Ride Report #40: 2016 Summer Motorcycle Trip

One of my favorite songs of the year has been “Ship to Wreck” by Florence + The Machine. A great track: fun, bubbly, crisp; not too serious, but no-nonsense at the same time. I couldn’t get it out of my head while riding this year, and that sort of summarizes how the ride went this year – a lot of fun, with some serious fast paced riding.

Day – 1

We started Day-1 as usual at Niles. We met at 8:30 in the morning, Bobby and I were there, Akshay and Shobhit rolled in about 15 minutes later. After a few quick pictures we were on our way. Akshay, Shobhit and I had Bluetooth enabled communication (SENA) setup in our helmets so we were constantly chatting, navigating, etc.

We rode through Sunol, over to Livermore and left the Bay Area using Patterson Pass Rd. It was my first time on that road and I enjoyed it. It is a much better alternative to the windy I-580 drone. It was already warming up by 9AM and we could feel the heat as we rode past the many windmills. Patterson Pass hit I580 and then I205. We took the freeway towards the central valley and got off on Hwy 120 towards Yosemite.

The plan was to get onto Hwy 4 towards Copperopolis, so I picked a deserted straight line connector – Van Allen Rd – between Hwy 120 and Hwy 4. Shobhit & Akshay gunned it – I think they topped out over 135 mph. I couldn’t get myself to go above 100, that was fun enough. We rode past strongly smelling cattle farms and by this time the temps were well into the 90s.

We took Hwy 4 towards the Sierras and as it starts getting windy we turned off onto Pole Station Road. This is a nice curvy connector between Hwy 4 and Hwy 49. The pavement is a little rough though and there was a little bit of traffic. I was following Bobby and on one of the blind curves he came fairly close to this wide truck with a metal frame around it. That was probably the only “incident” during this trip, luckily.

We then turned on to Hwy 49, rode through traffic to get to the town of Sutter Creek. Lunch for the day was at Gold Dust Pizza where we wolfed down two pretty good giant pizzas along with some beer. The temps were over a 100 now. We geared up, got back on to Hwy 49 and then turned off on Shenandoah Rd. The next part of our ride was through Amador county wine country – Shenandoah Rd, Mt. Aukum Rd, Bucks Bar Rd, Pleasant Valley Rd and Cedar Ravine Rd. All five of these roads are excellent – the tarmac was great, the traffic was very light and the views were awesome while riding along the various wineries.

We passed through Placerville and our plan was to ride Hwy 193 to Georgetown. Akshay, Shobhit and me were leading with Bobby a minute or so behind. As we turned right on to Hwy 193 we stopped for Bobby a few hundred yards down the hill. He didn’t see us turn right, so he kept going straight on Hwy 49. We back tracked a little to find him, but after searching for a few minutes we could see him anywhere. So continued along Hwy 49, skipping Hwy 193 and eventually found him at the side about 20 miles down the road. It was a relief to re-group with him and from then on we decided to never leave more than a 60 second gap between each other.

From Hwy 49 we turned on to Old Foresthill road where we stopped briefly to take pictures of the Foresthill Bridge. This is the tallest bridge in California – it is incredibly tall and majestic, especially when looking up towards it from the bottom. The temps were well above a 100 at this point.

We rode up to Foresthill and took a break for gas and some well deserved gatorade. As we climbed in elevation is started to cool off, but it was still pretty hot there. We also picked up some beer and converted Shobhit’s top box into a beer cooler full of ice and beer.

From there on we turned on to Mosquito Ridge Rd. I had heard so many good things about this road – and they were pretty much all true. MRR is superb – the curves are plentiful, perfectly banked and most importantly, they come at you at an even pace. So there is work involved in steering the motorcycle, but it’s at such an even pace that it does not tire you out. It’s easy to exit one curve and fall into the next one, while doing a brisk 40-50 mph. The road does it’s fair share of descent and climb, alternating between the two as it dances between a few mountain ridges. There was no traffic at all – I think we must have passed maybe 2-3 vehicles tops. The views along this road are also excellent. The road is mostly tree lined, shaded and cool. It turned out to be an excellent way to end the days ride.

About a mile before the reservoir MRR offers this superb panorama of the entire reservoir and the the  L.L. Anderson Dam which holds it back (across the Middle Fork of the American River). We stopped by the dam for some pictures and then rode to our campsite about 3 miles away.

We were in campsites #49 and #50 – which were very close to the water. After pitching our tents we hiked down to the reservoir and soaked our feet in the cool water. Firewood was available with the campsite host for a small donation of 50c per log. Akshay was able to haul a few logs in Shobhit’s top case. We lit a campfire, and enjoyed some beer & whiskey. Dinner was chana-bhatura and a little bit of mama noodles, both cooked on a small camping stove – we all enjoyed it.


Day – 2

Day-2 was probably the most fun riding of any MC Trip so far. We woke up early with the sun, each of us managing a few hours of sleep – the most that camping really allows. We boiled some tea on the stove, but the milk had gone bad, so the tea was pretty awful. We tossed it into the firepit after a few sips. We packed up, geared up and left pretty quickly.

First road of the day was French Meadows Rd. It runs about 10 miles from the dam to 11 Pines Rd. The tarmac is not very great probably because it’s not used very much, but the curves are nice and views are even nicer. It’s one of those roads where there is no center line, no shoulder and no barricade. We passed a total of 0 cars on that 10 mile stretch.

We arrived at the junction of 11 Pines Rd and decided to proceed down instead of riding up to Hell Hole reservoir. 11 Pines is another gem – some very nice twisties, again no traffic whatsoever and the serene Sierras to ride through. As we rode through there we could see the effects of the Foresthill fire – a lot of dead black tree stumps and fresh green vegetation growing at the bottom. It was a superb ride. We stopped at this super high bridge where 11 Pines crosses the Rubicon River. This was a very picturesque spot and the bridge was probably over 200 feet tall. A little bit of searching and I found the name – Ellicott Bridge.

Along 11 Pines there was a short section full of fine saw dust. We had to ride through carefully.


11 Pines dead ends into Wentworth Springs Rd which was the best road of the day. WSR is up there with MRR on the list of best roads I have EVER ridden. The tarmac is amazing, not a a single bump or crack in the pavement. The views are excellent and the curves are just right. A true sport bikers dream, this road delivered! We were all grinning ear to ear as we came to the end at Ice House Rd. Bobby also enjoyed it – in fact he pushed his bike much harder and caught up with the rest of us here.

We then worked our way towards Hwy 50 on Ice House Rd. Another good one, but traffic was heavy with a lot of tour buses as we came closer to Hwy 50. We rode south on Hwy 50 for a little bit and exited at Pollock Pines. Our plan was to have lunch at the Burger Barn, but we arrived way before 11AM, so we decided to make do with some coffee at Starbucks and fast food at Taco Bell.

After gassing up the next road of the day was Mormom Emigrant Trail. I was not very impressed here – this is a mostly straight, albeit picturesque, connector between Hwy 50 and Hwy 88. There was a little bit of traffic. This road is mostly suited to high speed riding (think Busa or ZX14), I kept it under 90 for the most part, but Shobhit and Akshay were way ahead of me.

We rode Hwy 88 towards Kirkwood, a very scenic ride, turned on to Hwy 89, rode through Markleeville and then arrived at the junction of Hwy 4 and Hwy 89. Akshay wanted to dip into the river there. So we parked at the side of the road and hiked down to the water (“The Poor Boy Creek” of the Carson River). The water was cool and invigorating, we met up with a few people there trying their hand at fly fishing.

At the top of Carson Pass.

Gearing back up we rode over Monitor Pass and down to Hwy 395. I’ve now done this road so many times, I decided to hang back and ride behind Bobby. He was no slouch in his riding and I appreciated his smooth riding style through the curves. His bike (R1150GS) is large and top heavy, so when he leans it over it appears to be really leaning a lot. At the end of each day, he was probably the most tired of the 4 of us, steering the 600 lb bike through all those curves.

We rode Hwy 395 (the freeway of the Eastern Sierras) to Whoa Nellie Deli and stopped for some beer and fries. After some decent pale ale, we decided to ride around the June Lake Loop (Hwy 158). As approached Grant Lake, we could see a lot of cars and trucks parked right besides the lake. We decided to ride down to the lake to get some pictures, but the path was full of gravel. Shobhit and I made it down all the way, but Akshay got stuck and tipped his bike over partially in the gravel. I helped him up, and we decided to turn around and get back on to the road. Bobby in the meanwhile had already turned around, he did not venture into the deep gravel.

We stopped at June Lake for dinner, at what I’s describe as the worst sandwich shop I’ve ever been to, Alpine Deli and Pizza Co. Initially the deli owner cracked bad jokes “Your sandwich will take 2 hours to make”, and it did take quite long. When it arrived, it was terrible, I’m sure even Anushka or Valmik could put together a better sandwich. Bobby ordered a salad which was equally bad. I think he trashed most of it. We picked up come tequila from the nearby grocery store and were on our way.

We were all tired at this point, so we pressed on to our destination for the day – The Inn Benton Hot Springs. Hwy 120 was superb as always, and the dips in the road kept us entertained. We got to Benton exhausted after a full day of riding. This year we were housed in the Conway House – an ancient three bedroom house that sits to one side of the property. While I had really enjoyed the visit to Benton in 2013, this time it had lost it’s charm. The house had plenty of hot water (even the toilets flushed hot water) but no cold water, none to drink, none to bathe in, none at all. Akshay and Shobhit had to walk over to the main house to fill up some drinking water. The hot tub was a tad dirty and the whole house was underwhelming. As the evening progressed Akshay & I rode two-up on Bobby’s BMW to the store 4 miles down the road at Hwy 6. We bought some beer and chips and consumed much of that through the night.

Day – 3

Our last day was an easy ride back home. We packed and geared up and rode across Hwy 120. We gassed up once again at Whoa Nellie Deli and rode over Tioga pass through Yosemite. The ride up to the pass was fun, but we quickly hit traffic as we crawled into the park. We paid the steep entrance fee ($20 per bike), pun intended, and worked our way through the slow moving traffic in the park. After a short stop for pictures at Olmsted Point, we were on our way.

Lunch was at the Iron Door Saloon, but our bad luck with food continued. The food (garden burgers) was delayed and when it finally came out, it was very ordinary. Bobby’s Caprese salad wasn’t very impressive either. As we left, we chatted a little with a couple of Canadian Harley riders. They were from Alberta riding through the US for a few weeks with their last stop in Sturgis. I’ve thought about visiting Sturgis, maybe that will happen one of these years.

We fought the usual Bay Area traffic (every single year now!) and made it back home by about 3:30PM. I unpacked, took a long shower and then attended Anushka’s End of Season Dinner and Awards at MVSC.

Don’t touch the sleeping pills, they mess with my head
Dredging the Great White Sharks, swimming in the bed
And here comes a Killer Whale, to sing me to sleep
Thrashing the covers off, it has me by it’s teeth

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