FAIR WARNING: Bill & Pete ride again!

Yes, it’s that time of year again: My 3rd annual motorcycle run with Pete Puccio. This time it’s my privilege to join him on his epic “after the layoff trip.” Pete’s been out on the road since June 20th which means he’ll probably surpass my 35-day trip in 2007 in days and possibly in miles. His trip so far is chronicled here: http://thedonpuccio.blogspot.com/

After work today, I’ll head over to Yosemite and meet Pete at one of the campgrounds. If I’m remembering correctly, Pete hasn’t been to Yosemite, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to be blown away. Past a half day in Yosemite on Saturday and a quick side trip to Mono Lake, we are on our usual “we’ll know where we are going when we get there” approach to the ride.

We may head north or we may head south — anywhere we can get to and get me back by Tuesday night. I’d love to stay out longer of course, but duty calls and I can only take two days off.

I won’t be taking the laptop, so the full posts will have to wait until I get back. However, I will post a few cell phone shots from the road, so stay tuned and watch for our updates on the blogs, twitter (@technacea & @TheDonPuccio), and Facebook…see you on the road!

Day 1: San Francisco to Yosemite National Park

Pete was in Las Vegas last night and the plan was for him to get in early and grab us a spot in Crane Creek Campground and for me to call him when I arrived. If there was no cell signal, I was to drive around until I spotted his bike. How could anything go wrong with a great plan like that?

I managed to shut down the computer and get out of the office by 4 PM and it was getting close to dusk when I arrived at Crane Creek. My first miscalculation was how many campsites there were at Crane Creek. Turns out there are around 600.

The big sign out front said “Campsite Full.” Unworried, I circled through the campground in first gear. Lots of motorcycles, but no Pete. And every site was full. As I circled back out of the last site area, I carload of kids drove off and left a site empty.

I, being one who likes my sleep, pulled in immediately. I pitched my tent to save the spot and went off in search of a cell signal and some supper. I assumed Pete was arriving late and figured that I could at least leave him a voice mail with our campsite number.

About 10 miles down the road from Crane Creek toward Yosemite is a pull out that has cell service. I left Pete a message and then spent about an hour round trip to find a sandwich and a six-pack. Pete works up a serious thirst when he’s riding. Not that I don’t.

I stopped at my little “You almost nearly have an AT&T signal” spot on the way back. No message from Pete. I left another, and headed back to camp.

It’s now pitch dark, and I’m easing back to camp at around 25 miles per hour so as not to hit any four-legged creatures crossing the road to find water or a place to bed down for the night. About half way back, I pass another motorcycle headed the opposite way and I think “Could that Pete?”

I stopped at the next pull out just in case and thought about turning around and chasing the bike down to see, but decided that if it was Pete he’d either turn around and come back, get my message later and come back, or it wasn’t Pete and he was already back at camp. I waited five minutes and then found my way back to the tent.

No Pete.

With no fire to stare at, I ate dinner, drank my half of the six-pack, watched the stars and played with the camera. Here are a couple of the only shots that came out at all:

The view was beautiful, but I clearly need to work on my low-light photography skills.

Eventually, hoping that Pete wasn’t in jail or a ditch somewhere, I drank one of his beers, slung the hammock and crashed.

Today’s Route: 171 Miles

Day 2: Yosemite National Park to Bridgeport, CA

Sleeping in a hammock, especially a light weight backpacker’s hammock ensures two things: first, you are going to wake up early and second, you are going to be a little stiff from not moving around.

I grabbed the camera for this shot before I unwrapped my self to get the day started. Those c-lips are handy for keeping one in the hammock all night.

I broke camp and headed for my cell tower to see if there was a message from Pete.

No message. But I’m really not worried yet. Pete’s been on the road for over 30 days already and I know that something beautify happens when you are on the road that long. Not only does the clock lose relevance, but so does the calendar. Honestly, he could be thinking today was still Thursday. I know. I’ve done it.

Well, AT&T has a signal down in the valley, so I cruised the valley waiting for a call.

I spent an hour or more watching these guys jump from near El Cap and hang glide their way down. I’m not even sure that’s legal, but a half dozen or more were taking their time launching off the cliff. Look closely and you can see them in all the following photos:

Just added this to my bucket list!

So I hung around Yosemite trying to stay in range of a cell signal. Ate breakfast, had a cup of coffee, had another cup of coffee and around 11:30 I hear from Pete!

Turns out I was right – it was Pete last night!

Apparently, Pete was up late at the poker tables and got a late start on Friday. Not a good idea when you have 400+ mile drive ahead of you. When he reached Crane Creek and saw the “Campground Full” sign, he checked the bulletin board for a message from me and, not finding one, left to find a hotel or another empty campsite.

Bulletin Board? They still have those? Apparently so, and it never crossed my mind.

It also turns out that when Pete passed me last night he thought it might be me and pulled over and waited to see if I would turn around. And he waited, you guessed it, about 5 minutes.

With no cell signal, and therefore no map, Pete ended up riding another hour and half to find a hotel – in an area that still didn’t have a signal. Gotta love technology.

So I had a snack and waited on Pete who showed up around 1:30 to scarf down a late lunch. It was Pete’s first time in Yosemite, so we took our time going back through the valley and out to Hwy 120. As I have said before, if you haven’t been, you really must go.

Here’s a shot of Half Dome from the East

And here is a shot of Pete after 30 days with his “back out on the highway.”

Just past Ellery Lake on Hwy 120, also known as Tioga Pass Road, there is a long loop that hangs over the edge of the valley. You can see it in this photo as well as the clouds that were piling up.

The Tioga Gas Mart in Lee Vining is not just a gas station but a restaurant as well that was reputed to have some of the best burgers anywhere. We had decided to stop there for breakfast and decide if we were going to go North or South.

As you can see here, the closer we got to our burgers, the more clouds we saw.


By the time we got the restaurant, we were watching it rain across Mono Lake.

And this is what we were after.

It wasn’t much for presentation, but man did it hit the spot.

There is cell service in Lee Vining, so we checked the weather report and the unanimous decision was to turn North.

As we headed North on 395, I’ll never forget the sun painting the incoming storm with brilliant blues, reds, and purples. I’ve actually never seen anything quite like it and I know I’ll regret not stopping to try and capture it. But, we were trying to outrace a storm and get somewhere dry before it got too dark.

By the time we reached Bridgeport, it was dark and we were thirsty. The first place we stopped, Bridgeport Inn, only had “cowboy rooms” available. Upon asking, we were informed that meant a common bathroom and no power in the room. And they only had one.

A half hour later, we were back to take that room. After stopping at 5 or 6 other hotels and motels, we discovered that the town was sold out. They did have a bar and a restaurant, so we hung out till they closed at 9:30 or so. The bartender poured us a couple extra beers and sent us out on the porch just to get us out so he could close up. It’s a great place to stay and they are very friendly, but call ahead for reservations to get a normal room.

Pete and I haven’t had much of a chance to catch up, so when the beer ran out we found the flask and cigars and, although we didn’t get any complaints, probably kept a few unfortunate folks up till around 1:30.

Today’s Route: 101 Miles


Day 3: Bridgeport, CA to Quincy, CA

We took our time getting around for breakfast this morning and pulled out around 11. We were heading North, so South Lake Tahoe seemed like a logical destination for a late lunch.

In contrast to yesterday, the sun was bright and the temps increased the further North on 395 we went.

We stopped for lunch in South Lake Tahoe at one of the bistros along the lake, followed by a leisurely trip up the East side on Hwys 50 & 28 to Kings Beach where stopped to sit in the shade and smoke a cigar.

We tried to find a Texas Hold-Em game in several casinos, but no dice. With plenty of daylight left, we decided to see if we could make the campground in Greenville that Jeff Meehan and I stayed at earlier this spring. So it was up Hwy 89 through Truckee, which is a great ride. Lots of variety and a decent road through out.

Somehow along the way, I seem to have forgotten that I was carrying a camera, so I’m short on photos today.

It was dusk by they time we made it to Quincy, so we  called it good enough for the day and stopped for dinner at a family owned restaurant on Main St. I forget the name of the place, but they served an excellent steak and our server had great recommendation for campsite a few miles out of town.

Today’s Route: 402 Miles


Day 4: Quincy, CA to Redding, CA

With the weather so nice, I forwent the tent last night and slept in the hammock again. It does tend to make for an early morning when you wake up with the sun hitting you directly in the face.

We fired up the coffee maker and took our time waking up and breaking camp while burning the remainder of last night’s wood. The last part of the trip was starting to take shape: a reverse  of the ride that Jeff and I had completed early in the year: Hwy 36 back to Hwy 101 and then South to my place where Pete could rest up before heading back North to wrap up his trip.

We did decide to make a stop at Lassen Volcanic National Park and check it out. Even down by the water, we could tell it was going to be a warm one, and it was.

The park is a great ride with elevations from 5,000 to 10,457 feet, including some fantastic views and some very tricky curves.

Lassen Peak


And those curves can be especially sharp between Little Hot Springs Valley and Bumpass Hell. Yes, that really is the name. as we came to this turn out, there was a wrecker that had just pulled a rental Harley back up on the road. I didn’t get pictures of the bike or even a full report since Pete and I just hung back and didn’t ask any questions. There wasn’t much we could do and it looked like the rider was relatively unhurt. You can see where he went over here:

And the trees that stopped him here:

Sufficently warned, we took our time through the rest of the park.

By the time we got out of the park, it was over 110 degrees. Pete, having just ridden through the desert, had a Harley cooling vest that I was admiring. Every time we stopped I’d soak my shirt and bandanna and they would both be dry in less than five minutes once we were back on the road. Pete, however, was bragging about how cool he was riding. To quote Samuel L. Jackson in Jackie Brown, “My ass might be dumb, but I ain’t no dumbass.” So, when Pete offered to loan me the vest on the last hour or so into Redding, I jumped at it. It works, even in 112 degree heat.

We couldn’t stomach the thought of camping out in the heat, so we stopped at a Wendy’s (for the air conditioning and some ice cream) while we looked up a decent hotel.

A shower and a steak dinner later, we decided to try again to find a Hold Em game. We did, but it was well underway and there were too many obvious sharks at the table. We lost a few dollars at the blackjack table and went back to the hotel for a brew.

Today’s Route: 148 Miles