2017 Long Beach International Motorcycle Show

 

No injuries.  No long ride.  No long ride report.  Just a good night with Alex.

Alex and I rode to the 2017 Long Beach International Motorcycle Show on Friday night. We haven’t gone the last few years as there wasn’t any bike I wanted to see in person that I couldn’t view at any local dealerships. This year, however, the new Goldwing was being displayed.

Alex rode the V-Strom that I’m slowly pushing on to him. It may not be the bike he really wants, but I know it the bike he really needs.  He’s starting to realize it and it should carry him on his first Ironbutt ride.  Hopefully soon.

In 2007, we went and I decided I wanted to get a Royal Enfield. Nine years later I did. This year I got to sit on and check out the new Goldwing. I hope it won’t take nine years before I get one of the new ones.

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Ten years has gone by in a flash.  The last time we went, Alex got most of the seat time.  This time wasn’t much different.

2007:

2017:

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And the benefits of being a motor officer:

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Find something to enjoy in each day. There’s no time to waste.

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Wipingbutt Injuries and Ironbutt Rides

 

My injured knee was repaired the last week of July.  The surgeon found what he expected and repaired a torn meniscus and patellar tendon.  The day of the surgery everything went quickly and I was home in bed by mid-afternoon.  I scheduled 2 – 3 days off work and took it easy.

I was given crutches to use but I didn’t have any restrictions for weight-bearing the repaired knee so I only used them sporadically the first and second day then began walking.  The incision sights didn’t give me much trouble and the swelling and stiffness were worse than the actual pain of the surgery.

A few days later, pain and cramping started in my thigh that was significantly more painful than the actual surgery itself.  It would lock me up completely and the thigh hurt so much that attempting to rub out the cramps actually made the pain worse.  Fortunately, by the ten-day mark it was manageable and by three weeks it had gone completely.

Walking became easier and easier and only standing still on the knee produced swelling and pain.  Ice and pain relievers took care of that.

By the two-week mark I began very carefully throwing a leg over the Enfield and was able to ride.

As Labor Day came and went I had to decide how I would ride the Fall Equinox.  The ride had to be a Saddlesore 1000 to match the other three celestial event rides I’d performed over the last nine months but the format and location were still a mystery.  I drew up several ride plans – a coastal ride if the desert was still 100 degrees or hotter, a desert ride if it was forecasted to rain on the coast but cool in the desert, etc.  I planned a really long SS1000, actually a BBG if I rode all the way home, a SS1000 if I ended the ride early and spent the night in Las Vegas, that covered all seven of the Nevada Tour of Honor Sites.  I didn’t think it would be practical, though, because Alex had a football game the next day and I wouldn’t miss that.

While I had been riding the Goldwing on my repaired knee, the longest ride I’d taken since before the surgery was about 90 minutes.  I would be entering the Fall Equinox ride in no better riding shape than the super-hot Summer Solstice ride in June that I bailed on an hour after reaching the 1000-mile mark.

I settled on a ride into Northern Nevada again, this time covering the four most northern TOH sites, including the Ironbutt memorial in Gerlach, NV – a place I’d wanted to go to but hadn’t yet.  In addition to Gerlach, the ride included stops in Carson City, Fallon and the Nevada State Monument in Imlay.  I’d have two pit stops in Bishop, CA for gas – once on the way north and again coming home.  The ride total was 1380 miles, almost exactly the same as the Summer Solstice ride.  I knew the weather would be better and hoped I was, too.

The weekend before the ride, a few days before my 50th birthday, I woke up and used the toilet.  When reaching around to wipe, I felt a pop in my middle back to the right of my spine and twinges of pain started and continued throughout the day.  The following morning the pain was worse and I experienced stiffness and a pulling sensation when moving to my right.  It hurt to lift.  It hurt to walk.  It hurt to bend over.  It hurt to twist my torso.

Crap.

The pain didn’t get any better and didn’t improve with the Aleve I still took most days for my knee.  This was going to suck.

On Thursday I began taking Ibuprofen instead of Aleve.  The pain lessened.   I was able to load the Goldwing with the things I’d need and prep my cooler and hydration system and place them in the refrigerator.  Temperatures were forecasted as low as the low-40s and as high as the mid-70s and I got together riding clothes to match those temps.  I would be layered up early but strip down significantly by the late morning.

I didn’t experience any pre-ride sleeplessness, got to bed early, and woke up on my own ten minutes before my alarm would have gone off at 0300.  I took a quick shower, brushed my teeth, dressed, and was on the bike to my release gas station.  After resetting everything, fueling, taking pictures of my receipts and odometer, I viewed my first timestamp.  I entered the 405 freeway a few minutes after 0336.

The weather forecasts the day before the ride looked like I’d leave very pleasant conditions that would get cooler the further north I rode.  I planned the ride to stop for fuel at the 295-mile mark in Bishop.  Temperatures there would be climbing slightly after an overnight low in the 30s.

The air got cooler travelling north.  I was able to make it almost to Olancha before the sun came up.  The days were already significantly shorter than three months ago.  Traffic was light and I made good time, arriving in Bishop a few minutes earlier than the ride plan.

I pulled into the gas station and filled both tanks.  I pushed the button to print a receipt but nothing came out of the printer slot so I left the Goldwing in front of the pump and walked inside to use the restroom and get my receipt from the cashier.  The man working the counter was about my age and wore engineer boots, jeans, an orange t-shirt and a black leather vest.

My ear plugs were still in so it was difficult to make small talk.  I asked for a receipt on the pump I had used, he printed it, looked at it, then frowned.  “This can’t be right,” he said.  “It’s almost ten gallons.  Thirty dollars.”

“No, that sounds right,” I said, trying not to mumble or yell out loud, the earplugs making it difficult to hear my own voice.

“How?….No bike has a ten gallon tank.”

“It’s got two tanks,” I said.  “It’s right.”

He started to walk out from behind the counter to take a look at my bike but noticed that a line was forming behind me.  He frowned again, realizing he wouldn’t be walking to the front door, and handed me my receipt.

“Have a safe ride,” he said.

I thanked him and headed out the door.  I grabbed my phone and took a picture of the receipt and my odometer in the same frame, bagged the receipt, swallowed some Advil with an electrolyte drink, placed part of a sandwich in my cupholder, and rolled the Goldwing off the center stand.  I put on a heavier pair of gloves because I was cold and I wished I would have stretched out for 60 seconds or so before getting back in the saddle.  My middle back spasmed a few times as I rode out of Bishop, but I noticed it less and less as my speed increased.

The temperature got cooler and cooler.  It was noticeable every time it would drop a few degrees and I pushed the INFO button on the dash to check the outside temperature.  It dropped into the thirties, then the mid-thirties, and north of Mammoth it made it into the twenties briefly.  Fresh snow was spread thinly on both sides of the 395.  It had snowed the night before.

I hadn’t layered for temps this low and began to shiver.

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The temperature rose a bit by the time I got to Mono Lake but I was still cold until I passed into Nevada at Topaz Lake.  The temperature had made it back into the forties but it felt a lot warmer.

I ran into a traffic stop for road construction and had to wait for a pilot car to escort us through.  I was near the front of the line and put the Goldwing on the center stand and ate some more of my lunch, took my vitamins, and hydrated.  The line of traffic coming the other way was long and it took a good ten minutes before we moved.

Traffic was heavier the closer I got to Carson City but I was still more or less on time, so I wasn’t worried.  My first TOH stop, in Carson City, was a 9/11 Memorial with a piece of a surviving I-Beam from the north tower.  My GPS directed me into Mills Park from the west entrance but I was unable to get all the way through the park to east side where the memorial was so I had to backtrack out of the park, get back on William St. and enter from the east.  I rode through the parking lot and saw a large display that I assumed was the memorial.  When I got there, I realized that while it was a display memorializing firemen, and while a lot of firemen were killed when the towers collapsed, it wasn’t what I was looking for.  I looked around me to the front, right, left but couldn’t find the piece of I-Beam.

I made a decision I was okay with in the end, but at the time, I was very angry with myself.  I decided to ride on, scrap the TOH site ride plan, visit the Ironbutt Memorial and use it as a turnaround point, skip the Imlay site, still go to the Fallon site, and continue south, more or less still on plan but with about 115 miles less than my original ride.

In checking later, I realized that had I looked behind me, I would have seen the I-Beam.  I rode right past it looking to the left at the firefighter site, instead of to the right where I passed it from about forty feet away.

I exited Mills Park and rode to a gas station to use the restroom before travelling north to Reno, then northeast to Gerlach.  I have a rule that I won’t use a business’ restroom without conducting some kind of business so I bought a 5-Hour Energy in case I’d need it later in the day.  I was good now, and after severely restricting myself from caffeine after the Summer Solstice ride, hoped I wouldn’t get tired enough that I’d need it later.

Dark clouds in the sky in the direction I was going meant I might be getting wet in Reno, but other than a few showers, I avoided any real rain.  I did ride on wet freeway surfaces a number of times, though.

I exited Interstate 80 at Wadsworth and began the two-lane trek north to Gerlach, NV, site of the Ironbutt Memorial and, less importantly, a quaint get together known as Burning Man.  Highway 447 travels north, to the east of Pyramid Lake, and, at least on Friday, September 22, was almost devoid of travelers.  I moved at a good pace north but a newer, blue F150 truck caught up to me a few miles out of Wadsworth.  I thought he might be a tribal police vehicle and slowed down.  He eventually turned onto a secondary road and I was completely alone for as far as I could see.

Highway 447 undulated in a wave pattern, falling below the desert surface, then rising above it for a short time.  As I reached the peak of one of the waves, I saw traffic ahead a few rises away.  It was a newer Dodge pickup pulling a modular trailer – a temporary classroom or office workspace.  I dropped down into the next depression and when I reached the peak, the truck was not in sight.  I went down again, and when I rose, the truck was stopping on the far-right side of the road, the trailer on its side, its contents scattered all over the road in front of me.

I grabbed my brakes and down shifted in order to come to a quick stop.  Both passengers in the truck were just getting out of the cab and each had a “what-the-hell just happened” look on his face.  The trailer appeared to have swerved, entered the shoulder to the right, swerved back again, spreading gravel and dirt across the highway, tipping on its side when it became unattached from the tow vehicle.  Papers, furniture, ceiling tiles and fluorescent lights were thrown from the trailer when the walls broke away from the ceiling.

I flipped up my shield and asked the man, I presume a Paiute-member based on his appearance, if he was okay.  He nodded a “yes.”

“Do you need me to call anyone for you?”

“No,” he said.  “We’ve got a phone.”

“Need anything else?”

“No.  We’re okay.”

I continued on.  It wasn’t until I was typing this post that I realized how lucky I was.  Had I not slowed down for the blue truck, or had I not taken as long at any of my earlier stops, I might have just come over a rise and been hit by an out-of-control modular building.  Yikes.

I continued on for almost an hour without seeing another vehicle in either direction.  I was, truly, in the middle of nowhere.

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While my ride plan had me stopping in Gerlach for fuel before the Ironbutt Memorial, I decided on the fly to visit the memorial first.  I didn’t need fuel.  I was getting hungry.  I had to pee.  I needed more Advil.

I rode only a couple of miles outside of town before the turnoff at Guru Road.  The memorial is uphill slightly, overlooking the Playa, on a quarter mile long dirt road with a few whoops but nothing too difficult for an oversized dirt bike like the Goldwing.  I tried to determine if it would be best to put the bike on the center stand or not.  The soft dirt made the decision for me.  I fished around for a flat rock to put the side stand foot onto so that I could get into the top box for the larger stand base.  Had I tried to use the center stand, it would have dug in and been very difficult to get out.

It was surreal actually seeing the site for the first time.

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The pictures I had seen of the memorial made it seem to be on flat ground.  In reality, it is angled into the base of the mountains to the west and overlooks the lakebed to the east.  There were more names in the ring of honor than I remembered and I recognized some of the names that I didn’t know were there.  In spite of what one would think, as the IBA is a motorcycle organization, most of the folks memorialized there did not die as a result of a traffic accident.  Like the general population of riders and non-riders, most succumbed to illness of some type.

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I ate my lunch at the table.  It was quiet; a few puffs of breeze scraped across the ground around me.  A truck or two passed by on the road below.  The cloud cover kept the sun at bay and the cool air worked its way into my jacket sleeves and around my torso.

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I picked up my trash and lay down flat on the table, not to simulate sleep, the metaphorical reason it’s there, but to attempt to get my middle and upper back to crack.  I got a few minor pops, felt a bit of relief, and walked back down to the Goldwing.

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I straddled the seat and carefully arranged the bike to face downhill and motored back over the whoops to Hwy 34.  I looked over my left shoulder for traffic and felt a pull in the right, middle area of my back.  The Advil was doing a good job of keeping my back pain at bay, but not completely winning the battle.

I almost immediately entered Gerlach and stopped at the Shell Station for fuel.  An RV was just finishing up when I pulled in.  I tuned off the engine and walked the Goldwing up to the pump.  A kid, towhead blond, about 4 or 5, came walking out of the garage area of the station with a finger on his right hand sticking out in front of him.

He said something to me but I couldn’t hear what it was.  I did what I did when that happened.  I flipped up my shield, smiled and gave the kid a “thumbs up.”  He repeated the same thing again and this time pushed his outstretched finger closer to me.

This time I heard the word “spider” and looked closer at his finger.  Stuck to it was a piece of web and a dead spider swaying back and forth as he moved.  He took a step closer after I put the bike on the center stand.

“Good looking spider,” I said.

“What’s that,” the kid asked?  He pointed to my beaded seat cover.

“That’s so my butt doesn’t get sore.”

He reached out and touched the beads closest to him.  He rolled one over and over.

“What’s that?”  He pointed to my GPS.

“That’s my map so I don’t get lost.”

His Dad walked out of the shop and told him to get back in the shop and leave me alone.

“He’s fine,” I said.

30 seconds later the kid returned.  He was playing with a bead again.

I had finished fueling the auxiliary tank and was about to begin on the main tank when another vehicle pulled up to the other side of the pumps.

One of the men, they were both hunters, got out of the truck they were in and walked around to my side of the pump.  I acknowledged him with a tip of the helmet.  He walked into the office area of the Shell station.

When I finished filling the main tank I asked the kid, “Do you want to sit on the seat?”

“No,” he nodded, but didn’t seem committed to his answer.  His Dad came out and stood behind the Goldwing.

I got my receipt, logged the miles, and took a picture of it next to my odometer.

I asked the kid how high he could reach and motioned upwards with both my arms.  He reached up as high as he could stretch and I picked him up and placed him on the seat.

He sat there for a second not knowing what to do.  His Dad smiled.  He rocked his legs forwards and backwards and reached out towards the bars but came up over a foot short of both the bars and the pegs.

After 15 seconds or so, he got a shocked look on his face and looked down as if he was trying to get down off the bike.

“I forgot,” he said.  “I’m not supposed to talk to people I don’t know.”

“You’re okay, buddy.  I’m here.”  He turned around and saw his Dad.

One of the hunters walked around to the back of the bike and said, “Cool.  Long ride.”  My license plate is LNG RDE.

He asked about the tank and why I needed it.  He wanted to know how far I could go without refueling.  I told him I could go as far as 500 miles if I always travel the speed limit, but at the speeds I usually maintain, the range is closer to 400.

I told him that I had left Los Angeles a little before 0400 and I was heading back.  He shook his head and said, “I don’t know how you can sit on a bike that long.”

“It’s something you get used to over time.  You have to stop and take a piss.  You stretch at every fuel stop.  I’ve got a really comfortable seat and move my legs around a lot.”

“I couldn’t do it,” he said.

As an aside, the seat seems to be a good bonding agent for people that approach me at stops.  With the way I dress, and being well over six feet tall, I stand out.  A lot of people may feel intimidated when my shield is down and they can’t see my eyes.  The tank, the Clearwater lights, the beaded Russell seat are all conversation starters for people that don’t know much about motorcycles.

I’ve offered my seat to a lot of people at these kinds of stops.  With the bike on the center stand it’s stable enough that it’s not going to tip over if someone climbs aboard.  Some decline, but a lot have tried it out.  Kids, even though like this kid they can’t reach the bars or pegs, love it.  Young adults with some type of developmental disability really get excited about it.

At one stop, a family with a male teenager walked over while I was taking a few bites of my sandwich.  Their son’s body language and stare indicated that he was likely autistic.  His parents explained that he saw the bike and wanted to take a look.  I introduced myself and asked if they had any questions.  The teenager touched the well-worn grips and began pushing buttons.  He saw the quarter-turn valve for the fuel tank and touched it.  I didn’t interfere.

His parents asked where I was coming from and going to and I found out they lived in Orange County, too.  After talking a while, I asked if he’d like to have a seat and get a picture.  He needed assistance figuring out how to straddle a leg over the Goldwing but I showed him where to place his left foot and gave him my hand to steady himself.  I didn’t think anything of it, but he reached out to me and swung over and onto the seat.  His hands grabbed the grips and feet fell naturally to the pegs.  I walked around back, out of the picture frame, to let them take a cell phone camera picture.  His Mom told me to get back in the picture and so he and I took a picture together in a gas station near the coast of Central California.  We both smiled and got a picture.

His parents thanked me and explained that he didn’t like being touched by most people.  When I reached out to help him, they expected a problem.  When it didn’t happen, they were pleased.  The seat allows these types of interactions to occur.  I’m happy to share it.

I rode south out of Gerlach.  My ride would divert east on Interstate 80 for a little while in order for me to ride another section of highway 95, that I haven’t ridden, south to Fallon rather than taking the more direct alt-95 route.  The ride between Gerlach and Wadsworth was uneventful.  Traffic was light until I reached Pyramid Lake but only increased a little when the road ran closest to the lake.  The water level appeared low in spite of the wet winter we had.

Wadsworth came and went and I managed to get off the reservation without receiving a speeding ticket in some of its ridiculously slow 15 and 25 mph zones.

Interstate 80 seemed like rush hour in LA compared to the 447.  The speed limit was 80 mph and many, many cars were going 90 or more.  I set the cruise control at 82 and motored leisurely in the right lane, only moving out of my lane long enough to pass trucks.  The twenty minutes or so I spent on the interstate went by very quickly.

I exited at the northern junction of highway 95 and turned to the south.  I passed a caravan of volleyball players in two vans from Wisconsin and made good time to Fallon.  I splashed some fuel in the tank to gather a receipt in Fallon to prove I was there, took a quick piss, and got back on the road.

A Churchill County Sheriff patrol car followed me to the edge of town and then turned around.  70 miles of open desert and farm land was the only thing between me and the next city I’d run into – Hawthorne, my turnaround point on a Saddlesore ride earlier this year.

A Subaru BRZ was keeping a fast pace ahead of me and while I probably didn’t need it, he made a good rabbit.  When the road was open he’d speed up to 90 or 100.  I’d catch him if he was held up by slow traffic that he couldn’t pass but eventually he’d get around the traffic, with me right behind him, and he would pull away again, creating a nice buffer between myself and the radar-equipped troopers ahead.

The further south I rode the colder the air got.  I rode through a few minor rain showers.  The mountains to the southwest of Hawthorne looked threatening and I knew that if I went up in elevation at all I’d probably be in snow.  I had to decide whether to continue to the south-east on the 95 outside of Hawthorne until I met up with the 6 at Coaldale or ride my plan and cut between Hawthorne and Mono Lake on highways 359/167 (359 in Nevada, switching to 167 at the California border).  Google maps had said that the 95 to the 6 was the shorter route but I really wanted to ride the 359/167 rode even though it would be the colder of the two routes.

I rolled through Hathorne and lost the BRZ.  He continued to the east, I cut to the west.  The ride was worth it.  I was able to maintain a fast pace and saw a total of three cars in either direction on the 60 miles between Hawthorne and Mono Lake.  It was cold again.  The temperatures dropped into the upper 30s.  My grip heaters were cooking.

I turned to the south at the 395 and slowed through Lee Vining.  An Alaska airlines DH4 was landing at the Mammoth Lakes airport as I passed.  His landing lights were by far the brightest things in the area and it was cool to watch him descend as I approached.  We intersected at the mid-field point as he was slowing to a stop.

I planned for my last stop to be at Bishop but was getting good fuel mileage and was feeling good so I decided to push it a little further to Big Pine, now completely in the dark.  I re-fueled, ate, used the bathroom, and walked past the coffee machine.  Back at the bike I decided that a coffee sounded good.  I didn’t feel I needed it, but a hot cup sounded really good, so I went back in and bought one, set it on the auxiliary tank and almost immediately knocked it to the ground, spilling it on the gas station concrete pad.  So much for hot coffee.  So much for caffeine.   I had the five-hour energy buried in the top box if I really wanted it.

I headed south, every mile carrying me closer to home.  The GPS projected I’d be home about midnight.

As much enthusiasm as I have for highway 395 in the morning and during the day, it’s not any fun at night.  It is absolutely dark and other than lane reflectors, it’s tough to know anything else about the surroundings.  When I could, I’d switch on the Clearwaters.  They would illuminate the road and shoulder like it was day.  Problem was, though, as soon as I had oncoming traffic or I was overtaking another car, I’d have to turn them off.  Then it was like riding into a cave and it was very easy to outride the low beams.

I hit some type of roadkill in the middle of my lane after having hardly any time to avoid it as it came from out of the dark.  Either a small coyote or really big rabbit, I bounced directly over the top of it.  It forced me to slow my pace.

It made for a long leg and by the time I reached Mohave, I was getting tired.  I did everything I could think of to stay awake and alert.  I was yelling/singing in my helmet, opening and closing my face plate, dangling my legs and exercising my core, and doing push-ups off the bars.

The busier LA traffic forced me to move around from lane to lane and I was happy when I entered the 405 – my last freeway change before the end of the ride.  Less than an hour later I was exiting at Westminster Blvd. and checking off the clock at the same station I used to start the ride.

I put $1.00 worth of fuel in the tank and printed the receipt.  It read 2336 – exactly twenty hours to the minute.

I’d finished the last of my four seasons rides.  Nine months ago, when I rode the first one – to Tucson and back – I didn’t think the next three would go off without some type of difficulty.  The previous three had been certified and this ride looked good.  All of my documentation looked good and I couldn’t think of a reason why I wouldn’t get this one certified.

The four-seasons Saddlesore is not a particularly tough series of rides.  I’ve gotten 1000 miles down to about 16 hours without much difficulty.  The problem is, they can only be performed on one specific day each quarter.  Weather poor?  Too bad, ride it or try it again next year.  Bike problems?  Too bad, get it fixed, and try it again next year.  Too sick to ride?  Too bad, ride it, or wait until you get well.  And try it again next year.

The biggest wildcard in earning a four-seasons certification is luck.

It did, though, force me to plan multiple rides to divert me away from weather, if necessary.  Rain to the north?  Head east.  Hot in the desert?  Go up the coast.  I also had to take better care of myself to try to prevent illness that might be bad enough to cause me to cancel a ride.  The bike had to be perfect so I couldn’t overlook anything.

Even though it doesn’t have to be, I was determined to execute it in four consecutive celestial events, not one this year, two next and a final one the year after that.  It seemed purer this way.

So, I prepped my paperwork and submitted everything for review.  A few days later I received an e-mail from the man himself, Mike Kneebone, IBA President, letting me know that my ride had been certified.  A few days ago, I received my certification

What’s next?  Bun Burner Golds.  A bunch of them.  I also think a two-day ride from San Diego to Jacksonville sounds good.  Maybe another couple of days back.

Heat 1, Todd 0

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Poor Right Foot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winter Solstice Saddlesore 1000

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I ride a Harley,” he said.

“Hmm.  Good bike.”

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

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

“You are?”

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

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

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

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

“Not quite that far,” I said.

“Be safe.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sure,” I said.  “Go get the title.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Excalibur update…

 

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

Hi Todd,

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

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

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

That’s me with a cap at the helm.

Cheers,

Howard

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

500 Mile Half Day Ride–Eastern California Desert

 

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

Usually that means leaving Westminster at 0400.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo via 365.missmorgan.wordpress.com

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

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

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

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

Nothing.  Pause.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo by Tony Park via Google Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo via crystaltrulove.wordpress.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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