Okay, so it was like this: I'd just moved all the way across the country at the convenience of my employer and was still in the throes of disorganization. But enough about that. I needed a nice, long ride to clear my head and get my sense of perspective back to where it should be, and I was looking around for ways to scratch that itch. The answer came from right here on the AventureRider site when Jean-Luc posted a note to the community that the upcoming "Range of Light Gypsy Tour" was a good `un and not to be missed. My calendar said it was do-able, my wife agreed that things would be better around the house if my sorry, no-good ass was somewhere else (God, but you can't possibly imagine how long and hard and slyly I've worked to engineer that reaction), and it was a lock. In many trips I've noticed that things that start badly end better, and I wasn't ten minutes from the house when, cruising along in the Car Pool Lane of the 405 I saw a bike on the emergency strip and a rider leaning against the center barrier: I pulled over to see if he needed help. The guy strode out to the edge of the pavement to meet me and informed me that he had help already on the way. Then he pointed at the two bent rims and flat tires on his Hayabusa (courtesy of a pothole or something in the road). I remarked that he was lucky to be up and walking around. He thanked me for stopping and I went on up the road. Crossing Sepulveda Pass in traffic, suddenly brake lights came on everywhere and the ass-end of cars went up in the air all around: it seems a van had rear-ended an SUV and spun out in the road, coming to a stop blocking three lanes. People were running everywhere - forwards, backwards, sideways - like ants, trying to see if anyone was hurt or needed assistance. They didn't, and I weaved my way to the front and boogied. Next, I was cruising along and noted a CHP motor officer on a black-and-white "Authority" BMW R1100RT coming up behind me with his blues on: ordinarily that makes my ass go into a protective clinch around my wallet, but this time he was getting ready to run a traffic break so I just slid in behind as he came by and waited. A mile or so later he had six lanes of Friday morning glaze-eye commuters stopped long enough for a DOT guy to run out from the side and retrieve a huge truck tread "gator" from the middle of the road. Ten seconds later the CHP guy was gone and I was on the gas again. Cut to Lake Mendocino Campground, north of Ukiah, eight hours later. Beautiful location overlooking a lake. I met Ray when I was asking around for anyone who could supplement my weak-ass GS tool kit with a 15mm wrench. It turned out that Ray had some previous experience with what I was about to attempt which saved me about an hour of Barley Therapy time on a fool's errand. Ray introduced me to Jean-Luc and Glen (Santa). From there we proceeeded to celebrate the evening, the sunset, Ray's birthday, and fifteen other things until very late. In the morning, very early, I got up to tend to Nature and found the full moon setting over the mountains to the west - I nearly went back to the tent in search of the camera, but opted instead to simply drink in the scene until it burned itself into my photo-receptors: I can see it now if I close my eyes. In the morning J-L invited me to come along with the "sweep" crew of himself, Ray, and "Santa" (Glen) on the GS ride. Did I mention that J-L had lain (laid?) out the ride and our mission was to make sure that no wayward soul was out there broke-down and in need of help. We loaded our luggage into the transit van (a neat feature of the "gypsy tour" format) and headed out about 0900. Our first secondary road set the tone for the rest of the ride: the "Apex Brothers" were born. We turned off the main road onto this little narrow, twisty ribbon of tarmac and proceeded to burn it up all the way to Willits, where we sat down to a nice breakfast. After Willits we took a dirt road 35 miles to Ft. Bragg on the coast, and then up 101. The blue Pacific on our left, we enjoyed the picture-post card views until we once again headed off on to dirt. At Shelter Cove, we had a Kodak Moment followed by a Three Stooges moment as J-L decided to try to ride out to the surf line on the loose, gravelly beach: it took three of us to get him unstuck, turned around, and back to the harder ground of the access road (see the pix at http://www.pbase.com/rainman/r_o_l). More fine GS-dirt followed, with a brief surrealistic experience when we came upon the Whale Gulch Volunteer Fire Department Bake Sale & Fun(d) Raiser, a little hoot-nanny held at a crossroads out in the forest. 1950's fire engines stood ready for the next event as a Mark Twain look-alike with flowing beard and goat-roper hat flagged us down and exhorted us to stop and partake of the veritable cornucopia of brownies, cakes, pies, sweets, beverages, and good-fellowship that was overflowing from the place. Due to the obvious abundance of Distaff talent present, I had no choice but to stop and wait for my colleagues¡K.. yo. In a field across the road, people threw horseshoes as a trio of horses looked on: whaddaya suppose horses think about that? ("Hey! Those look just like what Robbie used to wear before he disappeared last year! What have you done with Robbie??") We were beginning to realize that our lazy pace was getting us in trouble. We still had almost two hundred miles to go on the route and it was already 3:00PM, so we had to boogie. Across 199 to NF Route 1 was a strafing mission. We had settled into a kind of order, with each of us falling into a rythym and pace that was comfortable, but once on NF1 with its rough pavement, remote ridgetops, and deserted twilight stillness, we each began to stretch it out. Now I have to admit that I'm no pavement Top Gun (most of my career has been spent on knobbies, in the trees or on the track) but I had begun to ramp it up and was now using 100% of my tire treads keeping up. As the sun went down and the road got lonely, our lights began to show up on the road, and by the time we got to 299 and stretched it out getting to the coast again, the day's distance and fatigue were beginning to set in. J-L took point with his Valentine One, and we hunkered down into the coastal cold and damp northbound to the camp. We missed dinner, but who cares? I had a Riding Banquet all day long, so a cup of noodles and a couple Buds made me whole. We camped near the coast and shared our views of the day, universally good. We retired late with the wholesome tiredness of the Virtuous. Morning came to the CG. Everything was wet with the coastal dew. The tents were soaked from the trees above drippings as were the seats, tank bags, etc., left exposed. After a quick breakfast at the CG, we headed up 101 to a "scenic" detour out overlooking the beach. You know how those post cards of the Oregon coast look, with the dramatic, huge, rocks and pounding surf? Same thing. At points we were in fog so thick we couldn't even see the beach; at other points the dirt road surface was slick as snot. The "scenic" detour concluded at the mouth of the Klamath River, with hundred of fishermen competing for the salmon and steelhead coming in. We rode inland and north. In Crescent City we stopped at an auto parts store where J-L finally caved in to our constant reminders that his final drive oil leak needed fixing, and in the parking lot we proceeded to install the missing o-rings on the ABS pickup that were the cause (see the pix on rainman's pBase site). Next we rode through a section of redwoods that made me silently respectful of the powers of nature: it was like riding down the central aisle of an Egyptian temple, tall steles on either side, keeping quiet watch over all who passed. From there we found our way up to our next dirt section, which took us into Oregon briefly before heading back south into California. I made a wrong turn (one of those dumb-ass navigational errors, actually, that caused me to nearly become a hood ornament for a Jeeper who had an urgent appointment somewhere below) and got behind my colleagues, which gave me an excuse to really put the hammer down to the next crossroads. I have to say that there were two pavement sections (or maybe three? Or four?) that really got my endorphins going on the ride, and the next section was perhaps the best. Mile after mile of nearly-deserted smooth blacktop stretched out ahead. J-L was in the lead and setting a pace that I have to admit I could barely match: a few miles into it Ray came by in pursuit and we dialed it up another notch. To our left and below a rocky stream ran, all around green swards of pines and firs. I've ridden Skyline Drive and Deal's Gap and Wayah Bald Road and the Kancamagus Highway, the Great River Road and the Million Dollar Highway, PCH and Mulholland, Ortega Highway and many others: this one was the best. Backing it in to decreasing radius corners, drifting the back end out under power trying to keep Ray in sight, at one point getting airborne in the middle of a 70-mph corner when the pavement did a little rhumba, all that and even a covered bridge! Herka! I ain't even gonna tell you where it was, but thanks, Jean-Luc!. Lunch in Happy Camp. No, really. The afternoon wound itself around the spools of our experience until we were once more in jeopardy of missing dinner. Over a hundred miles to go and two hours to get there, we schnelled down route 3 past Trinity Camp, French Gulch, and others, to reach the camp well after dark. Over a hundred happy BMW rally-ers were already well into the Barley Hour when we got there. Personally, I mainly wanted a shower and a campsite: neither were hard to come by. Have you experienced a ride so good you can't really categorize it? That's kind of the way this one was for me. I started out to just "go somewhere" for the weekend but gained three good friends and had a riding experience superior to any other I've had. Shit, I can't even describe it - haven't the words. Or if I could, it'd take 5,000 or more just to scratch the surface. Take a look at Ray's pix of the ride at http://www.pbase.com/rainman/r_o_l and Jean-Luc's at http://www.pbase.com/jsolans/rol_sept_2001 ; my own meager crop of shots are at http://www.pbase.com/gsmullins/rolgs2001 . Thanks to the "Apex Brothers" - Ray, Jean-Luc, and Glen for the best two days of riding I've ever had. Tom Bowman (aka GSMullins@attglobal.net) http://www.bmwmoa.com/camping/AlaskaSojourn.html Full artistic and creative credit to Ray and Jean-Luc for their photo galleries - enjoy!