27 September 2013

From Summer to Winter: Going Back To Colorado

It didn't seem like it would be a particularly difficult thing to do, especially considering the number of times I have done it in the past. Going back to Colorado at the end of my San Diego summer gig would involve me packing my place, loading my truck, and driving home. The packing would happen on my last Monday off before leaving, and I would live out of my suitcases for a week, slowly consuming what food I had left in the kitchen. Loading the truck would happen the night before leaving, with a little apartment cleaning that night. The last thing would be getting on the road and driving for two days. That's it. That's all it typically takes to get home. But this year, things were considerably more difficult.

Monday before I left, I did indeed pack most of my things, but only after spending most of the day dealing with truck problems, and eventually leaving my truck at the mechanic's shop to be worked on for the next two days. On Wednesday at lunch, as I rode my motorcycle to the shop to get the truck, oil was leaking from somewhere up near the reservoir tank. I bought oil at the truck place, refilled my tank--thanks to the curious and flirty mechanic who fetched me channel locks so I could remove the oil tank cap (sometimes it pays to be a GIRL on a motorbike)--and got the bike back to work. After being told not to ride it by Dave at DCMW in Santee, I left the bike at work until I could come back at 9:30 that night with muscle to help load it up.

In the Botanical Lot of Balboa Park. Wednesday at lunch was the last ride I would be able to take on her in San Diego. A little anti-climactic if you ask me.


The next morning, I dropped the bike off at DCMW and slid the keys into the mail slot. Later that afternoon I got a call from Dave and he said there had been a mis-seated gasket, and they also tightened a hose clamp. They had done some work--a lot of work--on my bike in June, and charged me nothing for taking care of this. He told me it would be ready anytime for pick-up, and asked if there was anything else I needed. He had mentioned my nearly-bald tire, and I thought "why not?" It was already there, why not have him put a new tire on. So I told him that if he could get a Hidenau Scout and get it on before the next day at lunch, he could go ahead and do that.

That night I had dinner with a girl friend of mine, and when I got back into my truck to drive home, I realized something was very wrong. So...back to the mechanic IT went. I called DCMW and told Dave he actually had until the next afternoon to get the tire on, as I would be once again dealing with my truck that day at lunch.

Saturday was a crazy hectic day! I worked half of the day. When I left work with all my tools and books tossed into the truck, I headed to Santee to get the bike. We loaded it onto the truck and tied it down. I thought back, once again, to loading the bikes onto the ferry in Sitka, and one of the crew members offering me assistance with the ratchet straps, completely certain that I would have no idea what I was doing. (Sometimes its difficult having to prove oneself when one is a GIRL on a motorbike)

Look at that new tire! Holy crap--my knobbies have knobbies!
Once the bike was loaded, I headed to the tire store. I had been there Monday morning and had my tires rotated, but the guys who did my alignment--and the other $1500.00 worth of work--informed me that the tread was starting to separate on one of the tires they looked at. Knowing I was making the trip back to Denver, with a load in the back, they were concerned that I have that tire replaced immediately. I told them I had just had them rotated two hours before, and asked if they didn't think that was a little strange. You know--the TIRE place not telling me about that.
So now, on Saturday afternoon, the day before I leave, I pull into the tire store, bike tied down in the bed, and get out my pissy attitude to deal with them. I did think of going to a better store, but that would have deprived me of two things: 1--I couldn't point out their mistake and make them feel shame for putting a poor little woman in danger during a long road trip, and 2--I wouldn't have gotten a free tire out of their dangerous mistake.
Oh yeah, that tire was free!
So I load up Saturday night, and drive out of town Sunday morning, taking time to pick up a new set of ratchet straps first. Two were slightly fraying, and I knew what they would look like after several hours at 80 mph on the freeway. I replaced the bad ones and set out. The drive was the same old drive it always was. I had to use the AC through the California and Nevada deserts, and the heater through Utah and the Rockies. In fact, there were several feet of fresh snow over Vail Pass as I drove through, and then again on each side of the Eisenhower/Johnson tunnels.
If you look closely you'll see that's not a bicycle, its a stadium bike. All you need for that kind of bike is a little rack on the back of your Nissan!

Getting coffee, donuts, and beef jerky in the morning before starting off on my second day of driving. Cedar City was really cold that morning, and it was a harsh contrast to the lovely, warm, still summer days of California I had left behind the morning before.

Once I got home to Denver, the weather was sunny and mild during the day, though quite chilly at night and in the mornings. Nalla was ridiculously happy to have me home, following me everywhere and keeping a close eye on me. The ride to work in the morning would have me putting one liner into my jacket Wednesday, and adding the quilted liner on Friday. That was this morning, and halfway to work I realized I should have worn, or at least taken, my riding pants. It will be raining when I leave work to ride home this evening, and it will be cold. Epic fail on my part! I just can't believe that summer came to such a screeching halt. I have a feeling I will soon be pulling out my heavy hi-viz jacket for those cold early morning rides.

Miss Nalla, now at 123 lbs., is supervising. This is how we do it in Denver!

16 September 2013

Camping Palomar Mountain

A couple of weekends ago I felt an unrelenting urge to get out of the city. I went to Cycle Gear and bought new side mirrors to replace the ones the bears had damaged in Alaska, grabbed a couple of essentials, and headed home to load up the bike. I didn't need a ton of stuff--tent, bag, camping pad, some cooking gear, a book, toothbrush, a layer of warm clothing, and Dog.

Down to the garage I went to load up the bike and replace the mirrors. After the attack on the bike in Seward, the mirrors have a tendency to collapse inward at highway speeds, or even at lower speeds if the bike has been sitting in the sun. The weakend ball joint gets warm and no longer holds its position, allowing the mirrors to turn in with the force of the wind, giving me a nice view of my own chest--completely useless as I am fairly certain road danger will not come in the form of one of my own boobs sneaking up on me.

I took off the mirror on the left and...fail. The hardware was the wrong fit. I looked at all the pieces I had to see if there was a way I could make it work, but there was no chance. So, lesson learned--BMW parts only on the GS. I guess I should have known better. I put the broken mirror back on, but manage to tweak it into a new position so it doesn't collapse.

I rode out through Ramona and Santa Ysabel, stopping at the little grocery to get a big bottle of beer for the campsite. While in line at the grocery, a couple in riding gear came up to me all smiles and practically buzzing with excitement.

"Tell us where you've been and where you're headed on your trip!"

I explained that this time it was just an overnighter since, at the moment, I was temporarily living in San Diego. Faces fell, and buzzing went away.

"Oh. We saw the bike loaded up and the map in the tank bag (actually just left there from my ride out in east county) and all the stickers on your luggage and we just thought you were on some big trip..."

They looked so sad, I felt like I needed to apologize for only doing an overnight trip. What a disappointment I was! They turned around and walked out of the store--I guess they had only come in looking for me. When I walked out, I saw them getting back on their bike. They were riding two up on a cruiser, and probably just out for a nice Sunday ride.

I stashed my beer and headed off toward Palomar Mountain. There were two campgrounds I had ridden by before, and after doing some online reading, I tout I would check out the Observatory Campground. I pulled in, did a drive through, and though there were a lot of "reserved" signs up, there were a couple open spots. I decided that I would go drive thorough Frye Creek Campground, just to check it out. It was relatively empty, but I liked the other campground better--sites were further from the road, many a small hike up the hill in nice little areas.

I returned to Observatory, drove through and chose a spot. I unloaded the bike and walked down the road to pay my fee. When I got back to the site, I began getting out my tent. A truck drove up and parked, blocking my bike in, and a guy jumped out yelling, "Is that campsite 8?"

I told him it was and he told me he had reserved it for the night. I asked if he was certain. There had been signs up on many sites stating they were reserved, but not on that one. He proceeded to wave a piece of paper at me saying he had reserved it, the rest of the campground was full,and I could go talk to the campground host about it. He was behaving like a complete asshole, and his wife looked appropriately sheepish about it.

I told him I would go talk to the host, get my money back and then return. There had been a mix up due to people helping the campground host since she had broken her foot in three places. Apparently the helpers were nicer than they were good at helping. The host told me the campground was not full, and I could pick any other open spot. When I walked back, the wife asked if everything was ok, and I told her I was going to just take one of the other OPEN spots.

Her husband looked at me as I gathered my stuff and finally put it together that it was my bike in the parking spot. His eyes got big and he actually smiled as he asked, "Hey, is that your bike?"

I have to admit, I turned and kind of stared at him, amazed at the change in his attitude simply because he realized I rode a bike.

"Yup," I said and promptly turned away, shutting him down. What a douche bag.

At that point, I made the decision that I was not interested in being around a ton of people. I didn't need the coming together of happy campers, sitting around telling stories and making friends. Nope, not having it. So I got on the bike and rode back to the other campground, setting myself up in a nice spot, making dinner, and drinking the big Stone beer I picked up. I enjoyed the sounds of nothing but nature and a remote campfire crackling across the canyon.

The next morning, I got up and very leisurely made breakfast and coffee. Riding in the day before, I saw a trailhead and thout I would check it out. I started up the trail thinking, "Holy crap, this is ridiculously steep!" Eventually it leveled out a little and it was more of a steady climb. The trail circumnavigated the campground and was maybe 5 miles in length. I decided not to do the trail all the way around, just doing about two miles out and two miles back. It was all I needed for the morning. The sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky. It was probably in the low 70s and gorgeous. As I came back, I realized that when I started the trail, I missed part of it, following what was probably a game trail and not the marked trail. The marked trail actually traversed the hillside, didn't go straight up. Doh!

When I left the campground, I rode up to the observatory on the top of the mountain. I've been there once before, and the telescope they have is an engineering marvel. There are a couple of tours daily, or for free you can just walk up, go inside and view the telescope. When i was done there, I had a nice time riding down off the mountain, taking my time and enjoying the scenery. It was a Monday afternoon which meant no weekend traffic to deal with. I love how close the mountain is to San Diego, and yet how far away it seems when I'm there. Definitely a place to check out if you're in the area.



Colorado Flooding

Last week, rain started along the front range of Colorado and didn't stop for four days. An unbelievable amount of damage has been done in all the cities along the eastern edge of the Rockies--all in areas I consider home. As I have written about many of the roads in this areas and a brew pub or two, I wanted to share news of the flooding and damage.

The photo above is of Left Hand Canyon. A lot of roads in the foothills have suffered this type of damage as rivers and creeks have swelled and eaten up the asphalt. As it turns out, Mother Nature will always win. The picture below is of the Big Thompson River, showing two different years of flooding. This is one of my favorite roads to ride and I've done it multiple times in each direction. It cuts through the canyon between Estes Park and Loveland, and I recently read that more than 17 miles of the road has been destroyed. My friend and her four neighbors discovered, thankfully, that their properties are just high enough that the homes were spared, as was the bridge needed to access them. Many homes and properties did not fare so well.

The St. Vrain River has well overflowed its banks, severely affecting Lyons and Longmont. If you've read many of my posts, you will know that these two places are close to my heart, as they have my two favorite breweries, and a whole bunch of good people I like to visit with and share a pint. It looks like minimal damage has been done to both Left Hand Brewery in Longmont and Oskar Blues in both Lyons and Longmont. Oskar Blues believes their brew pub in Lyons is on high enough ground that it was not damaged, but as they cannot get back into the city, they won't know for sure what condition it is in for a little while yet. Their restaurant in Longmont shut its doors to the public and has been using the facility as a commissary to make food for local shelters. These are good people, so please show support for them and buy their beer--it's showing up in more and more cities across the U.S.

Left Hand Brewery has been under evacuation for several days. The river flooded the loading dock and broke a gate, letting water into the brew house, but not doing a lot of damage. Staff used bags of malt (hey, you use what you've got) to block the door to the taproom, and that effectively kept water out. Electricity has been off so they are worried about beer that is in process, but relatively speaking, they were pretty lucky. The brewery has an Oktoberfest event next weekend that they are turning into a relief effort to raise money for the community. Again, good beer and great people!

The picture of the entrance to the YMCA of the Rockies is typical of what has been shown on and in the news. The ground couldn't take anymore, and neither could rivers and reservoirs. Crop fields, roads and homes are under water. The amazing thing that has come out of this, as I have witnessed when I've been in other areas of wide spread natural disaster damage (stupid hurricanes and earthquakes!) is the coming together of the community to help out those who need assistance. People step up to the challenge to make things better. It's going to be a long road for the front range, but Coloradans are strong and will pull through just fine.


02 September 2013

Motorbiking through eastern San Diego county

My original intention for this weekend had been to get the bike loaded and get on the road as soon as I could Saturday evening after work. I would find a place to camp Saturday night, lounge in my tent and around camp over breakfast, hike the late morning and early afternoon away, then ride back into San Diego just before dark. I had plans to sail on Monday, otherwise I would have camped both nights. However, the impending opening of yet another show had me sticking around Saturday night to be on call for any emergencies that might crop up that night, that would need to be taken care of before the next afternoon. I know, I know--costume emergency!?! Well, it does happen, and as The Old Globe has so many performances, extra help is sometimes necessary.
Of course, as it turned out, I was not needed. And since I awoke Sunday morning to a bright, beautiful sunny day sans work, I did what I really love to do on a Sunday. I went out to breakfast--many thanks to Judy The Beauty at Big Kitchen in South Park--and then I took myself for a nice long ride. Most of today's miles were on pavement. I headed east on 94 through Jamul until I came to Honey Springs Road. A left turn there took me further from civilization to a slightly higher altitude and lovely foothill country dotted with sprawling farms.
Feeling like I had missed out on another great weekend with the RMAR Rendezvous, my heart and my motorbike went in search of dirt roads and found them.
Eventually, I made my way back north to I-8 and headed east a few miles. Missing the exit for the Sunset Highway (doh!) I hit the next exit--Buckman Springs Road--which, conveniently, had a rest stop. I had a nice long drink of water and noticed that my thermometer was reading just over 90 degrees. I hopped back on the bike and took Buckman Springs Rd to Morena Stokes Valley Road. This road immediately turned to dirt and gravel, and led into hill country to the Corral Canyon OHV area.
Oops! Pardon the finger. I love this jacket, but boy, the day was almost too warm even for that one. The thermometer was edging towards 100 degrees, and I was whisking I had armor and a light jersey instead of a full on jacket.
Oops! Pardon the finger. I love this jacket, but boy, the day was almost too warm even for that one. The thermometer was edging towards 100 degrees, and I was whisking I had armor and a light jersey instead of a full on jacket.
I rode out to the staging area for the OHV area and then kept going until I found a campground. Before leaving for San Diego, I did a little research on areas to ride off pavement, and was one of them. At the campground, I rode through to check it out. There were three or four groups of people, all with quads. Not so much with the motorbikes, or a smile for that matter. In fact, the stares looked just menacing enough that all I did was continue riding through. Was I being paranoid? I don't know, but I chose to not press my luck.
The dirt roads had sections that had gravel dumped on them for some reason. I kept flying around curves just to find there was another one ahead, only it was covered in 2-3" of gravel. I hate that!
The dirt roads had sections that had gravel dumped on them for some reason. I kept flying around curves just to find there was another one ahead, only it was covered in 2-3" of gravel. I hate that!
My original plan in riding that area had been to take Los Piños Road to Corte Madera Road which would then spit me back to the interstate. I had looked at it on Google Maps in the satellite mode, and thought it might be doable. But as I sat at the junction where Los Piños Road began, I got a little nervous. I like riding off road a lot and I have a method that works for me when I ride alone. I ride as far as I like as long as I feel relatively comfortable with a couple of things. One is that I need to be able to turn around and go out the way I came in if I got into terrain I didn't think I could handle. The other is that I need to ride in spaces that are wide open enough that if I drop my bike, I won't be run over by a quad or a 4x4 zipping around a curve. Los Piños Road failed it both categories from what I could see. So...I exercised my first rule above, turned around, and rode out the way I came in, and continued south on Buckman Springs Road to the turn off to Morena Valley.
Cooling down in some shade for a bit after riding about 20 miles of twisty dirt road in the screamin' sunshine.
Cooling down in some shade for a bit after riding about 20 miles of twisty dirt road in the screamin' sunshine.
I love all of these old oak trees. The first couple miles of this road were like a tunnel through them. They had grown ov from each side and interlaced their branches.
I swung into Morena Valley and stopped at the gas station/market for some more water. The only thing I needed was water. I had planned on just buying water. When I got to the cashier, I had water. And cranberry juice, a king-sized Neapolitan (mistake! I really only like the vanilla) ice cream sandwich, and the largest bag of chile and lime chicharrones they had. The cashier asked if I had everything I needed and told him that, yes, yes I had all the ridiculous things I could possibly need. He just laughed and said he does the same thing when he stops at stores like that. It could have been true. Then again, he may have been trying to make me feel better about my truly horrific culinary choices.
Ice cream sandwich! It's just about the only way I really eat ice cream--you know, between two cookies!
Ice cream sandwich! It's just about the only way I really eat ice cream--you know, between two cookies!
Lake Morena Road took me out of town, and hooked me back up with Buckman Springs Road, which I then followed south to 94. I headed west, back towards San Diego, and after I had gone a few miles, I started to notice a really impressive fence off to my left. My left, meaning south. Duh! It was the border, and it was a REALLY impressive fence.
See the dark line of fencing near the top of the hill--that's the U.S./Mexico border. Looks small in the pic, but its actually quite tall.
See the dark line of fencing near the top of the hill--that's the U.S./Mexico border. Looks small in the pic, but its actually quite tall.
After stopping to take a picture--in an area I'm not entirely certain I was allowed to stop in (don't tell anyone...)--I rode to Potrero and turned off onto Potrero Valley Road. According to Google Maps, this road would head north, then loop around back to 94. Only...that road split. Not into to other paved roads, or a paved road and a dirt road, or even two dirt roads. This road split into what looked like sand quad trails! Right before the split, there was a very handy sign warning drivers that the pavement ends. Well, no shit! So, once again, I turned around and headed back to 94.


There was a completely unnecessary sign saying "Pavement Ends".
Getting back to 94, I wound up behind a jerk who couldn't get off his phone (this is super illegal in California, but many don't pay attention to this law) and then had to sit behind him for twenty minutes when I came upon the immigration checkpoint (not on Google Maps!). I briefly considered trying to get around him and asking the immigration agent to give him a hard time because of the phone, but there wasn't really a good opportunity. They made each vehicle stop and the occupants get out so they could look in back seats, trunks, way-way backs, etc. I was waved through without having to stop. I guess they could see I wasn't smuggling any undocumented immigrants in my tank bag.
The sign on this building advertised buffalo meat. When I went in and checked out their meat department I also discovered "dog burger". Uh...what!?!
The sign on this building advertised buffalo meat. When I went in and checked out their meat department I also discovered "dog burger". Uh...what!?!
As we continued along 94, we reached Honey Springs, where I made my first turn off of the day. I decided to get out from behind the phone jerk and turned. I thought I might head to Alpine then home, but as I got to the turn to Alpine, I made the decision I hadn't put enough miles on. I headed up to the 8, then across and up to Julian again. I didn't stop there, but turned and rode to Santa Isabel. There is a bakery there called Dudley's which conveniently also sells locally made jewelry. I bought a loaf of jalapeño cheese bread and mini cinnamon rolls, then stood in the parking lot putting on new earrings while snarfing down two cinnamon rolls. Yeah, they were pretty good.
In Santa Ysabel at Dudley's bakery. I bought Cinny minis and stood in the parking lot, next to my bike, scarfing two of them down.
In Santa Ysabel at Dudley's bakery. I bought Cinny minis and stood in the parking lot, next to my bike, scarfing two of them down.

I rode on home through Ramona and Santee, a ride that has become my "usual" route. I put on a little more than 250 miles that day. I wore down the rest of the good road rubber on my tires, and I'll be ready for off road worthy knobbies next. Now, just to get back to Colorado and good off road riding!