Travelogue Chapter Twenty-Three
Wednesday, 04 September 4:00 p.m.
This past weekend the BMW club of Northern California put on the Range of Light (ROL) Gypsy Tour. I left San Diego at 1200 and pulled into Waterford 7½ hours later. It was the typical uneventful trip on the way up there. It's almost gotten to the point where the bike knows where it needs to go without my help. It's probably a good thing I don't leave the keys in it because I'd probably get a call from Mike telling me my bike was there waiting to go for a ride in the hills.
So, what is the ROL all about? Glad you asked. I think the best way to describe it is to let the Day 1 handout explain it for me:
"Welcome to the Range of Light Gypsy Tour where we so heartily support the "full" experience of rally riding events that we dedicate the whole rally to that very activity - to riding. This rally was begun with the concept of a moving event, designed to capture and extend the camaraderie of the poker run at the customary fixed-site rally for an entire weekend. It combines the sport with a little competition, planning a number of opportunities to stop with other participants along the way to each day's destination - or a quick exchange of information (cheating on your answers is boldly encouraged!), for a quick snack or to regroup."
When we checked in Friday night we received a rally package that had the route for Saturday and the destination for Saturday night included in it. We wouldn't find out where Sunday's destination was until we checked in Saturday evening. The route is laced with questions that can be answered by paying attention to what is around you. One example was "WHAT SHOULD YOU VISIT IN WABUSKA?" As you enter Wabuska there's a hand painted sign off the side of the road that simply says "Visit the Historic Wabuska Bar"... There were eleven such questions each day. One "rule" that caught out attention was the "cheating" rule mentioned above... With Mike living only a few miles away from the start of the rally we spent the night at his house rather than having to set and break camp. We also took full advantage of the cheating rule and the power of Internet to get as many questions answered before we even started. We were able to answer 8 of the 11 questions through online research. My gut feeling kept me from searching for the Population and Elevation of Greenview Hill. That seemed to me to be a trap. It was. Unlike the rest of the Population/Elevation signs I've seen around the country this one was a bit more friendly and, some would say, a bit less informative. According to the sign at the city limits, the Population of Greenview Hill is "Friendly" and the Elevation is "Just Right". With the other answers we found we were able to modify our route in a way where we could leave a little later, take a different route (parts of which I had never been on before) and cut out the parts we had just been on a month ago or so...
After a day of riding the twisties we found ourselves at the Fairgrounds in Yerrington, Nevada. One of the "bigger" problems reared its head here. Being a BMW group (instead of some other "American Iron" group) the folks involved have, for the most part, a high standard of personal hygiene. They were promised that there would be showers available at the Fairgrounds. Turns out the only "shower" available was the Hog Wash Station. Pat Potter, the NorCal President, was quickly on the job. Within a short time she came over to announce that she had reserved the last four hotel rooms in the hotel so we could all cycle our way through to take a shower. Kudos to Pat for her quick thinking. Mike, Linda and I decided it would be easiest, since we were all traveling together, to head over together at the same time. I haven't had a shower that felt that good in a long time. There wasn't any of those wussy 2½ gallon per minute shower heads within MILES of this place. This thing REALLY put out the water. After a quick dunking I headed across the street and promptly lost $10 in nickels to a slot machine. (More on that later)
I returned to the Fairgrounds to hand in my question sheet and get my cards. I ended up with a full house (Queens and Eights, I think) but it wasn't good enough to win one of the three prizes for the night. No worries. I wasn't there for the prizes... Dinner that night was a WONDERFUL meal of tossed salad, garlic bread, and Tri-Tip seasoned and cooked to perfection. The swim team of the local school fed us all as a fund raiser for the team. Several hours later, after swapping stories, telling lies, and knocking back a few adult beverages it was time to turn in for the night. Tomorrow would find us taking the LONG way to Quincy, California.
The next morning came early and the three of us (Mike, Linda and I) headed for the restaurant in the casino for breakfast. I never have been much of a breakfast eater and certainly not when I have a 300 mile ride through the heat in front of me but I decided to have a few bits of bacon and some hash browns. They had an excellent looking breakfast buffet for $5.50 that I would have LOVED to partaken in but then I would have had to go back to the campground and sleep for a few hours. After we were done eating Mike headed off for the bathroom and I decided to up the ante a little on the slot machine and stuck a $20 bill in a quarter machine. When all was said and done and I cashed out to leave I got $63.50 back. At that point I had more $$ in my pocket that I did when I left Sandy Eggo. (The schnapps and Black Velvet for my group that night were compliments of the Nevada State Gaming Commission.)
Our route to Quincy took us through some of the neatest and twistiest roads in the area. Mike was having problems with his bike that was causing it to handle like crap so he waived me around when we got to the twisty sections. I had a great time putting that LT through it paces. It might look like a big bike, and ride like a big bike on the freeway and carry a bunch of crap like a big bike, but get it in the twisties and all that "bigness" vanishes and it becomes a well mannered beast.
At one point I caught up to a guy on a R1200C. After a few corners he started wicking it up a little. With very little traffic and the great twisting road calling I decided to open it up a little. After a few more turns I see the guy look in his mirror and I can almost hear his surprised grunt when he saw me still there behind him. Corner after corner it was the same thing... He'd pull out of the corner, look in his mirror and still see me there... I wasn't sure if he was wanting to play or just trying to keep me from passing him. I wasn't interested in passing and was plenty happy just following behind and watching his surprise. At the time I was only guessing but later when I asked him how he felt about looking back and seeing the LT glued to his ass coming out of those corners he told me he couldn't believe what he was seeing... "I'd dive into the corner and power out thinking 'Ha.. I lost him THAT time' but then I'd look in the mirror and see you there again! I couldn't believe that a fully loaded "full dresser" was keeping up with me!" By "full dresser" he was talking about the fairing on the bike and it was loaded because I had all my (borrowed) camping gear strapped to the back. "Full Dressed" motorcycles are not usually known for their cornering abilities. To my own credit I really have improved in my riding skills over the years. Being on Guam for the last four years (and only putting 14,000 miles on it in that time) you'd think my skill would have deteriorated. Not so. I fully attribute the increase in my skill level (which I hadn't realized until I started riding the twisties around here again) to the amount of time I spent on the range teaching the MSF class. I have heard many folks say that the "parking lot drills" that the MSF uses really don't do anything for improving skills and isn't any good above 20 mph. Until very recently I had a hard time arguing that. I *knew* it wasn't true, but I had no empirical evidence to prove other wise. The statistic that the MSF uses really isn't of any help. The favorite statistic flaunted during the course is "90% of all motorcycle crashes involve riders who have no formal training in motorcycle riding" This statistic was generated by the "Hurt Report". The Hurt Study was a study conducted in the 1970's of motorcycle crashes. Think for a minute what, approximately, was the actual percentage of riders in the 70's that had taken a formal motorcycle course. Wanna bet it was pretty close to 10%? If 90% of the population has no formal training and 90% of the crashes are cause by 90% of the population then the statistic really has no meaning, does it? Now, granted, taking the course one time, putting in your three days and leaving it at that probably won't really help a lot. You have to take what you learn and practice it on your own, but the skills taught during the course are VERY applicable to all speeds.
After a while we reached Quincy and the second big problem of the rally became evident. Apparently the caterers that the club hired to provide us with dinner decided to "go swimming" rather than make our meal. Once again the resourcefulness of the club officers came through and in a little while box after box of Pizza was rolling through the gate.
I didn't do nearly as well with my poker hand this time. I ended up with four pair (using 12 cards) but was limited to a five card hand. Linda did pretty good with four 2's and, after some discussion with the judges, ended up with a 2nd place prize. The discussion revolved around the fact that the original 3rd and 2nd place finishers both had full houses and the declared winner had four Jacks. Once it was pointed out that they messed up they managed to scratch together the necessary cash to pay her. I'm not sure where they got it from (they were out of cash after a similar mistake happened from the prize hand outs from the hands the night before) but I hope the original 3rd place "winner" realized what was happening and returned the cash. I really like to think that's what I would have done were it me in their place...
Pretty soon I decided to take a look at where I was and just how long it was going to take me to get back to San Diego. Looking at the map I saw I wasn't all too far from Highway 395 which is pretty much a straight shot down to I-15 near Los Angeles. It's also the way I went back from the Indian Creek Reservoir last weekend so I was familiar with the route and really preferred it to the thought of going back down Highway 99 or I-5. After a quick calculation I realized I was at least 10 hours from San Diego and that didn't take into account the Labor Day Weekend traffic I was certain to encounter along the way. I planned to be packed up and on the way by 0800 at the latest. It didn't quite work out like that and at 0920 the next morning I was rolling out of the Fairgrounds.
The traffic on the first part of the trip was very light. As I was traveling on a secondary road far off the beaten path it really didn't surprise me. Very quickly (75 miles down the road) I reached Reno about 1030 and it was time to stop and fill up the water bladders in the backpack. It was also the first time all weekend I was able to pick up a signal on my cell phone to the my little lady know that all was well. Rather quickly it started getting hot and I needed to be on the road so it was time to settle into the saddle and hit the pavement.
Going through Reno the traffic continued to be rather light. I started to get a little concerned, actually. Did I somehow lose a day? Was I really headed back on Tuesday morning and was I VERY late for work? Unfortunately my radio burned up during my last trip and I had no company other than the voices in my head to listen to... The hardest part about not having a radio on the bike is deciding which of the five trains of thought going through my head to concentrate on. When I am in heavy traffic the choice is easy. I chose the one saying "Stay alive! Stay alive!!" Yet when there is little traffic do I chose the one thinking about the lesson I am scheduled to give the next morning? Perhaps the one still wandering through the mountain passes I spent Saturday and Sunday crossing... Maybe the one that is playing the continually running music sound track that haunts me 24/7... Of course there's always the analytical train that is forever updating my projected arrival time based on current average speed and distance yet to travel. That one gets boring rather quickly so I decided to move the music to the foreground and sing along for a while. (As it turns out I should have paid more attention to the lesson plan as I ended up failing that one Tuesday morning). I was so engrossed in singing along with the sound track that I'm still not sure what happened but somehow I nearly got turned around trying to follow 395 out of Reno. I *thought* I was following the signs for 395 South but all of a sudden I found myself at the bottom of an off ramp with a decision to either turn right toward Lake Tahoe or left to the "unknown". Nevada is second only to Oregon for their lack of intelligence and forethought in placing road signs. Especially those that tell you which way you need to go. Somehow I managed to flip my mental coin and make the right decision and eventually found myself headed south on 395. If any of y'all are familiar with the area I am talking about I'd appreciate a note letting me know what I did wrong (if anything).
Some number of miles (??) south of Reno I finally found the traffic I was looking for earlier. The road was mostly two-lane cutting through river canyons and the traffic was made up almost entirely of vehicles that didn't seem able to maintain the 65 mph speed limit. There were several times when we were down to 30 mph. After three hours total travel time I had only managed to cover 150 miles. At that rate it was going to take me more than 12 hours to get to San Diego and I hadn't even reached the Los Angeles traffic yet!!! Every once in a looooong while I'd come to a dashed center line or a passing zone and one-by-one (thanks to the 100 hp engine between my legs) I was able to dispatch the slower traffic. Four hours after leaving Reno I was finally able to break free of the traffic but it was time to stop for fuel. I don't think I'll ever have a need for a fuel cell on this bike. I have reached my limit at four hours without getting off the bike. One good thing about going so damn slow I got really good gas mileage. In those four hours I traveled a little over 200 miles but used only 4.06 gallons of gasoline. Getting 50 miles per gallon is something I can really get used to, but not if it means going that slow. The next stretch of road, which I was able to keep the speed up around 70 mph most the way saw a decrease in mpg to about 45... I can live with that too...
My final gas stop of the trip was in Boron, Ca. 181 odometer miles from the barracks at the Navy Base. If I kept a throttle on my throttle I'd be able to make it the rest of the way without having to stop for gas again. This was a good thing because it would keep me from hearing the "TICKING" sound that I noticed coming from the valve train area at this stop. It really has me concerned. It sounds almost like a single valve is not getting oil properly. It's not the ticktickticktickticktick of the entire valve train not getting oil, it's more like tick......tick......tick......tick....... of a single valve... Not a good sound either way. The bike has developed a Harley habit lately of making its spot occasionally. It seems it only drips after very short trips. After a bit of running there's nothing leaking out... the spot I park it all the time outside the barracks is 100% dry... But after a short trip of about 10 miles or less it pukes oil out like a damn Harley... I don't quite understand what is happening but I just keep dumping more oil in the top. This weekend I am planning on giving it a real honest-to-goodness oil change... Filter and all... I think it's about due anyway. When I picked up the bike from Cycle Specialties in Modesto on 22 May it had 46,938 miles on it and had just been serviced. As it sits out alongside the barracks right now it has 57,031 miles on it... I have put 10,093 miles in it in the last 3 months.... Put otherwise I have averaged 100.93 miles a day EVERY DAY since I arrived. That includes all the week days that it has sat there parked while I was at work... patiently waiting for our next adventure... Compare that to the 14,000 miles I managed to rack up in the entire four years I was on Guam... (or even the 32,000 miles I put on in the 18 months before we left for Guam)...
As I got closer to the 395/I-15 merge I steadied myself for the onslaught of Labor Day Weekend traffic I was sure to get caught up in... It wasn't to be, however. Traffic wasn't bad at all!!! It seemed to be even better than the typical "return from the weekend" traffic... I don't know if I missed it because I was there too early or too late. It was well after 1800 by the time I was heading through the LA area so I'm not really sure what happened. Not complaining, either. In a couple hours I was pulling into the Navy base and I had arrived.
I think I am going to take next weekend off. I have to make sure the bike is going to survive my next planned trip back up north to Mariposa for the Central Cal Autumn Beemer Bash. Another event I haven't been to for many years. According to my Rally Hat with all my pins I haven't been to a bash since 1994. Hopefully the bike is in shape to make it up there again. The following week I am planning on heading back up there one more time to do some more fishing. Thinking about hitting Twin Lakes (not the ones in Montana.) I've heard good things about that area for fly fishing. It will probably be my last chance before I leave to go back to Hawaii.
Welp... It's been a long one and I hope y'all are still with me. It's time to close once again.
On to next chapter