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Go West, (not so) Young Man…

May 30, 2013

It has been quite a while since I have posted anything.  To be honest, not much has happened on the riding side of my life.  I do have a few new toys to play with, but not much in the way of riding has happened, until last week…

Day 1:  In Nevada the winds don’t blow, they suck…

Half-way through my last set of days off I decided that I needed to go for a ride, a long ride…  The next morning I jumped on my hastily packed V-Strom, pointed west on I-80, and started riding. I didn’t know where I was going, or even when I would be back. My brother lives in Tucson, AZ; my sister is in Fairfield, CA (just a little west of Sacramento).

Welcome to UtahI still didn’t know 180 miles later when I rode into Salt Lake City, UT. At some point shortly before I reached I-15 I started thinking seriously about where I was going.   Southern Arizona is already too hot this time of year.  Central California is much more pleasant in May, possibly a little cool as I approach the coast.  Also, a visit to my sister would give me the chance to ride my motorcycle across the Golden Gate Bridge, something I have wanted to do for a very long time.  West it was…

Before leaving the Salt Lake City area, I stopped in at Honda Suzuki of Salk Lake to, well, spend money.  I have been looking for a set of actual riding pants for some time.  Jeans are fairly comfortable, but I was looking for something with a bit more ventilation, durability in a crash (yeah, it happens), armor to protect my knees after sliding away from said crash, and if I could get all that in a waterproof set then I would call that a bonus.  I scored well by picking up a set of Tour Master Caliber riding pants.

Bonneville Salt Flats BarrenSeveral years ago I took a long trip on my VTX1800 to the coastal area of the state of Washington.  My return trip took me from Reno, Nevada back to Rock Springs, Wyoming on I-80.  I like to call the area between Tooele, Utah and Reno the Cursed Earth, a reference to the uninhabitable parts of the earth in the comic book series/movie Judge Dredd.  Again, that was several years ago.  As of this trip, nothing has changed.

As I continued west, past Tooele, the winds started to pick up.  Up until that point the winds were relatively light with an occasional gust.  Starting at the Bonneville Salt Flats, the winds became a steady force from the southwest, blowing at about 20 mph, with gusts over 35 mph (according to Accuweather).  Fighting winds of that caliber for 500 miles makes a long trip seem, well, longer.  Much longer…

Welcome to NevadaOn the plus side, there were less than 50 other vehicles heading west, maybe five curves on I-80 between Tooele and Reno, and even fewer law enforcement officers on the same stretch.  If you are wondering what the best way to describe that situation, I believe you are looking for the phrase “Surfing the Super Slab.”  The winds made that leg of the trip tough, but I still was able to make good time when I wasn’t stopping to take pictures, stopping to fuel up, or eating at the Salt Flats Cafe (great food and low prices).   There are rumors floating around the internet that parts of the movie “The World’s Fastest Indian” (hint, it’s not about a running Native American, nor is it about a Dell customer support employing trying not to be late to work) were filmed at that cafe, but I can’t say that I remember those parts.  I may have to watch the movie again.

Even with my, uhhh, enhanced rate of speed, it still took me almost seven hours to cross the 410 miles of I-80 in Nevada, mostly because I had to stop and fuel up more than I would have liked to due to the strong head wind I was fighting.

Welcome to CaliforniaBy the time I reached the California border it was getting dark outside.  In keeping with the theme I started at the Wyoming/Utah border I was able to get the obligatory “Welcome to…” picture.  I would have hated to get this far and missed getting a picture of the last border sign because it was dark outside.

Donner Summit (just west of Truckee, California), at  an elevation of 7,240 feet, gets a bit chilly at night, even when the temperature in the low lands on either side of the pass are quite comfortable.  Anticipating the cooler temps, I had a cup of coffee after fueling up in Truckee, hoping to stay warm as I reached the top of the pass.  Between the coffee, my insulated jacket, my new insulated pants, and the heated hand grips on my V-Strom, I was able to stay fairly warm.  By the time I made it down to level land around Sacramento I was quite warm.

I pulled into my sister’s driveway at about 11:45 pm Pacific time, about 17 hours and 880 miles after I left my house in Wyoming.  For the year that I have owned my V-Strom I have wondered how I would feel after taking a long ride like that in one day.  I felt pretty good after the ride.  I was a bit tired and my legs were a little stiff, but I didn’t feel anywhere near as beat up as I felt after completing the Land of Enchantment 1000 rally on my VTX a few years back.  All told, it was good to get off the bike and spend time with my sister and my nephew, both of whom waited up for me, before passing out after a long day.

Day 2:  Bridging the gap

DSCN0152_zps600cfc8aFor some ungodly reason I woke up about 6:30 the next morning.  It could have been the time change making my body think it was 7:30, or it could have been my sister’s Vizsla, Charlie Brown, whining at my bedroom door.  Either way I was up.

I sat and chatted with my sister, nephew, and niece over breakfast. After asking me what my plans were my sister mentioned a place called Lake Berryessa, and specifically a feature called the Glory Hole (Chill out, this is a real thing – just follow the link.  Don’t worry, it is safe for work, family, kids), which is a fairly unique spillway in the Monticello Dam.  As of this writing the water level is way too low for the spillway to be necessary, but when the water is high… (Again, follow the link).

After breakfast my sister went to work and her kids went to school.  I put the dog out, jumped on the bike, and headed out to explore.  My first stop, after fueling up, was the Glory Hole (again, chill out…).  The road along the south/west side of lake Berryessa has lots of twists and turns.  If it weren’t for the rocks and sand falling of the cliffs next to the road a person could have lots of fun riding this road.  I was hoping the lake would be high enough for the Glory Hole (stop it…) to be in full glory, but the lake was a little low.  Oh well…

After having my fill of the Glory Hole (OK, you can snicker at that one) I headed west towards San Francisco (there seems to be an unintentional theme going here…).  As I said earlier, I have long wanted to ride a motorcycle across the Golden Gate Bridge.  In fact, I have wanted to just spend a day exploring the bridge, and the area around the bridge including the Presidio and the Marin Headlands.  I don’t think the other members of my family have the same desire to spend a day at a bridge, so I didn’t try to get this exploration done when we were in California as a family a few years ago.

Golden Gate Bridge

In addition to the Golden Gate Bridge I crossed four other bridges that day:  the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge (The Bay Bridge), the Carquinez Bridge, and the Benicia-Martinez  Bridge (the last two bridges actually span the Carquinez Strait.  Did I mention I like bridges???

Golden Gate V-StromAside from crossing the bridges, I explored the Marin Headlands, which is the west face of the chunk of land at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge (the city of Sausalito is on the east side of the same chunk of land).  There are many great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco Bay, and San Francisco itself from the Marin Headlands, depending on which part of the headlands you are standing on.  Also, and I was completely unaware of this, there are many historic military facilities scattered throughout the area.  Although I have a military background, I have to admit I was more interested in getting pictures, including a picture of the bridge and my V-Strom.  You gotta have your priorities…

I got my pictures, did some exploring, and decided to ride through downtown San Francisco.  Actually, I wanted to ride past the base of the Prudential building (the tall, skinny, triangle/pyramid looking building).  Traffic was a bit hectic, but not as bad as I had expected it to be.  My sanity intact, I played in the hilly section of town, amazed that people can park their cars sideways on even the steepest slopes.  Neon Rider Golden Gate BridgeI’m guessing that not too many high-profile vehicles park in those areas.  Hills ridden and Steve McQueen car chase scenes remembered, it was time to do Lombard Street.  Yep, the same street that Bill Cosby says has flowers at all the turns as a memorial to all of the people that didn’t successfully negotiate all the the turns…  I’m not sure if there just aren’t very many bikes that go down Lombard Street (I find that hard to believe), or if my V-Strom is just unusually ugly for a bike, but I had many people watching me ride by and several more were taking pictures.  Maybe they were just hoping for the next great viral video…

While riding back to my sister’s house I finally got tired of the poor traction I was getting from my old riding boots.  Actually, they were just a pair of slip-on steel-toe boots that were getting old and had worn the treads smooth.  I stopped at a Cycle Gear store in Concord and walked out with an inexpensive pair of Bilt Hurricane Waterproof Motorcycle Boots.  For the price I found them very comfortable right out of the box.  I never did hit any rain on the trip, so I don’t have anything to say about the waterproof claim.  The boots feel secure and I found them to be all day comfortable.  I was able to ride the 880 miles home at the end of the trip without any blisters, annoying hot spots from rubbing, or even so much as an adjustment.  Enough about the shoes.  I made it back to my sister’s house and the day was done.

Day 3:  Do you want some cheese with that wine?

Not much riding occurred on the third day, which was spent playing around the Napa Valley with my sister.  We toured the Cosentino Winery and the Del Dotto Vineyards.  The biggest thing I learned on those two tours was that wine has a lot more alcohol in it than I thought it did.  “Nuff said…  Between the two tours we had lunch at Rutherford Grill in Rutherford.  Delicious…

Day 4:  I’m on my way.  Home sweet home.

DSCN0185_zpsa5c7a098While I could fill many more days with the things I want to do in California, I have a life at home and it was time to return to it.  As my sister left to take her kids to school and then go to work I pulled out of the driveway and headed east on I-80.  The route back was just the reverse of the route west.  I didn’t stop much, just for fuel and food.  The wind was pretty much gone for the return trip.  What wind there was ended up being a slight tail wind.  Again, light traffic and an even lighter law enforcement presence gave me a chance for a very quick trip home.  880 miles in 13 hours.  I did stop for a couple of pictures but no shopping stops.  It was just getting dark when I pulled into Bay 3 (the motorcycle side of my garage).


Welcome to Wyoming

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