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!

Trackday: Laguna Seca, July 2020

On the third of July, 2020, I did a track day at Laguna Seca with Fun Track Dayz in their Novice “C” Group.

The idea for a track day was originally proposed by Anil and since I’d never been to Laguna Seca before, I signed up and was excited to do this track day. I rented a trailer from U-Haul and trailered the SuperDuke down to Salinas with my FJ Cruiser. Along the way, at about 7am, I got a call from Ayon that he has a flat tire. I took Bailey exit off 101 to help him and noticed the rear tire of his Subaru was completely shredded. We put on the spare stepney, pumped it up to 60 PSI and were on our way. We made it into Laguna Seca just in time for the morning meet & instructions. 

There were four sessions in the morning, 9am, 10am, 11 and 12 noon. C group was running the first of three sessions of the hour and so Ayon and I got out onto the track for our first session at 9 a.m. 

The first session Was really about feeling the track, learning the lines and taking it easy. We were behind the instructor at all times and we’re doing a steady moderate pace. Laguna is an excellent track with lots of ups and downs. The trickiest turn was the corkscrew (T8) – where the left-right-left transitions are quick. As the day progressed, I got more confident riding through the corkscrew but occasionally would miss the line and ride over the painted edge of the track.

The other part of the track that made me uncomfortable was the front straightaway. On this part of the track everybody is gunning it and most people reach triple-digit speeds. When bikes are traveling SO fast, just a mere few feet away from each other, it tends to get a little scary for me. So I would back off the throttle much earlier than the rest and let some of the bigger bikes pass me at the end of the straightaway. The first (double apex) turn “The Andretti Hairpin” at the end of the straightaway saw a lot of crashes. People would come in hot, down the slope of the straightaway, lean the bike over a bit too much, and low-side into the dirt. Overall I saw about 8 to 10 crashes over the course of the day.

As the day progressed my lap times became better and better. I was using an app on my iPhone for timing laps — called Harry’s lap timer. The fastest lap time that I recorded was 2:02 which was about as fast as I was willing to push it. I gave my iPhone for a few laps to Anil and he was consistently doing laps in the 1:50s. I think his fastest lap was about 1:51. 

I did all of the afternoon sessions except the last one at the end of the day. I was getting tired and I didn’t want to make any mistakes and regret it. I loaded up the bike back onto the trailer satisfied with the experience of Laguna Seca and excited about the pictures that the photographer was taking. 

Video from the first session, following the instructor:

Second session:

Some pictures now.

The four of us lining up for a nice group shot:

The KTM “mat” came in handy … blue carpet treatment for the SuperDuke:

Bubbly tires:

The corkscrew, T8:

T3:

T5:

T5, my favorite pic of that turn:

T10:

Straightaway:

RR54: Lost Coast Dual Sport Ride: Getting Old / Birthday Ride, Part I

The lure of “dual sporting”… Riding off into the unknown, where the paved road ends and the wilderness begins. Like Springsteen’s song from Philadelphia, “It’s just you and I my friend”. I turn 40 years young in 2019 and it seems like a big moment to celebrate. While lots of trips have been planned for the birthday, a celebratory motorcycle trip is sure called for.

I have always wanted to ride the SheetIron 300 – a dual sport ride organized by the Oakland Motorcycle Club through the Mendocino National Forest. Unfortunately due to the 2018 Ranch Fire the 2019 Sheetiron was canceled. And that’s how, as sort of “the next best thing”, I signed up for the North Bay Motorcycle Club Lost Coast Dual Sport Ride. The ride starts and ends in Ukiah and we spend the night in Fortuna, riding through the Lost Coast on Day 1.

Here is the map of the complete route. Mostly public roads, but it does go through some private lands, so explore at your own risk.

Ayon joined me on this ride on his R1200GS. We left Fremont late Friday night (September 27th) and reached Ukiah around midnight. Traffic was very light because it was so late at night. I was impressed by the KTM auxiliary lights; they cast a bright beam of light down the road. We checked into our hotel (Motel 6) which was a basic, run-down motel in a not-so-nice neighborhood of town. Notice the trash bag with the Coors cans…

The next morning, Saturday, we were up early and the staging point for the ride was close by. We gassed up and went down to registration. I checked in my bag with the MC and they trailer all luggage to the end point.

Some guy was checking in a regular India style suitcase. Ayon did not miss the photo opportunity.

Our first road for the day was Low Gap Road. Reasonably easy 30 miles of dirt, but the temperatures were still cold in the morning. My bike read 44F at the top of the summit.

Nice wooden bridge on Low Gap Rd

Interestingly there was a guy who did the whole ride on a Harley Softail. He did just fine. But the lady with him on the BMW GS broke her ankle in a get-off and had to be rescued by fellow riders.

Dada lost it on somewhere Low Gap Road, but no harm done, the GS is a tough bike.

From Low Gap Rd we rode to the Coast and took Hwy 1 till Fort Bragg. We stopped in Fort Bragg for gas and Ayon decided to get a quick bite at Cravingrill which is small quick-serve Middle Eastern place along Hwy 1. The food was awesome there – the babaganoush was superb. We spoke to the server there and he was from Pakistan. It turns out that a lot of people from Pakistan come to Fort Bragg to live and work!

Our lunch stop for the day was this private beach a few miles north of Fort Bragg. Lunch was simple, some hot dogs, chilli and snacks, but it was fun hanging out with the rest of the crowd there. We rode up to the ocean front and took some pictures.

After lunch we tackled the famous Usal Road and it did not disappoint. Beautiful views of the coast and a long way through the coastal redwoods. It was tiring, but fun.

We then rode up to Shelter Cove for a few pictures and made our way back to the hotel for the night. The official route for the day followed Kings Peak Road to the Lost Coast (see RR34), but we were tired by that time and decided to head back to the hotel on Hwy 101.

We stayed the night at the Super 8 in Fortuna, a much better room than the Motel 6 of the previous night. We drank a few beers at the Eel River Brewing Co in Fortuna where we met Eddie Benson, the owner of Fremont Honda Kawasaki. We were really tired that day and slept well at night.

Day-2 was easier in terms of dirt. We first rode through the Avenue of the Giants (see RR42) and then made our way inwards away from the coast. Day-2 was full of hard packed fire roads with little technical stuff. It made for easy riding and was a welcome break from the previous day.

We had a quick lunch at Wheels Cafe and Pub in Laytonville, and made our way back home. We didn’t do the full route for Day 2 either – gotta keep something for next year! It was a long ride from Ukiah back home to Fremont, but the dirt sections of the day were easier and we weren’t super tired.

Here is a video I edited, turn up the volume.

Overall this was an excellent 2 day ride. A little exhausting, but “the adventure” total made up for that. Among the “big bikes” the most popular bikes there were by far KTMs, followed by Honda’s Africa Twin and the BMW GS.

 

 

RR52: Adv Ride through Clear Creek

I have been wanting to ride Clear Creek for a very long time. I had only heard of this place from others (e.g. on SBR) and I’d seen all the pictures, but I’d never actually been there. Clear Creek was shut down by the BLM back in 2011, but a couple of years ago reports started coming in that vehicular through-traffic was being allowed as long as you had a permit.

With the recent KTM 990, this ride suddenly became a possibility and so I was excited. I got 4 permits (for Anil, Akshay, Ayon and myself) and we did the ride on Sunday August 4th. It was the middle of summer and the temperatures varied from 50F at the coast to over 100F inland, all in a matter of 5 hours.

Akshay (Triumph Tiger 1200) & I started the ride from Fremont and met up with Anil (V-Strom 650) & Ayon (R1200GS) at the Bailey exit on 101 in South San Jose. From there we took the freeway all the way down top Gonzalez and filled up on gas. This was at about 8 in the morning and the coastal area was foggy and cold, down to the low 50s.

First up was Gloria Road. This is a graded fire road that runs between 101 and Hwy 25. The road is super smooth and it was very easy to ride. We climbed to the top of the pass and by the time we descended, I was comfortably doing 30-40mph in the dirt.

Next up was Old Hernandez Road, and the famous water crossing. I was a little nervous as I approached it, but I simple road it slow and crossed over with no drama.

We rode down Coalinga Road and entered Clear Creek. There is a locked gate and the the permit gives you the code to the locked gate. It was getting very hot by now, so we kept moving.

The road through Clear Creek was amazing. The rugged terrain, rocky cliffs and the general desolate nature of the place was fascinating. There was nobody there, we were literally the only ones inside Clear Creek that day. As the road climbed up the mountain we got some amazing views. The road back down was fairly challenging, with lots of rocks, ruts, dips and bumps. Anil got stuck in one of the ruts and he needed a little help getting out.

As we exited the BLM park, the lock code at the entrance did not work at the exit. We had to go around the locked gate. There was just enough space for a big Adv bike to make it around, but we did so successfully.

On our way out I stopped briefly at Idria for a picture

The last leg of dirt was along Panoche Road which runs from Panoche Inn to I5. The road was mostly flat, smooth and well graded, with one interesting water crossing. Anil was riding my KTM 990 then, he crossed the water with ease.

We got to I-5 exhausted with the heat and off-road riding. After a quick bite at the Baja Fresh, we headed back home along I-5.

It was a great first adv ride for me on the KTM and I learnt a lot about riding off-road.

 

Ride Report #50: 2019 MC Trip

If you’ve seen the Coen brothers 2011 epic movie True Grit, you probably remember the finale: Jeff Bridges riding through the night on a horse with Mattie, who has been bitten by a venomous snake. As the night turns to day, the horse eventually collapses from exhaustion but Bridges continues on foot, even as it starts to snow. Bridges gets Mattie to the doctor in time, and Mattie survives, although she never sees Bridges again. That was an amazing movie and somehow reminded me of this years motorcycle trip.

May 18th 2019, Friday

We started the day, early as usual, meeting in the Niles area of Fremont. Shobhit flew in from Seattle the night before and he rode Akshay’s BMW S1000R, while Akshay rode his new Aprilia Tuono. I was riding my Suzuki Hayabusa with a simple tail bag at the back, enough to carry stuff for 3 days. After a very wet 2018-2019 winter, it had not rained for the entire months of April and May, but right around the time of this trip, the weather changed and a lot of rain was forecasted.
As we started off from Niles, it was raining lightly and we took the freeway down to San Jose where we met the rest of the group. Anil (Suzuki VStrom 650), Ayon (BMW R1200GS) and Sravan (KTM 1090 Adventure) were the new riders for this year. Ayon is a pro photographer and many of the beautiful pics below were shot by him. After a few pictures we started down Uvas Road, road over Hecker Pass and then to the coastal Hwy 1. After a short burst of fun on Laureles Grade, we made it to our first gas stop in Carmel Valley. Sravan and Ayon ate some breakfast, while the rest of us chatted. We then rode Carmel Valley Road (without getting lost this time) and it had stopped raining by then so I enjoyed the Busa on the twisty parts of CVR.
We stopped for pictures on the green bridge over the Arroyo Seco river. We parked all 6 bikes on the bridge mid-span, so we probably irked the dozen or so cars that went by. We then rode down to King City for lunch, where we ate at El Lugarcito Restaurant. The burrito was decent, but the beer was good!
I got onto Sravan’s KTM as we started down Jolon Road. The KTM surprised me with how easy it was to ride, and how comfortable it felt. The engine was great, full of torque at the low end and it was easy to ride into the triple digits. Riding Jolon was excellent, bright skies, mild temps and not much traffic. We switched bikes and then rode down Interlake Rd, Nacimiento Lake Dr and Godfrey Rd till we reached Chimney Rock Rd.

As we rode to the end of Chimney Rock, we stopped by the spot that Shobhit crashed last year and took a few pics. It was a great reminder to slow down and enjoy the road. We stopped for a short break at the end of Chimney Rock and turned right on to Adelaida Rd as we returned. We then road Vineyard Dr and Peachy Canyon Rd back towards Paso Robles. Peachy Canyon was probably my favorite road of the day – nice tight twisties and very little traffic. I was following Anil and a good clip, not too fast, not too slow, just right for the most amount of fun.

By the time we go to Paso Robles, it was getting to the end of the day by now, and we were all a bit tired. I did want to ride Hwy 229, Rossi’s driveway, but I didn’t feel like making the extra 20 mile detour. That road will have to wait for another time. It always seems like by the time we get down there, we are ready to call it a day and we don’t end up riding that road. Anyway, we then rode down to the KOA at Santa Margarita Lake where we camped for the night. The last few miles to the campground were fun. A completely open road with very wide turns, I opened up the Busa to about 150 and stayed there for more than a couple of seconds. It was fun. Sravan and Anil were kind enough to go back into town and get everyone dinner, again Mexican gurb from a Taco truck in town. We got a small campfire going and there was a lot of beer and whiskey flowing, among other things.

May 19th 2019, Saturday

We rose pretty early the next day and packed up our luggage and left. There is a small gas station at Santa Margarita Lake, but it sold 87 gas only, and that was not suitable for the Aprilia or BMW, so we rode back up in Paso to gas up.
Next up was Hwy 58 from Santa Margarita to McKittrick. This 75 mile stretch of road is superbly entertaining. The road offers a lot of variety – wide sweepers and tight downhill twisties initially, flat straight endless roads up ahead and finally a long winding downhill section of mountain road towards the end. The pavement was freshly tarred in many places and there was very little traffic. We enjoyed the road thoroughly and stopped at a vista point for a few pictures.
Just a few miles away we stopped for lunch at the McKittrick Hotel Penny Bar and Cafe . I was expecting a quaint, middle of nowhere roadhouse bar, but it was a pretty crummy. We ordered omlettes & beers, but the food was pretty bad. We pressed on – through the boring stretch of the central valley – to Bakersfield, where we stopped for gas and coffee. It was getting late in the afternoon and we had a lot of riding left for the day. I was planning out alternate routes in my mind, but nothing would prepare me for what would come eventually.
We took Hwy 178 out of Bakersfield towards Lake Isabella. This is a very scenic highway, it runs alongside the Kern river and after the very wet winter of 2018 the river was cascading down in full glory. The rapids were gorgeous and Ayon stopped to take a few pictures. The road was also very entertaining, but traffic was a little on the heavy side.
We took a short detour to Miracle Hot Springs off Hwy 178. In keeping with tradition, the dip in the hot, really hot, springs was a welcome break. A short hike from Hobo Campground the area offer three small soaking tubs: mild medium and hot! While the hot tub was really hot, most of us got comfortable in the medium pool. It was also the one right next to the flowing river. So we all took turns alternating between the cold water of the Kern river and the warm water of the hot spring. All in all, it was a great rejuvenating experience. As we started to gear up, we could see storm clouds gathering.
In spite of the clouds and light rain at that point, we decided to continue along the planned route. We passed through Kernville and took Mountain Hwy 99 north towards Sherman Pass. With all the snow from the winter, the road to Sherman Pass was closed, not at the Junction to Mnt Hwy 99, but a few miles in. So we continued on, towards the junction of M50 and Hwy 99. It had started to rain moderately by then. It all took a pee break and warmed our cold hands on the giant Busa muffler. The stock mufflers came in handy!
By the time we reach M90, The Great Western Divide Hwy, we were freezing. Anil was having doubts about hypothermia and I couldn’t see more than 20 feet from my fogged up visor. By the time we reached Ponderosa Lodge it had started to snow. The road was covered in a thin blanket of snow, and there was a moderate dusting on my windshield, bike and Aerostich. Things were getting crazy. Google Maps puts the elevation there at 7165 feet and the rains had turned into snow. While some of us were thinking about what to do, I was not really thinking at that point, Shobhit made the wise call to keep going. Things were not going to get any better unless we got off the mountain, so we pressed on.
We pulled over for a beautiful waterfall on Hwy 90, and a bunch of hands went straight to the Busa pipes for some warmth. The rain had abated a bit and the clouds were starting to clear. Sravan caught this beautiful picture that perfectly captured the moment. We did find some warm coffee eventually at Pierpoint Springs Resort in Springville. No cell reception there, but I texted Shruti over wifi that we’re going to be late to our final destination.
As we descended the mountain completely, the air warmed up, but the rain kept going off and on. The last 5 miles to Visalia were consummate True Grit. With a heavy downpour on the freeway, practically zero visibility, big cars and trucks passing us on the fast lane, I was holding on to the Busa for dear life. Somehow we made it to the hotel unhurt, but with a great sense of pride. Thankfully my Aerostich Roadcrafter kept me warm and dry. With 4+ hours of continuous rain the suit never leaked, even a bit and performed its duties to the fullest. I truly believe in that suit, it was well worth the high price tag.
We ordered some delivery pizza, while Ayon went for a foot massage. After a lot of scotch whiskey, we called it a night.

May 20th 2019, Sunday

On the last day we had a decent hotel breakfast, geared up and were on our way. The skies were clear initially, and we made the long flat boring ride across the central valley on Hwy 198. Just as we hit Coalinga, it started to rain, and it got very heavy at times. We gassed up in Coalinga and rode Hwy 198 and Hwy 25 up to Hollister. This was the last twisty bit of the ride, so everyone was trying to enjoy it. With all the rain, the roads were wet and I was not pushing it at all. We caught a nice break from the rain at the intersection of Hwys 198 and 25. We got some nice pictures there.

 

On Hwy 25, I stayed back with Ayon and Shobhit, riding cautiously on the wet tarmac. A few miles down the road, Sravan low sided his KTM Adventure on a lefthander. We all stopped, recovered his bike and thankfully he was OK. After reviewing the video of the crash, I was amazed at how little damage that did to the KTM. We took some pics and started back on our way.

 

Lunch was at La Villa De Jerez in Hollister, continuing the Mexican choice for cuisine. We said our goodbyes there and rode back home. It did rain some more but at this point I didn’t care much. With the Aerostich, my body was warm and dry.

The Busa odometer showed a total of 881.9 miles.

Ride Report #45: Sierra Pass Ride

The most enjoyable ride of this summer was on July 29th 2018, riding the usual route through the Sierra passes. The route was identical to RR40, RR37 and RR14… seems like an annual tradition now. I posted a thread on BARF and surprisingly a large group of riders joined. In total we had 8 riders and a wide variety of bikes: BMW S1000R (Akshay), BMW R9T (Bobby), Suzuki Hayabusa (me), Yamaha XSR900, Triumph Tiger, another BMW S1000R,  and two Ducati Multistradas, one of them the Pikes Peak edition.

Group photo of all riders, on Hwy 4 near Alpine Lake:

One of the Multistrada riders compiled this video, I think it came out very well. It clearly shows the smoke in the central valley from the various forest fires.

450+ miles, not a bad day!

Ride Report #42: 2017 Summer Motorcycle Trip

All we ever do, is all we ever knew…

Among other things, Seattle has produced some amazing music, through the 90s, 2000s and even today. I don’t know when it went from grunge to indie folk, but every now and then I hear an interesting band, I Google the name, and they’re from Seattle. Coincidence?

Motorcycling, music and nature: there is some connection, I just don’t know yet, or maybe I do. Like Kurt Godel’s connection with Escher and Bach. Maybe the neurons in my brain treat these experiences in the same way. Or maybe I’ve developed a cognitive association, so my brain thinks that riding a motorcycle is a like hiking a trail in Yosemite.

We started Day-1 (July 2nd 2017) from Niles, customarily for the fifth year in a row. Akshay (FZ1), Shobhit (FZ1), Bobby (R1200GS), Bill (Ninja 1000) and me (Hayabusa) – five riders this time – one more than last year. Bill was the oldest of the group (pushing 70) but arguably the youngest and wildest at heart. I met Bill through the ZRXOA (“the OA”) and he’s been super fun to ride and hang out with.

Our first stop was at Boonville, CA along Hwy 128, which is a long ride from Fremont, most of which is on the freeway. It was getting hot by then so the mesh gear helped. The Hayabusa handled the freeway with ease, it’s just mostly putting along at speeds below 100 mph.

There is a little bit of fun on Hwy 128 before you hit Boonville – I played around with the Busa, throwing it bit by bit into the turns as I started getting comfortable. Lunch in Boonville was at the Buckhorn Pub – below average food with average beer. It was 100F by then. The problem with Boonville is that there’s this awesome brewery in town but they don’t serve any food. Food is a mile+ away, so you have to skip it, or bring it with you to the brewery which is not easy on a motorcycle. I also noticed that the restaurants are expensive in Boonville.

We continued on Hwy 128 and turned off on Flynn Creek road. Rode to the little town of Comptche and took Comptche – Ukiah to the coast. Both these roads we nice, with thick forest cover, low traffic, good tarmac and nice turns. On Hwy 1 we road up to Fort Bragg and stopped for coffee. It was in the low to mid 60s on the coast, much cooler than the inland, so some hot coffee felt good.

We continued along Hwy 1 – riding the incredible stretch between Westport and Leggett. I’ve ridden this part of Hwy 1 a few times now and it is by far my favorite part of the coastal highway. We gassed up at Leggett, at the same gas station where I bought my Ninja 1000. The kid manning the gas station was talking about how cannabis prices have fallen drastically since it’s become legal in CA. Hah, who would have known!

Our next stop was the Avenue of the Giants, CA Hwy 254. There was a little bit of twisty fun at the beginning and road is pretty scenic but the whole experience was a tad underwhelming. Maybe I’m just spoilt having been to Muir Woods and to Sequoia NP so many times. The “Giants” were magnificent, yes, and the shaded road in very scenic.

We switched bikes briefly while Shobhit rode the Hayabusa and I rode his FZ1. We rode 101 to our hotel in Fortuna (The Redwood Riverwalk hotel) and had dinner at the Eel River Brewing Co. The food and the beer were both great after which we retreated to our rooms. The drinking continued a little with some nice Battlehill Invergordon.

On day 2 we left early after having breakfast at the hotel. We took Hwy 36 to Hwy 3. Both roads were superb as expected, having ridden them back in 2014. There was a little bit of construction on the west side of Hwy 36 where the road narrowed to a single lane. We didn’t stop in Mad River or Hayfork, but continued on towards Weaverville where we had lunch at the Stagecoach Pizzeria and Cafe. At this point, Bill decided to leave the group and ride straight to Willow Creek, our final destination for the day.

We pressed on, Hwy 3, through Trinity Center, Coffee Creek, Callahan and Etna. These are all really small towns, like 5 houses and a store each. It was very hot again (105-110F) and the tar snakes were making it tricky to ride. I slowed down considerably, not keen on pushing the big bird on soft unstable tarmac. We stopped at a Trinity Lake vista point and took a much needed break from the heat.

We gassed up in Fort Jones and took Scott River Road towards Hwy 96. This is a nice goaty single lane road with steep drops and no barriers on either side. We stopped for a dip in the Scott river (now easily 110F).

Hwy 96 was a great discovery. It’s not a tight racetrack like Hwy 36, but it has wide open sweepers with a clear view of the road and amazing scenery to go along. The small towns along Hwy 96 are quirky filled with interesting people. We stopped for gas in Happy Camp. Here’s a picture with Bigfoot.

Shobhit and Akshay decided to ride on to the Oregon border from here. It’s only 20 miles or so, but being exhausted from the heat, Bobby and I decided to stay back in Happy Camp. We chatted with the locals in Happy Camp and their stories were truly amazing. One guy was a fire captain with 7 kids who talked about his daily work routine during the fire season. We also chatted with the lady who worked at the town store. Turns out her sister was married to the fire captain. Then there was this other lady who seemed paranoid about an impending nuclear disaster there. We met a few more – a Ukrainian programmer and a Nigerian girl wearing a Black Lives Matter hoodie … who spoke Hindi… really bizarre town.

The rest of Hwy 96 was excellent. This is a relaxing road, great for cruising along without worrying about blind corners. The road follows the Klamath River, gently meandering through the mountains. There was no traffic at all – we probably passed 4 or 5 cars on that entire highway. We rode through the Indian reservation and made it to our hotel (The Bigfoot Motel) in Willow Creek. Dinner was across the street at Pizza Factory after which we sat outside our hotel rooms for some more drinking. We ended up chatting and drinking till late at night with Bill entertaining us with many of his stories.

By the third day we were quite tired, so we decided to head straight back home. We rode Hwy 299 to Weaverville and had omelettes at the Nugget. It was the 4th of July and we were just in time for the parade. As we started to make our way out, Shobhit’s battery died. A local policeman tried to give him a jump, but the FZ1 battery was completely dead. Being the 4th of July, most stores were closed, but luckily a local mechanic spotted us and came to help. He went over to his shop and brought Shobhit a replacement battery and we were on our way.

From Redding we took I5 all the way home – the long, straight, boring freeway, but we were eager to get home soon. Bill left us at Redding as he went to see his mom. We made it back home, tired, but in a good way. The Bay Area had cooler weather (90s) and that was a big relief.

A thousand miles on this bike now and I’m starting to get to know her. The bike obviously has tremendous power, but the pull in the 5k-9k rpm range is downright scary. It corners well for being 575lbs. It’s not a nimble 600, but it is a mighty fast and comfortable touring bike.

Trackday: Thunderhill West

Trackday at Thunderhill West, Saturday May 13th 2017.

I hooked up with Bill and Arash over ZRXOA (thread) and bought my ticket for the event. Bill came over to my place  the previous Thursday and picked up my bike and Akshay’s bike and loaded them into his van. Bill’s Chevy van is perfectly set up for carrying two bikes.

The day of the event, I got up at about 4AM after sleeping for only about 2 hours the previous night. I was excited and the adrenaline made it hard to sleep! Akshay and his Dad came over to my place at about 4:45AM and we left for the track in his SUV. The two hour drive to the track was uneventful and we got there at about 7:15AM. Bill and Arash were already there, so we parked right next to them.

I registered myself at the welcome desk and then took the bike for a safety check. That went quick (5 seconds) without any concerns, and we then gathered for the 8AM rider meet. There was lots of information there, mostly about rider safety, the various flags and general information about the track.

The first session started at 9AM. I had signed up for the slowest C-group, so I went in at 9:40AM. Each session was 20 minutes long. The first couple of laps we were following a control rider at a snails pace getting familiar with the various turns on the track. Once he moved to the side, I started riding faster, increasing my speed over consecutive laps. I found the time slot of 20 minutes per session to be perfect – any longer would have been exhausting and any shorter would have been too less time to do my best on the track.

I ran the 9:40 and 10:40 AM sessions, but I skipped the 11:40 session. I was a bit dizzy after the first two sessions, not having slept well the previous night. I felt much better after lunch and enjoyed all the afternoon sessions.

The ZRX did incredibly well on this tight track for being a 500+ lbs bike. The instant torque in any gear really helped a lot. I even tried running a few laps in 3rd gear, without a single gear change.

For most of the day, I was riding conservatively, just trying to get a feel for things, and trying to get the lines right. I did have a couple of “sticky” moments, one in turn-8, which is a blind turn at the crest of the hill, and one in turn-4, which is decreasing radius turn. Both times I saved in well before I ran off the track, but I paid more attention to these sections in the following laps.

I started in C group and in the morning session I was easily passing 2-3 riders in every lap. By the afternoon, the slowest of the riders had dropped out and there was less passing. Towards the end of the day, I was being passed every other lap by a couple of aggressive kids I think those guys were from morning B group.

The most worrisome part of the track for me was the straightway. Here you have 4-5 bikes riding pretty close to each other, all gunning it to their max, reaching speeds of over a 100 mph. Then they all brake at different points and magically fall in line to take turn-1. On the first couple of laps this high speed clustering was a little unnerving, so I started to take it easy on the straight, allowing most people (except the 250s) to pass me.

Here is a picture of my rear tire at the end of the day. It was practically bubbling from edge to edge.

Unfortunately Akshay lowsided his BMW in the first afternoon session and had to sit out for the rest of the day.

Ride Report #41: Santa Cruz Mountains

December 3rd 2016. This was a ride organized by Bill from ZRXOA. Akshay (FZ1) and I joined Bill (Ninja 1000), Arash (ZRX1200) and Vijay (R1200RT) for an excellent ride through the Santa Cruz mountains. We met up at the intersection of Skyline and Hwy 92. After a few greetings, the usual “ZRX shop talk” and admiring each others bikes, we rode down at a brisk pace to Alice’s restaurant. I was surprised by how fast Arash and Bill were riding. Bill is 67 years old, with probably over 4 decades of riding experience, but he rides like he is 27. Arash too, as I learnt over the course of the day, is a very skilled rider.

We stopped by the STP area, admired the bike entourage and then continued down Hwy 84, Pescadero, Cloverdale, Gazos Creek to Hwy 1. We had lunch at Whale City Bakery Bar & Grill in Davenport, which serves the typical touristy fare. A quick sandwich and beer later we were on our way. Vijay decided to return to San Ramon and did not continue along with us.

Next up were Boony Doon and Empire Grade – both favorites of mine. We then rode down Jamison Creek Road to Hwy 236, which was my first time. Arash rode this entire stretch of 3 odd miles with the engine off! It was actually quite incredible – with no throttle, no engine braking and just downhill momentum, he was pretty fast through the corners, making it look very easy.

We gassed up in Boulder Creek, rode up Hwy 9 and took a short break at Skyline. From there Akshay and I parted ways with Bill and Arash and took the long freeway ride back home.

It was great meeting new ZRXOA riders and I had an awesome fun day of riding. I hope to ride with these guys again in the new year.