Tour de Swimmin’ Hole: July 16 – 20, 2014

Motorcycling vacations are a terrific way to see the country, but I’ve always been torn between making miles and having fun. It’s easy to bite off more than you can chew when planning with a map, or to  spend a whole vacation constantly riding and watching the world go by, and I did have a checklist of things I wanted to see, (like my beloved Highway 36, West of Red Bluff, CA), but I made a conscious effort at emphasizing the pleasure of each moment, rather than grinding out interstate miles. It wasn’t easy to rein in the ponies, but it turned out the best week of my life. Click here for the Gmaps’ version of my route.

Caliente-Bodfish Road in the Sierra foothills above Tehachapi is glassy-smooth most of the way, but a few cracky/bumpy stretches on the way North to Lake Isabella.140716-zed-calbodfishrd2

The only thing I don’t love about the western Sierra foothills are that photographs never capture the brilliant yellow of the hills, and the contrasting olive-green clusters of oak trees. 140716-zed-calbodfishrd3

This gregarious little fellow Mason is the shop dog at Archie’s hardware in Kernville, just off Highway 495.140716-mason-archies

First swimmin’ hole of the trip! The Kern River. There were people here, so I had to unpack my stupid trunks. 140716--kernriver

There’s a neat old restaurant & bar in Ponderosa, CA where they make fresh Tamales! The cute waitress there got a visit from her new groom and adorable wolf/husky puppy. 140716-trocheyenne-ponderos140716-cheyenne

Highway 190 coming down from Sequoia National Park is in my top-3 favorite sillystring roads in the world. The road looks patchy in these photos, but it was utterly smooth. It was about 90 degrees, but I had to put my Aerostich suit back on, because this road is just too voluptuous and smooth to ride slowly.140716-hwy190140716-zed-hwy190Swimmin’ stop #2! Tenaya Lake up on Tioga Pass.140717-zed-tenaya-path140717-chr-tenayaYou can’t really see the cute family of young ducklings behind me, but they swam right up to me while I was enjoying the crystal clear 67-degree water, apparently hoping I had some bread. Sorry duckies, no dice. 140717-tenaya-ducks

There were 6 construction halts on Tioga Pass, and plenty of traffic, but the two negatives cancelled each other out. I’d just pull my motorcycle up to the front of the line and have a nice conversation with the people up front. People from Florida, Germany, and LOTS of people from France–all very friendly and having fun. And when the flagmen waved us on, I got to enjoy a traffic-free road until the next stop.140717-chr-tuolumne

After Tioga, I headed North of Bridgeport on the 395 into a fearsome lightning storm. I saw 75-100 lightning strikes, especially around the spots where the fires were burning strongly enough to throw up plumes of smoke into the stormclouds. A few times I was sure I’d gotten a picture of the lightning strike, but no dice. My motorcycle is the Pied-Piper of rain, so I was on this trip to do my part to solve California’s drought.140717-zed-fire

It was dumping rain so hard, that there was 6+ inches of water on the road in some places and my socks and underwear were saturated. I pulled into a fire station at the Marine mountain training base to wait out the storm. The firemen were awesome mountain men and offered to let me put my clothes in their dryer. Then they were all called out to put out the lightning strikes. I was left alone in the fire station for a few hours and was mighty glad for the shelter. There were flashfloods all over, and when they returned, they cautioned me against attempting the Pass on my bike. 140717-zed-rainBut the rain tapered the further up the pass I got, and the western downward slope was mostly dry. 140717-zed-hwy108b

I was mostly dry by the time I got back down to the neat old town of Sonora, CA. I was enjoying a great meal at Christopher’s next door to the Sonora Inn, when this awesome dog drove by in a truck. 140717-sonoratruckdogWhile barhopping in Sonora, saw this statue of an Africanized Beavis, heh-heh.   140717-sonorabeavis

HA! Beat the afternoon storm this time. I was on Highway 88 when I heard the thunder booming back behind me. Missed me this time,

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140718-capleslunchSwimmin’ Hole #4: Caples Lake on Kit Carson Pass. Despite there being too much air in the chips sold up there, the water was in the high 60′s.140718-chr-caplesbeer1

 

 

 

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On the way to Tioga Lake…140717-zed-yosemitelakeWhich turned out to be another great swimming spot! (Though there was too much traffic to forgo trunks.)140717-chr-tiogalake1

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This beautiful horse just down the hill from the winery was a surly shrew. When I set Pokey up on the post, she tried to eat him; when I tried to pet her nose, she tried to bite me; and when the cute little donkeys came up to get some attention, she tried to bite them too.140720-horsefacepokey

 

“Yeah, you’d better run, you nasty ol’ nag…”140720-horsebuttpokey

 

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Picking up Tuco from New Mexico

I’ve always had a thing for the Kawasaki W650. I bought one back in 2000 when they were available in the US, named it Chitty, and really enjoyed it. So when I found this pristine beauty for sale in Glorieta, New Mexico from a nice man named Nigel, I naturally flew out to Santa Fe to buy it.140423-w650l

Having difficulty sleeping in the days leading up to this trip, I watched the historical companion DVD to The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly one night. Instead of helping me fall asleep, I was dumbfounded to learn that the events portrayed in GB&U actually occurred in Glorieta where the bike was waiting for me! So much for getting to sleep that night.
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I’d always chuckled at GB&U’s portrayal of American Civil War battles occurring in the desert, but that was because I had no idea of Confederate Brigadier General Sibley’s failed New Mexico CampaignGB&U was actually filmed in Spain, but it turns out Sergio Leone actually did his homework.140531-w650-tierragrande

 

Click here to see the route I took. I avoided Interstates as much as possible, because the engine only had 1035 miles on it.

 

 

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It had been at least 20 years since I’d passed by the VLA (Very Large Array) National Radio Astronomy Observatory along Highway 60 up high in NW. This beautiful German couple took my picture. Germans always seem so happy when I run into them in the desert. 140531-chr-vla

 

140531-unclebillstableDive bars have become all the rage in Southern California, but Uncle Bill’s Bar in Reserve, NM is the real-deal: sticky, foul, terrible music, only two kinds of beer, and full of second-hand smoke. 140531-unclebillsbar140531-w650-hanniganmeadow140531-w650-hwy171     140531-nm-road3 140531-nm-road1 140531-nm-road 140531-chrste-hwy171

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I embarked from Globe, AZ that morning before the sun came up, to avoid baking in the desert during the hot part of the day. But eventually the merciless sun eventually rose and I chased me all morning. I watched helplessly as my shadow grew shorter and shorter, and finally vanished at about Blythe. 140601-shadow

 

It was about 110 degrees in Blythe, so I filled up all the pockets of my yellow Aerostich riding suit with ice cubes and tied a wet-shirt around my neck (a trick the Roman soldiers employed when on their campaigns in the hotter lands. )140601-w650-blythe 140601-w650-78desertb

It was hot as Hell

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And since my favorite Eli Wallach masterpiece (anyone who calls GB&U a “Clint Eastwood movie” should just go shout accusations at an empty chair for a few minutes), it seems only natural to name this bike after the great Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez (and any other aliases he may be known as.)

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Angeldog on W650 Motorcycle

There’re a Lot of Crazies Out There

One full-moon evening in June, I finished another valve adjustment on my beloved W650 motorcycle and all that stood between me and a cold beer in a hot shower was the test ride. Angel had been such a great little assistant grease-monkey, I decided she deserved a break from the garage too. So we rode out to our spot on the Batiquitos Lagoon jetty and watched the foam of the waves glowing blue in the moonlight for a little while. Happy moment indeed: a freshly-tuned motorcycle, a full moon, glowing waves, a faithful dog, and a cold beer waiting at home in the fridge. But at that very moment, someone nearby was not sharing in it.

On our way home, a gleam of chrome in a ditch caught my eye. A poor older guy had ridden his Harley-Davidson Road King off the asphalt and crashed into a ditch full of iceplant, and was attempting to wrestle this 700-pound bike back up on the road by himself!

We pulled over to help, but there were no streetlights, nor sidewalk and the traffic was still whizzing quickly by on the narrow road–no place for a little dog. So I left her in her gas-tank seat on the bike to help the poor guy.

A car soon stopped and two more guys got out to help. The bike was heavy and the crushed iceplant was slicker than owl-poo, but we were making gradual progress. ”1-2-3-HEAVE, 1-2-3-HEAVE…” and despite the traffic whizzing by, Angel remained steadfast and stalwart on my parked bike. I was anxious about the cars driving so closely past her, so every once in a while when we were catching our breath, I’d look in the direction of Angel on the bike and say aloud, “You stay! That’s a good girl! You STAY right THERE!

Angel fortunately never moved and we finally got that heavy Road King back up on its asphalt throne again. The panting Harley-man offerred us money, but none of us took it. I noticed his elbow was bleeding and asked, “You sure you’re not hurt? You okay to ride home?“ He suddenly stopped panting, looked at me very closely and said in a concerned tone, “No…thanks…I’ll be fine, are YOU okay?

That was a little odd, but it didn’t dawn on me until we were down the road a mile or so when I looked down at Angel and realized: he couldn’t see her on the bike in the darkness and therefore he thought I was talking to my motorcycle.

You stay! That’s a good girl! You STAY right THERE!

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