My First World Class Race Event
This was going to be a different sort of trip for us. We knew before we even started. Not only were we just tagging along on somebody else’s ride, but we were tagging along with some of the old-hat MSF instructors. Including the chief instructor for Utahs MSF program, our boss Dale. Also different from any other trip we had gone on was trailering the bikes across the lovely desert state of Nevada. Traditionally we ride everywhere we go. We had gotten together with Joey and his son a week previous and Joey showed his talent for pre-planning by having charts and graphs plotting the most efficient course and route by comparing gas mileage coefficients based on variable wind drags and weight impacts on vehicular performance incorporating trailer size, number of and weight of bikes. With accountable variables addressing relative humidity, temperature and relative engine performance. Quite impressive. We had just figured that it would be nice to not square off expensive motorcycle tires crossing the desert if we had the necessary resources to trailer. But Joey had proved it.
- And So It Begins
- From 10,000 Feet to Sea Level
- Two Days of World SuperBike Racing
- The Return to 10,000 Feet
- Back to Nevada
35 Miles | Fifty Minutes
So, starting July 5th, the Thursday after the 4th of July we met at Joeys house bright and early to load the bikes on the trailers. Kris and I were going to load our bikes into Dales trailer while Mark would load up with Joey and his son Jason. Most of the first day was spent riding in trucks as our motorcycles got the pleasure of a relaxing ride across the desert.
After all day of being in trucks, we stopped in Carson City Nevada. A MSF instructor had moved their a while ago and had offered his back yard to our trucks and trailers while we would be off riding some of California’s best roads. When we had unloaded the bikes and changed from our shorts and sandals into our leathers, we were just so excited to start riding that we had a hard time containing ourselves and were very eager to ride up the back side of the Sierra Nevada mountains towards Lake Tahoe where our hotel was for the first night. (Staying in hotels every night was another new thing for us.)
Here we are, getting ready for the first bit of riding. We were fortunate to have this location to check tire pressure, look things over and even give the bikes a quick detail before heading out.
We were so excited to leave that we rode out of the driveway into confusion. Everywhere we stopped to wait for the rest of the group we found an anxious neighbor wanting to pull into their driveway. After several U-turns, we all got together and started heading straight west towards Lake Tahoe on a road that was not on any of our maps but had been recommended highly by the owner of the home that was harboring the trucks. Before going two miles, Joey and Jason were gone from my mirrors. Joey had forgotten his wallet in the truck and immediately turned back. We all stopped and Dale went back to find Joey and make sure he did not get lost along the way.
After only about 50 minutes of riding we arrived at our Hotel in South Tahoe. My what a sporty group of bikes. Dale on his brand new FZ1, Joey on his Blackbird, Jason on his GSXR600, Mark on his ZX9R, and Kris and I on our VTR and TLS.
A pretty meager day except when you consider that our tires looked brand new after 600 miles and we weren’t even tired. We went to dinner and sat around and talked until much later than we should have Because we were just to excited to sleep.
352 Miles | Six Hours, Fifty Minutes
Day two, we knew was going to be a full day of riding. We figured it would be nice to ride for a bit before we stopped for breakfast. We were all pretty excited about riding so we were very talkative as we loaded up the bikes. The most we talked about though, was what to wear that would be comfortable at over 10k feet and also be comfortable at 100+ temperatures. Kris and I already regretted not having brought our FirstGear nylon jackets. Oh well, live and learn.
We rode out towards Echo Lake along Hwy 50 then crossed over Luther Pass (7735 ft.) into Woodfords, and then south towards Markleeville where we finally stopped for breakfast. After breakfast we crossed Monitor pass (8314 ft.) on Hwy 89. Over the top of Monitor Pass I hit a bird. I saw it out of the corner of my eye. The poor bird was trying to stop and go backwards for all it was worth, but was probably only calibrated for the 30mph car, not the 75mph bike. I tried to move out of the way, but their just wasn’t time and the bird found a quick demise as it rammed squarely into my forearm. The sharp impact felt like it broke my arm, but the worst part was the blood that the bird left on the arm of my jacket. This was the first time in almost 100,000 miles of riding that I’ve ever hit a bird.
We turned south onto 395 into Sonora Junction where we turned West onto the famous Hwy 108! Hwy 108, Sonora pass, is one of the great roads that we have discovered. Dale had taken this route many times so we were happy to simply follow his lead. Particular over the very tight crest. The road was so tight that we had to watch to top of the guys helmet in front of us just to know which way the road turned over the next blind hill.
Here we are parked at the top of the pass, the sign says 9624 and 9628 ft. (depending on which side of the road you are on – Can you say ‘banked corners’?) Despite the tremendous changes in elevation the bikes performed quite well. They obviously didn’t have the same amount of power that 4500 feet of elevation Salt Lake provides, but we were still able to power up the 20% grades. A very cool road to say the least!
We continued along 108 heading west. When we stopped for gas, Dale, Kris and Jason topped off their tanks on the same receipt. (always remember to notice where the pump is before you start to fill up.) We started moving again when Dale stopped almost immediately for something cool to see. We made the short hike down to a very scenic vista that amazed us. I just couldn’t believe how many people live in California, but it still offers these remote areas that look as though they have been untouched by human hands.
Whoa! Would you look at that! Could you imagine how cool it looked in life size? It was pretty amazing. Despite Kris yelling at me for climbing out past the safety fences and out onto the rocks, it was well worth the risk to get this photo. (even though it looked much better in real life.) Not only did I get in trouble with Kris, but when we got home, she told my mom about it and I got in trouble twice. And Jason thought he was the only one being watched over by his parents.
Hey Mark! Look at that little row boat way down there! Pretty cool dontcha think? Just don’t lean out too far.
You’ll have to forgive me, but I still think this was the best view in the park. What a knockout!! I’m so glad she married me. (Sorry, I’ll get on with the story).
Hwy 108 continued dropping in elevation for quite some time. The more it dropped, the straighter and more crowded the road got. But it was the slowly increasing rise in temperature as we left the higher elevations behind us that became most noticeable. It didn’t help that Dale had let me ride his FZ1 for this stretch, that big four cylinder motor pouring warm air onto my legs was very pleasant when the temperatures were still cool, but became more uncomfortable as we eased into the hotter temperatures.
We stopped at a gas station and I had an ice cream cone. (Pralines and Cream, Thank you very much.) Dale started the banter about how much more powerful his FZ1 was than my TLS. Of course its more powerful! Its a four cylinder! That’s why in World Superbike the 1000cc-twins race against the 750-fours. But he still had to comment on how much more torque his FZ1 had. But that was okay, because at least my twin vented the hot air AWAY from the rider. (Plus I knew the TLS was a better bike simply because its a twin. – Just look at the WSB standing for which bikes win the most races. The first three positions are held by twins. Ducati, Honda and Aprilia).
We started out again heading across the “valley.” If we thought the temperatures were warm before, we had no idea what was coming. Temperatures soared! The little thermometer on my tank bag said that it was 110-degrees. Very warm! We could have stayed in Utah for this.
We stayed off the main roads and crossed most of the valley on smaller county roads. These smaller roads were great! they twisted and turned over and around any hill and dell that came in their way. We took the opportunity to increase the speed and get across the heat as fast as we could. We stayed on the small roads until we came to Los Banos where we jumped onto Hwy 152 that would lead us into Hollister California.
Some say that Hollister is the home of the outlaw biker. Sometime during the 50’s their were some motorcycle races in Hollister. A group of rowdy’s came into town, got drunk and partied hard. Life magazine was on site to take a photo of a ham fisted biker, sprawled out on his pan-head Harley, with a beer in each hand and a pile of broken beer bottles around him. This image was burned into the psyche of Americans and Hollywood escalated the image with the movie “The Wild Ones” starring Marlon Brando wearing a leather jacket and riding a Triumph (not a Harley.) The movie took place in Hollister and ever since then Hollister has been known as a biker town. So, it was no surprise that on this fourth of July weekend, Hollister looked like a scaled down Sturgis rally with more Softails then you could shake a stick at. Nevertheless, Hollister will always hold a special place in my heart because it was where I first learned the benefits of sea level.
Joey wanted to stop at the Corbin factory to order a set of Beetle Bags for his Blackbird. I was behind Dale, Joey, Mark and Jason with Kris riding behind me. As we passed the airport whose runway started perpendicular and right next to the road. A vintage World War II fighter was powering up for takeoff. Having been around prop-planes before I knew what to expect, and so did the other riders. However, 17-year old Jason did not. As Dale, Joey and Mark rode behind the plane the effect it had was negligible. So when Jason unexpectedly rode behind the plane, his ultra-light GSXR 600 was pushed across his lane by the blast, almost into the center divider before he got past the wash. Even though I was behind Jason I could see how big his eyes got when he hit that prop wash. I started laughing so hard that when I hit the prop wash it startled me. Poor Jason. That was probably his biggest scare of the trip.
After the plane incident we passed the Corbin Factory. When we got to the first visible break in the center divider Joey pulled in and did a sharp U-turn. Dale, who was in the lead continued on, but the rest of us followed Joey. When I did my U-turn, I accelerated hard to catch up and I was scared and surprised as the front wheel on the TLS effortlessly rose up towards the sky. “This is sooo Cool!” When we realized that there was no way to get to Corbin from the main road, we did another U-turn, another power wheelie and raced off to catch up with Dale, who was already at Corbin. “I love sea-level” I thought to myself. A few blocks down the road we came to a huge sign that directed us straight to the Corbin Factory. A left turn, another Power wheelie, a right turn, power wheelie and a straight away, a very nice power wheelie. “I love sea-level.”
We parked the bikes and Dale must have thought us to be fools because Mark, Jason and myself were giggling loons talking about how cool all the power wheelies were. Joey was excited about getting his bags and dissipated. Kris, who is much to sane to do such foolish things, just laughed at us while Dale rolled his eyes and called us children. Besides, this was a big moment for Mark. These were some of his very first wheelies. We were too excited to care about Dales comments. Sea-level is awesome!!
After we left Hollister we headed over to Salinas. Hwy 158 was jam packed with cars. Despair floated down on top of us until we realized that lane splitting is legal in California. Lane Splitting is a California law that basically says, “when traffic is moving at half the posted limit, motorcyclists can move between the cars, but not in either emergency lane, at speeds no greater than five mph faster than the flow of traffic.” Motorcyclists are well aware of the greater level of safety afforded by lane splitting, but none of us (except Dale and Joey) had ever experienced it. Oh, how sweet it is! We moved up along between the two lanes of traffic. 99% of the automobile drivers would move towards the outside of their lanes giving us plenty of room to slip between them. Many children waved and several drivers/passengers waved. There was only the occasional driver who was snoozing at the wheel, (As they crept along at 7mph) and who needed to be reminded of our presence by a quick “beep” and a wave. They would promptly move over and give a wave of apology. Despite the fact that our clutch hands got very tired, lane splitting was great. And on top of the added safety, which was obvious, we were able to slip through 20 miles of jammed traffic in very short order. I think I’m starting to like California!
After the traffic jam (not for us) we headed towards Monterey and Carmel Valley where our hotel was. The closer we got the more bikes we saw. Bikes in all varieties. Rare ones, common ones, ratty ones and very expensive ones. It was like riding along the coolest motorcycle parade you can imagine and there were so many bikes that we simply gave up waving at all but our favorite bikes as they sped past going their own direction.
We arrived at our hotel and checked in. Dropped the bags off our bikes (Joey got out his cleaning supplies and started polishing) and walked down a short hill to the nearest restaurant where we ran into Dales brother Dave, girlfriend Binda and his buddy Jerry, who were awaiting our arrival. With Laguna Seca raceway only a few miles away we were just so excited to finish dinner and head off go to to bed so we could visit the famous race track the next morning. However, I know that I was too excited to sleep and spent most of the night with staring at the ceiling with visions of being noticed for my "astonishing" riding ability and being offered a full race sponsorship on the spot. The pleasure of dreaming.
A good day of riding with a very exciting destination. This was one of the first rides we had been on where the final stop was just as exciting as the voyage.
Two Days of World SuperBike Racing
The next two days were nothing short of being awesome! We all arose early to head over to the track. After a quick breakfast at a local coffee shop with Dale and his brother Dave, girlfriend Binda and his friend Jerry. Then we headed out to cross Laurels Grade. A fine little canyon the went straight from Carmel Valley to Laguna Seca Raceway. About halfway down the back side of Laurels Grade I spotted the track on the top of the next hill. You could see portions of the track, the hundreds of white tents and … it was only a glimpse and just enough to really get the blood pumping with excitement.
When we started up the road towards the track, California lane splitting came in handy again. Rather than have to wade through an eternally long line of cars working up the side of the mountain, we were able to slice up past it all and get right into the gates. Once we crested the ridge we could see down into the small valley that held the track. It was the AMA practice session and the bikes were racing around with impressive grace. It was hard not to stare and I had to remind myself that I was piloting my own bike as well.
Parking was somewhat of a challenge. VIP parking was sold out by the time we bought our tickets, but Honda provided parking, Triumph provided parking, Kawasaki provided parking and even Buell provided parking. That left Dale and myself to find our own place to park. It all worked out well. Kris pulled into Honda, Mark pulled into Kawasaki parking, while Joey and Jason used their VIP parking. Dale and I shifted a Speed Triple over a few inches and made room for us on the side of a small track road. Jerry was just across the way from us and allowed us to pile stuff onto his Buell, where the guard would be watching.
The scene was amazing! Every major manufacturer, vendors galore and some of the best racers in the world. All in this one location. We decided to split up and meet back at the end of the day so nobody would feel like they were doing something they didn’t want to do.
Joey and Jason went off to look at vendors while Mark, Kris Dale and I hung out. One of the first places we wanted to hit was the manufacturer tents to see the bikes that had not made it into the local shops yet.
We were actually really excited to see the Aprilia Futura but were quite disappointed with the shape and fit of the bike. However the new Caponord really impressed us. Kris and I were thinking of getting a bike that we could ride two-up on and we just might sell the two track bikes to pay for one of these Caponords. Very Cool!! (But I still don’t understand the name. Capo means Chief and Nord means North in Italian… So, its a Chief North or Chief of the North… hmmm. I don’t get it). > I was really hoping to find some new leathers and the vendors had one that I just loved for a much better price than we could get at home. Plus they had it in my size. Kris found some cool shirts and more than one vendor that was catering to female riders. Bettyracer.com. About time! It was nice to see someone building stuff for female riders. It didn’t take long before we just had to head over to watch the races. "I’ve never seen a bike lean over so far before!" I practically shouted failing to contain my excitement. Fortunately I wasn’t the only one overcome by the event. There were lots of other people behaving just as foolishly as myself.
Here’s Kris standing in front of one of the most famous racetrack turns in existence. The Corkscrew! This was also during the AMA Supersport event with Miguel Duhamel and Matt Mladin. That’s Mark just to her left intently photographing the moment.
After the race we walked over the top of the hill that gave a great vantage point of most of the track. Even the unflappable veteran of many World Superbike weekends, Dale looked pretty thrilled to be there. After the AMA race, we continued to wander around looking at cool bikes, and vendors. Mark, Kris and myself had pit passes. So, we had to leave Dale to wander on his own while we ventured into the pit area. Just seeing the racers trailers was impressive enough.
It was Miguel Duhamel! Mark said I should have knocked him over the head while he wasn’t looking, taken his leathers, hopped on his bike and showed him how a CanyonChaser would do it. But I thought, "Naw, I wouldn’t want to make him feel bad… He’s had a rough year." We walked away with the thought that I wasn’t so short when I’m with the racers. (Finally, I’m normal sized!) I mean, I’m probably within ten pounds of the very talented and successful racer.
As we walked away Mark said. "I should have gotten my picture too." So we hurried our way back to the trailer and Mark got the last photo with Miguel (We’re on a first name basis now) before he headed back into the depths of his trailer.
We rushed back towards the track as the World Superbike racers headed out for Superpole. A single timed lap that rewards the fastest riders with a better grid position. We loved the view from turn two during the AMA practice session, so we quickly headed back that way but the only available stands were "Ducati Only." Anyone wanting to sit in the stands had to show proof of ownership of a Ducati by allowing the guard to inspect their motorcycle key. I was just about to give up and look someplace else when a friendly Ducati owner waved us up into the stands. We rushed up into position. "The guard hasn’t turned around all day." They guy told us. The guard was just as enthralled with the Superpole as we soon were as soon as the next rider sped around the corner with the front tire spinning freely in the air as the bike powered down towards turn three. The quicker the rider the later they were in the Superpole lineup. The last riders to hit the track were Neil Hodgson from England and, my personal favorite, Ben Bostrom.
Superpole allows each rider on warm up lap, one timed lap and one cool down lap. Because we were in the Ducati stands, each Ducati racer rewarded our cheers with either a beautiful power wheelie or a wave. Each drew excited shouts and fist waving from the fans. It was great fun! Ben Bostrom beat out Neil Hodgson for the Superpole so Kris and I raced over to his tent for the chance to meet and maybe get the autograph of Ben. When we got to the tent there were already a group of people with the same idea we had. A Speedvision video crew was there as well as quite a few young ladies who were, obviously, hoping to catch the eye of the flamboyant Bostrom.
As we waited for Ben to show up, I saw a strangely familiar face. I knew immediately who it was, but was reluctant to say something. I turned and whispered to Kris, "That’s Mick Doohan!" Kris tried to encourage me to go get my picture taken with him, but for some reason, I just couldn’t. It was Mick Doohan! Five time winner of 500 Gp racing. So Kris simply goes, "Okay, take my picture then." and she walks right up to him.
So here is Kris and the very famous Mick Doohan! Its just too cool for words. A chance to meet one of the most talented motorcyclists on the planet. I wish we had a few moments to ask him for a golden morsel of riding advice. But it was pretty hectic with all the people in the pits and all the fans hoping to spot a favorite rider. The moment came and went in almost as much time as it took to snap the picture. No sooner had Mick left (We’re on a first name basis now) Eric Bostrom showed up and started signing autographs. Mark went back to the bikes and wasn’t with us but was a big fan of Eric, (we’re on a first name basis now) partly because he rides a green bike like Mark does and mostly because he rides the wheels off a bike that is pretty much outdated.
It was still pretty cool that these guys come out to meet the fans like this. I don’t think anybody would have been hurt if these guys didn’t show up, but it was pretty darn amazing that they do. We got his signature on Marks program and headed back to meet up with everyone. When we got back to the bikes my and Dales helmets were missing. We had left it on Jerry’s Buell, but his Buell was gone. We figured that maybe they left it at Joey’s bike. But it wasn’t there either. We started getting a bit upset at the thought of having to go buy a new helmet and figured there was no way they would have been able to find Kris’ VTR in the Honda parking with all the other yellow VTRs But wouldn’t you know, Kris was waiting for us to show up and get all our stuff because she had no idea how she would be able to carry it all. I guess yellow VTRs with Utah plates are easier to find than one would think.
When we finally all got back together I was so excited to show off my new jacket that I didn’t even notice that Jason got a new jacket too! The two of us were just super cool! We should have gotten a photo of both of us in our neat new riding jackets.
Joey needed to fix his headlight and wanted to do some cleaning on his bike, so he and Jason decided to head back to the hotel. While Dale, Mark, Kris and myself decided to go out to Cannery row where everybody who is anybody was going to be. Somehow, during this time frame, making an quick turn into a driveway or other similar move became known as "pulling a Bostrom." We’re not sure where this came from or how it refers to either of the Bostrom brothers, but it became a funny joke that we would use when we reverted to riding around somewhat lost and sometimes making abrupt moves to get where we wanted to go. Dale pulled a Bostrom to find us this parking spot. Luckily none of us wrecked trying to keep pace with him.
Kris and I are watching closely as this guy backs into a very small parking spot next to Kris bike. A too real flashback from our Canada trip the previous year prevented us from walking away before the parking job was complete. Fortunately this gentleman was a much more capable rider than the yuppies from Jackson Hole.
Cannery row looked like Sturgis, only with more diversity. It was a stretch of about four or five blocks, right on the coast that was filled with touristy restaurants and shops. In Sturgis all the Harleys park up and down the main strip of the small South Dakota town with an occasional sport bike. During Laguna Seca, all the bikes park along Cannery row, only the Harleys are very rare and the sport bikes are plentiful. In Sturgis you sit and watch the bikes go by. "Hey, look! A Softail. Hey, look! A Softail. Hey, look! A Dyna." At Cannery Row its more like. "Hey, look! A Yamaha GTS! Hey, look! A MV Agusta F4. Hey, look! A Cagiva Navigator." In Sturgis every bike has a bit of "bolt-n-go" customization, where the owners buy chrome bits and bolt them on their bike to "Individualize" them. At Cannery row the customized bike was pretty rare, but the variety was like walking through a living motorcycle museum. >We walked up and down the strip looking at the bikes, commenting on how cool this one was, or what a dog that one was. Dale and I were starting to identify bikes in unison and jokes started flying that we were like a married couple. (I didn’t think it was funny).
We even saw a guy who had bungied a brand new Pilot Sport onto the back of his bike. Somebody walking by commented, "Why would you buy the most popular tire in the size that would fit 75 percent of the bikes here, then just strap it onto your bike with a bungee cord?" He had a point, but I guess motorcyclists are just honest folk… Restaurants on Cannery row were booked out for an hour or more, so Dale took us out away from the bikes and to a great little restaurant called Sherlock Holmes. (even though he pulled a couple "Bostroms" finding the place.) The waitress looked like she came over from Ireland in the 1920’s. The atmosphere was fantastic and their were a group of Brits at the table across from us. They had flown in to see the races. So, naturally some good natured banter took place. "You Yanks aren’t going to feel to bad when our boy Hodgson beats out your boy Bostrom, are you?" and "Naw, we’re hoping that our boy Ben doesn’t embarrass Neil too badly when he laps him – twice." Laughing with fellow riders from the other side of the pond and a good meal was a great way to end the day. All we had left to do was head home for bed.
Sunday was going to start off with our parade lap around the track. Joey and Dale didn’t buy the parade lap tickets so Dale volunteered to take photos of us on turn two, where we had watched Superpole and were so impressed. We rode over to the track early to get in line as so not to loose our chance to ride the track.
Here we are lined up. You can see Kris and Jasons bike on the right side of the image. (Kris is the pretty one in the red shirt!) Many of the people there had done parade laps before and were excited to do it again. They talked about how tight turn 11 is, how you can’t see anything from the top of the corkscrew and its the equivalent of an 11-story drop! Kris was getting a little anxious thinking about riding the track as well as riding it with all the other bikes.
When we finally got onto the track something strange happened to all of us. We suddenly left behind being CanyonChasers and became Racers! The air of competition moved over us, the confidence inspiring track before us. The roar of the crowd faded away and our minds became focused on the racetrack. Mark immediately jumped into the lead with Kris and Jason not far behind. I was in the rear but slowly worked my way forward through the traffic. As we raced up the back hill towards the corkscrew the pack sped up dramatically. Most took the inside, and quickest line, but I stayed to the outside and was able to get a cleaner line and thus able to keep up more speed as we entered into Rainey Curve. We sliced through turn ten, with Mark still in the lead, and Kris right on my tail. But as we made the sharp left-hand turn into 11 a rider in front of us crashed. As we slowed and moved to the outside, away from the accident I briefly heard the announcer; “He has lost his shoe and crashed!”
Too intent to pay much more attention than that I sliced around the crash and into the lead with clear track in front of me. I accelerated hard as I gently arced through turn one and started to set up for the sweeping turn two. Kris, still right on my tail, was pushed back one rider as a TLR moved in closer. But Kris was carrying more speed into the turn and carved a perfect arc past the TLR and towards turn three, moving back up to my six.
Mark was hot on Kris’s heels with Jason holding tight onto Marks rear tire. But as we blasted through turn two and into turn three, Marks greater racetrack experience took over and he moved into the lead!
We came off the track with so much excitement it was hard to contain ourselves. The chance to ride on the same track, the same day as the World Superbike riders! The track surface is amazing, building a huge sense of confidence. Not only is it glass smooth, but it has ground up shards of glass to create a higher traction coefficient with the tires. The result is a feeling of invulnerability. (But in all honesty, Hwy 108 – Sonora Pass was much more challenging).
After our track experience we brought the motorcycles back to park. Mark needed to change out of his leathers and had expressed concern about having to change out in public. Knowing this, Kris and I parked and rushed over towards the Kawasaki parking and watched from a distance as Mark positioned himself between a couple of bikes, then looking around nervously, slowly undid his leathers and slid them down to his knees.
Immediately I piped up. "HEY! Put your pants back on!! This is a family event! We don’t allow that sort of thing around here!! HEY!! That guy is in his UNDERWEAR!" I shouted. Marks knees snapped together and he tried ducking behind the bikes, looking around nervously until he saw me and smiled. Mark then mentioned to two guys standing behind him, "Don’t worry that’s my friend." Their joking reply was "Some friend…" Dale was standing nearby to watch the whole thing and snap this picture and this moment became the "Joke of the ride. This image is great because you can see Mark, with his shoes off, looking around, with his hands poised, ready to swiftly climb out of his leathers. When Mark finally got dressed we headed over the Motorcyclist Magazine tent where we met up with Mitch Boehm who went to college in Salt Lake and is good friends with Joey.
It was fun to meet the man that writes the stuff that we all read regularly and base our opinions of bikes on. After meeting Mitch, we started wandering around again and filling out as many "Free Giveaway" forms as we could find. When Race one started we headed over to turn two to watch the action as Ben Bostrom started from 7th position and worked his way past his own brother Eric to eventually win the race. Our vantage point was pretty good as we were able to see most of the track. After the race, I really wanted Bens signature and headed out towards his tend to hopefully find him. Greg, a friend from Salt Lake called and wanted to meet over their. In the huge crowds and the masses of people trying to buy lunch, we got separated. So, I started looking for her while she was looking for me. And true to National Lampoon tradition, She found and hung out with Ben Bostrom. (National Lampoons Vegas Vacation – the Griswald wife became a Wayniac and hung out with Wayne Newton.) We finally met up and I never even saw Ben the entire time. Unfortunately, I had the camera and the program. The only thing Kris had that Ben could have signed was…. Well, Kris isn’t that kind of girl. 🙂 Suddenly we heard a familiar name over the intercom and another friend from Salt Lake, who was on the same Talk about frequency as we were, told Mark that he HAD to go over to the Suomy tent.
Mark had filled out an entry form for a helmet giveaway and was one of the lucky winners!! Go Mark!! The best part was that Mark was in need of a new helmet. His current one had been worn on the racetrack and had survived a minor accident, but he didn’t have the extra money to buy one. How cool is that!! So, to be true to the weekend, Mark chose the Ben Bostrom Laguna Seca replica. Cool! We were all jealous but very happy that the guy who needed the helmet was the one to win it.
Here is a picture of the helmet when it actually arrived! Pretty cool, specially when you look close at the green outline on the flames. Pretty cool for a guy who rides a GREEN Kawasaki. He even said that it was the nicest helmet he’s ever owned. Special thanks to Suomy for being so generous and timely!! For the second race we headed closer to the corkscrew and worked out way around. Race two wasn’t quite as exciting. Ben jumped right into the lead and held it until the end. Ending his weekend with two back-to-back wins. Cool! After the races, everything started to wind down. Crowds started moving out with many people heading back to Cannery Row while we figured on heading back to the hotel for a nice dinner. On our way out of the track, we started lane splitting past all the cars. Some bikes were moving down on the right side, some on the left. We tried moving down the right side, but some vehicles had moved over to allow bikes go by on the left. We had no other choice than to slip down along the double yellow lines. (along with every other bike leaving the track)
Dale was in the lead and as we made our way down to the bottom a local police officer came up to Dale and said; "I really want to write a ticket today." As a kid on a CBR 600 did a wheelie down the main street behind him. A couple in a Boxster in front of us yelled "Give him a ticket!!" So Dale asked why, and the officer explained that we were only supposed to split on the right. Dale asks "I thought we were not allowed to pass on the right?" (Good answer) Then the cop explained everything and let us off. A guy on a 955i next to us pipes up "What? Is he going to give ALL of us a ticket?" But at least we didn’t have to find out. After dinner we headed back to the hotel for a dip in the pool and the hot tub. Mark, who hasn’t been swimming since June 14th, 1985 didn’t own a swimsuit. So he just jumped in with the shorts he was wearing. The only thing is he forgot to remove his wallet first. Soaked everything, including his receipt for his free Suomy helmet. Jason practiced holding his breath under water and would disappear for great lengths of time. We went to bed looking forward to a great ride back across California. We had talked to a lot of people who told us about some of the greatest roads in the area and we were excited to find out which ones Dale would chose for the route home.
332 Miles | Six Hours, Twenty Minutes
We woke up to a classic California morning. The mist filled the sky rewarding us with limited visibility but the temperature was an awesome 60 some degrees. Very nice. As soon as we started riding, that very nice 60 degrees started to feel kind of cold. We wanted to ride for a while before breakfast but we rode until almost 10 am before we finally stopped. Also, instead of taking a more exciting route back, we opted to go back the same way we came. Past Hollister and into the valley.
We stopped for breakfast at a nice roadside diner where we had the best waitress of the entire trip. She was pleasant and entertaining and hooked us up with some free pie! How can you complain about that. We left a nice big tip and headed out towards Tahoe.
Dale expertly led the way as we jogged across on secondary county roads aiming towards Hwy 4. Again, California has awesome roads. My only figuring is that because they had to build so many roads in such a short time, they didn’t have the time or the money to do expensive cuts in the terrain, so the road simply winds around hills, trees, over hills and back around. This makes for very enjoyable riding. Another good thing is that in most cases the road surface is incredible resulting in great confidence and a lot of fun. California must be one of the greatest places for a motorcyclist to live because there are so many roads that one could spend a lifetime trying to learn about all of them.
Mark even got a chance to swap bikes and ride a supertwin for a while. While Mark said nice things after his opportunity to V-twin, I think he still prefers the smoothness of the 4-cylinder. I, however, thought his 9R was pretty impressive, giving the rider an amazing sense of confidence. I felt like the bike was laughing at me. "ha ha, is that all you got? Wimp."
We crossed through a lot of famous little towns on the west side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, just on the edge of the Stanislaus National Forest. We crossed through Angels Camp and Rawhide. Unfortunately we weren’t able to make a pass through Mormon Bar. That would have been great for a bunch of people from Utah to go through a town called Mormon Bar. Oh well, maybe next time.
s we finally got onto Hwy 4, we stopped for gas. At this point Dale turns to Mark and says simply "It’s time!" Mark questioned "Time for what?" Dale quickly responds "It’s time now!!" and hands Mark the keys to his FZ1.
As we rode up Hwy 4 the clouds started to get heavy and the roads started getting wet, warning us that we would soon be riding in the wet. So Dale, riding Marks bike decided that it would be a good time to switch back to their own bikes and put on rain gear. As soon as Mark got off the bike he announced that riding Dales bike was great but that he felt he needed a cigarette. (Dale smokes.) We all got a good laugh from it.
So, Kris and I, pulled on our one piece rain gear over our leathers. See, even in rain gear she looks awesome! (Sorry, I’ll get on with the story).
Typically as soon as you take the time to stop and put on rain gear, the sky’s clear up. However, we weren’t that lucky this time and within’ a few miles rain started coming from the sky drenching us. It was really too bad because the road had become really cool.
Amazingly enough the yellow line in the center of road dissipated and the highway became a one-lane, two-way road. And would you look at that view. It was amazing!! The road was super wiggly with incredible drop-offs and amazing views. It was a shame about the rain, because it really could have been a fun ride.
There was an amazing lake near the peak of the pass. Lilly pads, mirror smooth water surface and a windmill nestled onto a rocky island in the middle of it all. I’m sure there are postcards of this image and we just had to stop to take our own. Mark finally decided to put on his hooded red raincoat, and everyone complained when I took two pictures of us at this location.
We continued along Hwy 4 until the road eventually dried out and we were able to increase our speeds. Dale and Mark were able to shift their brains from wet road riding to dry road riding quicker than we were, and they immediately dissipated around the corners while Kris and I struggled to start going fast. But it is always better to take it easy and go slower until you come up to speed. It’s all part of being aware of your own limits.
We eventually pulled into the same small town that we stopped for breakfast in the first day riding. Markleeville. Dale sweet talked the waitress at the restaurant to open up for us and brew one more pot of coffee to warm us from the insides.
We posed for one more group shot as we sipped our warm coffee, enjoying the pleasant company of fellow riders. It is true that the more miserable a situation, oddly, the more fun it is to remember and talk about later. Riding in the rain that day, grimed up the bikes, spoiled a perfectly good road and cost us time that would have allowed us to explore some more roads. But it was probably the most memorable stretch of road for some strange reason. Another rider from Colorado on a ZX7R pulled up and I offered him the rest of my, almost full, cup of coffee. He graciously accepted and we traded stories of great roads and the enjoyment of riding at sea level vs. the high elevations we were from.
We parted ways and blasted back up the same roads we came out on back into Lake Tahoe. (the same road where I hit the bird.) Dale pulled a Bostrom and darted into a hotel parking lot and ran into the lobby for rooms. When we got off the bikes and started unloading the luggage we were shocked to find large amounts of small gravel trapped between our saddle bags and our pretty paint jobs. Joey took this information the worst and immediately took off to find a car wash while the rest of us were content with a bucket of water and wet wash clothes. Two hours later Joey returned
While we were waiting for Joey to come back, Mark and I got some time to talk with Jason. He was still giddy from his trip to Laguna Seca, and why wouldn’t he be. This was a dream vacation for a 17-year old kid. Not only would I have loved to ride a brand new GSXR600 at that age (Compared to my 10-year old Yamaha Vision that I pulled out of a junkyard when I was his age.) I would have loved the opportunity to ride it out to see a world-class racing event like that. Lucky kid! Jason was very excited to hear both of us talk about how much we liked 600cc sport bikes. My first real sport bike was a Yamaha FZR 600 and Mark started on a Katana 600 and eventually raced a ZX6R. So, we both have soft spots for 600’s.
He also let Mark and I ride around the block saying that he would only let MSF instructors ride his bike. Not a bad thought, much better than letting your buddies ride it (and crash it.) After our ride around the parking lot we went in for a nice, affordable, casino dinner. I started throwing quarters into slot machines and quickly made 3 dollars! Not wanting to blow my new found fortune, I called it a night and went back to our hotel room.
68 Miles | One Hour, Fifty Minutes
The next day we woke up and had breakfast. We still wanted to get in some more riding for the day before we had to jump in the trucks and trailer back across the dessert.
We rounded the south end of the lake and Dale pulled another Bostrom into a view point to check things out. It was well worth it. From our vantage point we could see the state park where the Vikings Home with the Tea house on the island is. It was pretty neat.
We didn’t take a picture of it, but Kris did take a picture of me listening to Dale. At this point, Dale headed back towards Carson City to get the trucks and trailers lined up. The rest of us figured we wanted to see a little bit more of Lake Tahoe and continued around for a few more miles. However, traffic was so heavy and so slow that we got frustrated and decided to come back. Traffic was moving so slow that when we tried riding the gap. (where you stop or slow down until you can see traffic coming up from behind, then you ride at a normal pace until you come up onto the back of the slow traffic in front.) the traffic in front of us was going so slow, that there was no gap for us to ride in. So we stopped to take a pee break. I asked Kris to take a vanity picture of me in my new coat.
See how cool I look. Pretty neat coat. I thought I was so original until I got home and found a local group of riders where everybody in the group has a jacket just like mine in the color of their bike. Green, yellow, red, blue, black and silver ones. I became just another red one. Maybe I’ll put some cool patches on it to distinguish myself a bit.
We got back to the trucks and shed our leathers for our shorts and sandals and climbed back into the trucks for the long ride home.
So, here is the end of the trip. My TLS, Kris’ VTR and Dale’s FZ1 heading back to Salt Lake, just in time to return for work early the next morning. Ahh, but it was a great ride! We’ll have to do it again. Only maybe we’ll only go every other year because we spent so much money.