A Run For the Border!

Day 7-Thursday, April 26, 2007

I awoke to the sound of Harley-Davidson's...LOT'S of Harley-Davidsons.

As I discovered later this upcoming weekend was the Laughlin River Run in Laughlin, Nevada. It is billed as "The West Coast's Largest Motorcycle Event." Before the day is over I will have waved at literally hundreds upon hundreds of riders going the opposite way. Amazingly 98% of them waved back (for those non-riders reading this report this is very unusual behavior for Harley riders, they don't usually bother to wave at sports bikes). They all seemed to be having a great time and were in high spirits!

Checking over the Guzzi in the morning I found it to be down a quart on oil. This is somewhat of a problem because I have 15/50 weight synthetic in it now and that can be hard to find sometimes. Moto Guzzi V11's (my engine) are also tricky to get oil into because the filler hole is up underneath the left hand cylindar head and you need a long-necked spout to reach it...which I did not have with me.

I checked the Barstow yellow pages and found a Kragen Automotive store locally and gave them a call. Yes, they had my oil. I plugged their address into the GPS and headed out. At the Kragen they not only had the oil I wanted but the cutest little, long-necked spout that exactly fit into a small empty spot in my saddle bags! Yay!

Next good news, "why, there's a Wal-Mart. I'll bet they have the memory I need for my camera." Yay again!

My goal for the day is to get out of Southern California and this fricken' desert. My reason for traveling south on this trip to begin with is to get warm and lose those winter blues...but really, enough is enough.

Not much in Inyokern...looks a lot like Mexico.

We slowly gained altitude but the desert remained...only now with Yucca Trees. It was cooling off a bit however.

On the GPS when you ask it to guide you to a place it asks if you want the shortest route or the fastest route. Generally I go with the "faster." Not this time...mistake. The route it selected took me past Lake Isabella which is something I wanted to see...I pictured this lovely alpine lake surrounded by pine forests. It's not.

The GPS took me over Hwy 155 which most sportsbike riders would love. Lots of change of elevation and twisties. I however was riding like shite. No special reason for it just an off day (although I'm generally the slowest rider in any group even when I'm riding "well")...of course lurking at the back of my mind are the leaking forks, the lack of a rear brake and the hulking 800 pounds of combined weight between me and the bike leaning through endless hairpin turns.

At least there were trees now and it had finally cooled off.

The Garmin eventually took me off of 155 doing its "shortest route" thing on onto some serious goat trails. Something called "Old Stage Road" and then onto something even smaller. It's all potholes and no painted lines with no shoulders to pull off on. I felt I was a million miles for nowhere. I never saw another vehicle other than one farmer on a tractor.

I did stumble across this unkept, ancient graveyard however.

Finally I came out alive and found myself in Porterville and then made my way over to Hwy. 99 and north to Fresno.

Along the way I stopped at a roadside rest and found this memorial to Chester H. Warlow. There is a similar marker at the roadside rest just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. I stopped there one time with another ST.Netter, Steve (Dogboy) and he pointed it out to me. Steve explained that Chester H. Warlow was the highway commissioner between 1945 and 1961 and did more to make California roads what they are today than anyone else before or since. California motorists owe him a great deal of respect. It looked like people had been rubbing Chester's nose so I did too...for luck.

At Fresno I left the highway behind and headed up into the mountains on Hwy 41 headed for Oakhust and Hwy 49.

I rolled into Oakhust at about 6 o'clock and was bone tired and hungry. I cruised the town looking for a likely place to spend the night. Instead I found barbecue. I love BBQ. Glancing around I saw a Days Inn across the street. Perfect. I can walk to dinner.

I settled into the reasonable priced, small but adequate room (they had the Weather Channel...always a biggie with me when on the road) and then headed across the road for some grub.

A gentleman who looked like he knew his BBQ was standing at the counter paying his bill and recommended to me the day's "Special". Three big beef ribs, BBQ beans, garlic bread and all the peanuts you can eat. That's it then...and throw in one of those beers!

My it was so good!

I waddled back to the motel (I gained 5 lbs. on this trip), turned on an Andy Griffith marathon the TVLand channel and fell into a deep sleep.

Miles ridden this day: just short of 300

Day 8-Friday, April 27, 2007

Oakhurst sets at the southern end of Hwy 49. I have never ridden 49 but have wanted to for quite some time. It's a lovely road roaming through the Sierra Nevada foothills through California's gold country. Generally during the summer months it is packed with tourists driving RV's. There was almost no one on it today.

As it turns out this is the road I was looking for during this entire trip. It is a delight to ride. It's in great shape with a variety of scenic straights, tight-twisty hairpins and lovely sweeping curves (which are my favorite and the Moto Guzzi loves).

Now THAT'S what I'm talkin' about! Lovely! And my riding was much improved over the day before.

I stopped in Sonora to go to the bank. In Oakhust I'd tried to use my ATM card and it was refused. The machine wanted me to go inside and talk to a teller but of course the bank wasn't open for another hour. Sure enough it was as I suspected. Too much activity on the card from too many remote locations so they blocked it for security reasons. Fair enough and they quickly reactivated it.

Meanwhile outside there are hundreds of antique and custom cars already crowding the city streets arriving for a big show scheduled for the next day. Lots of beautiful automobiles out there and it looked like most people were driving them in...no trailer queens in this crowd.

The next town up is Angle's Camp where Mark Twain placed his story of "The Jumping Frog of Calavaras County." He actually had a cabin here.

The scenery and towns were awesome and I could have ridden the road much further...but alas, I have other plans so at San Andreas I left Hwy. 49 and headed west down into the Sacramento Valley.

I wanted to ride through the Sacramento Delta.

I had lived in Sacramento 30 years ago and owned a sports car ('62 Triumph TR3). The Sacramento delta was my weekend getaway. Cool breezes, lovely back roads and a wonderful "delta" feel.

Around lunch I arrived in the delta at the little town of Isleton.

Oh my, crawdads! I've never had crawdads before. Seems the appropriate food for a delta ride.

I explained to the waitress (who insisted on calling me "honey") my "newguy" circumstances and asked for a recommendation. "A pound of crawdads is what you need." "A pound sounds like a lot" I remarked. "Naw, you throw away most of 'em."

Then I did something I rarely do. I ordered a beer. I make it a habit not to drink when riding...but it was so hot out (again) and how can you have crawdads for lunch with no beer?

"Well, this looks like a bowl full of big bugs", I exclaimed! The waitress had the gentleman at the next table (overalls, baseball cap...standard uniform for this good-ole'-boy bar restaurant/lounge) to show me how to eat them. He was very kind and demonstrated how you rip the heads off then snap their backs and pluck out the meat in the tail and then grab that nerve that runs up the back, dip them in the sauce and throw it on down. UGH!

By now everyone in the place is watching the guy in motorcycle gear struggle with his food. I did okay and got better as I worked my way through the pile.

So I'm happily eating away, drinking my illicit beer when in walks the local, and I mean "local" po-lice. All 3 of them. They eyeball me, eyeball my beer and then sit down a couple of tables away where they can keep an eye on me. "Crap," I thought "I escaped going to jail in Mexico only to end up in going to jail in this backwater town."

So I finished up, left a big tip and sidled outside to find the police department parked right next to my bike. I expected to see them busting out the door with their hands on the sidearms at any moment.

Long story short...I escaped on up north along the delta via Hwy 160. It's a lovely two lane road that travels through sleepy towns and crosses over the waterways on several lovely lift bridges.

I pulled off in the town of Locke to look around. On my rides in the Triumph I used to come here and take photographs a lot. Locke is a seemingly abandoned (although it actually isn't) mostly Chinese town that hasn't changed much since the 1920's. It has been designatied a national historic place and still looks exactly as I remember it from thirty-something years ago.

You're looking pretty much at the entire town here.

There are a couple of old business, this grocery and a bar (check out the old gas pump) look closed today as they did back when I was here. There are a couple of small art galleries now but they don't look like they're doing much business...maybe it's different in the summer.

Ah, too soon over. Now it's Sacramento, Interstate 5 and 90+ degree heat again.

I have a moment of panic when traffic comes to a standstill on the freeway at one point...I start lane splitting (legal in California) like crazy just to keep some air traveling over the engine...it hiccups but keeps on going. Soon we're back up to speed and things smooth out.

Finally I arrive at tonight's lodging...my step-mother-in-law (an awkward phrase and I won't use it again...Becky's step-mom and a good friend), Adena's home in Rio Linda, north of Sacramento. An oasis.

Adena is so welcoming to me. She makes sure my bike is secure, helps me unload and get settled. Sends me off to the shower (is this a hint?) and tells me to make myself comfortable.

One of the things that defines Adena is her love of and expertise in growing roses. She keeps a lovely rose garden and is a respected judge at rose shows.

She puttered in the garden while I made myself human again.

Adena, in her element.

It is springtime and the garden is outrageous. It smells and looks wonderful! One of the wonderful memories I have of "valley life" is of the warm evenings. Sitting in the shade outside at the end of the day. It is a delight and I take advantage of it now. I sit on the deck, listen to the birds and read my book. Very, very nice.

Just a few of the many varieties of roses Adena is growing.

And then those terrible Moto Guzzi eating zombie roses tried to eat the bike!

Kidding. There is a local rose show the next day and these flowers were to be her entries...they just happened to be placed next to the mighty Gootsie.

Later we made out way down to a local Mexican restaurant (what else?) and had a lovely dinner.

I hit the sack at about 9 o'clock and read some before falling into a deep sleep.

Miles ridden this day: somewhere between 200 and 250

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