Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Fun Ride Through Yosemite (Bishop to Sonora)

America's Best Value Inn in Bishop, CA has funny water. The cold comes out hot, the hot comes out luke warm, and a mix of the two sometimes results in no water coming from the pipes at all. I wonder if this is to limit people from using too much water in the desert? Entertaining showers were how we started our morning.

The night before, we spotted an independent little coffee shop called The Looney Bean. Maybe it's not independent, what do I know about California? We decided to have coffee and breakfast there instead of the normal continental breakfast provided by the hotel. Mostly, we were scared of the kind of "food" they might serve and after a brief sampling of the hotel coffee, we quickly headed to the Looney Bean. Good food and coffee.

Blogging finished, we headed back to the hotel. We got distracted on the way back by the local motorcycle shop called Golden State Cycles, which was directly on our way to the hotel. We looked around, chatted with the owner, and bought a few things we "needed". He told us about a new kind of cleaner that is used on fighter jet bubbles, which we bought to help keep the bugs from sticking so badly on our helmets and bikes. Bike shops are always a fun event for us.

We headed back to the hotel, packed our things, and hit the road. A few miles down the road we filled up the baby ninja again and discovered our helmet communicators were malfunctioning in a way that Kris could talk to me but she couldn't hear me. These Uclear bluetooth communicators have been a pain this entire trip. They are going back on warranty for sure when we get back!

After we left Bishop we started to climb and climb. Signs read "3000 ft elevation", "4000 ft elevation", "5000 ft elevation" and continued for miles and miles until we hit about 8000 ft. The scenery changed from sandy, rocky, hills (I suppose folks call them mountains here but they're hills by Pacific NW standards), to conifer trees and cooler tempuratures. It felt soooo good to ride through 70-ish degree sunny weather! I could feel my boiling blood come to a simmer. My mind no longer bothered by the heat like an aching joint. It was magical.

We stopped off several places for pictures. During one of the stops I found a jeep trail and decided to ask Kris for a few snapshots of the KLR offroading. I have been aching to get it off the pavement this entire trip! It handled the sandy, rocky trail like a champ! Lean back, lots of throttle, and power through! Weee!

We kept climbing until we eventually found the entrance to Yosemite we were after, Tioga Pass. The bikes were coughing and sputtering, power was waaay down, and when I looked at the elevation sign I realized why. We were at 10,000 ft above sea level. Any carburated bike would have trouble with that kind of elevation without rejetting. The baby ninja had the most trouble with the elevation. My instruction to Kris, keep the rpms high while climbing.

We got a few pictures, creatively, at the entrance to Yosemite. The timer on our camera doesn't blink or tell us when it's taken a shot. The wind was blowing heavily so during the first attempt we set the camera on a fence post and just as it snapped the shot it fell off, capturing only a picture of the sky as it hit the ground. No big deal. We bought this camera because it was shock and waterproof (it landed in a puddle). Try #2 I gave Kris a big rock to prop it up against. This worked much better!

We entered Yosemite, which cost $20 for two bikes. That seems a bit high to me considering it's a national park. What do our tax dollars go towards again? Oh yeah, keeping the wealthy, wealthy.

Anyhow, the views of the mountain peaks at Tioga Pass are stunning! Snow capped mountains that look like someone painted them into existance. At 10,000 feet they seem like giants you could reach out and touch, not distant monoliths far from reach. I wish we had time and patience to stop and take more pictures but both because of our limited schedule and because the riding is so fun, we only stop a couple of times in this beautiful and majestic section of Yosemite.

Pristine mountain creeks run along side the road with giant boulders and fallen logs diverting their flow. Crystaline lakes shimmer the reflection of the trees around them in a deep blue hue. Granite cliffs are the edge of the road, which sparkles with a million sparkles from the quartz in the road material as you ride along. It is as if someone rolled out the diamond carpet for you to ride through this amazing place of beauty.

We stop for a break next to a lake, I don't remember which, and eat all of the snacks in our possession. We decide to speed up our trip through Yosemite for a bit in order to eat lunch at the hotel in the valley, which was still another 30 or so miles away. As we rode along, we kept decending and the the bikes starting running better and better. By the time we got to the valley we were probably close to 4000 feet elevation. It was nice to have the KLR back to its normal self again!

We arrived at the hotel, found the bar, and ordered some lunch. The hotel had a rustic, Native American theme. The food took a while but it was yummy and worth the wait.

We decided to snap a few pictures and head out. We had to be in Sonora this evening and it was already 2:30pm.

We tried stopping on the bikes and discovered it was a pain to get on and off with helmets and gear just to grab a few pictures. Instead, I suggested Kris jump on the back of the KLR and snap pictures as we go along. Reluctantly, she went along with it and then commented, "Why was I so reluctant to do this, it's so much fun!" It was fun. I love it when she laughs on the back of my bike.

Time to head out. We made said goodbye to Yosemite and headed out toward Sonora. Hwy 120 is just amazing. Endless corners, rolling hills, and green in all directions. It looks like you might imagine wine country or Italy to look like, though I've never been there. Parts are so beautiful, perhaps the most beautiful part of California I've seen yet.

One place in particular, I think it was called Priest Station or something, has a series of hills with at least 40 hairpin turns. We did that section twice, it was that good! I coached Kris via headset (they were now working) on how to setup the bike for corners, how and where to apex, and where to get on the gas. She improved a lot by the end of this little adventure.

Kris wanted to swing by Jamestown to check out this Gold Rush era town. It must have been better in her memory because besides a few buildings, it seemed a little run down. We were both hot and tired so we found a convienence store, bought a coke, and sat for a while in the shade to cool off.

We hopped back on the bikes and another few beautiful miles later, we arrive at cousin Rosie's house in Sonora. She has this beautiful property overlooking those same rolling hills and a pond down the way which helicopters were taking water from to fight forest fires. She wasn't there yet so we just hung outside and appreciated the beauty of this place.

Rosie arrived and we helped unload groceries, chatting the entire time. Rosie offered us blueberries and watermelon to eat as Kris and I sat on the deck, overlooking the inviting pool and beautiful view of the hills. We were just too tired to swim.

Rosie kindly cooked us dinner after her very very long work day. I had mixed feelings about her taking care of us after her crazy long work schedule. Rosie seems like a forever giving person.

We sat down for dinner. Rosie's daughter, April, shows up and joins us for dinner. They are both so friendly and warm. I feel delighted to get to know them as my new family. Good food and great company end a perfect day on our motorcycle adventure.

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