Heat 1, Todd 0

 

It was an ambitious ride even without factoring any type of weather hardships.  My plan was to perform a summer solstice ride while covering all seven Tour of Honor memorial sites and return to Westminster – 1370 miles – totaling a little over 21 hours.
 
The miles ridden wouldn’t be tough.  1370 miles can be done fairly easily in less than 24 hours and with my fuel setup I would only require four fuel stops.  1370 miles on an out-and-back interstate-only route isn’t tough.
 
To make it interesting, my route had 11 planned stops, four for fuel and seven for the TOH memorials.  It included a transit through the San Francisco Bay Area during the commute in the late afternoon or the mid-morning.  It also included about 220 miles of two-lane mountain and rural roads.  The math said it could be done and I was confident I could stay within 30 minutes of my plan.
 
Then California got hot.  Really hot.  Records temperatures were forecast for the Central Valley.  There wasn’t a town I’d go through that showed likely temps below 105F.  I considered a route change to stay closer to the coast but wouldn’t be able to visit a number of the TOH sites and deep down I wanted to see how I would perform in the extreme heat.  I would pack several gallons of water and wore the proper hot weather gear – LD Comfort tights on top and bottom and my textile jacket – non-vented – and pants.  I was confident the Goldwing would tolerate the heat and distance and I performed an oil change and some other basic maintenance because it was nearly due.
 
The ride occurred on Tuesday 6/20/17.  I spent Monday relaxing and preparing for the ride.  Everything was ready to go by 8pm and I showered and tried to get some sleep.  My alarm was set for 0230 and I planned to be rolling north on the 405 by 0330.
 
I couldn’t sleep.  I tossed and turned and had just nodded off when my wife came into the room and woke me up.  She thought I was asleep and began to watch something on her Ipad.  The light kept me awake and after a while I asked her to turn it off.  She did, but I still couldn’t sleep.  At one point, I nodded off but woke up again and stirred for a while.  I eventually fell asleep but the alarm woke me up and I got dressed for the ride.
 
I rode to the gas station and topped off both tanks, gathered my receipt and shot a picture of it and the odometer to document my start.  I was on my way three minutes before 0330.  There was no traffic to speak of and I made good time out of the LA Basin and into the San Fernando and then Santa Clarita Valley.  Climbing the Grapevine I saw a shooting star burn up in the atmosphere in front of me.  It looked close but was more likely a long way off.
 
The temperature increased as I descended down the other side and entered the valley.  It was a little after 0430 and my temp monitor said it was 85 degrees.  A short while later the sky to the east lightened.  It was the summer solstice – the longest day of the year.
 
My first planned fuel stop was in Santa Nella – about 4 hours and a little over 300 miles into the ride.  I fueled up and put on my light-weight gloves.  The temperature had reached to 90F but I had hope for temporary cooler temperatures as I headed about fifty miles to the west, Gilroy, for the first of the TOH visits.  I ate a protein bar while I rode up the hill at the San Luis Reservoir and ran into cool weather near the top.  I could feel moisture in the coastal air and a drop of about 10-15 degrees.
 
The ride to Gilroy was slow.  I was stuck behind a tractor-trailer in a no passing zone for a long stretch.  I anticipated lower speeds here, though, and didn’t fall behind on the plan.  I actually reached the first TOH site one-minute ahead of schedule.  The memorial was small and it would have been easy to ride past it without knowing it was there.  I took the picture of my bike with my rally flag and the monument in clear view and spent a minute reading the dedication for the memorial.  The only other person in the Christmas Hill Park was a woman throwing a ball with her dog.  The easy part of the ride was over.  The temperature, and traffic, would increase as I headed through San Jose and into Hayward, the second site of my ride.

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I expected traffic to be heavy, and it was, but the folks in the south-eastern Bay Area seem to treat motorcyclists much better than the folks in Los Angeles do.  I split lanes when traffic slowed below 35 mph and many, not all, not most, but many, moved aside to widen the area for the Goldwing.  I was pleasantly surprised.
 
I reached Hayward on schedule and was able to find a place to park the bike where I could display my flag but still have a recognizable portion of my bike and the monument in the camera frame.  It went easier than I expected.  The site is located on a one-way street with no parking signs on both sides and no parking spaces on the street.  Fortunately, a construction zone left a small patch of asphalt open to me to use for a 90 second stop.  I took my picture, grabbed part of my sandwich out of my cooler, and got back on 580 heading east.  The ride would offer no more comfortable weather.

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I rode the 580 to the 680 and used the 680 to get over the Carquinez Strait on the Benicia-Martinez Bridge System.  The temp was in the mid-90s and it wasn’t quite 10AM.  Woodland, located northwest of Sacramento, offers a memorial to the men and women of Yolo County who defended freedom in any of the past and future conflicts.  It is located outside of town, about 5 minutes off the 505 freeway, in the middle of a cemetery.  I rode in and was hardly noticed by the lone grounds worker.  I took off my helmet, set up my flag, took my photo and dumped the first of my cold tap water over my head, torso and sleeves for the next leg of the ride.  The temp was now over 105 and wouldn’t get lower than that until well after dark.

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I lost track of how long the leg from Woodland to my second fuel stop was because the heat had become uncomfortable and time didn’t seem to flow linearly.  Chunks of five minutes would go by in a flash, then a few minutes later, it would seem nearly an hour before the minute readout would change on the clock display.
 
My plan, of which up to this point I was still on time, was to stay moving until I reached Orland.  Unfortunately, in anticipation of the possibility of dehydration, I drank a lot of liquids but hadn’t sweat out quite enough.  I had to stop and pee at a gas station off the 5.  The stop should have only taken me five minutes or less but somehow got me about fifteen minutes behind schedule.
 
I hit traffic south of Orland because a long stretch of the 5 was being repaved.  I split traffic for the ten miles or so that the roadwork was being performed.  That in itself wasn’t difficult.  Some drivers opened up for me, some pinched me off.  Sometimes two trucks would be sharing the two lanes and the amount of room to split was really narrow.  I’d wait for my break and then move forward when it was safe.  It became difficult when, and it was almost always like this, the new pavement was an inch or two higher than old pavement in each lane.  It meant my splitting real estate was razor-thin.  The darkside tire on the rear of the Goldwing does not like raised pavement in the middle of the lane.  It likes to be on one side or another and when the edge of the tire rides against the edge of the lane pavement, the bike is thrown to the lower side – where a car or truck usually happens to be.
 
I crept forward, much faster than the car and truck traffic, but not fast enough to get decent airflow into my jacket to keep me reasonably cool.  At higher speeds, the rush of incoming air in a sleeve turns the chamber into a swamp cooler of sorts and temporarily pushes cool air into the torso area.  Travelling slowly behind the big fairing and shield minimized airflow.  I got hotter and hotter.  The temp had been 108F for a while and peaked a little later at 109F.
 
I finally reached Orland and pulled into a truck stop to fill both tanks.  Shortly after I started filling my tanks the sound of a V-Twin motorcycle putted past me and the rider stopped at the pumps directly behind the ones I was using.  The rider gingerly got off the side of his Honda and walked up to where I was standing.  “Hot enough for you?” he asked.
 
He was older than me and looked like hell.  I probably did, too.
 
“It just gets worse as you go south.  You coming from Oregon?”  I noticed his plate.
 
“Yeah.”
 
“There’s a bunch of construction south of here on the southbound side.  Take it easy going through there.”
 
He nodded his helmet.  We ran across each other again inside the truck stop where we were both willing to spend a little more time in the air conditioning before hitting the road.
 
The midday sun was stifling.  I ate another section of my sandwich as I continued north.  My next stop wasn’t that far, only about 70 miles, and the construction was complete.  I reached the northernmost site, Shasta Lake, in less than an hour.
 
When I think of Shasta, I think of Shasta Lake, Mount Shasta with nearly year-round snow on its summit – all cool things.  On 6/20/17 it wasn’t.  The temp remained 108F.
 
The memorial was only a mile off the 5 freeway.  It stands in the middle of a divided highway but right in front of the site, a turnaround allows for temporary, though illegal, parking.  Like Hayward, I planned on a quick visit and wasn’t too concerned about the legality of my quick stop.  The turnaround has a slight decline to it and I narrowly averted disaster shortly after parking.  I placed the Goldwing on the sidestand rather than the centerstand and took a step to the right to get my rally flag from the top box.

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As I stepped right, the bike moved to the left and downhill and was starting to retract the sidestand.  Had it done that all the way, the bike would have fallen over to one direction or another and the open highway pegs would have contacted the ground first and damaged the engine cylinder head covers, likely causing an oil leak and stranding me in northern California until I could get the parts to repair it.  Also, because I had packed heavy on extra water, I left my tool kit, except for my tire plug kit, at home.  No parts.  No tools.
 
Fortunately, I was able to catch the bike and lean it against my leg before I grabbed the brake lever to stop it from rolling.  Then, as I should have the first time, I put the bike onto the center stand.  I grabbed my flag and camera and backed into traffic to take the required photos.  Because by definition this was a “corner” on my route, I should have had a receipt from a nearby business to establish I was here.  I hoped the photo I took of my odometer, along with multiple receipts from places not too far away, and the math that said this is about where I had to be when the time and mileage dots were connected, would be enough when my ride packet was inspected for certification.
 
I took a few draws off my hydration tube and realized that my cooler was getting low on ice and water.  Riding back to the freeway to start the track to the south-east, I stopped at a Circle K to refill ice and water and use the bathroom.  I walked into the store and filled the cooler with ice and purchased a drink in exchange for the ice.  I could have gotten a receipt, but forgot to ask for it.  I’m usually obtaining receipts from gas pumps and so, with the heat making me not as sharp as I’d like to be, I had an opportunity to grab the receipt I needed and forgot until I was several miles down the 5 freeway.
 
I didn’t remove my helmet in the store.  I flipped up the face plate and didn’t notice that the tinted shield was still in the down position.  Based on my appearance, and probably smell, other customers gave me a wide berth.  I reached the counter and the owner or manager of the store said to me, “Sir, you can’t come in here with your face covered like that.”  Her words mere muffled through my earplugs.
 
I motioned that my face plate was up and asked if it was okay if I just retracted the tinted shield.  She got closer to me and gave me a lengthy, Larry David-like, once-over.
 
“Oh, you’re okay.  You’ve got kind eyes.”
 
“Uh, thanks.”
 
I turned to the clerk with my purchased drink and offered to pay extra for the ice I used to fill my cooler.  He said I was fine just paying for the drink.
 
I put things back together on the bike, doused myself with more cool water, and headed out again.  I’d be on the 5 south for a while before heading to the southeast on the 36 briefly, then the 99 through Chico.
 
I’d wished I’d bought a five-pound bag of ice to carry in my jacket.  The heat was causing me to get drowsy and I as much as I wanted to open my face shield, I knew it would actually dry me out faster even if it felt better for a little while.  My eyes had also started drying and both caused me to want to close my eyes temporarily but I was afraid that if I did, I’d fall asleep.  I stopped using my cruise control after visualizing driving off the road at a steady speed until I hit something.
 
By the time I reached Chico, I needed some kind of cool down break.  I considered stopping at the side of the 99 and finding a tree to lay under in the shade but nothing seemed appropriate.  I saw a sign for McDonalds and, despite being almost an hour behind schedule by this point, decided to stop for a break.  I needed to cool down, slow down and drink some more fluids.
 
The young man behind the counter in McDonalds looked incredulously at me as I approached the counter.  I placed my order and waddled over to a booth.  I planned on setting my alarm and putting my head down for fifteen minutes but knew that liquids were more important.  One customer came up and talked to me.  He said he’d been out for a ride this morning but put his bike away early.  He asked about my gear, about whether it actually made it worse, and asked about the tights I wore under my jacket.  “Aren’t they hot?  They look pretty heavy, and they’re black.”
 
I explained the science behind the wicking fabrics and how having sweat on your skin underneath your jacket was actually better for a rider than letting the sweat evaporate to the atmosphere.  The conversation with him and the time indoors revived me as well as a nap would and after about 30 minutes I was ready to get back on the road.
 
On schedule, I would complete the last TOH site just before sundown.  I was now far enough behind that I was fearful that the last two sites would be photo’d in darkness.  I knew it would be unsafe to try to continue on to Westminster event though there might be just enough time to complete the 1370 miles in 24 hours.  I was just too tired, too drained.  I texted Lisa and told her I was beat and that I would be completing the last three sites, get comfortably over 1000 miles, then find a hotel to get a few hours’ sleep before heading home early in the morning.
 
I got off the 99 near Oroville and began the twisty, mountain road portion of the ride.  While it was still hot, having something to do other than steer straight ahead and let the cruise control handle the speed, the ride became fun again.  The Sierras bordering the eastern edge of the Central Valley are amazing.  Pretty, good roads, low population density.  Ideal on a motorcycle.
 
I motored through Oroville, Bangor and Marysville and Dobbins before picking up the 49 which would take me to Downieville.  The ride continued to be enjoyable as I had absolutely no traffic slowing me down.  The Goldwing boogied like a big girl shouldn’t and handled the sweeping turns like a much smaller bike.  I eventually reached the site.  It was late afternoon and all of the businesses had closed for the day.  I turned the Goldwing around, set up my flag and snapped the pictures.  I had two sites to go.

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The sun was getting low in the sky but wasn’t close to setting yet.  I rode the same path out enjoying it as much as I did the first time.  About twenty miles from intersecting highway 20, I ran into traffic and my pace slowed.  A few spots had ongoing road work and temporary traffic lights were emplaced to control flow.
 
I refueled in Auburn, used the restroom, and ate a little more of my sandwich from the bike as I came down the hill into the Roseville area.  The sun was close to setting and I made it to the sixth site with some light in the sky but it was necessary to use the flash to get a decent picture.

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I had 73 miles to go to reach the last TOH site in Manteca – about one hour away.  Traffic was light on the 99 south-bound and while I was sleepy, I didn’t run into any problems.  I exited and rode to the last memorial.  It was necessary to use all of my forward-facing lights to illuminate the site and then use a flashlight on my towel to make sure that everything was in the frame, clear, and in focus.  The last site was done.

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I was still about an hour short of the 1000-mile mark – I really wanted about 1030 GPS miles before looking for a hotel, just to be safe.  I was bummed that I was unable to go further.  With the darkness, some of my energy had come back, although the outside temperature was still over 100F.
 
I cruised down the 99 until I reached Merced.  I didn’t really fight sleep, but the urge to close my eyes was heavy from dry eyes.  My GPS ticked over 1030 miles and a big, well-lit Motel 6 was located east of the freeway.  To the right was an old, run down, America’s Best Value Inn.  I exited the freeway and decided to use a gas station for my check-off receipt.
 
The first station I found was closed – it was after 2300 – but it appeared that the pumps were still on.  I pulled up to one and it accepted my credit card and instructed me to select a grade and remove the pump handle.  It allowed me to put $.07 in before shutting off automatically.  I didn’t care.  I could get gas in the morning.  I requested a receipt to be printed and the ribbon of folded paper that exited the pump printer was completely illegible.  It wouldn’t work for my exit receipt.
 
I rode down to the next major intersection where I tried another station.  This one, too, appeared closed but the pumps appeared to be on.  The pump accepted my credit card and when I went to remove the pump handle, I found it was locked to the pump tower.  My frustration level was climbing.
 
I found another station and tried there.  The station also appeared closed but it had signage stating 24-hour gas access.  The pump here accepted my card.  The pump handle here was not locked to the pump tower.  It dispensed gas and I was able to fill both of my tanks.  It asked if I wanted a receipt and I pushed the ‘yes’ button.  A receipt printed.  It was legible.  It contained an accurate date and time.  It contained no address or business information.  My frustration level was really high at this point.
 
I stopped at a Carl’s Jr.  They closed at 2300.
 
I decided that the hotel receipt might be good so I rode to the Motel 6.  The parking lot was really full and I parked in the only remaining spot.  The woman at the night window nicely explained to me that they had no rooms available.
 
I got back on the bike and rode around the corner and onto a street with several old motel signs either lit or unlit.  The first motel I came to was an older, u-shaped building with about twenty units.  It looked clean and decent and I decided I would stay there.  I needed to ride down the street to perform a u-turn, though, and when I did I noticed the motel next door, and the one after that, and the one after that.  They were all dingy, beat-up crackhouse-looking places with junkies wandering around the parking lot or into or out of open doors.  The open doors indicated that the air conditioning didn’t work and there was no way I was going to park the Goldwing less than 100 yards away from that mess.
 
America’s Best Value Inn was my last hope.  I rode under the freeway and was able to find a parking spot close to the office.  When I walked in I noticed a sign that explained that they were refurbishing rooms, to please pardon their dust, and that some rooms undergoing work were unavailable.  I also overhead – in Spanish – the clerk arguing with a man who wanted a room but had no credit card.
 
I waited behind him, helmet in hand.  After a few minutes of having the same argument with the man, the female clerk turned to me asked if she could help me.
 
“I could really use a room.”
 
“Hmmm,” she said.  “We’re really booked and with the construction I’m not sure if I have anything.”
 
“Oh, man.”
 
She typed on her keyboard.
 
“It looks like I’ve got one room, but it’s a smoking room.”
 
“I don’t care.  I just want a shower and a few hours of sleep.”
 
“Do you smoke?”
 
“I’ll take it up if it makes a difference.”
 
“No, it’s just people who don’t smoke don’t usually want a smoking room.”
 
“I don’t care.  I just want a shower and a few hours’ sleep.”
 
She took my credit card and had me fill out a registration card.  The way things were going I expected my credit card to get declined because of all the recent, weird transactions.  It didn’t.  She gave me a key card and pointed me in the direction of the room I was in.
 
I unloaded all of the really valuable things off the Goldwing then locked and covered it.  I told myself that if it were to be stolen, I’d rent a car, get home, and start over.   I walked back through the lobby, thanked the clerk, who was once again arguing with the man who didn’t have a credit card, walked around the pool, stepped on a few large cockroaches, and headed up the steps to my room.
 
The key card lit the green indicator, but the room didn’t open.  The deadbolt was locked.  I tried a second time and pushed hard against the door.  I heard – in Spanish, “Estamos aquí. Esta es nuestra habitación (We’re in here. This is our room).”
 
Great.
 
I walked back down to the lobby and interrupted the arguing again.
 
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
 
“Somebody’s in the room you gave me.”
 
“Oh, no.  240, right?”
 
“No, you gave me 242.”
 
“Shoot.  My fault.  I meant to send you to 240.  Let me get you another key.”
 
“Ok.  Thanks.”
 
I walked past the previous cockroach carnage and found a few new victims.  I was worried about what the room was going to look like, but didn’t care.  At the very least, I’d shower and just close my eyes for a while.  If I slept, and the room wasn’t infested, it was a bonus.
 
I walked past room 242 and opened 240.  It was empty, smelled like an ashtray, and the a/c hadn’t been run for a while.  The interior temperature of the room was hotter than it was outside – still around 100F.  I fumbled with the thermostat and was eventually able to get a small current of cool air coming from the wall mounted unit.  I didn’t see any sign of cockroaches, spiders, or other bugs.
 
I undressed and got into the shower still wearing my LDC tights.  I soaked under cold water for a while and then washed myself and my tights.  I hung them up to dry and then lay down naked in the bed in front of the a/c unit.  The room was now cooler than the air outside.  I figured I’d fall asleep quickly but as good as it felt to close my eyes and have reasonably cool air blowing on me, I was wired, fully awake.
 
I was disappointed in my ride.  1370 miles isn’t tough.   I prepared for the heat.  I didn’t allow myself to get dehydrated.  On what should have been the toughest part of the ride, the Bay Area, I was right on schedule.  It wasn’t until later that I began falling behind.  I have a bad left knee, though, old injuries that have gotten worse recently – a torn meniscus and torn patellar tendon – that is scheduled for surgery in mid-July, and it has caused me to get really out of shape over the past few months – no walking the dog, limited walking around at work, limited garage time, no heavy lifting.  Being out of shape was the biggest reason for my let-down.
 
Eventually, I fell asleep.  A little while later, it couldn’t have been much later because the room was still really warm, I woke up with cramps in every muscle in both legs.  I got out of bed and tried to walk them out and eventually did but it took a while to fall back to sleep again, because every time I moved, a cramp threatened.
 
A few hours later I woke up again and decided to get back on the road.  It was still dark outside, but I felt refreshed enough that I knew I could make it home without a problem.  I put on my tights and the rest of my riding gear and walked down the steps to the office.  The same clerk was at the counter but she had some help with her this time.  I thanked her for her help and handed her my key.
 
I walked out of the office and the Goldwing was still there.  It didn’t appear that the cover had been disturbed and everything was in place.  I reinstalled the GPS and my other things and noticed that the clerk was walking up to the vehicle next to me.  I had lucked out and parked near the office and right next to her Expedition.  She smiled and said, “See, I’m still getting to leave before you.”
 
“Have a good day.  Thanks again,” I said.
 
A few minutes later I was rolling southbound on the 99 again.  The sun was coming up behind the mountains to the east and I made good time even though I was running a slower pace than the day before.  I got to witness a turboprop crop duster making passes on a field.  He ran a crisscross pattern that made it look like his spray would be heavy in the middle of the field but light on the outside.  Who am I to question his method?  I’m just an aging Service Manager on a Goldwing with a bum knee.  He’s in the air every day.
 
I hit no significant traffic until after I got onto the 405 and into the San Fernando valley.  Near the 101, traffic backed up several miles.  I began to split traffic, crept forward at a slow speed, and got out of the way of other riders going faster than me.  The Los Angeles traffic was much more combative than the Bay Area traffic the day before.  Some people moved out of the way, but not very many.  Some people intentionally pinched me as I approached.  Some were oblivious that I was even there.  Some texted on their phones.
 
When I started splitting the row of vehicles I turned my high beams on to make me more noticeable to the vehicles I approached.  When that didn’t seem to work as well as I’d hoped, I turned on my Clearwater Lights.  I don’t use the auto-dimming feature with them.  When they are on, they are on full power.  This should make me stand out to anybody I’m approaching, hopefully they’ll just react to them and move over, as if I was a police bike.  It helped, but just a little.
 
Near LAX the traffic broke up again and was relatively clear to Westminster.  I covered the 330 miles travelled in just under five hours.  Even though it was over 100F in the Central Valley shortly before I left it, I was comfortable.  It was in the 90s through LA but at LAX the temperature dropped about twenty degrees.  It felt incredible.  I opened my visor and jacket and just soaked in the cool air.
 
When I got home, Alex was on the couch watching TV.  He greeted me as if I’d just gone down to the store to pick up a few things.  It was good, and bad.  He’s got his motorcycle license and I’m waiting for the day for him to ask to come with me.  It hasn’t happened yet, but I hope it’ll happen soon.

My Poor Right Foot

 
I was lucky enough to attempt two rides of greater than 1000 miles last month within three weeks.  One was planned just because I had the day available and the weather looked good.  The second was the Spring Equinox ride in an attempt to earn a Four Seasons certificate.
 
A day before the March 3rd Saddlesore, after a six-day workweek followed by four long workdays, I was getting ready for the work on Thursday morning, walking through the house with bare feet.  I drifted too close to a piece of furniture and crashed my right little toe into it.  I heard the *crack* and felt the bolt of pain travel up my leg.  It hurt so much more than the broken foot I managed to do to myself a year ago, and was only a few inches away from the previous break.
 
I yelled a little, then cussed a little, then sat down and contemplated how long I should sit there.  I wouldn’t be much of an example to my staff if I showed up for work late or took the day off for a broken pinky toe.  After a few minutes, I put on my work shoe and hobbled to work.  I limped through the day.  The pain increased and my shoe tightened.  I remained at my desk as much as I could and left work a little early, about 5pm, in order to prepare for the ride at 0400 the next day.
 
When I got home and took off my shoe, I knew I had fractured my toe.  It was swollen, about twice its normal size, and bruising had started over the entire right quadrant of my foot that contained the toe.  The only shoe I could wear that night was a pair of flip flops and even that hurt when a step would bend the toe backwards a little bit as I walked items out to the Goldwing.  No pictures this time.  I took Advil, which I had been doing anyway in preparation for the ride, and ignored it as much as I could.
 
It wasn’t going to cause me to miss the ride.
 
The March 3rd ride included a leg through the Death Valley region and I would still be able to see the wildflowers in bloom before the summer heat drove them back into some form of floral hibernation.  In addition, I’d get to put more miles on Highway 95 through central and into northern Nevada.  First, though, I had to get my boot on.
 
The ride was scheduled for the day before rain and snow was forecast for the Nevada high desert.  The temperatures were mild with some areas into the low-forties but mostly between 50 and 65.  I wouldn’t have to double up on my socks to keep my feet warm and it was a good thing as I could barely get my boot on with a single pair of athletic socks.  The boot kept constant pressure on the toe and I was in some form of discomfort for the entire ride.  Advil is awesome, though, and the enjoyment of the ride far outweighed the throbbing in my boot.
 
I headed out before dawn and was between Victorville and Baker when the sun rose.  Even though it was a Friday morning, the Las Vegas traffic hadn’t picked up yet.  I exited Interstate 15 in Baker and turned north onto the 127.  My first stop, 286 miles after leaving Westminster, was at the Amargosa Junction, just into Nevada, at Highway 95.  The stop took place at the newly renovated Chevron station where I fueled, performed a bladder stop and bought a cup of coffee.  The coffee display was interesting in that the two sizes available looked almost identical.  Small might have been 18 ounces and the large might have been 18-1/2.  I still wore my helmet and had earplugs in and asked the clerk, “Are these really the same size?”
 
I thought he answered me because I heard him mutter something through my earplugs, but he had, in fact, made a comment to someone on his phone.  I chose the one I thought was larger, used way too much creamer, and paid the clerk.  When I got back to the Goldwing I attempted to take a drink even though I knew it would be really hot.  I tolerated the temperature but the taste was so sweet, I couldn’t drink it.  I threw it away and headed north on Highway 95.  My next stop would be Hawthorne, Nevada, 250 miles north.

Highway 95 didn’t disappoint.  Speeds were fast, traffic light and plenty of sections included passing lanes or legal passing zones.  I didn’t see a single Nevada Highway Patrol unit on patrol but did have a car go buzzing by me on the downhill slope into Goldfield where a local (County, I believe) trooper with radar buzzed him and pulled him over for a ticket.  I was hard on the brakes just before he passed me because the road very quickly transitions from 70 to 35 while going downhill and through a curve.  The perfect revenue-producing scenario.
 
Goldfield, NV is a modern ghost town and the pictures on Google Earth make it look modern in comparison to reality.  I travelled uphill some more during the run to Tonopah and scouted out places to stop for future rides.  A few years ago, I cancelled a BBG attempt at the last minute that was planned to start early in the morning after staying the night at the Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah.  I got to ride past it for the first time and I am determined to return for a stay there at some point in the future.
 
The run to Hawthorne went quickly.  I fueled and ate my sandwich in a Chevron station.  I was about twenty minutes ahead of my plan, relaxed a little longer than planned, and left Hawthorne on time.

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The sky changed from blue to gray and long streaky clouds consistent with snow began to form.  The wind picked up and temperature dropped on the way back to Tonopah but the ride couldn’t have gone smoother (I did lose the sound from the right speaker in my helmet…first world problem, I know) and the Goldwing thrived on the relatively empty two-lane with our backs to the wind.  I gained a significant amount of time on the first half of the second leg and reached Amargosa Junction well ahead of my plan.

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A group of Adventure Tourers were fueling up when I arrived and pulled out shortly after I began filling my tanks.  Each tipped his helmet to me on the way out, turning earlier than necessary to go through the fuel row I was in.  I headed back towards Baker and encountered truck and RV traffic but passing was easy and legal.
 
I reached Baker with a 30-minute cushion and decided to stop and have some hot food and a Diet Coke.  I figured I could stop, eat, and be on my way still ahead of schedule.  I’ve had good Del Taco before, but it never tasted as good as it did on March 3rd.  I entered the 15 south and made good time down the hill and reached Westminster at 2015.

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Even with the unplanned stop in Baker, I had an efficient ride.  I encountered no problems, no traffic or weather slow-downs, and no mechanical problems.  Northern Nevada was so beautiful, the weather so good, the roads so empty, that I decided I’d repeat, if possible, part of the route for the Spring Equinox ride on March 20th.
 
The bruising in my foot has faded but my right little toe remains swollen.  As I write this on April 2nd, I just started wearing running shoes again.  Up to this point, every step sent a reminder that I am an abuser of toes.
 
I prepared two routes for the March 20th Spring Equinox ride in case the weather turned exceptionally cold and wet or unseasonably hot.  I had the route I wanted to take (395-6-95-375-93-15-95-62-10), and the back-up ride (Interstate 40, 550 miles and back) in two different directions in case the weather was significantly better in one direction.  Fortunately, the better ride had the better weather – mostly cool, cold in the morning, nice mid-day and mid-90s in the late part of the afternoon.
 
I clocked-in at 0429 and immediately was up to speed on the 405 north.  I rode in darkness until north of Mojave, Ca. and tailed a VW (Passat) rabbit up the hill and through the canyons before the 14 meets the 395 at Inyo-Kern.  Traffic moved swiftly and only a few small towns slowed progress before reaching Bishop.  The first half of the ride was likely to be cold so I started with several layers and I figured I’d remove some at each stop, ending up with only my LD Comfort base layer by the time I reached Las Vegas.
 
The 395 was cold, but not as cold as expected, and the only discomfort I had was the second riding sock inside my boot.  My little toe was crammed into a space too small for it in its current form.  I could push my boot against the right-side valve cover and relieve the pressure temporarily but couldn’t keep it like that for more than a minute or so at a time.  I reached Big Pine, CA ahead of schedule and with more fuel left in the tanks than expected.  I shed a thermal shirt and the second pair of socks and felt much better.  I forgot to take Advil at this stop, but was feeling really good, other than my toe, and figured I’d take some more at the next stop.

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Highway 6 north out of Bishop and into Nevada was a pleasant surprise.  The road was in better condition than I expected, and except for the occasional farm vehicle, traffic was very light.  A few really small towns forced temporary slow-downs but I was able to maintain interstate-like speeds between them. I passed a few vehicles, including a G&K Uniform truck (our current uniform vendor).  Did someone bid this route as a uniform driver or was I passing a truck with the greenest driver on the staffing list?  An older couple looked to their left and excitedly waved to me as I passed.  Maybe they decided to use their car for this trip instead of their Goldwing.  They smiled when usually, at best, I receive an uninterested glance from drivers I pass.

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The view over my right shoulder of Boundary Peak was amazing and the abandoned motels and casino at Montgomery Pass, Nevada made me wonder what life was like here in the middle of winter in a town near the road summit that up until a few years ago was really in the middle of nowhere.  How many Eastern Sierra California residents made the trip into Nevada to gamble?  Were the motels ever near full?  Was this an out-of-the-way meeting place used by Vegas mobsters when they wanted privacy during a high-level meeting?

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It didn’t matter now.  All that remained was the rotten and charred wood skeleton of old buildings and patches of blacktop that were slowly being overtaken by the mountain greenery.
 
I descended the hill from the summit on the 6 until it intersected the 95.  I’d ridden this section of road on my ride earlier in the month and knew the stretch to Tonopah was short.  There were signs for road construction but I didn’t actually hit any until just before the rest stop north of Tonopah.
 
The road was reduced to a single lane and a traffic director had just released a line of cars before I got to her.  I flipped open my face plate and smiled at her.  She smiled back and directed me ahead.  I’m convinced that if it had been a male construction worker that he would have held me there – maybe just because he could, or maybe because he was jealous that I was out on a fantastic ride on a Monday, while he had to work.
 
In any event, I continued forward and caught up to the line of traffic in front of me.  My face plate remained raised and I smiled at the second female construction worker at the other end of the construction zone.  She returned my smile.  The line of traffic on her end of the work zone was several hundred yards long.
 
I reached Tonopah and the town hadn’t changed much in the three weeks since I’d been there.  It probably doesn’t much after three years or three decades.  Rather than heading south on the 95, I turned to the east to continue on Highway 6.  I saw a few neighborhoods I had missed three weeks earlier and very quickly was heading downhill and out of the town limits.  Tonopah has a speedway east of town and while its sign boasted of races every Saturday night, it looked as if a few Saturdays had gone by since the last one was held.  Tonopah didn’t look big enough to draw more than a few local stock cars so I wondered where the other racers came from.  Bakersfield?  Sacramento?  Las Vegas?  Salt Lake City?  I had to know if the track was still in action, and when I got home I checked.  The Tonopah Speedway Facebook page is current, listed a 2017 racing schedule, and was putting a call out for volunteers for a track clean-up day.  So much for appearances.
 
The northern Nevada desert more than a mile above sea level is a combination of dirt and rocks and natural grasslands that continue for miles until the plain reaches a set of distant, low mountains.  Ranching enterprises became evident and eventually road signs warned of cattle crossing and open range land.  The sky was clear and blue and the temperature pleasant, warming as the morning continued.

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I reached the intersection for Highway 375, and like Montgomery Pass, I viewed the remains of several buildings that once were an oasis for travelers.  Fifty years ago there was probably a need for a place to stop for gas, repairs or drinking water.  Modern vehicles and motorcycles like Goldwings don’t need them anymore.  I’m sure there are many spots on Route 66 that look identical to the 6/375 intersection at Warm Springs, NV.
 
While on the 6 an occasional large farm animal would dot the scenery hundreds of yards from the blacktop, the 375 had a large collection of cattle near the road edge in a number of places.  Only a few miles onto the 375 I saw a cow and mature calf crossing the ahead of me.  I slowed and gave them time to cross.  The calf stopped in my lane and I came to a complete stop to wait for it to move.  It seemed satisfied with resting its hooves on the warm blacktop and remained still.
 
I have my Clearwater lights wired so that turning on my high beams energizes the relay that powers the Clearwaters and every light on the front of the bike illuminates.  I flashed my hi-beams and honked the horn.  The calf didn’t look at me, but its eyes widened and it ran the rest of the way across the road to the safety of a spot next to its mother.
 
Twenty miles later the same thing happened.  This time it was a bull, however, with a large set of horns.  It stood in the middle of the road, his face in the direction of oncoming traffic, me.  Since it worked once before, I tried the horn and hi-beam trick again.  While his gaze wasn’t fixed on me as I approached it, as soon as I pressed the horn button, I could see his eyes go from a general look in my direction to one focused on me.  It lowered its head very slightly, his eyes fixed on me.
 
I looked for an indication of whether I should attempt to go to the right or to the left if he decided to charge.  Neither direction looked better than the other.  I wondered if I could turn around if I had to.  I probably couldn’t get the Goldwing turned around in the time I had for him to run the 100 feet, or so, I placed between us.  We stared at each other for a while (seconds, maybe, but very slow moving seconds) and then he turned around and went the direction he would have come from.  He crapped in the right lane before leaving the pavement, an act of defiance he must have known I wouldn’t try to top.

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Highway 375 is known as the Extra-terrestrial highway and had road signs declaring that low flying aircraft could be present.  I didn’t see any – silver and circular, or more conventional.  I passed through Rachel and while I had originally planned to take a picture of the Goldwing in front of the flying saucer, when I got there I continued on, figuring I’d do it at some point in the future when Alex was riding with me.  The black mailbox marking the road to Area 51 has been gone a while.  I passed Groom Road before riding through the curves north of the intersection at the 93.

200 miles on the interstate can be a drag.  Even at the higher speeds one can usually go, a 200-mile leg seems to take forever.  200 miles in sparse, northern Nevada goes by very quickly.

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Descending in altitude and with the time approaching noon I began to really notice the increase in temperature.  After turning to the south on Highway 93, the ride to the Alamo Sinclair Station, the sight of my second scheduled stop, the temperature was 90 degrees.  I filled both tanks and moved the Goldwing to the customer parking near the front door.  I walked inside, passed a group of truck drivers drinking coffee and talking in a small lounge area, and found the restroom.  In a stall, I stripped down my remaining layers and walked back to the bike carrying a stack of thermal bottoms, two long sleeved t-shirts and a light jacket.  I only lost a couple pounds of clothes, but felt fifteen pounds lighter.  I arranged another section of sandwich in my fuel tank organizer along with some additional snacks and got back on the 93 heading south to Las Vegas.  I, again, forgot to take Advil.
 
After only a short time on the road I passed Upper and Lower Pahranagat Lakes and the adjacent recreation areas.  Two larger power boats had been in the Sinclair Station and I figured to see fishing and skiing taking place on both lakes.  While there seemed to be camping spots occupied all around the lakes, particularly Upper, no boats were on the water.  They must have been going to, or coming from, somewhere else.
 
The scenery became more typically ‘desert’ as I went further south.  Like a herd far off in the distance, Joshua Trees began to dot the horizon.  I reached the Las Vegas city proper in the middle of the afternoon and after spending the first half of the ride in cool, comfortable, lightly populated northern Nevada, Las Vegas, by comparison, sucked.  I ran into construction traffic transitioning onto the 515 but after five miles or so, it lightened enough that speeds began to pick up again.  I reached Henderson, the terminus of the 515, and again ran into a complete slow down at the intersection for the 95 due to construction.
 
Heading south on a four-lane section of Highway 95 the winds picked up and blew east-west for many miles.  Occasional gusts would push me around and even though I was sipping regularly from my hydration system, I began to grow tired and knew I was in the beginning stages of dehydration.  I slowed down a little and increased my water intake.
 
I was feeling better by the time I reached Searchlight but increasing my water intake caused me to need an early, unplanned, pit stop.  I stopped at the McDonalds at the top of the hill, used their bathroom, bought a drink, and got back on the bike.  The few minutes in the air conditioning revived me and I felt great as I got back on 95.  Needles would be on the horizon shortly.
 
I made good time and was able to pass a few vehicles on the two-lane when the 95 entered California.  An older man in a Cadillac couldn’t decide whether he wanted to drive fast or slow and we passed each other a few times.  I was ahead of him when we reached the 40 but he passed me for good shortly before I exited to continue on the 95 south to Vidal Junction.
 
I’d ridden this section of the 95 in the other direction about a year ago.  I preferred the southern direction.  The truck traffic was heavier than on my previous ride but overall the traffic was light enough that passing them was not a problem.  I was ahead of schedule and while I hoped to reach Vidal Junction right before sundown, I was quite a bit earlier than that and the sun still hung significantly above the horizon.
 
A group of teenagers occupying two SUVs with Georgia license plates on them was at the pumps when I pulled in.  I had to wait for one of them to finish before I could fuel but the wait was only a minute or two.  I fueled up, used the restroom in the Vidal Junction convenience store, fielded questions from the clerk about the auxiliary fuel tank, and was back on the bike, heading west, when the two Georgia SUVs were doing the same, going east.  I was really beginning to feel soreness in my neck and back from not keeping ahead of it with the Advil, and needed to take some for the final leg, but I, again, forgot.
 
I’d hoped to head west on the 62 after dark to avoid staring straight into the setting sun and to be able to use the Clearwater lights for their intended purpose – not as cow repellants – to really light up dark roads.  A sentence or two about the Clearwaters.  I bought the Sevinas because they were the most powerful lights offered by Clearwater and they do an amazing job of lighting dark roads.  Reflective lane markers and signs can be seen from a mile away and any critters near the side of the road become visible when even the high beams wouldn’t pick them up.  But, because they are so bright, and so powerful, I can hardly ever use them.  I rarely get a chance to use them for real, and I’d hoped the stretch on the 62 would allow me that.
 
It didn’t.  Instead I headed nearly due west and straight into the setting sun.  My tinted shield did almost nothing to help and I wasn’t carrying additional sunglasses.  I slowed down and coped with the discomfort.  Eventually, I reached 29 Palms, the sun was down, and traffic on the 10-west was flowing well.
 
A Harley-Davidson rider with a female passenger on the pillion wouldn’t allow himself to be passed by me and every time I went around him using my natural, slightly faster than traffic-flow pace, I would hear his pipes as he accelerated to pass me back.  I worried about the passenger on the back of the bike.  She was wearing a tank top, jeans and a peanut helmet and I didn’t want to see her skipping along the freeway if she fell off while he attempted to stay ahead of me.  Fortunately, by the time I reached the split where I continued on the 60-west, the Harley rider and his passenger stayed to the right and rode out of sight on the 10, hopefully at a slower speed.
 
The CHP was patrolling the twisted section of the 60 between Beaumont and Moreno Valley and two cars were pulled over, the drivers being ticketed, as I passed through the section at the speed limit.  Riverside came and went and the construction on the 91 on Corona finally seems to be paying off as traffic didn’t slow down as I rode past the 15, the Auto Mall, and Prado Dam.  I enjoyed the last few miles of the ride on the 55 and the 22 in spite of the now intense stiffness and soreness in my neck and upper back and shoulders.  I’d ridden almost sixteen hours since last taking any Advil – a first for me.
 
I rode into the Mobil station I usually use to end rides and put $1.00 worth of fuel in the tank in order to collect my last receipt and clock off the ride.  It was relatively short at 1057 miles, and time was good at 16 hours 20 minutes – not record setting, but not bad seeing as over half the miles earned were on two lane roads.  It was the most pleasing ride performed for certification purposes as it satisfied the Spring Equinox requirement for the four-season certification and allowed me to get away from the Los Angeles area for a day and ride, for a while at least, in an area with more cows than people.  The overall average speed at just under 65 mph was good and the pace would allow for a successful Bun Burner Gold with some time to spare.

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My next scheduled long ride will be the Summer Solstice ride but the ‘Tour of Honor’ ride destinations were released on April 1st and I plan to mix several of those destinations into rides this spring and summer.  John Paolino is supposed to be back for at least one of the Tour of Honor rides.  If I can talk him into three rides for California, Arizona and Nevada destinations, I’m going to.

My foot is still sore but getting less so each day.  I wore a pair of running shoes today with just a little achiness.
 
I have some goals in mind for future accomplishments in 2019 and future rides will revolve around achieving that goal.  Rides will become longer, starting at a minimum of 1100 miles, then 1200 miles until they become as easy as the 1000 mile rides are now and will include some multiple-day rides of 1000 miles per day or more.  I’ll also be treating future rides more like a rally format with shorter stops and more defined, check-list run tasks.  Another bike is on the work table and its revival will allow for a different kind of distance ride.   The Goldwing, though, isn’t going anywhere.  It’s become an extension of me and I still believe there is no finer bike for the kind of riding I enjoy.

Winter Solstice Saddlesore 1000

 

I’ve received certificates for the rides I’d completed in June and July.  August would have been ridable with the proper route but I took the month off anyway.  Then, with September bringing football and Friday night games for Alex, the fall included the 500-miler into the Panamint Valley and a few shorter rides but nothing substantial.

The IBA offers many different types of ride certifications.  One in particular that I am interested in earning is a “Four Season” ride certification – a certified ride of at least 1000 miles that occurs, at least in part, on the day of a solstice or equinox performed in four consecutive seasonal events.  Ideally, a rider would be on the bike at the moment of the event but they will certify a ride that took place on the same day.  In addition, while a rider would usually think to do the four consecutive events starting with the Spring equinox, it can start with any one as long as the next three are consecutive.  With the Winter solstice approaching, I decided to get the cold ride out of the way first.

Long Distance riding on the winter solstice means less sunlight than any other riding day of the year.  It doesn’t make much of a difference on an Ironbutt because the rides almost always begin and end in darkness and I don’t find the extra darkness a bother.  Once I’m in the groove, the time between stops goes by very quickly and the 45 seconds or so that it takes to cover a mile is little more than a blink.

Riders in the northern half of the country can’t usually depend on weather compatible with a long ride in the third week of December.  Freezing temperatures, icy conditions and snow keep all but the craziest indoors.  In Southern California, however, the conditions don’t require us to put the bike away for a few months.

Westminster has dropped into the 30s at night and we’ve had a little rain this fall.  Two weeks before the solstice the long-range forecasts looked good for a Saddlesore ride.  I’d considered repeating the Benson, Az Saddlesore John and I had performed a few years ago, just so that I could see what kind of time I could shave off that ride total of just under 20 hours.  I decided, instead, to see if I could find a faster route with minimal traffic.  Rather than running through Phoenix and back home via San Diego, I decided to cut south on Hwy 95 at Quartzsite, AZ to Yuma, then take the 8 until it meets up with the 10 again between Phoenix and Tucson and turn around in Marana, just before reaching Tucson.

The route looked great on paper and mathematically appeared be very fast.  My typical start time of 0400 would actually place me back into the Inland Empire at prime rush hour time and the heavy traffic on the 91 freeway so I pushed it back to 0445.  Leaving any later would mean the possibility of traffic in Riverside and Palm Springs on the way out.

A few days before December 21st the weather turned cold.  It looked like much of the route would be in the 30s during darkness and only the high 40s or low 50s during the day.  I searched for all of the thermal gear I own and planned on six or seven layers on top and two to three on the bottom.  I had my warmest gloves and liners ready along with a backup pair of moderately heavy gloves if needed.  As it turned out, the weather warmed the day before I was supposed to ride.

The warm weather brought the possibility of rain but forecasts on the night of the 20th still made the ride look very possible.  A few of the areas I’d ride through had a slight chance of scattered showers but no firm estimations of steady rain.

As usual, I’d completely over-prepared in the days leading up to the ride and the night before I was ready to go long before I needed to get to bed.  The pre-ride jitters I usually get didn’t keep me up and I think I was asleep before 2000.  I woke up once at 0200 and had to pee and when I crawled back in to bed was wide awake.  Fortunately, at some point, I was able to fall back to sleep until my alarm went off at 0345.

I dressed and secured the last few things on the bike and headed out to the gas station to fill the tanks, set up the last of my things, and punch the clock to be on the road.  I was ready earlier than I thought I’d be and at 0418 I was on the clock.

Leaving the cover of the gas station I noticed I was in a light rain.  It stopped a few minutes after entering the 22 freeway.  The latest forecasts estimated a light rain at about 0500 that would end shortly after sunrise and then continue again late that night after I’d gotten back into town.

Traffic was light all the way through the Inland Empire and I rode in darkness until half way between Indio and Blythe.  I was able to make good time at usually rode at 5-10 above the limit.  A young driver in a silver Chevy Cruze made a good rabbit for a while but his pace was too erratic – he’d speed up, almost pulling away, and then slow down enough that I’d catch up to him, then he’d run away again.

A pickup with Arizona plates replaced the Cruze near Blythe and he shielded me up the hill to Quartzsite.  I hadn’t planned on buying fuel in Quartzsite but needed a receipt to establish where and when I was, so I put $5 into the tank.  In addition, I used the bathroom and bought a coffee inside the Love’s Travel Stop.  Still fully geared up, a man tried to talk to me about my modular helmet.  I only heard some of what he said and explained, probably way too loudly, that I had earplugs in and couldn’t hear him very well.  It didn’t stop him, though.  He kept talking.  I smiled, gave him a thumbs-up and paid for my coffee.

I followed an older woman out of the parking lot and onto the frontage road that led to Hwy 95.  She drove agonizingly slow and it seemed to take forever to cover less than a mile until I could safely pass her and turn right.  Hwy 95 is a great road.  I rode it north from Blythe to Needles earlier this year and now the leg between Quartzsite and Yuma was in front of me.  I was able to travel 75 mph most of the time and encountered very little traffic in my direction.  I passed the Army and GM proving grounds and the fields of crops just north of Yuma.  The 76-mile stretch only took an hour and I stopped again in Yuma for another receipt and fuel at a Chevron station just north of Interstate 8.

After refueling I pulled over to the parking spots in front of the Chevron mini-mart and ate a few bites of my sandwich and drank some water.  A big dude walked up to me, pointed to the auxiliary tank, and said, “Extra fuel?”

I nodded in response.  “What kind of range do you get with that?”  I engaged in the same conversation I’d had at a lot of other gas stations.

“I ride a Harley,” he said.

“Hmm.  Good bike.”

“I’ve got a riding buddy that has an ST that rides those Ironbutt rides.”

“Ah.  The ST is a good bike, too.  I’m actually on an Ironbutt ride today.”

“You are?”

“Yeah.  I left Huntington Beach earlier this morning and I’m going to Tucson and then back home.  I’m doing a Winter solstice 1000-mile ride today.”

“What are you doing here, then?  I thought you guys never stopped.”

“Taking a break.  I’ll be back on the road in a few minutes.”

“Tucson, huh?  That’s like 250 miles.”

“Not quite that far,” I said.

“Be safe.”

I used the bathroom again and suited up.  I ended up following him out of the parking lot and passed him after entering the eastbound 8 traffic.  Just east of Yuma I encountered a Border Patrol check stop and a dog was at work sniffing for drugs.  I wondered if he’d smell and alert to my sandwich – a beautifully thick rotisserie chicken and roast beef sandwich on a fresh baguette.  My dogs would have alerted.  The working dog didn’t.  I flipped up my face plate and the officers motioned me through.

Traffic on the 8 was very light as well and I made great time.  My rabbit for the majority of this leg came in the unlikely form of an older woman driving a Nissan Altima.  She looked as if she should be holding up traffic in either lane.  Instead, she was moving along.  I settled in about a half mile behind her and was able to maintain about 85 mph in clear weather and excellent road conditions.

After 100 miles on the 8, my ears began to ache.  I have had ear pain while on the last few longer rides and attributed it to an ear infection I had in September then some cheaper foam earplugs I bought from Home Depot when the ear infection cleared up.  I went back to my usual brand for this ride but the pain persisted.  Eventually I had to stop at a rest stop, remove my helmet, put my plugs in more shallowly, and continue on.  Even though the total time off the highway lasted no longer than 60 seconds, I never caught up to my elderly rabbit.

I picked up another one eventually and followed him into the speed traps between Phoenix and Tucson.  I hadn’t seen a single Highway Patrol vehicle since entering Arizona but on this 30 mile stretch of road I saw six or seven.  They had a system set up with a single radar car and several ticket cars.  Their presence, and the rain, slowed traffic way down.

The rain came in scattered bunches.  I’d ride into them, the shield would be wetted, then I’d ride out of them.  The weather protection of the Goldwing is really good and I didn’t get wet.  The turnaround point came earlier than I anticipated and I did some rough math in my head and realized I was almost 45 minutes ahead of schedule.  I fueled up, ate more of my sandwich and some apples and carrots and had to use an outhouse because the Marana Chevron doesn’t allow customers to use their restrooms.

As early as I was, the return trip was going to be a problem.  I would definitely land into rush hour traffic and so my choices now were to slow down or take a long lunch break.  I decided to do a little of both.  I answered some texts, reset my tracker, and used the outhouse again before getting back on the road.

I crept through the speed traps and showers and made the transition back to Interstate 8, this time heading west.  This leg was performed at a more sedate pace that did not necessitate a shielding car.  Fuel mileage and comfort was high.  Total time was longer, but not by that much, and by the time I got to Yuma I’d lost some of the lead I’d built up in the morning.

I stopped at the same Chevron station, and while I didn’t need fuel, I did need another receipt so I bought a coffee and a Five-Hour Energy for the leg from Quartzsite to home.  The ride north included another Border Patrol check with a working dog.  I rolled in and encountered three bored-looking guards, flipped up my face shield, acknowledged all three and they rolled me through and told me to have a safe trip.  The skies to the west looked dark and cloud cover was building.

The Quartzsite Love’s Travel Stop was much busier in the afternoon than it was in the morning.  A rider on a BMW GS was pulling away from the pumps as I pulled in.  He headed east so I assume he came from the west.  I’d have liked to ask him about the weather to the west.  Instead, I fueled up for the last time and pulled into the parking spaces to eat some more of my sandwich (it was a big sandwich) and finish off my carrots and apple slices.

A man who appeared to be an aging hippy, helmetless, riding an ancient XL185 entered the lot and parked next to me.  He hopped off his bike, walked right up to mine and said, “I’ll tell you what.  Trade me for my bike.  It gets better gas mileage and you won’t have to worry about speeding tickets.”

“Sure,” I said.  “Go get the title.”

He looked like he didn’t expect that answer and it only drew him in closer.  He was filled with questions about the bike, said he used to ride Harleys in the seventies and at some point, switched to Hondas.  He said he continued to wave to passing Harley riders but because he was now on a Honda he rarely got a wave back.  “Sometimes I’d get a finger, though,” he said.  “Then I’d flip it right back.”

He asked if my bike had an “opposed-six.”  I told him it did and that most people that ask that question don’t refer to it as opposed.  “Opposed,” he said, “is better that flat.”  I agreed.

He said in his opinion my engine probably sounded like an Ariel Square-Four.  “Do you know what that is?”

I told him I did.  I know my engine well, and I’ve heard a square four.  They aren’t similar.

We continued to talk a little while longer until another man walked up and said he rode his 1982 GL1100 all over the country.  This got the hippie talking to him instead and he followed the man into the store.  I saw my chance to break away and began to gear up again.

I was still slightly ahead of schedule and traffic west of Palm Springs concerned me so I crept up to speed and set the cruise control just slightly above the speed limit.  I had to move out of the way of faster traffic, something I’m not very familiar with, and deal with trucks that I was now sharing lanes with more frequently.

Just inside of California I slowed for the inspection station.  I flipped up my face plate and received a smile from the female agent working my line of traffic.  She waved me through.  Night had arrived.  Ten miles west of Blythe I began to run into rain again.  This was a little heavier than early in the day but still came in bands.  Most showers only lasted for a few minutes and I stayed dry.  Occasionally I would stand up on the pegs to put my face shield in the slipstream and it would instantly clear.

Near the Chiriaco Summit I had to exit the freeway to lower my Windbender so that my face shield was more easily cleared.  The rain had increased in intensity but still was only lasting a few minutes at a time.  I motored through Indio, Palm Springs and Banning and pulled off again because I had to pee and didn’t think I could last until I reached Westminster.

Slowing down had pushed me behind rush hour traffic and I made it through Riverside and Corona without slowing.  About the time I reached Brea the rain became steady.  I stayed dry for the most part and pulled off the 22 freeway at Beach Boulevard and rode under the cover at the Mobil Station that was my starting and ending point.  The pump would not print my receipt so I had to walk across the parking lot in the rain to collect it from the attendant.  It had the needed time and date so I walked back to the bike and took photos of my odometer and did some rough calculations.

My start and end receipts were 15 hours, 50 minutes apart.  The Goldwing’s odometer indicated 1,058 miles.  Google Maps estimated the ride to be 1,026.  A 3% odometer inaccuracy seemed about right based on my previous rides.  I felt good.  My back and neck were only slightly, and I emphasize slightly, sore.  The advil was a wonder on this trip.  I didn’t feel tired, and because it was only a few minutes after 2000, I would have a couple hours before going to bed at my regular time.  The Goldwing had performed perfectly – smooth, comfortable, reliable.

West of Blythe I did experience the odd, hands under the grips rather than over them, feeling I had in July.  It went away after 2 or 3 minutes and it occurred soon after drinking a Five Hour Energy on both rides and I have to attribute it to that.  I was ready for it this ride and it did not concern me like it did on the last long ride.  Since I only drink any kind of energy concoction when I’m within the last four hours of a long ride, it doesn’t bother me very much.  The benefits are worth it.

The ride wasn’t the perfect one, statistically anyway, that I’ve been looking for.  I did get ahead of schedule and then had to slow down to get back on schedule.  It was, however, the fastest, most efficient and easiest Ironbutt I’ve ridden.  I believe it was the shortest, too, by about 20 miles.  Just for comparison, the July ride I participated in took about 19 hours.  This one was over more than three hours sooner.  My breaks were much more efficient.  I was able to stop, refuel, use the restroom, eat a few bites of food and drink a little and be rolling again in less than 20 minutes.  Not perfect.  Near perfect.

With the toughest of the rides out of the way, I have the Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox 2017 to look forward to for recognition on the Ironbutt database and new certificates.

An Excalibur update…

 

I got word a while back from Howard Gilbert with some news and fresh pictures of the Excalibur.  His e-mail read:

Hi Todd,

Here’s some photos from Monday’s sail near Vallejo.

We were sailing alongside a guy on a Catalina 25 and taking photos of each other.

Nice day to be out on the water and the boat was moving beautifully.

That’s me with a cap at the helm.

Cheers,

Howard

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It was good to see the boat heeled over like she should be and being enjoyed by Howard and his family.

500 Mile Half Day Ride–Eastern California Desert

 

In order to perform a ride of any real length, one must first get out of Southern California – the LA Basin in particular.  On weekends, it is possible to leave by 0700 and experience only light traffic.  During the week, though, and especially from a coastal location like Westminster, a rider must be on the road so that the basin is cleared by 0600.

Usually that means leaving Westminster at 0400.

I like getting onto the freeway at that time of the day.  Most of the drunks have left the road and the traffic that is left is mainly comprised of commuters that only want to make it to work on time so the pace is pretty swift.  The air is usually cool and damp.  The freeways in LA are well lit.

August and September were too hot to try to perform a 1000+ mile ride.  In addition, late summer and fall means football in the Lipps household and Alex and his teammates play on Friday nights.  I had a Friday off and, not having ridden for more than a few hours non-stop recently, I wanted to ride.  An Ironbutt ride would be out because I’d need to be home by 1700 to make a game, but I calculated that I could be up early, ride about 500 miles, and be back before 1300.  I’d be able to get in a nap and shower before the game.

I really enjoy riding in the southwest desert if the conditions aren’t stifling and the first week of October offered temperatures in the high-eighties midday and cool temperatures in the morning.  Good riding weather was forecasted.

I really enjoyed my June ride up the 395 and looked for a way to include it in at least part of the ride.  In addition, there were two-lane highways in the eastern California desert that I had not ridden on before.  I put together a 500-mile route that included a two-lane loop into and out of the Panamint Valley and through Trona before hooking up with the 395 again in Ridgecrest.

I’ve been saving up for a replacement for my 60Csx GPS since even before the San Francisco trip that gave it fits.  I over-analyzed every potential purchase and considered another Garmin, some Tom-Tom units and even considered purchasing a small tablet to use as a GPS.  Every unit seemed to have positive points but all of them also had reviews placed by individuals that pointed out a bunch of negatives.  In the end, I took a leap of faith and bought another Garmin – the 595LM – and optioned the tire air pressure sensor package.  I fitted it to the Goldwing with a Touratech locking mount because I had used their 60Csx mount for almost ten years and really liked it.  I’ll say a few words about it at the end of this post.

I was up at 0330, showered, and got on the road.  Because I didn’t need a starting receipt for timekeeping, I gassed up the night before and went straight from the garage to the 405.  I’d remembered my sheepskin this time.  I dressed for the warm weather I’d experience later in the ride but layered up in an attempt to avoid hypothermia.  I wore my vented jacket over two heavy cotton shirts.

Heading north on the 405, I wasn’t the fastest vehicle.  I was regularly passed by other cars or motorcycles even though I wasn’t going slow.  I made it past LAX, through the valley, met up with the 14 freeway and made it into the Antelope Valley in a little over an hour.  The amount of traffic making its way south into LA from the Lancaster area was staggering while I was one of very few heading north.  The flood of oncoming headlamp illumination made it difficult to see the lanes going in my direction.  I moved out of the carpool lane to avoid being pinched near the center wall when the road would turn but I couldn’t tell because of the glare.  At the top of the hill traffic separated somewhat and I could see well again.

The temperature also began to drop as I went further inland and up in elevation.  By the time I reached Palmdale the temperature was 44F and I began to shiver.  I attempted to make myself as small as possible and tuck in behind my shield, which cut down on the amount of wind hitting me, but I didn’t warm.  I looked eastward and the horizon was still dark.  The sun wouldn’t be warming me anytime soon.

If I’d been smart, I’d have packed more layers to throw on and because I wasn’t on any clock, pulling over to put them on wouldn’t matter.  I’d planned for warmer nighttime temps and didn’t have anything else with me.  Coffee, though, would do the trick and I pulled off the 14 in Rosamond to get the biggest cup I could get that would fit in my cup holder.  The coffee quickly did it’s trick and I pulled back onto the freeway with a one half of a big cup of coffee remaining.

The sun eventually lit the eastern sky and then outlined the mountains as it rose.  Desert sunrises make early rides worth the effort.  The sky ahead of me to the north was still black but if I rotated my helmet to the right the sky gradually lightened and transitioned from black to violet to blue to red, orange, then the yellow disc of the sun broke the horizon.  I wasn’t cold.

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Photo via 365.missmorgan.wordpress.com

I reached Inyokern where the 14 merged with, and turned into, the 395 north.  Traffic continued to be light and I made good time.  I had in mind a mid-morning arrival at the 190 turnoff even though I knew mathematically I should be there about 0730.  I didn’t need fuel yet but figured a top-off in Olancha would allow me to complete the rest of the ride without another fuel stop.  I also wanted to take a break and have a leisurely breakfast, something I don’t allow myself when I’m on the clock.

Olancha doesn’t have much but it does have a modern Mobil Station and the Ranch House Café.  After refueling I parked and entered the empty restaurant.  I was their first customer of the day.  The hostess, who was also my waitress, said to have a seat anywhere I liked.  I picked a spot that I thought would allow me to watch the Goldwing, but didn’t.  My waitress filled a mug with coffee while her second customers of the day walked in.  In an otherwise empty restaurant they chose to sit in the booth next to me.

The couple spoke to each other in Portugese.  The man didn’t appear to speak any English, the woman, some.  Overhearing them placing their orders was entertaining.  The waitress asked how they’d wanted their eggs cooked.  Neither answered.

“Fried, over easy, over hard, scrambled, poached?”

Nothing.  Pause.

Finally, the waitress motioned her hands as if she was whisking eggs, “Scrambled?”

“Yes,” the woman said.  “He….like…..want….French Toast.”

Shortly afterward I got my order.  Not a bad breakfast, but nothing to travel 225 miles for again.  I didn’t get anything exotic, though – eggs, bacon, potatoes, biscuit and gravy.  The biscuit was good, gravy a little bland and on the sweet side.  I’d prefer it to be pepper-y.  The steak and eggs might be better.

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I exited the restaurant about 45 minutes after I got there, layered up, loaded up and headed south a few hundred yards to meet up with the 190 cut off to the east.  This was the part of the ride I was really looking forward to.

The Panamint Valley lies west of Death Valley and the two are joined by a range of mountains about 25 miles long and peaks as high as 11,000 feet.  The two valleys are similar in size, shape and topography and both are fed by the very intermittent winter rains that are funneled by the mountains and foothills into the lowest points.  Death Valley, being below sea level and about 1400 feet lower than the Panamint Valley, gets all of the attention.

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Panamint valley is intersected by highway 190 which heads roughly east and west and by Panamint Valley Road and Trona Wildrose Road which both run roughly north and south.  The ride up to, and into, the valley is amazing.  The 190, being lightly travelled by anything heavier than a pickup truck, is in nice shape, and freshly paved.  Oh, and curvy.  With almost no traffic it would be easy to travel this road way too fast.  Some of the drop offs are long and steep so I rode quickly but not crazily.  I was able to pass two vehicles heading into the valley.

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Photo by Tony Park via Google Images

After reaching the bottom I passed through Panamint Springs – a community with two campgrounds, one resort, a combination gas station and convenient store and plenty of rocks and tumbleweeds.  I didn’t need fuel or convenience and turned right onto Panamint Valley Road – an OLD, rough, barely paved road.

The coffee and water I’d put in needed out and because I was the only person around for several miles, I pulled over to the right but not quite on the shoulder to relieve myself.  I unplugged my helmet speaker cable but still had in earplugs.  As I stood on the shoulder of the road I heard a jet engine.

I thought to myself, “Hmmm.  A jet’s flying overhead.”  I realized that my earplugs were still in and that would prevent me from hearing any jet in a high-altitude cruise.  About the same time, I sensed movement from right to left in front of me.  I focused on the aircraft and am pretty sure it was a Northrup F-5.  It sped along the valley floor at a very low altitude and at very high speed.  When it was almost out of view to my south it banked east and climbed before I lost sight of it.  Very cool.

Sufficiently empty, I continued south for a while until the road curved to the right and met up with Trona Wildrose Road.  There were a number of signs noting Road Construction at the intersection.  One read “Road Construction next 12 miles.”  To the left the road was little more than a jeep trail.  To the right the road had been torn up and while paving was occurring in the middle, traffic was forced to a single dirt lane on each shoulder.  I rode the Goldwing on the dirt for about five miles until the new construction met up with remnants of the old road.  It handled the dirt well but anytime I go off pavement with a street bike I worry about running over something that could puncture the tire.

I didn’t have to break out my repair kit to fix a flat.

Trona Wildrose Road continues south, then southwest, and coils up the foothills where the Panamint gives way to Valley Wells and Searles Valley.  The Searles Valley includes the Searles dry lakebed, a rich deposit of several minerals, and is urban in comparison to the sparseness of Panamint.  It also includes the town of Trona.  It revolves around mineral mining and has a population of just under 2000.  The town is big enough to support a K-12 school and a high school football team.  The Trona Tornadoes are known for playing on a 100% dirt football field because the salty soil and high temperatures won’t allow for a grass field.  Artificial turf may be out of the question because of cost or because of the heat that might be present on the playing surface.  I’d imagine a 120-degree day on turf might feel like 130 or more.

I passed by the Trona Pinnacle formation and could see them off to my left from the road.  Ridgecrest was only a few minutes further.  Near Ridgecrest I picked up the 395 again and this time travelled south on it towards Hesperia.

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Photo via crystaltrulove.wordpress.com

The ride was slowed by heavy truck traffic and many lengthy no passing zones.  At Randsburg I caught up to a flatbed tractor-trailer with an oversized load that was moving painfully slow.  It took a long time to pass but before I did I had to follow it through a construction zone and had multiple rocks and chunks of blacktop flung back at me.  Some hit my helmet but most hit the front of the Goldwing.  I checked later, expecting damage, and found just a few chips.

I feared the 395 section south of Inyokern would be the low point of the trip and it was.  Heavy, slow traffic and a lot of signals before reaching the 15-freeway made this part of the trip slow, hot and uncomfortable.  I was ready to be home.  I entered the 15-freeway a little before noon and make it home just before 1300 – on time, home safe and with only minor damage to the bike.

While it wasn’t memorable like a certified ride would be, it was a good, fun ride and I spent time in a part of the state I’d never been to before.  The bike performed well, as usual, and I got to get familiar with my new GPS.

I decided on the 595LM for a number of reasons.  Even though Garmin has produced a few turkeys, it is still a leader in the motorcycle GPS industry.  My 60Csx provided good service for a long time both off-road and on.  Because the LM stands for ‘lifetime maps’ I won’t have to buy periodic map and data updates.  It has a large screen with touch commands that work with gloves.  It is available with the optional tire air pressure sensor kit that in my opinion is better than the OE kit Honda provided with my Goldwing.

The 595LM is feature-rich and comes with a number of mounting accessories.  A full, car mount kit with a suction cup mount allows me to use it in my truck and that is where I’ve actually been able to use it the most of the last month.  It works well as an auto GPS and the controls and setup are logical and intuitive.

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In addition, it comes with a non-locking cradle that can be fitted with a RAM ball and used as a motorcycle mount.  It is non-locking, however, and not secure against a would-be thief.

The cradle wiring is overkill.  It includes direct fused power cables, aux input, audio output, microphone input and a USB plug.  Of all the features available, I was interested in using only the power cables and followed the directions here:  http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/garmin-zumo-590-cradle-butchery-the-how-to.976812/ to modify the wiring to include only a heavy-duty, weatherproof plug and cable.  I like how mine turned out but wish Garmin would provide an abbreviated cradle for purchase that included just the abbreviated wiring most riders need.  They don’t, however.

The Touratech locking cradle I purchased for the Goldwing is not inexpensive, but, like the Goldwing, you get what you pay for.  It is attractive, well made, and allows for reasonable security against theft.  A motivated individual with tools and a bunch of time would likely be able to defeat it, but it would be a real challenge to someone walking past it in a gas station or while I was buying food or using the restroom inside.  The Touratech unit attaches to my bike via a security RAM ball link that cannot be loosened and removed without the patterned tool.  In addition, it suspends the GPS on springs and minimizes vibration that would make the screen difficult to read.

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I don’t intend this to be a full review of the functions of the 595LM because that would take up an entire post on its own, so I will just mention a few of the things I like or don’t like.  It is very easy to adjust the display information to suit the rider, or the ride.  I have the customizable display set up to show me front and rear tire pressure and current temperature and the likely arrival time on the right side of the screen.  On the left lower corner is a button that can be pushed to display all of the pertinent trip information including time and miles to the next waypoint, miles ridden, elevation, and a bunch of other data about the current trip or route.

As I said before, the tire air pressure sensor kit is an available option.  For about $100, two sensors can be purchased that are paired to the unit and provide real time, actual tire air pressure information.  The OE Honda setup only provides a dash warning lamp that illuminates when tire air pressure drops below a minimum number.  In other words, pressure may be dropping but the rider will not know it until it is reaches a lower than normal number.

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Because I’m running tires other than the OE provided ones, my pressure is also a little different both front and rear.  It is comforting to watch the pressure reading rise as the tires heat up and know that I can see them lowering well before a warning lamp might become illuminated.  Both sensors were easy to pair and within a pound of the reading of my best tire pressure gauge.  I’m very pleased with their performance so far.

Entering a route created from Garmin’s own mapping software, Basecamp, is identical to the 60Csx.  Basecamp is mostly reviled by internet posters.  I don’t particularly like it, but have become competent with it.

Routes and other trip data can be loaded onto the internal memory or onto a micro SD card.  I currently run a 64gb micro SD and load all info onto it so that the internal memory only has to deal with calculating and navigation.  64gb is total overkill for data but additional files, including music files in MP3, can be accessed and the 595LM can be used as a media player.  I have not experienced any prompts noting memory problems like I had with my 60Csx, and don’t expect to, but I have not ridden into as dense an urban area as I did in July in San Francisco.

Battery life is poor – an hour or two at realistic settings, but I do not plan on running it on the battery alone.  My cradle is hard-wired and plugged into a power port.

The visibility of the screen is good at all times except when in direct, overhead sunlight.  I am satisfied with the screen, however.

Advanced Weather and Traffic are options that can be used with the 595LM when paired with a cell phone.  For a one-time fee of less than $30 a smartphone and the Smartlink App can be used to gather and provide both traffic and weather data.  Smart Traffic does allow for re-routing around heavy traffic and Advanced Weather will prompt for severe weather along the planned route.

Neither are perfect, but for the one-time purchase, I didn’t think I’d miss the $30.  The Smartlink App does use a lot of cell phone battery, however.  On this 500-mile ride it drained my phone to almost nothing in nine hours.  On future rides the phone will be provided with a charging source.

So, I’m looking forward to more rides with the 595LM.  It, along with the tire sensors and locking mount, is an expensive piece of kit.  I am happy with it, however, and will be even more happier with it if I can get anywhere near the 10 years I got from my old GPS.

Feel free to contact me through the comments button with any additional information or questions.

In Search of the Perfect Ride

 

I just completed another 1000-mile ride.  Its my second Saddlesore in a month.  Needless to say, it’s been a good month.  I’ve abandoned documented ride attempts for reasons like poor weather along the route, illness, and even once because of anxiety about the ride (another 1500 in 24-hour attempt with the Kawasaki Voyager).  In every case, I spent a lot of time pre-planning the rides to the minute and in every case, something happened that caused the plan to be altered in some way.  Last month it was the anticipated traffic on the 395.  My goal is to complete one ride according to the plan.  It would be nice if it also allowed me to complete it in a record – for me, anyway – time.  1000 miles can be ridden easily in nineteen hours.  An efficient ride can be completed in eighteen.  Seventeen or less hours can be done legally and safely but almost everything has to go perfectly and traffic has to be light or flowing quickly.

The California weather this spring and early summer has had periods of extremely hot weather but has also had several weeks of very pleasant, sub-90-degree, weather.  Mid July was nice.  The desert and central valley were hot but the coast continued to be very temperate.  I decided on Monday that I would take Friday the 15th off and run the coastal route up the 101 that I cancelled in June at the last minute.

The only attention the bike needed was some modifications to the auxiliary fuel system to eliminate two potential leak areas and a top-off of nitrogen in the tires.  I wanted to try a ride under my J-Cruise helmet instead of my modular in order to see if the added visibility of the large face shield and the ability to easily access my mouth for food and drink on the go would be better.  Otherwise, I packed some snack food, filled my hydration system and set the alarm clock for 0330.

This ride looked really good on paper.  Even the leg between San Jose and the crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge looked, on paper anyway, like I could make really good time.  Getting on the road at 0400 would mean no traffic in LA and midday light in San Francisco.  My plan was to stop for fuel in San Miguel at 275 miles, then motor up to the turnaround point in Santa Rosa.  The trip back would also be done in one stop, this time in San Luis Obispo, with an arrival in Westminster a little after 2100.

I was up at 0330 and at the gas station just before 0400.  My release time was 0405 and with the location of the gas station right on the entrance to the 405 north, I was up to speed almost immediately.  Something didn’t feel right about my seat, though, and I realized that I had forgotten to grab my sheepskin cover off the workbench.  My choices would be to exit the freeway, return home, wake up the household when the dogs barked at me getting back into the garage, or ride on.  I figured my ass was tough enough to go all day without my cover and I did not want to spend 30 minutes re-starting my ride, so I rode on.  The traffic on the 405 was really light and moving at a fast pace.  Even the 101, which can get heavy at any time of the day, was flowing nicely….until I ran into the fog between Thousand Oaks and Camarillo.  Traffic came to a stop and flashing emergency lights were twinkling up ahead.  I filtered forward between lanes of traffic to the accident site.  It looked like a camper trailer that was being pulled down the hill into Camarillo was rear ended by another vehicle.   The trailer was on its side and the contents of its back half were scattered over the lanes.  There were no ambulances on scene.  I hoped no one was injured.

Camarillo came and went and the horizon began to lighten about the time I got to Santa Barbara.  The air was cold but I had layered up so it was more refreshing than actually cold.  When I rode through this area a few years ago on the Voyager, I hadn’t dressed warmly enough and actually began to get hypothermic.  On that ride it was necessary to pull off the highway for 30 minutes to warm up inside a Burger King and drink coffee until my body stopped shivering.  Today, though, the cold just felt good.

I passed the rest stop north of Santa Barbara, a potential piss break spot, and pushed through past San Luis Obispo to my first planned stop in San Miguel.  I’d stopped here before on the hypothermia ride, and like then, was able to get fueled up and back on the road quickly.

Heading north-east on the 101, the cool coastal air warmed and farms were already working at full speed.   I continued ahead of schedule past Camp Bradley.  A young soldier on a Victory motorcycle rode up from behind me and waved as he passed me but then exited almost immediately.  The camp appeared sleepy and almost no activity was going on.  Another lone soldier looked to be setting up targets at a pistol range just west of the freeway.

Highway 101 is a lot like the 395 in that it varies a lot.  At times it is four lanes and very interstate-like.  In other spots it drops down to two lanes and the rider is notified by sign that the freeway ends as it intersects towns or other major roads and begins again after.  Inland 20 miles from the coast it is warm, dry and the surroundings a combination of farms and forests.  It is so unlike crowded southern California that a rider might believe they’ve crossed the border into another state.

I passed through King City, Greenfield and Soledad, gaining time over my schedule.  The weather cooled again in Salinas, located just a few miles from the coastline, but then quickly warmed as I approached Gilroy.  The San Martin airport, just west of the 101, was quiet mid-morning.  No tarmac traffic was present.

I made my first mistake south of San Jose when I remained on the 101 instead of taking the 85 to the 280 to allow for a more direct shot to the Golden Gate Bridge.  The GPS had started giving me problems – problems that would escalate later – and so I plowed forward into the heavy traffic paralleling the west bay shoreline.  I was able to split lanes and make decent time, but the time I reached the 380, at San Francisco International, I had lost some of the cushion I earned early in the ride.

The 380 is just a short connector back to the 280, into Daly City and then into San Francisco.  Traffic through San Francisco State University was better than I’ve experienced it in the past, but still heavy and it took almost thirty minutes to get to the bridge after exiting the 280 at the 1.  I was still ahead of schedule, but not by much.  I would still likely be able to reach the turnaround point in time.

Golden Gate Bridge traffic was moving well and the air blowing into the bay was cool.  It was the third time I’ve ridden a motorcycle – each time a different one – over the bridge.  The wind north of the bridge picked up quite a bit and I got pushed around each time I passed a canyon or mountain channel running east and west as the cool coastal air pushed into the bay area.

Traffic stopped several times for construction and a CHP motor officer and I split lanes in sequence.  The longest part of the ride so far was the hour spent heading north after San Francisco.  It seemed to take forever and only some of it was actually spent in fifth gear.

I usually use Google Street-View to recon gas stations and restaurants when planning a ride in order to have a picture in my mind of what I’ll be looking for, and I was confident I knew exactly where I was going to exit.  The GPS was indicating memory errors and I missed my planned exit when it looked nothing like I expected it to.  I kept going north and exited in Healdsburg, about five miles further north than I had planned to go.

Healdsburg offered me a gas station with a Togo’s sandwich shop inside.  I pulled up to a fuel pump, put the bike on the center stand, and prepared to fuel the bike.  Almost immediately another customer walked over to me.  “Sure is a fancy motorcycle you got there,” he said.

I thanked him and said I liked it very much.

“What’s that tank there on the back seat?”

“It’s a fuel tank.  I like to do longer rides where the fuel range comes in handy.”

“How does it get fuel to the bike?  Is there a pump setup?”

I explained that it was gravity-fed and a pretty simple set-up and that it gave me about 11 gallons total.

“Wow.  How many miles is that?”

“Over 400,” I said.  “I left Orange County this morning at 4 am.”

“Crazy,” he said.

Then I explained that I was at the turnaround point of a timed ride and that I was on the clock.  It was the wrong thing to say because he seemed to take it as my being unwilling to talk with him anymore.  He quietly got into his truck and pulled away from the pump.  He drove an old Toyota T100 and pulled a landscaping style trailer.  The trailer rattled as it drove away.  It sounded as if the bushings still in the suspension had deteriorated to nothing.  The brakes squeaked loudly when he applied them to stop at the driveway leading out of the gas station.

I really didn’t mean to come across as angry or to hurt his feelings, but he must have taken it that way.  I guess a big man, fully geared to look even bigger, has to be extra kind just to be perceived as non-threatening out in the world.  On the bike and inside my helmet I’m alone and have one goal – make it safely to the next stop.  I’m sure I don’t appear very approachable.

I had a sandwich from Togo’s made and ate it at the bike while a hippie couple about my age tried to fix inoperative turn signals on their 1971 Volkswagen Bus.  I thought about offering help, but the man pulled a new turn signal switch out of a box and appeared to know what he was doing.  I got on the road fifteen minutes later than the plan – the sandwich was a bit dry and didn’t go down easily – and attempted to get back on schedule.  The large cushion that I was so happy about in the morning was gone.

I headed south in good shape.  My back and neck weren’t sore and my butt was doing well in spite of the missing sheepskin.  I spotted the Shell Station I’d missed coming north.

During my stop in Healdsburg I’d tried to figure out what was happening with my GPS.  It is an older 60CSX Garmin but has always worked really well for me.  It has the latest firmware available for it and new maps on a 8gb memory card but still locked up when loading a route and then gave an out of memory prompt.  I deleted my route, all waypoints and tracks in an attempt to gain back memory but each time I tried to load a new destination, this time my house, it would attempt to load and then lock up.  I knew the way home and didn’t absolutely have to have it but did like having some of the smaller details it would provide during the ride.  I tried my home address again and this time it worked.

Traffic was lighter going south and I reached the Golden Gate again in less than an hour.  The GPS was working again, for now, and I remembered that the turnoff for the Highway 1 connector road happened soon after exiting the bridge near the Presidio.  The GPS froze again before exiting the bridge, causing me to miss the turn to the Presidio and I ended up turning right on Divisadero Street with the thought that I was only a few blocks east and could make my way back to SFSU.

Divisadero Street is steep.  And long.  It summits above much of the city and would provide a pretty view if I had planned to stop and enjoy views.  Instead, it put me into the middle of the city and early Friday afternoon traffic was building.  After climbing, Divisadero descends steeply, then continues into an endless chain of traffic lights.  San Francisco appears to punish drivers by synching as few lights as possible.  My thought is that it’s done in order to “encourage” use of public transportation.

In any event, I ended up in the Castro.  Fortunately, there were no events going on and while foot traffic was heavy, street traffic was light.  It didn’t matter, though, because I rarely got through more than a single traffic light and literally crept forward foot by foot.  The Castro is clean, very clean, and the sense of community is high.  People walked holding hands and smiled when talking to each other.  The banners on the buildings and the stripes painted on the crosswalks indicate a sense of pride, togetherness, and fellowship that seems to be lost in much of urban America.  The fact that this predominantly gay neighborhood has that made me feel good.  The residents here appear to have banded together and appear to function as a unit with happiness as a common goal.  Whether or not they would like to be compared to it, the Castro appears much more like a small mid-western town than it does a city neighborhood.  While the politics of both groups would likely be at odds, the motivations that drive both seem similar.  They are more alike than different.

I knew I needed to move to the west, but no large streets seemed to go that way.  I attempted to stop and use my phone as a GPS but San Francisco traffic lights worked against me again.  The traffic lights that caused me to stop every block also didn’t last long enough for me to remove gloves, check the map on my phone and get my bearings.  I finally had to pull over, out of traffic, to be able to read my phone and figure out a plan to get back to a freeway, any freeway.  Unfortunately, that didn’t come easy.

I continued south, south-west without a freeway in sight when I noticed a CBR250 that was shadowing me.  At a stop sign I motioned him next to me and flipped up my shield.  He did the same and I yelled over to him, “Where’s the nearest freeway?”

“The 280.  You gotta go to your left.  You’re not too far.  Ten blocks or something like that,” he said.

“Nice CBR.  How do you like it?” I asked.

“It’s no Goldwing,” he said.  With that, he turned right and disappeared into traffic.

I did eventually find the 280 and headed south.  Traffic between the city and San Jose was relatively light but the traffic mix was beginning to build in the wrong way.  In this area I expected to see Lexus’ and Acuras and BMWs.  I saw some Teslas, which makes sense, but I also saw SUVs loaded up with families and a building number of RVs.  I made the same mistake going south that I did coming north.  The 85 exit passed behind me and I was committed to head through downtown San Jose on the 280 before again meeting up with the 101.  Traffic in San Jose in the mid-afternoon was heavy and I split lanes the whole way.  While I moved faster than car traffic, I was losing time again.

South of San Jose the traffic didn’t get much better.  At one point I was able to make good time but the experience was stressful and tiring.

I split lanes on the 101 south, creeping my way forward.  If traffic was stopped I moved at 10 mph.  If traffic was moving I sped up enough so that I was overtaking vehicles but wasn’t taking any chances.  If my way was pinched closed, I let up on the throttle and waited for an opening.  I cycled between using my low beams, high beams and the Clearwater lamps to let people know I was coming and in most cases they would move over to allow me through.  A few drivers would make eye contact with me, smile, and pull closer to the traffic beside them, blocking my way.

It was after one of these encounters that I looked in my rear view mirror and noticed a bike splitting lanes with what looked like another bike behind it.  The front bike had a round headlamp and high bars.  When it got closer I confirmed it was a Harley Davidson.  The second bike was, too, and based on their progress through traffic, they looked like the perfect blockers for the much bigger, wider Goldwing.  I moved over to the left and allowed them both to pass me and then immediately jumped back into line and stayed as close as I could to the second rider.

Rider 1 worked his way up to narrow traffic and immediately pulled in his clutch and revved his engine, noise barking from his straight pipes.  People in the car pool lane moved left.  People in the number two lane moved right.  I followed in what felt like a boat wake as traffic was pushed to the sides by the rider in front.  We ate up miles and very quickly moved through traffic at 45 mph.  They pulled away from me at times but I was always able to reel them back in.  At one point I looked back using my mirrors and noticed another rider had latched onto my tail.

Approaching Morgan Hill I saw yet another rider on a faired and bagged Harley splitting lanes between the number 2 and number 3 lanes.  The bike reached us, then passed us, and then the rider moved over to jump into our lane between the number one and number two rider.  The rider was female, petite, and was wearing a full face helmet and some type of ‘cut’ vest.  The wording on the back said “Cycko Gals” (I think, I later searched that term and didn’t come up with anything).

She, and the number one rider, pulled away from us.  The rider in front of me tried to keep up but couldn’t and he and I backed off and split lanes on our own at a much slower pace.  The rider behind me continued behind me for an exit or two and then got off the 101.

This time the San Martin Airport had a single Piper Arrow turning at the threshold and he began his acceleration for takeoff just before I reached the runway.  His flaps weren’t extended and his roll was long before finally taking to the air.  By the time he was airborne he was moving across the ground faster than me and I got to watch him retract his gear and climb away from me.  I had a chance to fly an Arrow once.  The flight was similar to the ones I took in a 172RG.  The 172RG flew just like a standard 172, maybe a little heavier and more stable.  The Arrow was the same way in comparison to a fixed gear Cherokee derivative.  Neither flew that much faster but both included that cool gear configuration lever.

It was hot and I had not been drinking enough to fend off dehydration so I started to feel symptoms of it.  At the same time, I was doing the math in my head and realized that with my Healdsburg turnaround point and the unplanned detour in San Francisco I was going to go too far between documented stops and my ride would be disqualified if I went all the way to San Luis Obispo before stopping again.

The IBA requires stops less than 300 miles apart for a rider to document the ride.  Most bikes without auxiliary fuel can’t exceed that number and gaining receipts at each gas stop keeps a rider in compliance with this rule.  The rule exists for a number of reasons but safety is atop the list of reasons why.  Forcing a rider to make stops to document where they are and when also force to rider to break up the monotony of travelling in the saddle with eyes scanning the road ahead.  Doing anything else – stopping for fuel, eating, drinking, peeing – helps the rider stay alert.

The IBA also needs to have a detailed and accurate picture of where the rider’s been and at what times in order to reconstruct the ride on paper and verify that he or she has actually performed the ride.  If a ride is circular or square in nature, verification is needed to establish the extreme points in the ride to eliminate possible short cuts that would shorten the ride to below the minimum threshold in miles.

So, with San Luis Obispo too far off and a need to cool down and generate a receipt, I stopped in Gilroy at a Carl’s Jr and bought a soda.  It was about 1600 and late enough in the day that I wanted to start introducing caffeine into my system to stay awake and alert for the rest of the ride.  When I hopped off the bike I noticed two men in a pickup truck looking at me and talking.  I worry about theft when I leave the bike unattended and even through the GPS has a locking mount, it would not be hard to break and steal it.  I covered the GPS with my gloves and helmet.

I walked in, bought a soda and made sure the receipt had the complete address and date and time stamp on it.  It did.  I walked to the window and checked – both guys still in the truck, both still looking at the bike, both still talking.  I used the bathroom and came out and checked again.  One of the men was out of the truck and walking over to the bike.  The air conditioned break now over, I walked out and met him at the Goldwing.

He was a little guy, maybe 5’8” at most, and he didn’t get closer than a few feet away from the bike.  He noticed me walking over and took another step backwards.

“My buddy and I both ride and were wondering about that tank on the back of your bike.  Is it for fuel?”

I explained that it was and it added almost five gallons to my fuel total.

“What kind of range does that give you?” he asked.

“About 400 miles or so.”

“Does it have a pump?”

He asked a few more questions and I realized that not only was he harmless, he was a good dude.  We talked about distance riding and the weather along the 101.  While it was 90 degrees here in Gilroy, 20 miles ahead in Salinas it would be 15 degrees cooler.

I told him, as politely as I could, that I had to get going, and he smiled, put his hand out for a shake and then walked back to the truck.  I looked to the right and saw that the 101 was moving slowly to the south.  I put on my helmet and gloves and rode back to the freeway.  It was only backed up for a couple miles.  Most of the traffic was turning east at the 152 and after that things sped up significantly.

Salinas didn’t disappoint.  As I rolled down the hill into the township, the air cooled and the traffic slowed.  I knew it would only last a few miles as the 101 turned southeast and away from the coast once I got out of town, but I enjoyed the cool down while I had it.

I had entered the heart of coastal valley farming and passed one large industrial farm after another.  Chualar, Soledad, Greenfield and King City came and went.  The sun crept towards the horizon.  This stretch was the first one that I could begin to make up the time that I had lost in the early afternoon.  My speed was up but not so fast that I’d stand out.  I waited to prey on rabbits.  Hunting was good.

The first car was a white Mazda being driven by two young males.  They passed me doing about 90 miles per hour and were followed by a blue Ford Fusion with Colorado plates.  I allowed them to get about ½ mile ahead of me and then I increased my cruise control to pace them from a comfortable distance.  This went on for about ten miles.  The white Mazda was about 100 yards ahead of the Fusion when it crested a small hill and lit up the brake lights.  The Fusion slowed, too, and a few seconds later I cancelled the cruise control.

A CHP cruiser that was hiding just beyond the rise was in pursuit of the white Mazda and pulled them over at the next exit.  The blue Fusion was now the lead car and, again, I let him get about a half mile ahead of me.  His speed increased and so did mine.

Let me take a minute and explain that shadowing a rabbit is one technique to avoid tickets but it is not without risk.  On a clear day the CHP has aircraft patrolling remote sections of highways and they are almost impossible to detect.  The pilot will look for traffic that stands out or that is obviously travelling over the speed limit and radio down to a cruiser to do the dirty work.  The only safety against airplanes is a low deck.  If the cloud cover is down to 1000 feet or so they won’t usually be up.  If the skies are broken or clear, and it’s daytime, it’s best to assume the plane is airborne.

Some cruisers will hang back far enough not to be noticed and wait for someone to stand out.  It’s extremely important to check traffic in the mirrors and get familiar with the headlamp and grille setup of the current fleet of CHP vehicles.  The new Explorers are tough to spot in the mirrors because they look just like the civilian Sport models.

The blue Fusion only held back for a mile or so before speeding up again.  He climbed to 85 mph and settled at that speed.  I noticed movement in my mirrors and saw a vehicle gaining on us.  It didn’t look like a CHP vehicle but it was definitely gaining on me.  I slowed a little and allowed it to pass me.  It was a Toyota Sienna minivan filled with an entire family.  The driver appeared to be focused on driving fast but not necessarily driving smart.  Just before entering Paso Robles, he got nailed.

A CHP cruiser must have lit him up on radar but the Sienna brake lights never illuminated.  He blew past the police vehicle in the center median.  The driver never turned his head.  One of the kids in the back seat did, though.  The lights turned on and the cruiser pulled him over on the side of the road.

The blue Fusion was finally pulled over between San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach.  He and the trooper exited the freeway for his ticket to be written.

Without another candidate to play rabbit for me, I slowed down and kept my speed just above the limit until I reached Pismo Beach.  A few years ago when I rode my VStrom down from San Francisco after purchase, I stopped in Pismo Beach for fuel.  The stock seat on the VStrom was torture and by the time I had reached Pismo I was in agony.  I stopped at the same Chevron station as I had on that trip.  The difference this time was that I had a Russell seat on the Goldwing and I was feeling no pain.  I did notice, however, that without having my sheepskin between my pants and the vinyl seat, I was starting to develop a rash on the back of my legs.  It wasn’t bad, but was beginning to burn.

The Chevron had a Jack-In-The-Box restaurant attached to it and I tried to avoid eating something from there.  The convenience store cooler did not have any appealing looking sandwiches, though, so I ended up getting a burger and a coffee.  While I stood at the bike eating my dinner, I saw a young woman with two passengers in her Toyota 4-Runner pull up to a nearby pump.  She got out of the vehicle and the man, older than her, probably her father, went in to use the restroom.  She paid for fuel and went back to her truck.

In the meantime, two older women in a sedan parked right next to me in front of the store.  The driver exited, looked down at my hydration system and said, “Oh that cooler thingy is just the cutest thing ever.”

“Thanks,” was all I could say.  Cutest?

She smiled, walked past and disappeared into the store.  The young woman in the 4-Runner had finished filling her gas tank and hopped back into driver’s seat and began to drive away.  The nozzle was still engaged with the fuel tank and she moved about four feet before a loud “Pop!” rang out.  She stopped, got out and put her hands to her mouth.  Her father exited the right front door and ran around the rear of the 4-Runner and checked the condition of the truck first.  The daughter, meanwhile, picked up the dispenser end of the hose and stood speechless.  No fuel leaked.

The father tried to put the hose back in place but was unable to and they stood and talked for a moment about what to do.  I was half way between them and the cashier.  I looked over my shoulder to see if the cashier had noticed what happened.  It didn’t look like he knew yet.

The father placed the nozzle on top of the pump and they both got back in the truck.  At first I thought they were going to run for it, but they ended up parking near me on the other side of the “cutest thing ever” sedan.

They walked in and explained what happened to the cashier.  He said it was fairly common for that to happen and it would cost $150 to repair.  The father tried to argue but quickly realized that he wasn’t in a position to do anything other than pay for the repair.  He handed the cashier his credit card.

I, meanwhile, had finished my burger and went back inside for a refill on the coffee to drink on the way to Santa Barbara.  I also purchased a Five Hour Energy for the receipt – the gas pump receipt was missing some information and I decided not to take a chance – and drank it.  I wouldn’t be falling asleep on the bike tonight.

I put my gear on and started the Goldwing for the last leg to Westminster.  The days in mid-July are still long and the sun was just beginning to set when I left Pismo Beach.  Traffic was light and I was making good time.  I found a new rabbit in a Toyota Land Cruiser that was travelling a lot faster than I would in a lifted four-wheel-drive vehicle.  I stayed about ½ mile behind him and cruised about 80 mph.

Just before entering Santa Barbara I had an experience unlike any I’ve had on a motorcycle.  I was riding with the cruise control on and was very comfortable.  The temperature was mild and the flow of cool air through my vented jacket felt great.  I was awake, alert and feeling really good.  With no warning, I had the sensation that I was holding onto the grips with my palms up instead of palms down like one normally would.  I moved my shoulders and arms and had perfect control over them and felt no pain or numbness.  I took my hands off the grips and visually checked that they were palms down.  They were.  I moved my head and neck and felt no odd pops or creaks.  I lifted both feet off of the pegs one at a time and everything felt normal.  I felt, though, like my hands were palms up even though I could verify that they weren’t.  Odd.

Five minutes later the sensation went away and never returned.  Weird.  They only thing I can think was the amount of caffeine I put into my body in Pismo Beach.  I usually will have a single cup of coffee in the morning and sometimes a soda during the day.  The amount I took in in one sitting was drastically more than I was used to.  Maybe that was it, maybe not.

I lost my rabbit going through Santa Barbara when the Land Cruiser continued at speed and I slowed down because I didn’t think it was safe at 80 mph.  It didn’t take long before I picked up another one, this time a two-door Civic driven by a young man who had converted all of the interior lighting to purple LEDs.  He sat in a purple pod of light and I wondered if it was distracting for him.  He led me through Oxnard and Camarillo.  He didn’t get stopped for speeding but eventually exited the freeway.

I was near Calabasas before I found another lead car but by this time the flow of traffic had gotten heavier and faster and having a rabbit wasn’t really necessary anymore.  I just flowed with traffic and took advantage of spots here and there to speed up then slow down when it made sense.

I exited the 101 at the 405 south and climbed out of the valley and then descended into the Los Angeles basin.  Passing LAX I had a 777 cross directly overhead for landing.  Even though I’ve lived here a long time and have had this happen dozens of times, I still get a kick out of it.

It took another forty minutes to travel from LAX to home and thinking back on the ride a couple weeks later, I don’t remember a single thing about that portion of the leg – smooth sailing I guess.  I reached the Circle K station I like to start and stop rides at and put $1 worth of gas into the Goldwing to generate a ride-ending receipt.  It was 2248.

My ride planner said I should arrive at the San Miguel Chevron at 0747.  I got there at 0746.  I was still ahead of schedule entering San Francisco but lost a little time when I stayed on the 101 too long.  The planned turnaround arrival was estimated to be at 1225 and with a departure at 1255.  I actually got to the revised turnaround point at 1235 and departed at 1310.  One stop on the way back turned into two and I passed through San Luis Obispo about 1900.  My schedule planned for a 1825 stop there.  My planned arrival time in Westminster was 2140.  I got in 48 minutes later.  The actual ride was 24 miles longer than the planned ride.  Getting lost in San Francisco really slowed me down.

The ride as planned:

Planner

The actual ride:

Log

The ride, in many ways, was the easiest 1000 miler I’ve done.  I didn’t feel much fatigue and the typical middle back soreness I usually fight was just barely present.  I did have a rash on the backs of my legs but I know it occurred because I forgot my sheepskin and probably because of the pants I wore in this ride.  The dye on the denim may have reacted with my skin and the heat and the non-porous vinyl seat material.

I’ve had my GPS for about 10 years.  It’s worked without issue many, many times in the past.  It survived being pounded into the ground when a friend – who had the GPS in his backpack – was flipped off his dirt bike, sending him over the bars to land on his back, padded by the backpack and my GPS.  The scratches on its face are reminders of that crash but even after that, it continued to work perfectly.  The only thing I can think of was that the complex and numerous street count in San Francisco was too much for it to handle and used up all of its limited memory.  It did work fine through San Francisco on a similar ride in June 2013 but on that ride I was using it pretty much as I received it out of the box.  I’d tweaked things recently and may have turned up the detail to a level it couldn’t handle.  I don’t think I’ll trust it if I go into an area I’m not familiar with and so I am shopping for its replacement.

I was successful in completing the ride safely.  I did not receive a traffic ticket.  I didn’t have any major mechanical or equipment breakdowns.

It wasn’t the perfect ride but I’ll keep planning for the perfect ride. One of these times it’ll happen.

On Top of the World

Kayln knows I love to ride with her – yes, she’s licensed.  She passed the MSF course to earn her M1 about two years ago.  At 22 years-old, busy, and about to move out of the house, we don’t get to see enough of each other.  She offered to go for a ride to get breakfast the week after Father’s Day and I would have cancelled anything else to go on it.

I let her plan the ride and she proposed we ride down Pacific Coast Highway to Laguna and ride up to the top of the world, then find some place to get breakfast, then ride north back to Westminster.  She would ride a bike I built for her and I would ride the Enfield.

A year ago I bought a 1981 Honda Passport – a derivative of the Honda Cub, something like 20 jillion of those were built – for its’ engine.  The previous owner had swapped in a 140cc motor – exactly twice the original displacement.  I wanted this motor for another project.

The Passport was in a state that has become harder to find.  Restored, perfect examples are out there as well as bikes that were forgotten, neglected, left outside to the elements, and look terrible.  This bike was in between – a true survivor.  It looked good but not perfect.  It cleaned up nicely but still had areas with patina heavy enough that it won’t polish away.  It was worthy of being put onto the road.

I removed the 140 engine and replaced it with the original 70cc model.  A carburetor rebuild and timing adjustment was all it took to get the original engine running.  70cc, though, is hardly enough to move a guy my size around so a few months later I fitted a 125cc pitbike motor into the frame, updated the charging system, put on new tires and improved the performance of the brakes to turn it into a perfect little city bike – for Kayln.

IMG_9413

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She’s ridden it some but I seem to be the one who putts around on it the most.  Its’ basket makes it perfect for picking up lunch or a single bag of groceries.  It sips fuel.  With the 70cc motor in it, I could ride it about 40 mph.  After the swap I could go 50+.  Her top speed, at about half my weight, is a lot higher.

We got up and were rolling by 0830.  Sunday morning coastal traffic was fairly heavy already and we moved slowly south.  The air was cool and the breeze felt good through a vented jacket.  Several car shows must have wrapped up as we transited PCH because we shared lanes with 1958 and 1967 Corvettes, a nicely original Porsche Speedster, and a 1965 Mustang convertible.  Once through Newport Beach we were able to carry more speed.

The Top of the World is a park located at the end of Alta Laguna Blvd.  It sits about 1000 feet above sea level less than a mile from the coast and on a clear day, most of Orange County is in sight.  Its’ miles and miles of trails are used by hikers, runners and mountain bike riders.  We parked the bikes and took a short walk to the summit lookout.

We walked back to the bikes and rode down the hill to the Orange Inn Café.  We ordered the same breakfast and found a small table to sit at and talk.  She shared with me that not only had she recently been promoted to a training officer position at the ambulance company she works for – which I did know – but they also offered her a supervisor position to manage the crew of drivers.  In less than a year with the company she’s gone from a recently certified EMT to a college graduate, to a training officer, and then been offered a management position.

I understood the drive to promote as quickly and as often as was possible.  The same types of opportunities came my way at a young age.   It’s tempting to accept any promotions that come your way but sometimes it’s best to let experience catch up with the offers.  It is easy to move too quickly into a position and then suffer for a while during the acclimatization process.  We agreed that the offer was an honor but then asked if it would mean a lot in the long run.  The goal was still to be accepted into a nursing school, earn another BS and an RN degree and get a job in a busy ER in a large hospital.

It was nice to talk without the input of a bunch of other people.  Breakfast was excellent.  The company was better.

We headed up the coast into even heavier traffic than the morning.  At one point, though, PCH dips down to sea level for a short time and it was on this decline that Kayln throttled the Passport to 62 mph indicated.  She couldn’t tell that because the Passport speedo only displays 55 mph.  The Enfield, though, doesn’t, and it indicated she went that.  The number is probably a little enthusiastic but it was still more than keeping up with traffic.

We made a mistake coming home by attempting to parade our way through downtown Huntington Beach.  Traffic crept as vintage cars and motorcycles of all types drove past the many restaurants with front patios on the street.  The Passport, with an uncharacteristically loud muffler, drew a lot of attention.  Maybe it was the young lady in the bright red helmet.  The old guy on the old looking, new, Enfield, went mostly unnoticed.

Today, Kayln put in an application on an apartment and it looks like she’ll really be on her own on the 19th of August.  Pride and sadness are what I’m feeling tonight.  The memory of the ride, though, will be around long time from now.