relationship to think of this suggestion as one that would convince me that I would want a dual sport bike: while I loved putting my Jeep Cherokee into 4 low, the idea of riding a freakin bike (motorized or not) down that stupid, rutted-up gravelly road did not appeal to me.

In fact, the more he tried to lure me into some romantic notion of dual sporting based on this route, the more I wanted to not own a motorcycle at all, and kinda didn't want a boyfriend either.

Conversations leading up to the purchase of our motorcycles devolved into this:

The BF: "Bikes. Bikes, bikes, bikes...when are we getting bikes? We could get bikes, y'know. If we had bikes, we could be riding bikes."

Me: "I'm still making car payments. I'm in no position financially to buy a motorcycle right now. Wait till February when the car is paid off."

The BF: "SQUEEEEEEEEEK... but BIKES! And then we could ride bikes and we could go places on bikes!"

Me: "LOOK! I said I'm not buying a motorcycle right now! So if it's that important to you to have motorcycles, then you will have to buy them both!"

A few days later....

The BF: "blah blah blah blah blah blah"

Me: "Yeah. Ok. Whatever you just said."

The BF: "...and then we could take them down the berry patch road all the way to the Kings River."

Me: "???? !!!! Uhhh... that doesn't sound like fun at all."

A few more days later....

The BF: "...and we could take them up to Millwood and ride around all those roads...and we could take them to the desert... and we could take them..."

Me: "I don't want a dirt bike."

The BF: "I don't either... and then we could take them on another dirt road to another place that has dirt roads..."

Me: "See how every ride you want to go on is on a freakin DIRT road?! I don't want a DIRT bike!"

The BF: "I don't understand why you think I want a dirt bike?... Then we could go up that dirt road the back way to Dinkey Creek and explore those dirt roads around that area..."


A few more days later....

The BF: "Blah blah blah blah blah blah."

Me: "Ok. yeah. Whatever you just said."

My DR650
Next thing I know, he's dragging me to the local dealerships and making me sit on bikes. Which he tended not to warn me we were going to do before we left the house, so 9 times out of 10 I got to try to sit on bikes that were invariably too tall for me while wearing a skirt and sandals.

At some point, it occurred to me that he probably wasn't actually saying "blah blah blah" all the time, but was probably rattling off bike makes and models and their specifications.

I became the dubious owner of a 2012 Suzuki DR650SE... partly because it was the only bike on the BF's list of contenders that I could even touch the ground on. Partly because he works next door to the Suzuki dealer and had to stare at the DR650 they had in inventory every single day.

At some point, we did have a sit down, knock down/drag out, "talk" about why I might be under the impression that HE was more interested in a dirt bike than he claimed, and he assured me that he was actually interested in staying on the pavement more than not... he just wanted the "option" of being able to "explore" whatever road he might come across because he "knows" himself and knows that he will take whatever bike he has down whatever road he sees and doesn't want to destroy a less capable bike by doing so.

I fell for it. Just like I fell for it when he "assured" me that he didn't actually want to take the canoe on white water. (eye roll)

Well...the DR ended up not being my motorcycle soul mate. So, once I was cleared to get back on the bike, I went out and got the Wombat. We've been happy together ever since.

And so it was-- several months and some 1500 miles later-- one summer day after picking wild black berries at the infamous berry patch, as the BF's parents bid us farewell and asked what route we were planning on taking home, that I heard a  voice that sounded much like my own, agreeing to "take the berry patch road all the way to the King's River."

Bringing home the Wombat
WTF? Who just said that?

Well. By this point, I'd put some unpaved miles under my belt and already survived the solo lost trip up Whitaker Forest research road-- I figured Davis Road (the official berry patch road name) was a cinch at this point.

And it really was. But then, most roads aren't too challenging when you're only going 8 miles an hour. (I love that TW)

So we made it down to the Kings River and stopped to hike down to the water to dunk shirts for some "air conditioning" since it was June and still very hot.

Then we crossed the bridge-- oh yay! My first metal grate bridge. Oh so NOT fun! It felt like the knobbies on the front tire lined up just perfectly with the pattern of the grate as I gingerly inched across it.-- to the other side of the river and began the ride around Pine Flat Lake.

By this point, it had been a very long day already. We'd already ridden the bikes up to the berry patch in the morning to pick berries with the BF's folks. Then those 12 miles of Davis Road from the Berry Patch to the river took another hour of terrified, white-knuckled Mr. Toad's Wild Ride deathwish riding before we began the leisurely ride toward home.

In 100 degree heat.

I was pretty tired.

Oh yeah... and I am still riding on a permit, don't have my Motorcycle endorsement yet. Which means, I have to get home before dark... and I have a 1.8 gallon gas tank with what appears to be about a 130 mile range based on what has proven to be our average ride.

It's a looong way around Pine Flat Lake.

Not that California has many "big" lakes, but Pine Flat is very fingery (I'm sure it's a real word.) So the road that circles it has to wind in and out of all those fingers.

It should be a motorcyclist's dream. All those twisties.

And I'm getting better at twisties, but I just wanted to go home at this point. But the road just kept going and going and going! I was a quarter of the way around the lake, with an Robert Earl Keen's "The Road Goes on Forever" stuck on repeat in my head when I finally just pulled over.

This always weirds the BF out. He always seems a little concerned, like he's worried I pulled over because I have to throw up or because I'm having an aneurysm or something. But I just needed to get off the bike for a minute. Stretch my legs, get something to drink, have a snack, wait for my brain to wake back up.

The Wombat isn't the smoothest ride, I don't know if it's the vibration, the white noise of wind around my helmet, just the aloneness of riding (which I really love,) but every so often I feel like my brain has gone to sleep.
Yup. It's me and the Wombat headed downhill ON THE DIRT ROAD.

The problem with this particular break was that it was getting late. The sun was starting to dip behind the hills and we're on that whole "Maggie has to be home before dark" permit schedule.

But I drank some water and had some beef jerky and generally wandered around getting the circulation back in my brain anyway.

I was feeling much better when I hopped back on the Wombat and started leaning into those twisties again... except for the concern over my gas tank.

We agreed that the marina at the lake was unlikely to let us fill up the bikes, so we continued on in the circuitous path around the lake. There used to be a little store down the hill from the dam that had a couple of gas pumps, but the store closed a few years back. I  haven't been up this way for quite awhile though, so I found myself hoping that someone new had reopened the little store and I would come around the bend and see the store open, complete with gas, any minute...

Alas, when that bend was rounded, there sat the defunct little store-- complete with gas pumps still roped off with yellow caution tape.


Nothing to do but keep riding.

The cows were not afraid of the Wombat
And then it happened. All of a sudden, it was quiet. Just the gentle sounds of the wind around me and the wild life settling in as the shadows lengthened... ahhhhhh. Wait. What the?

Oh yeah. Out of gas.

So I casually coasted to the side of the road, set the tank to reserve, fired it back up and proceeded to calculate how far I could go before being out for good.

We came to the sign that said Reedly was 18 miles in one direction vs Sanger which claimed to be 14 miles in the other direction, and set out for Sanger. We coasted into Sanger and filled both bikes to the brim. Then we took a moment and shared a Cherry Pepsi-- we deserved it. It'd been a long, hot day and who were we kidding? There was no hope of getting home before dark at this point.

So we finished our Pepsi, fired up the bikes and headed for home. Naturally, we arrived at the corner just outside of the gas station just in time for the red light. We sat patiently and, upon the green light, I zipped across the intersection, ready to get back on the open road and out of town...

Wait. Where's the BF?

I checked my review mirror. There he was, still at the traffic light, looking irritated. I turned into the store parking lot on my right to wait. I watched him restart Dr. Feelgood and start across the intersection, only to stall again. And again.

Eventually, he just walked the bike around the corner into the parking lot of the abandoned Jack in the Box. I came to join him and watched him repeat the process a few more times.
Still aways to go before we get to the river.

Now, the BF is a professional mechanic. And he's well-suited to his profession; he is mechanical by nature. He gets along better with mechanical things than with people. He just possesses an innate understanding of all things mechanical. Seriously-- I call him the Dr. House of cars. So, if there's something wrong with Dr. Feelgood, I know he will know what it is immediately and understand exactly how to fix it.

What the BF  isn't very good at is MacGuyvering. Oh! He has the ability to throw a quick fix together in a pinch, but he doesn't like to. He's the anal retentive mechanic-- things need doing right.

I don't know if we'll ever be able to sell the house, store the belongings, and hit the open road for any long term adventures-- I read ride reports on ADV all the time and I just don't know if my sweetie will ever really get comfortable with some of the in-the-field repairwork techniques required to get back a bike back on the road again. *sigh*

So there he is, wearing a look of consternation, trying to get the DR restarted. But it keeps stalling.

So it was that I found myself sitting on the shut down Wombat in an alley in Sanger as the sun went down (and if you've ever been in an alley in Sanger at sundown, you understand my concerns) with the BF in his "mission man" mode-- all barking orders, snippy, and impatient (eye roll) telling me to call his parents and put them on notice that they may have to hitch up the trailer and come rescue us.

Then he asks me if I have a "piece of dowel." Yeah-- he seriously asked me if I had a piece of dowel.


Have I mentioned that he gets all snippy and bossy when he's frustrated? He doesn't think he does. In fact, he doesn't even think he gets frustrated! I live with him, and I am here to testify that the man get frustrated.
I was not so thrilled with having to take my helmet off in the alley in Sanger to call his parents. Who weren't home, so I left a message while he went foraging for a "piece of dowel."

Eventually, he returned with a broken plastic coat hanger, then he pulled out the trusty Leatherman and snipped off a portion. Then he discombobulated some little hoses, shoved the coat hanger piece into one of them, started up the bike and VROOM!  VROOM! he was ready to get out of there.

I thought I should call his parents back to let them know that they don't have to wait by the phone in a panic for further rescue instructions, but the BF was having none of it. He was irritated at the interruption of our ride and did not appreciate that it was so late. He said his parents would figure it out... I felt bad for his mom.
But we hit the road. About 20 miles or so later, he pulled over to remove the piece of coat hanger and recombobulate his little hoses and then we headed home.
The BF always has to wait for me to catch up.

Yeah. It was dark. It was SO AWESOME! Ahhhhhhh. No more sun glaring in my eyes. It was cooler now and the night air was so pleasant (remember, this was back in August.) We were cruising down lonely country roads, by corn and cotton fields. I got to discover the difference between my low beam and my high beam. Aside from the constant splatter of bugs against my face shield... riding at night was AMAZING.

Which I guess I shouldn't be too surprised to discover how much I loved it as I also prefer driving at night. You know what? I prefer LIVING at night. Let's just leave it at that. But so many motorcyclists report that they try to avoid riding at night at all, even seasoned riders, so I guess I thought it was going to be really scary and nerve racking.

Instead, I hit my Zen cruising along in the cool country night air, while the poor BF was probably just getting more frazzled after his adventure-- he doesn't love riding at night. He doesn't love living at night. I think he's secretly afraid of the dark.

We coasted into the garage well past my riding-on-a-permit curfew. I was feeling pretty good and all excited about my after dark ride. The BF was looking a little beat up.

View from Davis Road
He later declared this to be our "longest ride ever" despite the fact that the GPS claimed it was a full 10 miles less than our longest ride thus far.

Here's a link to our highly edited version of our "Epic Ride" from the Chevron station on Bridge and Mineral King (which has become our #1 starting point) up to "The Berry Patch" and down Davis Road, around Pine Flat Lake-- well, the battery died shortly before we got to the lake. So you won't get to see the whole ride, even in high speed. And here's a link to another video from the same ride-- this is all from the "off road" portion of the ride, but it's less sped up.