WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: WanderRockies 1 - Lee Vining, California
Date: Sun, 16 Jul 2000 22:06:31 -0700

Another trip. Another story.

Another rider. Another view.

... return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. Ooops, wrong show. This time it isn't the lone ranger. It is more like the paired arranger, having finally convinced his 'significant' to leave civilization behind (at least for a vacation) and scour the West in Wanderlust style.
    Last year after I raved again about the consistently best BMW rally in a small town, Rebecca agreed to ride her bike along with me to the Top Of The Rockies in Paonia, Colorado. Plans were planned. Reservations were reserved. Registrations were registered. Maps were mapped. Who said this isn't spontaneous? And, finally, it is time! Because this is her longest road trip yet, we are taking it slowly, but not much more slowly than one of my solo wanders.
    Both her R65 "½RT" (big windshield, no fairing), and my K75RT made their homage to master mechanic Scott Jenkins for full service before conquering the continent. Just when all is ready and the schedule is full, guess what. Rebecca gets permission to attend a professional conference. In Boston. Which starts the day the rally ends in Colorado. Hmmmm.
    No problem! She books a flight from Denver. I arrange to park her bike for the week, and now her two week vacation just happens to span three calendar weeks. What would you do if you found yourself waiting for a plane for a week? Me, I'm going to wander Wyoming. We both win.

    I've been on so many motorcycle trips now that packing for three weeks on the road is a 15 minute chore. Funny how you get used to what you don't need. Three plastic bags and a toiletries case slide into the saddlebags, the pc is strapped onto the seat, the GPS is plugged in, and I am ready to roll. Saying nothing about the differences of *what* women pack versus men, Rebecca had to go through a number of iterations of "how much space do I have" before she finally winnowed it down to what she needed. Then after all was packed, horrors, she found there was extra space! That girl learns fast and well.

    You've been with me on a trip like this before. Come again and let's see what changes when I am not the only one riding solo.

    A fine frizzle fell on San Francisco this quiet Sunday morning. "Frizzle" is fog drizzle. It was cool enough to require medium jackets as we set out for the desert. Such an anomalous dichotomy this city is. The bustle of Chinatown belies the fact it is Sunday. The only obvious difference around the crowds seeking that perfect bundle of bok choy is the lack of parking control officers gleefully ticketing parked cars. Whereas in the financial district only blocks away Sunday means you could roll a bowling ball down the street and hit nothing until it stopped. No, make that - until it disappeared into a ubiquitous pot hole.
    The fog stays with us until it gets chewed and chopped in the windmills of the Altamont Pass. Here I notice the summit sign saying 1009 feet. It is most amazing that before the day is out I know we will almost add a zero to that number when we crest Sonora Pass. The familiar extremes of California pass quickly as we aim due east. The central valley with its abundant fruits and nuts (not referring to the people) makes me wonder who eats all this stuff. Then past the tomato fields rises the Campbell's plant and the answer comes in soup cans. Another extreme is the foothills where brown grass gives way to green schist and red dirt. The heat bakes the Jamestown mine, still fining gold, and the shimmers in the air above the rocks whisper "there's still gold in them thar hills". The last extreme is the carapace of the Sierra high country. Bald granite hugged by stands of surprisingly fragrant pine and douglas fir. The hills are alive ... with the smell of Pine Sol :)
    We stop for a break in Oakdale and a pre-teen boy in the back of a car yells "Nice bike!" to Rebecca. She enjoys the comments and especially the looks of young female children who are obviously awed that she is on her own bike. The Grey Dog (silver paint) runs well for an old hound and easily keeps with me.
    Up through the Stanislaus Canyon we pass the campground at Chipmunk Flat, and I am sorry to say I see many that are. Flat chipmunk, that is. I really would like to hear the thoughts going through a chipmunk brain as it gets half way across the road and decides ... what?

    One of the changes to my riding style on this trip is accommodating someone else's rest needs. I am used to measuring hours by tanks (of gas), but then I've been doing LD rides for years. She likes to unbend the knees every hour or so. Just like a real person. So we stop. No problem. (For the non-motorcycle readers: It is very difficult to find someone you can ride long distance with. It is not like being in a car where everyone experiences the same time and place. Each rider is in his or her own head and rarely do the moments coincide. Finding someone you CAN ride with is a special joy. It helps if you like each other too, but the latter does not guarantee the former.)
    Stopping for a break at the top of Sonora showed me something new. A history plaque tells Sonora Pass was cut as a toll road in the 1850s and is the second highest of the Sierra passes. Feeling the 'altitude sickness' of anoxia just by walking around at nearly 10,000 feet, I can't imagine the work it must have been. "Grizzly" Adams used to lead the emigrant wagon trains through, and a round trip across this one pass took three weeks! Lordy me, in the last hour we covered seven days of wagon haul.
    Taking our time to enjoy this scenery gives phenomenal mileage. My fuel reserve light didn't come on until 190 miles, and the R65 delivered mpg in the 50s. Coasting down the 27 degree slope of CA 108 probably helped, but thin air, no traffic, and the first day of a new trip that seems to stretch forever made us take it easy.

    Rebecca's observations for the day were: California freeway rain grooves make riding too squirrely and are so deep they should have canyon names, brilliant and varied color wildflowers hiding on the talus slopes, skimming the alpine tree line on the mountain ridges, enjoying the quail races that took over after we descended from chipmunk country.

    Always when I wander I remember wisdoms written by other riding writers. A recent memoir of truth Bob Higdon found in himself comes to me again. "No matter where you are you want to be somewhere else." I feel that, but in a less melancholy way.  He may want to be there; for me, getting there is the fun.

254 miles
San Francisco I580 I205 CA120 CA108 US395 Lee Vining
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

Previous Index Next
© 1997, 1999, 2000