2013-04-28

With Only A Motorcycle: MotoCarma Lets Me Know Solo-Moto Is No Joke


So since I got my motorcycle this last Friday I have been quite cheeky about the fact that I’d I’m going to be riding in California; one of the best motorcycle states in the country.  Probably to the point of annoyance for some of the people back home but hey an adult gets very few “kid in a candy store” moments so I figured, “Why not milk it a bit?”


Friday night I had two gotten down two of the Guinness Black Lagers down by the time I had posted the previous entry and was perusing through a few of the websites that I have linked at the bottom of the blog when I made it to, “A Suitable Wardrobe” and found an article about Joseph Phelps Winery and it inspired me to go for a ride to check out at least a bit of wine country.  So I brought up Google maps and proceeded to map out my route which if you care to scrutinize is at this link.  Of course as with any night you are drinking and you decide to go for a motorcycle ride the next day (even if you alone in your hotel room at your computer) that is the time to stop drinking.  I had some reservations about following that rule because of the dreaded two-beer hangover but I wanted to make sure that I would be clear for my first official ride in California.  After all I would be riding on completely unfamiliar roads.
I woke up around 0730 and proceeded to make breakfast, a lunch to bring and to get ready for the ride.  I was assembling the riding gear I would be wearing when I ran into the first conundrum; liners in or liners out.  I had taken them out the night before.  The Tourmaster Transition Series 3 Jacket and the Tourmaster Caliber Pants both have full liners and it was in the low 60’s that morning but it was going to be in the high 80’s later on.  I decided that I would go liners in and should I need to I could always take them out and throw them in a saddle bag if it got too warm so I put them back into the jacket and pants. 


I wrote out the directions in simplified turn-by-turn manner (note to self for next time put the distances between on the paper) and ate breakfast.  After that I packed my lunch in the tank bag a long with my pipe and a book on philosophy.  I threw the iPad into the tail bag with a bungee cord and a towel and my kickstand puck and brought all the stuff downstairs to put back on the bike. 
Sidebar: One thing that I did not anticipate when built the luggage rack for the FZ was the bike cover so the thing barely fits on the bike with just the rack and no luggage so when I want to cover the bike I have to take the luggage off and bring it inside.  I’ll have to look into getting the next step larger cover at some point.
End Sidebar: When I got out to the bike (I still didn’t have my gear on) I realized that it was not going to be necessary to have the liners in so I took them back out.  Furthermore I decided to wear only the pants without jeans underneath them and just a t-shirt under the jacket I made sure to wear one that I really didn’t care about because I figured that inevitably it would get sweat-ridden once it got hot.  Eventually I was out and on my way I started out vents closed and was comfortable.  


Once I hit CA 128 I pulled over to take a couple photos little did I know that I would be returning past this point later in the day in a much poorer state.



I captured these two buzzing by the FZ; a Ducati Monster and a Honda CB400F (maybe).  It became pretty obvious that CA 128 is a pretty popular moto-road.  A lot of the great moto-roads in southwest Wisconsin were because of the Dairy Farms.  The milk trucks were so heavy that what would have probably been just dirt roads at first eventually needed to be paved for the trucks to get to the farms.  I’m not sure if the particular portion of CA 128’s path was driven by industry but if it was it may have been by the utility side of things.  One thing that I found particularly annoying about CA 128 was that the other type of vehicle that seemed to populate the road en-masse was large pickups hauling even larger boats.


The Monticello Dam is located along this road the reservoir at the top of the dam is called Lake Berryessa it is huge and people like to bring their boats up to play in the lake.  A crappy combination if you are a motorcyclist; large trailered boats on narrow twisty roads it could get old.  Lucky for me since it was all new to me I just used the time until the next passable straight-a-way to enjoy the views.  But back to my earlier point if I had to guess the reasoning for the route of CA 128 it would be for the construction of that Dam.


Unfortunately not being familiar with the area at all I was looking at the rocks…


…and the drop-off for the low side of the dam.  Had I known I was right by a one-of-a-kind engineering marvel I would have walked the extra 50 yards and looked at it!


This is a giant spillway that was built to protect the Dam, it is called the Glory Hole.  There is no valve to shut off this drain it was made so that once the reservoir reaches a certain height it automatically drains so the Dam does not have too much pressure exerted on it and burst.  Pretty cool!  Then next time I am up there I’ll have to take a look!





I stopped by the Somerston Winery and took a picture in front of the gate.  They didn’t buzz me in.

After about an hour of riding I was looking for a spot to stop and some pictures along Howell Mountain Rd and I spotted a turnout, slowed, turned around and went back to it.  The view was spectacular!


So spectacular in fact that I decided to stop and have lunch on a rock just off the road.  I did pull out the iPhone and took a quick video to share with you.




After lunch I did make it to my planned destination.  The winery has a huge mansion at the top of a hill with a ski gondola that takes people up to the top (for a fee of course) but by that point it was getting warm and I didn’t feel like walking around in my gear and playing with the wine tourists so I decided to head back.   My plan for the route home was much simpler and just involved taking CA 128 the whole way back to winters and hitting the 505 west to Vacaville.  I was having a ball wicking it up a bit through the twisty portions since I didn’t have to look of the next turn off I could focus on just the road and it was great!  Just before Lake Berryessa I came across a Harley rider with a passenger following a slow moving Pickup/Boat combo so I settled into the follow-mode and waited for the next passing zone.  Luckily it was long enough to pass both of them in one swoop.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened but shortly thereafter I started to notice the bike was not tipping into the corners nearly as easy as it was just a few seconds earlier.  At first I thought something was wrong with the front end.  Was there an issue with the steering stem bearings??? Then I started to hear that familiar sound of deflated tire riding on the rear rim.  FUGG!  I slowed down and pulled over  to the edge or the road and limped it to a safe pull off spot and inspected the rear tire.


Sure enough… there it was close to the center in one of the tread recesses.

The good thing was that it was pluggable the bad thing was that I ignored that thought in my head the day before to go and assemble my solo-moto trouble kit immediately and of course it was now biting me in the ass.  I grab my phone.  No signal… How far am I from Winters??? No idea the GPS on the iPhone won’t work (properly) without a signal.  The Boat and the Harley I passed go by, not sure if they could tell what my situation was but if they could I’d imagine they were chuckling to themselves.  I decided that I had no choice but to limp the bike into Winters.

It was a bit tricky to steer the bike with the flat tire the rear just felt squirmy add to that they fact that there was no pave shoulder made it a real balancing act giving the traffic room to pass and not falling off the edge of the road into the gravel.  On the straights I was comfortable at speeds around 20mph and down to 10 when there was a banked curve.


It took me about 40 minutes to make it into town and to Pisani’s Service station.

I ended up talking to Bob and old school guy working at the old school service station and while he was not able to plug the tire for me (everyone is afraid of the liability) he was cool with me using his air pump and leaving my bike at his shop while I walked over to the Napa and bought the plug kit and a needle nose pliers to cut the excess plug away.  The walk to and from the auto parts took longer than the repair.  By that point I was sweating my ass off but though I’d chat with Bob for a bit.  He was a really cool guy, he and his son run the station (though he does employ some other mechanics too).  I told him that I had just moved to the state and that I really appreciated the use of his facilities.  We talked about how back in the day he would have plugged that in a heartbeat but how California is the most litigious state so he won’t touch them anymore.  I told him it’s not just there.  He asked what brought me here; most people come to Vacaville for the military so he was interested to hear that I was there for PG&E.  After that we BS-ed about housing prices and the market etc and eventually he had to go back to work but it was nice for me to meet someone new.

The tire held air great on the way home and I after I went into the hotel and cooled off for a bit I went to assemble the trouble kit that I should have assembled before I ever took the bike on a long distance ride.  I also stopped and got some groceries.  I shot a quick video of me unpacking the bags so you could see what I had fit in the bags.


Even with them not expanded there was still room for more in them so I think I will be fine for bigger trips to the store as well.

I want to take a separate post to cover my trouble kit so stay tuned for that, I hope you enjoyed my latest post!

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