Monday, December 9, 2013

FINALLY! We're GOING Somewhere!

 A Great Ride: Somewhere along the way.
The BF and I are different. From everybody else, naturally, but also from each other. He is all about a PLAN. He likes to plan things. He needs a plan. He likes to get out maps and compasses and sit down with Google Earth and make lots of notes and do math and figure out exactly what he's going to do, exactly how he will do it, when the best time to do it is, and then plot the alignment of several key astronomical entities in order to ensure that his plan is implemented in the best relation to the space/time continuum. Sometimes he spends so much time planning that he never gets around to doing.

I'm more about doing. I grew up with a procrastinator mother, and several uncles who were extremely poor examples of the "carpe diem" philosophy. I witnessed first hand what a life of "someday I'm going to" and "eventually I'll be able to" leads to, and it mostly leads to a life that passes you by.

A missed bus in 1988 drove that point home, and I have spent most of my adulthood in manual over-ride mode-- trading cows for magic beans, damn the consequences. I enjoy planning too, but too often I have found that planning is a distraction from doing and planning never leads to adventures and without an adventure, how will you ever have any good stories to bore the younger generation with?

The picture is from many years ago,
The couch and house have changed
but the scene remains the same.
The BF works so hard at his planning, he often plans the adventure right out of things. Not to worry though! He has ME now. I often worry that my "just do it already" attitude makes his OCD twitch, but I think it's good for him. And maybe (but just "maybe") I could benefit from a little planning. I guess we even each other out.

Ever since I got the hang of riding the motorcycle without falling over and breaking anything I need in order to continue riding, my first point of order was to obtain a rack for the Wombat. In order to strap stuff to. Because being able to strap stuff to the bike is pretty much my idea of priority 1 before setting off on an adventure.

And so I have been ready to GO somewhere and stay overnight pretty much since June.

I was all about throwing some sleeping bags in a sack and camping in Sequoia National Forest, but the BF was all, "I don't think we're ready for that...I think our first overnight should be in a hotel, that way it's less stuff to worry about going wrong...I don't know if we can ride that far..." etc, etc, and so on.

Home Sweet  Home
I spent a lot of the summer with my eyebrows raised, making squishy, puckered-up duck faces at him. Really? "Too far?" We regularly rode UP to the mountains AND BACK all in one go. Camping for the night before heading home seemed like LESS riding. All in one day, at least.

But we have yet to go moto-camping. I've come to the conclusion that the BF is uncomfortable with the minimalist camping technique that he will have to adapt to for the bikes. Whereas I have been an ultralight backpacker for 15 years now. And he does love his comfort zones. He'll come around. In his own time. (Which will be this next summer or I'm going without him!)

So a couple of weeks ago, he came home to inform me that he was planning an overnight trip to Hollister.

It wasn't supposed to snow!
Hollister? Really? That's the destination of our first overnight trip? Hollister is the mythical land of Fortune and Glory? Hollister is where awaits our destiny, land of adventure and intrigue?

Hmmmm. I had no idea.

But at least we might actually GO somewhere! 

Turns out, the BF's co-worker was planning on loading up his dirt bike with his dad and his dirt bike and meeting up with his brother and sister-in-law, their daughters and their dirt bikes and camping at the Hollister Hills OHV recreation area just outside of Hollister on the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Ok. I admit. I'm getting older. And growing soft and spongy. I'm less enthusiastic at the prospect of camping in late November than I used to be. But, if it meant getting to GO somewhere, then I was prepared to suck it up!

Fortunately, the BF's plan was to use his co-worker's camping trip as an excuse to ride to Hollister, spend the night in a warm, comfy hotel room, eat dinner and drink beer in a restaurant, and ride home the following day.

This sounded good.

And so it would be: We departed for Hollister at the crack of dawn-- NO REALLY! The BUTT-FREAKIN-CRACK OF EVER-LOVING DAMN DAWN! on Saturday morning.
The butt-freakin crack of ever-lovin damn dawn: as seen from our front yard.

Have I ever mentioned that I am NOT. A. MORNING. PERSON. ???

And you know what I like about driving a car? Cup holders. Yup. Call me a yuppie; a conformist, in-the-box, yuppie cager (you'd be the ONLY person who ever called me that) but CUP HOLDERS are the vehicle for the world's greatest beverage-- coffee. And you can drink coffee WHILE you drive!

camera sensor makes it look lighter outside than it was.

Even if you outfit your bike with cup holders, it's difficult to drink it while you ride. It is a woeful sacrifice one must make for the joy of the ride.

Our route, having been meticulously planned by my partner-in-crime, eschewed freeways and made sure not to put more than 100 miles between gas stations-- the Wombat averages 80+ miles to the gallon, but has a capacity of little more than that gallon.

We wound through the same alfalfa fields and dairies that were the scenery on our way out of the valley for our Parkfield trip. I was only mildly surprised to see the alfalfa still green and thriving this far into the season.

We gassed up in Coalinga: I had suspected we might be planning on obtaining some sort of breakfast-like device in Coalinga as well, seeing as how the BF IS a morning person-- and one that requires a morning meal.

Also, it was cold. I had opted for my Olympia Airglide riding gear because I knew afternoon temps were expected to hit the mid-70's. I would rather layer up and be slightly chilly than wear the warmer gear with fewer vents and risk being too warm. I had 4 layers of pants on and 5 layers of shirts on and my poor little hands were frozen through. My fingertips were so numb they hurt. (They actually hurt for several days, I'll be looking for good winter gloves.)

I was looking forward to a rest in Coalinga, a sausage McMuffin with egg and a chance to sit still and hold a cup of hot coffee for awhile. Especially since breakfast at MickyD's is a rare treat for me, seeing as how I'm rarely out of bed before they stop serving it.

And there was the McDonald's, right across the street from the Chevron station. Waiting for me. Calling my name.

At the very least, I figured we'd grab some sort of mass-produced Danish and a coffee at the gas station.

It was not to be. We gassed up and took advantage of the rest rooms and were on our way.

Waiting on me at the gas station in Coalinga.
The BF, once again, was the only one who really knew what our planned route was. I really need him to learn how to program these things into the GPS. So we wound our way through the wakening streets of Coalinga in search of whatever road it was he planned for us to travel.

We ended up on Coalinga Road. A long, winding, road through some ranch land and canyons that eventually dumped us out on Hwy 25 just south of Tres Pinos.
Why yes, we LOVE riding over this stuff--NOT!

Coalinga Rd was a nice little ride. Twisty and devoid of traffic. Not in the best repair, and on the San Benito County side, the pot holes had been filled with loose gravel. It was well-packed, but still loose gravel. I don't know if that's their overall plan, or if they'll come back later and seal it with tar. But it made for some trepidatious maneuvering for these two novice riders.

I was particularly excited to see the bobcat run across the street some 50 yards ahead of me and jump up and disappear into the brush. Bobcat ranks pretty high on the wildlife sighting chart for me.

I eventually pulled over for a break.

This is where the whole thing went to hell, and we got in a big fight because the BF is like living with Mr. Spock-- but we didn't get into the fight until the following Tuesday, so the ride actually continued on quite enjoyably.

While we were off the bikes, the BF ventured off the side of the road and down to check out the dry river bed that we'd been following along for most of the road.

He returned to tell me that the river bed bottom was all rocks (I could see that from the road) and he was particularly intrigued that it had the appearance of a "natural concrete." Upon which, he insisted that I "go take a look and report back."
Taking a break.
So I, in my 4 layers of pants/5 layers of shirts/boots/gloves/helmet ensemble, proceed to navigate down the embankment on the side of the road, toward the river bed.

Suddenly my toe is caught on something: It is truly amazing how much information the human brain can process in the amount of time it takes to fall on your face--

"My boot is caught on something."

"It's not giving. My toe is really caught. I wonder what it is."

"I bet it's a tree root. One of those stupid brushy things. I'm surprised it's holding so firmly."

"I need to get my foot uncaught or I'm going to fall over."

"Nope. My boot is really stuck."

"Crap. I'm going to fall."

"Well don't try to break your fall with your hands, that's how you broke your wrist last time."

"No. Just put your hands out to the side. You have a helmet on, it's not like you're going to hurt your head."

"Stupid river bed. I don't even care about the damn river bed."


That's the river bed snaking through the empty space in the middle.
I was mostly struck by how bad it did hurt my head. I felt I was in a cartoon-- like maybe when the coyote hits his head against a rock or a gong and his whole body vibrates for while. And then stars.

I did a quick diagnostic check... pretty sure I didn't break anything. Hands, wrists, arms were good. Nothing broken, nothing sprained, no injuries to report. But my head sure hurt. Helmets may save brains, but they are not designed to absorb impact without transferring some of the shock to your noggin.

So there I am, laying face down, spread eagle in the dirt (really soft dirt, btw) thinking that that hurt my head more than I'd expected and working through the emotional shock and subsequent humiliation of my face plant, when the BF arrives at the scene and begins demanding to know if I'm "OK."

And my first impulse is say, "Fuck no, I'm not OK."

But there I am-- have not moved an inch-- working through the consequences of my response in my brain: I'm thinking that if I say "no, I'm not OK" he will immediately become concerned that I have injured myself. He will be worried about me. He will be worried about how he is going to get me to medical care, he will be worried about how we will recover the Wombat if I'm not able to ride, he will be worried about our friends who are expecting us but don't have cell signal, he will be bummed that our ride is over....

So I can't say "No, I'm not OK."

But I don't feel it would be honest to say, "Yes. I'm OK." I don't feel OK yet. I feel kinda stupid and grumpy and my head hurts. Also, all those layers of clothes make me feel like the little brother from A Christmas Story in his snow suit.
All in all, still a great road.

Eventually I told him that I wasn't broken. I felt this was an adequate response to convey that I had suffered no major injuries that would require a change in our plans while leaving a little space for me to sit there and feel sorry for myself for a little bit.

All in all, at the time, it all worked out as well as can be expected for the two of us: he insisted on repeating his original question until he was satisfied that I was just lying in the dirt for no good reason, then insisted on my getting back on my feet even though I wanted to lay there and pout for a little longer.

Several days later, I tried to explain my thought process to him and how I was trying to be all considerate of his reaction and so forth, only to be informed that he just did not understand how I could not be OK when I was OK.

The man has no concept of human emotion sometimes. It's like dating a robot.

Nevertheless, at that exact time and place, I got up, dusted myself (mostly) off and we got back on our bikes and rode off to our destiny... well. To Tres Pinos for another tank of gas, mostly.
Not one of our bikes.
Then we back tracked to Cienega Road and wound our way up to the OHV area where we sat and chatted with friends while I watched dirt bikers of every age racing around the trails.

Good grief but that is not something that appeals to me. They're all busy crashing and falling over and jumping and buzzing around this way and that in unchoreographed mayhem.

We bid our farewells, stopped by the gear shop in the rec area where I spent some quality time petting the resident psychotic shop cat-- good thing I still had my gloves on! While the BF wondered around like he might actually be considering buying a new tire. Really? Where are you going to carry it?

We rode into town and checked into our room at the Hollister Inn. Then we spent some time preparing the bikes for their big night outside alone. The BF was concerned about the bikes getting stolen and/or otherwise molested. I'm not going to pretend that isn't a legitimate concern, and I'm not really going to say he was "paranoid" about it-- but he might have been slightly more worried than warranted. I'd say, "Hypo-paranoid." He seriously considering wrestling the bikes into the room-- I don't think that was necessary. And probably would not have been appreciated by the management!
All snuggled up for the night.

So, once the the bikes were nestled close together and locked up, and the BF had opened the curtains so he could see them easily, we spent some looking up places to eat in Hollister-- places we could walk to, since our plans for dinner included several pints of beer.

Clearance beer! Burger and onion rings.

We ended up at the "Running Rooster" where we enjoyed perfectly tasty (and very messy) burgers and the aforementioned several pints of beer with no ill-effects, so if you're ever reading the Yelp reviews for the Running Rooster in Hollister, fear not the nay-sayers. It's a perfectly nice place to have a meal and popular with the locals.

A good night's sleep and I woke up to the Weather Channel telling the nation about all the snow and hail and sleet that was plaguing Oklahoma: Oklahoma's Doppler map was nothing but pink and blue and purple with the weather people telling the residents to "just hunker down" through the storm, and here we were, preparing to ride motorcycles home on a bright sunny day.

We planned for a later start to our day on Sunday, since we had arrived in Hollister with 2 hours of sunlight to spare. We figured we could afford to start later and avoid the coldest temps and still make it home by dark.

We checked out of our room and headed back out of town via Cienega Rd again. We had to stop for a moment to let the wild turkeys cross the road-- I didn't have a camera handy, so no pics.

We went back to Tres Pinos for gas and breakfast. Many people had suggested a Flapjack place-- I can't for the life of me remember the actual name of the place-- so we pulled the humble DR650 and the mighty Wombat up next to the shiny GS in all it's BMW glory and requested a table on the patio.

It was a beautiful day. Sunny and warm and I didn't have to pad myself up with nearly as many layers. We had a fabulous breakfast-- and I got to wrap my hands around a hot cup of coffee finally-- while watching skydivers slowly descend toward us. Kinda cool.

hashbrowns, bacon, and pancakes

"Phil's Fritatta" with COFFEE!

Skydivers over breakfast.

Then out of town, down the 25 and onto Panoche Road.

We've done Panoche in the car a couple of times, and it has been on our "to do on the bikes" list since before we even got the bikes.
Panoche Inn

It was pretty fabulous.

We stopped in at the Panoche Inn to see how it's coming along. The owners have had it up for sale for awhile and we don't make it out that way as often as we'd like, so we didn't know if it was under new ownership yet.

Nope. We wandered in and ordered up a couple of Pepsis, watched the "Thief of Bagdhad" on the TV and chit chatted with the (same) owners about their plans to sell the place and the chances of actually doing so.

But we can't sit here and eat peanuts all day-- we want to get home before dark, and the "fun" part of Panoche Road lays yet before us.
the FUN part of Panoche Road

I admit, once the pavement ended, I felt much better this time. Even when I hit the soft, poofy dirt, I was feeling good and holding steady. I even had the TW in THIRD gear most of the time. That's a huge improvement for me!

We took some time taking pics before continuing on to the water feature.

Big, steep, hill.

me comin down the hill


We'd been looking forward to this. Even when the whole dang valley is dry as a bone, this spot offers a modest water crossing. No sweat on 4 wheels, but what would it be like on 2?


I came up behind the BF where he was poised on Dr. Feelgood. The news struck some fear into my heart; he informed me that the tiles were slippery. And the tiles he had his feet on weren't even wet. This gave me an opportunity to worry about the water crossing.

I wasn't worried about riding through the water; I was worried that algae or mud would be built up on the tiles under the water, making slippery tiles slipperier. If the bike started to slide, it would be pointless- to- disastrous to put a foot down if the bottom of the crossing was gooey. My foot would just slip and I'd still go down and then I'd be wet and cold and covered in algae, and hopefully not get water anywhere it isn't supposed to be in the bike.

But let me tell you-- there's no other way around and going back was not an option.

So I let the BF go first.


One he was on the other side and all set up with the camera, I took several deep breaths, lined myself up for the absolute straightest approach I could muster, and went for it.

Like BUTTAH. What was I worried about? Seriously, so much fun, I considered going back and doing it again. But then again, why tempt Fate, right? We can go back and play in the spring.


Gassed up at I-5 and discussed our route home from there. This is where we lost our sense of humor.

Not literally-- we actually had a great ride even from this point, but the way home from Little Panoche/I-5 is all long, straight roads that don't really go where we want to go. So there's a lot of zig-zagging while we fight for daylight at the point in the ride where we're both, "Well, that was fun, now we just want to get home."

Then my brand new helmet (Scorpion transformer exo-900 somethingorother) decided to sass back. The chin curtain was unsnapped on one side. Normally I'd have just unsnapped the whole thing, shoved it in a pocket and dealt with it later. But it blocks a lot of wind and bugs and I really wanted to keep it attached. Those snaps are a @*!&!! but the BF finally wrestled them into submission for me.

Somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, I saw some really enormous hawks on the side of the road. I wish hawks on the side of the road was the sort of thing you could feasibly pull over and take a photo of, because these guys were HUGE. I see lots of hawks in the areas I live and travel but these things must have stood 3 feet tall. The BF says he didn't see them, so he can't back up my claims. But they were really big.





The sun was getting lower on the horizon behind us. I stopped to take pics of the vineyards: we rode through a section of the valley where it was just grapes as far the eye could see in any direction. Mostly grapes for table grapes and raisins out here. 

We were so close to home. The directions for our route had us traveling east on a familiar road, then told us to zig and zag and zig zag again. We stopped to consult the GPS about this. Turns out, the road we were on would not cross the Kings River-- thus the zigging and zagging.

The BF is not amused.

"Really? This road won't take us there?"

We're not making it home before dark.
While zigging was in process, the Wombat suddenly coughed and then that blissful silence ensued... that familiar and unwelcomed blissful silence. WTF? No way. I coasted to the side of the road.

The BF pulled up alongside me with that perplexed look on his face. I asked him how many miles it had been since we gassed up, as I'd lost all faith in my ability to do math in my head as I looked at the odometer.

76 miles since topping off the tank, and yet, here I was, turning the tank to "reserve."

The Wombat has been averaging 83 miles per gallon since we bought it. So this was unexpected. I guess holding that throttle open at 60 mph for 76 miles of long, flat, open road, really takes a toll on the fuel consumption.

Now we have to figure out where to get gas one more time.

At least we know about where we are. We made some last minute recalculations to our plan and headed east again with plans to gas up in Traver.

Remember when I said it turns out I love riding at night? Well. That was back in August. When darkness merely removed the eye-searing agony of the sun and brought on pleasant temperatures in the high 80's.

Now I'm less enthralled with it. It got cold. The temperature dropped from pleasant 60's and 70's to sub-zero arctic frigidness in an instant! OK... maybe not that extreme. But that sun went down and it was COLD and it was cold all of a sudden.

We made it home just after 5 p.m. The dogs welcomed us home with tails a wagging and then we celebrated with a lavish victory feast of Buffalo wings and beer and got a good night's sleep before starting another work week-- stiff and sore! That was a long ride!

Somewhere along the paved end of Panoche Rd.

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