Motorcycle, Motorcycle, Vroom, Vroom, Vroom

Just back from an 11-day solo motorcycle trip through Arizona, Nevada, and northern California. I’ll post separately about the places I went and people I visited; right now I’m still high on riding and wanted to discuss the purely motorcycle-related aspects of my trip. Click on any of the thumbnails below to see the full-sized photos on Flickr. I’ll start with packing:

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Packed Goldwing

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Carabiners & bungee cords

I stuffed six days’ worth of clothing and a pair of sandals into my suitcase, knowing that somewhere along the way I’d have to do laundry. In the saddlebags and trunk I carried two jackets (one for cold weather, one for warm), two helmets (a comfortable half-helmet for dry conditions and a less comfortable full-face for rain), a rain suit, heavy and light gloves, and bandanas. I packed long johns and a sweater for the days it might be necessary to layer up. I left room for a laundry bag, which gradually filled up during the trip. This in addition to the toolbag I always carry, containing almost everything I might need including tubeless tire plugs and compressed air canisters. Maps, of course, and glasses; also a Nook, iPad, cell phone, camera, tripod, and chargers. The first photo shows the fully-packed and loaded bike at a motel in South Lake Tahoe; the second shows the carabiners and bungee cords I use to secure the suitcase to the rear seat.

Between Novato and Clear Lake, and then again between Clear Lake and Placerville, I had to wear the rain gear and full-face helmet. It never got cold, but it was plenty wet … and the rain gear worked as advertised. From Placerville to Lake Tahoe and from Lake Tahoe to Reno, I wore my sweater, warm jacket, and gloves. Just saying, it’s a good thing I brought all that stuff along.

The Goldwing ran great. I endured a couple of 500-600 mile days and more than one stretch of sustained 80 mph speeds; nary a burp or stutter. I used the old-man footpegs my friend gave me, the ones where your feet drop to about three inches off the pavement when you put your weight on them, gradually learning to hoist my feet back onto the regular footpegs in curves. I say gradually based on the number of times I scraped my heels going around curves while adjusting to the new pegs. Actually, I’m surprised my boots held up as well as they did … the heels aren’t ground down at all, though they should be.

Almost every time I stopped for gas I had to soak paper towels in water to wash bug splatters off my windscreen and helmet visor. I packed a spray bottle of Windex and a couple of rags for that purpose, but before I even got out of Arizona on day one the bottle tipped over in the saddlebag and drained, soaking my backup gloves and paper maps. Happy to say that paper towels, well soaked, do not scratch Lexan. Also happy to say that after a night draped over the shower curtain rod in a motel room the gloves and maps dried out. In time, I hope, the odor of Windex will fade.

I rode by myself, and apart from exchanging waves with riders heading the opposite direction, didn’t have much interaction with other motorcyclists until nearly the end of my trip, when I added an extra day in Las Vegas to be with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson. Gregory borrowed a big BMW touring bike and the two of us hooked up with a friend and fellow rider, Jim, who rides an old-school bobber. We rode through Red Rock Canyon, proudly sporting our Knuckledraggers colors, then on to the Mountain Springs Saloon, a local hangout.

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Me, Gregory, Jim

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Jim flying his colors

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Jim & Gregory

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Gregory & me at the saloon

Two trips back I mounted a Butler Cup to my handlebar. It holds 34 ounces of iced water, and it’s proven itself a lifesaver. On the last leg of my trip, riding from Las Vegas to Tucson in 95°F weather, I had to stop and refill it twice.

Let me warn you, if ever you need to ride from Las Vegas all the way to San Jose in one day, stop in Barstow for gas before you get to the Bakersfield turnoff. I assumed there’d be truck stops near the intersection, but there were none, and I drifted into a desert gas station 30 minutes later on fumes. Perhaps because of that experience, when a guy panhandled me for gas later that day, at another station near the foot of Pacheco Pass, I put a couple of gallons in his tank. That particular leg was my longest day, 10 hours of riding and close to 600 miles. The next longest ride was from Reno to Las Vegas, about 500 miles. I elected to ride back on the California side, taking US 395 from Reno to Big Pine, then cutting through mountain passes to US 95 in Nevada somewhere above Beatty. The run down US 395 was exquisite and cool, almost all of it at elevations between 7,000 and 8,000 feet, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. After crossing into Nevada, I couldn’t help noticing the contrast:

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Southbound, US 395 in California

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Southbound, US 95 in Nevada

On Friday, between Reno and Las Vegas, I began to experience cold symptoms. They didn’t start to get really bad until Sunday, my last day on the road, when I left Las Vegas for Tucson. Traffic was light and I was able to ride fast all the way home, where I promptly crawled into bed with a dachshund and a box of Kleenex by my side.

Bloggage about the trip soon. As soon as I feel better, that is.

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