Saturday, August 16, 2008

2008 Aug 16 - Pollock Pines

2008 Aug 16 - Pollock Pines
Linda DAmico's Ride

{Click on any photo to view the full size image.}

RAT RIDE-AUG 16, 2008 by Las {RAT = Riders Association of Triumph}
Mormon Emigrant Trail / Silver Fork / Ice House / Georgetown

Even though my bike had been grounded by a dead battery, I would not be stopped. Unless all the tires on my truck went flat or the Gods of Lightning decided to strike me down, I was going to meet with the pack of Rats gathering at Kathee’s Kitchen in Pollock Pines on Saturday morning.

I drove the truck from Carson to Auburn on Friday and the tires held steady. Woke up Saturday and loaded up for the 1.25 hour drive to Pollock Pines via Highway 49. Not a cloud in sight. Feeling reasonably sure the Gods of Thunder aren’t taking aim and waiting for me to pass through an open stretch of road so they can get a clear shot at me. Feeling lucky.

Feeling something else too. I’m not sure how to put it into words to share with mere mortals, meaning others who do not ride, but I’ll try. I’m driving Highway 49 towards Placerville. It’s a beautiful morning. The light traffic is snaking nicely along the gently curving road. There is no engine. There are no wheels. It feels as if we’re just flowing through this picture perfect morning countryside. It’s serene. My mind is calmed by this serenity and for a moment I sense THAT something. I say “sense” because it’s not something you can see or hear but something you just feel. I can feel my place in the interconnectedness of it all. I’m just one small part of something so much larger. The population in general. So many of us moving about at random in so many directions.

But this morning I have a purpose. A destination and I’m flowing in that direction. I can sense my fellow Rats also flowing toward that destination. I’m drawn. I’m a part of them. We’re coming from Carson, Auburn, Stockton, Sacramento, Kyburz……….converging…… so many little streams combining to form a lake. It’s a comforting sensation. A statement about society in general but more specifically, this morning, about the Rat Pack. It’s just a deeper understanding of that “part of the whole” thing I’ve felt with this group before.

And thank you, by the way, for being you. I recently read a book about the Hells Angels and some other motorcycle “gangs.” Also watched a couple shows on the television. Not good citizens in general. Drugs, alcohol, guns, knives, fights-they’ve even been known to kill people. My “gang” carries drugs. Allergy meds, to be specific, to deal with the red watery eyes and occasional welts that arise when we ride through pollen laden areas.

I’m remembering the burger joint in Rio Vista after a spring ride through those pastures Don showed us where they grow windmills.
We laughed about the bumps swelling up in funny places. Eyes swelling shut. Nasal passages constricting. Don’t know what we rode through. Something they use to fertilize the windmills? Some sort of biological warfare devised by the sheep to get even with Paul for buzzing the ewes and lambs with his Bubs?

The most we might smuggle in our gear is a box of Hot Tamales or beef jerky. If it’s an overnight ride, you might find a whole box of Pop Tarts in a saddlebag. Ask our group to throw down with their knives and you might get ONE? Something small and conservative-suited for self defense perhaps but you wouldn’t find four or five blades concealed on each of us. The rest of us might be able to contribute something like a pair of nail clippers-with a file. It’s pointy. They won’t let you wield one on the airplane so it counts as a weapon I suppose. Couldn’t picture us fighting and killing other bikers in a Laughlin casino. Saw that on television too. Could easily imagine surveillance camera footage showing us moving calmly through the casino.
All of a sudden there is a slight pause followed by a general group spasm and then we’re all scrambling on the floor chaotically…….but not to avoid gunfire like on the tv program.

It’s much more likely that we would be scrambling madly on the floor to pick up the Peanut M&M’s. No, we wouldn’t be picking up individual candy coated chocolates from the filthy gaudy colored carpet! Even Rats have standards. It would be those individual snack size packets like the sort you give out at Halloween. No gun fights in casinos over turf, colors or perceived disrespect for us. We’re way too civilized for that. Now food-that’s a different matter. I won’t even go there. But overall we’re an intelligent, decent and highly evolved (if I do say so myself) group and I would like to thank you for allowing me to be a part of that.

Every group needs its black sheep. “Sheep?” Sounds plural. “Shep.” Sounds singular.
I am a black shep. A pack of highly upstanding renegade Rats with one little black shep amongst them. That’s me on my little black bike, in my black helmet and jacket. I like black. Doesn’t show the dirt. I can be filthy and no one notices. Quite a time saver really. Instead of being home cleaning gear, I can be out zooming around on the roads. Wonder how many insect carcasses are lodged between the weave of my open mesh jacket? Let’s just not think about that.

Back to the sharing of the ride info for those who missed it because you were home mowing the lawn or painting the house. Can you say “condominium?” Smart move Paul.

We arrived at Kathee’s about 9:45 a.m. By “we” I mean me in the truck and Todd on his bike. As promised, Linda and Mario had arrived early to save us a table. Lovely surprise when I walked into the restaurant and saw Ron belly up to that table. It’s been awhile since I’ve been on any rides so I haven’t seen a lot of you guys lately. And Ron brought his friends, Paul and Steve, to ride with us. Nice guys. Interesting bikes.
Breakfast meet at Kathee's Kitchen in Pollock Pines, CA
Paul is a dirt bike rider making the transition to the street with a new Yamaha V-Star 1300 cruiser. I’m thinking he’s going to enjoy this change as it’s far less strenuous and so much more clean. You might have to scrape some bugs off your face shield when you get home from a street ride but I can remember times on the dirt bikes when it was probably best to stand outside and let someone hit you with a hose before you even thought about heading into the house. And dirt boogars. If you’ve done any dirt bike riding, you know about dirt boogars. Welcome to the streets Paul. Ride safe.

Steve. Ah, Steve. One of the funniest moments of the day was when we were stopped and milling about at this bridge. Steve breaks out the sun block and asks, “Anyone need any sun block for their legs?” Yeah Steve. It’s important to protect ourselves from harmful things like….oh I don’t know……the sun’s UV rays perhaps? He’s a funny guy. Always smiling and as Linda already pointed out-nice legs. It was nice to have both of them join us for the ride. With any luck, we’ll enjoy their company again.

Within the next 10 minutes or so, the rest of the riding group rolled in.

After a very tasty breakfast, during which we ordered and then ate Jenn’s cinnamon roll as promised, we geared up for the ride. I was prepared to put on my sunglasses and seat belt in order to follow the group in my cage. Knowing I would be without a bike, Linda had generously offered me her bike or the seat behind Mario.
Linda and Mario saved us this table and ordered their breakfasts.

Las and Linda comparing their biceps. Not sure why. :-)

Las got Jenn's cinnamon bun.

Very generous indeed but there was some question as to whether or not my feet would touch the ground on her woolly mammoth bike. My legs are much shorter than most. It’s a birth defect perhaps or just lazy genetics? “My DNA is exhausted and I’m fresh out of molecules. I simply have to rest.” And then it never got back up to finish the job. Thus, I have short legs.
If I were to get on Linda’s bike and someone were to hold me up from the back until I got to rolling, we might make a go of it. And when we stop I could find a curb, bumper or park bench to lean up against. It could work. Don reminded us of Patrick who would roll up to a stop sign and slide off one side of the bike to plant his foot on the ground. Ingenious technique!

But instead it was decided that Linda should pilot her bike in order to lead us to and fro and Phil would tote my butt behind him on the Nomad. Thank you Phil for chauffeuring me through the hills.
I keep telling him he should rent out the back seat to pay for gas money. Think of it. All his rides could be paid for by the passenger and if he simply wears a t-shirt with advertising, the whole motorcycle thing may be a tax write-off. Huh? Is that a good idea or what? I’ve even got the advertising idea for the t-shirt. Picture this. Emblazoned across his chest in big letters……..WANNA RIDE? And below that would be his phone number. Could be interesting.

So, once we were all properly fed, geared up and seated upon one bike or another, off we went with beautiful weather promised for this perfect riding day. Linda was in the lead and Don was riding tail gunner with the rest of us stretched out comfortably between them.
Getting ready.

The ride route began on one of The Don’s favorite stretches of road-Mormon Emigrant Trail. Easy to see why he enjoys this stretch. It’s a well maintained roadway with trees and that body of water. I think it’s called Jenkinson Reservoir? We stopped there just long enough to take a picture and then we were back on the road. I could see packing a swim suit, towel, good book and picnic lunch and spending a day there. Travel by bike of course.
Linda leads the Ride of 10 bikes. Onto Sly Park Road which is the way to get to Mormon Emigrant Trail.

Over the causeway at Jenkinson Reservoir.
A photo op at the Reservoir.

A little further up the road, Linda and Mario introduced us to something new. Something we had ridden past I don’t know how many times and didn’t even know was there. It is the memorial Linda mentioned in her planning ride posts and Paul followed up on later. Very sobering story. Park under the road sign for Snow Mill Road and then hike a couple of yards to the white crosses on the highway. There’s a little dirt path off the highway to get there so you don’t have to walk beside the fast moving vehicles. You will find a motorcycle engine crafted into an interesting piece of art as well as the memorial crosses and a couple of plaques with information. Seems people have left little things there from time to time. Dew rags are an understandable gift to leave at a biker memorial. A little less easy to understand, but no less heartfelt I’m sure, was the plastic werewolf hanging from a wheel. Remember: It’s the thought that counts.

I won’t rehash the details of what has been called “the worst accident in El Dorado County history but I will include the web site address Linda provided earlier in case you would like to read more on your own. Roadside Shrine - Mormon Emigrant Trail and Saw Mill Road
Just south of Snow Mill Road up on the hill is this Memorial to some fallen motorcyclists.

Here Ron is reading the plaque in the above photo.

Mormon Emigrant Trail has been there a very long time. Probably since the time when our forefathers and foremothers were immigrating and thus the name. Can’t remember how many times I’ve ridden/driven this road. Countless times at least. However, this roadway was completely different as a passenger.

As a passenger it’s always difficult to adjust. What do you do with your arms when you’re accustomed to holding a set of handlebars? Strange sensation being on a bike and speeding down the road with absolutely no control. It’s unnerving really. Something I’ve learned to do to get past the initial nervousness that comes with riding pillion is to sit up straight, relax, let your arms hang comfortably at your sides and then close your eyes. Deep breath. Feel the bike. Feel how solid and strong it is. Tap into that strength. Find your center of gravity. Anchor yourself to the bike. Now you are one with the bike as you move down the road. Half human-half motorcycle…………….mancycle! Or womancycle as the case may be. It’s fun to close your eyes when you’re sitting on the back. It’s a whole nother sensation.

After I calmed down and became one with the bike it was then quite fun to just take in the scenery. No need to watch the road or the bikes around me so my eyes went up. Since I’m usually required to watch the road, I don’t often get to observe what’s going on up there in the tree tops. It’s a lovely view through the trees to neighboring or way far away mountain tops. Endless tree tops with beautiful blue sky peeking through here and there and fluffy white clouds hung for decoration.

The higher up the hill we went, the prettier and more serene it became. I think perhaps it was because we were getting closer to God or whatever you want to call the Universal Consciousness. It just feels more calm up there than closer to the big cities at their lower elevations with all the hustle and bustle and pollution and noise and crime. It’s easy to understand why they refer to these areas as “God’s country.” The angels hang out there in the tree tops. You can feel them smiling down upon you as you ride through. I didn’t see one. Tried snapping pictures while I was looking the other way in an attempt to trick them but I still didn’t catch one.

Hey, talking about pictures……….since I was riding passenger and didn’t have anything to do with my hands, I just snapped away with the camera. It’s a numbers game when you’re shooting from the back of a moving motorcycle. If you take 100 pictures, 25 of them will turn out. The others are blurred from the vibration and are dealt with by liberal use of the “Delete” button. Hip hip hooray for digital cameras! You shoot, check and if you didn’t get what you’re looking for, shoot again and again and again.

Got the cutest picture of Shorty (Steve) riding behind us with a big ole smile on his face. Don’t know if he realized he was being photographed and smiled for the camera or if he’s just a really really happy guy. Either way that’s what we like to see-happy bikers.

Up on top of the hill I waved the angels off as we made the left turn onto Silver Fork Road and began the descent towards Kyburz on Highway 50. According to the road signs I saw, Silver Fork Road is about 16 miles long. General impression? Silver Fork Road is a gradual downhill ride with hillside on one side that reminded me of Yosemite in places and a drop off to the river populated with tents, gleeful splashing children and fishermen on the other side.

I didn’t see her but at one point Phil became distracted in the direction of the river. When asked what the problem was, he explained that his “bikini detector” had gone off and he was scanning for the source of the alarm. So there was something for everyone there. And where did all these people come from? How did they know this place was there? I never knew and I’ve driven past it my entire life. I thought Silver Fork Road went back off Highway 50 for a couple of miles to some houses and quit. Boy do I have a lot of ground to cover. If I’ve missed something this nice so close to home, what else is out there waiting to be discovered?

Thank you so much for sharing this road with us Linda and Mario. Thanks to The Don for the suggestion. More riding……less work. That is clearly what is called for here. One other thing that stood out to me………..pine needles. Piles and piles of pine needles gathered up against the asphalt curbs lining each side of the road. It was suggested that those unusual asphalt curbs were installed for the purpose of directing water flow/snow melt. For those who have not yet discovered this for themselves, pine needles are slippery. Stay away from the pine needles. Because of the pine needles and the camping population, this is not a fast road. It’s a sight seeing road. Might have to revisit with the sleeping bag on the back of the bike some time and enjoy this area more thoroughly.

By the way, did anyone else see those big plants growing down beside the river on Silver Fork Road? What were those? They resembled a very large house plant my mother called Elephant Ear. They look so out of place. So much more like something you might see in the Costa Rican rain forest rather than our high desert climate. Very interesting.

We were warned ahead of time about the cross traffic at Silver Fork and Highway 50. Not only are those drivers apparently “cross” but they’re moving very fast. Be extremely careful at this intersection. As a long time commuter on Highway 50, I can attest to regular driving speeds of 65. Add the curve in the road, throw a slow moving motorcycle out there in front and you’ve got a mess. Watch for your opening and boogie! Leave the leisurely toodling behind on Silver Fork and goose it! If waiting for a safe opening causes you to become separated by cages, no problem. There is a passing lane just up the road a bit where you can coast along in the slow lane to regroup if needed. You could also wait at the turn off to Ice House Road for any stragglers.

Ice House Road is a right turn off Highway 50 when headed west as we were. It’s well marked if you’re watching for the sign. It was at this turn where we parted ways with The Don. He had a previous commitment to participate in spreading the ashes of a fellow VROC rider at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge and had to tend to the arrangements for his early morning departure. VROC Ride to spread a VROCer's ashes.

Let’s hope none of us does that sort of ride any time soon. If you’re on a ride with us, we prefer you be in the form of a human or mancycle rather than ashes. But know that if the need should arise, I would be honored to strap your ash to the back of my bike and transport any one of you around for however long you should desire and dump you off at the destination of your choosing. I might reserve a bit of you to fertilize my favorite flowers. Then, each time they bloom, I will smile and think of you.

With Linda capably climbing the curvy roadway up the hill and Mario assuming the sweep, we ascended Ice House Road. The trees are much shorter on this road so you don’t enjoy the shade given on the previous roadways and it’s noticeable perhaps due to the lower (lower than Mormon Immigrant and Silver Fork anyway) warmer elevation and the fact that we were coming into the warmer afternoon heat. Phil explained there had been a fire and these smaller trees were the product of seeding efforts. They have a ways to grow before the angels can use them for cover. It’s still a pretty ride. The last time I rode this stretch I was coming down towards Highway 50 with Fozzy and Big Jim Taco (?) when we encountered a motorcycle wreck. I remember thinking how awful it would be to wreck on this road because of the wait for the ambulance to get here. It’s a bit off the beaten path.

A little further down the road Linda artfully avoided a possible bruise or two with a clever horizontal parking maneuver at the turnoff to Robbs Valley Resort. As a rider who has also parked in this manner, I’m able to fully appreciate her grace and timing. I was planning to tactfully omit this bit of ride information but since she has already shared……

We’re moving along on Ice House Road. Paul can’t contain himself any longer and leaves the pack to see what that hot little Ninja can do. Todd can’t bear the thought of being left behind by his racing buddy and takes off to catch Paul. At some point Jess broke out and took off to catch some high winds as well. (Sometimes these guys remind me a bit of the family dog blissfully riding along with his head hanging out the window in the wind.)

After passing where Paul and Todd had pulled over, Linda spotted the right turn to Robbs Valley Resort. I’m guessing she caught the sign a tad late or something? She applied the brakes and pulled off the roadway onto the dirt/gravel apron. Bike wasn’t stopping as requested and began to slide. There was a dirt embankment ahead of her. It would have been far worse had she bumped/hopped/flew over that embankment. She did the best thing she could think of and turned the bike left. The front tire caught the soft dirt embankment and stopped the bike alright. Then gravity took over and pulled the bike right out from under her. She simply stepped off as the bike went down. Slick as you please. Just like a pro. No harm. No foul. Excellent technique! Before any of us could barely react, Mario was at her side demonstrating proper lifting technique. And you didn’t know these rides could be educational?

The purpose of this stop wasn’t so Linda could show off her impressive horizontal parking technique but rather so we could explore this little out of the way resort area and get something cool to drink. They have a store, bar, restaurant, cabins, showers, etc. It’s a cute little place. Linda, Mario, Phil (with me behind) and Pdub braved the short gravel road down to the store.

The others (Todd, Ron, Steve and new Paul) opted to pass on the gravel and continued on towards lunch in Georgetown where we thought we would catch up to them later. This is where we lost Jess but I wasn’t too concerned as I know he’s familiar enough with these roads that he would eventually find his way back home. And if not, he could call one of us to come and get him. This is a good reminder to swap cell phone numbers at the beginning of the ride. Then when we find ourselves in the middle of a game of unintentional hide-and-seek, we can phone a friend to resolve the issue.

After the short rest stop at Robbs Valley Resort, we remounted our trusty bikes and headed down the road. Phil was having a go as leader. Pdub had shot out ahead of us again. Apparently it’s important to catch the left on Wentworth Springs if you want to get to Georgetown. When we arrived at that Wentworth turn, there was Pdub sitting patiently and waiting as we’ve been trained to do at turns. Thanks Pdub for waiting there to cue us in case we should miss the turn. Of course you could have also been sitting there waiting for us to come along to confirm this was the correct turn. I’ll assume the first more gallant scenario. At any rate, it’s good riding manners to wait at turns. We often split up again after the turn but at least it keeps everyone on the right track and gives us a point in time where we know everyone was present and accounted for. Heaven forbid we ever have to go looking for someone but if that should ever occur it would be much better if we were able to narrow the search as much as possible.

At this point in time I would like to lightly chastise Pdub. We saw you at the Wentworth turn. When we got to Georgetown we couldn’t find you. We were reasonably certain you had met up with Ron, Steve, Paul, Todd and Jess but couldn’t be certain as we couldn’t find them either. A tiny part of me was worried that you had gone off the road on that unfamiliar bike. Phil called your cell and left a voice mail. Before I could get too worried, we saw you ride past with some of the other lost boys. Bad Pdub! I don’t worry about riders who wander off in a group but you were last seen bopping along on your own so it gave us cause for concern. Sometimes cell phones don’t work where we are so you can use that as an excuse if you like. We forgave you already. You were just such a happy boy on that borrowed Ninja. How could anyone possibly stay mad at you?

So, the Wentworth turn brought us into Georgetown. We scanned both left and right as we passed through town but there was no sign of Todd, Ron, Steve, Paul, Pdub or Jess. We had been ditched! It seemed those Rats had run off and left me and the VROC contingency behind! For those who haven’t been to Georgetown, it’s not all that big a place. I think you could throw a rock from one end of town to the other. Well, I couldn’t but someone else with a good pitching arm might make a good show of it. We stopped at the big yellow Worton Market for the facilities (outhouse in back!) and another cool drink.

Linda warned me that the store was stocked with particularly interesting and unique items and she wasn’t exaggerating. I found a cast iron long-horn bull head that I didn’t feel I could leave without. It was heavy and stuck out in every direction but I was undaunted. As a veteran black-belt shopper I’ve learned that if the desire to possess something is strong enough, the method to transport that item home will come to you like an inspiration. Except for the rock I tried to transport home from Yvonne and the doggy pooper scooper I bought for my sister, I’ve never had a problem. Don’t ask about the rock! Once outside I met with concerns by the less reckless and perhaps more intelligent members of our riding group-that would be everyone but me. They just didn’t feel the same inspiration/insanity that had possessed me and insisted on finding a safer way to transport my new treasure. Mario stepped up, took the bull by the horns, and remedied the situation. Thank you sir. Quite kind of you to rescue me from my own silliness.

Just as Mario had finished dealing with the bull we saw them riding through town. Shorty (Steve) was in the lead and didn’t appear to see us. Ron, Paul and Pdub were in tow and waved as they passed by. We learned later that Todd had already left the group earlier and headed back to Auburn while Jess was probably out there ahead of us somewhere enjoying his ride back towards home. The lost boys turned onto 193 which would take them back to 49. Phil chose Garden Valley, a different route that he had found some time earlier quite by mistake. By his calculations, we could pop out on 49 ahead of the lost boys. We thought it would be fun to sit at the side of the road and wave again as they went by making them wonder how the heck that happened. But rather then tormenting our fellow Rats, we detoured once again with Linda in the lead to investigate yet another new back road. After rejoining Highway 49 for a short distance, Linda lead us, via back roads, back to Kathee’s Kitchen where my truck was parked and waiting.

Did you all see Phil’s GPS? Besides entertaining you with a cute little motorcyclist on the display, it’s also quite functional. It does everything but scratch your butt and with the proper attachment, it might be able to do that as well. As we were riding, I asked Phil about a body of water off to our left. With a finger on his left hand, he was able to touch the screen to drag the display to the right until that body of water was displayed on the screen. Union Valley Reservoir. It’s that easy.

According to the magical all-knowing GPS, Phil clocked about 250 miles on this ride. We gathered at Kathee’s Kitchen at 10 a.m. and arrived back in their parking lot around 4:30 p.m. A good long day of riding.

Hungry once again, we decided dinner was in order. It was on my way home to Carson and it’s in Linda and Mario’s neighborhood, so we agreed on German food at the St. Pauli Inn just below Kyburz. A bit out of the way for Phil but he wasn’t tired of riding yet anyway. After enjoying a HUGE meal, we all headed in separate directions for home. I rolled in around 7:30 p.m. It was a great day of riding and I agree with Pdub that it’s worthy of a rerun ride.

Would there be any value in doing the rerun ride backwards so we hit the hotter Georgetown area earlier in the day and save the cooler shady mountain roads for later in the day? It’s possible it also heats up on Silver Fork and Mormon Emigrant so it wouldn’t make any difference. Might also screw up the timing for the stops as well. It really wasn’t horribly hot this time anyway so it doesn’t matter much. Might make a difference in warmer weather.

It was another fabulous day of riding and I would like to thank everyone as your presence contributed to the enjoyment. Thank you Linda for stepping up to fill in as ride leader, for the time spent planning, for so competently leading us and sharing your neighborhood with us. You said in one of your postings that you probably weren’t qualified to lead us on a ride. I can state from experience that is incorrect. You are indeed quite qualified and I would be pleased to follow along behind you on future rides if we should all be so lucky.

And that’s the way it was from the back seat of the Nomad.

Boog-Enjoying the new battery and ready to roll.

From Pdub:
Linda did a great job as ride leader. Anyone who thought the pace was slow wasn't riding behind Steve on the way home. At one point an elderly woman in an SUV who was stuck behind us was honking her horn and shaking her fist at us.

I have to say this was a very nice ride with Ice house, Silver Fork and 193 { Editors note: I think this was Wentworth Springs Road} to Georgetown all being great roads. The memorial for the five riders who died in a horrific crash back in '89 was impressive and quite sobering. If you want to know more about that maybe you could google it. It occurred on Sept. 2 and resulted in a hellacious inferno.

I would definitely like to do this ride again if not this year, definitely next. Those who couldn't make this one deserve another chance because they really missed out.

Enjoyed each and every one of you. Oh, I'll close on a cautionary note; never wear shorts on a motorcycle even if your legs are as nice as Steve's.

The Ride Route:
The Riders:
Linda DAmico.......... Vulcan 900 ................Ride Leader
Mario DAmico.......... Vulcan 2000
Pdub........................Borrowed Ninja 650
Jess H.....................Sprint ST
Ron H......................FJR 1300
Phil T.......................Vulcan Nomad
Las..........................Nomad Pillion
Todd........................Harley Softtail Custom
Paul........................VStar 1300
Don I.......................Triumph Legend

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