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:


The actual ride:


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.



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.

Best Laid Plans and 206 Songs

About two weeks into the healing process of my broken foot I was back onto the Enfield.  I used the front brake only, rode at a sedate pace and gave traffic ahead of me plenty of extra space.  My family, of course, was unaware of this.

Even after my foot had healed, I was a little fearful of riding the Goldwing because of the possibility of an emergency forcing me to place the weight of the bike on my right foot causing a re-fracture.  I worked on a number of improvements to the bike in order to be ready for some long rides in late spring.

A lot of the time while healing was spent putting together interesting routes into 1000, 1500 and 2000 mile segments.  I routed a potential CC50 (Pacific Coast to Atlantic Coast in fifty hours or less).  I routed a Bun Burner (1500 miles) from San Diego to the Canadian border using primarily Interstate 15.  I routed Highway 95 from Arizona across the Canadian border and about 200 miles north to its terminus.

To get back into the swing of documented rides I wanted to take on the ET Highway in Nevada.  Only about 1/3 would be interstate but sparse Nevada would offer near interstate speeds.  Near 300-mile fuel stops would be planned, and possible with the auxiliary tank.  Unfortunately, pleasant June turned really hot and a coastal ride made better sense.  I would leave early Friday morning, June 17th.

I planned a simple up and back route using the 101 freeway.  It would stay relatively close to the coast, offer cooler temperatures and plenty of fuel stops, and allow for two trips across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Speeds would be lower and that would allow for better fuel mileage.  One stop on the way up for fuel, the turnaround, and one stop for fuel on the way back would allow for a calm, 17 to 18-hour ride.  I planned to leave Westminster at 0400.  The Santa Barbara fires near the 101 freeway forced a change in plans only hours before departure.

I checked the weather and found that the higher altitudes along the 395 freeway would have bearable temperatures all the way to Reno, Nevada.  The fuel station and market at Hallelujah Junction – the intersection of the 395 and 70 – was a logical turnaround point.  The ride length would be about 1040 miles.  It was easy to route and upload to my GPS unit.  I was asleep before 1000.

I woke at 0330, showered, quickly, dressed and rode to the Beach Boulevard Mobil station next to the 22 freeway that would allow a quick getaway once I was on the clock.  All trip odometers were reset to zero and all data expect for my route was deleted from the GPS.  Because it had sat without power for a while, my Ipod automatically started at song 1.

Everything was set and accounted for, I filled both fuel tanks.  Less than 60 seconds after starting the engine I was on the clock and moving eastbound on the 22 freeway.  It was 0409.

I had planned on taking the 15 north from Corona to Hesperia but missed the northbound 15 ramp when I was blocked by a long line of trucks.  This early in the morning meant that any route would result in light traffic and I continued on the 91 until it turned into the 215 in Riverside.  The 215 wound through San Bernardino and in a few minutes I began the climb up the Cajon Pass.  At 0527 I reached the ramp to the 395 and stopped to top off my main tank and gather a receipt showing I went through the Inland Empire to the 395 rather than the shorter trip through Los Angeles and up the 14 freeway.  I had forgotten to take pain relievers at the start of the ride, so I ate a Clif Bar and took my vitamins and 800 mg of Ibuprofen.  I also bought a coffee to sip on the long straight section of road between Hesperia and Randsburg.

Truck traffic was heavy on the 395 and with many No Passing Zones, I made slow progress.  I took advantage of any stops to filter to the head of traffic and by the time I reached Boron, there were no more vehicles to pass or coffee to drink.  The sun moved higher and higher and the morning chill was replaced by a blanket of warmth.  I was layered up but still not too hot.

The 395 meets the 14 at Inyokern and an additional two lanes are added as well as separation between northbound and southbound traffic.  I settled in at about 75 miles per hour with the cruise control on and noticed a bike behind me.  He crept up until he was about 50 yards behind me and then shadowed me for close to 100 miles.  It was like having another riding partner along for the ride.  He was on a red FJR1300.  Before exiting the freeway he passed me, waved, then slowed for the off ramp.

The approximate halfway point for the first leg would be in Independence and originally I had planned a fuel stop there.  Because I topped off in Hesperia and had only just switched to my auxiliary tank I decided to push on to Bishop before stopping for fuel.  The mountains to the left of me were incredible.  The coloring and patterns were a sharp contrast to the bland, brown mountains in much of Southern California.  They form the eastern barrier of the Yosemite area and looked very similar to the pictures Ansel Adams took there.  I stopped once for some pictures but an Iphone doesn’t capture their real beauty.  After being passed by a slow motorhome I’d passed once already, I decided that any future pictures would be taken from the saddle.



In Bishop I stopped at the first Shell Station I came to for fuel, a snack, and a piss break.  I had to wait behind several motorhomes before I could fuel up and said to myself, “I’m glad I’m going north this early.  It’ll probably be really busy with campers going to Yosemite later in the day.”  It was Friday morning.  Camper traffic would be heavy.



After fueling, I passed the same slow moving camper a third time.  The driver looked down at me and gave me a thumbs up.  While I was on time, it became evident how much more important moving was than speed.

Originally I had planned that most camper traffic would be going north from Southern California but after I passed the turn offs for Yosemite, it hit me that just as much traffic would probably be coming south from Reno and beyond.  My afternoon timing counted on maintaining the pace I set in the morning.  When the 395 converted to two lanes near Mono Lake, and stayed that way most of the way to Carson City, I realized that the RV traffic would be too heavy and slow to make good time on the 395.  Thoughts of alternate routing began.



Between Mono Lake and Bridgeport I shared the road with a rider on a Harley Dyna model of some type.  I originally passed him and pulled away from him.  I was using my cruise control.  Eventually he decided to pace me and moved up to a spot behind me.  I could just hear his exhaust over the sounds of my helmet speakers and through plugged ears.

When I slowed for Bridgeport I was in almost perfect alignment with runway 16.  A Pilatus PC-12 had just lifted off the ground, flown just out of ground effect, retracted his wheels, and accelerated at 30 feet above the runway.  When he reached the end of the runway – just as I reached the curve in the road at the end of the runway – the Pilatus pitched up steeply.  After going nearly vertical for several seconds, the pilot began a wide, circular climb away from the airport.  While I was on the best bike on the road that day, I would have rather spent an hour piloting the Pilatus.


In Bridgeport the Harley rider got around me and I missed a traffic light so he got way out in front of me.  I didn’t figure I’d see him again but eventually caught him after crossing the border into Nevada.


The 395 provides a gorgeous ride.  The West Walker River runs parallel to the road and the water level was high and a lot of people were fly fishing.  Much of the gradual descent into the Carson City area after a summit of approximately 7500 feet is spent viewing mountains and meadows and snow and glaciers at the higher altitudes.

I was only one mile inside of Nevada when I spotted the first Nevada Highway Patrol officer.  He was hidden from southbound traffic just beyond the crest of a hill.  I reduced speed when I saw his car but didn’t need to.  The speeds on this ride rarely went more than 5 mph over the posted limit and I had plenty of time.

Traffic approaching Carson City got heavier.  The RVs I dodged earlier going north thinned out when I approached the turnoffs for Yosemite.   Unfortunately, the southbound RV traffic was getting heavier.  They would likely be turning off for Yosemite, too, but that meant that I would risk being behind a long, long line of them for a few hundred miles and not having many opportunities to pass them.  My large time cushion would be eaten up quickly.

Carson City itself had both heavy traffic and a lot of road construction.  I crept into town and thought it would get better when I could turn east on the 50 for a mile or two before getting on the 580 to go around Carson City and up to Reno.  Traffic on the 580 was heavy because of road repairs, too.  I crept at 5 mph for a few miles at one point and saw that it would be the same coming back.  I decided that when I got to the turnaround point I would re-route and find a different way home.  I should have considered the heavy vacation traffic on a Friday afternoon.

Reno traffic was lighter and I reached Hallelujah Junction on time just before 1300.  I fueled up but still had plenty of fuel in both tanks.  Distracted by something else, I forgot to have a receipt printed and to turn off my auxiliary fuel tank valve.  I went inside the store to buy some Lemonheads and get the receipt I forgot earlier.  I searched their sandwich selection in the refrigerator, didn’t see anything I wanted, ate two Clif bars instead, and downed more Ibuprofen.


When I got back to the Goldwing I saw a puddle forming below the bike.  Forgetting to close the fuel valve overfilled the main tank and flooded the charcoal canister.  Eventually raw fuel spilled out of the vent.  I turned the valve off and waited for the dripping to stop.  In the meantime, a couple stopped in the parking lot and asked if I needed help.  I told them I was okay and explained what I’d done.

I needed to find another route home and looked on my phone to see if the 70 would be the best route to the 5.  It wasn’t.  While it looked like it would a great road to ride, it would take me too far to the north before eventually picking up the 5.  The best bet was going to be backtracking to Reno and picking up the 80 West to Sacramento where I’d meet up with the 5.  Unfortunately, I’d hit Sacramento just as people were heading home after work, but at this point it meant a slow line of traffic on the 395 or a temporary slowdown and likely dinner break in Sacramento.  The route added about 80 miles to my overall trip but I had plenty of time and figured I’d still be home before midnight.


I expected the bike to run poorly for a while with the wet charcoal canister but I didn’t notice a difference.  The 80 is a great ride through Truckee and the Donner Pass.  The temperature dropped about ten to fifteen degrees and patchy cloud cover hung just above the mountain tops.  An accident on the western descent slowed traffic down but I was able to split lanes and not lose too much time.  By the time I got to Sacramento the temperature had risen to about 90.  I was still layered up from the earlier, cooler part of the ride and began to get uncomfortably hot.

While I had hydrated well throughout the day, three Clif bars didn’t provide enough calories.  I needed to stop and eat some protein and shed a few layers.  I got through the Friday afternoon commuter traffic and stopped in Lodi at Carl’s Jr.  Stripping down to a wicking t-shirt helped cool me down and dinner revitalized me.  I got back on the road and calculated I still had almost two hours of fuel left.

I don’t like the 5 freeway.  It’s mostly straight.  Traffic is erratic and heavy and only spread over two lanes.  I’ve ridden or drove it many times and there is little to stimulate the mind.  I got a speeding ticket north of Sacramento on a BBG and I guess I’m still not over that.  I had a little over 400 miles to go.

Traffic in the right lane was truck heavy and really slow.  Traffic in the left lane wasn’t consistent.  I’d get into the left lane and set the cruise control and have to turn it off because I rapidly approached a slow vehicle.  Then, I’d clear them and someone doing 90 would come flying up behind me.  Again, the cruise got clicked off and I moved over out of their way.

It was this way all the way through the Central Valley.  I took a few pictures of shadowed sunlight on the foothills to the Southwest and the road just before sundown.  Time and miles seemed to advance so much slower than the ride north in the morning.  I stopped for fuel once and eventually reached the grade up the grapevine.  Los Angeles traffic was relatively light and I only had to drop out of fifth gear a few times during the run back to Westminster.



I reached Westminster a little before 2330 and stopped to get a final “off the clock” receipt at the same station that I had started the ride about 19 ½ hours earlier.  Total miles was 1107.  206 songs had played on my Ipod – no cheating, no hitting the next track button.  Not recording-breaking, but a solid time for 1100 miles.  A 57 mph overall average is a little on the slow side but on the other hand, the bike was in great shape, I had no real troubles, I wasn’t tired or sore and my documentation was solid for what should be an easy certification.  For a trip that was planned on the spur of the moment, and with one major route change, it turned out good.  I got home, put away the bike, cleaned out the saddlebags, showered and was asleep a little after midnight.



The next day I felt good enough to ride again.  I have a number of rides in planning stages but the weather is already getting too hot to ride many of them until September because almost any long ride out of the Los Angeles area involves transit through the desert and triple digit heat.  We’ll see.  Maybe a cool day or two will allow another 1000 miler in the near future.

Insert Clever Broken Foot Title Here

Within a few days of telling my riding partner, John, that within the next six weeks I wanted to ride a mostly two-lane Ironbutt ride I had routed out in eastern California and south-western Nevada I broke my right foot.  The healing time for a fractured fifth metatarsal is typically six weeks.
For the last five weeks I’ve had my foot in an air boot and the breaks are healing nicely.  The first thing that anyone who knows me, looks at my boot, and says something is along the lines of…“Motorcycles are dangerous.”
“I know,” I say.  “I should definitely give up the dangerous activity I was involved in when I broke it, right?”
I broke my foot doing yard work.
Stupid, I know.
Our three dogs were being kept in our yard by two rotten, dilapidated, old wooden fences.  Had they tried very hard they could have broken them down at any time.  Fortunately, all three realize that whoever their new owners would become wouldn’t give them morning treats before their owner’s breakfast, and so, they stayed in the yard.  The fences, still, had to be replaced.
I wanted to replace both side fences with something that would last longer than a typical wooden fence and would be strong and high enough to keep put the coyotes that occasionally cruise our neighborhood.  I hired a local fence company to construct a six-foot chain-link fence with grey overlapping privacy slats.  I figured it would stay strong and secure for many years.
As Good Neighbor Fences was wrapping things up I realized that a few of the gaps were a little bigger than I had hoped and was worried that our Chihuahua mix would be able to force her way out if properly motivated.  I did my research and found I could build “puppy-poles” in the areas with larger gaps.  Relatively easy to construct, the puppy-poles would overlap the existing framing material in certain areas to close any gaps.  If figured I needed about a half dozen, or so.
I went to Home Depot to buy the materials I would need and was home as they were cleaning their mess up.  I went to work cutting the tubing and arranging the hardware.  A single bag of parts was still in my truck so I walked around the bed and grabbed it.  On my way back around the truck a perfect storm of otherwise benign events occurred in the course of a few seconds.  Our driveway slopes down to the curb.  My right foot planted on the driveway slope to turn to the left to get back to my chop saw.  At that time, my right shoe, way too loosely laced, began to roll over towards the street.  The momentum of my body weight on the rolling shoe took my foot with it.  It rolled with the shoe.  I began to lose my balance and watched the side, then sole, of my right shoe appear.  When I could actually see the entire sole of my shoe I felt and heard a “pop” and very quickly took several steps in an attempt to not fall to the ground.
The pain wasn’t really bad.  I put weight down on my right foot and found that with most of the weight on the heel I could still move around.  I continued to cut the tubing and then build the barriers I needed.  Every five minutes the level of pain would increase.  At the thirty-minute mark I needed to make another trip to Home Depot because I was short on some fasteners.
I hobbled through Home Depot by walking on my heel and bought what I needed.  The last few puppy-poles in place, I cleaned up my tools off the driveway and headed inside.  Alex noticed I was limping and asked if I was okay.  “I injured my foot,” was all I could say.
I sat down on the couch and removed my right shoe, figuring it would be best to ice it.  It was bad.  I knew it was broken.

I texted Lisa sending her the picture above and typed “I’m gonna need you to take me to urgent care tonight.”
“F….what did you do?”  Translated:  What kind of dumb thing did you do on your motorcycle to cause that?  (Just kidding.  She was actually very empathetic.)
When she got home we drove to the urgent care center in Huntington Beach where they confirmed three fractures in the fifth metatarsal.  They wrapped it in a temporary splint/cast and gave me crutches to use.

It’s been many, many years since I’ve had to use crutches.  The last time was when I broke the fifth metatarsal on my left foot about twenty-five years ago.  Let me tell you, crutches blow.  Body weight on the palms and upper torso gets uncomfortable really quick.  Fortunately, I only needed to use them for about ten days before I could get along for the entire day in the walking boot.

Five weeks has passed and the bone is healing nicely.  The Dr. cleared me to begin mixing in walking in a regular shoe an hour at a time.  In a couple weeks I should be okay to abandon the walking boot for good.

Making More Friends….

In 2009 Alex and I went to the Long Beach Motorcycle show.  We spent a few hours looking at all of the bikes on display from $2000 scooters to $40,000 Harley-Davidsons.

The bike that spoke to me that evening was far from the most expensive and nowhere near the best handling or most comfortable bike.  The Royal Enfield Classic was newly redesigned and available in America.  Its 500cc single cylinder engine was old looking but used modern fuel-injection to introduce gas into the combustion chamber and electronic ignition to energize the spark plug.  The engine was of a unit-design in which the engine and transmission share a common aluminum case rather than the previous design that kept the engine and transmission separate but linked together by a multi-row primary chain.

English production of Royal Enfield motorcycles dates back to 1893 with the formation of the Enfield Cycle Company.  Early models included bicycles, true motorcycles and powered four-wheel carriages.  Motorcycle evolution occurred regularly and through 1920s and 1930s and Royal Enfield was as contemporary to England as Harley-Davidson and Indian were to the United States.  In the 1950s Madras Motors in India bought tooling and manufacturing rights to produce Royal Enfield motorcycles domestically.

Some models were imported into the US in small numbers over the years.  The lack of an American importer and distribution and service network limited the number of bikes on the road here.  In 2007 a major revamping of the Enfield line resulted in new models that appeared to be of an old design but used the modern unit engine and updated components.

I had decided that I wanted to buy a Royal Enfield C5 (solo seat) model.  None of the Enfields are particularly expensive but in some cases build quality was suspect.  In my last six years I rotated through the V-Strom, the Voyager 1700 and the Gold Wing.  The thought of getting a Royal Enfield was always there but kept being pushed into the background.  I recently made the final payment on my Gold Wing and the time seemed right to get an Enfield.  In addition, Royal Enfield had made strides in improving quality control and a number of improvements have been implemented into the new models so that reliability is no longer a concern.  The bikes still require more attention than a modern Japanese motorcycle, but its use as a second motorcycle would allow for low accumulated mileage and plenty of time to maintain it.

I won’t go into a ton of detail about the sales experience other than to say that I first attempted to buy a C5 from Route 66 motorcycles in Marina Del Rey and the experience was very poor….very reminiscent of a used car buying experience from an independent lot in the 70s.  On the other hand, I ended up buying mine from Southern California Motorcycles in Brea, CA.  Their dealership is run like a very good car dealership is run.  I was happy with the buying experience and feel I got a very good price from them.

The model I bought is the C5 Chrome model in burgundy.  The base C5 models come in a number of colors including black, tan, maroon, and blue.  They are also available in “military models” that come finished in matte paint schemes of olive drab or sand tan.  I really like the military models but did not want the matte paint finish.  Had I had a choice of the entire color palette, I would have chosen the Lagoon Blue – a great color that brings to mind motorcycles produced in the 1930s and 1940s.

No one had blue.  The one I didn’t want, based on pictures I had seen, was the Chrome model.  In pictures it appeared to be almost all chrome…too much splash, too much “look at me” for my taste.  Blue was my first choice, black second, tan third.  Until I saw the Chrome in person.

At Route 66 a Chrome Black model was available for sale and in person it looked much better than in the pictures on the website.  The tank is mostly chrome and a number of other items are as well, but it looks much more balanced in person.  Route 66 had a tan and a Chrome black model available.  I tried to make a deal on the Chrome black model but it didn’t work out with them.  So Cal Motorcycles in Brea had two Chrome maroon models available.  They, too, are much better looking in person than in any picture I’ve seen.  I bought a Chrome maroon 2015 C5.


My Gold Wing is the best bike I’ve ever owned and I have no interest in getting rid of it.  On the other hand, it is a handful when running quick errands, isn’t the best bike to ride at slower speeds when Kayln and I ride together, and isn’t fun to just putt around on.  The Enfield is.

The 500cc single cylinder engine is fuel-injected and has a modern electronic ignition system and wiring harness.  The seating position is relaxed and comfortable.  It is light and handles surprisingly well for something that appears to have been built 50 or 60 years ago.  It has enough power to maneuver in and out of traffic and can be ridden on the freeway but is most comfortable below 65 mph.  It is capable of more but isn’t happy going much faster.

The new C5s are known for having a few weaknesses that I wanted to fix soon after purchase.  I replaced the wet battery with a modern Shorai Lithium-Iron battery – yes, Iron, not Ion.  The battery terminals are reputed to be paper thin and promise to break the first time the rider gets more than 30 or 40 miles from home.  The terminals were replaced with power terminals designed for high quality automotive stereo equipment.  In addition, the terminal ends were installed on the battery so that they were not stressed in their attached state to prevent engine vibrations from inducing cracking or breaking.  They were also taped in place  on the battery so that any movement of the battery cable would be in the flexible portion of the cable and not on the terminal.

A few smaller modifications were performed and engine break-in was started.  The engines are set up very tight from the factory.  Apparently, as I learned, while Indian culture easily accepts the normal top end engine noises produced by the valve train, piston slap is not tolerated.  Therefore, the piston to bore clearance is very tight.  Other machining processes are cruder than state of the art Japanese machining and many parts have to “wear in” to each other.  Operating the engine in a way that produced any higher than normal heat during the first 500 miles or so can result in abnormal wear, a scuffed piston or cylinder bore, or rings that never seat satisfactorily.  Fortunately I bought the bike in early January and have had cool weather to break-in my engine.

I rode the bike around the neighborhood for several days to allow for minimal heat build-up over the first 20 miles.  Then, I rode the bike to Long Beach for breakfast and then back to allow the engine to come operating temperature then have a cool down cycle before coming home.  I followed that up with a number of ten mile trips in the Westminster area until I reached 100 miles.  At 100 miles I performed my first oil and filter change.

I expected there to be quite a bit of “stuff” stuck to the magnets on the drain plugs after 100 miles but I found there to be just a little.  The oil was not excessively dirty and did not glitter when set in the sun – a good sign that there was not a lot of microscopic metallic particles suspended in the oil.  The filter did not look excessively dirty.  The break in was going well.

In the beginning I noticed that when I turned off the engine, the piston would stop very quickly in its bore.  As the break-in has proceeded the fit has seemed less and less tight.  In addition, the engine runs freer and seems happier to be running.

I posted something relatively bland on a Royal Enfield forum just to get a first post going and introduce myself.  Forum member “Scotty Brown” responded to my post with a personal message.  He was, he said, another C5 owner – a 2013 – that he’d ridden his bike 8500 miles without any real trouble and that he hasn’t run into another Royal Enfield rider yet.  He said he lived in South Orange County and wondered if I’d like to get together for a ride.  That sounded great to me.

I was on vacation for a week and would be in town for most of the time so Scotty and I arranged to meet on a Wednesday and go for a half day ride.  We were weathered out on Wednesday so we pushed the ride back a single day to Thursday.  We planned on meeting at the Silverado Canyon café and would get to know each other over breakfast.

I didn’t have enough miles on my C5 to feel comfortable riding to Silverado Canyon on the 22 freeway so I used surface streets past Disneyland and Angel Stadium and thumped along to the Irvine Lake area.  I was early but Scotty was already there.  He walked out to the road edge and directed me into the parking lot in the spot right next to his bike.

“I could hear you coming,” he said.  Two Harley Davidson Glide models of some type were parked nearby.

We shook hands and both took a few minutes to look at each other’s bikes.  He has already performed a number of modifications to better suit his bike to him.  The large stock silencer was replaced with a stock HD Sportster muffler.  The uncomfortable solo seat was replaced with a larger, tractor-style seat – much more comfortable he assured me.  He had recently replaced the stock Avon tires with Dunlop K70 tires – a more period correct set of tires with a universal tread pattern and taller sidewalls.

I had eaten breakfast with Alex and Kayln and wasn’t really hungry.  I did want a cup of coffee, though.  Scotty ordered coffee, too, and we sat down and talked.  He told me he was 78 years old and had been riding for a long time.  He took some years off from riding but then took it back up again and has been enjoying his Royal Enfield.  He bought his for the same reason I bought mine – the character, the look, the lazy riding experience.  He also mentioned he had raced motorcycles earlier in his life.

He asked how many miles I wanted to go on our ride and I told him I’d like to go about 100 miles or so.  He agreed we would minimize any freeway miles and suggested we take the back way to Corona, then down to Lake Elsinore on the canyon road and finally the Ortega Highway.  It sounded good to me.

When we had finished our coffee we walked back out to the bikes.  Scotty noticed that I changed the lenses on the pilot lights, two small white lights above the headlamp, a Royal Enfield feature from long ago, to red for the port side and green for the starboard.  He had done the same thing.  I said I had changed them to reflect a past in aviation and sailing.  He said he changed his because of his experience in the Merchant Marines.  Then he mentioned that he use to fly as well and listed off two Cessna and a Mooney that he had owned in the past.

We left the restaurant parking lot and rode the two lane road back to the Orange area.  We motored around on city streets that ran approximately parallel to the 55 freeway, then the 91 freeway.  We ran out of road at the Gypsum Canyon road intersection and entered the 91 freeway for a three minute cruise at 55 mph to the Green River exit.  My Enfield happily thumped along.

At Green River we cut through neighborhoods and travelled up boulevards, ending up on Temescal Canyon road.  Eventually we reached the base of the Ortega Highway and began the climb out of the Lake Elsinore area.  The pace was spirited but not dangerous and we rode faster than I expected a 78 year old man riding an old fashioned motorcycle to ride.  Scotty handled the curves with ease and seemed to choose clean lines.  Our torquey singles easily pulled us up the hill.  The light weight of the Enfield and good natural ground clearance allowed us to quickly lean over into turns and just as quickly right ourselves for the following straight.

We stopped at the Lookout Café for a break, to grab some lunch, and allow my bike to cool as it had run for about 60 minutes without stopping.  Only a handful of people were there – a few cars, a few motorcycles.  The two Enfield motorcycles attracted attention and before we had our helmets off two bikers walked over and began asking questions.

I’d only owned my bike for a couple weeks and already had experienced some of the attention the bike gets.  Scotty mentioned that I had better be ready to have conversations with people everywhere – gas stations, at red lights, in parking lots.  People want to know more about these old looking bikes.

I still wasn’t hungry but could use something to drink.  Scotty ordered lunch.  I got a cold drink.  We walked out onto the patio and found a seat in the shade.  It was a beautiful day – cool, about 70 degrees – a little breezy, a day similar to the one that I had when sailing the Excalibur back to Long Beach from South Coast Shipyards.  Most of the rest of the country was experiencing cold weather, rain or snow.  It was perfect in Southern California.

We exchanged stories about riding and flying.  We talked about previous bikes we’ve owned.  I told him I enjoyed shooting with my Dad and kids and he pulled out a business card he had used while offering shooting instruction and so we talked about guns.  We both agreed that .22s are a great diversion and found we own some of the same guns.  It was a good talk.  We spent about an hour on the patio and then decided to get back on the road.

The Enfields were still being looked at, this time by another pair of riders, and we geared up and cruised further up the hill.  The Lookout Café is near the summit and in only a few minutes we were heading downhill on the backside.  The ride continued to be fantastic.  On the way down, Scotty and I maintained a quick pace once again.  I noticed this time, however, that he did not brake going downhill and entered his turns from just inside the center line to the apex very cleanly, curve after curve.  We could have ridden faster, but this pace just felt very fluid, very natural.  It didn’t take very much time until we neared the end of the Ortega Highway and took Antonio Parkway to Crown Valley Parkway where we planned on ending our ride at Pacific Coast Highway.  Scotty would head home, I’d head north on PCH back to Westminster.


We took a few pictures and decided to get together again for another ride.  I reflected on the Enfield as a bike while riding home.  The bike itself is great.  The chassis handles respectably, the engine develops just enough power to be fun, the gearbox shifts up and down better than expected, the brakes are adequate, the seat is tortuous.  I will be addressing the seat in the future.  I really enjoyed the ride and the bike seemed perfect for this type of ride.  It cannot replace the Gold Wing.  It doesn’t have to.

When I got home I looked over the bike.  Other than a small amount of oil on the engine case below the countershaft sprocket, everything looked good.  The ride hadn’t strained the engine and it seemed the further into the ride I got, the better the engine ran.  It was breaking-in, loosening up nicely, and felt smoother and ran quieter.

I got an e-mail that night from Scotty.  He said he enjoyed the ride and looked forward to doing another one.  His e-mail included the pictures below.  Each was captioned.:

Scan 3_2


Scan 4_2


Scan 5_2


Scan 6_2


When he mentioned that he had done some racing at Ascot Park, it didn’t mean much to me.  I’d been to Ascot and seen car races there.  I knew that they held countless amateur events there and figured Scotty had entered some.  It was not unlike the racing I used to do.  I, and a group of friends, would sign up and race in Beginner and Novice class motocross racing at Glen Helen Raceway or at De Anza when it was still open.  For me racing meant trucking in the same bike I used to ride trails and race against other novices like myself.  It was fun and I expected, and usually accomplished, finishing mid-pack.  I’d load my bike into the back of my truck at the end of the day and go back to being a mechanic on Monday.

Scotty had actually raced in feature races on dirt and road racing circuits.  His ability to ride cleanly, quickly, and with minimal braking, into corners made much better sense now.  It wasn’t dumb luck I was witnessing.  I was riding with someone who was skilled.

We’ll likely ride again soon.  I’d like to take the Ortega Highway from San Juan Capistrano to Palm Springs and back.  The two lane serpentine road that links the two cities seems ideal for a bike like the Enfield and Scotty proved to be a great riding companion.

The Excalibur is on the move….


I was contacted several months ago by a man who was shopping for an Excalibur sailboat.  He explained that he had found one in a boatyard that needed a lot of work and wanted to know if I had any info on it or if I knew of any that were for sale.  I told him I didn’t but if I did, I’d let him know.

I also told him I’d contact Mark, the man that bought my Excalibur, see if he was ready to step up to a bigger boat yet, and if so, see if I could coordinate a sale between the two.  The last time I’d talked to Mark, he was actively refinishing the cabin.  The starboard berth had been rebuilt much like I had decided to do earlier and the interior was in the middle of wood refinishing and a coat of white paint.






I called Mark and asked him if it was okay to give his info to the man I’d spoken to.  He said he was good with that but not sure if he was ready to sell just yet.  They talked and eventually were able to put together a deal.  Last week the Excalibur was loaded onto a flat bed and trucked north on Interstate 5 to the Bay Area where it will continue to see improvements until it is put back into the water later this spring.  It is currently on stands getting a new coat of bottom paint.  The new owner, Howard, has named the Excalibur Forever Young – possibly the first time the boat has had a name.  Howard and I have traded a number of e-mails and he promises to keep in touch.  He is also a rider and owns a Moto-Guzzi with a sidecar.




As much as I was happy that the Excalibur went to Mark, a good man with an enthusiasm for sailing, Howard seems like an even better fit.  He is retired and looking to spend time on the San Francisco Bay in a good handling sailboat.  I’m glad to see that a little boat that was days away from the scrap heap in 2011 is now owned by another caring owner who will use her and enjoy days on the water.

Beginning to End – Highway 78, a Google Earth story


Note: I am a decent photographer. I am a decent rider. I am terrible at stopping to take pictures while on a ride. As I wrote this post, I realized it was going to end up long and that pictures would definitely add something. Because I didn’t take even a single picture, I decided to use screenshots exclusively from Google Earth. Cheating, I know. Try to enjoy anyway.

A few years ago I rode the Ortega Highway from Palm Springs to San Juan Capistrano. I didn’t know it at the time, but when planning later rides I realized that I rode Highway 74 over its entire length.

The concept of riding a road from beginning to end is, I think, pretty cool. I like to know that I covered every mile available on a finite stretch of road. I wonder how many people have travelled the 10 freeway from beginning to end, or the 40, or the Northern Highway 2. I have looked and begun planning a number of rides that will start and end at the highway terminus.

Highway 78 spans about 220 miles from the Pacific Ocean in Oceanside to its end at the 10 freeway just west of Blythe, at the border of California and Arizona. The stretch between Oceanside and Escondido is a boring 4 lane freeway typical of many in Southern California. From Escondido it shrinks to two lanes and stays so for most of the remainder of the trip. It winds through the mountains to Julian and then straightens as it passes through arid Ocotillo Wells. Near the Salton Sea it briefly joins Highway 86 and picks up another lane in each direction. East of the Salton Sea 78 continues with two lanes and winds through agricultural areas, the Glamis Dunes, more rocky desert, and finally more green agriculture afforded by the close proximity to the Colorado River.


I spent four years between the ages of 13 and 17 living in Oceanside, CA. It was a great place to be during that time of my life and I seem to head that direction when I go for rides without a lot of pre-planning. It’s because of this that the ride from my house in Westminster to Oceanside was very familiar. I did make one stop to adjust the shield on the Goldwing but it consisted mainly of cruise-controlled speed at a constant rate through San Clemente, Camp Pendleton and finally Oceanside.

Just before the Oceanside/Carlsbad border, I exited the 5 freeway. The changeover has two dedicated lanes for the 78 so I transitioned onto the 78 without a stop. This part of the ride was the one I least looked forward to as the four lane section of road between Oceanside and Escondido has the potential to back up for no reason even at odd hours. Fortunately, traffic was light. I only spent a short time riding before the four lanes ended in downtown Escondido.

Highway 78 works through Escondido but only after making several 90 degree turns at sparsely marked intersections. I checked my progress against my GPS to be sure but found I was where I intended to be. A truck with garden nursery markings skidded to a stop next to me at a traffic light. I intended to be the first off the line but was concerned that he might be in such a hurry that he would drive dangerously behind me just because I was there.

I lazily pulled away from the light while the nursery truck sped away. I was right. He was driving way too fast for a company truck and even though my lazy pace was probably faster, I didn’t want to chance being rear ended by him when he overshot a corner. I stayed safely behind him.

A few miles later, we came to a red signal light with two lanes proceeding straight ahead. In the left lane was a Corvette. I chose the right lane for the same reason as before. The Corvette, though, had no intentions of going fast. When I pulled away from the intersection he held up the nursery truck and 100 yards up Highway 78 two lanes merged into one.

I had a blocker behind me and no traffic in front of me so I picked up the pace and enjoyed the curves by myself all the way to Ramona. I encountered no other traffic going in my direction and only a few coming down the hill. I never saw the Corvette or nursery truck again. I assume they both turned off somewhere.

My experience with the town of Ramona was limited to football games. The way the schedule worked, I only played one game in Ramona. The other two were played at home. El Camino played freshman games at El Camino but at the time all of the varsity games were played at Oceanside High School. The single game at Ramona is memorable because just as halftime ended I was stung by a bee in the throat. I’m not allergic to bees so it wasn’t life threatening but we started on defense and I was playing defensive tackle. On the third play from scrimmage I was involved in the tackle, felt light-headed, and then the lights just went out.

I remember falling but don’t remember hitting the ground. A coach told me later that the bee was still attached to me, stinger still in my throat just below the Adam’s apple, its lower body pulsing. My shoulder pads had trapped it so it couldn’t escape.

I woke up quickly and was carried off the field. I found out later that one of the first things they did when checking me out was loosen my pants so when I was helped off the field my pants were around my knees.

Ramona, at least at the time, did not have a strong football program. Every game El Camino played against them in the early 80s ended up in a blowout. Many games were shutouts. I always felt sorry for them. They belonged in a league with other small schools and had to endure losing seasons year after year.

This time, though, Ramona was just a small town I passed through. A few cars going each direction were on 78. One was a County Sheriff patrol car that looked me over but must have deemed me safe, because he didn’t even follow me out of town.

The ride to Julian was similar to the Ortega Highway – fun to ride at a quick pace with an occasional peg scrape, but much slower than an actual sport bike would ride it.


The further up the hill I got, the less farming and agriculture I saw. Julian is known for its apple pies and, I supposed, locally grown apples. I saw stands and pie stores but no orchards. Highway 78 very quickly transits through Julian and in just a few minutes I was back in the forest on curvy roads.


I knew that the backside of the Palomar Mountains would very rapidly turn to desert but it actually happened even faster than I thought it would. I hadn’t descended the mountain for more than a few minutes when the color changed from green to brown and grey. I no longer rode into and out of shade created by the overhanging trees. The landscape consisted only of rock and sand formations.

Small sections of Highway 78 after the Banner Grade appeared to be carved out of rock formations. The walls are obviously cut away to allow for the road to be graded, but instead of being cut in a relatively straight line, the cutaway section curved left and right for a few miles. On the map they appear to follow a natural creek path.


Shortly after Sentenac Canyon the road becomes even less travelled, mostly straight, and the surroundings are very desolate. At one point, for several miles, I had to make almost no steering corrections. Gentle nudges on the tank sides with my knees were all that was required to keep the Goldwing on the road.


Signs designating camping and legal off-road riding areas popped up occasionally. In one of the straighter sections I passed a parked Border Patrol vehicle that was partially hidden behind a dilapidated structure. I was doing 75-80 mph at the time. He didn’t appear interested in me at all but I slowed down just in case he was to let someone know I’d be coming towards them. I made an effort to keep count of the number of vehicles I’d seen per mile and estimated that the Border Patrol vehicle saw less than 20 cars in the hour surrounding the time that I passed by him. I’d have another brief, casual encounter with the Border Patrol later.

I ran into Highway 86 at the Salton Sea and turned right onto the four lane road that was made up of the concurrently run Highways 78 and 86. Westmorland was the next town I’d run through and I decided to take a break.

When I put this ride plan together nearly a year ago, I planned to stop for fuel at the Shell Station as I entered Westmorland. My main tank was down to ¼ full, and while my auxiliary fuel tank meant I didn’t need fuel yet, I did have to pee.


The Shell Station is the first store and fuel stop that drivers encounter when they drive into Westmorland and, therefore, is very busy. The gas islands were constantly dispensing fuel and people were shuffling into and out of the store. It took a few minutes for the bathroom to empty. I exited the bathroom with plans of getting right back on the road but I was getting hungry and I feel guilty any time I use a business’ restroom without conducting some kind of business there.

The refrigerator had fresh looking apples so I grabbed one with the thought that a $1 apple was worth a one-minute pee. When I turned around to pay for the apple I saw the hot box. Most convenient stores have a hot box with hours old hot dogs or sausages rotating on the roller grille. This Shell Station had handmade burritos wrapped in foil.

A proper burrito can’t be eaten right after assembly – to do so ruins the concept of a meal wrapped in a flat, flour-based, mostly-sealed, container. The ingredients have to have a chance to flow together, mix and congeal before eating. This takes time. An hour or more in a hot box is ideal. Anything less is Taco Bell.

I proudly grabbed the one up front with “Pollo” written on the foil with a black Sharpie. I knew that freshness protocol demanded that the newest burritos would be placed to the rear. I wanted the oldest.

I had left my gloves back on the Goldwing and nearly burned the palms of my hands trying to hold the burrito, but at the same time, keep the apple cool. I paid and walked out to the bike. A gold Buick that I had passed when I turned onto the 86/78 section was parking next to my bike. A man, probably in his late 70s, exited the driver’s side while another man, probably his twin brother, got out of the right front door, walked to the trunk, pulled out a walker and walked it to the passenger in the back seat – a woman, probably 120 years old. The brother got a wheelchair and wheeled it to the walker. The woman used the walker to support herself so that she could shift her weight over and plunge into the wheelchair. The efficiency in movement was impressive. They had obviously done this before. None of the three spoke. Just before all three entered the store, the men signed something to each other. The other agreed with a head nod.

I had just finished the apple when the three came out of the store. The other brother was pushing this time but all three were still silent. I began to eat the burrito – it was still about the temperature of the sun – and caught the eye of the driver just before he closed his door. He smiled, pointed to the Goldwing and gave me a thumbs-up. I spoke to several hearing people throughout the day. My quick conversation with him was the best one.

The burrito was awesome.

I thought later about what a poor choice I’d made. At the furthest point I’d be about 350 miles from home. I could have gotten home really late and have to use the excuse that I was forced to make regular breaks on the side of the 40 freeway with the Goldwing shielding my bare ass as I abandoned portions of the burrito. Fortunately, at least at the Shell Station in Westmorland, CA, food preparation hygiene is important in the Imperial Valley.

I mounted the bike and continued through Westmorland. The 78 broke away from the 86 to the left and shrunk back to two lanes. For several miles I drive through large, corporate farm fields. I regularly encountered large semi-trucks and trailers. The trailers loaded tall with hay produced a large powerful wake that pushed the Goldwing to the right shoulder every time I crossed paths with one. Some trucks appeared as large but produced almost no side wake. Weird thing, aerodynamics. Car traffic was almost non-existent. I was the only person heading east as far as I could see in front and behind me.

I had opened the auxiliary fuel tank valve to gravity-feed gasoline into the main tank but after several miles, the fuel gauge did not indicate that the fuel level in the main tank had risen at all. The level didn’t drop, either, though, so I kept heading east. I believed in my Quicktank.

The farms ended fairly abruptly with a last water canal that formed a geographic, as well as topographic, border. Once beyond, there was nothing but brown desert again. Signage increased for the Imperial Valley Dunes Recreational Area. A long stretch of razor straight road led into the actual dune areas. Some of the dunes within sight of the road were several stories tall but tiny in comparison to some I’ve seen to the south. The width of the Glamis dune area off Highway 78 is only about five miles. It took only a few minutes to cross.


The road curved and dipped east of Glamis. I approached the intersection at S34 and had a moment every rider dreads. I was coming up a slight hill at 55 mph and saw, via my GPS display, that an intersection was ahead so I released the throttle to coast. When I had almost reached the intersection I saw the top of a white truck in the left turn lane. I could see the truck but wasn’t sure if the truck saw me because I could only see the top half, not the entire cab. I worried that the driver would make his turn into my path. I started looking for escape routes. Neither the left or right was perfect but if I had to, I was going left. The driver was looking to his left, not at me. I applied brakes as hard as I could without skidding. At the last second, the driver made eye contact with me. I could see the nose of his truck dip as he braked to a stop and waited for me to go through the intersection.


I tipped my helmet and waved to him as we crossed paths. I noticed another car approaching from the right on S34 and was glad I decided to go left if I had to. He would have complicated things.

A few miles later I came upon an isolated Border Patrol Station. It is designed to only stop traffic travelling towards Blythe. I slowed and worked my way under the shade cover. Two agents and a German Shepherd dog waited for me. I stopped and waved.


I had earplugs in and hoped I would be able to hear them well enough that I would not have to remove my helmet and take the plugs out.

“Good afternoon, Sir. How are you today?”

“Good,” I yelled. Hopefully it was just loud enough that they could hear me but not so loud that I would deserve secondary inspection and get to meet Fido.

“Sir, are you citizen of the United States?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Sir, would you take off your glasses?” I was wearing a pair of dark Oakley sunglasses. I pulled them away from my face and looked at him. My pale skin and hazel eyes confirmed my non-accented English.

“Thank you, sir. Have a nice day.”

“Thank you,” I said.

I released the clutch lever, waved, and continued on. They looked disinterested. I was just some oddball out in the middle of nowhere wearing hi-viz orange on an expensive touring motorcycle.

More desert. More undulations. A few turns. The scenery began to turn green again and I could see on my GPS that I was near the Colorado River. The road went through the middle of Palo Verde and Ripley – both small towns. They must be ungodly hot in the summer. They were comfortable in mid-October. Blythe wasn’t very far away. Highway 78 would end with the overpass at the 10 freeway.

Four ninety-degree turns following agricultural canals in the farms west of Blythe marked the only real turns for miles. Each was marked at 15mph and all had signs of drivers who went in a little too hot, got on the brakes too late and ended up in a canal or field. I didn’t speed through them.

Highway 78 begins without fanfare in a neighborhood in Oceanside. It ends equally as bland at the 10 freeway a few miles west of Blythe. A simple, small sign reads “78 End.”


So, I found myself in Blythe in the mid-afternoon of a mid-month Monday. Trucks were travelling on the 10 freeway in both directions. The decision I had to make was to either head west on the 10 and run into rush hour traffic once I reached the Riverside/San Bernardino area or go east for a few miles and exit at Intake Boulevard and use the 95 north to pick up the 40 west at Needles. The 10 freeway was the shorter route but I figured I would crawl through the Inland Empire. I estimated I’d make it home about 8pm, maybe a little earlier if traffic was lighter than usual. The long way, to the north, would give me a chance to ride another 100 miles of two lane, then almost 300 miles of Interstate and would put me home before 10pm. The choice was easy.

I exited Intake Boulevard, fueled up, and took a pit stop at the Mobil station near the freeway exit. My Quicktank still had 2 to 3 gallons remaining. I refilled both tanks, drank a bottle of water, emptied my bladder and got back on the road.

Highway 95 is another road I’d like to ride from beginning to end at some point in the future. Its entire length – from the US border town of San Luis, AZ to the British Columbia, Canada, city of Golden – is over 1700 miles and consists of primarily two lane roads. Today I’d only be covering about 6% of the total length.

Highway 95 provided a very quick escape out of Blythe. Within a few minutes I went from small town to farm fields to desert landscape. Several times the 95 comes close to the Colorado River and when it does, all plant life is greener. Several signs advertised vacation spots on the river. In many cases it appeared that construction had begun and then was abandoned or completed, used for a while, and then left to rot.

The road condition was good and I was able to make good time, near Interstate speed. I passed a number of cars and trucks when the lane stripes indicated it okay to do so. I was passed by a few. I recognized the intersection at Highway 62. I had crossed the 95 while going east on 62 a few years ago on a trip to the Phoenix area. A ride report can be seen here:

The 95/62 intersection has little commerce – remnants of a long closed gas station, a sign for a café that is completely gone, an Agricultural Inspection Station for the State of California, a still open gas station, and a more recently closed restaurant with a For Sale sign in the window. 100 yards further, the desert takes over again.

Long, straight sections of the 95 vary from small hills to huge open washes that the road surface bisects. To mark the ending of one long straight, stretch of highway, the blacktop curves to the right and then back to the left to go through and around a section of rock formations. They seem to mark the end of the previous wash and the beginning of a different type of topography. For several miles the road ripples along, allowing the trip to feel like an early wooden rollercoaster. Small foothills pop up everywhere. They are a sharp contrast to the low flat area only a few miles away.


Highway 95 was the highlight of the trip. I didn’t see a single Highway Patrol vehicle on the road the entire 100 miles. I was able to maintain a speed, while above the suggested limit, that did not exceed good sense. The amount of curves, waves, straight sections and changing sceneries kept the ride interesting. Very little traffic meant very little turbulence to ride through making the ride smooth, quiet and relaxing.


I was reminded that I was in the middle of nowhere by having to dodge two coyote carcasses that both had been hit shortly before I got there. Both were in the middle of my lane and both forced me to divert to the right or left to avoid them. Both times I was glad they didn’t have the opportunity to dart in front of me while still alive.

I saw glimpses of the Colorado River again as I approached the town of Needles. I also saw the 40 freeway to the east even though I had several miles to go before I would transition onto its surface.

Needles Airport is smaller than I anticipated. The prevailing winds justify two runways set 90 degrees apart. The runway surface is paved. The terminal building, ramp and hangers are small but appear modern.

Needles is one of the lucky towns. When Interstate 40 was built and cut off many smaller towns from receiving east-west desert traffic, Needles kept traffic from both the 40 and Route 66. For a short time before entering the town proper, Highway 95 is part of Historic Route 66. My kicks on Route 66 ended after ½ mile when I exited Highway 95 and started west on Interstate 40.

Halfway between Blythe and Needles I opened the valve on my auxiliary tank when ¾ of capacity was left in the main tank. I had put some thought into my experience earlier when I waited until the fuel level in my main tank was very low before switching over. I thought if I opened the valve earlier in the process, while the fuel pickup was still covered by several inches of fuel, I would be able to allow the fuel pump to pull fuel from the Quicktank until it was dry. If gravity was stronger than the pressure in the tank and began raising the fuel level too high, I could always turn off the valve and wait for the fuel level to get lower before opening the valve again.

The fuel level in the main tank remained exactly at ¾ full all the way to Needles and remained there until just before reaching Barstow.

I really like travelling on Interstate 40. Although it runs just to the south of Interstate 15, it is a completely different experience. The drivers racing to and from Las Vegas on the 15 are non-existent on the 40. I haven’t ever travelled on the 40 during a holiday weekend rush when people are coming from and going to Laughlin and the Colorado River and I would guess that those days can be difficult. In my experience, the 40 presents more truck traffic that is moving at the same speed. For the most part, truck drivers are professionals who know that maintaining their Commercial Driver’s License is necessary to maintain a livelihood.


I was able to set the cruise control at 75 mph in Needles and didn’t turn it off until I reached Barstow. The desert between the Arizona border and the Interstate 40 terminus at the 15 is beautiful. The elevation varies along with the terrain. The tones of desert brown vary from light tan to an almost-black chocolate brown. Some areas are heavy with vegetation while other are filled with consistent, smooth, wind-blown sand.

I rode into the sun and fought glare for the hour before the sun set, but as I neared Barstow and the sun was setting, everything cleared. Traffic was light and I maintained a good speed. The fuel gauge, which had been frozen since the halfway point between Blythe and Needles, began to settle downward. When I stopped in Barstow for some dinner I had just over ½ tank full.

My ear plugs had dulled the sounds around me for the past three hours so when I arrived at Chipotle and removed them, it felt like waking from a dream. Behind me two young women were exiting a filthy compact SUV with North Dakota plates and talking to each other about a third woman who was not there. A truck driver exiting the 15 freeway used his engine brake to slow down before turning. Another couple, this time a man and woman, appeared to be arguing. I heard only the last few words before the driver’s door of their BMW closed and the loud conversation became muffled.

My legs were stiff. My back ached. I bent over and stretched my legs, back and neck before entering the restaurant. While I hadn’t noticed much bug activity to my face shield, the entire nose of my bike was covered in dead bugs. The Goldwing was clean when I had left a little after 9 o’clock in the morning.

I was really hungry and didn’t consciously choose Mexican food a second time. A Chipotle bowl just sounded good and I figured it was a slightly healthier choice than a burger. I was stared at by a number of patrons in the restaurant. A 6’3” man wearing armored gear stands out. I had two distinct ribs running the length of my head from my helmet. No amount of rubbing removed them from the top of my head.

I ate dinner quickly and got back on the road. I reused my ear plugs but one refused to seal. I dealt with quiet in the right ear and extreme wind noise in the left for a few miles before deciding to stop and refit my ear plugs. I pulled off the 15 freeway at Hodge Road. There were no street lights and the moon hadn’t risen yet. The only ambient light I had was the reflected light produced from my headlamp off of a street sign. Ahead, less than 100 feet away, a pair of eyes glowed. I turned on my high beams and saw a young fox. It was feeding on something and when my lights illuminated him more brightly, he ran into the darkness. I removed both plugs and allowed them to expand before rolling them and placing them back into my ears. I waited for them to completely seal before putting my helmet back on.

The young fox returned to its meal. It must have decided that I wasn’t enough of a threat to turn off its drive to feed. I turned back to the onramp and sped back into traffic but travelled at a conservative pace. I calculated about 120 miles to home and with my Quicktank empty and main tank at about ½ full, I decided to see if I could make it home on my remaining fuel.

Every few miles I would mentally calculate my remaining range and fuel and it wasn’t until I was down the Cajon Pass that I really thought I could make it home. I’d driven and ridden the route from the high desert to home dozens of times. Traffic was light and I didn’t have to take the Goldwing off of cruise control at all down the pass, and onto the 210 and 57 freeways. The slower speed improved my mileage just enough that I began to think I could make it. I decided that as long as the fuel light did not come on before I reached the 91 freeway, I would be good.

The light remained off, and the cruise control on, until I exited the 22 freeway at Beach Boulevard. Almost simultaneous with the brake application that turned off the cruise control for the first time since entering the freeway at Hodge Road, the low fuel light blinked once and then stayed on. I rolled into my driveway just after 9pm. The ride total was 665 miles in about 12 hours’ time – not a Bun Burner Gold pace, but not bad for a relaxed-pace tune-up ride. The ride from Blythe to home, after the second fill-up, was almost 400 miles. The Quicktank nearly doubled my fuel range and worked flawlessly.

It was a good ride. I finished with minimal soreness and was fresh for work the following morning. The Goldwing ran without a hiccup and averaged 40 miles per gallon over the length of the trip even though for most of the ride I didn’t attempt to get good mileage. The newly installed Windbender shield proved to be a great addition and the Quicktank has turned out to be everything I’d hoped. All in all, a great Monday.