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Old 04-22-2013, 05:34 PM   #16
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Great report. Looking forward to the rest. I love to see a group of misfits and their riders on an adventure.
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Old 04-22-2013, 10:00 PM   #17
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So, a quick note on food: I really have to hand it to the maniacs I traveled with on the food front. My idea of traveling food is Cliff bars, a gallon Camelback, and stopping for burritos. In the light of various culinary rumors coming from my fellow riders, I stepped up my game with veggie sausages (sausages will be a theme here), and some onions and mushrooms for shish kebabs. I completely neglected to bring any sort of spices, including salt. Jeremy's R6 has no space, and he came up from Fresno, so he was at the mercy of my dubious food choices.

The rest of the gang? Not so much.

Wayli's better half works at an organic, free-range butcher shop and tends to, ah, bring her work home. So Wayli showed up with what must have been a two foot coil of fresh sausage, bound straight for the grill.

Elizabeth, not to be outdone, popped off with a whole stack of different kinds of sausages that she lugged down in her massive panniers, AND a bag of marshmallows, AND chocolate.

Walter McScooterman opened the topbox of his landyacht and busted out a six pack of stout, a huge bottle of cider, a container of rabbit stew, another container of vegetable curry that we never even managed to get into, and a flippin' mousse cake. I shit you not, this man dragged a home-baked, jiggly, chocolatey, melty, utterly decadent torte from San Francisco to Big Sur, on the twistiest roads we could find, and made it without harming a single chocolate curl on the thing.

I've never felt so inadequate in my life.

So to all of you a lesson: If one of your companions says "Hey, I'm gonna bring this... oh, and someone should bring that... I will... ooh, and I've got this idea..." just stand back, shut your mouth, and if at all possible throw money at them. It's worth it.
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Old 04-22-2013, 10:41 PM   #18
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Anyhow, it was a chilly night, and my lousy sleeping mat wasn't* quite long enough to keep my feet off the ground. It was the sort of chilly night that ends up being long- you sleep a bit, you wake up, you move, and you suddenly realize how your feet are just utterly chilled, you move a bit, curl up in a little wad in your sleeping bag, sleep a bit, wake up and realize your shoulder is completely frozen because at 30 you've already managed to wreck half the joints in your body and you've moved off your mat, you drift off again and some damn fool of a bird completely loses his shit in the pre-dawn gray when it's coldest, you drift off again...

Dawn finally came though, and while it wasn't the best night's sleep ever, it certainly wasn't the worst either. One by one, we eased out of our bags and into whatever clothing we deemed warmest and started stomping about for various morning errands. Mostly, the acquisition or divestment of various fluids. I discovered the showers, and luxuriated under the luke-warm mist for a couple of minutes. Continuing the theme of "things I forgot" I had neither soap nor towel, but decided that even a just-water shower and toweling down with yesterday's shirt would still be an improvement over neither.

Almost everyone eventually decided that we weren't on the bikes yet, but damn it, riding gear is warm and it was going on early!

Since we just had the one tent and a everyone's bag, it was a quick tear-down. Naturally, this meant everyone helped, or offered to help, or was ready to help, or stood around and looked helpful...

And just to make sure you're all suitably jealous, here's a nice, tall shot of the grove we slept in.

Then came the great game of stuffing everything back on the bikes. It's weird, but even though food gets eaten and water gets drunk, gear expands for the first two or three days. I think it has something to do with gradual compression in storage, or taking on humidity or something, but packing the bikes somehow took longer than breaking down camp and stuffing everything bag in its bag or box or whatnot.

Then maps were consulted, phones were argued over, and we beat out a plan for our return trip: continue on 1 South for a while, then cut across the Diablo Range on road Q18 or something like that to the 101. Dead simple: Keep going, take the first left, keep going to 101.

Yeah, that didn't happen. But we'll get there later.

And for some reason, I was always the last idiot standing there, jacket on the seat, helmet on the mirror, mucking with something while everyone else was in the saddle, gear on, warming up the bikes.

Eventually, we got ourselves on the bikes and bounced over the dirt roads to the exit where we promptly stopped five bikes on the steep uphill to argue about what to do about checking out. Never mind that we completely blocked the in and the out. Eventually a car came up and politely threatened to blow their horn so we shuffled and cursed and wrestled and stalled the bikes to the side of the road. Somebody ran the parking slip back to the office, exchanged it for a bewildered look, and we roared off.

We hadn't seen gas it about 35 miles, which really isn't far, except that we had one bike leaking oil and another randomly refusing to start. So when we saw a gas station a mile down the road everyone made a break for the pumps.

And then realized that this was the middle of nowhere where gas was well in excess of $5 a gallon, and besides, gas is really damn heavy, so let's not fill up just yet. But Wayli was concerned about his oil level, and with good reason- he'd been losing oil at a steady drip whenever the bike was on for the entire trip. It was all over the outside of his back wheel, and starting to spatter on his exhaust. He checked the oil, and what had been at the upper end of the dip stick was now halfway down it. Not good. He poured in another half-quart or so.

At this point, I confess, I was starting to worry. Granted, this was the same man who was late yesterday because he needed to make a payment on his insurance to get that reinstated, but a bike that loses half a quart of oil in under 200 miles is not what you want on a trip like this, especially if it's getting worse- it had never dripped before, and now it was dripping visibly.

But what can you do? Check the dipstick, carry spare oil, hope for the best. In a pinch we could just stuff the bike in a bush, take a GPS reading if we could get enough cell signal, pile gear and rider on various bikes, and finish the trip and let him find a buddy with a truck and do it all over again in a few days. If it had been a bald tire, that would have been a different matter (he got those replaced last week, after the plies started showing through), but strictly speaking an oil leak is a less-dangerous sort of issue.

Trips are like that. You can't head off all possibility of disaster, and if you do, you aren't traveling. You're commuting. We very specifically did not want to commute- planning was deliberately haphazard, we had enough vehicular variety that we were guaranteed to have at least one fish out of water at all times, and half of us had less than 18 months riding experience.

Oiled up and freshly reassured that anything that could possibly go wrong was probably preordained from the start, and besides it was unlikely to end in severely crippling injury, we were in high spirits for day 2 of riding.

Then the R6 wouldn't start. Kickstand down, off the Kawasaki, get behind the Yamaha, one, two, three, shove, pop the clutch, va-voom! Back on the Kawi, kickstand up, find a break in the traffic, go, go, go, ok, hang on, wait... go, go! Were were up and away!

*"wasn't" is an intentional word choice. Past tense.
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Old 04-25-2013, 07:56 PM   #19
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I cannot believe you failed t take a picture of the home made mousse cake both wrapped in a frozen towel and when ready for consumption.

Other than that this is fascinating stuff. A fine change from all the clockwork like GS road reports.

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Old 04-26-2013, 09:27 AM   #20
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Thanks! More to come, I'm just being lazy. Also, another trip this weekend :)

We didn't get a picture of the cake, unfortunately- it was a chocolate cake in the dark. It wouldn't have been much of a picture.
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Old 04-27-2013, 09:21 AM   #21
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That looks like a great time! Thanks for sharing with us. I'm looking forward to your next RR.

I would love to try a trip with my friends, but my current group of friends doesn't have bikes, so I just fly solo for now.
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Old 04-27-2013, 12:29 PM   #22
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I've ridden those roads, and camped in those area's many times and your descriptions make me want to pack up and head down there right now. Thanks for putting some fresh eyes on that great ride. I think we get spoiled riding in the bay area, there are just so many great areas to visit.
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Old 04-28-2013, 10:02 PM   #23
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Thanks, all!

Got distracted this weekend and roared up to Tahoe for a bachelor party, but I promise I'm not done here- coming back to finish this... someday... soon...
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Old 04-29-2013, 11:19 PM   #24
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OK, back at it! Sorry, got distracted over the weekend with a trip up to Tahoe via Highway 50 for a bachelor party- great ride! The groom's brother had an old HD Sportster and tried to convince me to take the long way back and cruise the west side of the lake, but I had a fire under my ass to get back home- good thing too, it was broiling hot and beastly windy the whole way.

Speaking of wind...

We got back on the road from the expensive gas station, and just rode for a bit. I think we all felt good getting back on the bikes, digesting breakfast and letting the jacket liners thaw out a bit. It got warm quick enough, we came out of the valley, and back onto Pacific Coast Highway.

Half an hour later we were back on the coaster, and had to stop for another photo op. Here's Walter and the blue, blue waters of the Pacific.

The ocean isn't always that blue along this coast, but haven't seen any storms in a while, so it was this wonderful clear blue color today. We were all a bit captivated, and Walter borrowed my phone. He got a good shot that really encapsulates what this was like- dark under the trees, sunny slopes full of chaparral down to the cliff, and then those foaming white waves crashing over the rocks with blue, blue, blue water just screaming for a pirate ship to come skulking up the coast.

Then we turned our attention back to Wayli's bike. Specifically, to the grease spot that was rapidly spreading under his engine. You could see the drops now, every 30 seconds or so. His back tire was slick on the right side, his pipe was smoking from the spatter, and there was oil all over his license plate.

Not good.

There was a lot of hemming and hawing and poking at the bike. We narrowed it down to a bit of tubing coming out of a mysterious little box, filthy with oil, behind the cylinders. None of us knew what this was or what it did, but it seems to spit oil when the engine was on. The more we poked, the more we found that this beast really was just sweating the black stuff out everywhere, but we couldn't find any specific crack or seal it was coming from. It just seamed to ooze from all over, and especially that weird little box.

Naturally, some wise-ass *coughmecough* started questioning Wayli about his oil fill procedure. Was it possible the bike had too much oil in it, and he was just making it worse by topping it off all the time? Could it be venting the stuff out the crank case breather?

Nope. He quoted me chapter and verse from the owner's manual: ride the bike 15 minutes to warm it up, put it on the side stand, let it cool 5 minutes, drain the old oil, replace the plug, refill to the line. OK, then.

There was nothing we could do, so we took more pictures. Wayli's looking a bit worried here, but by and large we were still on cloud 9.

Then we got back on the bikes and just rode for a while. After the oil argument I think we were all feeling the heat and needed to be alone with our thoughts for a while- I sure did. There was a little bit of a sense of... not urgency exactly, but... foreboding? Nostalgia? I don't know, but even though we were moving steadily away from home, we were on the way back. All of us had our eyes open for Road Q 18 or whatever it was east across the Diablo Range.

But mostly, we were just riding and enjoying the spectacular scenery. There comes a point when the area you're riding through is so gorgeous that you just can't stop at all the pretty places, and you just keep riding, drunk on the glory of the country around you, so utterly overwhelmed and happy that even things like leaky bikes don't matter anymore. Just ride, baby, ride until you can't ride anymore, ride until that bike breaks down or you run out of gas or you're home again, but until then- ride.

So we did. We rode. We probably rode for well over an hour down the Pacific Coast, the land gradually turned from brilliant sunshine and steep cliffs to rolling hills, bluffs with beaches and a thing, glistening haze hanging over the water. It got warm and humid.

Then we passed a sign: San Simeon.

Woah. That's... a ways down. Wasn't there a road? No, impossible, we couldn't have missed that. We kept riding.

Then another sign: overlook.

OK, screw it, time to put our heads together and figure out what's going on. The overlook had the prerequisite parking lot, railing, etc, but the beach was only about four feet down from the rail. We tumbled off the bikes and stomped around, stretched and got feeling back in our butts. My head without a helmet felt disturbingly like a hermit crab without a shell- naked and cold. Things were starting to get weird.

According to the map, we'd passed our turn off 30 miles ago. Should we go back? Nope, it was another 15 or so miles to San Simeon and gas, and probably another 50 back to the turn off and then across the hills. We needed gas. OK, keep going south, find gas, and then 46 east to 101 and haul ass northward as a righteous pace. It was already after 1:00, and we were a long way from home.

But first, seals!

There were seals all over that beach. Thousands and thousands of seals. Most of them looked like young elephant seals, but there were a few other ones as well, without that funky nose. Maybe they were young- they didn't seem to get a really big honker 'till they were older, I don't know. And man, they smelled.

I can't get the damn video to embed, but you can see it here.

We at some cliff bars, jerky, whatever, drank some water, and got back on the bikes. My butt was starting to really hate that seat, but whatcha gonna do? It wasn't like I had a spare seat with me. Back on the road toward San Simeon and gas.

A few minutes later we rolled into San Simeon, past the old Mission San Simeon, the historic hotel, the historic bar, and back out of San Simeon. No gas. Okeeeeeey, we got going.

Finally we hit Cambria. Cambria, as it turns out, is a neat little resort town and popular with bikers. I think we saw a dozen Harleys line-of-sight of the gas station. we got in, fought our way through the line, gassed, and hopped across the street to a funky little deli thing.

Oh, man, was that food good. Really, really tasty sandwiches. If you come into Cambria from the north, it's the first building on the right. Park on the street by the fence next to the building, you'll be fine, and relax with lunch and a fresh-pressed cold juice. We did, and it was amazing.

Lunch did wonders to bring back everyone's flagging spirits. Sure, we'd missed our turn, but we we had gas, and we were near a highway that would take us back to 101, a boring but guaranteed way to get home in good time. The sun was out, and the afternoon was warm. I think this is where I picked up a nasty sunburn, but whatever.

Somebody summed it up perfectly: Dude, I think we're in So Cal.

Yep, we were definitely in Southern California now. Palm trees, warm sun, Harley riders in t-shirts and vests, people trucking off to the beach. Good times. Walter had a date in Santa Cruz at 5, so he was getting a little bit antsy, but the rest of us were content to enjoy this for a bit before we got back on the freeway for, what, a couple of hours back to San Jose? This was probably the last real stop.

Walter was determined to get a message out. Elizabeth was happy to forget technology entirely.

Naturally, things never go as planned- they would go awry soon enough, but we didn't know that yet.

And with that, I'm going to leave you all and crawl into bed. I'm still tired from my madcap run down from Tahoe yesterday, but at least we're through the slow bit into Cambria. The next leg gets is where plans seriously went out the window.

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Old 04-30-2013, 08:08 AM   #25
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Your word pictures put me right there. Thank you very much for your story.
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Old 04-30-2013, 10:48 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
Your word pictures put me right there. Thank you very much for your story.
Thanks, Skeptic! 7 years of college, and almost all the writing I do now is on motorcycle forums.

Still, couldn't ask for a better life!
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Old 04-30-2013, 11:27 AM   #27
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You are quite the writer. Good work!
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Old 04-30-2013, 10:42 PM   #28
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Lunch wound down, and naturally the incontinent Nighthawk came up in conversation again. Wayli was starting to think that maybe the oil should have been checked with the bike vertical after all. Maybe. That would explain it, and conveniently wouldn't mean tearing into the engine. That made sense, right?

But that still didn't solve the oil on the back tire. The entire right edge of it was slick with oil. The worst of the twisties were behind us, but we decided to take it slow just in case, and not let Wayli go last- that way, if he took a powder, somebody else would be able to collect him sooner rather than later.

Wayli, Elizabeth and I were totally cool with that, but I think Walter was starting to get antsy- he had that date in Santa Cruz to get back to, and dragging ass because of somebody else's bike is never fun. He was totally cool about it, but did hint that he might put the hammer down on 101. Jeremy, I think, was mostly concerned with the random starting/not starting antics of the Yamaha, and was pretty much cool with whatever was gonna happen, as long as someone was around to give him a push when he needed it.

As for me... well, my ass was sore, but my bike was running gloriously well and I was in no mood to let Sunday come to an end. We had already hit the halfway point to Los Angeles, and Elizabeth and I were already joking about taking it all the way to Mexico. To be honest, I would have loved to. Employment is a terrible mistress. But after all the windy and the slow and the constant eye on the odometer, I was looking forward to some serious slab time too- just let the bike loose and howl up the freeway for a bit, no turns, no streets to look for, guaranteed gas every 5-10 miles... I was conflicted.

Walter wasn't. He wanted to go, and Elizabeth, once she got over the lethargy of sunshine, pointed out that we still had a lot of miles to cover if we wanted to get home before dark. The Bay Area freeways are a terrifying thing on a Sunday evening, and we wanted to avoid that if at all possible. Off we went.

First south, and then left at the first light (in this case, about a mile down the road, but it would have been 50 miles if we'd gone in the other direction). Highway 46 is a nice road, through the arid Coast Range, full of big sweeping turns and low passes. There were actually enough cars here to bunch up on the long grades, but not so many that we couldn't pass them.

Before we knew it, we were in Paso Robles, where Jeremy was peeling off back to Fresno. We stopped off in a quiet office building parking lot, and did the awkward shuffle you do when good friends leave. It's that moment where you don't really know what to say because half of you knows it isn't forever, and this has happened a million times before, so just tip a wave, say "ciao!" and go, but the other half just feels like pure shit because your buddy's riding the other way.

We lingered for a bit, but not too long because Walter wanted to get going. Hugs all around, and then Jeremy casually kicked Wayli's tire.

And slipped right off it. That tire was covered in so much oil that you could get absolutely no traction on it, even with a rubber sole. He finally pulled the manual out, and sure enough- it said to warm the bike, let it rest on the side stand for a few minutes so it's cool enough to touch, and then check the oil with the bike upright. It was massively overfilled, and he'd kept overfilling it more and more to make sure it didn't run out. Seriously not good. Elizabeth did the smart thing and told Wayli she was not getting back on the road until he scrubbed the crap off. We spied a gas station down the block, and fired up. Walter completely lost patience at that point, said bye, apologized, and hit the freeway north. So long, Walter!

The rest of us fired up, except for Jeremy. His bike wouldn't start again. That was just a bit worrying, since he was about to go off on his own, but I gave him a shove and we decided to check it at the station.

We probably spent a good half hour here, Jeremy topping off his fuel just as far as it would go so he could run the 120 miles nonstop back to Fresno, and Wayli cleaning his tire.

That worked like this: go to the bathroom. Take a piss, wash your hands, take a paper towel and soak up as much soap as it'll hold, then go outside to the water hose, pump some quarters into it, and work the wet, soapy, papery mess around the back tire for a bit. Then send somebody else back for more soap. The tire was flinging oil all over his pipes, fender, blinker, license plate, bags, the sleeping bag strapped to the tail, everything. We eventually got it reasonably clean and decided it would have to do, we'd just ride slow.

Jeremy's bike wasn't starting at all anymore. He poked at fuses, tried walking it fast enough to start, but that wasn't happening- it was just too tall to get going with any sort of alacrity. It needed a second person, end of story. We looked at each other, he and I, and I think we both knew that it was completely possible to ride the entire way back without stopping for anything, but man, that would suck. What'cha gonna do? We said goodbye, I gave him a final shove, and we got back on the road.

Two exits later, he waved and peeled off. Just three of us left now.

101 was windy, but nice. It's relatively small here, and we passed through rolling hills and green, leafy riparian areas. Lots of birds. At one point near the Big Sandy State Wildlife Area I glanced over to my right, and spotted some sort of raptor really close. I looked back, and it was maybe 50 or 100 yards away, and huge. A vulture? No, bigger- and then I saw a flash of snowy white head head and tail, and knew why this bird is the symbol of the US. I've seen bald eagles before, in zoos, in the wild, and over the port of Seattle, but never before like this, flapping its massive wings over a tree-lined pond in the Central Valley. Wow. Anybody would want to have that as a symbol, I see that now.

But I had to keep riding. We were on the freeway, and the wind was getting worse. It was buffeting me pretty well, and Wayli was laid out on the tank of his Nighthawk like a lizard, keeping his profile as low as possible. Elizabeth, on that super light Ninja and her huge bags and camp chair across the back was being blown around like crazy. Then she got blown completely out of her lane and into the middle of the next lane over- it happened so smooth, and got blown so far, I thought she made a lane change, but then she changed back- with a blinker this time- and I knew it wasn't good.

I got in the back of the line and blocked cars as best I could. With the massively heavy Vulcan (relatively speaking- it's maybe 480 lbs wet and loaded) I was a fairly beefy obstacle to cars. Wayli was slowest, so he was in front with the throttle pinned, gradually becoming one with his tank.

Then it happened again- quick as a wink, Elizabeth was a lane over. Not good at all.

I cleared my left, hopped in the middle lane and came alongside. Waved. No response. Waved again- nothing. She was head down, hanging on for dear life. Finally, she looked left- thumbs up? Thumbs down. OK, got it! I rolled on the throttle and whipped the bike up to Wayli, got behind him, and flashed the brights. Nothing. Flashed again... and again... no response. I motioned to pull out- nothing. Like Elizabeth, he was too concerned with staying alive and in his lane than with the lunatic behind him.

Screw it. I buzzed him like a jet fighter, got in the right lane, and slowed it down to 45 miles an hour and let them both bunch up behind me. Then back to 50- fast enough that we wouldn't be mowed down, but as slow as I dared- and held it there 'till the next exit... that didn't come... and didn't come...

Five miles later, we finally got off the freeway. Tired, scared, tense as hell and still almost 200 miles from home and losing the sun. It was time to seriously reconsider our plan of attack.

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Old 05-05-2013, 10:14 PM   #29
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Woah, has it been another week? Sorry, folks! Been busy all weekend with hiking, drinking, fighting, fucking and rebuilding that stupid seat.

But no shit, there we were, pulled off the 101, ten miles past nowhere, on what Google tells me is the Cattlemen Road. We were hungry, thirsty, late, freaked out and absolutely not getting back on the freeway. Nothing to do but pull off some gear and lie out in the road for a bit and unfreak. Drink some water, eat some power bar, look at a map. Highway 25 was a bit east of us- Wayli had been in favor of riding it since we started, but it was already past 3 and we needed to get through San Jose before the light went, but now... now it looked like the way to do it.

With everyone breathing normally again, and minus a few layers in the broiling Valley heat, we headed east toward some imaginary line on the map that would take us north in peace, quiet and with reasonable alacrity.

We saddled up and rolled east to San Ardo. This place was a ghost town. Literally, I think. It has a dozen streets by generous count, and we didn't see a living soul in it, just empty store fronts, an abandoned-looking railway depot, miles and miles of barb wire and a whole hell of a lot of dust. We did 35 miles or something, but if we'd ridden nitro-belching drag bikes at 12,000 RPM with straight pipes nobody would have said peep. Weird as hell. Not even a gas station. Then north, and the wind picked back up. It was a two lane road now, and we passed four cars 7 miles or so, but still damned windy. We stuck to the center line so that no matter which way we tracked, we had almost a whole lane of free tarmac to screw around on. Not like anyone was coming.

The wind noise was terrific, and yours truly realized he'd been a chump and forgot to put his earplugs in at the last stop. Pulled over, yanked the helmet, and did that. Elizabeth looked exhausted again- we had a chat, and decided it didn't make sense to have the lightest bike hauling the camp chair, so we swapped it over to mine. First, I had to completely undo my fancy lashing job.

Then, we strapped the chair on. Elizabeth added another layer, and you can really see how it was blowing. In land that flat, nothing stops the wind, and it just keeps going and going and gathering speed until it hits something. That something was us. The haze on the horizon is dust and sand being blown at stupendous speeds.

There's the Naughty Nighthawk out front.

We got back on the road north, hit the 198, the McVeigh Memorial Highway (there's a name!) and then more east to 25.

More worrisome was the sign that said "next services, 68 miles." My odometer was at 50. That gave me... 70 miles until reserve, at yesterday's rate. Today was slower, but a lot more wind. It was cutting it close, but what'cha gonna do? We had to make tracks, and tracks we made. Straight across the California Coast Range, wide two-lane highway with nothing there but dust, wind, barbwire and tumpleweeds. We passed a number of class-A specimens bounding along like there were gunfighters in the foreground, bouncing over rocks and dead grass, and getting stuck in huge drifts up against the fences. Then down, into a lush (relatively speaking- there were some trees) valley, and blew right past the 25 turn off.

Another sign: next services, 54 miles. Odometer: 66 miles. 120 on the nose. I assumed that the "next services" were along 198, not anywhere. Apparently, that was 68 miles in any direction- now along 25. Well, fuck. Seriously pushing it, and the map indicated a twisted, coiling snake of a road. Hell.

I made my concerns known to the other two, but all they could do was look at me. It was look of pity and helplessness, mixed with just a touch of tattling. Hadn't we passed gas less than an hour ago? Hadn't I helped Jeremy fill the Yamaha, but not bothered with the thirsty Vulcan? Wasn't I the arrogant bastard on a bike twice the size of theirs? Hubris, my friends. That's exactly what got Odysseus in trouble, and Icarus, and so many others. "Well," Waylis said, "I have 200 miles to a tank, and we have tools. If you run out, we can unbolt my tank and pour some over into yours." Thanks, boyo, very thoughtful of you.

I took a deep breath, fired the engine, and eased onto 25. I had 54 miles to go, and a gallon of gas to do it. No playing in the twisties here, no goosing it up the grades, just put that engine right at 4,000 RPM and keep it there all the way into Hollister.

My god, was that a mistake. I should have gotten gas, because I missed out on one of the most glorious roads I've ever ridden. 25 is laid right down the middle of the Coast Range, following river valleys and glens in mile after mile of perfect, quiet, twisty road. We passed cattle ranches, goat farms and pastures full of horses. A school, a few homes, and miles and miles of barbwire fence. Here, in the middle of the golden hills, was a green paradise with a road roaming through it. There are no pictures because we didn't stop- partly to conserve fuel, but mostly because it was too perfect.

I really envy Wayli and Elizabeth this bit of the trip Their little bikes were uniquely suited to this road with its tight turns, short assents and quick drops, its two lanes, its flatness and its gorgeous views. I was too preoccupied with getting every last ounce of juice out of each twist of the throttle. Long downhille? I coasted. Uphill? I took it at 45 and tuckered up behind the little dudes.

And the seat. Oh, that god damned seat! The yoga mat that had been so comfortable the first half hour had completely compressed, and the hump in the middle of the seat was punching up straight into the middle of my ass. It was like riding on an apple. Even with the fuel situation, I was still spending a good 20% of my attention to make sure I was scooting around on that tiny thing as much as I could. Left cheeck, right cheek, I even sat on the back edge of it with my feed on the passenger pegs, stood on the passenger pegs, whatever I could to get off it. It was becoming pure torture.

Then my fuel gave out. It was a quick sputter on a downhill, then nothing, and then sputter, sputter, sputter, dead. Deep breath, flip that switch, and it came back to life. OK, ride as gently as possible. I glanced down- 115 miles. We should be hitting services in about 5 miles... and then a sign!

Hollister: 21 miles.

I don't think I've ever felt so betrayed in my life. Either the signs were lying to me or my odometer was, but this wasn't right. Middle of nowhere, light fading fast, and running on reserve. I racked my brains to remember what my reserve was... one gallon? 0.4 gallons? It was one of those two... 0.4 would get me exactly 20 miles at this rate... 1 gallon or so would be no problem. I kept riding, feathering on the throttle as lightly as I dared.

6 miles later, we passed some houses, and some sort of business- a bar or something. Gas, gas, gas, somewhere... I didn't see anything, and Hollister was still 15 miles away!

The Elizabeth pulled out in a dirt lot. Wayli kept riding, but started to pull over. I killed my engine, and coasted the last 100 yards into the lot.

My fuel situation had me wanting to continue, but my exceedingly tender ass belied that. Once the bike was off, the damage was done, so I got off and walked my bow-legged self over to Elizabeth. She was exhausted, needed a break, and had seen Mexican food. I did not want to hear this- my engine was hot, and I knew that would help aerosolize what little fuel I had, so I was determined to keep going until I found the Holy Spiritus or my engine coughed its last and left me stranded on Highway 25.

Then Wayli walked up, and informed us that he'd parked at the gas station, 50 yards up the road. Thank you, all angels in heaven, I'd made it! Elizabeth ran back to check on the Mexican food, but it was closed. We fired up, and trundled off to the gas station.

Ancient gas stations in the middle of nowhere are amazing things. This was the sort of thing that would never last in a city, next to the Citgos and Chevrons and Arcos and Shells, but here, it was perfect. 68 miles to the next gas, or since the last gas, and they knew it. 4 pumps that held one fuel each (88, 91, 93, diesel), a tiny store that sold everything from cold sodas to first-aid supplies, canned beans to fishing tackle, and a very chatty middle-aged woman who was just to happy to help out and give her opinions on anything we could want.

To wit:

-Pinnacles National Park was excellent and everyone should go there;
-She'd never been there, but people came from all over to see it, all the way from San Jose, so we should definitely go there.
-The 19th Hole, the bar we just passed, was the best place to get food around here. Everyone loved it.
-The best food, hands down, was Panda Bear down the street a bit and then over and across the parking lot by the stoplight (for those not from around here- Panda Express is an abysmal excuse for fast-food Chinese)
-Everyone was so worried about bikers these days, but she loved that we were out on an adventure.
-Would Wayli please help her turn off the coke machine, they were about to close and the switch is on top and it's such a pain to get a chair to reach it and he's tall
-It doesn't matter what side of the pump you pull up on, they all work from both sides (old-school pumps- the hose was on the side, not the front).
-Really, go to the Panda Bear, it's the best food around here. We really shouldn't continue through town without stopping there.
-and on and on and on and on. This woman would have been a spectacular auctioneer.

After gas, we were ready to move on to food, but my ass was convinced that if I sat back down on that seat it would give up the ghost and go necrotic and that would be that. I had a long-standin vendetta against my sleeping mat for not being long enough (my feet hung off and got cold), so I decided to kill two frogs with one stone and see if a miserable mat and a miserable seat would be at all comfortable. So I went back inside to look for tape, but couldn't find any. I asked the chatty lady, but all they had was some one-inch paper painter's tape, and I absolutely didn't trust that to hold my seat together, so I asked if there was any place to buy duct tape to fix my bike? I swear, Mrs. Chatterbox damn near got the vapors that I'd just ridden Highway 25 on a broken bike, and it was really too bad that there weren't any mechanics open and, and, and! I explained I just needed to fix some padding on my seat, and she tut-tutted and gave me a roll of some of the thinnest, crappiest duct tape I'd ever seen that she kept behind the cash register.

5 minutes with a pocket knife and some tape, and my seat was much improved.

With my ass no longer necrotizing, we gave fire and rode into the setting sun to find food. The Panda Bear didn't sound appetizing in the least, but we reasoned that the natural habitat for shit take out food is chopping centers, so that was probably worth finding. Sure enough, we tracked down a grocery store and raided their deli section for edibles.

We found some grass in the parking lot, stretched out and chilled a bit. It was already getting dark, so what the hell, traffic wasn't going to get worse.

The temperature dropped like a rock, and we bundled up in all the clothes we had. Freshly gassed, fed, hydrated and wrapped in every shred of warm, we pointed the bikes toward Hollister, San Jose, and Oakland. We weren't home yet, but we'd survived the wind and the gasoline desert. The last bit would suck, but it was immanently doable.

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Old 05-05-2013, 10:59 PM   #30
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Joined: Nov 2012
Location: The Beast, California
Oddometer: 889
The ride from Hollister to Gillroy on the 101 was uneventful. Straight, flat, crowded two-lane highways. We staggered, so the lead could see both followers, and rode defensively. No asshole cager was going to separate us.

Then onto the 101. It was much less windy up here, but the light bikes were still suffering a bit. We rode a tight formation all the way into San Jose, splitting up only to squeak by large trucks and geriatric RVs. Seriously, I've lived in apartments smaller than those things. Who needs a vehicle bigger than a city bus to go camping in? Screw that, give me two wheels any day. Although I will say that they weren't being blown around nearly as badly as we were, and were probably warmer too.

San Jose was, predictably, a zoo. Massive traffic howling along at 70 miles per hour, and us in the slow lane holding everybody up and trying to keep them from running the poor Nighthawk off the road. Elizabeth is a clever monkey, and outfitted her bike and bags with a bunch of retroflective tape, so she was highly visible. Wayli less so, but, with a black jacket and white hat still pretty recognizable. I'm a stupid monkey, and ride in a flat black jacket. Not smart. I'll definitely be adding some reflectors to the bags, I can tell you! At least I had my front-facing running lights, and the bright-as-fuck Cateye bulb in the headlamp courtesy of a previous owner.

We fought our way through San Jose, then up the 880 toward Hayward. If you can at all avoid this stretch, do so. The 880 is a major trucking route, so the surface is absolutely miserable, plus they're doing a bunch of construction on it right now, AND it's busy as hell. I used to live in Hayward, so I hauled ass past the other two and shepherded us off the freeway there for a breather. Hollister to Hayward on a 250 in rush hour take a solid 90 minutes.

We pulled into the first gas station and yanked our lids off. Two taught faces stared back at me, and if they felt anything like me, they were bone tired. We left Big Sur at 10:00, over 12 hours ago. We stamped warmth back into our feet and used the bathroom at the gas station. My better half was in Ghana, and Elizabeth doesn't have a worried partner so we had nobody to call, but Wayli felt compelled to drop a quick line to his sweetie to let her know that we were late, but not splattered across the highway.

Good thing, too- she's allergic to mango, and ate some without realizing it. It wasn't much, so not an ER trip, but we just acquired a side goal: find benadryl in Hayward after 10:00 at night. The gas station had nothing, so we hopped across the street to a CVS. Good thing I used to live here!

Here's the CVS lot late on a Sunday night. Nobody here but half-crazed bike hooligans.

Wayli ran in for drugs, and Elizabeth went with him to get warm. Nothing at the CVS, or the Safeway next door. I waited with the bikes and took pictures.

Some dude asked me for cigarettes. Then they came back, empty handed. What else was open around here?

Walgreens. OK, back on the bikes, ride a block over to Walgreens. Wayli ran in, Elizabeth climbed into a shopping cart and was so enamored with the backrest she promptly fell asleep.

We let her sleep as long as possible. Wayli finally found his benadryl and stowed it on his bike.

We geared up, woke Elizabeth, and pointed the bikes 20 miles north to Oakland, and home.

The 580 is in much better condition than the 880, so it was smooth sailing for the last 20 minutes. Some traffic, but not much to tell, really. We came into Oakland, and then Wayli waved and pulled off on his exit. Two miles later, Elizabeth and I parted ways, she three exits down and I one exit up 24.

10 minutes later, I was home. A few texts bounced around to confirm that everyone was safe and sound, nobody fell asleep or got run over.

300 miles, 13 hours, bikes leaking oil, bikes not starting, bikes running out of fuel, bikes being blown across the freeway, bald eagles, tumbleweeds, bored gas station attendants, heat, cold, wind, dust, the tastiest damn food I ever ate in a Nob Hill parking lot, and we we made it.

I had my adventure, my chance to see the Great Floating Skunk-Weasels of Big Sur, my chance to write a story I'll be embellishing for decades to come, and nobody died. I got to share it with fantastic friends, some new, some old, whom I became incredibly close to over the course of those 48 crazy hours. It was a hell of a trip, and I'd love to do it all over again.

But that's not how it goes. We don't get to relive those dreams. We get new ones, but the ones that have already happened are locked away in memory, immutable, as they were. So make the best of them. Charge out there with just as much planning as you need, grab a bike and a tent and some friends and make it happen. I promise, it'll be a story to remember.

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