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 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 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