Jump to content

Blustery ride in the Sierras


Recommended Posts

After having a grumpy day at work Friday I was looking forward to a ride in the mountains Saturday. I was so much in the mood to ride that I woke up several hours before my alarm clock again. I wish I could sleep before exciting rides but I seldom can.


The ride was Gary’s (ghan) idea, California Highway 108 over Sonora Pass, 395, 89 over Monitor Pass and 4 Ebbetts Pass. It is a familiar ride but well worth doing anytime.


Gary and I met a cool guy John on a Honda ST1100 once and he was also along. The three of us met in Oakdale under threatening skies.


It’s odd how predictable the folks on this discussion board are about certain things. One such predictability is how long it takes to get a group of riders going. It’s related to the number of riders of course. Two riders from the board take only brief pauses before getting on with the ride, three riders are allowed “a good long pause”. It’s all in the rulebook. John being a Honda guy apparently didn’t know the rules. By my riding clock we spent way too long jabbering before things got going. I didn’t know it at the time but this would be the first of many differences I had with John, a couple of them serious.


Riding Sonora pass eastward early in the riding day is my preference by far. Taken this way the road gradually builds interest until a marvelous crescendo at the summit. It’s probably the congestion that builds up in the towns near the bottom of the road but I do not judge that ride to be nearly as interesting in the other direction.


By the time we were half way up to Sonora I was grooving again riding behind Gary. There is no comparing how I ride with talented riders, and how I ride the rest of the time. Riding with Gary is the best! I need the dynamic of riding with super smooth riders to ride my best and behind Gary I was working my bike better than I had in a year.


Near the Sonora Pass Ranger’s station where the state park begins I lost my riding rhythm. The change was sudden and surprising. And confusing. It was as if a fairy had touched me with a magic wand. I’m very respectful of my riding sixth sense so I dialed it back right then. John passed me. Now Gary was in front, then John and me. In a couple more miles I felt like I was riding a John Deere Tractor. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the turns. I wasn’t sport touring anymore. I was just riding and not very well. That made me awfully confused since I had been riding so well just a few miles before. I didn’t figure out what happened until I had been home for hours.


As we rode through the summit area Sonora was in full grandeur. Wow. Big wow. All day there were lots of people standing on the side of the roads taking in the fall color. There was a whopping crowd at the summit, 20+ cars. If you were there you’d have seen why. I’ve seen that pass many times and it looked as good as ever.


I fell off the pace Gary and John were riding. I hit a train of Gold Wings, most of them were two up in matching gear and most of them pulling matching trailers. There sure were a lot of them, maybe 20 bikes. Every time I see Wings I can’t believe that’s the way I used to ride. It is an honorable choice but it just isn’t me. Why did I do that? I was kind of nervous as I passed the caravan. I was just not shaking off what was bugging me.


I was riding slowly enough the other guys turned around and came back looking for me. I didn’t stop for them to turn around, so I was ahead. I bit later I passed a cop on the side of the road. I wondered if those guys would see him? Well, they didn’t and they were rewarded with a nice long chat with a super cool CHP as I waited nervously by myself at the next intersection. None the worse for the meeting, I mean without tickets for 78 in a 55, we continued.


I made a pass on a two-lane section of 395. There was no room for another bike to follow me but John did anyway! I have seen zero riders from the discussion board pull something like that. Ok, so maybe he didn’t get that one just right. I knew better but that was my Red Flag and I missed it.


It seemed like we were stopping all day. John wanted to stop at a certain spot for lunch in Walker. It seemed to take forever. As we dined a big group of bikes rode up, mostly Beemers. Well shoot, we had to chat with every darn one of them. One gent dangled his half full beer mug over his bike as he told me of his college frat days at Purdue and how he hit a couch in the road going 110 mph at night but didn’t even have to stop. Great.


Look, I have nothing against long lunches or beer when I’m not riding, but I didn’t have all day. I figured if I pulled out maybe we’d get this wagon train on the road again. No luck. I had to stop at the bottom of Monitor Pass for 10 more minutes before we had our blessed group of 3 together again. During that time I considered taking my own ride but one of the guys I was waiting for was one of my best riding partners so I didn’t.


My sixth sense was still screaming at me that something was wrong. I was listening but I didn’t know what to do. If I had understood the problem I’d have asked Gary to split off with me if he wanted and I’d have gone my own way.


The ride over Monitor Pass and over Ebbetts to Lake Alpine was the most beautiful ride of my life. The sky was absolutely stunning with dark clouds, sunshine, haze and rain in the distance, and screaming fall color was all over the hills. It was all so wonderful to see. Not coincidently Gary was in front of me and John was far behind. Also beautiful to experience was the way the road was perfectly dry, then shimmering wet, then dry again. The rain showers had painted the road in spectacular fashion. I rode with Gary as he’d crank it up on the dry sections and show perfect control as he smoothly slowed to the ideal speed for the wet sections. Following him was sublime.


If Heaven were not a place but a feeling, that half hour ride over Monitor would be it. I have never felt better on a motorcycle.


One time I cannot ride well enough to keep up with Gary is in tight twisties. I can’t match his smoothness. The weight and wheelbase of his KRS, which slows many riders in tight stuff, only makes him ride smoother.


Ebbetts was spectacular but with very tight turns of course, so after dropping back from Gary I started sightseeing. My Gerbing jacket was set to just the right temperature and the vistas were almost singing. Ebbetts is magical. My soul is completely at rest up there so I decided a year ago to have my ashes scattered up there. I’ll be dead so it probably won’t matter, but toss me over there anyway.


John passed me. I tried riding with him one more time and my brain finally started de-coding my difficulties. John was all over the road! I couldn’t comprehend a single thing he was doing. It was massively distracting. I’ll put it this way, he could get down the road fairly quickly but his style was ‘loose’ and about as different from Gary’s as it could have been. I decided not to ride behind him any longer. That was a screaming good decision but it was not the end of things as it should have been. I had one decision left to make: To not let John ride behind me either. I wish I had made that decision right then. I was running out of chances.


The ride from the 4/89 junction to Alpine Lake probably takes 45 minutes. It was gorgeous. Roads like that are why I sport tour. Knowing they are out there somewhere keeps me happy. I can ride a long way on uninteresting roads to get to something like CA 4 in the mountains.


One of these days I want someone that knows a lot about trees to show me around Ebbetts Pass. There are lots of things growing up there that are a treat for the eyes. I could say the same thing about the rocks. For rocks and trees the Sierras are hard to beat.


Coming down off Ebbetts there are some super cool sweepers. I was in front and John was behind me. John started doing a strange thing, up, back, up, back, up, back. And when I say up I mean right behind me in my tracks, then he’d drop pretty far back. It was annoying and distracting but at least I was seeing it every time. I still didn’t make the right decision though.


The mountain ride ended with the roller coaster hills just below Angels Camp. I like riding those roads but instead of having fun like Gary, John and I decided to make horse’s asses out of ourselves. I’m glad nothing horrible happened.


Gary made a pass and left several cars behind. I went. Things were a bit tighter than I thought they’d be. No problem. I picked out space to pull back in. WHAT!? I can’t pull back in because dingleberry is on my rear wheel again!? This was bad. Things were now REAL TIGHT. I remember only one thought, “I can’t pull in, he’ll get creamed.” I was sure if I pulled in there would be NO space for him in the face of oncoming cars. I reacted. I pinned the throttle when I would rather have been easing my bike in place. Otherwise, for the next few seconds I don’t know what happened. It occurred to me later that when I “reacted” I had only one thing on my mind, accelerating into a certain space. Nothing else registered, leaving the impression that several other things were “happening so fast”.


I may have passed another car, I may have pulled in anyway and tried to make space for John, a car may have done exactly the right thing and made room for us, or John may have done something to save his own bacon. As I said, it all seemed to happen so fast I don’t remember. We were lucky. We barely made it. There was NO margin for further error.


As the moment of decision passed along with a car or two going the other way, I cringed as I looked in my mirror and thought he might not be there anymore. He was there. Whew. There were half a dozen cars involved and they had to be certain the two of us looked like death defying IDIOTS. That folks, was a screw up.


That wasn’t the end of the nonsense either. A ways later I tried again to make room for him. Again, it was just a reaction as I’m embarrassed to say he surprised me again by popping up right on my taillight again. I won’t go into it but I startled a guy minding his own business in an SUV. I spooked him pretty good. That one made me mad at myself and I finally put an end to the over the road part of this and didn’t ride next to him anymore. I still didn’t understand how all my mistakes that day fit together. I must have spent six hours at home thinking about my mistakes until I understood that they all fit together.




I am a thankful guy after that ride. Monitor and Ebbetts were so spectacular they set a new standard of beauty for me. I am thankful to know someone like Gary, to share sport touring with him and to learn from him. Gary, you are the best.


I am thankful to John for pointing out my inadequacies. Really I am. I now know that riders around me have a direct effect on the way I’m riding. This is not as it should be. I will work on understanding this better and breaking this link when I should. Gary made the comment that when he’s in a similar situation, he concentrates on the road and doesn’t have trouble riding normally. I’m not there yet.


I will endeavor to keep the mistakes I made during that ride from ever happening again. I will now quickly recognize a rider that is unsafe/distracting and I will not share the road with him. I won’t ride behind a rider like that or in front of a rider like that. I will go my own way, immediately, whatever it costs me in terms of the rest of my ride.


I find it remarkable that I had not learned this lesson before this ride. But the truth is, I don’t ride with anyone but people that know what they’re doing. So much so that I didn’t have the experience to make a simple decision that I badly needed to make.


I am also thankful to the members of this forum. I’ve ridden with many here. It is amazing how well all of you ride, how considerate you are. I have yet to ride with even one person on this discussion board that has gotten in my way or ridden in an unsafe manner. That is remarkable and a very happy thing.


Lastly, John if you’re reading this, we won’t be riding together again. You are a good guy but I shouldn’t ride with you and you shouldn’t ride with me. I’m sure you’ll agree on that point, many happy miles to you.

Link to comment

Sounds like an exciting day, Cory. I was sorry I couldn't join you and Gary; now... Well, yeah. I still would've liked to. (And sorry for never responding to your email, Gary; I found myself in a perpetual state of "I really need to respond to Gary's message.)


On the other hand, Cory, perhaps it's best I wasn't with you. After all, I really get a kick out of regularly stopping to chat.



Link to comment
...perhaps it's best I wasn't with you. After all, I really get a kick out of regularly stopping to chat.
Greg, there's no doubt in my mind the day would have been better if you had let up a little on your law school studying and gone riding with us. I did some quick adding and I figure we stopped 10 times in 330 miles as a trio. Those are numbers that aren't consistent with sport touring at all. I figure if you were along we would have found a way to skip a couple of those stops.
Link to comment

Cory ...


A great tale. You made it back safe, saw some beautiful country and learned something. Overall, I would call that a rewarding day.

Link to comment

I love that picture! Gary's shot is taken from the road right next to the Monitor Pass 8,314 foot sign looking more or less westward.


Here is a springtime shot taken near where Gary took his photo. I got it off the web. This picture sure looks different than it did the other day. If you're a sport touring guy you gotta ask yourself: How fast would you go before that next hill? (And there's usually NO CARS IN SIGHT!)


Link to comment
If you're a sport touring guy you gotta ask yourself: How fast would you go before that next hill?


The last time I was up that way in July my GPS said 114. But since it was mounted on the RT, I suspect it was reading high. tongue.gif

Link to comment
And if you are on your F650 or GS you can take the little dirt road off to the North to a great spot for lunch.
You are one of those EVIL dirt ridin' dudes aren't you? That trail was part of my first and last dirt bike ride back in 1985.


At that time I worked in Minden, a town fairly nearby. My EVIL dirt ridin' boss talked me into borrowing a Honda 500 on road/off road bike and going with him and his friends on a 100 mile all terrain ride. Somewhere down that road you like I met my Waterloo. Going uphill was easy but I hit a 1/4 mile section of hard pan steep switchbacks and had no idea how to ride it. I crashed 11 times in that 1/4 mile. By the time I was at the bottom I was exhausted and certain that 2 wheels are for pavement. Dirt is for planting potatoes.


On one of those crashes I punched a hole in the crankcase of the borrowed bike. A few miles later the engine seized. I had so much fun that day.


I HATE dirt. I really do.

Link to comment
The last time I was up that way in July my GPS said 114.
Tim, you are a speed demon. I'm damn glad to know you.


I've never liked the way my RT runs over 105 mph. I'm not fond of the gearing for 5th or 6th gear. 5th is too short on the 1150 and 6th is too tall for the modest horsepower, so I seldom go faster than that. My RT in 6th gear over 105 mph feels like it is way short of power. That's the only time the power of the RT bothers me. Now a K1200RS at that speed? THAT'S a whole different story.


I know your bike is an 1150 but I imagine the gearing of the 1100RT is better. My impression is people love going 114 on those.

Link to comment

The last time I was up that way in July my GPS said 114. But since it was mounted on the RT, I suspect it was reading high. tongue.gif


Mmmm 114? Time to shift outa 4th gear.


Cory, thanks for the write up, you have a gift for word images. Even though I was there with you, reading your ride tale was like doing the ride again through fresh eyes.


I think that loop is now my all time favorite and I hope to make it a regular ride much more often. There is something so special about the air, the smell, and the almost endless curves of every variety. But next time we'll just stop like normal - gas, food and the emergency bladder drain.


I wish for you the day had been less complicated. I hate that you had to think about someone else's riding when we were in such a beautiful place to ride.

I count that as my fault. Like I said before I had ridden with John once before, but he spent the whole morning behind me. That was on Labor day weekend with maximum enforcement out on the roads and we stuck to just 10 over even in the remote areas and the ride was short enough we only stopped twice. I guess you just never really know how someone will behave when you get into tighter quarters in traffic.


It was a lesson for both of us, one I don't wish to repeat.


I will say that when John passed us both I had slowed way down thinking he was going to pull along side of me to signal he needed to stop and clean off his camera lens. He signaled with the palm upward like "why are you going so slow?" and rushed off ahead of me. At first I just let him go to get some distance between us. Then I let the little tourque monster out of her cage and caught up in no time. I do recall that at first his pace and lines seemed a bit erratic and he seemed to be really manhandling that Honder through the turns. But I just focused back on the road and rode my own ride ignoring his style.


I plan on emailing him and get a discussion going on his group riding/passing technique. I hope he is open to constructive criticism and will try to improve. But in the end it may be his judgement that needs to change and ego might get in the way.

Link to comment

Here is another shot of that same location that I took on our way back from the Beamer Bash last month. How do you embed the photo with the text instead of making it an attachment? Tony


Link to comment
Another view of Monitor pass looking east on last years 3rd annual Sierra fall colors tour.




This picture reminds me of one of those movies where everything is in black and white... and then to punctuate a particular dramatic point, there's the orange helmet....

Link to comment

Gary, that's the best KRS photo ever! First place! (The one on Ebbetts that shows half your bike.)


Centered, not stretched, it makes a perfect background for Windows. thumbsup.gif

Link to comment
Sierra Smokey
I love that picture! Gary's shot is taken from the road right next to the Monitor Pass 8,314 foot sign looking more or less westward.


Here is a springtime shot taken near where Gary took his photo. I got it off the web. This picture sure looks different than it did the other day. If you're a sport touring guy you gotta ask yourself: How fast would you go before that next hill? (And there's usually NO CARS IN SIGHT!)



I love that straight stretch! I've ridden Monitor Pass several times each and every summer for the last ten years. It's hands down my favorite road to ride around home. Monitor is best ridden from SR-4 to US-395 (IMHO). I was just up there on my RT yesterday. Great day for a ride! It was about 65F up at the top, no wind, and NO CARS clap.gif!


I nail the gas every time I hit that straight stretch. You just gotta be careful... Smokey might be hiding up there grin.gif!

Link to comment

Sierra, we talked about you at lunch on this ride. We were so thankful that the CHP that stopped the other two guys gave them warnings instead of tickets. We wondered if that was you. Probably not, but the guy was so cool we thought for awhile it WAS you. Next time you should go with us.


Why don't you stop by the Placerville Tech Day Saturday and introduce yourself? And don't say you're working agian grin.gif.


How about that? Small world.

Link to comment


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...