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Somewhere on CA. Highway 139

Somewhere between Bieber and Sheepshead on CA. Highway 139, you’ll find yourself in the middle of nowhere.

Add to that being kissed with semi-warm September sunshine and you’d be in a place that many of us on motorcycles call happiness.

Sure we could set the cruise control on Interstate 5, but the fun ride to Reno, Nevada for the fall Street Vibrations Rally is coincidently also the shortest route leaving Portland to Eugene (Hwy 58) to Klamath Falls then on OR39 which becomes CA139 through much of the Modoc National Forest and Tule Lake to US 395 into Reno.

Interestingly, OR39 runs through the mixed-up little town of Hatfield.  The California map says it’s in California and the Oregon map says it straddles the state line, which at least in practice, it does.  The actual location of the state line is a bit confused, because Hatfield is an unincorporated community in both Siskiyou County, California, and Klamath County, Oregon.  At any rate, the junction of Oregon Route 39, California State Route 161, and California State Route 139; all three routes terminate at a four-way junction in the community.

If you live in the Northwest you know that the Oregon summer ends and autumn starts for many motorcycle enthusiasts by making the pilgrimage to the 25th annual Street Vibrations Rally.  It’s often the last nice weather ride of the season.  Nothing replaces wind in the face on the Harley-Davidson, a playlist with heavy bass, and a distant horizon when needing a little adventure.  Some may argue that the make and model of the motorcycle doesn’t matter, that the joy comes solely from the open road—frankly, they’re right.

Street Vibrations officially closed on Sunday.  Over five thousand people were expected to attend the multi-day event and from my vantage the number of riders in town for the celebration exceeded that estimate.  There were over 250 vendors with motorcycle gear, food stalls and six stages of great live music!  Most notable was Heartless—a tribute to Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart and they delivered the sound and spirit of the sisters classic rock-n-roll songs.   Video snippet below:

 

On Friday we rumbled along the 26-mile route from Reno to Virginia City—called Geiger Grade Road—with thousands of other riders who cruised into the historic mining town.  The route offers several curves along a cliff side and views of rolling hills with sagebrush to the pine tree-covered mountains.  It’s a thrilling experience, but the road routinely catches riders off guard and can become an accident quickly.

We soaked up the 81°F day and continued riding the loop to Carson City Harley-Davidson for more motorcycle accessories, themed art, crafts, apparel, music and ended the day back through the Carson (“wind tunnel”) Valley.  Mainstream meteorology suggests that “windy” conditions are anything sustained above 15 miles per hour, but we joked later that our helmets began inflicting what felt like a wind concussion on that segment of the ride.

I-5 Return Route With Cold, Rain and Wind

Speaking of navigating hazards… they are part of everyday life for motorcycle riders—we’re experienced riders, and typically get the local weather forecast before riding. If extreme temperatures are predicted, we might consider a different route and/or a different departure day if it’s practical. It was clear from Friday’s weather reports we’d be riding through less-than-ideal conditions—read MUCH COLDER and wet.  What?  Rain at Street Vibrations!  We enjoyed the 80°F temperatures  Wednesday through Friday, but now fast-moving storm along with a freeze watch was in effect with heavy rain expected Saturday mid-morning and all day Sunday.  In addition, the Oregon passes would receive snow down to 3500 feet and we had at least two major mountain passes to traverse above that altitude.

Postponing our departure wasn’t an option so, we opted to end the festivities early and leave on Saturday and avoid the worst of the early winter storm.

Estimating wind chill is a complex calculation involving ambient temperature and wind speed.  It goes something like:

Temperature’s Influence = ( ( Predicted High Temperature – ( Temperature Base = Your Minimum Acceptable Temperature – ( Predicted High Temperature – Your Minimum Acceptable Temperature ) ) ) / ( Your Ideal Temperature – Temperature Base ) ) * 100 then factor in Wind’s Influence = ( ( Low, High and Gust Wind Speeds Averaged – Your Minimum Threshold For What’s “Windy” ) / ( Your Minimum For What’s “Hazardous” – Your Minimum For What’s “Windy” ) ) * 100 and finally there’s Precipitation Influence, Minimum Visibility and the wildcard algorithm of Road Conditions.  When in doubt always multiple by 100!

If you tracked all that, then you’ve likely developed a customizable motorcycle weather application for the iPhone and already talking a “deal” with the motor company.  I’m not a mathematics wiz, but I know for a fact that warm and comfortable riders have more fun!  Thirty minutes outside of Reno did not fail to disappoint—bringing heavy black clouds, cold torrential rain, hail showers along with snow on the higher elevations of the Plumas Mountain Range.

Riding in the rain doesn’t make me unique—it’s one of the things you do on the road.  Motorcyclist spend the money on riding gear with features or materials to keep warm(ER) and dry.  But, very cold temperatures and the first major rain of the year in Nevada means the oil rises to the top of the highway in a soapy like mess and combined together makes a person go from “Get your motor running” to “Sux2BU” pretty quick.

No one thought we were “cupcakes” just because we didn’t want to ride in the cold/rain/snow.  Fortunately Harley’s heated gear has gotten far more user-friendly over the last ten years and we pressed through the worst of the weather for 560 miles and now have another story to tell.

Arrest Stats for 2019 Street Vibrations.

Photos take by author.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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I’m talking about the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe who are the native people of Death Valley.

Death Valley

Destination: Death Valley

With multiple weeks of nice weather, our posse departed Portland, Oregon early morning on September 17th with a cold front and threat of rain and the occasional spit of rain drops in the face. We haplessly listened to the V-Twin’s drone on as we traveled east on Interstate 84 for 426 miles.

Long delay due to overturned semi on I-84

Long delay caused by an overturned Concrete semi on I-84

We arrived in Boise late afternoon which was hosting Oktoberfest in the Basque Block part of the vibrant downtown!  We enjoyed some island fare and refreshments on the rooftop tiki patio at The Reef.  Crowds gathered in the closed off streets for authentic German biers, food and of course the occasional chicken dance.  And in what has to be one of the best Idaho cover bands — Pilot Error — rocked the crowd most of the evening.  Here is a video of the band doing a Def Leppard cover with Derek Roy as lead vocal and the awesome Roger Witt – on lead guitar.

As the evening wore on it seemed filled with young college kids who were trying hard to “be” the club scene.  Like those videos produced by I’m Shmacked.

Idaho Basin

Snake River and Great Basin area

The next morning was a continuation east on the mind-numbing straight road of Interstate 84. However, we really clicked off the miles to Twin Falls doing the freeway speed limit which is now set at 80 mph!  We rolled along and were surprised by how many 18-wheelers tried to pass us.

As a side bar, you might recall that in the mid-1970s, Congress established a national maximum speed limit by withholding highway funds from states that maintained speed limits greater than 55 mph. Do you remember the “I can’t drive 55” days?  The requirement was loosened for rural interstates in 1987 and completely repealed in 1995. As of today, 41 states have speed limits of 70 mph or higher. Oregon state legislators who seem to know more than the average citizen about how to protect us from ourselves just recently increased some rural interstate speeds to 70 mph.  Texas is the fastest at 85 mph.

Idaho

In route to Ely, NV

But I’ve digressed.  This part of our arid motorcycle journey took us on the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway which runs through the Snake River Canyon. We rode through bright green irrigated fields, crossed the Snake River, saw a waterfall spilling from the top of a high bluff, and watched windmills turning in the stiff wind.  As we headed further south on U.S. Route 93 we split the Great Basin that covers most of Nevada and part of Utah. There were mountains to the East and West, and the traffic thinned to an occasional tractor-trailer hauling freight or cattle.

Our ride ended that day in Ely, Nevada, which was founded as a stagecoach stop along the Pony Express, and later became a booming copper mining town.

We parked the bikes and enjoyed a nice dinner at the La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant.

On the Lonliest Road

On Nevada’s Loneliest Road

The following day we were up early and continued our ride south on one of Nevada’s loneliest roads.  I’m not sure about you, but I find the Nevada desert to be immensely beautiful and awe-inspiring. Even though most of the roads are flat and straight, the scenery is grand and I always enjoy the ride.

Just a few miles south of Ely is a turnoff for the Ward Charcoal ovens.  We didn’t travel down the eight miles of gravel road, but there are beehive-shaped stone kilns built by Mormons around 1876 to produce fuel for the silver and lead smelters serving the mines on Ward Mountain.  As you look across the valley at the Big Basin National Park, there is the 13,000 foot Wheeler Peak standing off in the distant.

More Lonely Road...

More Lonely Road…

We traveled the mostly straight 240+ miles and finally rolled into North Las Vegas and could see the skyline of the famous Las Vegas strip.  Speaking of the city that never sleeps, our posse picked up a lot of traffic at the U.S. 93/I-15 interchange and were immediately greeted with a dude on a sport bike weaving in and out of lanes.  Then adding to the traffic drama he started to split lanes at full on freeway speeds.

I must have missed that part of the training about how motorcyclists should always make sudden moves in heavy traffic!  Most people who’ve had any experience driving in and around Vegas know that it can be a bit treacherous. Cages with locals that always seem to be in a hurry and cabbies are out in force all day and night driving fast and cutting across multiple lanes.  Add to that the tourists trying to navigate a new city on the freeways and it’s a perfect storm of distracted drivers.

After all the traffic hustle and bustle I was looking forward to parking the bike for awhile and relaxing around the pool for a day.  That evening we took on the “clickers” (i.e. porn panderers) who stand on every corner of the Strip and aggressively try to shove advertisements for adult entertainment in your face.

Selfie

Departing Las Vegas

Don’t take me wrong, Las Vegas has world-class restaurants, cool bars, amazing entertainment and great weather, but after a couple of days of breathing air freshener the casinos pump into their ventilation systems to mask the reeking of camels, cigarillos, cigars and those slot machines going ding-ding-ding… I’m ready for some fresh air and wind in the face!

We did have an opportunity to walk through the sprawling Harley-Davidson dealer across from the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign.  We checked out the new Milwaukee Eight touring bikes and spent some time chatting with a knowledgeable sales person about the 2017 differences.


It wasn’t too long (about 48 hours) and Las Vegas was in our mirrors as we rode out into the desert on Hwy 160.  We departed the city early so that we could tour through Death Valley before it got too hot.  It was still in the high-70 degree range as we departed.  We increased altitude going through Red Rock Canyon National Park toward Pahrump as the desert landscape morphs from sandy, rocky terrain dotted with low brush and creosote bushes.  Big stratified rock formations and hills define the valleys in the distance, closing in on the road periodically before opening up to a wide expanse of flat desert floor. It’s a wonderland of muted color.
Rearward pic

Looking back on Hwy 190

We fueled up in Pahrump which is an interesting town.  Like in the rest of Nevada, gambling is legal in Pahrump, and there are several casinos to take advantage of that fact. But, unlike Las Vegas, the casinos in Pahrump are present but not dominant. They’re smaller and a little less intimidating.  There might be some wisdom in staying overnight in Pahrump instead of the hectic scene in Vegas. Certainly the traffic situation would be a lot less stressful.

At the Death Valley junction we turned west on Hwy 190 and headed for Furnace Creek where the Native American tribe known as the Death Valley Timbisha Shoshone Band of California are located.

Initially it was was quite comfortable, but as we descended into the valley it felt like someone was turning up an oven.  It was still early and the temps were in the high 80’s but by the time we stopped in Furnace Creek it was 100 degrees.  Surprisingly hot for the end of September, but the scenery is spectacular!

Death Valley

Death Valley – Timbisha Shoshone Tribe

It’s some of the best “landscape” on the planet that looks a bit like you’ve arrived on Mars. There’s nothing growing out there higher than your knee yet it will be forever etched in your memory as not just one of the greatest motorcycle rides ever but one of the most beautiful.  At one place in the park you can look down at one of the lowest points on earth at -280 feet in one direction and up to the highest point in the continental U.S. in another (Mt. Whitney, at 14,494).  It’s an amazing color contrast.

Existing Death Valley

Exiting Death Valley

We scurried on out of the national park and headed toward Mammoth Lakes on Hwy 395.  The first real town you come to is Lone Pine. In the early to mid 20th century, the area around Lone Pine, particularly the Alabama Hills, which lie between the highway and the Sierra range, was a popular setting for western movies.  Just west of town you’ll get another nice view of Mt. Whitney.

By the time we rode through the Inyo National Forest the desert heat had faded and we were getting hit with cooler air.  Much, much cooler as we gained altitude and it started to spit rain drops.  Not enough to soak the road or require rain gear, but enough to make it a bit uncomfortable.  Our ride on this day ended at Mammoth Lakes which is a ski and outdoor-sports town.

Heading up toward Mammoth Lakes

Heading up toward Mammoth Lakes

Surprisingly it rained most of the night, but the sky cleared up in the early morning and we departed Mammoth Lakes with the temperature only in the high 40’s.  A brisk start to our riding day as we continued north on Hwy 395 on the eastern side of the Sierra’s.  We rode around Mono Lake, and we climbed to another 8100-foot ridge, which offers a great view back to the Mono basin before starting back down past the turn-off for Bodie.

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

The last real town before your reach Nevada is Bridgeport.  We stopped at the Bridgeport Inn, for breakfast.  A nice place built in 1877 and about 23 miles from Mono Lake.  It’s a family run historic period Victorian hotel, old Irish pub, and fine dining restaurant.  After warming up a bit we continue our ride and crossed into Nevada about 50 miles after Bridgeport. Aptly named Topaz Lake covers the state line next to the highway as you cross.

We arrived in Reno for the start of Street Vibrations 2016. Downtown was rumbling with motorcycles of all shapes and sizes for the fall rally which marks the last big motorcycle rally of the season for the west. There was no shortage of vendors and having been to the event a number of times we repeated some of the events over a couple of days.

The Posse

The Destination: Timbisha Indian Country Posse

Part of the posse departed early Saturday morning and some headed out late morning to return back to Portland.  I’m not sure about you, but I don’t take many photos on the return trip from Reno as I’ve been on these roads a lot over the years and just focused on riding home vs. scenery.


In summary, we traveled over 2100 miles in 8 days with no mishaps, tickets or mechanical malfunctions. What more can you ask for?

 

Street Vibrations UPDATE:  There was some disappointing  news surrounding Street Vibrations which I learned of upon my return.  Jeffrey Sterling Duke, 57, of Georgetown, Calif. was shot to death on Interstate 80 near Truckee on Saturday night.  According to law enforcement he was semi-associated with the Vagos Motorcycle Club and his Facebook page noted that he was a Green Nation Supporter.

According to officials three motorcyclists rode up to the victim and fired multiple gunshots before taking off.  It’s not clear if this shooting is associated, but you might recall that five years ago this past weekend, members of the Vagos and Hells Angels Motorcycle Clubs exchanged gunfire during a deadly brawl on the floor of a casino in Sparks.

Randy Burke (Road Shows) applies some media “spin” and explains why the Street Vibrations Rally is not to be blamed for the shooting.

Photos taken by author.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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People mingle and line C Street in Virginia City to watch the Street Vibrations scene

Large crowds mingle and line C Street in Virginia City to watch the motorcycle scene

In Reno, the weather was a bit cooler and the crowds were a little smaller, but that was just fine for most of the motorcyclists who made the trip to the 2013 Street Vibrations Rally this past weekend.

Street Vibrations manager Randy Burke, put the attendee estimates around 30,000.  

The vendor space expanded this year in downtown Reno as all vendors, including those at the Nugget, were consolidated in downtown Reno.  That was a good change especially if you stayed downtown.  You might recall that in 2012, the Nugget moved vendors off Victorian Avenue and into a gated parking lot west of the hotel.  

The Street Vibrations crowd was ‘huge’ in Virginia City where hundreds lined C Street to watch the motorcycles roll through, grab some food/refreshments and toss around some beads.  In addition, the Harley-Davidson dealer in Carson City took over several blocks with music, vendors, a beer garden, motorcycle stunt performers and lots of chrome and leather.

Street Vibrations brings in an estimated $56M economic impact to the region, just slightly behind the USBC Women’s Championships ($62.9M).  

Clearly people who are enjoying themselves in the Biggest Little City is good for business.  

Unfortunately, the one downside with the big increase in the number of motorcycles in the area was one motorcyclist fatality in Reno and 4 others hurt in crashes in Carson and at Tahoe. 

Note: as a result of the 2011 club-on-club shooting (HERE), the city continued with the “No Colors” rule.  Individuals who displayed club colors (as defined by the US Department of Justice) at Street Vibrations venues and participating sponsor properties were asked to conceal them or exit the event.

Previous blog posts on Street Vibrations (HERE).

Photo courtesy of Ben.

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Virginia Street during Street Vibrations – Note LEO’s on Parking Garage

Gas prices were higher than in the movie, but Reno always takes advantage of special events that go on through-out the summer and none of them are bigger than Street Vibrations which brings in motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the world.

This year was no exception as the warmer than normal riding weather meant tens of thousands of people turned out for the 18th annual event and they were looking to spend their money!

Over the last 11+ years I think I’ve missed the Street Vibrations Rally only once.  The event typically marks the last long ride of the season for our posse.  The rain and cold winter weather will quickly kick in and last for several months limiting trips to the few dry riding days.  I’ve seen the event evolve over the years.  Some of the changes were not well received (see HERE) to say the least.  In 2010 there was club-on-club taunting during the day on the Virginia Street sidewalks (see HERE).  And then last year someone “pee’d in the pool” so’s to speak with that Sparks shootout.

Now for the first time ever visitors are not allowed to wear patches.  In fact, Roadshows Inc., the event managers for Street Vibrations, has a provision in its “Exhibit Space Contract” for this rally that “No club colors may be worn or sold in vendor booths.”   This is similar to the Laughlin River Run riot ten years ago and the changes implemented there after the biker club brawl.  And just as I predicted last year the Street Vibrations Rally is now a ‘No Colors’ event and will be going forward.

Carson City Harley-Davidson

For those of you new to the blog…the  ban on motorcycle club insignia was the result of the shootout between members of the Vagos and Hells Angels Motorcycle Clubs inside John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino in Sparks.  Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew, the President of the San Jose charter of the HAMC died of wounds he suffered in the fight.  The Vagos, Leonard Ramirez and Diego Garcia were also shot. Two others, Vago Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez and Hells Angel Cesar Villagrana are awaiting trial for participating in the fight. Gonzalez is accused of killing Pettigrew and Villagrana is accused of shooting Ramirez and Garcia.  It’s been reported that former Vago Stuart Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick, actually started the fight with Pettigrew and he has agreed to cooperate with the prosecution of Gonzalez and Villagrana and is now free.

But, the above carnage is old news.

This year there was a noticeable increase in law enforcement presence in and around the various venues for Street Vibrations. The “no colors” policy and signage were highly visible and hotel security was clearly beefed up.  I visited left money in several of the casinos and observed a few club members wearing “soft” colors in a couple of the casinos, but it was fairly limited.  One item most noticeably missing at this year’s motorcycle newly labeled “family friendly event”… was the typical large contingent (30+) of HAMC members bristling and posturing in and around the Silver Legacy Casino bar at the foot of the antique mining rig set.

Street Vibrations is the second largest motorcycle rally in the west.  It’s the fourth largest event in the nation and includes activities in multiple locations in Reno, Sparks, Carson City and Virginia City, Nevada.  And as you might expect with any large motorcycle gathering it increases the opportunity for accidents and other issues to occur.  And there were plenty.

Street Scene at Street Vibrations 2012

There were fewer crashes, but more than twice the number of arrests than last year.  For 2012 there was a total of 65 crashes investigated in the greater Reno-Sparks area. Of the 65 crashes, 25 resulted in some type of reported injury and the remaining 40 were reported as property damage only. These numbers are down from last year’s 84 crashes with 49 property and 35 injury.  However, this year there were 54 motorists arrested during the Rally period with 27 motorists arrested for DUI and the other 26 related to warrants, misdemeanor or felony arrest. These numbers were up from last year’s 23 arrests which were 16 for DUI and 7 related to warrants, misdemeanor or felony arrests.  There was one motorcycle fatality crash on Plumb Lane Sunday morning that reportedly was the result of a truck running a red light.  The 2011 stats HERE and 2010 stats are HERE.

I want to provide a big shout-out to Richard Tapia, the Carson City Harley-Davidson dealership owner.  The “Carson Event” in my viewpoint is really setting the tone and direction of where the event is heading as part of the area-wide Street Vibrations motorcycle festival.  There were more of the big vendors like you’ll find in Sturgis along with the big vendor trailers in Carson City.  Not to mention a bunch of activities aimed to wow the crowds.  Yes, the HAMC were very visible as part of the Cathouse Run, but so were the employees of the Cason City Sheriff’s office who were selling support your “black & white” t-shirts in a vendor booth in the parking lot.

Downtown Reno (Virginia Street) was a disappointment for me when compared to the Carson City event.  There were only a couple of what I’d consider to be tier-1 vendors on Virginia Street like Corbin Seats.  It was great to meet/chat with Mike Corbin.  Other than the food stalls many of the vendors were on par with a motorcycle parts swap meet.  Sparks was a lot better, but Carson City was top notch.  However, staying in downtown hotels at the greatly exaggerated prices means were paying for proximity and access.

The lack of high-quality vendors on Virginia Street might be a ploy driven by the casinos to keep people on the gambling tables, but in my view if the quality level of Virginia Street vendors don’t greatly improve folks (including me) will migrate out of downtown and this will become the Carson City Rally!

Photos taken by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Pumpkin Festival

I previously blogged about Street Vibrations and the club-on-club shooting in Sparks, NV last month at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino which left dead the HAMC San Jose Chapter President (Jeffrey Pettigrew).

We now have the first documented incident of how the HAMC and Vagos violence has provoked a response from law enforcement in Manteca, CA which is about 75 miles east of San Francisco.

It happened at a Pumpkin Festival in “the family city.”  Yes a Pumpkin Festival.  Two members of the Bikers for Christ Motorcycle Ministry were asked to leave the street fair by the Manteca Police because they were wearing their motorcycle vest with ministry patches on the back. They were told it was due to the shooting in Sparks, NV.

Keep in mind that the Christian Motorcycle Ministry is a non-profit ministry.  Not a street gang, or are they really even a motorcycle club.   Their purpose is to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the biker world, a section of society,  that many have chosen not to associate with. The ministry has been operating for 21 years without problems.

Isn’t profiling against the law?  The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Cohen vs. California, 403 U.S.15 (1971) that individuals have the constitutional right under the First Amendment to wear clothing which displays writings or designs. In addition, the right of an individual to have freedom of association has long been recognized and protected by the Courts.

What’s next?  I suppose, motorcyclists will be asked to leave events because they are wearing a H.O.G. emblem on a vest or people wearing a Harley-Davidson t-shirt or one from their favorite Sons of Anarchy television show. I find this whole situation discouraging.

Photo taken by author in Hood River.

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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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