Sonora-Yosemite Loop

Here’s one from the Archives.


Okay, so I’m a little ambitious on this one. Last Saturday opened up on my schedule. When I bought the BMW, I was sponsored into the Central California BMW Rider’s Club. I hadn’t met any of them since joining, but had been getting the newsletter and they seemed like a pretty good bunch of people. I decided to go to the Sonora Meeting and then join them for the ride over the pass to Bridgeport, or actually the Virginia Creek Settlement. I didn’t want to make it an overnighter so I could spend Sunday with Gab, so I made it a loop, as above.

Bike in Garage at work:

I took off  just before 08:00 and went out 80-580-something80- I 5 for a mile-120- 99 for a mile- then 120 again. In Manteca, just off the freeway I came upon a guy riding a BMW and pulled up next to him. I asked him if he was going to Sonora, he nodded yes and okayed that I follow him when asked. Whew. I knew how to get to Sonora but only had a semi-detailed map on the location of the meeting. We rode a casual pace to the Pine Tree Inn, where the meeting was. Lots of BMW’s in the lot:

Yeah, that big blue bike is a BMW!

We left Sonora at 12:30, and rode a few miles up to Dardenelles, where we re-grouped and continued on. I was told by the president of the club, before we left Sonora, that this is a “casual club.” She indicated that I should “find my own pace” and not expect to ride in formation “like some other motorcycle clubs you might know of.” Then she smoked just about the whole club going up the hill. I found my own pace. Not the fastest, but not the slowest either.

At Dardenelles we somewhat split up. Some of the club members were going to stop near the top of the pass for a little detour. While I would have liked to take the time, I thought that I would loose some daylight, since I was riding back to Sonoma via Yosemite Valley. So I skipped it. But I did stop on the way up the pass when I got stuck behind a really slow car, and took a few pictures. Here’s one of them:

Steep, eh?

And the pass:

What a great day to be out.

I went down the backside of the pass at a very conservative pace. It is so steep, my knees were bumping into the fairing every time I hit the brakes. I almost stained my underwear when my front wheel washed out a little on some fine gravel, but I recovered and rode away with only a little adrenaline rush. (whew- I was going slow, so it probably would have been more of a “get-off” then a crash. But nevertheless, I didn’t want either.)

The lower part of the highway, before 395, and 395 itself (with exception of Bridgeport) are some pretty high speed pieces of road. So as not to disappoint anyone, I made some time. Not that it would have mattered to anyone but the Highway Patrol anyway, I was El Solo Moto at this point. In fact I blew right past a huge grove of backlit maples(?) with their leaves turning yellow. It would have been a great picture, but by the time the thought crossed my mind, I was here:

Mono Lake Baby! For scale, take a look at the highway in the bottom right corner… (I got a guy on a Yamaha who was riding with a different group to take the picture. In exchange, I took one of him in the same spot with his camera!) Kind of a weird angle to the shot, I look like I’m leaning waaaaayyyyyy back.

I dropped down the hill to Mono Lake and then Lee Vining, topped of the Gas, and drank some water. No wind anywhere along the stretch. I was prepared to be battered, but no, 70 degrees and calm. Great riding temps.

I went up over Tioga Pass where I discovered that a Motorcycle is a “Single Person” entry, and not a “car” and only paid $10 to get into the park. Cars have to pay $20.

I stopped in Tuolumne Meadows for a while and wandered down by the stream to let my buns have a rest. Then at Olmstead point I took a couple of shots:

I was warned by some guys in the club, way back in Sonora, that the guys in the “little green trucks” looked down upon “passing left of the doubles” and speeding. So I took note. I only passed where legal… Most of the time. I figured that this late in the season there wouldn’t be too much tourista action. Boy was I mistaken.

I had planned to ride into Oakdale for dinner, but by the time I got over to Crane Flats, the sun was in my eyes and I was having a hard time seeing into the shadows. I also noticed that at a low sun angle, the face shield on my helmet is like a mirrored magnifying glass. It shows me the pores on my nose very well. Anyway, I decided to eat in the Valley, as going there would put the sun at my back and some food in my belly. It would take enough time to let the sun go down.

No caption necessary.

October is the month. You know, the one where Half Dome it lit long after anything else up at that end of the valley. I figured this out by the number of people lined up with cameras on tri-pods.

I went over to Yosemite Village for dinner. This late in the season, only Degnan’s Loft is open after 5. I knew I should have gone to the cafeteria but oh, well, no time savings going over there now. I had a small pizza and a coke, then split.

On the way down the hill I discovered something about the bike that I had heard from other owners but not yet experienced. When it is dark, I mean really dark, and you are cornering the bike, you can’t see the road. The low beam has a horizon about 50-60 feet in front of me, and the high beam is like a spot that illuminates all things directly in front of me, no matter how far away they are. Together, they produce a well lit inverted “T” shape on the road. Which is fine for going straight, but when I lean the bike over for a corner, the road is in the unlit section. (It looks like I will have to get accessory lights after all.) Luckily, there was a quiet Harley going down the road a ways in front of me, so I sped up in the straight-aways to catch up and rode the rest of the way to Groveland behind them. Their headlight was more diffuse, very bright and I’m sure, not as nice to be coming toward if you were traffic in the other way.

No pictures, the sun is down.

I dropped down Old Priest Grade, and rode into the valley, got gas in Manteca and went home. It was really uneventful. The whole trip: 550 miles. Not bad for one day.

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