Monday, May 29, 2017

Kit Carson Pass

The motorbike road trip on the El Camino de Sierra has been a grand bridge back to reality, but after months of rollicking good times my traveling compadre and I had to get on that road back to Alaska.
Carson Peak Is Not Near Carson Pass?

We started by checking the weather on line. The temperatures appeared to have been warm enough to melt most of the snow. Next, we made a few select phone calls to find out just what was happening at home. On one such call a friend told me that the sun was shining and the temperature was in the 50’s. However, calls on the next day revealed that yes indeed it was raining, and no surer sign of summer in the north exists that the steady rain of summer.
Summer Time In The North

We got up earlier than usual as my traveling compadre had a long ride ahead of her, back to Beatty, and then on to Bolder City. I only had to get over the Sierra Nevada and into the foothills to the town of Jackson California, after breakfast at Nicely’s we headed back to Murphy’s to finish packing, and get on the road, which we did one going south and I heading north to the nearest open pass over the Sierra Nevada range Carson Pass.

Because of winter snow all the nearby passes. Sonora, and Ebbetts  were still all closed, and because of that  I had to ride almost all the way back to Lake Tahoe on a clear warm spring morning, on smooth paved roads without any traffic. Tough morning.

I found highway 89 Carson Pass right where it used to be, and after a left turn off 395 I bid farewell to the El Camino de Sierra, and started to directly climb up to the summit.

With the other passes being closed I was worried that I might encounter snow, and cool temperatures, but the east facing mountains were almost clear, and I didn’t even see any of the white stuff till I was up on top, and with the sun shining it was a very nice ride.

Up in Hope Meadows the wild flowers were blooming and the yellow carpeted the meadow.
Hope Meadows

Going through the upper Sierras is where I encountered snow but it was far enough away where you could get a good look at it if you wanted to.

Red Lake Looking More White Than Red

Most of the lakes were still frozen over. Not many people fishing.  

On down into Jackson I rode and arrived in plenty of time to look around, and found the surroundings nice enough that I could have spent another day, but wouldn’t stay at the Best Western again  as it was rather dated and my room smelled like it had once been a smoking room. Gee when will these places ever get the word to remove the carpet?

Traffic into The City  would be the order of my last day on the road, getting around it, and  between it was as exciting as always, and I even paid the bridge toll just because I was glad to finally find it.



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Daylight Pass

Daylight Pass is the name of highway, Nevada 374 and California 190 but if you are traveling west from Beatty Nevada to Death Valley that’s the road you take, and if its 90 degrees in Beatty, and you know its at least triple digit heat in the valley, then you know that when you roll over the 4000ft. + summit and start your descent into the valley that the heat is going to surround you, and you are going to enjoy it because it’s raining at home.
Badwater Basin

We had to stay in Beatty Nevada. Furnace Creek Ranch wanted too much to stay in their lodging. Over $200.00 A night. At that price, you might as well pay the extra $100.00 or so and stay at the posh Furnace Creek  Resort, as it is closer to the cactus cosmos, and after a couple of those you really do not care what you are paying for a room.
Cactus Cosmo

The Atomic Inn in Beatty is dated. It was built when atomic testing was taking place in the Nevada desert, and the crews would stay there. The place has always been clean but on this visit we were disappointed to discover rubbish in one of the drawers and some left over clothes in another drawer but they made up for the not so spotlessness by finding my traveling compadres forgotten electronics.

The ride in, around, and back through Death Valley couldn’t have been better. The first day we rode in, and checked into the visitor center for trinkets and a park map. Once we knew  how to find the road to the  Charcoal Kilns we headed that way.  It was a great ride up to the Kiln’s. The weather was perfect and the temp. cooler at 6600ft. I also discovered after crawling up a hill to get a photo of the Kilns the air is rarer at that elevation than it used to be.
Charcoal Kilns

The next morning it was another run over Daylight Pass, and west on 190 through the park. Back to the El Camino de Sierra highway 395.

Highway 190 at the western edge of the park goes by Panamint Springs, another option for lodging. After the spring the road begins to climb, and before you know it you are twisting through miles of rock before reaching the 4900 ft.  summit of Towne Pass.

At the summit rest area, we were surprised by fighter jets on strafing runs through the rock canyons. The kiosks explained that this was perfectly normal, and that this was the only place near the national park where the war on the environment would be visibly fought with fighter aircraft.
The War Goes On

Desert plant persists in clinging to the rocky slopes of the battle zone, and proved to be quite specular.

Traffic was light and a semblance of peace was restored once back down in the Owens Valley
El Camino de Sierra


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Gaspar de Portol`a

Gaspar de Portol`a  November 30, 1767 to July 9, 1770 sailed the pacific and sailed his ships into Monterey Bay. He  camped by San Francisquito creek in today’s Palo Alto.  Like a lot of explorers of his time he is credited with “discovering” these places and claiming them for Spain regardless of the people already living there.  
Gaspar de Portol'a

He never made it to northern California and never traveled the Sierra Valley where a small town bears his name, and I never knew why the town of Portola was named for him.
The railroad is credited with naming the town, specifically the Western Pacific Railroad, when in 1910 Virgilia Bogue who was queen of the San Francisco “Portola Festival” suggested the name Portola for the town, and the name stuck.
My journey to Portola had less to do with history and more to do with the railroad as I traveled to the Western Pacific Railroad Museum, located just off highway 70 in beautiful downtown Portola.

Western Pacific Railroad Museum

The museum has quite a collection of vintage railroad equipment, and funds its mission of restoration and preservation in part by renting out vintage locomotives, and letting you drive them around their 13 miles of track. With supervision, of course.
Some Of The Trains On Display

Our ride for the day was going to be the museums 1950’s EMD GP9. Not my favorite vintage locomotive but it was the only one painted up in Southern Pacific colors. Not the real cool SP black widow, or even the standard bloody nose, but instead painted up in the merger colors with Santa Fe.
Southern Pacific 2873

We rode into town and planned to stay two nights, and had made reservations as we found out 3 miles out of town at the Nakoma lodge

We had no idea what to expect and were pleasantly surprised as we rolled up on this spectacular setting and discovered the place. It is a lodge with a golf course and if you really like the place you can buy some resort property and build your own couple of million-dollar summer cottage right there near the lodge, spa, bar, golf course, and coming soon a recreation center complete with a climbing wall…

We were still absorbing all the elegance of Nakoma lodge when my phone rang. Since I was still in all my cold weather riding gear I wondered what pocket my phone was in and if I could find it. I did and it was a girl from the museum who said the museum had a problem and would have to cancel our locomotive ride.
We decided that after traveling all the way from Australia just to drive a locomotive, that was unacceptably and suited up and rode down to the museum.

The counter girl, who had phoned had the same story. “There was a problem and the ride was canceled”

We still thought this was unacceptable so we wandered around looking for someone else to talk to. After a bit our train just so happened to roll up to the museum and we asked the fellows who got off just how come we couldn’t drive the train that they were just driving.
On The Ground

Seam's that they were moving some of the museums cars and well some of them ended up on the ground.

After a while it was agreed that we could operate the GP9 as scheduled but that we couldn’t go all around the property as the track was blocked.

Next day we operated the GP9. Rang the bell and blew the whistle. It was great fun and if you ever want to operate a locomotive go check out the Western Pacific Railroad Museum…



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Finding Winter

The Virgin plane with the purple lights and the safety briefing set to the latest pop song flew north from LAX to SFO. It wasn’t a bad flight but since it is now part of Alaska Airlines I would have thought that my very special status as a club 49 members would have gotten my bag free passage but it did not.

Our plan was to meet once again in the mecca of California Barstow, at our favorite Roadway Inn run by our pal Jonny who on this trip was wearing Rogers name tag. Maybe his name is Roger?

Roadway Inn

It wasn’t a bad ride there in fact it was rather pleasant. I had suited up since leaving the Bay Area in the morning is always cool with high humidity, so I was comfortable. When I got to Hollister I could look down the pass where highway 25 runs, my usual route and I could see lots of clouds some dark, and very possible rain…

I decided to take Pacheco Pass over to Interstate 5 and run down 5 to Bakersfield’s, which I did and it turned out to be a nice ride with not too much traffic and some friendly patch holders at a gas stop along the way.
Pacheco Pass

I think the patch holders were going to extend a membership invitation to me but then I started my bike and ABBA came over the stereo and well I didn’t want to be a “Chosen” member anyway.

Down in Barstow we met up as planned and the next morning left with only a possible plan as to where to go. We headed west and then hooked up with highway 395

Highway 395

The morning was windy but not too cold and we even turned around at Pearsonville to check out the abandoned ghost town whose claim to fame is the hub cap capital of the planet.

Where have the hubcaps gone?

Instead of the standard capitol dome this capitals most prominent feature is a giant plastic Uniroyal girl that is securely strapped to a pole and maintains   a steadfast vigil over the abandoned town.

Uniroyal Girl

There were some fellows already taking  there pictures of the Uniroyal girl when we rolled up and it should be noted that at no time did they or us look up her skirt. Sometimes a little respect goes a long ways.

Also of great interest parked at the site was one of the loaded truck trailers that all yesterday I saw rolling west and could never figure out their cargo.

Truck load of Garlic

GARLIC!  It was a truck load of garlic. Finally, enough for a recipe for roasted garlic. It smelled wonderful and made you hungry just looking at it.

The garlic did indeed make us hungry so it was decided that Lone Pine would be our lunch stop. We ran into a little weather on the way there (rain) but we did stop and put on the rain gear.

After a great lunch in a local café, some south bound travelers said they had encountered rain most of the way here from Bishop. I decided that I would suit up in all my rain gear and I was glad I did because before we got to our destination  in Lee Vining we encountered an 8000 ft. plus mountain pass that it just so happens it was snowing.

Luckily the snow was not sticking to the road but my traveling compadre did suffer from hypothermia by the time we got to our lodging.

Who knew that the weather that followed us most of the way across the Pacific would spill over the Sierra Nevada’s and turn to snow on us. Well just goes to show that being pure of heart mostly worked out again…..
Snow on my Motorbike