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Posts Tagged ‘Yosemite’

Sierra Nevada Mountain Range

It’s taken me much longer than typical to finish this post, but here is the summary of the Yosemite trip taken last month (August)…  Part 1 is HERE.

The next day (Tuesday, August 2nd) we departed Reno mid-morning and continued down Hwy 395 south.  Others in the posse were heading to Las Vegas and departed early to avoid the desert heat.  Our plan was to ride through Yosemite so there was no big rush.  In fact, after about 30 minutes we made a brief stop at the Carson City H-D dealer.  I was interested to see if they had any 2012 Road Glide models on display – they didn’t – and after some coffee we continue our meandering pace along the high-desert valley floor.  We crossed back over the state line into CA., near Topaz Lake. It was early but the fishing boats dotted the lake in what was likely an attempt to capture a trophy trout.

Mono Lake

Bridgeport was the first fuel stop of the morning and where we paid over $5-gallon.  It’s not highly visible, but Bridgeport hosts the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MCMWTC).  It’s one of the more remote and isolated military posts and conducts training exercises for military personnel headed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  The base is located about 21 miles from the city center on Hwy 108 at Pickle Meadow.

We grabbed lunch at the Burger Barn in Bridgeport.  It’s literally a mom and pop fast food restaurant cooking up some great food, and while there was a number of people ordering it was well worth the wait.  Afterward we continued south and it wasn’t long before we caught our first glimpse of Mono Lake.   “Mono” means “beautiful” in Piute and besides being an oasis in the great basin it is an awesome sight.  As we continued around Mono Lake we quickly climbed to another 8100-foot ridge where aspen forest dotted the landscape and then we started back down to the valley floor which sits about 6000 feet.

Tioga Pass Road (Hwy 120)

We continued to cruise down through the southern Sierra Mountain range which in my view is an awesome ride.  I drove much of this same route back in April (HERE) when our group decided to ride down to the Laughlin River Run.  I remember it being much colder and a lot of snow on the sides of the road.  This trip it was t-shirt/vest riding weather which made it a real treat.  As we rolled through Lee Vining, CA., I notice a motel at the edge of town with a vacancy sign and made a mental note.  We hadn’t decided if we were going to ride through the park toward Merced or back track to Reno.  Just outside of Lee Vining we took Hwy 120 (Tioga Pass Road).  The road is a constant climb and gains about 4000 feet in elevation.  We rode along the sweeping cliffs and granite lined road, and entered the park at Yosemite’s Tioga Pass which sits at 9,945-foot elevation. Tioga Pass is the highest automobile pass in California.  It’s a picture postcard view when you across a mountaintop and there are not many experiences like that in a lifetime.

Tioga Pass at 9,945 Ft Elevation

Once at the Tioga Pass checkpoint, it was time for a short break to stop, stretch out and snap a few tourist photos of the scenery. It was at this point of the ride where we started to notice the dramatic number of visitors, RVs, auto’s, horses and hikers. We trekked through the tree-lined roads and over the lazy curves and long straights of asphalt where you can actually see for miles well off into the distance that covers the remaining eastern portion of Yosemite Park, the cliffs, and gigantic jagged granite mountains were spectacular.

After about an hour of slow moving traffic we made a judgment call on where we wanted to look for a motel.  The concern was that if continued west we would be competing with more and more tourists for fewer motel rooms.  We elected to back track to Lee Vining with the hope of nailing down a room in the motel I observed earlier in the day. Heading back in reverse direction actually paid dividends because traffic was lighter and most everything looked different.  The 4000 feet ride down had a much different feel.  Needless to say, you don’t want to misjudge any of these curves especially when the motorcycle gains speed heading downhill. There were some straight stretches of roadway along with “S-curves” thrown in, and where a sheer cliff drop-off of some 2,000 feet straight down awaited anyone who misjudged the road.

Tioga Lake

This part of the ride went by quickly as we wound up at the base of highway 395.  We pulled into the motel and lucked out getting the last remaining room at Murphey’s Motel.  It’s a bit older, but was very comfy considering the alternative of riding back to Bridgeport or Carson City.

We grabbed dinner Bodie Mike’s.  The weather was good and they had a nice outside dining area.  The pulled pork was good and the Corona’s were cold.  The next morning we grabbed some breakfast at Nicely’s and then headed back to Reno where we met up with another part of the group who had arrived the night before. We hit the Silver Legacy pool and mapped out our destination for the return trip home.

The next morning we were up early for breakfast with members of the posse and laid out plans for our route to Susanville.  We planned to take CA-44 through Lassen National Forest and then head up toward Old Station and then take CA-89 toward the town of Mount Shasta.

Mt. Shasta

I like riding this route. The road is good and traffic is always moving briskly for a two-lane road.   It has a varied and interesting scenery.  About 60 miles south of Mount Shasta there was a forest fire back in 2009 that left the area looking like a moonscape.  It was the Hat Creek Complex.  More photos HERE.  We rolled into Mount Shasta, got some fuel and then headed to Weed, CA., where we spent the night.  Across the street from the Quality Inn was a little BBQ joint that had some excellent brisket.

Klamath Lake

The next morning we took U.S. Route 97 north to Klamath Falls.  Weed, CA., has an elevation over 3000’, but there are sections in California that is above 5,000 feet in elevation with a couple significant summits. We passed over Grass Lake Summit and about 30 miles into the trip we passed over Mount Hebron Summit which sits about 5,200 feet.  The entire part of the California portion of U.S. Route 97 is part of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway which is an awesome road to ride.  We continued past Klamath Falls and Crater Lake Park.  We headed west on Hwy 58 which is sometimes called Willamette Highway No. 18.  As we headed further into the mountains we climbed up and over the summit of Willamette Pass and stopped in Oakridge.  There are two scenic byways—the West Cascades Scenic Byway and the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway which intersect with OR 58 and are great roads to ride.

Hwy 58 - Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway

We arrived home a week later and given the easy number of miles we felt rested having the experience of traveling on a motorcycle through the Sierra Nevada high-desert and the elevated Yosemite park setting.  Of the bike trips that I have been on, and there have been many, the Highway 395 and Yosemite/Tioga Pass ride has to be one of the more incredible stretches of road with incredible scenery to travel.

Photos taken by author on the trip.

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Hwy 101 and Redwood Collage

Like many of you I’m accustomed to the routines in life and when August rolls around I’m often thinking about a ride east to immerse myself in all things Sturgis.

Not this year.

This year success would be defined as a slow and meandering journey, not a specific destination. Sure our group had a general idea about riding the pacific coast highway down to the Redwoods and then over to the Sierra Nevada mountains to Yosemite.  But it was left fairly open ended.   There was some thought to traversing back over through Death Valley and then returning to Oregon via the eastern side of the state and what follows is a brief summary of the ride:

Portland to Coos Bay
Oregon offers an incredible diversity of motorcycle road scenery. The state is blessed with hundreds of miles of Pacific Coast shoreline, countless miles of arid canyon and twisted mountain road riding, vast stretches of alpine mountain roads, and some of the most appealing cities in the world.  But we wanted to get to California and took I-5 south to Oregon Route 38.

Highway 38 runs between Interstate 5 near the communities of Curtin to the city of Reedsport on the Oregon Coast.  It’s also known as the Umpqua Highway because the western portions of the road run alongside the Umpqua River.  The road runs by the Dean Creek Wildlife Area, which provides overlooks for viewing regional wildlife and continues on passing through the Elk Creek Tunnel Forest State Scenic Corridor.

We were riding an easy pace and overnighted at Coos Bay.  The next morning we rode down the beautiful coastline on Hwy 101 to the awe inspiring redwood groves.  The road winds along the coast and we fortunately avoided any measurable rain.  Certainly cooler temperatures with the occasional whiff of mist, but very good riding.  The group even took some time for the odd tourist attraction along the way — Ride Through A Redwood Tree — that make this area well known.  Shortly afterward we were on the “Avenue of the Giants” which is well marked and parallels Hwy 101 for about 35 miles.  We stopped at the Forest Service visitor center and took in these amazing works of nature.

With two easy days under our belt we overnighted in Fortuna and made plans to ride NorCal’s ultimate motorcycle ride — Highway 36!  This road is why you own a motorcycle.

California SR 36

140 miles of S-Turns (Fortuna to RedBluff) — Hwy 36 (SR 36) begins in Fortuna at an interchange with Hwy 101. After going through the community of Alton, Hwy 36 continues east through the city of Hydesville. The road continues through Carlotta before paralleling the Van Duzen River all the way to the town of Bridgeville.  We stopped in the community of Mad River which has a small general store, a tiny burger joint built into an old camper or RV, and a gas pump that approached $6/gallon.  We all got off the motorcycle and discussed the unusual nature of Hwy 36 and how it can catch you off guard.

One minute you’re rolling along enjoying the marvel of paved engineering, the next minute you’re working to navigate a narrow section with no center line and massively tall trees which are literally in the road.

Arrival in Reno

The pavement is bumpy and constantly changing, despite some attempts at repaving.   You can ride through the area at a good, but slow speed as there are a lot of  S-curves, tight hairpins, blind corners, and even some swoopy drop offs where the road just falls out from underneath you where even a heavy cruiser seems to get air.  As quickly as it started Hwy 36 opens back up to its wider two lane as if that narrow section never happened.

In general there were few trucks or zaney vacationers on Hwy 36 trying to run us off the road so it was an enjoyable experience.  As we dropped down into the Central Valley the temperatures rapidly shot upward and we decided to grab some lunch in Red Bluff.
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Highway 36 heads eastbound out of the Central Valley  to Lassen Volcanic National Monument and over to Susanville.  It’s nothing to get excited about and while a good road it’s nothing more than a main highway from point A to point B road.  We filled up with fuel in Susanville and headed to Reno where we overnighted.
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More Miles and Smiles – Part 2 HERE.

Map courtesy Google.  Photo’s taken by author.
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At The 70th Sturgis Rally

Can you feel it?  It’s in the air. The annual Sturgis celebration (Black Hills Motorcycle Rally) is in full force.

Every year, about this time I get a lot of hits on the blog from previous Sturgis articles I’ve written.  Especially the 2008 article about the first shooting in 20 years between the Iron Pigs and HAMC.

Last year I went to the 70th Rally (blogged it HERE) and raved about the music (except Dylan), the food, the rides and, of course, the people.  I took it all in, and enjoyed every minute of it. Was it my best Sturgis ever?  I don’t know what the future holds, but it was pretty good.

This year had all the makings of being a major contender, but reports of the legal action surrounding the Rally trademarks and who can sell (legally) t-shirts with the name “Sturgis” along with reports about the economy has put clouds over the event.  Some motorcyclists have suggested that the core H-D customer has gotten older, sold their motorcycles and become tired of the event.  Some veteran riders have complained the Sturgis rally has lost its outlaw edge, attracting too many bankers and lawyers with top-of-the-line $30K+ Harley-Davidsons and not enough old-fashioned hard-core bikers.

I won’t argue that the meaning and appeal of motorcycle rallies change as you get older, but I’m thinking it’s neither the economy, trademark disputes or aging demographics.  Maybe Sturgis has just got…. OLD?!

The event has largely remain unchanged for the last 10+ years.  There are some who look forward to the Sturgis routine. They are the same people who return to the same spot year after year. They take the same riding routes.  It never gets old.

However, there are no easy dollars anymore especially in this new economy and it makes me wonder if there is still a place for bloated, over-commercialized rallies?  Many would argue yes.

I won’t be immersing myself in all things Sturgis this year.  I elected to spend the time and $$ riding down Hwy 101 along the pacific coast range through the Redwoods and then over to the Sierra Nevada mountains and through Yosemite.  That’s why I’ve been off line for the past couple weeks.  It was time to ride, but I gave South Dakota a break.

How about you.  Why didn’t you attend the mother of all rallies this year?

UPDATED: August 11, 2011 – Another item which seems to remain consistent year-over-year at the rally are the stats.  The South Dakota Highway Patrol logged the following incidents during the Sturgis motorcycle rally as of 6 a.m. Thursday:

• DUI arrests: 151 (Sturgis 140, Rapid City 8, Southern Hills 2, Badlands 1)
• Misdemeanor drug arrests: 96 (Sturgis 69, Rapid City 17, Southern Hills 10)
• Felony drug arrests: 36 (Sturgis 19, Rapid City 13, Southern Hills 4)
• Other felony arrests 1 (Southern Hills)
• Total citations: 834 (Sturgis 503, Rapid City 176, Southern Hills 89, Badlands 66)
• Cash seized: $1,853 (Rapid City)
• Concealed weapons arrests: 6 (Sturgis)
• Vehicles seized: 5 (Sturgis 2, Rapid City 3)
• Injury accidents: 64 (Sturgis 33, Rapid City 14, Southern Hills 13, Badlands 4)
• Fatal accidents: 2 (Sturgis)

Photo taken at 70th Sturgis Rally

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