Don't Tell my Boyfriend-- I'm Taking His Bike to Yellowstone

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Shesaid, May 24, 2015.

  1. bk brkr baker

    bk brkr baker Long timer

    Jul 19, 2006
    The Bluegrass
    Good story,
    So you like Darby,Mt. and think you'd like to ride there with the BF and you both have DRs ?
    If you're game and like a little challange you are in for a treat. Find the little town of Elk City ,Id. and look for the thin line that stretchs over to Hwy.93 in Montana a bit south of Darby. That is the MaGruder Corrididor , the longest primative road in the lower 48 states.
    I rode through it in 2010 on my too low, overweight Yamaha XV920 and was quite pleased with myself.




    Get an early start and you can meander through or go part way and camp and be very alone up there.
    It's not bad, there are a couple of climbs and some less than smooth stuff , but , you have the right bikes for it. Just be cautious about boasting that you did the corridor to a local , I heard "You could drive a Camry through there ."
    Shesaid and gregoblv like this.
  2. Ol Man

    Ol Man Long timer

    Sep 17, 2010
    Apple Valley, Calif
    Enjoying your story. Very well written. I have been lucky to have ridden many of the roads you were on riding my motorcycle and my motorhome. I too enjoy taking off all by myself. I also enjoy the annual rides with a couple of friends from Utah and Idaho. This is an amazing country.
  3. TripleDubYa

    TripleDubYa Intrepid Explorer

    Jan 30, 2015
    Boise, Idaho
    Enjoying the ride report. Riding through the Sawtooth area is incredible. All of the forest roads off of Hwy 21 will expose you to some of the best dual sport riding in the lower 48 states.

    In six weeks a couple of us will be riding the Idaho Backcountry Discovery Route to drink in all of those remote areas.
  4. vicster

    vicster Long timer

    Aug 22, 2007
    Couple things - Even though 93 through Idaho is beautiful, you missed a classic road by not taking Lolo Pass into Washington. So you now have an excuse to go back.

    Consider getting a SPOT or something of that ilk. Then once or twice a day wherever you are you push one button to let people on a list know all is well and where you are. Obviously they can also be damn handy in the west when all is not well.

    You are much braver than I regarding pushing the fuel range.
  5. Shesaid

    Shesaid Still Trippin'

    Dec 3, 2012
    Central CA
    Please don't rub it in. :cry I had been looking forward to going through Lolo Pass... then, after I got home, I realized Lolo Pass was the infamous road of:

    Photo borrowed from TripAdvisor

    I went back and Google street viewed the turn off that I missed and it just kills me that I was right there looking at it and didn't "see" it.

    When I saw the traffic sign warning of delays, I'd kinda shrugged and decided to do it anyway. Then I rode right past the turn off.

    Much sad. Very regret.

    Upcoming trip report will chronicle the changes made for upcoming trip: noteworthy-- New Delorme InReach Explorer. (that Hesaid's mom can't track us with anyway.)

    Well...I DID have a 1 gallon Rotopax... just about to get to that.:deal
    gregoblv likes this.
  6. Shesaid

    Shesaid Still Trippin'

    Dec 3, 2012
    Central CA
    Friday August 15, 2014-- continued:

    The woman who appeared to be charge of the establishment was behind the counter at the register talking to a tall young man who appeared to be a local. I stood there patiently and wondered at the amount of turquoise jewelry for sale.

    Eventually they parted ways and her attention turned to me, so she got the keys to the gas pump and followed me out to my bike. She unlocked the pump, turned it on, and did indeed hand me the pump.

    We chatted while I filled the tank, me bent over to see inside the tank to make sure I didn't over fill it, her standing beside the pump smoking a cigarette.

    Yes. Standing next to the gas pump, smoking a cigarette.:eek1

    We talked for a bit about the whole "you can't pump your gas" laws and about the motorcycle exception when something occurred to me: that means there's no pay at the pump!

    I am missing some key photos: Here's a screenshot of the place taken by Google in Oct 2009

    There won't be any stations where the pumps are open 24 hours as long as you use a credit card. What happens if I run out of gas after closing time? What time to stations out here in the boonies usually go to bed?

    She said she usually closes at 5:30, and I wasn't likely to encounter any stations that would be open late since I was traveling through such sparsely populated areas.

    So? If I need gas, I might find myself camping out by the pump at a station until they open in the morning?

    Suddenly Oregon's gas pumping laws didn't set so well with me. What if I make it to Lakeview and all the stations have already closed? I am not so all about camping at a gas station.

    I checked my maps. I would need gas again in Lakeview. Just 50 miles north of the California border and Alturas. I have one gallon of spare gas on the bike. I'm getting out of this state tonight.

    The actual town of Burns was farther up the road than I'd thought when I stopped for gas. As I passed the last gas station on my way back to open road I looked at my odometer. Only 30 miles since I filled up. Not worth stopping to top off the tank, it wouldn't even take a whole gallon at this point. Certainly I wouldn't be cutting it that close? (Cue ominous music and the sound of thunder rolling.) And off to the junction to the 395 I went.

    Only one other vehicle turned onto the 395 south with me, a red pickup truck that looked like it was off in search of a lake to spend the weekend at. I followed it for miles through the sheer, mind-numbing nothingness of eastern Oregon.


    This area was absolutely fascinating for it's stark expanses of bare land, totally devoid of civilization. There were fences and the occasional sign, but otherwise, nothing but undulating land covered by ancient basaltic lava flow, now covered (mostly) with the typical variety of desert plant life. It seemed like the sort of place where there should be antelope, maybe elk... I didn't spy so much as a jack rabbit.

    I can't think of any place that has left me feeling so utterly alone. I found myself making sure I kept the pick-up in sight.

    I eventually decided I needed to stop for a photo. And maybe a drink of water. Maybe a candy bar. Maybe to just walk around and give my knees a chance to straighten out. So when a wide turn out appeared on my side of the road, I pulled into it.

    The red pick up continued on its way, growing smaller and smaller as it disappeared into the horizon and I was left finally, utterly, alone.

    I stood there on the side of the road for quite awhile.

    I took pictures of the bike against the landscape. I took pictures of the road stretching out into the distance. I stood in the middle of the road and took photos in both directions.

    No other cars came by. No cars. No trucks. No other motorcycles. It was just me and Pinkfoot out there.

    I could have screamed. I could have stripped all my clothes off and run naked down the street. I could crash and who knows how long it would be before someone noticed?

    It was a sobering thought. The experience was chilling. And liberating. Peaceful, but so final.

    But I had 2 1/2 hours till sunset and a little over 3 hours to my destination. Fighting my way out of Boise had stolen precious daylight from me and I didn't have time to sit in the Oregon Outback to ponder Solitude. I would have to absorb it as I rode through it.

    The road stretched out into the future in a picturesque sort of way. Not completely straight, but far from twisty, moving with the land. Rising, falling, turning, curving. It was alluring, really. With 360 views around me, I had no trouble scanning my surroundings for the antelope I anticipated seeing and with nothing resembling traffic competing for the road I was free to go as fast or as slow as I chose.

    This was as good as alone as alone gets and suddenly I found myself keenly aware of just how alone alone is. This is what people are so afraid of. What everyone was worried about when they found out I was planning this ride. The unshakable realization that it really is all about you. No one is watching. No one is waiting. No one knows exactly where you are and there's no way to tell them.

    If anything happens, I have to experience it by myself. I have to take care of it myself. I have to make decisions myself and I have to execute those decisions myself. There is no one else to blame. There's no one to ask for guidance or help.

    But more than that, even if everything goes perfectly, there will never be anyone else to share the experience with me. Even out there in the rain and the wind last Monday as I gingerly edged my way across Nevada, I met a Czechoslovakian man, a geology buff, there were other motorcycle riders that didn't wave at me, but they were out there with me. None of us were alone. There exists some infinitesimal chance in this universe that I might, someday, find myself in the same place as any one of those people and we will have a shared experience to bond us together.

    Not here. Not out here in the forgotten desolation of the Oregon wilderness. No one will ever share this experience with me.

    And that is a loneliness that is difficult to describe. Not entirely a sad one, but just the sort of aloneness that people-- overall-- seek to avoid experiencing.

    And here I found myself, breathing it in like oxygen.

    I thought of all the women who didn't think I ought to do this. I wondered where their fears came from.

    I thought about the husbands of clients who flat out told me they wouldn't let their wives do this, the men who couldn't believe that the BF would "let" me do this by myself.

    I started to understand where those womens' fears came from.

    I thought about why anyone would let someone "let" them do something or not. I thought about how lucky I am to have found a relationship with a man who understands that, who understands that about me.

    I know the BF has his issues. I know he would prefer to have all the components of his world within his reach and within his control. We have our sources of conflict. We knew each other for so long before we became a couple. He knew what he was getting into.

    More importantly, that's what he wanted to get into. He knew I had a penchant for independent adventure. He had plenty of time to develop an good idea of what being in a relationship with me would be like, and he still wanted to try it.

    Nearly a decade later, there have been plenty of pushes to change some part of my nature. Wake up earlier, not work so late, give up green beans... not go off on grand adventures without him. But I have to believe that he fell in love with the me that I was when he fell in love with me. Changing might make our relationship more convenient, but it would also make it shorter. Because he loves who I am. And so do I.

    I wish I had understood that about relationships long ago. That when a man wants you to change something about who you are, doing it will only end in catastrophe. You can change your hair-- cut it off, grow it out, dye it blond, stop dying it blond, dye it some other color; you can change your wardrobe, "Honey,you don't need all those mini skirts and high heels anymore. I don't want other guys to think you're available;" get rid of the convertible; stop hanging out with your friends, "those girls are sluts;" trade in your snow boarding hobby for good, safe, knitting. It doesn't matter. People fall in love with who someone is and then set about attempting to mold them into something else. It's not exclusive of men but...

    What's that saying? "A woman marries a man expecting him to change and is disappointed when he doesn't. A man marries a woman expecting her not to change and is disappointed when she does."

    Time and time again, throughout my own relationship history, men have always gone to Herculean efforts to initiate change in me. I've seen my girlfriends go through it. 20 plus years in a career of holding hands with other women has given me insight into a thousand other examples.

    And then one day, he looks at you and says, "You're not the person I fell in love with. You've changed." And leaves you for a girl who is exactly like you used to be. Leaving you alone, confused and broken hearted with a closet full of clothes that you don't even like, driving a sedan to your fuckin' knitting group.

    You don't even like you.

    Because you agreed to change for someone who didn't really want you to change.

    So why do they push so hard to change us?

    Stupid boys.

    And now I'm riding through the rugged landscape contemplating all the stupid boys from my past.

    I wonder what they would think of me today? Who would just sneer and tell me I got fat? Who would want to reminisce? Who would try to get in my pants, "for old time's sake?"

    Who would think that I would be out here now, riding a motorcycle across an endless road in the middle of nowhere, all by myself?

    Who would be impressed? Who would be surprised? Who would try to take credit for having so much influence on me?

    The guy who once called me a "fucking video camera" because I didn't think snorting lines of coke off his cousin's coffee table looked like fun? That guy?

    Or the one who one day told me with great sympathy and in all sincerity that when the zombies came, he was just going to leave me alone in the apartment. He seriously told me he had considered just putting a bullet through my skull to save me from suffering, but he wasn't going to take me with him on his escape from city because I'd just slow him down and get him killed.:huh

    Really? He didn't even own a gun. The only guns he'd ever shot were paintball guns and he had to rent those. But he was so utterly convinced that I wasn't going to make it through the zombie apocalypse. I was only going to slow him down and get us both killed.

    Mind you, this was the same guy RAN AND HID down an alley when a troop of BUDDHIST MONKS walked by us on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica...when I found him, he was curled into the fetal position, crying.

    Monks scared him, apparently. :deal

    That was the same boy who talked me out of buying the first motorcycle I ever seriously considered, a 1986 Honda Rebel. I was living in the San Fernando Valley of southern California in the early 1990's, and his argument was that the 250cc engine wouldn't provide me with enough power to navigate the legendary LA freeway system.

    Mind you, I weighed all of 115 lbs, soaking wet back in my early 20's. The Rebel would have gotten me everywhere I needed to go.

    Namely, far away from him.


    I was shaken from my trip down angry-memory lane by the wind whipping me sideways as the road began to climb out of the low, flat sage-covered desolation, and wind between tall rocky spires and through short canyon style cuts. These were scary, the wind blowing through the rocky cliffs that rose up on both sides of the road, it was difficult to prepare for which direction the wind would hit me from. I was glad these sections were short.

    Soon I found myself following the road along an escarpment, rising high above Lake Abert with steep rocky slopes rising above the road on my left and a decidedly unappetizing drop off the edge of the shoulderless road on my right.

    Speaking of "unappetizing" what is that smell?

    I'd known the lake was coming, I'd seen it on the map. I knew it was an alkali lake, and I figured that meant it wouldn't have much in the way of fish. Looking down to the shoreline, the lake had such a surreal, almost prehistoric feel to it.
    There weren't many birds, and certainly no people camping or fishing along its shoreline.

    No signs of life at all, except for patches of vivid green grass along the upper border of the beachy shore.

    The smell crept into the air around me, sneaking in around me so that I almost didn't even notice at first. When I finally had to admit that the fragrance of the air had changed, and not for the better, I shrugged it off. I decided it wasn't that bad. It wasn't an overwhelming stench. It was just a faint smell wafting on the early evening breeze. A lilting hint of decay, slightly sweet, like fermenting fruit left to rot in an orchard after the harvest.

    The smell brought a line from Leonard Cohen's "Take This Waltz" to mind,
    "...with its very own breath of brandy and death,
    dragging its tail in the sea...."

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    As the road climbed higher along the ledge of the escarpment, the boundary of the lake stretched out before me into the distance, the low light of the late afternoon sun giving the whole scene an eery, flat look. Like I was riding into an old, painted backdrop from a Hollywood movie. Maybe from a Jules Verne novel turned movie, like Journey to the Center of the Earth, or The Land that Time Forgot. I started scanning the landscape for dinosaurs. It looked a lot like the giant diorama in the train tunnel at Disneyland.

    It was obvious that the lake had been victim of hot summer evaporation, shrinking the waters away from the shore, exposing long sandy beaches. The sand showed ragged traces of past waterlines, making it appear as though there were waves washing up on the sand. Except, they weren't moving, adding to the feeling of being in an oil painting.
    The lack of wildlife at such a large body of water was unnerving. And the smell.

    I thought I would have acclimated to the smell. Afterall, it wasn't particularly overpowering. It wasn't like riding through the Bog of Eternal Stench or anything. But I wasn't getting used to it. I was becoming more keenly aware of it.

    It smelled like Death.

    Not like a lot of dead things. Like Death. A corporeal, animate, entity. No matter how I tried to envision the Reaper-- from "Dead Like Me" to the Adam Corolla-voiced Family Guy character to a young and handsome Robert Redford from that chilling and poignant episode of the original Twilight Zone-- this is the smell that must precede whatever being comes to escort you to whatever awaits beyond.

    I found this thought inescapable. I was keen to get past this lake and its unnatural stillness.

    It was also time to pay especially close attention to the odometer. I had moved the indicator to the reserve position before the road had begun climbing out of the chaparral covered wasteland, and now I was traveling along the edge of a road with no shoulder to speak of whatsoever. Turnouts were few and generously spaced, and it was starting to look like this lake went on forever.

    I started to wonder if the town of Lakeview, Oregon was, in fact, named for its view of this particular lake. Why would anyone build a town overlooking this miasmic pool?

    I was going to run out gas before I found out. No question about it. If I'm lucky, I have 15 more miles left before I find myself alone on a shoulderless highway above a stagant lake in the setting sun while Death itself gains on me.

    I hadn't seen another vehicle since letting that red pick up truck out of my sight 100 miles ago, but I sure as hell didn't want to find myself out of gas with no place to get out of the way if one should show up now.

    I decided not to push my luck. The next turn out appeared and I pulled into it.

    Through out my journey, I had ridden with the coy assurance that comes from knowing that if I run out gas, I'm not really out of gas. I'm carrying a full gallon of spare fuel in a container called a "Rotopax" that is cleverly designed for exactly this purpose. It fits snuggly up underneath one of my side supports and quietly waits for an opportunity just like this one.

    I've traveled with spare fuel containers of varying sorts for decades. It had never occurred to me to "practice" using the Rotopax. So here I was, safely off the road at some turn out on this deserted highway, discovering new skills.

    First, I could not access the Rotopax without taking off the entire side support. I couldn't take the side support off until I had taken the tail bag off the rear rack. I couldn't take the tail bag off the rear rack until I had unhitched, unlatched, and untethered it from the rack.

    Now I look like a college student just arrive home for winter break, with a semester's worth of dirty laundry, books, and personal belongings strewn haphazardly in a 10 foot radius around me. It looked like my bike had exploded. But I was able to set about wrestling the Rotopax from the side support.


    The Rotopax is your basic, red plastic fuel jug, only it has been cleverly designed with a long, narrow hole in the middle of the jug. With an equally cleverly designed bracket, this allows you to mount the fuel canister on a variety of vehicles and surfaces; the hole slips over the bracket and holds the jug in place, then there's a bolt that screws down into the bracket and tightens against the jug.

    Here's where the cleverness ends. At least as far as a woman with delicate hands who would prefer not to break a nail goes-- the bolt has a long, narrow handle that, when tightened down to the jug itself, lines up with two little nipples in the jug, creating a self locking mechanism that prevents the bolt from coming loose when you're bouncing over rocks and ruts and roots off road or through Patagonia on the way to Tierra Del Fuego.

    It's possible to tighten this bolt down considerably farther than necessary however, and the Boyfriend prefers to err on the side of caution.

    Unfortunately, erring on the side of caution often equates to preventing me-- with the delicate hands who prefers not to break a nail-- from being able to unscrew the thing at all.

    So now, I'm sitting in the dirt in the turnout on the side of the road by the lake of death in the setting sun with my side support (hard case still attached) between my knees with my legs outstretched as I desperately attempt to get a firm enough hold on the narrow bolt handle to leverage any movement at all and damn the nails.

    A thousand more clever methods of design for this damn thing occurred to me as I repositioned myself on top of the cursed jug in a manner that I'd learned from watching too much wrestling on late night TV.

    I'm pretty sure my Rowdy Roddy Piper impersonation would have disqualified me in a match, but the bolt moved.
    My celebration was short lived, the bolt moved off of the little knobs molded into the plastic, but they couldn't turn freely until I had once again wrestled the handle over the demonic protrusions-- and over and off of them, yet again. Twice. Before I could manage the mechanism within my own level of efforts.

    Once I had the Rotopax jug free of its side support prison, I had to open the cap. Ahhh, CARB. That would be anagram that stands for "California Air Resources Board." Since I live in the famed state of sun and surf, the fine folks from the Rotopax company and the distributors of its products are prohibited, by law, to ship me a container that MAKES ANY DAMN SENSE or is, in any manner imaginable, usable as intended.

    So I unlatched the little child-proof locking mechanism that keeps the lid from loosening its contents inadvertently. I removed the lid, and pulled out the nozzle that-- cleverly-- sits inverted inside the neck of the container. I pondered it for about 10 seconds, and set about assembling it into a proper nozzle and reattaching the whole thing onto the jug.

    This CARB-approved nozzle has a little green doo-hickey that slides from the position that shows a little locked padlock to the position that shows a little unlocked padlock.

    I unlocked it.

    I opened the fuel cap of the bike.

    I tipped the jug up.


    I once again pondered the Rotopax. Wouldn't it be helpful it there were instructions somewhere on this thing for this tavern-puzzle nozzle?

    No luck.

    I experimented with some techniques.

    Apparently the trick is to now push the nozzle down, as if trying to shove it inside the jug, while pouring.


    I mean. It pushes in. But it's not really allowing gas to pour out of the nozzle. Not to mention the insane contortion required to stand over the fuel tank of the bike while holding the nozzle in, while holding a one gallon jug of gasoline upsidedown without pouring gas all over the bike.

    Fuck it.

    In a whirling of black plastic parts, I had the entire cap off in a few seconds and just dumped the gas directly into the tank from the red jug.

    Naturally, this resulted in some spilled fuel.

    Some of which ran over the painted surface of the gas tank and under the edge of the seat.

    I grabbed a bandana, mopped it up and poured the rest of the spare gas into the tank.

    Putting the whole thing back together and repacking the bike went more smoothly.

    Now I was ready to make my exodus from Oregon.


    How much gas had I spilled? How much made it into the tank? Did I add 50 miles to my range? or 30?
    And what about the gas that had seeped under the seat? Where had it gone? Had it pooled into the battery compartment? Had it evaporated? What if it had expanded in the battery compartment and would explode as soon as I hit the ignition switch?

    So I sat there contemplating these possibilities. Wondering if I was being silly? Or if this was exactly the sort of thing that people failed to consider every day that resulted in their names being entered for Darwin Awards?

    In a move that will be sure to make the final cut of the movie version of my life, I jumped off the bike, turned the key, and hit the start button from as far away as I could stand and still reach the start button, while visions of being catapulted over the railing, down the cliff, and into the Lake of Eternal Stench by the blast filled my mind.

    Much to my relief, if not entirely to my surprise, absolutely nothing happened other than the bike's engine beginning it's deep purr, eager to be on our way.

    I looked up Lake Abert later, trying to figure out why it smelled so bad-- apparently it's full of Sea Monkeys-- home to a healthy population of brine shrimp who have virtually no competing species for the water. I don't know if that's why it smells so bad. I suspect the receding waters have left billions of the happy little creatures decaying in the sand. But mostly, I was interested in learning that while the lake covers nearly a square mile of land, it is only 11 feet deep at most.​

    The sun was dipping below the mountains to the west but I assured myself that that didn't actually mean it was setting. It just looked like it was setting because of the mountains. I really still had another hour before actual sunset. Plenty of time to get to Aluras before true darkness fell.

    That's what I was telling myself as I continued around the lake, refusing to look at the GPS unit which would have called my bluff by telling me that sunset was in "11" minutes.

    Now I had to consider just how much gas was in the tank. I had emptied the spare fuel into the tank before I had completely run out of gas, but not much before. And some of the spare gas hadn't quite made it into the tank.

    My mistake had been gassing up outside of Burns, adding an additional 15 miles or so to the mileage I was asking from this tank of gas.

    By my calculations-- which I admit to being pretty rough and based, at that point, entirely on the "pulling it out of my ass" method-- Lakeview, Oregon remained approximately 35 miles away. I could no longer deny the impending sunset, and the newfound knowledge that I might have to camp at a gas pump if I arrived after closing time made me wish I'd strapped both Rotopaxes to the bike.

    I was over Oregon and their crazy gas pumping laws.

    I reached the end of the lake, passed through a few more hills, and descended with the road to an intersection boasting one, lonesome, blinking red light. Directly across from the light-- an oasis in the desert!

    It has been over 5 years since the Google Street View car has had the courage to travel my path-- The Valley Falls gas station DOES NOT look THIS GOOD any more!


    And the "open" light was still on.

    I was ecstatic. I was sure the Gods of Roads Less Traveled were smiling upon me.

    It was a ramshackle building in the middle of absolutely nowhere. At the type of crossroads where one would expect to be able to show up at midnight to make a deal with the Devil.

    There was a line of sad, decrepit gas pumps outside of a run down building that appeared to serve as a small convenience store...or possibly someone's house.

    I pulled up to what I deemed to be the appropriate pump and was met with an enthusiastic black lab, who appeared to still be in full puppy mode, despite weighing a good 70 pounds already.

    Once I determined that the dog was not going to eat me, and that no one was going to come out to greet me, I parked the bike and approached the door of the establishment.

    This is where the little voice inside my head who's duty it is to speak up at times like these, began to warn me that I might, in fact, be entering a horror movie.

    To begin with, the door wasn't the type of door usually found on stores. It was more of a residential front door, with a door knob. Giving me the feeling that I was about to walk into someone's personal home uninvited.

    I looked around. No. There was clearly a neon "Open" sign in the window to my right. Through that window I could see cash register and a counter covered in various items of just the pointless sort that adorn most gas station and mini-market countertops across the country, if not the world.

    It appeared to be a store.

    On the other hand...

    Through the window on my left, I could see what appeared to be someone's living room. Couches and end tables with lamps, a coffee table with a plate of food, a large flat screen TV playing what appeared to be some sort of action suspense movie.

    But no sign of any people.

    The store and the living room were obviously contained within the same building, with out so much as a beaded curtain serving as a border between them.

    I looked down at the friendly puppy, who seemed concerned with my intentions to open the door.

    I couldn't help but think she might have a point.

    My mind played through thousands of movies from my internal library: I like horror movies. I'm not the aficionado of the genre that some people are, but I've seen plenty in my time. I think about 60% of them started like this. Solo female traveler, out of gas, finds hope in a tiny, isolated store in the middle of nowhere, place is deserted, she walks in to find someone to help her out... and spends the next hour and a half running for her life from a guy with a meat cleaver and a pair of skidding tongs.

    My hand hesitated on the door knob. Camping out at a gas station in Lakeview would make for a great story, afterall.

    I opened the door and gingerly walked across the threshold. I called "hello?" a couple of times, not entirely convincingly-- I didn't really want to interrupt any inbred mutants who might be tanning human hides in the basement, afterall.

    I was about to breathe a sigh of relief and turn around to head for Lakeview when a man appeared from the back room. All casual and friendly just like you'd expect an inbred mutant who'd been tanning human hides in the basement to be.

    He was most likely in the same age bracket as myself-- mid 40's-ish, with thinning hair on top; long, gray pony tail in back. Overweight enough to be fat, but not fat enough to be fat. Wearing jeans and a T-shirt that-- had I made an effort to read it-- probably said "Live Long and Prosper," or "Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup."

    I told him I was just getting ready to give up, I wasn't sure anyone was here.

    He followed me out to the gas pumps while assuring me that when a "cute girl" walked into his store, he wasn't going to let her get away.

    He unlocked the pump and handed me the nozzle to fill the tank, while explaining that the two exceptions to Oregon's law were "exotic sports cars and motorcycles...and that almost counts as a motorcycle."

    Then he continued on about what sort of Harley he rode. I didn't interrupt him to ask exactly when he had ridden this supposed Harley or where said bike was now? I just just nodded and smiled and let him go on... and on...

    I finished filling the tank. I played with the dog. I listened politely while he gave me a summary of his life story and how he came to own the store-- and live in it-- and his grand plans for its future.

    He called me a "cute girl" again.

    When I said I wasn't sure how he could tell, whatwith the helmet and the armored gear, he assured me that after all the years he had spent with the Renaissance fair circuit, he could spot a woman's figure under any amount of padding.
    Oh. So you do Renn Faire, do you? Now tell me something that'll surprise me. I pictured the popular "Condescending Wonka" Internet meme in my head.


    Well it's getting late! It'll be dark soon and I'd like to make it to Lakeview before it's so dark that I can't see the deer.
    Comicbook Guy suddenly remembered that I owe him money for the gas. I laughed as I reached for my wallet and made some light-hearted comment about leaving without paying. To which my gracious host assured me that that would not be the reason that he'd tie me up and keep me.

    I've known hundreds of guys just like him; lonely, horny, socially awkward; with no clue how to relate or communicate with girls. Adopting fantasy personas to help them cope with their terror when they find themselves trying to flirt with a real, live girl.

    WORST Pickup line EVAR

    Too many Alexander Dumas novels and watching 9 1/2 Weeks too many times on late night cable TV in the late 80's and they're all convinced that every woman is looking for a scandalous trist with a devious musketeer-- who treats them like a lady by day and ties them to the bedpost with silk scarves all night.

    Stupid Fifty Shades of Grey hasn't helped disspell this notion. How is it they always overlook the obscenely rich and good looking part about the heroes in these books?

    It didn't even pass my mind to be concerned about his offer until I was several miles down the road. I had taken his flirtations in stride, without blinking. I probably should have given him gentle council to avoid making such generous overtures to any other females who happen through his establishment unescorted. He's likely to get pepper sprayed or tased.

    Alturas was 76 miles away. It was just past 8:30 now, the sun had set on me back at the loneliest gas station in America and now I was straining my eyes in the fading twilight to scan the road for deer or elk or rabbits or whatever else might feel the need to run in front of me.

    Normally, traveling by starlight doesn't phase me in the slightest. I know to be extra alert and cautious on the bike, but seriously, I ought to be able to make it down a highway after dark. But it soon became painfully apparent that my reluctance to ride after dark was well founded, not just due to the elevated threat of critter attack, but the stock headlight on the DR was woefully inadequate for providing the necessary illumination to maintain highway speeds.

    The high beam added more visibility on either side of me, making for better critter-alert, but did little to increase the view of the road ahead of me. I soon found that 35 miles an hour was my new comfortable speed, otherwise I was outrunning my headlight; answering the age-old conundrum of what happens if you are traveling at the speed of light and turn your headlights on.

    Trust me. I was traveling no where near the speed of light, and I was still out running my path of illumination at around 50 mph.

    So if you are ever traveling in a speed-of-light vehicle after dark, you will need a much better headlight than the 2012 stock Suzuki DR650se comes with.

    And so it was, as I entered the small town of Lakeview, I admitted to myself that attempting the additional 60 miles to Alturas in the dark would be foolish.

    I found myself surrendering to the Best Western, right off the 395. With its parking lot filled with Harley Davidsons who's owners would be sure not to wave at me in the morning, and one beastly BMW GS1200 authoritatively commanding its parking space even while wearing its cover.

    Little Pinkfoot the DR looked like a moped compared to the big bikes in the parking lot. I left her in the breezeway outside the office, cowering apologetically, at the mercy of the other bikes while I stepped inside to inquire about a room.

    Once again in luck, with only a couple of rooms left, I emerged moments later to reposition the bike to a more suitable spot for her to rest overnight. Far from the bully bikes, to a spot in the far corner of the parking area where I carefully positioned her on a downhill slope to compensate for the too-long side stand.

    And where she would be unlikely to land on someone else's vehicle if she did happen to land on her side again.
    I carried my gear up the stairs to my room. No more simple, ranch style motor lodges. No more apologies from front desk staff for the cost of the room. And no more rooms that cost less than a hundred dollars. But I could see my bike from my room.

    I went about all the anticipated updates and emails, and once again went to bed without anything that passed for a proper meal.

    I didn't care this time. I was tired and I was sorely disappointed that I hadn't made it to Alturas. That meant another hour of riding to make it home tomorrow. As I traveled farther southward on my return trip, sunrise got a few minutes later and sunset got a few minutes earlier each day, giving me less daylight to travel by. My route from Alturas to home was already pushing the 12 hour time frame, and now that I understood just how seriously I wanted to avoid traveling at night, I wasn't at all optimistic about reaching my doorstep by the end of Saturday.

    I lay defeated across one of the queen size beds in the room. Contemplating what lay ahead of me, and where it all went wrong.

    Stupid missed turn in Lolo. Stupid out of gas by the stinky lake. Stupid Renn Faire guy at the Loneliest Gas Station in America.

    Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

    Right there and then, all I could focus on was all the stuff that had gone awry. I had really wanted to make it home on Saturday. To have an entire day of downtime to decompress, to appreciate being home with the boyfriend and enjoy the company of the man and the dogs that comprise my immediate family.

    And right there and then, I was not feeling at all like it was going to happen.
    gregoblv likes this.
  7. Shesaid

    Shesaid Still Trippin'

    Dec 3, 2012
    Central CA
    Saturday, August 16, 2009: So Close and Yet so Far

    I woke up at the crack of dawn, still in a funk. I was dressed and packed and had everything strapped back on the bike before 7:00 a.m.

    It is an intimidating experience to walk through a hotel lobby wearing all your riding gear, through the small dining area where the complimentary breakfast is served, to check out of a hotel, when that dining area is populated by bikers who don't think your bike is a bike.

    As I looked around I saw a room full of the type of "bikers" that bikers don't think are bikers: the upper middle class professionals who bought high dollar machines with heated seats and hand grips, stereos and cupholders, and extra cushioned seats for their trophy pillions who are skinny enough to look good in that much leather and won't challenge their riding skills if they squirm on the back.

    I smiled at them. Did one of those half head nod things in an attempt to appear approachable. But if ever I have experienced one of those scenes where I walked into a room and everyone stopped talking to look at me suspiciously, this was it.

    I kinda wanted to scold them for a moment. If this was a movie, I would have sighed in exaggerated exasperation, shifted my weight to one foot, tilted my head to the side and said, "OH FOR FUCK'S SAKE!" at them.

    Then I would have gone on to lecture them about their sneering and called them on their hypocrisy at acting like a bunch of school boys trying to convince themselves that they are cool. Like they think they're some sort of Sons of Anarchy badasses in their North Face pullovers, sitting around their morning coffee at the Best Western, talking about the economy and what time they have to get to the office in the morning.

    Seriously! I CAN HEAR YOUR CONVERSATIONS, you aren't a biker gang, you're a middle aged accountant going through a divorce so you bought a $50,000 bike and a 23 year old girlfriend to help you cope.

    At least I didn't bring a car on a bike trip! Maybe what you really meant to buy was a Miata?:eek1

    I'm particularly fond of the notion of hearing Jimmy Stewart screaming "Oh for fuck's sake!"

    In the movie version that speech will go over really well and our heroine will strut out of the office with confidence and dignity while the accountants hang their heads in appropriately "owned" shame.

    In reality, the 10 seconds of eye contact was much more awkward for me. No one smiled back at me. I shrugged meekly and went out to the bike and hoped she started up without complaint and that I made it out of the parking lot, away from their stares, without doing something stupid like falling over.

    I managed to sneak out of Lakeview while it was still very early in the morning. Quietly riding through the downtown district amidst historical buildings filled with all sorts of small, independent businesses that told a tale of the inhabitants of the town.

    At this tender hour of the burgeoning weekend, the streets were still silent, the sidewalks still rolled up, the windows still shuttered. I wonder what the town is like when everyone wakes up and the little shops come alive? Is this the dying district of yesteryear? Or the still strong heart of a proud hamlet?

    Sometimes its hard for a random traveler to determine these things from just a casual glance around as they pass through a town to the open road on the other side of town.

    50 miles of more open space and sporadic dwellings dotted the remaining road into California.


    Well...home state, anyway. The guard at the agricultural check point waved me through and the early risers of Alturas shook their heads in bemusement at the stranger hugging the gas pump at the local Chevron station. They're probably used to it.

    Until yesterday, I had no idea what a revolutionary invention Pay-at-the-pump was. Ahh, the miracles of the 24 hour gas station; representing true freedom for the modern nomad of internal combustion.

    The BF and his family have friends who live just outside this town and I've been delighted to spend some time here, enjoying the hospitality of the couple in their log cabin that they, themselves, built by hand.

    I could have stopped in for a visit, but I would only end up staying longer than my time budget allowed for. So I slipped quietly out of town, continuing southward bound on hwy 395 toward another state border to Reno.

    The space between Alturas and Susanville was much bigger than I'd expected. And I found myself starting to watch the odometer and doing mileage calculations in my head again as I kept track of the roads signs counting down the distance to Susanville.

    Road work brought traffic to a halt at a place that referred to itself as "Litchfield--" one of those dots with a name that looks like a town on a map, but looks more like some guy's farm when actually passing through it.

    Crews were busy resurfacing a few miles of road here and flagmen were stopping traffic and making us all wait till a sufficient number of vehicles had backed up far enough to warrant sending the pilot car out to navigate us through the one-way traffic section.

    So there we sat. Waiting for traffic that didn't exist. Nearly an entire hour of my precious daylight trickled past us: one passenger sedan, one semi-truck, me and a small pickup truck that was piloted by a good looking guy in his mid 30s who pulled up next to me to tell me he liked my bike.

    We talked about bikes and lives and jobs and such for the duration, and he reminded me that I didn't have to go all the way to Susanville to find my next gas station, just make the next left turn and I'd find myself in Standish, and aiming right for Nevada.

    The pilot car finally delivered us to the other end of the road work and I found my turn, and Standish. Which is a gas station, and I don't think much else.

    Now I was feeling like I was back in some familiar territory, no longer worried about all the little named dots on the map that promised towns only to deliver farms.

    Next stop-- Reno, Nevada!

    Actually, I had no intention of stopping in Reno. I hadn't yet figured out if I even planned on staying on the 395 through Reno. Reno is a city that bustles and the 395 is a busy, fast-moving freeway through the area. Even my stint on the interstate into Missoula had left me mostly alone on a vast ribbon of concrete; my inadvertent tour of Boise had put me in closer contact with the local traffic but on surface streets where we crawled from traffic light to traffic light at 25 miles an hour.

    I wasn't sure Pinkfoot would be able to maintain the type of speeds I was likely to encounter through Reno. Mostly, I wasn't sure that I could maintain the speed of traffic through Reno.

    But I was going to spend this night in my own bed, dammit! I had been on the road an hour earlier this morning in order to account for the extra time I needed. Sitting and watching the birds fly over Litchfield for an hour had robbed me of precious miles toward my goal.

    I just didn't figure I had time to dawdle by veering off the main highway to putter through Truckee and Tahoe in order to bypass Reno. So I guess we'll be finding out what city freeway traffic is like. *gulp*

    But I had several leisurely miles of desert sage brush and scattered, dilapidated buildings from yesteryear first. I was in full day dream mode, lost in one of the introspective reveries I'd been enjoying throughout the ride, when I wizzed past it.


    OMG! OMG! OMG!

    I made a loud "SQUEEEEEEEE" noise in my helmet. I might have done a little dance in the saddle.

    I had to find a place to turn around!

    And turn around I did. Backtracking to the dead tree I had passed less than a mile back, pulling into the turnout and parking beneath it. It-- the dead tree-- and its glorious shoes!


    Shoe trees are a cultural phenomenon. No one really understands them. Why they happen. Why they happen all over the place, at random, with no connection to one another. But all over the country, there are old trees that are covered in shoes.

    People just keep tying shoes into trees. For no rational reason.

    I am fascinated by this. I could travel the world and spend years of my life gawking at shoes in trees just to stand beneath them and ponder, "Why?"

    So coming upon a shoe tree was already a weird little treat for me.

    Let me tell you a little story about shoe trees. OK. I don't actually have a little story about shoe trees, but this one time...

    [Pay CLOSE attention-- this will be important later!]

    One of the first long road trips that the BF and I took together was over a holiday weekend to Phoenix, Arizona where the BF attended tech school. And worked at Burger King, and had his first apartment, and his first "real" girlfriend, etc, etc, and-you-get-my-point-we've-all-been-there. So it was important to him to take me back to the nexus spot between child BF and adult BF and show me around.

    I had never considered visiting Phoenix, Arizona recreationally. It's not that there's anything wrong with Phoenix, but it is notoriously hot and I'm not so much a fan of hot weather.

    At the time, the BF was quietly trying to convince me that Phoenix wasn't actually that much hotter than where we live now and I think he was hoping that I'd fall in love with it and consider it as a possibility on our list of places we might someday move to.

    I knew that wasn't likely, but I do like going places I haven't been before, and I love a road trip, so we set out for Phoenix on Memorial Day weekend.

    It hit 103 while we were there. 'Nuff said.

    We had a grand time on our shopping mall tour of the greater Phoenix area. Seriously, he took me to four different malls! I had to laugh. He was, afterall, 17 years old when he moved to Phoenix for school. Even he had to shyly admit that maybe it's not quite the way he remembers it.

    What I really learned from that weekend was how differently we approach the concept of the American Road Trip.

    I'm all Jack Kerouac: I'm on the road. I go out there with a loosely defined destination and a hunger to see, feel, and experience everything I encounter in between. I'm open to the possibility that my destination may change with my course as new experiences take me in new directions. I want to stop and take pictures, I want to absorb the scenery, I want to quietly contemplate the meaning of Life, I want to stand under a tree covered in shoes and ponder the ways of Man.

    For me, a road trip is all about experience, creating memories for my old age, and gathering the stories I will tell.

    For the BF, a road trip is all about how fast you can get to your pre-determined destination, and the only data you need to collect along the way for sharing with friends and family is your time, average speed, and fuel economy.

    Woe be to your passenger if she needs to stop for a bathroom break along the way.

    This is why the BF doesn't get to drive on our road trips anymore.

    On our return trip from Phoenix that fateful weekend, we opted for the long way home, weaving through the U.S. highway system on lonely roads eschewed by modern travelers who opt for multi-laned Interstate bliss, bypassing the dying communities in favor of easy-on/easy-off rest stops and gas stations.

    We were westbound on US 62, a simple, 2 lane road that stretches toward sunset in a straight, endless line of ebony ribbon against the pale tan desert hills on the backside of Joshua Tree National Park.

    The BF was at the wheel and we were headed home at an impressive speed. But hundreds of homeward bound vacationers were also on the road with us. Caravans of boats and RVs and travel trailers traveled with us. No one was going slow, but most of the traffic was going slower than us.

    The BF was downright gleeful as he made repeated use of the nearly deserted opposite lane of traffic to pass by 20, 24, 31! vehicles at a time, with my little Nissan Sentra singing along at speeds flirting with 100 miles per hour. This was bliss for the BF; counting how many vehicles he could pass at once.

    I watched the desert fly by outside my passenger side window. Marveled at the endless railroad track that managed to keep pace with us, stretching across the desert at least as far as any road, and the names and pictographs that decorated the rise of sand along them.

    This area was devoid of human establishments aside from the road and the tracks. Where did the people come from to carry the white rocks to the side of the tracks and how long did it take to arrange them in the shapes of names and flowers and promised of undying love?

    Were the rocks naturally white? Did people paint them before deciding their careful placement?

    Was this something that the railraod companies tolerated easily? Or did these people have to sneak out under cover of night, and flee like cockroaches from the sweeping beam of a sheriff's spot light?

    I turned my head from the tracks on my right for a momentary glance at the expanse of desert to my left.

    I saw it come into view long before we reached it. It was long and square and positively reeked of human construction. It appeared to be fence.

    As we got closer, I could see that it was just that. A fence. A fence around nothing in the middle of nowhere. Just a big, fenced-off piece of space by the side of the road in the middle of the desert with out much clue as to what used to be in the middle of it, or if there ever had been something in the middle of it.

    It was a totally random fence.

    And that totally random fence was covered in shoes.

    I heard angels singing. The shoe fence called to me. It was like the Mecca of shoe gatherings and my soul reached out to worship at its altar.

    My head swung around, eyes fixed upon the vision as the BF gunned the accelerator and sped past the shrine without so much as a muttered "hrumph."

    "GO BACK!" I cried. "GO BACK!" My voice sounding like a child who's parents just drove past Disneyland.

    The little sedan's speed never faltered. The BF said "Why?"

    I excitedly said, "I want to see that!"

    In his best dad-voice and with out so much as glancing sideways at me he replied, "No you don't."

    If he had begun the process of slowing down and pulling over when I first told him to, I would have had quite a hike back to the fence. But it would have been within hiking distance. We were on a simple, two-lane highway; the act of turning the car around and driving back to the fence was not outside of reason. But by the time it sank into his neandrathalic pea brain that I actually meant that yes, I really wanted and it was kinda important to me, to go stand in front of the damn shoes on a fence in the desert, we were well into 29 Palms; 73 miles later.

    The Rice Shoe Fence stands in the history of our relationship as the first major exfoliation of a great granite dome face. The moment when a huge chunk of the facade on our Happily-Ever-After gave way and began to form the inevitable talus pile that every long term relationship eventually develops around its base.

    For the last 8 years, and forever more, the Rice Shoe Fence has been a source of great contention between us. It is the brilliant and beautiful illustration of what makes us different. It is a metaphor of our relationship, and a metaphor of what separates the minds of women from the minds of men: whenever we tell the tale in mixed company, the men are united in their horror that such a thing is even allowed to exist. They all agree with the Boyfriend-- shoes in the desert is exactly the sort of thing you should flee post haste.

    Women, on the other hand, never need coaxing for sympathy, they are always fascinated by my description and deeply disappointed to learn that I never got to stand before the Great Fence of Shoes.

    Now here I was, on my road trip. Doing it my way, all on my own. And when I see a shoe tree, goddammit, I can stop and ponder it!

    So ponder it, I did.




    I stood under that tree laden with hundreds of castoff shoes, I walked around it, I took pictures of the tree, I took pictures of the shoes, I took pictures of Pinkfoot with the tree and the shoes. I examined the Converse, and the Vans, and the Reeboks and wondered that there were at least as many high heels as there were sneakers. Fascinated that most of the shoes were in pairs, and many looked to be in better condition than you'd find in a second hand store.

    I almost wanted to shop. But it felt sacrilegious to handle them. Like I would be removing an offering from an altar.

    I wondered exactly what gods would be pleased by old shoes?

    Probably the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    I didn't have any footwear of my own to spare for the sake of winning favor and safe journey from the Great Carbohydrate In The Sky, so I did my best to appease him with a humble Pastafarian prayer before resuming my progress toward home.


    Reno was, as I had suspected, terrifying.

    I saw it looming ahead of me. I saw my last chance for escape. I found myself in the middle of it all. A real, honest to goodness, American city. 6 lanes of 75 mile an hour glass, steel, and rubber whirring around me, driving alongside of me, coming up behind me, passing by me. Getting on and off the freeway, changing lanes, talking on cell phones, eating lunch at the wheel, changing radio stations, doing all sorts of things that did not involve watching where they were going in order to be sure to avoid making inadvertent contact with the girl on the tiny motorcycle sharing the freeway with them.

    I put a lot of effort into holding the throttle open and keeping pace with the throngs. I decided my best strategy for surviving freeway traffic was pretty much the same as going up unarmed against a mountain lion: I sat up very straight and tried to look as big as possible, setting my jaw, and wearing a stern "don't fuck with me" look on my face in order to establish dominance over my lane.

    I glowered at the kid in the Honda to my right who had just merged onto the freeway and still had his left turn signal on, "Do not even think about changing lanes into me, asshole! I am a badass biker bitch. I will fuck you up!" I tried to adopt the appropriate facial expression to convey this message, taking grim satisfaction from the knowledge that at least the bike would fuck him up if he hit me. Good ol' Pinkfoot-- she's got my back, she'll avenge me.

    Inside I was a quivering, gelatinous mess. "please let them see me, please let them see me, please let them see me" was my far more honest thought process, but I couldn't show any fear. American city freeway traffic can smell fear. I'm pretty sure I read that somewhere.

    Much to my surprise, I made it through the congested freeway traffic without incident. Everyone saw me. Everyone gave me the appropriate amount of space. It was like they thought I was a real motorcycle or something; except the Harleys. I was back in Nevada. The Harley's weren't waving anymore. I miss Montana.

    The last time I'd been on this stretch of road through Carson City, Nevada, there was a Weinerschnitzel here. Of course, there was also a bar-slash-wrecking yard-slash gun range that boasted a giant spider made from car parts. And there might have been a whorehouse on this road. You just never can tell what you'll run into in Nevada.

    Now the new freeway bypassed Carson City and left the old 395 running through the middle of the business district to serve as just another American business route through what was fast disintegrating into just another American city business district.

    The empty spaces I remembered had been filled up with giant cubes housing fast food places, grocery stores, and myriad other big box businesses.

    I couldn't even figure out where the Weinerschnitzel had been.

    We don't have a Weinerschnitzel in my home town. I know its also just another fast food chain, but at least they tend to have unique architecture... and it's something I don't have the option of at home. I was really hoping for some mini corndogs.

    I stopped for gas and gave up on the hunt for mini corndogs. I still had 8 hours of riding ahead of me and not quite 8 hours of sunlight.

    I found myself at a Taco Bell in Gardnerville for lunch, with lousy wifi for searching Google Maps for my fastest route through the Sierra Nevada.

    Half an hour later, I was on hwy 88 headed for Kit Carson Pass.

    I'm sleeping in my own bed tonight!

    By the time I crossed the state line back into California and found myself once again in the solitude and open air, my mind was back on the ride. Taking my time and enjoying every twist and turn as the road rose and fell with the land it followed.


    Kit Carson Pass on Hwy 88 was another new pass through the Sierra Nevada for me. I can see why it's the preferred route for Google Maps as the lanes stayed wide and the curves were relatively large and sweeping throughout; making it more suitable for RVs and boat trailers, buses and trucks. Not at all steep, crooked, and folded back on itself like the Sonora Pass was. This was easy travelin'.

    I kept thinking all I had to do was get through the Sierras and then it was smooth sailing all the way home. As long as I made to Oakhurst by sunset, I was good. I didn't mind riding after dark as long as I could get out of deer country and back on home turf.

    I was on a mission.

    I found myself routed through the heart of downtown Sonora. Maybe there's a way to bypass the busy downtown, but I missed it. As I crawled along the little downtown district, past all the restaurants and bars, watching groups of people walking along the sidewalks in the historical boomtown from California's gold rush days, I was really wishing I'd called the Boyfriend and had him meet me here. He could have gotten a room and been waiting for my arrival and we could have hit the town and enjoyed a good Mexican food dinner and a couple of beers in one of the saloons.

    I hadn't realized how hungry I was, and I was passing through at peak dinner hour.

    But it was too late to call the BF and have him come up here to meet me now so I pushed on.

    Somewhere south of Sonora, but still north of Mariposa, there's a stretch of Hwy 49 that motorcyclists refer to as "the little dragon." I assume it's in reference to the piece of road near Deal's Gap, North Carolina that everyone calls the "tail of the dragon."

    The Tail of the Dragon in NC is famous for something like 318 curves in an 11 mile stretch of road.


    Have I mentioned that twisties don't set my heart all a flutter? I'm an abomination to the motorcycle community, I guess.
    Anyway, there's this nasty section of the 49 outside of Mariposa that is just a zillion switchback on a cliff. I'm pretty sure that's the section that the locals refer to as "the little dragon." I refer to it as "ugh." I like winding roads, not twisty ones.


    Just before the steep switchbacks started, I found myself in a turn out. My knees are getting old. I'm getting old. I was racing sunset, but I needed to get off the bike and stretch the joints. Then I was back on the bike and up those switchbacks, just in time to watch the sun dip below the horizon. By the time I reached the crowded streets of Mariposa, it was just plain dark.

    Mariposa is a popular gateway to Yosemite National Park, it's all duded up, Old West/Gold Rush style and looks a lot like a miniature version of Jackson, Wyoming, now that I've seen both.

    Mariposa is close enough that I've traveled through it a few times, close enough that I've never had any reason to stay overnight. But far enough away from home that I don't go there often.

    This was one of the last weekends of the official summer season; only 2 weeks before Labor Day weekend. This was one of the last weekends of official summer vacation season. The sidewalks of the small tourist town were overrun with tourists. Tourists wandering like zombies down every road, on the sidewalks, along the streets, in the streets, across the streets. It was madness. I felt like I had stumbled onto some sort of college town celebration. I started looking to see if anyone was wearing a toga.

    It was officially dark. But there was no chance I would be able to find lodging in this overcrowded tourist trap. I was so close to Oakhurst, and once I made it to Oakhurst, I felt I was pretty much home. So when I made it to the last stop sign on the southside of town, I kept going.

    Now I had to traverse the section of the highway between Mariposa and Oakhurst. Have I mentioned that highway 49 is a winding, 2-lane, country road through the hills? And the section between Mariposa and Oakhurst is pretty much devoid of civilization. Well, there aren't any real towns anyway, a couple of communities and hamlets, but nothing that would light up the streets or keep deer and wild pigs and turkeys off the road.

    I was surprised to discover how much traffic was on the road, though.

    I guess there's plenty of tourist traffic running between the two towns, people who went in to Yosemite one way and came out the other, in addition to local traffic getting to and from work shifts or just looking for a night out in the next town. But there I was, with my stupid headlight, getting in everyone's way.

    As long as there was no opposing traffic, I could keep the high beam on and then I could see well enough to travel at an acceptable clip. But competing headlights coming up behind me and a steady stream of traffic coming toward me had me crawling along at about 35 miles an hour, pulling over every chance I got.

    Pulling over to allow traffic that got piled up behind me proved gut-wrenching, because I couldn't always see the side of the road well enough to determine if there was enough shoulder to pull over onto. By the time I could see what lay on the other side of the white line to my right, it was usually too late to make a safe stop.

    I'm sure I pissed off a lot of drivers who wanted around me.

    But no one tried to run me down.

    I can't even say I was happy to reach the light pollution of the Oakhurst city streets. By the time I rolled into town and parked the bike in the Taco Bell parking lot, I was beat.

    I carefully uncurled my fingers off the handlebar grips-- I might have been hanging on a bit tight.

    Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew I was not sleeping in my own bed tonight. It was just a smidge after 9 p.m. when I called the Boyfriend. I immediately announced that I was in Oakhurst and that he should come get me.

    He didn't seem to be taking me very seriously. But he did try to find me an alternate route home that avoided circumnavigating the critter-infested forests surrounding Bass Lake while equally avoiding the traffic congested freeways through Fresno.

    It was hopeless. I could do one, or the other. But there was no way I was avoiding both. And taking the 41 out of Oakhurst into Fresno, meant I was likely to encounter both.

    It was suggested that I should look for one more hotel room and ride home at a liesurely pace in the morning sun.
    Hrumph. I hardly see what the problem was with going over to his parents' house, borrowing the trailer, driving nearly 2 hours to Oakhurst, loading my bike onto the trailer and driving back home.

    Oh sure, maybe we wouldn't have gotten home until 1 in the morning, but I thought it was a perfectly reasonable idea.
    Instead, I told him I'd give him a call again when I knew where home would be for the night, hung up the phone, and set off to find a hotel.


    Naturally, finding a hotel room at 9 o'clock on a Saturday night, at the end of summer, in a town right outside of Yosemite National Park was a challenge.

    I rode to the farthest west end of the town and started working my way east, and since every hotel in Oakhurst can't be bothered to make use of one of those ingenious "Vacancy/NO vacancy" signs, I had to pull up in front of the office door at each hotel, make sure I was on level ground so Pinkfoot's slightly-too-long side stand would be sure to keep the bike upright, shut down the engine, dismount, walk inside, and wait my turn in line just to be told "No" when I asked if there was a room available.

    Next hotel.

    Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

    I was on my 4th establishment, walking into the lobby of the local Best Western franchise. I really, really wanted this place to have a room. This Best Western had a lovely lobby. One whole wall, possibly 2 or 3 stories high, entirely covered with small river rocks with a fountain of water cascading down from the heights. It was just nice. And I'd found a place to park outside where I could have left the bike overnight without worry.

    I walked to the counter. I flagged down one of the ladies working the front desk. She slowly shook her head back and forth.

    No room at this inn either.

    But there was hope! She informed me that a small independent up the road had just called to let them know that he had a room available still for $159.

    A little piece inside me shriveled up with the noise that PacMan makes when he dies. I guess that makes up the difference for those rooms that had come in under budget.

    I didn't have many choices left and it was looking like either I take this opportunity or I gingerly feel out my way home and, truth be told, I was getting tired. So I asked where this "Pinerose Inn" was and would they be so kind as to call to let the proprietor know I was on my way and please don't give the room to someone else.

    The Pinerose was conveniently located along the road that I would be taking in the morning anyway, just out of Oakhurst on the way to Bass Lake. This was a very dark road, and the small structure that referred to itself as a "bed and breakfast" was set back from the road with only a small light bulb illuminating the sign indicating the drive way.

    I found it. I parked in the small, paved parking lot in front of the building. I looked around and tried to figure out exactly where I was supposed to go.

    Directly in front of me was an expansive patio area. On the other end of the patio was a homey building with open French doors revealing a kitchen next to a living room with a large, flat screen TV.

    To my right was another room in the structure. It also had French doors, but this room was closed and dark with only a dim porch light burning beside the doors. Nevertheless, this seemed the more obvious of the two options as being the office.

    As I turned my approach toward the darker of the two doorways, the tiny wooden sign staked in a planter pot caught my eye; it said "Office" and pointed toward the brightly lit doorway at the end of the patio.

    The whole property lacked cohesive design. Finding the office wasn't intuitive, and I wasn't sure it was just because it was after dark. I didn't feel like I was arriving at a business, I felt like I was intruding on someone's dinner time.

    I poked my head through the open doors. A man was in the kitchen. A large man; tall and decidedly pear shaped. He greeted me eagerly.

    I immediately started wondering what I had gotten myself into.

    He was a very nice man. I truly hesitate to tell my tale as it unfolded because I just don't feel it's fair to him, but I'd be skipping part of the story if I failed to mention how much his demeanor resembled Norman Bates.

    Hey! Norman was a nice guy too.


    I felt like I was wandering into someone's personal space, but I crossed the room to join Norm at the breakfast bar of the kitchen where he was standing. He made some pleasant small talk, confirmed that I was the person he was waiting for, and wrote out a bill and gave me the total.

    I handed him my credit card. He looked at me and an expression of slight puzzlement flashed across his face for just a fleeting moment. Then he said, "Oh. You want to use a credit card." Period. Not question mark. It was a flat statement, but his voice held a touch of surprise. Like it was unusual for people visiting his inn to present credit cards. Which seems weird, given it being the middle of California, USA outside of a major tourist attraction like Yosemite National Park in the early 21st century and all. But running my card wasn't a problem and he handed me a receipt to sign and a key to my room.

    But he didn't pull out a map to show me how to get to my room. Nor did he simply use a series of gestures and prepositions to explain its whereabouts. He emerged from behind the kitchen counter and began escorting me to another section of the building.

    He was all niceties and jabbering away about how "we" serve breakfast buffet style around 8 and how running a bed and breakfast is so much fun and about all the interesting people "we" get to meet.

    I never saw any sign of another person working there or living with him.

    Um...Norman? How's your mom?

    I followed him at a respectable distance as he walked out of what I now assumed was his home-slash-office, onto the patio and around a dark corner. I suspected the covered section of the patio housed piles of treasures that most people would relegate to the junkyard, but I couldn't quite tell in the dark.

    The place was dark. And getting darker the farther we wandered from his dining room.

    As we turned the corner we had to descend a short section of steps-- wooden ones, home-made looking wooden steps. The kind you'd expect to see leading to an unfinished basement in a horror movie.

    At the bottom of the short stair case, we landed in front of a dark room with a sliding glass door and walked across and down what I suspected was the parking space for the room that apparently wasn't mine, even though it appeared empty. The parking space was a narrow strip of blacktop asphalt that stretched steeply downhill.

    It just kept getting darker.

    We were now downhill, around the corner, and underneath the main floor. There was absolutely no light down here and we were completely out of sight of the road. I was walking pretty far back, holding my helmet very securely by the chin straps with one hand with my key to the bike in the other.

    But Norman just kept walking along, talking about living in the mountains and running the inn and all sorts of things like this was totally normal and shouldn't creep the guests out in the slightest.

    We walked downhill along what appeared to be a small road or alley way that snaked around the back of the property and disappeared into the darkness. We were now 3 stories underneath his apartment-- or 2 and a half, depending on how you count it, being on a hill and all-- and completely facing the other way. Norm proceeded up a slight curb, across a gravel parking area, through a small wrought-iron garden gate to a set of French Doors.

    I stayed in the gravel parking area.

    This was the first time he turned around to look at me and maybe it occurred to him momentarily that I wasn't quite as close to him as he had expected me to be. But he didn't say anything about it, he just unlocked the doors and reached inside to turn on some lights.

    gregoblv likes this.
  8. Shesaid

    Shesaid Still Trippin'

    Dec 3, 2012
    Central CA
    Saturday, part 2-- apparently posts are limited to 4000 characters and my day took 5000.


    This was really a cute little room.

    He walked back down to me, gave me my key and reminded me about breakfast. Then he asked if the gravel parking area was going to be an issue for the bike, but I assured him it was fine.

    He meandered back up to his own quarters via the same convoluted path we'd taken down, and I hiked back up the road to the bike and rode down to my room.

    The room would have made a perfect studio apartment. It was completely self contained, including a small, but full kitchen.

    But it was a strange room. The floor was terra cotta tile, chunky and uneven. The kitchen and the bathroom were on a higher level, 2 steep steps up from the main floor. On the right hand side, right in front of the kitchen area where one would normally expect to put one's dining table, was a giant, two person jacuzzi bathtub completely tiled in with marble tiles. It sat on the diagonal in the corner with a shower head poking out from the marble that ensconced the wall. Two brass curtain rods jutted out from the wall and met over the tub in a right angle with heavy black curtains-- that I think were shower curtains-- hanging from them like drapes framing an elegant window. The marble tiling was crude, but imposing and created almost a hearth effect around the tub.

    It was definitely a statement piece.

    Next to the tub was a small, cast iron wood stove that didn't appear to be suitable for actual use, but there didn't appear to be any other source of heat for the room so I wonder what guests do when visiting the area when it's covered in snow.
    On the other side of the room was a king size bed with a large art deco armoire on the other side of that, blocking a large window. Next to the armoire, in the corner of the room at the foot of the bed, a 40 inch flat screen TV sat on a sofa table, next to a little settee covered in sage green crushed velvet.

    On either side of the bed was a night stand, but not a matching set. And on each night stand, continuing the eclectic things-from-your-grandma's-attic chic decor, were two entirely unmatched lamps.

    The room was decorated with lots of rich brass tones and dark woods with lots of black thrown in for a very art deco feel. It was entirely too crowded for a room at any sort of inn, but the decor was not without taste and character.

    I kinda liked it. It was funky and it made me feel like I was visiting an elderly, eccentric aunt who might also be a witch.

    Like I was an eight-year-old in a kids' novel. I dug it.

    Outside the French doors was a small patio with a white wrought-iron bistro set that matched the little fence and gate that separated my room from the rest of the world.

    If I were single again and living in a big city, I would love to have this as an apartment.

    I sat at the little bistro set and signed into the wifi network and emailed the boyfriend, since, naturally, I had absolutely zip for cell signal out here in the wilderness and I really wanted to make sure someone knew where I was.

    I'm sure my personal Norman Bates is very sweet-- I just don't know who this "we" he keeps referring to is.

    For reasons I'm not entirely sure of and, in a move pretty uncommon for me, I looked up the Inn's online reviews.

    They were unkind. Several of them came from people who came off as sniveling, spoiled city dwellers who have never actually been in real mountains before.

    Yes, mountain properties have dust and sometimes ants.

    My room did not have any insects that I could find. I had plenty of hot water, enough to fill the giant tub-- but the jets for the tub did not work. Frankly, I hadn't expected them to and I wouldn't have tried them if I hadn't read the reviews.

    I wasn't planning on attending breakfast, the BF had emailed back right away and we had made plans to meet up at Tollhouse for breakfast in the morning.

    A family in a Mercedes SUV arrived and moved into the room above me. They did not seem impressed.

    I retired to bed and explored what the TV had to offer. I ended up watching 3 episodes of some travel channel show dedicated to haunted hotels. I tried not to think about how much this place looked like one of the places on the show and I tried not to worry about how easy it would be to break through the lock on the French doors-- or just break the doors.

    The bed was big and soft and comfy and I finally drifted off singing "grandma's feather bed" to myself and trying not to worry about what portal to another dimension the wardrobe next to the bed might hide behinds its doors.
    gregoblv likes this.
  9. Shesaid

    Shesaid Still Trippin'

    Dec 3, 2012
    Central CA
    Sunday, August 17: HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This was the first morning that I work late and blurry eyed, as if my subconscious was keenly aware of how close to home I was and that today's ride wouldn't require much in the way of physical and mental exertion and wasn't going to cover any new territory.


    I opened my eyes to the morning sunlight pouring through the windows and French doors. I blinked a few times. I looked around the crazy-aunt room, relieved that everything had remained in its place; no signs of elves or trolls or possessed furniture attempting to attack me in my sleep but still, something about the room did not seem quite as I'd left it.

    I stretched and looked at the alarm clock to see what time it was. I did, afterall, have a breakfast date an hour away.
    The digital clock was dark. Then I realized I had left one of the lamps on which was also now dark.

    Power outage? Was it the entire hotel? Just my room? Had the zombie apocalypse started? Was it trolls? Was it Norman Bates upstairs? I got up and found my cell phone where I'd left it plugged into its charger on the kitchen counter.

    YIKES! 8:45!

    I got dressed, brushed my teeth and packed the bike.

    By the light of day, I could see my suspicions confirmed. What looked quaint by starlight, looked haggard by sunlight.

    The building needed several coats of paint, preferably in a new color. The borders of the property were lined with various cast off treasures; lumber, rail road ties, planters, rolls of chicken wire... the sort of things that a clever mind might look at and see wondrous creations. "We'll just put that over there for now." "NO! Don't take that to the junk yard! I'm going to make something with it!"

    the driveway down to my room-- MUCH steeper in real life than it appears.

    I know how these minds work, my grandmother is the queen of them; sitting on her throne in the midst of her treasures, insisting that it's not trash while she fantasizes about all the fabulous things she will do with her hoards of old magazines and VHS video tapes, boxes of rocks and twigs, Styrofoam egg cartons and meat trays stacked on furniture long ago discarded by less imaginative folks.

    Who ever owns this hotel is cut from the same cloth as my grandmother.

    I parked the bike in the street level lot and set about hunting down Norman to give him back the key. I could have just left it in the room, but it just feels like the right thing to do to return it and say thank you and good bye in person, the guy might seem a little odd, but he's really quite sincere and sweet and besides, I was pretty sure I could out run him.

    I found him in the kitchen again, behind the long dining table covered with entirely more coffee cups than the small inn would ever need and big bowls of fruit salad and cups of yogurt.

    There was no one in sight. The cars that had been occupying parking spaces the night before were deserted. I suspected the other guests had begged out of breakfast with feigned politeness and excuses of wanting to get to Yosemite as early as possible while they set off in the direction of Oakhurst's Denny's and McDonalds'.

    Norman was all aflutter with the morning's excitement-- apparently the power outage was widespread. It had taken out the entire area and meant that "they" couldn't make breakfast. "They" had spent all morning running around trying to come up with breakfast options that didn't require cooking.

    He was disappointed that I wasn't staying for some fruit salad and yogurt. I think he was more upset that there was no one left to talk to. Or maybe his imaginary friend liked me?

    I bid my farewells and was on my way again. Back on home turf now, I did my best to take my time and enjoy the last leg of my ride. I was excited to see the BF. I was excited about a genuine breakfast in Tollhouse. I was excited about getting home to the dogs. I was excited about telling my story.

    I had to stop for gas in North Fork before navigating the foothill roads into Auberry and, finally, to Tollhouse. I had just turned onto Tollhouse Road with the diner in sight when the BF went wizzing by in the opposite direction. I was running late and he'd grown impatient with waiting on me, and had started to worry.

    He swung his own bike back around and we engaged in the sort of heart warming middle-of-the-street reunion usually reserved for romance movies. If it had been raining, it would have been the perfect happily ever after ending: run credits.

    In real life, we had breakfast to eat, another hour and half of riding till home, unpacking and laundry ahead of us still.

    And work the next day.

    Breakfast at Tollhouse

    You can always read our poorly updated daytripping thread in my sig line...but here's the next big ride!)
    gregoblv likes this.
  10. no

    no way man no how

    Nov 19, 2005
    Great story. Those long lonely miles give you a lot of time to think about things...
  11. bluestar

    bluestar sheep shagger

    Mar 14, 2014
    N.E. Louisiana
    Great RR. I think that was the most entertaining one I have read yet. :clap :clap
  12. sunset_ryder

    sunset_ryder aka "toots"

    May 26, 2011
    New Mexico
    That was a good story, and well told. Made me feel like it was me out there, and I probably would have been thinking a lot of the same things. Good job!:clap:clap:clap:clap:clap
  13. bete

    bete misguided adventurer

    Mar 22, 2008
    kansas Flint Hills
    I do believe that was the best ride report I have ever read. You have a great talent. Reminded me of Edward Abby one of my favorite authors. Thanks for the read. bete
  14. advrockrider

    advrockrider Been here awhile

    Jan 17, 2009
    VERY COOL RIDE REPORT! You have some writing skills.. Love your style of story telling. Thanks for taking the time, I just tuned in to your newest report as well.
  15. Not the Messiah

    Not the Messiah Old enough to know better, but slow learnin'

    Jan 19, 2013
    Melb'n, 'Straya
    Ahhhh, bugger. 11.23pm and work tomorrow.
    So what happens now is I don't go straight to the next thread. Well maybe the first bit. Maybe.

    Thanks heaps for the great writing, love your work!

  16. Max Wedge

    Max Wedge ADVenture mowing

    May 16, 2008
    Lwr Mi
    Well done! :clap Got nothing done at work today, and now I want to leave early for a ride. Glad there is another to come! :D
  17. Wisco

    Wisco Been here awhile

    May 28, 2014
    Pultneyville, NY, 14538
    I agree, great writing style! I have read many a motorcycle traveling book. While most are set in some far off exotic country, your story is more relatable. And you're so intouch with your joys and fears. The descriptions and analogies are unique and rememberable. I think I laughed more out loud when reading this than I did reading all the other mc books combined.

    I think I could tell when you stopped taking yourself so seriously, meaning writing to publish. I think it was around the third day you wrote about, the first time you got in a funk. After that, the writing began to flow. You wrote just to write. That works and I'd pay to read more.

    Check out Colorado Dual Sport on YouTube. A young husband and wife learning to ride together with a nice way of video recording their rides and comments via helmet comms.

    Thanks for the story.
  18. TheAdmiral

    TheAdmiral Long timer

    Apr 3, 2010
    Sand Hollow, Idaho
    I'm in the process of reading this in my spare time, so I haven't gotten very far. Still on page one. One thing I can say so far though, I miss your writing and humor, even if it doesn't contain any dirty filthy sex! Or that you're not making any money for this story! :lol3

    And for a while I confused myself between Yellowstone and Yosemite. Oops!

    I'll continue reading now.
  19. JHpowderhound

    JHpowderhound Been here awhile

    Feb 28, 2014
    Jackson, WY
    Nice report:thumb
  20. JayElDee

    JayElDee not saying what I mean

    May 2, 2007
    The City that Care Forgot
    Yup...I think you get it.