Another Day, Another Glorious Failure

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by DesertPilot, Nov 16, 2019.

  1. DesertPilot

    DesertPilot Long timer

    Joined:
    May 18, 2014
    Oddometer:
    1,501
    Location:
    Mountain View, CA
    PERHAPS IT’S TIME FOR PLAN B – PART 1

    The Plan was to ride Coalinga Road – the rustic ribbon of disintegrating pavement, miles from nowhere, that winds from a bend in the Airline Highway through an arm of the San Benito Range to, you guessed it, Coalinga. It promised to be a perfect route for the V85 (see note above about ‘rustic ribbon of disintegrating pavement’). I’d tried it before, several winters ago, and been forced to turn back due to lack of daylight (see note above about ‘miles from nowhere’), but this shouldn’t be an issue now that the days were longer, provided I got an early start.

    fig00_map.jpg

    Predictably, ‘an early start’ didn’t happen, and I didn’t get on the road until 9 AM, but I remained optmistic as I passed through Hollister and set off down Highway 25. 25, a.k.a. the Airline Highway, is one of those roads that looks pointless of the map, but is delighful in reality -- smooth, relaxed, with just enough curves to add spice to the scenery. In the spring, when the air is cool, the hills are green, and the slopes are sprinkled with wildflowers, it’s magnificent.

    There are also bits like this. Four or so years ago, the powers that be decided to straighten out what they felt was an awkward bend. This enterprise was not an unqualified success, and their new road cut caved in almost immediately, but admit it, if you had a set of good knobbies, you’d be tempted.

    fig01_IMG_4369.jpg

    Things like this just demand a reconnaisance on foot, so I had a look. Piece of cake, right? It even looks like someone might have had a go at it sometime in the past. But I'll give this one a miss.

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    I also must note that they aren’t fooling anyone with the detour signs and their attempt to pretend that they’ll dig this out ever.

    fig03_IMG_4371.jpg

    The Airline Highway also features bits like this. It’s a terrible burden, but we're willing to shoulder it on behalf of a grateful world. No need to thank us! We regard it as part of our duty.

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    For half an hour, I’d been playing tag with a party of much better riders on sportbikes. They’d blow by, I’d follow for a few miles, fall back, pass them when they stopped to regroup, and the process would repeat. I caught up with them for a final time at the turnoff to Coalinga Road.

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    The contrast between a squadron of Panigales, S 1000 Rs, Super Dukes, and the Guzzi had a certain, “One of these things is different from the others,” quality about it, like showing up at a formal dinner in a trenchcoat and fedora with Ingrid Bergman at your side. Well, perhaps without Ingrid Bergman, but surely a man can dream. I had a sneaking suspicion that our paths would diverge from this point on. A suspicion I’m certain they shared, since this is not one of those roads that simply screams ‘sportbike’.

    fig06_IMG_4373.jpg

    Coalinga was just as I remembered from that winter trip on my old Tiger. A bit warmer, perhaps, with no frost, and the streams were dry, but the basic principle was the same – aging pavement, with the occasional pothole, gravel spill, or paved water crossing. This was the sort of thing the Guzzi was designed for, and I loved it.

    fig07_IMG_4375.jpg

    The first few miles wind past what cannot be the most expensive ranches in the world. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine how anyone makes a living here at all. But this part of San Benito County is only two hours from Santa Clara Country and Silicon Valley. It’s remarkable what a diference changing the word ‘Clara’ to ‘Benito’ makes!

    fig08_IMG_4385.jpg

    That’s the urban section. After that the road grows more rustic, and the hectic bustle of that warren of population giving way to a fire station, abandoned mercury mines, and finally to nothing. It may not rank near the top of roads one might wish to ride in the summer, when temperatures climb past triple digits, but it was fun to explore in the spring

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    It was later in the day than I hoped, but surely I was halfway there to Coalinga. This time I was going to ride the whole thing. So I thought…

    (continued)
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  2. DesertPilot

    DesertPilot Long timer

    Joined:
    May 18, 2014
    Oddometer:
    1,501
    Location:
    Mountain View, CA
    PERHAPS IT’S TIME FOR PLAN B – PART 2

    Several miles of gravel and pothole dodging brought me to a not-too-demanding climb. You had to keep an eye open for the very occasional truck, and be ready for surprises on the occasional blind turn, but this was in no way nerve-wracking, and the road widened as I climbed. There was even the occasional shoulder.

    fig10_IMG_4387.jpg

    Eventually I reached the top of the pass. I’d naively believed this marked the midpoint of Coalinga Road. Secure in the knowledge I was halfway to my destination, I stopped to check my GPS.

    fig11_IMG_4379.jpg

    Imagine my surprise when I discovered this knowledge was as secure as I’d hoped. At least three quarters of the road remained. A brief calculation sufficed to determine two things. First, I did have enough daylight to make it to Coalinga and back via 198 and 25. Second, I did not have enough time to do this and pick up the wine I’d promised She Who Must Be Obeyed for dinner. The consequrnces of failing to accomplish this latter mission were too dire to be contemplated, so I turned back to the intersection with the Arline Highway to have a late lunch, consider my options, and sip some of the Elixr Of The Gods.

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    I unsually finish a ride down the Airline Highway with a nip across Bitterwater Road, because who can resist a name like Bitterwater? From there I’d either return the way I came or do a loop back along Carmel Valley Road. Both options were possible, but I’d noticed another road south of Bitterwater –- a faint scrawl on Google Maps called Lonoak. I had no idea what is was like or if it was even paved, but surely this was worth a look.

    Lonoak began with crumbling pavement, patches, and potholes, left by years of trucks and equipment on a track leading to some intriguing hills? This looked promising. What would I find?

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    The promise was fulfuilled.

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    This wasn’t just a great road, this was a, “I never even knew this was here!” road – one of those entirely unexpected discoveries that leaves you laughing inside your helmet. You had to pay in suspension travel to get there, but the stretch through the hills, which I imagine gets less use than the bits at the end, was absolutely smooth, ready for the King City TT, should they ever decide to hold such a thing.

    That was the high point of the day. After the Revelation Of Lonoak, Bitterwater was almost a letdown. But it still has some nice fast swepers leading into the hills, and the scenery has a sort of grandeur that deserves some contemplation

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    Then it was time to wend my way home to find that wine. The day ended with some tapas and a nice Portugese red (see note above about ‘it’s a terrible burden, but we are willing to shoulder it on behalf of a grateful world’).
    shuckinator, klaviator and popscycle like this.
  3. Pavement Optional

    Pavement Optional Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2019
    Oddometer:
    132
    Location:
    CurveAlice, Oregon
    Lovely. I kind of hope you never make it to Coalinga, but keep making attempts and discovering more great Roads Less Travelled.
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  4. klaviator

    klaviator Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    May 28, 2008
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Huntsville , Al
    When I was much younger I would have been with those sportbikers you played tag with. Today I'd rather be on those roads you explored. I also love going out and finding a “I never even knew this was here!” road – one of those entirely unexpected discoveries that leaves you laughing inside your helmet.. I found a number of those last year and will be looking for more this year. I know exactly how you felt!
    DesertPilot likes this.
  5. DesertPilot

    DesertPilot Long timer

    Joined:
    May 18, 2014
    Oddometer:
    1,501
    Location:
    Mountain View, CA
    I too used to ride sportbikes, though surely not as well. But I was reading the V-strom forum one day (who can resist a forum named 'Stromtroopers'?) and came across a post that read

    "On my sportbike, there was always a voice in my mind trying to get me in trouble whispering 'Faster!'. Now, on my V-Strom, this voice is whispering 'I wonder where that road goes?"

    I stared at it in wonder and thought, "That's it! That's what I was searching for on motorcycles all these years! Why didn't anyone tell me?" I immediately set out to find a used V-Strom, ended up with a used Tiger 800 Roadie instead, because the way I see it, "If life hands you a Triumph triple, buy it," and that was the gateway drug to this sort of ride :D
    Pavement Optional and klaviator like this.
  6. Mike Ryder

    Mike Ryder Kriegerkuh Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2003
    Oddometer:
    1,640
    Location:
    Peachland B.C. Canada
    “She who must be obeyed” wonderfully nostalgic, thanks. I miss his reports.
  7. DesertPilot

    DesertPilot Long timer

    Joined:
    May 18, 2014
    Oddometer:
    1,501
    Location:
    Mountain View, CA
    SO THAT’S WHERE IT GOES

    Years ago I came across a thread on the Stromtroopers forum (gotta love that name!) where someone wrote, “On my sport bike, there was always a little voice in my mind, trying to get me in trouble, whispering ‘Faster!’ Now, on my V-Strom, that voice is whispering, ‘I wonder where that road goes?’” As soon as I read it I thought, “That’s it! That’s why I’ve been riding all these years! Why did it take me so long to figure this out?” Inspired by this new-found wisdom, I went out searching for a used DL650 and ended up with… a Tiger 800? Oh well, Suzuki… Triumph… v-twins… in-line triples… same thing, right? What’s an extra cylinder among friends?

    Now, several years, several bikes, and several cylinders later, I found myself wondering about an intersection I’d passed many times on my way to the Heckler Pass Highway: Redwood Retreat Road.

    fig01_Frame0142.jpg

    The name sounded interesting, conjuring up images of some forgotten battle during the Spanish Conquest or ancient monestaries hidden in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Where did it go? What would I find if I turned right? I suppose I could have checked a map, but where's the sport in that?

    Here is the story…

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