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Old 02-07-2012, 12:26 AM   #1
lifeofadv OP
Adventurer
 
Joined: Jan 2012
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Oddometer: 59
Carrizo Plain National Monument Practice Run

Purpose
Does every ride have to have a purpose?! This ride was a preparation for a trip to Alaska which will require experience riding on gravel roads. Additionally, familiarization with this new-to-me bike and brand new saddle, photography, camping and ride report notation was tested.

The Goods
2007 BMW R1200GSA with Metzler Tourance tires and new Sargent low seat provided the go power. Standard BMW luggage, a Touratech tank bag and Rok straps held onto the creature comforts. The tank bag contained rain gear, boot covers, heated gloves, Moleskine notebook, two Sakura Sigma Micron pens, and a Nikon D700 with a 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 lens mounted. It also contained a bag with a few bananas and apples. The right rear case contained my camera bag, tripod head, and an extension for the tripod. On top of this case, I mounted my tripod. The top case contained tools, a backpack filled with extra shoes, charging systems for a phone and a Sena SMH-10, and Backpacker magazine plus a roll of toilet paper that I stuffed in there at the last minute. The left side case was left essentially empty but it did contain a quart of oil, a set of Rok straps, heated vest and a tire pressure gauge. On top of this case, I mounted a SealLine dry bag filled with a sleeping pad, first aid kit, toiletries, Carhartt jacket, beanie and a towel. The pillion seat was removed and in its place a REI Half Dome 2 Plus tent and a Modular Sleep System was mounted.

Personal safety equipment was made up of a Shoei X-Twelve, Leatt GPX Club II neck brace, Aerostich Roadcrafter suit, Helimot gloves, and a pair of Sidi touring boots. It's arguable whether the brain housed within the helmet could be considered safety equipment. A Garmin Zumo 550 lead the way along with a printed map of Carrizo Plain National Monument that was placed in the tank bag.

Ride Report - FINALLY!
On Friday night, I packed all the gear that I planned to take and thought of a motorcycle loading laying. I needed a set of Rok straps on each side case and on the back seat so I installed those then. Saturday morning, I woke up at around 7 and began loading up the bike. After a few trips down to the bike, I was setup and ready to go except that I forgot a roll of toilet paper and reading material so I stuffed those into the top case. I don't trust the top case to stay dry in rain but I was confident that it wasn't going to rain so I put the toilet paper up there. I like to start trips with a full tank of gas so I made a quick stop at the gas station, made sure that I didn't have flat tires and headed for the local coffee station to fill my tank with some coffee and a cranberry bran muffin. After I got my helmet on and was making final preparations to take off, a local homeless guy asked me about my bike. He's asked me before when I was on my RT but I don't know if he remembers that. He asked me where I was heading, if the motor was a 1300, and if the bike cost $5500 (or $4500?). I answered his questions truthfully except for the last one because I didn't want to get into a discussion. He bid me farewell and then I was ready.

I took the 880 and the 101 southbound and somehow wound up in Hollister and on the 25. As in the photo below, there were lots of hills, oaks, cows and flat land along the 25. It's hard for me to believe that the hills are still brown but with so little rain this season, it's the obvious reason. (It's raining as I write this. I heard noise outside and, to my surprise, rain caused the pitter patter!)



I continued on and was planning on taking Coalinga Rd but it was closed so I stayed on the 25 which turned into Peach tree and then to Indian Valley. I saw very few people on the road which a bit of a worry if something happened. I went into San Miguel and fueled up.

I wanted to check out Parkfield on my way down to Carrizo Plain National Monument (CPNM) so after fueling up, I took Vineyard Canyon Rd to Parkfield, where their moto is, "Earthquake Capitol of the World". They have a bridge that straddles the San Andreas Fault. The sign on the Eastern side reads, "Now entering the Pacific Plate" and the Western side reads, "Now entering the North American Plate". If you look at the photos below, you can sort of see that the footings have shifter over the years.





The Pacific Plate subducts the North American Plate and this is what creates many of the mountains and volcanoes that we have in California. The San Andreas Fault is a right lateral strike-slip fault which basically means that the plates move horizontally to the right when you look perpendicularly across the fault.

Parkfield is seismically very active so the United States Geological Survey (USGS) setup a permanent research station to monitor seismic activity in hopes of understanding earthquakes. They must collect tons of data which hopefully someone will be able to make sense of in the future.

Parkfield is also home of the Parkfield Cafe and Lodge. I stopped by but there were lots of people there so I decided to head out in order to cover some ground.

I was getting hungry, though. In Cholame, the GPS wanted me to take Christina Road, pictured below. This bike is big. I'm small. I wasn't comfortable taking this bike on this road as a christening because it looked too steep and it was an unknown to me how rough it would be. I decided to find a place to eat and think about it.



I stopped at Jack Ranch Cafe, just down the road from Christina Road, and had their spaghetti special. I almost never get pasta since it's so easy to make but I went for it. Poor choice. Watered down sauce doesn't cut it for this Bay Area resident. They did have many James Dean photos and memorabilia posted on the walls so while I was eating, I looked up James Dean on Wikipedia. Apparently, he was hit while in his new Porsche near there and killed. His original plan was to trailer his Porsche in his new truck to Salinas where he was going to race but since the Porsche was also new to him, he made a last minute decision to drive it up. A Cal Poly student nailed James Dean head on and James Dean wound up dying on the ambulance ride over to the hospital. The article went on to say that a memorial was erected for him near a post office so I thought I'd try to find it. I looked up post office on the map but couldn't find it but when I went outside to my bike, I found the memorial a whole 20 feet from my bike as pictured below. Serrendipitous! I took some photos and then headed off for CPNM.



I decided against taking Christina Road and took Bitterwater. Shortly after transitioning onto Bitterwater, I found the other end of Christina. Bitterwater turns into Soda Lake Road which leads to the monument. Once in at CPNM, I stopped at the Goodwin Education Center where I purchased a t-shirt and spoke to Jackie about the monument. She suggested that I camp at Selby Campground and get photos of the sunset from there or possibly get some photos from Soda Lake. She has a family friend who's studying Geology at Berkeley. Small world.

There's a half mile dirt road that leads to the Education Center so that's where the christening took place! Navigating that was cake-walk as you might imagine for a well-maintained gravel road.

After all that gravel excitement, I headed to Selby Campground to see what the view from there was like. A 2.5 mile, well-groomed gravel road lead up to the campground, where many motorcyclists on BMW's and at least one KTM were already holed-up. It was still early but late enough that I wanted to get a move on so I waved hello/goodbye and took off. I headed back down to Soda Lake Road which turned into a roughly 25 mile stretch of unpaved road.



It's well maintained so it's perfect for a newbie. If it rains, it can be a mud pit so they suggest staying out. I made it through that stretch without any problem and found myself at the other end of the park in short time. I decided to fuel up and try Elkhorn Rd and look for a campsite.

I took Elkhorn Grade Road rather than Elkhorn Road. By then, it was getting dark but not yet night. This road was not as well maintained. There were ruts running parallel to and perpendicular to the road and there were pretty steep sections with drop offs on a side. If the bike fell over a drop off, that would be it. This newbie was nervous. The road was really only wide enough for one vehicle and I kept thinking that I had to keep moving no matter what and to hit those ruts perpendicularly. I got bounced around a bit but made it and was a huge relief when I got to flatter ground. There was no way that I was going to stop around there for pictures. Maybe if I had more experience and if other people were there, sure, no problem.

By the time I made it off that road and onto the Elkhorn Rd that I wanted, it was dark. Elkhorn Rd isn't as well maintained as Soda Lake but it's good. I didn't see anyone on Elkhorn Rd and so I focused my attention to finding a place to camp. I didn't want to wreck and get stuck at night. I kept riding along looking for an easy place to park the bike and on a straightaway, my front end suddenly washed out. It happened quickly and unexpectedly. The handlebar turned to the right, the bike started to lean to the right but kept going straight or even to the left. I wound up on the left side of the road (was on the right when the front end washed out) and hit the small burm. I think this helped me if anything because the bike righted itself and I was able to get control of it. That was the last straw so I just found a safe place to park and called it quits.



There was a steady wind coming from the East and being a newbie camper as well, I setup the tent such that I maximized the tent's cross-sectional surface area with respect to the wind's direction. After I came to my senses, I re-positioned the tent to minimize this. The stakes that came with the tent aren't very good at all so I'll need to replace them. I took shelter in the tent and thought about writing in my Moleskine but found that I couldn't find a comfortable writing position. I was tired, too, so I took a nap. At around 11, I woke-up and found that the wind had almost completely died down so I went out and shot a few photos and went back to bed. I worried a little about camping there because it wasn't clear to me if I was actually in a legal camping zone but I figured that I had nothing to lose at that point so forgot about it.



In the morning, I had a couple apples and drank some water (had a headache the day before because I was probably dehydrated). It wasn't cold at all and in fact, I was warm. I took another photo and headed off. The ride out was uneventful but I was worried about riding that gravel road because the previous night's mishap was still in my mind and I didn't have a cause nailed down. In my mind, it was a random occurrence and I know that wasn't the case.





I took 7-mile to the 58 where I stopped to take a couple more photos. I took these photo stops just to force myself to do it. I normally can't mix picture taking with anything else.





I wound up on Hwy 33 and stopped to get a picture of all the oil wells. This place was littered with them and I'd have to say that Chevron is the biggest player in the area by the number of facilities.



I wanted to go to Parkfield once more to see if I could get some breakfast at the cafe but unfortunately, they were closed and I didn't feel like waiting around for lunch so I headed back to Santa Maria for fuel and food.



There isn't too much going on in Santa Maria as far as I could tell but I saw a grill and someone grilling so I stopped at an establishment called Tortilleria Sinaloa. It's a market but you can order food at the back. Service was slow. When I got to the back counter, I was told that I had to order and pay for the food at the front first. I'm not sure if everybody does this because the guy waiting up front was the same guy I was waiting behind at the back counter and he had his food. The cashier helped me before she helped me first, though, and then he paid and left. After getting that sorted out, I got my three tacos and a tamale. The tacos were great but the tamale was on the dry side, kind of like the photo below. I ate outside on a table setup just in front of the store. Two guys on identical, black R1200GS's road by, scoped the place out, and took off. A few minutes later, they returned. They were both in their 60's and maybe well into it. They stopped by to have a chat. They moved into the area about a year or so ago from San Diego. It's funny because they were kind of like me and my best friend, Donoman. One guy took his GS to track days and the other thought that that was nuts. The crazy guy used to have a VFR, too. The crazy guy has about 90k miles on his '07 and the safe guy has 40k. Mine has 15k. Crazy guy had clutch work done at 40k but he attributes that to riding the bike hard. I like that they're still out there tearing it up. Having played other sports against older folks and having my ass handed to me, it's no surprise that they can be out there tearing up the roads. They gave me some advice for the ride back but it was the same route that I took down so I went my own way.



Instead, I took the 101 to King City, then took Bitterwater to 25, 15 and 129 to Watsonville and finally the 152 back to the 101 for the ride home. I was hungry again so I stopped for some fine, Hawaiian dining (spam musubi, chicken katsu, rice and macaroni salad).



Lessons Learned
  • Riding in desolate areas on unfamiliar terrain isn't a good idea. It's exciting and loads of fun but not so smart.
  • Spending a little time thinking about where and how to setup the tent can make for a better night's sleep which will translate to better performance on subsequent days.
  • Need better tent stakes
  • Need to figure out a way to write in the Moleskine in a comfortable position. Who writes anymore?!
  • I can ride pretty much all day on the Sargent saddle. It's far superior to the stock seat.
  • For the short folks out there riding a GSA, I found a great way to get a heavy bike off the sidestand. Yes, taller folks, just getting the bike off the sidestand is an adventure.
  1. Handlebar straight
  2. If on a hill, leave the bike off and in first gear.
  3. Put right leg over the saddle. The back of my knee lands on top of the middle of the saddle.
  4. Grab the left grip with your left hand.
  5. Grab the subframe or passenger handhold with your right hand.
  6. Lift the bike with your left leg while pulling up with your right hand being careful not to lift too hard! If timed just right, you can scoot over the bike and step on the rear brake as the bike goes vertical.

This technique works well even when the bike is loaded down and top heavy.

That's about all for this practice run. There will be more.


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lifeofadv screwed with this post 02-07-2012 at 08:12 AM Reason: Couldn't add lists in Tapatalk b/c I couldn't remember the tags.
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