Bountiful to Big Sur to Bonneville

I’ve had the luxury of keeping my daughter’s 1992 Ford F-250 while she’s been in training and she’s reached a point where she can now have her own vehicle at her new base, the Presidio in Monterey, 842 miles away.

Not only is Ol’ Red over 25 years-old, it has over a quarter million miles on the clock, but since I drove it up to Bountiful from St. George and have used it to haul tons of yard waste to the dump, I had confidence in the beast, even at 9 miles-per-gallon, to make it to the DLI and brighten up a certain PFC’s life. My return strategy was to ride my Triumph Tiger 800XC back to Bountiful, but not after spending the weekend with my daughter where I had the very distinct pleasure and honor to accompany her on her first motorcycle ride on her new motorcycle.

The truck and Tiger made it to the Presidio without even a hiccup, though Red required a quart of oil toward the end of the trip. While standing still on I-5 in Sacramento during rush hour traffic I came across another pickup truck, this one from Colorado, also hauling a Tiger. What are the odds?

The timing on this trip put me at the Defense Language Institute on the Friday where they hold their annual Language Day, a festival of culture, dancing, language and food representative of the DLI’s offerings.

Watching these soldiers embrace their respective language cultures was inspiring and the food was amazing.

Friday afternoon Addie and I shopped for a good motorcycle riding jacket and helmet in anticipation of her reaching her goal since BCT to acquire a motorcycle and start her journey through displacements. We talked about a half dozen different bikes, including a Tiger 800XC, but she kept coming back to the Honda 500X, but the Powersports shop in Monterey didn’t have one. We got a tip that the Powersports shop in Hollister had one, and planned to ride there, two-up Saturday morning.

Friday afternoon we rode Ocean View Boulevard through Pacific Grove on the Tiger, amping up Addie’s anticipation.

I can’t think of a more perfect place to strike out on your own ride for the first time.

Saturday morning we set out for Hollister Powersports to find the 500X, but it was still crated and while we talked about possibilities, the new Honda Rebel 500 caught her eye, the perfect gateway bike to ride the perfect gateway place to all things motorcycling.

Everyone at Hollister Powersports were incredible, JT especially as he connected with  this PFC as only a veteran could.

We took the backroads back to Monterey taking us through San Juan Baptista, picking up 129 through some gentle twisties to Watsonville where we stopped for burgers. It was amazing to watch her in my mirrors and see her confidence gain while she sorted out her new ride. It was terrifying to watch her in my mirrors as we got on Highway 1 and fought the winds coming off the coast. I throttled back from the highway speed since I was getting tossed around so much while she stayed solid on my right, her eyes smiling through her visor. It was good to see her this happy again.

The plan for my return was to leave Sunday, head down the Cabrillo Highway at least to Big Sur where I’d camp for the night and then make my way back to Monterey on Monday to get a pesky cooling system leak checked out by the Triumph Dealer.

We met at Starbucks for breakfast and coffee and rode around Monterey looking for a polar fleece pull-over. I had inadvertently packed my wife’s down jacket instead of my own and lacked a crucial layer to keep warm on the PCH’s cooler miles.

I’ve visited this Soldier a number of times, from Ft. Sill to Ft. Huachuca and when it comes time to leave, goodbyes only get harder. I am so proud of this woman. I cannot speak to her accomplishments and her duty, but I can say that I can’t make it through the National Anthem without tears rolling down my face these days. And such was the case when we parted ways Sunday, late morning in Monterey as I rolled out to the Pacific Coast Highway.

My first stop was Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground. Signs indicated that all sites were full, but I’ve learned through experience to ask anyway, especially along the Cabrillo Highway. I queued up behind day-use entrants and when an attendant asked what I was doing there, I asked if there were any spaces available. “Sure! There are lots of sites open.”

She motioned me to the park kiosk where she showed my my choices of sites. I opted for a river one and within a few 15 MPH moments I lit at number 93.

I passed a couple of sites where we had stayed previously during a documentary shoot of motorcycle culture on the PCH, bringing back very fond memories.

Though this site lacked Big Sur’s characteristic Redwoods, the river made up for it.

I set up camp, did a little motorcycle maintenance and headed back out to the highway.

While the Bixby Bridge seems to garner all the the attention on the PCH, my favorite has always been the double arch bridge of Big Creek. We have at least a dozen pics from this vantage point with our kids, with our bikes, with our kids and our bikes. Technically, it’s a three-arch bridge with its two demi-arch side spans, but who’s counting.

The Tiger was just at home here as was the Blackbird and it draws as much if not more attention from cage-dwellers. The most popular remark during the trip was invariably from middle-aged white men wishing they had a dual sport of some kind. Made me wonder about that mid-life crisis thing, but apparently I’ve already gone through that with my Porsche. I don’t have it anymore, so crisis diverted.

I continued south, watched most if not all the light traffic exit at Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, and rode to Kirk Creek Campground just to see if maybe I booked the Big Sur site prematurely. I didn’t. It was full. In all the years we’ve traveled Highway 1, we’ve stayed there only once.

Monday morning after coffee and reconstituted freeze-dried eggs and bacon, I struck camp and tracked back to Monterey to visit the Triumph shop to see about a fix for my leaky upper radiator hose. They were closed. Of course they were closed – it’s Monday. Every motorcycle store in America is closed on Monday, because they’re open on Saturday. Duh. I scored a cheap room across the street from the shop and found myself with a bonus day in Monterey. My first contact was to Addie. She’d be free after 1730.

With the better part of the day ahead of me, I went for a ride back to Pacific Grove. I found a spot and watched the shrimping going on in the bay.

For lunch I hit the Crown and Anchor, downtown Monterey, and had a remarkable crab and shrimp melt sandwich on sourdough. I enjoyed it out on their patio until a non-patron showed up, lit up, smoked three cigarettes back-to-back, leaving half a fag still burning in the ashtray when he left. The older I get the less patience I have with such assholery.

To chill from that I went back to the beach in PG (what better place is there?), pulled my Joey chair from the Tiger’s pannier along with my sleeping bag liner, walked down toward the water and found a spot where I, for the first time in my life, took a nap on the beach. It was still chilly so I snoozed in my gear sans helmet. I was startled awake by the shade that abruptly covered my face to find a young boy standing over me, mouth breathing. “Leave that man alone!” I heard – I’m assuming – his mother say from some distance away. I must’ve looked like an astronaut who had washed ashore, a more clad incarnation of Charleston Heston in Planet of the Apes. “Damn you!” I said.

Not really. He wouldn’t have gotten the reference. His folks showed up along with his little sister and they shuffled by me as if I were indeed driftwood. No apology. And none needed. That’s the beauty of a beach.

Check-in time rolled around so I made my way back to Seaside, checked in to my surprisingly nice room and did a little hygiene maintenance before meeting Addie at our Starbuck’s downtown Monterey. It was there I did another thing I’ve never done; drank decaf in the afternoon while I read the SF Chronicle front to back.

She rolled up on her Rebel, rocking it like no other could, and parked it diagonally parallel to the Tiger like she’s been doing it her whole life. We chatted there for a minute, letting the working world go by admiring our little motorcycle gang and we made our way back to the Crown and Anchor for dinner. It was even better and if you go be sure to get the English Toffee desert. Baby.

Where would we go for a last ride together was the order after dinner, and of course, Ocean View Boulevard was the obvious choice.

We sat and talked like best friends do and watched this sunset.

Our goodbye was a little easier this time since it was done from our rides as she peeled off to the Presidio and I made my way back to Seaside.

Tuesday morning after checking out and a spinach, feta and egg white wrap and a tall Pike at Starbuck’s, I lit at Seaside Powersports at 0900 to try to be the first into their service lineup. I was quickly turned away, indicating there wasn’t an opening until Wednesday. They wouldn’t even look at it. The manager of the store tried to soften the rebuff and offered his opinion and tried to hook me up with a shop in Fresno, but I knew the Tiger would be alright, backed up with the fact that I had coolant and a funnel tucked away in a pannier just in case things went pear-shaped.

Heaven help the traveling motorcyclist who needs assistance along the way in the Monterey area. At least any riding a Triumph.

From Seaside I set out north west on 1, picked up 156 to 152 over Pacheco Pass and across the Valley where Google Maps deposited me on Avenue 20.5 off of the 99. It’s as if Google’s algorithms picked up on the idea that I was after curvy, abandoned routes because as the road turned into Raymond Road, I was on an E-ticket ride all the way to Coarsegold. I stopped for lunch and gas and moved onto 41, delivering me to Yosemite Valley. What a ride.

This was only my second time to Yosemite and yet it feels like I’ve been here every Summer of my youth.

Tioga pass is still closed as of this writing, so I took Google’s advice and headed toward Sonora on 120 where I’d spend the night, only to be treated to this just west of Priest, California. I think if you were heading east on this road, you’d need a priest once you got to the summit.

I lit at the Sonora Hotel, or at least the motor lodge part of it so I’d have a room where I could keep an eye on the Tiger. The clerk didn’t understand.

Wednesday morning my weather app alerted that Thunderstorms were rolling into Sonora within the hour, so I made haste in getting out of there.

And that would’ve been great had the thunder bumpers been rolling in from the west. I mounted 108 toward Sonora Summit, northeast, right through the middle of the storm. I got nature’s full effect, from dense fog on the western approach, turning to pouring rain at Pinecrest, hail at Bumble Bee and sunshine at the Donnell Vista.

I hit some snow flurries at the summit and then the sun favored me for most of my ride on the leeward side of the Pass.

I made my way to Hawthorne where I thawed and dried out a bit and then on to Tonopah where on its outskirts sits a solar power facility, like those on the Stateline at Prim on I-15. The solar flux generated by the 173,500 heliostats creates ambient air temperatures up to 1000 degrees, vaporizing anything that should fly through its aura. I am always awed by these. 

The wind here was the worst I’d ever experienced riding. Shortly after releasing the shutter on the above image I was engulfed in a sandstorm. There’s sand now accumulated in the twin headlight shrouds on the Tiger. From Tonopah I fought the wind along Highway 6 until the road turned north and the wind was at my back. I stayed the night in Ely.

Thursday morning, at 37f degrees, I made my way to Interstate 80 at West Wendover and made a stop at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

They’re a little soggy this time of year. Last time I was out here the salt surface was perfect while I filmed a world-record speed attempt for an electric vehicle. On this stop I lost my electric charging cable for my iPhone. It’s only six inches long and plugs into a 12V outlet I have installed on my handlebars. I looked all over for it but came up empty handed. I had a spare, longer cable in my bag, but had enough charge to get me back to Bountiful.

It was there, at my home in my garage, while I was taking off my boots sitting next to the Tiger, where I found it.

I’m the luckiest guy I know.

Here’s the route:

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