West 2009

Day 11

September 6

  It's a beautiful sunrise this morning as I am up early and stirring about. I try to be extra quiet so I do not wake up the rest of the household. The view from V.J.'s deck is absolutely stunning - one that I have enjoyed before.  
  It's a bit brisk this morning, so I prep my heated gear for the ride. Soon the rest of the gang are up and we all make our way down to Alice's to meet Martin and Rich.  
  Martin has brought one of his Native Indian flutes along and entertains us while we wait on Rich. The notes echo off the deserted surroundings in a haunting, minor key.  

Fashionably late, Rich pulls up on his ST1300. I walk over to him, give him a hug and ask -

"Hey, did you bring the evening paper with you?"

It's a standard line we use back home and it takes a minute for him to catch it. He tells us -

"I'm going to take us down a different way to the coast - it's called the Pescadero Road."

"I'm just following your taillights, big boy" I tell him.

  Soon we are on on way, descending down a road with lots of bends and sweepers. We negotiate in and out of the shadows as the sun slowly peaks its head above the tree line.  
  I find it a bit difficult for my old eyes to adjust as we quickly run in and out of the shadows, but I just stay after it. That is one of the many things that affect my riding as I get older - the inability for my eyes to transition quickly between varying light conditions. If I get hit with a set of bright lights at night, I am almost blind for a little while. I have learned to look off to the right white line when I see brights bearing down upon me.  
  But it has all the makings of a another beautiful day in paradise as we pop out of the forest and get a good view of our territory.  
  Too soon, we are off the ridges and down into the flat farm country as it makes its march toward the seacoast.  
  As we come to the intersection of highway 1, I see the 'official' name of the asphaltic warrior we have just conquered - Pescadero Creek Road. This one I'll remember the next time I'm out this way. Again, I have benefited from local knowledge and added another good road to my 'inventory'.  
  Fortunately, Dave's black cloud and his brother the fog cloud has cleared out and there's an excellent photo op right at the junction.  
  It's what I call a 'calendar' shot - so perfect and pretty that it belongs on a calendar somewhere. The lighthouse stands guard over the jutting point and is faintly reflected in the waters below.  

As we're standing there, Martin points out -

"Hey Phil, if you look real close you can see a starfish clinging to that rock below".

Once I get my eyes focused I see it. I figure he must be a pretty tenacious feller to be able to hang onto that rock while the waves come washing in.

  V.J. has a lot going on, so he decides he's going to head back to the house instead of riding down the coast with us. Now that he has finally rid of us - especially that pesky Brit - I can't say that I blame him. Rich is going to peel off when we get close to his house and poor Martin will be left alone with us.  
  I give V.J. a big hug and thank him for putting up with us. And then we're off into the fog again as Dave's cloud has come after us.  
  Between stretches of mist there are clear views of the ocean and it continues its morning duty of washing into shore.  
  But then it's back into the cool, damp mist where everything takes on an shadowy appearance. I'm glad that my heated gear is still working, as the moisture wants to chill you right to the bone.  
  Dave has to finally stop and clean the mist from his glasses it's so thick.  
  There is still an amazing amount of farming that goes on in the area which has to be on some pretty expensive property. The rows here just seem to stretch all the way to the clouds.  
  And speaking of clouds, it appears that just when we think we have left Dave's 'friend' behind, he shows up, lying in wait for an 'opportunity'.  

We pass through Carmel, whose former mayor is the famous Clint Eastwood, on our way to the Bixby Bridge in the Big Sur. This is probably one of the most photographed bridges in the United States. It was also used in the opening sequences of one of my favorite motorcycle shows - Then Came Bronson. I'm still waiting to deliver that famous line after someone asks me

"Where you headed?"

"Wherever I end up, I guess."


I tell Dave and Andy -

"There's a good lookout just up the road where you can get a great picture of the bridge".

So when we get to the lookout, Dave's cloud has anticipated our arrival and is right there to greet us.


And just like it was at the Golden Gate Bridge, this bridge too has disappeared from sight. I do wish that Dave's cloud was not such a good magician on making things disappear. I tell them -

"Well, we might as well go with Plan B and head back up through Carmel. It looks like this fog is just going to hang around".

Martin is going on ahead on down the coast to one of his favorite eating places so we wish him well and we head back toward Carmel.

  And like magic, when we head back the fog begins to lift and the beautiful coast line reappears.  
  We also stop at a bridge that is often mistaken for the Bixby Bridge called the Rocky Creek Bridge.  
  We soon bid Dave's too friendly cloud a find adieu as we head back through Carmel and get on highway 68 that runs from Monterrey to Salinas.  
  The good thing is that some of the roads today in plan b are four lanes so we can make some real good time which should put us into Don's at a reasonable hour.  
  As we come into Salinas, my stomach is sending messages asking if my throat has been cut. Off to the right I see a restaurant call Norma's Family Restaurant that appears to have a pretty good following and at least there is some life inside, so it wins the breakfast lottery this morning.  
  I decide to go for something a little different and order the omelet with avocados. It is very good and I don't think Andy or Dave are disappointed with their choices either. At least they were real quiet while devouring their entrees which is a pretty good sign ...  
  After breakfast, we head down 101 which is now a fast moving four lane away from the ocean - the same 101 that we enjoyed north of San Francisco.  
  At last we get to the exit for highway 198, the road to Coalinga. The last time I was on it was for the Dennis Ryan Memorial Ride to honor a dear ST friend who passed away suddenly in Christmas of 2003. This was one of his favorite roads and his ashes were appropriately sprinkled along the way as part of the tribute.  
  It's great run of about 60 miles with no traffic, sweet pavement and lots of sweepers as it makes its way to Coalinga through the sun ravaged grassy hillsides.  
  There are some nice views as we quickly climb the elevations but we do not take much time to stop.  
And there are some bends that will reach and out and get you if you are not carefully paying attention.
  When we come to fork of highway 198 and highway 33, I chose highway 33. But not trusting my memory completely, I pull off and do a quick map check. And fortunately my synapses have synapsed correctly so we make haste forward.  
  Highway 33 sort of turns into highway 145 which will take us to highway 41 and on to Don's place. At Kerman we take a much needed hydraulic and laundry adjustment break. Once again, Andy and I get watch the "Gas Adventures Of Dave" as he tries to fuel the ST1300. When will he ever get a USA zip code?  
  This is flat, sandy country and I presume it must be good for growing grapes - since there are a lot of folks that seem to be doing just that.  
  Not to mention the row upon row of fruit trees that punctuate the countryside as we make our way northward.  
  Finally we reach the intersection of highway 145 and highway 41 - just a few more miles until the turnoff to Don's house.  
  But our best intentions of making haste quickly are thwarted by the gaggle of law abiding citizens that feel like it is their sworn duty to travel at least 20 miles under the legal speed limit - just to be safe.  
  Don's instructions to keep us out of trouble - off gravel roads and prevent us from dropping our bikes at his driveway as others that have gone before us - are right on target. We find his beautiful abode with no problem at all and we go down the road and come back so we can negotiate the steep drive without drama.  

And I see the lovely Miss Joyce's VFR with the license plate frame that plainly states to all -

"Dinner Will Be Late"


Quite a crowd has collected to take a look at the traveling gypsies. There's Ray and and Hope, Jim and Charlynn, Jay and Stephanie (who live in Yosemite and his dad is Jim) and Bob and Joy. I am especially interested in talking to Bob since he has a perfectly good right mirror cover that is the correct color for mine that got busted at Yellowstone. But he is not too keen on the trade and I can't distract him long enough to make the switch. To borrow a line from Mr. Burns -

"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft agley"

So I am left to make the rest of my journey with a repaired mirror cover ...


As Don is busy cooking up some great burgers, I think to myself -

"I'm beginning to really like this restaurant a lot - and you can't beat the prices."

The meal is excellent and the company even better as we tell tales and swap stories about motorcycling and other adventures.

  But I need to get my fuel pump swapped out and Andy needs to do some preventative maintenance so most of us head for Don's well equipped garage to tend to business.  
  As I start to remove the fuel pump bolts I come to the startling revelation that I had just filled up and the gas in the tank is above the fuel pump cover. The way that I discover this is the gas that is running out from under the cover. I manage to stop the flow and grab the auxiliary pump out of my saddlebag and get it hooked up. My intrepid and fearless assistant mechanic, Miss Hope, holds the outlet hose in a gas can while I try to keep the flow going. Just because there are a few sparks flying from the rigged electrical connections near the gas, most of the brave men flee the premises. But not the brave Miss Hope - she hangs in there until the job is completed. With that near disaster averted, I swap the fuel pumps and button Frost back up. With a flick of the starter button, she springs into life again. The real test will come tomorrow in the 100+ degree heat of Death Valley. Don has also graciously provided his backup mirror for me, so I install it and now I have a right hand mirror after all of this miles without it. Once again Don has gone above and beyond the call of friendship and hospitality and I appreciate it a bunch.  

With the chores done and the mess somewhat cleaned up, we regroup back in the house for more tale telling and some outstanding brownies. I tell Miss Joyce after I sample one -

"Let me take them. I wouldn't want anybody to get hurt eating them."

But somehow she sees through my faintly disguised charade and declines my generous offer. Then Dave breaks out his magic tricks on the crowd and wows them with his prestidigitation. I sure wouldn't want him to get a hold of my wallet - I'm sure he could make it disappear too! We find out from Jay that there are fires burning in Yosemite so our original route will have to be tanked for a new one. After we watch a beautiful video of the park - especially the parts we won't be seeing - Don and Jay give us some outstanding route guidance. It's great evening and a wonderful way to end the day. But tomorrow will be one of the most physically challenging days of the trip so I decide to head to bed. Little do I know just how challenging it will be.