Tony was on-call at work, so he wouldn’t be joining me in any rides. The other usual suspects were busy. I didn’t feel like moping around the house, so Friday morning I called my sister Jessica to see if she was going to be around.
The plan was to ride down to San Diego and have dinner with Jess and Dave and then spend the night there before riding back the next day, hopefully hitting up some nice roads on the way.
In preparation, I went to Road Rider after work on Friday to pick up a tank bag. I’ve been doing lots of research and waffling on tank bags for the past few months. I had pretty much decided to eventually purchase a $100+ RKA when I had the cash, but was thinking I’d buy a $50 Tourmaster Mini to tide me over. It was smaller than I really wanted, but would work. As luck would have it, I browsed a little before making my purchase and found a Nelson Rigg strap-on bag that would work perfectly (about the size I was looking for). I also purchased a combination balaclava/turtle-fur neck warmer in hopes of a warmer solution than my current thin balaclava.
I left the house at 5 am, wanting to slab down 101 in the pre-dawn hours to make it to 58 bright and early. All was going well. The ST’s headlight was proving itself capable in the dark. I found that with the grip warmers on, the throttle rocker stiffened up the throttle, acting as a kind of throttle lock (more later, I don’t really like this, but it was convenient for freeway travel).
I was thinking that things were going my way when I hit pretty bad fog around San Miguel. For the next 20-some miles, it was foggy. It was also starting to get light out, but I was amazed to see that very few cars had their lights on. It made me very nervous to come up on dark shapes running in the fog without marker lights. I tried following other cars at times, but many of them were going much faster than I was comfortable with in bad visibility.
I finally made it to Atascadero, where I’d planned to get gas. At every exit I peered through the fog looking for the In&Out Burger that was my usual landmark for my favorite gas exit. I never saw it, conditions as they were, so I found myself hitting the Santa Margarita/58 exit with my tank just a few miles from empty. I circled back around on a farm road (one of the scarier parts of the day, very bad fog) to find another gas station. I asked an attendant there if he knew when the fog might burn off. The blank look he gave me was not confidence inspiring. I think he wasn’t the brightest, because he told me “maybe by afternoon” and then seemed to hang around the entire time I was fueling up, in between emptying the trash bins and refilling the paper towels.
I went back to Santa Margarita, heartened that conditions on the freeway were already improving. Once I got into town, I found that it was still pretty foggy though, so I stopped for breakfast at “Tina’s Place” which I think used to be called “Jo’s Roundup Café” back when I was in school in the area.
I lingered at breakfast for over an hour, watching the fog slowly lift, before getting going again at around 10 am. I decided at that point that I wasn’t feeling up to riding all the way down to San Diego, mainly because it was pretty cold out and I just wasn’t feeling like facing any more freeway that day.
I headed out on 58, taking my few pictures of the day. It was swoopy and sweepy with very little traffic. I really enjoyed the western part, and the straights and whoops in the center. I’ve always been a little leery of the tight switchbacks and steep grades on the eastern part of the road. I remember watching the rider before me lowside his cruiser on some gravel in that area back during a group ride of Cal Poly students. The memory has made me very cautious on this part of the road.
I hit 33 and headed into the wasteland of California central coast oil fields. Rusty pumps nodded up and down. Gravel covered the road at places where trucks could swing out while crossing to other oil fields. I could smell sulphur and dust. I was amused to notice farms and orchards on one side of the road and then a strong demarcation line with ranks of oil rigs beyond.
At Coalinga I decided to skip my usual Harris Ranch lunch. Instead I parked in front of the Red Robin and enjoyed strawberry lemonade with my open faced mushroom and swiss burger.
I headed out on 198 at 3pm, wondering if I’d have time to do 25 or would have to head for 101 and slab home in darkness, as happened on my last group ride there.
As I left Coalinga, a lone rider pulled off a side road way ahead of me. It appeared to be an early 80’s touring bike, with hard bags and a big fairing. I never really figured out what it was, but followed him briefly, watching him ride the double yellow in a few turns. I passed when I had the opportunity, not wanting to watch this accident waiting to happen. I didn’t see him again, but he wasn’t going very fast (a good thing, actually).
A little while later I came up on a convoy of at least 7 slow moving cruisers. I didn’t really feel like following them either, so was very happy to see a passing lane come up. In the process of passing them, I was puzzled when the ST appeared to lose power a few times. After the pass was completed, I realized that I had been in 2nd gear and thus found out what hitting my rev limiter feels like. I tried to be more aware of how close to redline I was for the rest of the ride.
I feel like a broken record for saying this, but I really can feel my confidence improve each time I take this bike out for a long ride. I don’t feel that I was quite keeping to the pace set my last time on this road with Tony, but I was moving. 198 really is one of the better roads in California. I’ve ridden most of the ones that are usually mentioned in top 10 lists, but 198 just feels so good. Rollercoaster!
I made it to 25 at around 3:30 and made the turnoff. 25 was business as usual. It was pretty clean compared to my last time on it. I stopped briefly at the location of a fatal motorcycle accident that I’d been present for three years ago to pay my respects.
In Hollister, dark clouds ahead prompted me to stop for a caramel mocha and change to my clear shield. I also buttoned up for rain and moved sensitive equipment from my tankbag to the waterproof trunk.
I hit a good amount of rain on the ride back to San Jose, but found that the ST’s windshield is pretty effective. By tucking at the right angle, the wind driven off the shield cleared my helmet face shield of rain. Bonus!
I got home and found Tony at his computer, after a fun-filled day of providing tech support and working through an entire campaign on one of his computer games.
Not such a boring weekend after all!