RR68: Return to Hollister

With the KTM 990, this has been a year of returning to adv riding. First Metcalf, then Carnegie and now Hollister.

I met with Ayon (Honda CRF250L Rally) and we rode down to Hollister Hills on Thanksgiving Sunday morning. We paid the $5 to get in and staged near the beginner area on the right. I took off my top box and went around the kids track a couple of times. I had put on a TKC80 tire on the front a few days ago (at home that too) and I could instantly feel that my front wheel behaved differently in the dirt. I was more confident for sure and I liked the feeling of a more grippy / knobby dirt tire.

We spent a couple of hours at Hollister Hills and covered all the green trails:

  • Rancho Road and Wood Camp return
  • Harmony Gate and North Canyon return
  • Lower Field Road and return

It was easy work for Ayon on his Rally, maybe a little more for me on the big KTM. Nonetheless we had good fun, I enjoyed a beer too!

 

RR67: Fall Colors Ride

I came across a few threads on SBR with amazing pics of Fall colors in the Sierras (Pam’s thread, Ich’s thread). So Akshay, Ayon and I decided to head out that way to explore the colors.

We first rode up to West Point on Hwy 26 (third time this year now, RR59 and annual trip). While the section of Hwy 26 beyond Hwy 49 is definitely fun, I discovered that even the parts of Hwy 26 closer to the central valley are great.

As we rode down Carson Pass on Hwy 88, we realized we were a little late – most of the Fall foliage was gone. There were a few spots of beautiful colors, but for the most part they were gone, we were probably 1-2 weeks late.

We had lunch in Markleeville, at the Cutthroat Brewing Company. This was the same place we stopped for lunch in 2017 with Shobhit & Akshay, but it was called “Wolf Creek Restaurant & Bar” at that time.

We rode Hwy 4 back down the Sierras (again, probably the 4th time this year) and made it home in good time.

 

RR66: Solo ride to Yosemite

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Yosemite National Park was limiting the number of visitors to a maximum of 600 per day. In early September, I was able to get an entry ticket for day use only. Ayon and Gokul also got tickets, but they could not join that day, so this turned out to be a solo ride.

Generally I don’t ride solo long distances. I’m okay to ride solo around town, to work, and in and around the Bay Area. This was the first time I rode 400+ miles without any company. I liked the flexibility of being able to start and stop whenever I wanted, but I recognize the inherent danger of riding alone, without any company as backup.

I left Fremont comfortably at about 8:30 in the morning, and after the quick gas stop at Buck Meadows, I made it to the park. I rode down to the valley, and then took Wawona road for a stop at Tunnel View. It wasn’t very crowded, but there were definitely over 2 dozen cars there, and thankfully no tour buses. After a few pictures at Tunnel View, I rode up to Glacier Point. It had been a while since I went up there, and it was my first time on a motorcycle. Great road and great ride up there, topped off with some excellent pics. I didn’t stop at the actual point, because it was very crowded, I just rode through the parking lot and turned back.

The ride back home was uneventful, I kept an easy pace and made it home by 5pm.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

RR65: 2020 Annual MC Trip

The idea for every trip usually comes from something buzzing around in my head, either a song, a movie or a story. This year it was a podcast. Anushka and I had become obsessed with Crime Junkie a podcast on true crime, narrated in a very engaging and inviting way. One particular episode was especially thrilling: “MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF: The Yuba County Five“. We listened to this episode several times in the car and we both became genuinely curious about the fate of Gary Mathias, the only person of the Yuba County Five that has never been found.

With this in mind, Anushka and I searched through maps of the area where this occurred and that’s how the idea for this trip was born.

Shobhit flew in from Seattle the day before. Akshay and I went to get him at the Oakland airport. Notice the color of the sky in this picture. The Northern California wildfires were raging and the skies were dark (and deep orange for a few days). This was also at the height of the covid pandemic, where everything, including airline travellers, were to be sprayed down with disinfecting lysol.

Day 1 (September 11, 2020):

Early in the morning on Day-1 I got a call from Bobby saying that his bike is not starting. Yes, the adventure had begun. We gave him a few tips on WhatsApp and eventually I went over to his house in the morning with my Deltran trickle charger. It was obvious that the battery was discharged, so we decided to jump start the bike from his car. The jumper cables he had were unusual – probably just bad – as they started heating up and sending out some smoke. Nearly burning his fingers, Bobby was able to pull off the jumper cables and then we decided to push start the bike. Luckily it started on the first try, and we were back in the game.

The group then met at the usual place in Niles, where Bobby and I picked up coffee from Devout Coffee. This time year were 5 riders, from left to right: Bobby (BMW R9T), Ayon (BMW R1200GS), Shobhit (Honda VFR1200), Akshay (Ducati Multistrada) and me (KTM SuperDuke).

I decided to take the SuperDuke over the 990 Adventure because this was primarily going to be a twisty street ride with no chance of dirt riding. So while the Superduke has much lesser storage & luggage capabilities, it’s an amazingly entertaining street bike.

We left the Bay Area on Hwy 84, taking Tesla and Corral Hollow via Carnegie. We crossed into the Central Valley and stopped for our first gas at the Keyes Chevron gas station. This was the same place we usually stop when we ride the Sierra foothills. At this point we were step 2 into our adventure.

The fender eliminator on my bike was coming loose and breaking apart – so we took it off and I rode the rest of the 3-day ride without a license plate at the back. So much for the R&G fender eliminator – it failed in the middle of a ride.

Bobby also noticed that his front tire was low on air, so after a bit of struggle with the portable air pump, he was able to get it pumped up sufficiently. It was only about 10AM on the day-1, but amazingly there would be more mechanical failures and breakdowns in this trip.

We continued through the Sierra foothills, riding through Hornitos, Bear Valley and the Little Dragon. We didn’t take many pictures because the visibility was very poor and only short range pics were possible, not wide panoramas.

We braked for lunch at Coulter Cafe in Coulterville. The impossible burger was nice with a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

We then took Priest Coulterville Road to Hwy 120 and then took Wards Ferry Road down to the bridge. We stopped for a long time here, took lots of pictures and Shobhit flew his drone here taking this nice video:

From there the ride was relatively simple (but still a long one). We rode past the Archie Stevenot bridge across the New Malones Lake. Once we got to Mokelumne Hill, we turned right on to Hwy 26 and rode those nice twisties for the 3rd or 4th time this year. We stopped for a quick dip in the South Fork Mokelume River. The waters were cool and relaxing to dip our toes.

From there on it was a straight (but long) shot to our hotel in Grass Valley. I discovered a few nice roads along the way: Ridge Road off Hwy 88 was nice, so was Latrobe Road off Hwy 16. We rode around Folsom Lake through a heavy blanket of smoke. I has no idea there is a dam there, it was clearly visible from the side of the road.

I was riding the VFR1200 as we were riding to Grass Valley. Somewhere along Hwy 49 a few miles from Grass Valley the brakes on the bike locked up. I was trying to start riding from a traffic light and the bike simply would not move. I revved the engine and pumped the brakes a few times and then it got going. Anyway I ended up exchanging the bike back and rode the rest of the way to the hotel on the Superduke.

We stayed the night at the Gold Miners Inn in Grass Valley. It was full of firefighters from all over California battling the Bear Fire and other fires nearby. We had dinner at the Grass Valley Brewing Company, which had a nice selection of beers and food. We turned in for the night around 11PM, exhausted from the long ride in the smoky weather.

Day 2 (September 12, 2020):

The original plan for Day-2 was to ride Quincy-LaPorte Road and Bucks Lake Road, but both were closed due to the Bear Fire of 2020.

The skies looked like this at 9 in the morning:

So we planned a route change and decided to ride to Lassen National Park. The first road of the day was Hwy 49, by far my favorite road of the trip. Hwy 49 offers excellent wide sweepers, a few tight turns, great scenery and freshly laid perfect pavement. A couple of the turns were perfectly banked wide sweepers that last over 180 degrees. I was able to lean over the Superduke to the max and relax and have fun at the same time. A very free flowing road, excellent for sport bike riding. We passed through the quaint town of Downieville, it looked nice and cozy – a perfect place to visit for some outdoor action like mountain biking or skiing. Bobby wanted to move to Downieville, and start making whisky with the water of the Downie River! I wish we had more time to spend there, but it looked like an awesome place – surely on my list of places to revisit.

From Hwy 49 we took Hwy 89 up north through Graeagle, and then Hwy 70 on to Quincy. The smoke was getting very heavy as we rode through Quincy. We rode further on Hwy 89 towards Lake Almanor and stopped for lunch at Tantardino’s Pizza And Pasta. The pizza was pretty good and so was the beer.

We then rode on Mooney Road and Hwy 44 to reach the northern entrance of Lassen Volcanic National Park. These roads were only mildly interesting. Wide open vistas and good pavement, but mostly straight for long distances.

As we rode through Lassen Park, Akshay crashed the VFR he was riding. He was trying to come to a stop on the side of the road, the shoulder was dirt, not paved and he lost the front end coming to a stop. He went down at about 5 mph and scratched up the fairings on his VFR. The shift lever also broke off, but there was sufficient left behind to continue the ride.

Thankfully he was not hurt, everything was ok, and after a sip of water we were on our way. The rest of the ride through Lassen was boring, slowly following the traffic through the park.

The last road of the day was Hwy 32, also a lot of fun. We were a bit tired at this point so were not pushing the bikes too much, but the twisty road was a lot of fun. Hwy 32 follows the Deer Creek for a long time, so we stopped by the side of the road and dipped in the creek. The water was freezing cold, maybe about 40F, so it was an interesting experience. I submerged my whole body in the water about 5-6 times and every time it felt thrilling.

 

My SNK803 turned out to be fully waterproof.

 

Hwy 32 runs to Chico and we stayed the night at the Rodeway Inn, a basic budget motel run by a Gujarati family. We walked to downtown Chico from our hotel and had dinner at Burgers and Brew – they had a decent burger and some good beer!

Day 3 (September 13, 2020):

The last day of this trip was the least exciting. We were all pretty tired from 2 back to back days of 350 mile riding, so we decided to head home, with a little bit of twisty stuff along the way.

We took Hwy 45 and Hwy 20 to Clearlake. It was a mellow pretty and straightforward. As we took a short break on Hwy 53, Shobhit noticed that the oil cap (Chinese one off AliExpress) on the VFR1200 flew off while riding, so his right boot was getting soaked with oil.

After jerry rigging a solution, we rode to the Auto Zone in Clearlake where we found a replacement oil cap (turns out an oil pan drain bolt is the same size).

We had lunch at Russian River Brewing, where they had Pliny for President on sale. Double dry-hopped Double IPA, good stuff and a great way to end this ride!

 

 

 

 

RR64: North Bay Adv

This ride was a combination of 2 previous rides in the North Bay: RR43 and RR46.

We left Fremont early one August morning and met up at the Fairfield Starbucks. There were 5 riders: Ayon (R1200GS), Anil (S1000XR), Akshay (Multistrada), Jon (S1000XR) and me (KTM 990 Adv).

Everything was going fine until Akshay’s bike got a flat front tire along Berryessa Road. Luckily Ayon was carrying a puncture repair kit and tire inflator – so we were able to get back on the route. We had a packed sandwich lunch at Boonville, the brewery was closed (coronavirus) but the picnic benches along the front were available.

There were two notable adv sections of the day. Younce Road: An excellent road for easy adv riding! A little dry & dusty in the summer, but still a lot of fun. Offers 10.7 miles of dirt between Younce Rd. – Adobe Creek Rd – Highland Springs Rd.

And Fish Rock Road: Another excellent dirt road in the North Bay. Offers 14.1 miles of easy dirt, through thickly forested tree cover. A beautiful, peaceful ride with zero traffic.

By the time we got to the coast, we were a bit tired and decided to make our way straight home. The original plan was to ride Skaggs – Stewart Point Road, but that’ll have to wait for another day. Overall it was a fun, easy adv ride!

RR63: Summit Road

[The first paragraph of this post is credited to Ian at Big Rock Moto. I loved his description of adv riding so much, I thought I’d post it here]

It is in our soul, in our DNA, to crave adventure, to seek out forgotten lands, mysterious valleys and mountain ridges that go forever. We belong to open spaces, to fresh air, to the wind and the weather. In our modern, safe and predictable lives, we’ve lost touch with a part of ourselves that craves this adventure. The freedom of two wheels, especially on Adventure motorcycles allows us as an escape from our boring everyday life. Load up the camping gear and head for the mountains, for the horizon and for the unknown. To some degree, that’s what we all seek, don’t we?

One afternoon in June, Ayon (Honda CRF250L Rally), Anil (KTM 1090 Adv) and me (KTM 990 Adv) explored Redwood Retreat Rd., Mt. Madonna Road and Summit Rd. in the Santa Cruz mountains. The ride on Summit road was somehow special. The dirt section (about 12 miles) was not too technical, not too long and the views were impressive. There was thick forest cover along Mt. Madonna Rd. creating an amazing feeling of riding through the trees.

RR62: Return to Carnegie

After about 9 years, I had the opportunity to go back to Carnegie SVRA. Paid the $5 and explored the park for 2-3 hours. This was a very last minute (what do I do on a Sunday afternoon? – type) ride so I was alone.

I explored Pottery Loop Trail – did that 3-4 times as I gained confidence. The dirt at the bottom of the trail was very loose and the street oriented tires on my KTM were not able to give me adequate traction. I had to sit down on the seat a few times, shifting my weight to the back so that the rear could get traction.

I also explored Juniper Trail and Middle Track – both were relatively easy. Finally I rode across the park – North to South a couple of times on the fire road – practising body positioning and breaking traction on my rear tire. All in all I spent about 2 hours in the saddle and that can be very tiring off-road.

Best of all, it was not very hot, which is unusual for Carnegie in June. The temps were in the 70s and I had a cool time exploring the park. I’d love to do it again, hopefully with a few friends on big adv bikes.

The KTM 990 is in my opinion the perfect dirt-oriented adv bike. It cruises effortlessly on the freeway, handles the twisty stuff well and is  very confident in the dirt. I’m so glad I own this bike!

RR61: Annual Sierra Passes Ride

This ride was the usual Sierra Pass ride, a ride I’ve done multiple times now with multiple bikes (2019, 2018, 2017, 2015, 2011).

We were early in the season, maybe 1 or 2 weekends after Sonora Pass opened. There were a total of 7 riders (+1 who joined late at Walker) –

  • Akshay on his Aprilia Tuono
  • Aman also on his Aprilia Tuono
  • Ayon on his Triumph Speed Triple
  • Bobby on his BMW R9T
  • Sandeep on his MV Agusta Brutale 800 Dragster
  • Sravan on his KTM 1090 Adventure, joined us late at Walker.
  • Praveen on his Aprilia RSV4
  • and me on my KTM 990 Adventure

We had lunch at Mountain View BBQ – and it was a welcome change from Walker Burger. My first visit to Mountain View BBQ was in 2011.

Thankfully there were no close call, crashes or tickets, which I guess is always a risk in a large group ride that last 400+ miles.

This year I took a short detour off Hwy 89 near Monitor Pass, to Levathian Peak and rode up the 2 mile dirt road to the Forest Service lookout post. The air was extremely clear there and the views were amazing. The lookout itself was gated off, so I stopped a few yards before the summit and took some pictures.

This is the lookout (not my picture):

Mosquito Lake was beautiful:

Night Cap Peak with a lot of snow:

The MV is a beautiful looking bike:

My favorite vista of Leavitt Meadows:

RR60: COVID-19 Ride #5: PCH

This was a relatively simple ride down and back the Pacific Coast Highway. We met Ayon on Bailey and then the rode Hecker Pass down to Highway 1. Our original plan was to take Nacimiento-Fergusson Road over to Carmel but because of the coronavirus pandemic that road was shut down by the Los Padres National Forest, Monterey Ranger District.

We stopped a little past the Kirk Creek Campground on Highway 1 and found a nice picnic bench to eat lunch (Mill Creek Picnic Area). That was also the turnaround point and we had an uneventful ride back home.

The weather was great and we got some nice pictures!

RR59: COVID-19 Ride #4: Hwy 26

Another excellent ride. This was mostly roads that I have never ridden before and so that made it even more interesting.

We started the day early in Fremont and took Tesla Road through Livermore. This time it was clear and mild, with no fog, and we kept up a good pace.  We road Highway 120 across the Central Valley and took usually entertaining Rodden Rd and Orange Blossom through Oakdale. Our first gas stop was the Chevron in Jamestown. There were easily about 30 other riders there, mostly on Harley-Davidsons. Absolutely no social distancing being practiced –  well, that’s okay I guess, the coronavirus pandemic is dying down and the curve is flattening. Dr. Fauci would not approve though.

We then detoured off Highway 108 and rode through the small towns of Gibbs Ranch, Shaws Flat, Springfield and Columbia. We took a few pictures along Parrots Ferry Road. We crossed the New Melones Lake on Parrots Ferry Road –  the water behind the dam was high and the lake was full.

After a small section on Highway 4 we rode through the quaint little Irish town of Murphys.  from Derby to Sheep Ranch Road a nice goaty trail that took us to Railroad Flat Road.  Some sections of Sheep Ranch Road were very rough and an adventure bike would have been good. We turn right onto Railroad Flat Road and stop for lunch at the intersection of Jesus Maria Road. It was a beautiful shaded spot where we had a picnic lunch.  Jesus Maria Road  was quite interesting in itself.  Pavement was only a suggestion in certain sections but the views were magnificent as a road descended towards Highway 26.

The best road of the day was clearly Highway 26. Right up there with Highway 36 and Wentworth Springs Road, this road was pure joy, full-on entertainment for a sports bike, with perfectly banked curves and extremely smooth pavement. For a minute I thought that the entertainment was over as we reached the town of West Point, but then the fun goes on the road winds down to cross the North Fork Mokelumne River and then climbs back up, all the way to Highway 88.

We then gassed up in Jackson and took the (long) freeway home. All in all it was an excellent ride and I’m glad that I got to explore Highway 26 once again.