Day 3: Yosemite National Park to Concord, CA

A little after daylight I hear stirring in camp and roll out to find Silva dressed for a jog. Which, much to my surprise, (I mean I go on these trips to get away from normal), he actually had on the agenda. So while he sweated it out I caught up on some reading and started to pack up.

Evergreen Lodge was about 4 miles up the road and when Mark got back he allowed as how it was open and had a great menu.

Decision made.

We worked our way back out around the boulders (see below) and 4 miles later Mark rebalanced the day’s calorie exchange while I just tilted the scales in the wrong direction.

If you are in the Yosemite area, you owe it to yourself to get over to the Evergreen and check out the menu. Something for everyone and as this was my second time here, the food so far has been consistently great.

With a upcoming trip to NY for business tomorrow on my plate, I reluctantly parted ways with Mark at CA-120 and made a fast two and a half hour trip home.

Mark headed off to the east to run another set of summits and meet up with our mutual friend Doug DeCarlo for a few more days on the road.

Good luck guys, wish I could make the rest of the trip with you. Shiny side up!

Today’s route: 161 Miles

Passes: Altamont Pass & Chinese Camp

Day 2: Union Valley Resevoir to Yosemite National Park

A shot of Mark just after braking camp.

Had last night’s dinner been a steak, I’m sure we wouldn’t have been up quite so early, but breakfast was calling loudly and after dropping off the spare 6-pack of Blue Moon by the camp of our benefactors, we were well down the road and wrapping ourselves around eggs, bacon, hash browns, biscuits & gravy by 9:30. (Yet another reason it’s great to get out on the road.) Realizing that Mark isn’t as prone to stopping every couple of hours for a “ceegar,” as some of my other riding companions are want to do, I took the opportunity to strap the camera around my neck for some “from the road” shots.

Over breakfast we looked at the map and decided that Yosemite  via Sonora Pass would be our destination for the evening. Of course, it turned out to be everyone else’s destination as well. “Who’d a thunk it?”

After charging the phones and catching up with the families, we set out for Sonoma Pass. US-50 didn’t have much going for it except the great condition of the road and the scenery. But it was a short trip to turn south on CA-89 again – and we did get another pass in: Echo Summit.

CA-89 put us back in the twisties, which continued as we turned South-East on CA-88.

Despite the several streaches of road construction, it proved to be an enjoyable ride.

Mark following a Concours down toward CA-395.

We even found a nice place or two to set up for a photoshoot.

Yes, as a matter of fact, we are having fun. Thanks for asking.

And yes, that small spot in the far curve is Mark. The cruiser just couldn’t keep up with the sports tourer.

Mark even gave the BBSMJ* left-handed camera technique a try – with darn good results.

Approaching US-395 felt like roaring into a blast furnace. The temp probably went up 30 degrees to somewhere north of >110F on the valley floor. We stopped and downed a quart or so of Gateraid and stood in front of an air conditioner for 15 minutes. Higher is cooler, so next stop? Ca-108 and Sonora Pass.

It was cooler – there is still snow up here!

This kind of road is too precious to waste, so I waved Mark on ahead to make the most of it. I think I need a sports tourer.

What a wonderful road!

Somewhere along the way I caught up with Mark, stowed the camera so I could make better time, and we sought out a little used cut-through from East Sonora to Big Oak Flat/Groveland. Ward’s Ferry Road was hard to find, and even more difficult to navigate. I’m pretty sure we didn’t save any time, but we sure enjoyed the ride.

This was the only spot on the route that I felt safe enough to stop and take a phone picture…

The width, condition and angle of decent sharply deteriorated from here.

In an attempt to forestall a repeat of the night before, we stopped in Groveland at the first spot we saw to pick up groceries for the evening and checked out a next-door historical establishment: The Iron Door Saloon. It looked like a great place to stop for a couple of brews, but as we didn’t quite know we we would be staying, we chose not to linger. With the bikes piled high with boxes of wood, and plastic bags of groceries strapped all around, we looked like the Beverly Hillbillies on bikes. I wish I had thought to get a photo.

Of course, some 30 miles later at the entrance to the park we were informed that the entire park was full – not a campground or hotel room to be had. Oh yeah, it is Labor Day weekend. Shocker.

While we discussing whether or not to fall back on plan c, (which is roll into a campsite of other motorcyclists with beer and food  to share and offer to reimburse them for the site if they’ll let us camp with them), the ranger told of us of a free spot where camping is allowed if you have a fire permit. Getting a fire permit required another hour’s worth of riding, the required lecture about fire safety, and I’m pretty sure Mark had to put his house up for collateral.

We found the free camping area and wrestled our bikes passed the boulders there to block the cars. By the time the tents were pitched, the salmon on the fire and the beer in hand, all the trouble seemed worth it.

By the time the butter-dill-lemon salmon and baked potato with butter and cheese  came off the fire, we knew it was. Afterall, it always is. That’s why we do this.

We didn’t stay up near as late tonight – just late enough to make sure the fire was out!


Today’s route: 248 miles

Echo Summit
Sonora Pass

* Billy Bartles School of Motor Journalism

Day 1: Concord to Union Valley Resevoir

Ever since I put a moratorium on working weekends, I generally look forward to Mondays and today was no exception. Albeit for a different reason than normal.

Mark Silva pinged me early last week to see if I would be available for a ride. After reviewing the work schedule, I decided that I could afford to take a couple of days off to enjoy our sunny California weather.

Every ride needs at least a direction if not a destination and a theme. Mark suggested a “summits” theme where in we would try to fit in as many Northern California passes as possible in 2 days.

The biggest concentration of those passes are concentrated in the Sierras, so we mapped out the following route with an eye to balancing the number of passes with our desire not to make an Iron Butt out of the trip.

Mark was just kicking a cold, so we met at the same Livermore Starbucks we meet at for our Mines Road rides at the pleasantly reasonable hour of 9 AM.

A quick breakfast and coffee later, we superslabed it over to the CA-4 exit with Ebbits Gap as our first destination.

As you work your way east on CA-4, it is flat farmland and orchards interspersed with rolling hills and, this time of the year, some very hot weather. buy the time we reached Arnold, the (slightly) cooler temps and twisty roads were welcome.

Mark’s BMW 1150 RT is a little more aggressive than my cruiser, so of course he beat me up the pass. He was experiencing a zen moment when I arrived at Lake Alpine just short  of the actual pass.

The origional plan was South Lake Tahoe for a late lunch, but we were running behind schedule (which I almost never keep on a ride anyway) and getting hungry, so we stopped in Markleeville at Wolf Creek, a roadhouse that looked promising.

The Alpine Hotel started out as the Fiske House when it was built in Silver Mountain City in 1862. Four years later it was disassembled, moved to it’s present location, and reassembled board by board as the Hot Springs Hotel. It was renamed the Alpine Hotel in 1900. There was no information on when they renamed it Wolf Creek, but it doesn’t seem to lack for history. The decor is, as you would expect, rustic and worthy of it’s historic status with ubiquitous gear and old black and white photos of the hotel and town lining the walls.

Our server pointed out the ribs as worthy of our attention – and they were everything we expected. Clearly smoked (and not parboiled), they were as good a cut of meat as I have had in ages. They had a great smoked flavor and the sauce didn’t overpower the meat. We both give it a high recommend on the meat. The sides were nothing to write home about (canned beans and some strange mustard/mayonnaise mixture potato salad whose calories I was happy to leave on the plate.)

Happy and full, we dropped down the hill and turned north on CA-88/89. I’m not sure if we were dozing in the saddle or if we were just enjoying the road so much, but it took us an hour to realize that we had missed the turn when 88 & 89 diverged.

Not ones to be long dissuaded, and with Carson Pass right in front of us, we decided to reroute and find some place to stay near Jackson.

Besides being a great road for motorcycling (lots of twisties, well paved most of the way, and mostly well banked), CA-88 runs from Stockton to the Nevada border. It’s highest pass has a long and storied history beginning with it’s name. Somewhere along near the pass Kit Carson carved his name in a tree back in the mid 1800’s, but we were still enjoying the road too much to bother stopping to see it.

We landed just after 5 PM and the temp was still in triple digits. Neither of us wanted to be camping out in that kind of heat, so we decided to hit Hwy 50 and double back towards the Union Valley Resevoir to find a place to stay.

About 12 miles off the highway, we found a campsite, but everything around was closed. I was thinking that it was a toss up between a dry camp with no dinner or just pushing on into South Lake Tahoe and finding a cheap hotel and a not so cheap steakhouse. The camp hosts allowed that those were about our only two options and offered us a couple of Blue Moons to help ease the disappointment.

It only took Mark about 5 minutes to decide that Blue Moon just wasn’t going to get the job done. Already dusk, he offered to go back to the last gas station and obtain the necessary provisions if I would set up camp.

An hour and 20 minutes and a 40 mile round trip later (seeing a deer after dark does tend to slow one down in the twisties), he returned with two bundles of firewood, a six-pack of IPA, a six-pack of Blue Moon (since no good deed should go unpunished) and dinner: two cold case white bread sandwiches. One ham & cheese and one turkey & cheese. They were so bad they were good.

We caught up on changes in the industry, former coworkers and friends. And we ran out of wood, beer, and words just shy of 2 AM.

Today’s route: 356 miles

Altomomt pass
Ebbit’s Pass
Carson Pass