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 Groundhog Day Ride
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scottrnelson
Advanced Member
6890 Posts
[Mentor]


Pleasanton, CA
USA

KTM

990 Adv, XR650L

Posted - 02/03/2013 :  4:46 PM                       Like
Okay, this ride had nothing whatsoever to do with groundhog day other than being on February 2nd. How did groundhog day get to be a recognized "holiday" anyway?

A local Bay Area motorcycle forum was having a memorial event in memory of riders who have passed on. Out of 46,000+ forum members, about 40 are no longer with us in this life. About half of those in motorcycle-related incidents, the rest due to other causes. People came from as far south as Morgan Hill, as far west as Santa Cruz, and as far north/east as Folsom. The event was held in a park in Hayward.

I had decided that it was an event worth attending and would be a good excuse to get another long ride in. I already knew the routes I wanted to take to get there and back, which involved as little freeway as possible. It's about 120 miles the most direct way, but my route there was 234 miles and the one back was 141.

My plan was to ride on Highway 49 are far as Coulterville, then head west to the park in Hayward. Highway 49 is over 300 miles from end to end, goes along the western base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains for most of it, and is interesting to ride for at least 250 of those miles. Best of all, even though it is 20 miles east of Folsom, there is an indirect route to get there heading south that is an interesting ride from the edge of town all the way there.

This report has very few photos, because once the riding gets interesting, I have a hard time making myself stop and get out the camera.

Heading Out

For rides on roads I'm not totally familiar with (i.e., pretty much all of them lately) I set a route using Google Maps, then load it into my GPS. The one I had picked was shown by Google as requiring 5.75 hours, whereas when I set it as the route in my Garmin, is estimated four hours. Actual time turned out to be just over four and a half hours including a couple of quick stops.

I wanted to get to Hayward around noon, so it seemed best to head out as soon as the sun was up, which was right around 7:30. It was a little colder than I would have liked, but otherwise clear and dry, so perfect riding weather. One good thing about riding in the cold is that there aren't any bugs out. The disadvantage is cold fingers and the tendency of the helmet visor to fog up a bit. For some reason it seemed to get colder the further south I went for the first hour or so. I couldn't figure out a good reason for it, since I'm pretty sure I never got above 1000 feet of elevation. I was starting to think that maybe heated grips might be a good idea after all.

One issue that I have with my Garmin Zumo 550 GPS unit is that if I only put in a few way points for a ride, it picks the most boring route possible. But if I program in the exact details of the entire route, it will occasionally get confused and try to send me another direction. I wanted to stay on Highway 49 all the way to Coulterville, but there were a couple of points where it indicated a turn that I knew would take me off of my intended route. Usually the solution is to tell it to stop that route, then tell it to reload the route again and it will be okay. I did that each time that I recognized that it was trying to send me off course. It took two or three tries heading out of Livermore to get it to show the route, but I knew most of that one, so not a big issue.

One problem with ignoring the GPS for some turns, however, is that in the town of Sonora, you actually DO need to make a turn that is not clearly marked as Highway 49. I had to make a U-turn in that town after I realized that the GPS wasn't actually misdirecting me there.

Another issue at about that point was that it was clearly time for a rest stop, but I had a hard time finding the right place to stop. I felt like it was too early to get gas, so I didn't stop at a gas station. I didn't really want to stop at a grocery store. And whenever I saw a sign reading Rest Stop 2 Miles Ahead, I didn't see one where it should have been. Oh, and there were several Vista Points along the way, but none of them had more than a view and a place to park while enjoying it. Plus, I usually resist stopping when there is clear road in front of me and slow traffic behind me, which was the case most of the time on Highway 49.

I finally got to the point of pulling off at a Vista Point above a lake that looked like it might have the right type of facilities. It didn't, but it was off of the highway out of sight, and had several trails off into the bushes, which met my needs.

A ways before Coulterville, Highway 49 is shared with Highway 120. It's flatter and straighter and has a higher speed along that section. When Highway 49 split off again and became its own separate road once more, it was suddenly quite a bit tighter. You have to adjust your riding style when that happens because turns now require slower speeds to negotiate safely. And there were some wonderful turns along that section.

Once to Couterville, I knew the route for most of the rest of the way. I had passed 100 miles on my fuel trip odometer and knew that there was a Valero station somewhere not too far west of Coulterville. As my low fuel light went on I was trying to remember exactly how far west it was. On the KTM, it has a neat feature where the clock/odometer/trip A/trip B odometer also has a Trip F for fuel. It switches to that one when the low fuel light goes on and counts up how far you've ridden since it went on. I've only ever pushed that one very far once, and verified that I could go at least 25 miles without running out of fuel. I started worrying a bit when I was approaching 20 and STILL hadn't made it to the Valero station. How far west is that place? Did they tear it down or something? Can I coast downhill all the way to La Grange when I run out of fuel?

I ended up making it to the gas station safely, filled the fuel tanks and unloaded my "other tank" there. I also took the opportunity to wash off my faceshield that now had a pretty good bug collection since it had warmed up a bit. I was thinking that maybe a better plan would be to get gas when it's available before venturing into areas where the gas stations are dozens of miles apart.

Across The Central Valley

Highway 132 remains an interesting road until you get to Waterford, then it's pretty much flat and straight for 40 miles to get to the west side of the Central Valley. I have learned from experience that you want to avoid going through downtown Modesto when there is traffic around, which is definitely the case on a Saturday morning. I've figured out that you can go south a couple of miles to Hatch Rd and then Paradise Rd and avoid most of the traffic. If you're a fan of the movie American Graffiti, you might remember that Paradise Road is where they held the drag race at the end of the movie. It might have been nice open fields back in 1962, but it's all orchards and dairy farms now. At least I was able to move along fairly well on most of it.

One interesting thing happened in the more congested part of that route, I think in Ceres. I put my right foot down while stopped at a traffic light and my footing felt rather slippery. I looked down and my boot was on top of a dead rat! I moved forward about a foot and tried to rub any residue off on the ground.

Another thing I found interesting while bypassing Modesto was a sign for some local Pizza place on a fence post right next to the manure storage area for a dairy farm. I would not want that smell associated with my restaurant, if I were the owner. Pfweww!

Once out of town, the road becomes more like a freeway until it finally merges with I-580. The next exit is Corral Hollow (mispronounced as Coral Hollow by way too many people), which is a nice canyon road that I'm familiar with and like to ride. Then I had to traverse a little bit of the south end of Livermore and Highway 84 through Niles Canyon.

Niles canyon would be a truly wonderful motorcycle road if you could ever get through there with no traffic. Wonderful sweeping curves and smooth clean pavement from one end to the other. Of the several hundred times I've been through that canyon, there were maybe four times it was clear of traffic, and one of those was at night when you definitely don't want to exceed the 45 mph speed limit, because it's a very dark road and deer like to cross it regularly. Normally, you go through the canyon at the rate of the slowest vehicle on the road. The first half looked reasonable with traffic moving at 45-50 mph, then there was an abrupt stop. It seems that there were a few bicyclists in a narrow section and a large truck that refused to pass them until the road got wider again, so we went at bicycle speeds for about half a mile. It is surprising how much traffic you can back up while traveling at 10 mph for half a mile. Oh well, I was almost at my destination and there was no reason to hurry at this point.

The Event In Hayward

I made it to the park in Hayward without further incident. I had read the directions of how to get to the meeting place there before leaving. Cars were supposed to park at the lower parking lot and the normally locked gate would be open allowing motorcycles and vehicles hauling food to continue on to the meeting place. I couldn't remember if the directions had said right or left, but I tried left, found an unlocked gate on a very narrow road, and it turned out to be the right place.

I won't go into detail about the memorial event, other than that most of it was a bit solemn as we remembered lost riders, then a bit more festive as the names of the deceased were tossed in the fire and we tried our best to eat way too much food.

Table with one page for each fallen rider, the rocks to keep the sheets from blowing away. I didn't get an exact count, but close to 40 sheets on two tables.


We took turns remembering lost riders.


My plan was to be there for most of the event from noon until 3:00, but was ready to leave by 2:30. I was talking to another rider on a cool looking highly modified Triumph 675 and he mentioned that he thought an orange helmet like mine might look good with his white and orange paint. Then he mentioned that he might even go fluorescent, which reminded me that I had a fluorescent vest in one of my hard bags, why wasn't I wearing it? So I got it out and put it on, since the trip back would be spending more time in traffic.

Leaving Hayward was heavy traffic on roads too narrow to leave room to squeeze my too-wide bike through. No filtering to the front for me. I could have taken a few side roads to avoid a bit more of the I-580 freeway traffic, but decided that for this part, faster was better. I stopped in Pleasanton for fuel, since I know exactly where the stations are that would take the least time to fuel up at, having lived there for more than 20 years. From there, back on the freeway to Livermore where I would once again take to the back roads.

From Livermore Back To Folsom

The main road I was heading for to get across the hills was Morgan Territory Road, something referred to locally as a "goat trail" due to how narrow and tight it is, and the poor quality of the pavement. To get there I would first ride on Collier Canyon Road, basically a road that was made to get to the farms in the area. I had forgotton what a suspension workout that road is. Although the road looks relatively flat from a distance, you're constantly bouncing up and down when riding it. It made me thankful for long travel suspension.

Morgan Territory Road is a narrow road with a bunch of estates (i.e., large homes with property) and ranches on the south end and a tight forest road on the north end. Although narrow along nearly all of its length, there is nice, new pavement on the south end right to the regional park, then not so nice pavement through the hills to the other side. On that road you constantly have to be expecting some rancher to be coming the other way in his F-350 Duallie hauling a four passenger horse trailer. You have to be rather timid around all of the blind corners and hug the right. Along most of the road it is difficult for two cars to pass going opposite directions without one pulling to the edge and stopping. Motorcycles just have to be sure to be all the way to the right with oncoming traffic.

I think I only met two huge trucks hauling horse trailers, both going the same direction as me, but way too many cars up there. Some driven by people who didn't seem to know how to drive on such roads. At least none of them were dangerous.

I stopped at the park at the end of the "good" road to use their restroom and clean the bugs off of the visor on my helmet. That's the only place I actually took a motorcycle photo.



Further down in the forest area, I came to a few people riding horses. Since I really don't want to spook a horse, I pulled in the clutch immediately, slowed down before getting too close, then idled past them. A bit later there were another half a dozen horses along the road. Most of the riders looked like teenagers and not all that experienced with horses. I succeeded in getting past them without spooking any horses as well. The last rider I passed, who was actually the one at the front of the line of horses thanked me for passing them in a non-threatening way. I double-checked that there weren't any more horses ahead, and there weren't.

Most of the rest of the way to Antioch was on nice country roads. I used to try to cross Antioch or Brentwood in the middle and always got lost and never enjoyed it. This time, I took Deer Valley Road through to Highway 4 and got across the bridge without much bother.

One issue that I ran into was that after cleaning my helmet visor, I didn't get it reattached properly. On a Shoei RF-700 through RF-1000, I can take a visor off and put one back on while wearing the helmet, and without the help of a mirror. It's easy to feel when things are aligned and click them into place. With the RF-1100, they have a different system. It's actually easier to attach when the helmet is off of your head in front of you, but pretty much impossible to do without looking, by feel. Apparently when I had cleaned it back at the park I hadn't installed the visor properly. One time back with the horses I had noticed something wasn't quite right, but it seemed to go back into place, so I didn't give it another thought for about ten more miles. Then I lifted the visor at a stop light in Antioch and the left side came loose. That's when I verified that I can't click it back into place by feel. I stopped at a fast food parking lot before the freeway and took the helmet off to click it back into place, making double sure this time that it was done right.

The ride along Highway 160, which follows the Sacramento River, was much more enjoyable than the last time I rode through there. That time there was a strong gusty wind blowing across the road making it difficult to stay centered in my lane. This time, not a single windmill was moving and there was not even the faintest breeze.

The quiet air gave me the opportunity to pay more attention to the pavement quality. For some reason along the river there, a lot of the road had been repaved on the right one-half to one-third. I had to pay attention to not be riding on the edge between the older and newer pavement, which would tend to jerk the bike around a bit.

There were a couple of times when my GPS wanted to take me to a more direct route home. I reset it to get it back on track. The final time, it wanted to send me to the freeway at Hood, rather than the next and last opportunity at Freeport. Since I had seen something on a sign about Freeport and was starting to get a bit tired, I went ahead over to I-5 rather than riding six or eight more miles along the river to where I had intended to come out. Besides the sun was getting really close to the horizon at this point.

So the final leg of the trip was 14 miles of I-5 and 21 miles of Highway 50. This was when I was starting to wonder what I had been thinking when I decided that I only needed dark glasses and left my clear ones back home. I can still see reasonably well without glasses, but not quite well enough to pass the eye test at the DMV. I was thinking of just taking off the dark glasses as it got darker and darker, but didn't want to take an exit to do that. I'm sure that I couldn't have safely removed them while riding at freeway speed. So I kept them on until my exit. I had to slide them down my nose mostly out of the way to get back to my house safely.

The total trip was 375 miles with at least 300 of those miles being on interesting roads. The bike performed well the whole way. Now I need to understand a bit better why I don't seem to want to stop once I'm riding and see if I can get over that. Maybe it is related to the difficulty most men have in stopping to ask directions or something.

bachman1961
Male Advanced Member
2266 Posts
[Mentor]


colorado springs, co
USA

Honda

CB750 NightHawk

Posted - 02/10/2013 :  2:13 AM
I always enjoy the trip write up's. Thanks for continuing to take the time.
- We all know 'posting' takes .3 of a second but the photos and write up's by those contributing is a dedicated work ethic.

I thought I noted right away that your previous home/location was mere minutes from this trip destination and that was confirmed later as I read on.

Your write up/s remind me of how convinced I am every ride I take as a mini trip or a few hundred miles of road is always a lesson of various tangents and I'm reassured that even the more experienced and disciplined riders do share similar experiences. These are important segues for ourselves and fellow readers. I enjoy the story and photos but having a 'take away' or two is a real bonus.
**The sunglasses almost into the evening as the sky gets dark is a good reminder for me as well. I have a tinted shield on one helmet and clear on the other. I need to have a better option in the long run.

Your experience with the helmet shield causes me to remember a few
times when one side of mine was not 'officially' snapped in and popped out of place when I raised it at stop for some fresh air. Now I'm thinking it's not a bad idea to have a spare with me. (I probably thought of that at the time.)
Plastic tabs on a plastic shield are just a ? ? time frame away from expiring their expected lifespan.

Your mention of refueling based on when it's readily available even when you are not dangerously low is a good plug as well. Not everyone has a 5 or more gallon tank and even with mine - a range of 275 or more miles, I'll use any just about any pit stop to walk around a bit, decafe my system and feel I've wasted time if not for adding even a gallon of gas (50 miles worth anyways).

Keep on writing that bike and riding about it !!

** added thought

Edited by - bachman1961 on 02/10/2013 2:22 AM
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scottrnelson
Advanced Member
6890 Posts
[Mentor]


Pleasanton, CA
USA

KTM

990 Adv, XR650L

Posted - 02/10/2013 :  9:25 AM
quote:
Originally posted by bachman1961

I always enjoy the trip write up's. Thanks for continuing to take the time.

Thanks. I'm glad someone appreciates it.

I'm often thinking about what I would mention about a ride and even occasionally consider that to be one of the distractions I have to watch out for. Sometimes there isn't enough worth writing about, so I don't bother. Sometimes there just isn't time, like what I was considering writing about after coming back from Costa Rica in December.

I still have a long ways to go before I can tell a really good story like Peter Egan or one of the other columnists that I respect.
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gymnast
Moderator
4267 Posts
[Mentor]


Meridian, Idaho
USA

Harley-Davidson

Sportster Sport

Posted - 02/10/2013 :  9:43 AM
Your ride write-ups are always outstanding Scott, I have enjoyed them every bit as much as any that I have seen in a magazine.
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rayg50
Male Moderator
2082 Posts
[Mentor]


NYC, NY
USA

Honda

Shadow Spirit 750DC

Posted - 02/10/2013 :  10:03 AM
quote:
Originally posted by gymnast

Your ride write-ups are always outstanding Scott, I have enjoyed them every bit as much as any that I have seen in a magazine.

I agree.
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bachman1961
Male Advanced Member
2266 Posts
[Mentor]


colorado springs, co
USA

Honda

CB750 NightHawk

Posted - 02/12/2013 :  2:14 AM
quote:

Thanks. I'm glad someone appreciates it.



I have no doubt there are a lot or readers/perusers/lurkers out there that enjoy them as well as many other features here and don't usually comment.
You can see the read versus reply ratio on all forum topics and it's quite a wide berth on most of them.
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