California loop on a rental 1200GS

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by sr248, Mar 28, 2021.

  1. sr248

    sr248 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2020
    Oddometer:
    48
    Location:
    New York
    I had some EagleRider credits to burn and a week between old and new job, so I figured I'd do some riding in California. Here's the route I roughly ended up taking.

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    I picked up my rental 12GS from EagleRider in LA (Hawthorn). I have nothing but good things to say about EagleRider after this trip. This was my first bike rental and everything went smoothly. I had paid extra to have a guaranteed 12GS. It came with street tires which is what I had called and inquired before hand, although I was hoping to get some knobbies. The bike had about 68k miles on it and the panniers were pretty roughed up. I was actually relieved that I wasn't getting a shiny spotless bike. Here she is when I picked her up.

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    When I picked up the GS

    Time to give some background about my riding experience. This is really my third season of riding. I have maybe 3k miles of riding experience if that. I own a 98 1100r and I think it's an amazing first bike. I rode it to South Carolina to do the BMW 2-day off road program. I have ridden a grand total of three different bikes - the 125 grom at MSF, my 11r and the 1250GS at Spartanburg.

    Day 1:

    I picked up the GS from Eaglerider around noon and the 12GS immediately felt much bigger than my 11R. I stalled in traffic and realized that unlike my 11r this bike will only start in neutral. A minor inconvenience, but Bavaria must have had some smart reason for this. It took me a bit to get used to the bite point on the clutch.

    This day was limited to riding around in LA in the afternoon and some of the canyon roads. The GS did wonderfully as expected. This whole trip it was really limited by the rider and not itself. I drove to Mullholland Drive, and then took Laurel Canyon down to Sunset Blvd on to Santa Monica. I checked in to my AirBnB in Pasadena and that was that for Day 1. Nothing crazy, just getting to know the GS.

    Day 2:

    I didn't really extensively plan this trip. The mantra was to plan each day the night before if not on the day of. I knew that I wanted to hit the PCH and make my way to Death Valley, but beyond reading some posts on advrider about Death Valley I had no real idea. For the second day I decided to head towards San Francisco. I stopped on the way at Santa Barbara for some breakfast. As I rolled into town I saw a coffee shop named Handlebars. Decision made.

    Because of the never ending signs for beach exits, I felt I'd be remiss if I didn't stop at a beach. So I stopped at El Capitan... because Apple decided to name one of their OSes after it, so it must be good.

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    And it was quite good. Pristine looking beach with barely anyone else there.

    Because of the hole on PCH, I had to detour through US-101. Driving through 101 was fine... until I hit the winds. Crazy winds. Big tumbleweeds flying through the middle of the expressway... err, freeway. I was glad for the weight of the GS because if it were any other bike this rider would have gotten some airtime. The views were amazing. Google Maps had me take some other roads which this spatially challenged rider cannot remember, but it was all very scenic. I think it was Monterey Salinas highway.

    I was also getting quite cold on the road. I had packed for Death Valley and totally did not consider the coastal winds. My lunch stop was conveniently near a thrift store and a $2 ($5, but it was on sale) long-sleeve t-shirt saved my ass the whole trip.

    I decided to call it a day at Monterey. The wharf was quite nice.

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    Fisherman's Wharf

    I went on HotelsTonight.com and found a budget hotel to check myself into. Dinner was Chinese and a tallboy from 7-11 from across the street.

    It was also the day I had a tip over at a gas station. Thankfully the lessons learnt at Spartanburg came in handy and I was able to pick up the hog with no fanfare. A trim piece from the tank that says "GS" came off. It was already pretty scuffed up from before but I realized the tip over had caused the small clips on it to break. It's new home was under the seat for the rest of the trip.

    Day 3:

    I decided to go as south on PCH as possible before the hole. And boy is it pretty there. I was stunned by how beautiful it is. It made me all kinds of sad, happy and grateful at the same time. Kind of gives life perspective. How petty our dollars, our greed and our silly ambitions sometimes are at the face of such natural beauty. It was very humbling.

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    On the way I stopped at a gas station. The gas attendant (pump first pay later) was an interesting guy who rides an XR650. I asked him about lunch spots and he told me to go to the deli next to the post office and buy a sandwich and eat at the coast when it really opens up. I did exactly that it was marvelous. This reminds me - the reason I stopped at this gas station was because I got a low tire warning as soon as I pulled over to the gravel shoulder for a photo op. The light went away on its own but happened a few more times and each time it did there was a change of terrain.

    Some more pictures from the PCH.

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    Lunch view

    They closed the road after a bridge that says Burns Creek. I turned around and headed towards San Francisco. I found an itinerary online for things to do in SF for a day. I got the clam chowder in sourdough (rubbish, do not recommend) and drove around SF. I know the bike has a clutch hold type thing for hill starts, because I have activated it on accident. But on the hills of SF knowing how to activate it would have been real nice. Nonetheless, the bike and I persisted.

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    The final activity for the night was to go to a beach and take photos of the Golden Gate bridge.

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    For the night's accommodation I went on HotelTonight again and found an inn. It also happened to be next to a watering hole... so my night was made. The barkeep was a rider too and assured me that I was in safe neighborhood and to not worry about the bike. He had some not-so-nice things to say about Pelosi (something to do with a haircut) and said that she lives in the area and it's as safe as it gets.

    Day 4:

    This is the day of the shock. Someone on a thread here said they liked June Lake. Who am I to not trust an inmate on advrider? So I figured I'll take their word for it and head that way. I decided to take 50E from Sacramento and then 395S. As I kept heading east, I started to notice the elevation rise. I also noticed that there were signs about chains. And then I noticed that it was getting colder. And I realized how royally I had screwed up. See, I only thought about Death Valley and temperatures in 80s. I didn't think to consider the temperatures in other areas I'd be riding through, especially the high sierras. Anywho, I survived, but it was by the most challenging ride I've ever done. I took it really slow and thankfully the cars behind me were kind to not rush me and kept their distance. It was really crazy. One minute I was driving through some twisties, and after a bend... holy smokes there's snow on the ground here! And just like that, around another bend, there's cows grazing on the side! The next two pictures were taken 40 minutes apart.

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    Snow

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    No snow, 40 minutes apart

    As luck would have it, I was not done with climbing altitude. After a brief flirtation with Nevada, I was back to climbing. At this point I decided that I might not make it to June Lake after all. The sun was on its way out and I had nothing waiting for me at June Lake. I looked at the map and Bridgeport had a few motels so I decided to try and make it there at least.

    I went to a couple of hotels and I checked in at Walker River Lodge. I highly recommend it. My room was clean, comfortable and had a killer view. A patio door opens up to the following:

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    And to think I had asked the innkeeper for a better rate. It was a steal!

    For dinner I ventured out and discovered everything had promptly closed at 6pm. I found a brewery so I went in and they had a kitchen. I met some really nice people there, one of whom bought me a beer. Thanks, Joe! And his wife mentioned that when they go to Death Valley - and they go a lot - they tend to stay at Beatty, NV. I made a mental note of it. I also made another friend who did not have a place to stay the night. I was a fan of Walker River Lodge so I suggested that to him and he stayed there. I met him in the parking lot when returning and also in the morning and we had a nice chat both times. Till next time, Kurt!

    Day 5:

    The day of the Death Valley!

    It was 30 degrees in the morning at Bridgeport, so I waited till the sun was out at 9:30 before heading out. Here's another photo as I left the Sierras behind me.

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    What a wonderfully beautiful state.

    I ate a pastrami sandwich at Mahogany Smoked Meats in Bishop. Great sandwich for what I remember was only $8.

    I took the 190 to enter Death Valley. The sweeping vistas were beautiful and different from the Sierras. The rising temperatures were also very welcome!

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    Death Valley is huge! There are dirt roads branching off from the pavement and it would be really easy to spend a full week exploring all the things it has to offer. I would have loved to spend more time on the dirt, but I had street tires so I wasn't feeling too sure about it. One such road however drew me in, and I decided to make a right turn. There was a van behind me, perhaps just a little too close, so when the terrain under me changed to gravel, my back tire slid, and so did I. Thankfully it was nothing bad, I saw a small rip in my jeans where the right knee armor is, and a slight sprain on my right calf. The lessons for picking up the bike at Spartanburg came in handy and I was on the pavement, unsure about going off-pavement at all.

    An inmate here had mentioned the 20 mule road, so I figured I'd give that a shot. My confidence about going off road was definitely less than earlier, but I figured... what the hell. My concern was that the side cases were already pretty roughed up and if I did take a hard fall and should the cases break, I wouldn't have a way to carry all my stuff. Nonetheless, I went into the road. It was actually pretty easy. There were maybe a couple of sharp-ish turns, but I took it really slow and easy. No problems.

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    Feeling pretty good about having done a basic dirt road and convincing myself that my money at Spartanburg was well-spent, I headed towards Death Valley junction. In my mind Death Valley junction was an oasis with people and food marts, but it was just as barren. The sole cafe there was closed. My offline maps were limited to Death Valley area but Beatty happened to be on it, and since a couple had mentioned it to me the night prior, I headed that way.

    I spent the night in Stagecoach Inn and found a local saloon - Sourdough Saloon. This is an interesting saloon with car parts hanging on the wall. That region is prime for road testing so a lot of auto manufacturers like BMW, Mercedes and VW do their testing over a month during summer. Before they leave they have a grand old party at the saloon and leave car parts as mementos. It was also the first time I sat at a bar in over a year. There were a few people smoking at the bar, too! Their food is decent, so I'd recommend getting a bite to eat there.

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    Day 6:

    I debated whether to stay an extra day in Death Valley or to head south and explore the San Diego area. I also briefly considered driving through Las Vegas but I ultimately decided to cut through Death Valley again and head towards San Diego. I came to know of a ghost town name Rhyolite and decided to check it out. I came in from the east on 374 and the gravel road basically starts off from the pavement. I gingerly approached it, and with the high of having done the easier road the previous day, decided to venture in. It was definitely slightly more challenging than the 20 mule, but I kept to some basic principles - let the bike do its thing, it wants to stay upright, look where you want to go and go slow. I saw a Mercedes G Wagon approach from the other side and they reported that the challenging section was a slightly washed out area 20 feet ahead. I walked over, decided on a line and slowly approached it. The bike did its thing and we were past the difficult bit. Easy peasy.

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    I came upon the ghost town. There were a few 4x4s there. However, it seemed like they approached from the west and the road leading from there is pavement.

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    The rest of the day was fairly uneventful and a ton of riding. It was the longest day of riding to get to San Diego. On the way though, I stopped for the real adventure that the GS is made for.

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    I was too tired to get a picture with better lighting... so this is all you get, folks.

    I made it San Diego around 7pm. I checked into a Days Inn and crashed for the night.

    Day 7:

    On day 7 I realized that my flight back the next day was at 8:30 and EagleRider doesn't open till 9, so my only option was to return my bike the day before. This was the only time this trip that I had to make it to a certain destination by a specific time. I explored the San Diego area, went to the beach and local markets and headed north towards La Jolla.

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    Coronado Beach

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    Local market in Old Town

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    Shore in La Jolla

    I made it back to LA 10 minutes before EagleRider closing. The person asked me about the trip and inspected it for damages. I told him about the trim piece on the tank and the small tumble I had. It had scuffed up the right cylinder heads a bit. He appreciated the honesty and said that I was all set. Like I said earlier, nothing but good things to say about EagleRider. I was a little worried they'd make me pay something - but so far so good. I had ridden the bike 1,782 miles. My longest trip so far.

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    Trusty Steed

    I am planning on doing the TAT this summer and I am fairly certain I will get a 250 or perhaps a DRZ-400 to do it, but I often find myself looking at the 12GS's and in the back of my head while on the saddle, I was trying to decide if I wanted a 12GS to keep. As much as the GS was fun and great - I didn't find it to be significantly better than my old R1100R. The 12GS hits triple digits much quicker and makes it less effortless. I often cruised along at 80 without feeling like I was going as fast. But my 11R already does those speeds fairly well. I can't see what I would gain from a newer GS. I already got various GS parts to give my 11R some ground clearance - pegs, torque arm, wheels etc. I just haven't been able to swap them out yet. For now, I think I am going to stick with my 11R for a bit and try to make a Frankenstein GS out of it. As for the TAT, I think a smaller dual sport - but who knows, maybe after some shakedown rides on the Frankenstein R/GS I might have a change of heart. Sam has big bike detours anyways. I guess we'll see.

    Thanks for reading the trip report! Advrider has been a great source of inspiration - thank you all!
    #1
    idea man, NSFW, rickj and 14 others like this.
  2. zadok

    zadok Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,120
    Location:
    Western Australia
    Great trip. Thanks for sharing.
    #2
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  3. popscycle

    popscycle Fahren Away Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2011
    Oddometer:
    10,310
    Location:
    Central MA
    Very good RR and pics! Thanks for posting.
    #3
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  4. DesertPilot

    DesertPilot Long timer

    Joined:
    May 18, 2014
    Oddometer:
    1,551
    Location:
    Mountain View, CA
    It sounds like you nailed it: good route, good weather, good destinations, and good attitude! Thanks for sharing!
    #4
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  5. rodrigzj

    rodrigzj Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2014
    Oddometer:
    436
    Location:
    Culver City, CA
    Nice RR that is a great route!
    I’m thinking of doing the TAT myself this year maybe we will cross paths.
    #5
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  6. SPX

    SPX Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,641
    Great ride report. I enjoyed reading it, and seeing your photos.
    #6
    sr248 likes this.