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