Monday, June 9, 2014

Getting up to Speed on Motorcycle Adventures

A collection of day trips:

The Mystery of the Locked Gate-- February 15, 2014

I got in it my head one day that there HAD to be a way to get from the "end" of the road up on Blue Ridge to the other side of the hill, down to Three Rivers.

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The map SAYS the road keeps going all the way through to South Fork into Three Rivers. Google says the road keeps going. I'm pretty sure the road keeps going.

HOWEVER, when we actually got to the end, all I found was a gate. A locked gate. Grrrrrr.

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I was pretty upset. Especially since, from all that I can discern, it's a forest service road. NOT a private road. There's no reason why I shouldn't be able to take that road to Three Rivers!

So my dreams have been dashed.

I did ride through some muddy spots. I really wanted to ride through the puddle/ruts; I trusted the TW but not my boots. Someday I'll get a decent pair of boots with some agressive tread on the bottom.

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140215-lockedgate-web (36) *****

#2: Worst Lunch Ever-- February 22, 2014.

The BF got it in his head that were were going to Tollhouse.

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I got it in my head that if we were going to Tollhouse, there'd better be cookies.

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The problem with going to this place called "Tollhouse" is that it's up in the hill/mountains, a little below Shaver Lake and the BF's planned route of attack involved riding through our familiar foothill pathway into Squaw Valley (not that Squaw Valley) where we could get gas...and then!...he wanted to take the "Remember Ruby Ridge" road, through the peacocks, before taking Trimmer Springs road to the phantom tollbooth-- er, Tollhouse.

Tollhouse has always kinda been one of those mysterious locations to me-- Tollhouse road winds all over the place, in a weird, disconnected manner that has often made me wonder just how many "Tollhouse roads" there are. And I've always seen signs for this place called "Tollhouse" but I've never actually found such a place.

But the BF found it on the map and mapped out a route to the mysterious Tollhouse and he was pretty insistant that we go.

We had no idea how long it was going to take us, or if there was actually going to be any food or gas available when we got there. So we stopped in Squaw Valley/Dunlap/Miramonte/whatever town for gas and lunch.

We usually go to Bear Mountain Pizza. We like Bear Mountain Pizza. The pizza is good, the sandwiches are great, and they have ice cream. But there's more than one eatery on Hwy 180 so we decided to try something new.

Change is bad.

We pulled into the tiny parking lot in front of "Clingan's Junction" (Henceforth known as "Klingon's Junction") and proceeded to stand in the main dining area of the tiny restaurant and look at the stuff on the walls.

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The place seemed deserted, but there was a sign that said if no one was around that we should just "hollar" as "sometimes this is a one-woman show."

That's the sort of sign that goes with the sort of business that usually makes for interesting conversation and a good sandwich. In this case, however, we ended up facing a young man who clearly was not enjoying being forced away from his video game console in his mother's basement to help with business.

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the dog was the best part

OK-- there aren't many basements in this area. But he just SO had that attitude of, "My mom says if I'm going to live with her rent-free, I have to help her run the restaurant."

Maybe it was because he didn't want to work, maybe he genuinely didn't know much about cooking... All I know is that the "Pepsi" tasted like half-flat generic cola, the hamburger was Meh on a super soft bun that got soggy as soon as the condiments hit it, and the fries...well, I don't even know what to say about the fries! I could tell they were real potatoes, but I fail to see how that could be counted as a positive. I surmise that they had been "fried" in oil that was not up to temperature, so instead of being fried, they were more like boiled in oil.

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As soon as I saw the meal in front of me, I knew that I could not eat much of it-- even though I was pretty hungry-- because it would surely lead to gastro intestinal distress of all sorts down the line.

The BF says they also managed to ruin pulled pork and no, sadly, the macaroni salad was not store bought Costco stuff-- at least then it might have been edible.

Apparently the little place undergoes a change in ownership every couple of years or so and the fellow who served us that day is not the proprietor of the establishment-- so if you're ever in the area, you may fare better.

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even the bacon wasn't worth eating!

We won't be eating there again unless we buy the place and run it ourselves.

The rest of the adventure went not only smoothly, but splendidly. Even the portion of the course through the peacock-infested "remember Ruby Ridge" property.

Someday, I promise, I will ride through this property with the action cam on the bike. But it is NOT the sort of place you stop to take pictures of. It's a ram-shackle homestead just off the road-- as though the county came along one day and insisted that they were putting a road there, while the people who had the property stood on their porch with their shot guns in their arms and calmly told the county fellows, "Y'all go ahead, but we ain't movin nuthin."

So the road goes right through what feels like their front yard. Free range peacockes included.

At various times I have also encountered free range dogs, horses, pigs and goats.

The first time I ever passed through, they had big spray painted signs out front that said "Waco" and the date, "Ruby Ridge" and the date, and then their name and ????

They might be OK folks-- but I've seen a lot of horror movies.

We've now taken the bikes on that road several times with no issues. Neither the dogs nor the peacocks have shown any interest in chasing us.

We arrived at the legendary place called Tollhouse to find a picturesque country road reminescent of the Pennsylvania landscape we travelled through when visiting the BF's family a few years back. Including a one-size-fits-all business that serves as restaurant, grocery store, and gas station.

We parked next to all the other bikes in the parking lot and wandered inside to have a looksee, where the friendly staff asked if we'd be eating. The restaurant closes at 4 and we'd arrived at 3:36.

So we let them know that we were very sorry that we'd eaten elsewhere earlier and although we'd have loved to enjoy some GOOD food, we weren't really hungry.

We chit chatted with the other bikers congregated at the little store-- we don't know they're names. We never learn anyone's name.

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worst lunch evr (17) We made note that we wanted to come back to the place hungry, but we wanted to make it home before dark-- and the BF wanted to go home the same way we'd come-- so off we went.

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#3: Billy Joel Steered me Wrong--March 2, 2014


When I started reading ride reports, I noticed almost immediately how common it is for people to ride in the rain. Even if they admit that it's not much fun, most of the reports I've read make it sound like pretty much business as usual.

Which is a far cry from the notion I'd developed from listening to "You May be Right" as a kid. I thought riding a motorcycle in the rain must be akin to putting your head in a crocodile's mouth while your hair is on fire!

So I've been telling the BF that one day when it's raining, we needed to saddle up and head out and get a feel for it. Do it on our terms, under controlled circumstances, before we find ourselves in a downpour when and where we can't do much about it.

He just kept shaking his head. Nope. Not ready. Sounds stupid. We should avoid riding in the rain.

So the weekend after finding the mysterious Tollhouse, he was absolutely resolute that we were going back to Tollhouse. It was supposed to rain on Saturday, but Sunday's weather was supposed to be quite nice. So we stuck around town on Saturday and checked several expensive shopping chorse off our to-do list.

He woke me up on Sunday morning (I hate mornings-- and by "morning," I mean any time before about 2 p.m.) as per our agreement so we could get an early start. I opened my eyes and looked up and out of our west-facing bedroom window. Our standard weather patterns bring weather inland from the Pacific, across the Valley to the east; so whatever is outside our bedroom window represents what's heading toward us. And anyone who's heard the term "orographic effect" understands that what's headed toward the mountains is going to dump on the mountains... did I mention this Tollhouse place is pretty much in the mountains?

So I'm looking out the window and all I see are these dark clouds rolling across the sky, aiming directly at us.

I say, "You said it wasn't going to rain today."

He says, "10 percent chance."

I look back at the clouds, "Have you checked the weather for our entire route?"

He says, "10 percent chance of rain."

So I get up. I get ready. I start putting on the gear. I get the dogs breakfast (Diabetic dog needs to eat before insulin)...

The BF is in the back room. I have the back door open and the door to the garage open.

I hear him yell out, "What's that noise?"

I yell back, "10 percent chance of rain."

I was so impressed that he didn't chicken out. But I think he genuinely thought it would stop in short order.

It was never heavy rain and it had been raining for a few days already so the roads were already pretty washed off of oil and gunk. But we meandered back up through the hills till the BF pulled into the parking lot of the local auto shop in Squaw Valley. I followed him, naturally, and sat on the little TW in the cold and the rain while he went in and asked the mechanic on duty for some sort of cleanser stuff and a rag and came out and cleaned something on the TW-- I wuss'd out and had the local Yamie shop do my initial valve adjust (a little later than we'd like to admit to) and apparently he could smell something and wanted to make sure it wasn't leaking... eventually I'll figure out what all that means, as I'm pretty eager to be able to do at least some basic maintenance on my bikes-- zen or not, it just seems like a good idea.

So then we had to stand there in the cold rain and talk to the mechanic for half an hour about bikes and 4x4s.

Finally, we were off on our way again, back to the peacock place-- the peacocks were struttin their best stuff for their lady peahens when we came around the bend. Why do such pretty birds make such awful noises? The horses and goats were trying to stay out of the rain, but the pigs were happy as... well, they WERE pigs in mud. Wallowing around in their pen, perpetuating their little pig stereotype.

We stopped up by Pine Flat resevoir for some photos. I was having a nice enough ride in the rain. Wish my hands were warmer, but the rest of me was dry and comfy-- my gear is waterproof.  There I was, having a good time, playing in the rain-- and quite excited that the peacocks had their tails up (like I'm 4 or something) and the BF looks at me all serious and concerned and asks me if I'm "OK?"

I hate it when he does this. It makes me rethink everything. Suddenly I start thinking, "Maybe I'm NOT having a good ride?" What is it that makes him think I'm not OK?

He says I'm "slow."

Well Hell yeah I'm SLOW-- I'm riding the Wombat. Last time I was on the DR, which does a much better job of keeping up with his DR. The Wombat is slow. Did he forget? Has he lost his mind?

Then he says, No. Not just slow like Wombat-slow. Slow overall. Like I'm slow pulling away from stop signs and slow getting up to speed.

I'ma gonna be slow to whoop him upside the head if he doesn't lay off. It's RAINING. I'm COLD. Did I mention that we have to ride through free range PEACOCKS? And that road has about 1100 cattle gaurds on it? And yes! Wet cattle guards ARE slippery! And we're on a narrow road on a hill with a sheer cliff on the side over the river IN THE RAIN.

I'm just slow. Overall. In general. The TW and I suit eachother well.

Where did he get it in his head that I was ever any faster?

We made it to Tollhouse for lunch. The little diner was VERY busy, but there wasn't a single motorcycle in sight this time. Looks like we're the only ones who thought it was still a good day to ride.

The BF missed the turn for our road back toward home, he insists that he knew I wanted to see this:

But I don't think he really knew it was there any sooner than I did. My favorite part is the airplane.

The sun almost came out on the way home, but at least it did stop raining.

We got home and hung up our gear and agreed that the rain wasn't the least bit scary. Might be a different story in a true downpour, or if we get caught off road in it. But at least we have our first taste of wet roads now.

The BF is now shopping for waterproof overpants.


#4: Ah yes, Clear Creek-- March 9, 2014

I have been over worked and under appreciated for the last few weeks. I'm stressed out and physically exhausted. I really just want to spend a weekend in a hammock with a book and a beer and NOT. DO. ANYTHING.

Which is not how the BF recharges his batteries. He does not sit still well at all. I often say there's no Zen in his Zen.

We wanted to ride on Saturday, but his parents had other plans. Next thing I know, I'm being roped into a grand plan of felling a tree, splitting firewood, entertaining teenagers, and cooking dinner over a fire in the pit.

Well-- shrug-- I've had worse Saturdays.

So we show up at the in-laws (mine, not his) where his father has the tractor (Ford 8N) hitched to the tow strap which is attached to a tree about 20? feet up the trunk. His mother tells us she told his dad that he wasn't allowed to do anything stupid till we got there.

So we immediately set about doing something stupid--

The whole reason his dad wanted to take down this particular tree was because it was in danger of taking out the neighbor's guest house should it fall for any reason.

We've taken out trees before. This should have been a non-event. Instead, we dropped a tree on the neighbor's house. (guest house, technically, but it doesn't sound as good.)

The last few times we've participated in shenanigans at the in-laws' not much has come of it. So I was hanging out in the loft of the grandkids' playhouse when I heard some general cussing, some cracking, the death of the tractor engine and then... everything got really quiet.

I got outside to find that the tree had been cut down. It didn't exactly end up where they wanted it. In fact, it ended up exactly where they were hoping to avoid it ending up. The neighbor's house used to have a really nice patio and deck.

Fortunately, it was really just their guest house.

The teenagers assure us they were, indeed, entertained, just not in the riding-the-fatcat-around-the-field way that we'd planned. More in the everyone-pitch-in-and-get-the-tree-off-the-neighbor's-roof way. But the neighbor brought us beer, so it's all good. Now that's a good neighbor.

We got the fire started in the pit late, which does not result in a deep bed of coals for deep pitting a 12 pound pork roast later-- word was that they had to finish it in the oven.

But we got home before midnight so we could get up in the morning for our ride....

We really were willing to take a weekend off. Dropping a tree on a house is hard work. We were tired. But there's been a lot of fighting about the Clear Creek area over in the coastal range, with "promises" that as of March 15, the gates are getting locked. Which means it'll become more difficult to gain access to the area. And we agreed we really wanted to ride through it before it got locked up.

We are NOT fans of having our tax dollars used to keep the public OFF of our PUBLIC lands.

But that's what's happening.

Remember-- I am only just getting the hang of riding the DR650. I'm pretty comfortable with it on pavement and I did well on the unpaved Parkfield Grade. But I don't love being on dirt under the best of circumstances.

I was pretty careful to ask about the "quality" of the Clear Creek road before agreeing to embark on this journey.

The BF told me it was a road. He told me that it would be "like Parkfield" and that it was "maintained for passenger car travel."

So we agreed that it would be best to take the DR. It would get us across the Valley faster, with longer range between fuel stops.

We didn't get the earliest start, but we figured we were doing OK. We made it to Coalinga for gas and lunch at MickeyD's. We headed out of town through the oil fields and onto Old Coalinga Road. The hills are wearing their spring green and the area is very pretty.

When we crossed the county line into San Benito County, all those pot holes filled with loose gravel have sunk in nicely and the gravel was no issue this time around.

We got to Clear Creek Rd and made our turn.

Good bye pavement.

OK. Gravelly. Kinda squirmy. Don't really like it. Wish I was on the TW. But I can handle it. No problem. Lean back. Keep the speed up. Not too fast. It's ok if the rear wheel slips a little-- some people think that's fun. !!

Nope. Nope. NOT fun!

Crap. Uphill.

Crap. Uphill on a narrow road AND a sheer cliff on the side.

Don't look down.

Crap. Uphill on a narrow road with a sheer cliff on the side AND gravelly, slippery road.




Downhill. I hate downhill even more than uphill.




Sheer cliff.

Water crossing! Hey, that wasn't too bad.

Uphill, corner, downhill, watercrossing.

Another watercrossing... is this all the same creek? Who builds a road that crosses the same creek three times?





Don't look over the cliff!

Level spot. Stop. Breath. Wait for heartrate to return to normal.

I wish I was on the TW.

The BF is waiting for me to catch up. He looks so comfortable with this. I'm pretty sure I'm going to die.

I wish I was on the TW.

The BF waits for me at a large turnout. I look at at him from a lower spot where I'm resting. I shake my head. I don't think I can do this. Not on this bike. This sucks. This is NOT "maintained for passenger car travel."

He tells me to come up to where he is. I do it.

I tell him that I do not think it's a good idea for me to continue. I don't think it's wise to gamble on the "the road will get better" theory. I can't do 13 miles of this. I DEFINITELY can't do 13 miles of this before it gets dark and the higher gearing of the DR requires keeping the bike at higher speeds that I feel I can navigate around the blind corners.

Nope. Pretty sure I'm gonna die if I keep going.

I wanna go home and get the Wombat.

I think I could do it on the Wombat.

He leaves me in the turnout and "scouts" the road ahead. I take pictures. I commune with nature. I have some serious words with God. I stare back at the road I just came up and wonder how the hell I'm going to get back down that? I hate going downhill.

He comes back and tries to convince me that "the road looks like it gets better." I'm not falling for it. I'm already worried enough about just trying to get out of what I've already gotten myself into. I don't see how it's feasible to attempt another 12 miles and risk hitting a point where I genuinly can't go any further-- or risking injury because I'm exceding my skills and comfort zone.

I tell him there is NO WAY. And I start my descent.

He breezes past me.

The DR does not have the low gearing of the TW. Engine braking on the downhill on the DR allows me to go 15-20 mph. That is break neck, race way speeds. I stall the bike.

I eventually make it back to level, gravelled ground, by walking the bike one step at a time down the hills, keeping in gear and working the clutch and the rear brake. Even then, the rear tire slides some and using the rear brake means keeping my right foot on the peg, which means keeping the bike leaned to the left, which means that uneven ground presents opportunity to test the health of my heart and blood pressure.

I know, it doesn't appear nearly as steep and terrifying as it was.

But both Pinkfoot and I made it back onto level ground and the BF hasn't given me any crap about chickening out.

We got back out onto Old Coalinga Rd and pointed ourselves toward home.

I perceived an uneasy quiet to the ride. Even though all our rides are quiet, since we don't have helmet to helmet communication. So maybe it was just my perception, but I felt like the BF was pretty disappointed.

But somewhere along the way, after we'd gassed up at the 198/I-5 intersection and were back on our side of the valley floor, the sun started sinking behind us, the Sierra Nevada lit up like Christmas lights in front of us, the snow glowing light blue on dark blue mountains, with a bright pink swath of alpineglow over them. The alfalfa field were deep green in the waning light and the cool, humid, aroma of alfalfa and wheat fields filled the air. We stopped killing honey bees as they sought their bee boxes in the cool evening air, and then we passed a yard that was FULL of bunnies-- all hopping around and playing in the grass.

And somehow, the ride suddenly got AWESOME. The stress of "if we're going to do this we have to do it today" melted away, the stress of "hell no, this isn't fun and I'm not doing it even though it means your ride sucks because of it" melted away and that perception that we weren't talking to eachother melted away.

I thought I had a picture of the mountains on our way home, but instead, here are some tractor mailboxes.

Even though the BF was still accusing me of being "slow," we were both pretty excited about the awesome sunset and the bunnies and we got home feeling pretty good about our day.

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