It's What Men Do
Let’s start with some introductions
Nick - The Map Guy
Shawn - The Veteran
For the record, I blame this entirely on Bernie.
It all started with this picture:
It was October 2011 and I had recently been toying with getting a motorcycle for commuting when spring rolled around. At lunch I joked about how the right way to buy a motorcycle would be to buy one site unseen on the west coast and then drive it back. A few hours later Bernie sent me that picture - it was on.
I started the immense project of planning a three week motorcycle trip emphasizing as much off-road travel as possible. This would be our route to travel:
Clearly we knew exactly what lay before us..
The whole idea began with doing the ride on a craigslist KLR... but we started talking ourselves up into something nicer, maybe a Vstrom or a Versys. At lunch one day we went to the Beemer shop and threw a leg over an F800GS. That sealed the deal for both of us. It was the bike for this trip.
Oh, I should probably mention at this point I had never ridden a motorcycle.
It was still late fall and we were having a mild winter - so I picked up a used dual sport on the cheap in November so I could learn to ride while we searched the left coast for a pair of F800’s. While we were searching for motorcycles we also searched far and wide for another person or two to come with us. Who could turn down the promise of long days in the saddle, risk, endless vibration, and the cost of such a trip? Well, turns out most people. Luckily Shawn was immediately interested and signed up after he got back from Central America and we had a trio.
After looking online and calling around for a while buying over the phone just wasn’t going to happen. Looks like we were going to have to buy them here and just ship them out to the west coast. WHAT A BUMMER! :rolling:
February seemed like a great time to buy a motorcycle, so Bernie and I picked up a pair of F8’s in Arlington, MA - White and Orange.
The rest of the details are pretty boring, so let’s fast forward to the day before I leave for the trip. I didn’t have a motorcycle license, but not for lack of trying. Thursday morning I find myself driving from Hollis to Uxbridge, MA to pick up a little blue piece of paper saying I had completed a training course. I brought it to Nashua where I was told I needed a green piece of paper saying the exact same thing. Off to Concord! Finally, in the 11th hour, I was legally able to drive a motorcycle. Then drop Kim off at Logan, back to Hollis to sleep for a few hours It was a trying day, but well worth it.
Friday June 29th, we all met up in the terminal at Logan airport with big $hit eating grins on our faces. Our bikes had been shipped to some friends in Redwood City, CA weeks before and today was the day we would all be reunited. It was going to be quite an adventure..
Apparently I'm part Scottish. Who would've guessed?
Are you doing route 3 of the Oregon backcountry route?
:lurk Can't wait to see how this turns out. Have fun.
Chapter 1: In-N-Out of San Fran
It was mid afternoon Friday when we walked off the plane in San Fransisco to surprisingly chilly weather. We figured out the mess of transportation systems to get us all to Redwood City and a few transfers later we were on the train headed South watching the valley go by. A few mile walk through Redwood City passing an amazing variety businesses and homes. Shawn seemed to have Deja-Vu from the numerous Central America style fix-anything garages and toyota 2wd pickups. The walk was a nice break from sitting for so long and it wasn’t long before we arrived where we had shipped our motorcycles and gear weeks earlier.
After the unpacking and checking over, what better to do than get a short ride in before our hosts showed us around town :) We saddled up, hit the street on our motorcycles for the first time in weeks making tracks for gas and then off towards Woodside and La Honda rd - Southwest into the hills.
None of us were really prepared for what La Honda was. In the first 20 minutes of west coast riding this road completely blew away any other road we’d ever ridden. Even with traffic. Blind banked corner after another we wound our way up into the hills following fancy SUV’s and spotting an occasional Ferrari or other supercar enjoying the curves.
Curves, these are curves! Perfectly constructed with a tight radius and banked, not crowned. Some inside corners are so steep it feels like I’m dropping into a corkscrew.
Sorry, no photos - the road was just too damn good!
Reaching the first intersection I pulled off into a parking lot and Bernie and Shawn roll up just shaking their heads and grinning from ear to ear.
“Our first road in Cali and probably the best motorcycle road I’ve ever ridden”
Despite wanting to continue, we turned back to go meet up with our hosts and go out for the evening. At a small corner market packed to the gills with imported Mexican drinks and snacks we picked up a few beers for the night and made our way back to Redwood City.
We spent the night enjoying the town and local flavor at a brewery block party and of course no trip to Cali is complete without going to In-N-Out. We packed it in early - tomorrow was going to be a long day.
Ha Ha this sounds like its going to be fun.
Saturday was an early morning for everyone, especially our host Dani who woke up to make us all an amazing breakfast before we headed East. Our destination today would be Yosemite. We would be seeing Nick and Dani again soon, but I’ll get into those details later on...
Nick took a quick ride on my F8 and then we were off through the valley. I’ll let the photos do the talking.
Living out of a motorcycle was a first for all of us. We had taken a few shakedown overnight trips to make sure we had the gear we needed, but as we left the valley and cruised through endless almond farms the sense of adventure set in. I also quickly learned that the range of the DR650 is nowhere near that of an F8 and we would be stopping for gas quite often ;)
Eventually this would work itself out as after about 100 miles we were all ready for a few minutes standing around.
The scenery varied greatly as we rode East out of the valley and into the plains, slowly approaching the mountains. One immediate and positive change from New England was that people drove quickly - or at least at the speed limit.
As we rode inland, the temperature started climbing from chilly - through comfortable - to quite hot. It stayed in the upper 80’s as we climbed even higher out of the irrigated areas to where larger trees grow naturally.
The road really started to climb as we approached the foothills of Yosemite. Rounding a corner I was treated to a view of the upcoming road and really started to get excited...
Shift back, lean forward - drop a couple gears and GO. Perfect pavement and no traffic this time. Corner after corner we really started getting into it, dropping in a little further until the boots start scraping. This is why I’m on a dual sport. Amazing road, simply amazing.
This is going to be a great trip! Nice RR so far. Not too many words and plenty of pics! Ride safe. :ricky
Subscribed! Sounds awesome..... You had me as soon as you said In-N-Out burger
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As abruptly as the fun began, it ended as the road leveled out and headed into Groveton. Seemingly the last town before Yosemite, we simply passed through and found a nice spot for a quick snack.
Hopping back on 120 and realizing we were going to need fuel soon, I started scanning through the GPS and managed to find a good looking “shortcut”. :)
Quite a shortcut! A nice forest service road climbing further up into the mountains. Little bit of sand here - some washboard there but otherwise a nice place to hang the back end out a bit. The forest service had recently come through and cleared all the deadfall, only leaving a few remnants behind.
Getting comfortable I came ripping around one corner only to come face to face with a fair sized cow and her calf. I think we startled each other equally as they turned and hurried up the road while I waited to caution Bernie and Shawn.
Occasionally greeted by nice views between the trees, we wound our way through the mountains climbing and descending on the narrow road.
Descending for quite some time on a tricky loose section of trail we eventually came upon a nice vista in the mountains.
Turns out it wasn't much of a shortcut, but it was a damn fun road to ride. We dropped out of the mountains into a campground and after finding gas, made a beeline for Yosemite.
We decided to avoid the circus of the valley for the moment and find a campsite for the next two days so we could explore the area without having to pick up camp each day. As luck would have it, we pulled off onto a road with signs exclaiming "rough road next 5 miles". I like it already.
10 seconds in and this was the best dual sport road we'd ever ridden. Rough pavement gave way to broken asphalt with long sections of sand and gravel. We wound in and around trees right up to the edge of the one lane road piling on more and more speed untli the road curved left and looked as though it dropped away to nothing... I hit the brakes and had to stop to take in the view. We could see forever into the valley below us - pausing for some photos I dropped back in to first and rolled off, decending further into the valley.
We kept pushing the bikes harder and harder for a few miles, eventually I had to back off after bottoming the front end a few too many times. In fact, the lack-lustre front end seemed to be the only limiting factor for the Bimmer on the entire trip.
Slowing as I entered the campsite I was amazed at the number of low-clearance cars that must have scraped and bumped down that road to get here. River rock dumped into soft spots and a giant log bridge over the river made up the recently rebuilt road through the campsite. Scanning as we cruised slowly through, eventually we spotted the perfect campsite by the river.
We scored a great spot opposite a rock bluff complete with a rock pool built in the river by previous campers. Camp was made quickly and we saddled up for the evening trip down into the valley.
If the road was awesome descending, it was that much more amazing on the ascent! I followed Bernie this time keeping it in the best part of 3rd gear, stepping the rear out when we dared and picking our way though the large rocks and roots that stood proud of the old asphalt. We also got our first taste of the menace which was to come for many hundreds of miles: Dust. Lots of dust.
Photos cannot do justice to the sheer scale and beauty of Yosemite
We all really enjoyed the long descent into the valley and could really take advantage of the roads as most of the traffic was exiting for the day. Stopping for a few moments at a pull-out, we remarked on being torn between just meandering around enjoying the scenery or enjoying all the road had to offer. Continuing on to the valley I think we all began to find a good mix of both.
Cause it's not all about the motorcycle
The one thing about Yosemite - and most national parks - is the volume of people. The valley was just one big traffic jam of tour busses, RVís and minivans. Riding around the loop and pulling into the grocery store in the valley the area could easily have been mistaken for a resort, with all infrastructure built up around lodging people.
We three were glad to be out of the valley after picking up some food and more importantly, beer, for the night.
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