Anyhow, it was a chilly night, and my lousy sleeping mat wasn't* quite long enough to keep my feet off the ground. It was the sort of chilly night that ends up being long- you sleep a bit, you wake up, you move, and you suddenly realize how your feet are just utterly chilled, you move a bit, curl up in a little wad in your sleeping bag, sleep a bit, wake up and realize your shoulder is completely frozen because at 30 you've already managed to wreck half the joints in your body and you've moved off your mat, you drift off again and some damn fool of a bird completely loses his shit in the pre-dawn gray when it's coldest, you drift off again...
Dawn finally came though, and while it wasn't the best night's sleep ever, it certainly wasn't the worst either. One by one, we eased out of our bags and into whatever clothing we deemed warmest and started stomping about for various morning errands. Mostly, the acquisition or divestment of various fluids. I discovered the showers, and luxuriated under the luke-warm mist for a couple of minutes. Continuing the theme of "things I forgot" I had neither soap nor towel, but decided that even a just-water shower and toweling down with yesterday's shirt would still be an improvement over neither.
Almost everyone eventually decided that we weren't on the bikes yet, but damn it, riding gear is warm and it was going on early!
Since we just had the one tent and a everyone's bag, it was a quick tear-down. Naturally, this meant everyone helped, or offered to help, or was ready to help, or stood around and looked helpful...
And just to make sure you're all suitably jealous, here's a nice, tall shot of the grove we slept in.
Then came the great game of stuffing everything back on the bikes. It's weird, but even though food gets eaten and water gets drunk, gear expands for the first two or three days. I think it has something to do with gradual compression in storage, or taking on humidity or something, but packing the bikes somehow took longer than breaking down camp and stuffing everything bag in its bag or box or whatnot.
Then maps were consulted, phones were argued over, and we beat out a plan for our return trip: continue on 1 South for a while, then cut across the Diablo Range on road Q18 or something like that to the 101. Dead simple: Keep going, take the first left, keep going to 101.
Yeah, that didn't happen. But we'll get there later.
And for some reason, I was always the last idiot standing there, jacket on the seat, helmet on the mirror, mucking with something while everyone else was in the saddle, gear on, warming up the bikes.
Eventually, we got ourselves on the bikes and bounced over the dirt roads to the exit where we promptly stopped five bikes on the steep uphill to argue about what to do about checking out. Never mind that we completely blocked the in and the out. Eventually a car came up and politely threatened to blow their horn so we shuffled and cursed and wrestled and stalled the bikes to the side of the road. Somebody ran the parking slip back to the office, exchanged it for a bewildered look, and we roared off.
We hadn't seen gas it about 35 miles, which really isn't far, except that we had one bike leaking oil and another randomly refusing to start. So when we saw a gas station a mile down the road everyone made a break for the pumps.
And then realized that this was the middle of nowhere where gas was well in excess of $5 a gallon, and besides, gas is really damn heavy, so let's not fill up just yet. But Wayli was concerned about his oil level, and with good reason- he'd been losing oil at a steady drip whenever the bike was on for the entire trip. It was all over the outside of his back wheel, and starting to spatter on his exhaust. He checked the oil, and what had been at the upper end of the dip stick was now halfway down it. Not good. He poured in another half-quart or so.
At this point, I confess, I was starting to worry. Granted, this was the same man who was late yesterday because he needed to make a payment on his insurance to get that reinstated, but a bike that loses half a quart of oil in under 200 miles is not what you want on a trip like this, especially if it's getting worse- it had never dripped before, and now it was dripping visibly.
But what can you do? Check the dipstick, carry spare oil, hope for the best. In a pinch we could just stuff the bike in a bush, take a GPS reading if we could get enough cell signal, pile gear and rider on various bikes, and finish the trip and let him find a buddy with a truck and do it all over again in a few days. If it had been a bald tire, that would have been a different matter (he got those replaced last week, after the plies started showing through), but strictly speaking an oil leak is a less-dangerous sort of issue.
Trips are like that. You can't head off all possibility of disaster, and if you do, you aren't traveling. You're commuting. We very specifically did not want to commute- planning was deliberately haphazard, we had enough vehicular variety that we were guaranteed to have at least one fish out of water at all times, and half of us had less than 18 months riding experience.
Oiled up and freshly reassured that anything that could possibly go wrong was probably preordained from the start, and besides it was unlikely to end in severely crippling injury, we were in high spirits for day 2 of riding.
Then the R6 wouldn't start. Kickstand down, off the Kawasaki, get behind the Yamaha, one, two, three, shove, pop the clutch, va-voom! Back on the Kawi, kickstand up, find a break in the traffic, go, go, go, ok, hang on, wait... go, go! Were were up and away!
*"wasn't" is an intentional word choice. Past tense.