Tuesday, August 26, 2008

2008 Aug 23 - Modesto Dealership Run

RAT RIDE 2008 August 23
Modesto Dealership Run

Again my ride started a day earlier because I’m too lazy to get up at 4 or 5 a.m. to shower, dress, pack and get from Carson to Pdub’s place in California by 9 a.m. After watering the plants and consoling the cats, Boog and I waved bye-bye to Carson as we rode out and over the hill around 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon.

After hitting the tail end of the 5 o’clock traffic jamb on the Reno freeway system, we were successfully through the “spaghetti bowl” and headed west toward Auburn on highway 80. A short distance later the nightmare began.

Have you ridden Hwy 80 lately? Don’t! It’s a mess. Have you ridden Hwy 80 with the hordes of motorcycles that migrate to this area for Street Vibrations in September? DON’T! During Street Vibrations the extreme number of motorcycles makes the highway a dangerous bustle. Add in the current state of the roadway and you ARE going to see a couple more wrecks this year. What’s wrong with the roadway? Everything!

Just west of Truckee you encounter the tire trails in the slow lane. They are created in the winter time by heavy slow moving trucks wearing tire chains. If you were to hold a level board across the roadway and then measure the depressions for the path of the left and right truck tires, I think you would easily have at least a 3” valley. When speeding cages are trying to run you over in the fast lane, you pull over to let them pass. Sometimes this means you pull into this roller coaster lane. Whee! down through the left tire path. Hold tight. Up onto the middle portion of the roadway. Steady. Hold it. The roadway is bumpier than an old dirt road and you don’t want to fall down into the right tire depression. This is not the best road. But wait! It gets better!

Due to the massive amount of road construction occurring, it seems as if none of the original highway is untouched. They have those tall concrete barriers to divert you this way or that and they have repainted temporary striping to give you something to aim for. But here’s the problem-65, 70, 80 miles per hour flying over the bumps into the setting sun that is blinding me, wiping out any visibility and making ME invisible to speeding vehicles as well. I tried to stay out of the way and keep myself around 60 for the most part with 65 mph through the clearer sections while avoiding the vehicles actively trying to run me over. You know those overhead lighted signs on the highway. Based on the way the traffic was behaving I had to seriously wonder if someone hadn’t posted a picture of me and Boog up there and offered a sizable reward to the driver that could flatten us.

The highway shifts under you and jumps 10 feet to the left-or right. The temporary striping is worn away. The old striping is covered in black but still visible and still beckoning me to follow it. The groove space between the old lanes confirms the path of the old covered striping. Go this way. Go this way. NO! Go that way! All of a sudden there is a car almost on top of you as it loses its lane and doesn’t know which set of clues to follow. The sun is in their eyes. Their concentration is on the road in front of them as they frantically try to find their lane. They don’t even know you’re there. A split second later, they have decided to just follow the concrete barrier to their left regardless of striping, covered striping, faded temporary striping or lack there-of. And you’re there white knuckling the grips, catching a breath of relief and quickly trying to decipher the striping to find a lane where you can get the hell out of the way. One minute you were in the slow lane. The next minute you found yourself in the fast lane. The lanes just changed below you here and there. Apparently no one saw the suggested speed limit of 45 mph. Not a single soul dared to go 45 mph for fear they would be run over by the car behind them traveling at 80 mph.

And I’m not done complaining yet!

There was one section of two-lane where they had laid asphalt on one-half of the slow lane-the right half. This left maybe a 4’ section available for motorcycle travel in that slow lane. If you went any further to your right, you would hit that big ledge. No point in turning your bike straight into the ledge to get on top because you would then hit the wall unless you could do it more slowly and that was not an option with that blind speeding traffic behind you. So, I’m stuck in this 4’ section at 65 mph. I look in my mirror to see what’s behind me before I take the fast lane to get away from this mess. Horror! It’s a line of very fast moving semi trucks. Fast lane is NOT an option at this moment. Pull out in front of a speeding semi or hold my itty bitty lane while they speed past me? Hummmmm?

“Eeeeeek!” That’s all I had time to say before they were on top of me trapping me between their big wheels on one side and the pavement ledge on the other. Cussing the highway department, squeezing the handlebars, fighting the wind from the trucks - it was not one of my most pleasant motorcycling moments. Where the hell was the sign for “Uneven Pavement?” I didn’t see it! All I could think about was the pity I would feel for any rookie that thought he might take his brand new bike out for a pleasant roll over I-80. I should have traveled over Hwy 50 to Placerville and then Hwy 49 to Auburn even though it adds 30 minutes.

That was my pre-ride ride to get in place for Saturday morning.

We met at Pdub’s place in Sacto at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning. Jess was already there ahead of us. Todd and I dropped in behind Tom at a stop light just outside Pdub’s neighborhood and rolled in together. We hadn’t heard anything firm from anyone else that might be joining us so we didn’t wait around. With a route, shopping stops and lunch destination from The Don tucked into the map pocket, off we went. Having already exhausted the purchase possibilities of the greater Sacramento area, Pdub decided to move the search for his next motorcycle south to Modesto. That was our target for today.

Since the sale of his Bonneville America to some lucky area man whose previous bike had been stolen, Paul has been searching tirelessly for a replacement. In the meantime, we’ve seen him mounted atop a borrowed Kawasaki Ninja and for today’s ride, Don’s 1999 BMW 650 with knobby tires which didn’t slow him down a bit. That bumpy uneven surface of the River Road is perhaps best suited for knobbies? Quick wheelie to get you on top and a good set of knobbies to climb over might also be the answer to traffic jams. Something to think about anyway.

Today’s ride started with five riders on five bikes.
Paul "Pdub" – BMW 650 Classic
Jess – Triumph Sprint
Tom – Yamaha FJR
Todd – Harley Softail Custom
Las – Suzuki S50 Boulevard 800 (aka Boogar)

After the spirited game of chase down the River Road while dodging an occasional piece of fruit or dead animal, a short section of I-5 and then slower rural roads we began the approach to the Modesto area.

Highlights: A flock of peacock/peafowl and babies on the River Road. Have never seen them there before. Going too fast. Their color just blurred together. Still pretty.

2nd highlight: Following Pdub down the highway with all his lights blinking. Felt like we were part of a presidential motorcade or parade.

Don has a set of red LED’s mounted on each side of his license plate frame. They’re supposed to blink when you apply the brakes to attract more attention. They’re called “Hyper Lights” and boy let me tell you…….they were. Little buggers didn’t wait for any application of the brakes. Looked as if simple air flow or the breathing of the rider was all it took to set those guys off. I couldn’t tell when Paul was using his blinker because I couldn’t see it through all the other commotion. Jess became mesmerized. We thought we might have to slap him around or throw cold water in his face to bring him back. Seems there was a little clip that had been broken. Paul had been instructed on how to remedy the problem but the fix wasn’t holding for him. Duct tape was discussed. I should have grabbed a roll of that when packing up at the storage arsenal!

3rd highlight: Huge cornfields that we must revisit for pictures. Have always wanted to run through a corn field while pretending there’s a monster chasing me-like in the movies. Farmer would see the tops of the corn moving and probably come out to shoot us for trespassing so we’ve got to be fast. Keep the bikes ready. We’re in. We’re out. Quick like a fire drill. Unless they have big spiders in there that spin webs from plant to plant. I’m not going to run through giant spider webs. Ick!!!!!! You guys go without me. Run fast. There are no monsters but the farmer looks pretty peeved and he’s armed. Oh oh, let’s pretend we’re ants moving through the tall blades of grass on the front lawn.

4th highlight: A REALLY BIG dog on the side of the road. Dead. Lying on his side with all four legs sticking straight out. Looked more like a big dog statue. Might have been a bull mastiff or something. No kidding it was bigger than a St. Bernard or small cow. If it was a real dead dog, why would they leave it out there so long? Is that how you dispose of your dead dogs in Modesto? Just drag them out to the road on dead dog day (not to be confused with garbage day or recycling day) and the garbage people pick them up? I decided we should stop and poke it with a stick on the way home if we went back that way. I just wanted to get a closer look. Paul decided we wouldn’t go that way.

Our first Modesto stop was at the Harley Davidson dealer. Todd got to browse Harleys which is one of his favorite things. Tom was looking to meet a retro Springer in person. Paul was attracted to a sexy black Street Bob. I was attracted to the pink donut box I spied on the counter.

Jess in front of Modesto Harley dealer.
Pdub atop a sexy little black Street Bob.

Meanwhile, out in the parking lot, Jess laughed at the slowly warming day, whipped out this fabulous cooling mister he keeps stashed in his tank bag and enjoyed his own private tropical mist. Excellent accessory item you clever Rat. I vote that we mount a couple of those on his bike, put him out in front with misters blazing in lane position 2. Then we follow in lane position 1 and 3 and enjoy the cooling mist. Put Paul with the blinking lights in the rear to divert traffic around our private little tropical storm as we move down the road.

It was starting to heat up a bit at this point. The guys laughed at me for wearing my heated vest but it was perfect for the cold morning ride from Auburn to Sacto. Turn on the heated vest, put the open weave jacket over the top and you’re ready to go. We stopped just south of Stockton for gas and I turned the vest off but continued to wear it for the wind break. By the time we hit Modesto, I was ready to tuck it away in the saddlebag. I love that heated vest. No more bulky layers to climb in and out of or store somewhere on the bike.

When I go through the gear at storage before a ride to select the pieces I’ll need to take, it makes me feel like such a total biker. Heated vest for the morning and cooling vest for the afternoon. I feel like Brad Pitt selecting the weapons he’ll need for the day in the movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Or like James Bond visiting his arsenal before an assignment. Revvy!

The second stop on our Modesto dealership tour was at the Honda Kawasaki dealership where Paul sat on the Concourse which was disqualified due to an unacceptable level of passenger comfort. Try as they may, the salesmen couldn’t sell him even with their claim that the Concourse had recently been rated higher than the Goldwing for touring comfort or something like that. Move over Goldwing! Tom sat on the Concourse as well and rates its riding position far more comfortable than the one on his Yamaha FJR.

Pdub and Tom rating and subsequently disqualifying the Concourse.
The third stop, just a little further down the same road, was the Ducati dealership. This was the stop Jess had been waiting for. He’s got a little crush going for the Ducati. Paul was crushing on one of the bikes as well. With some repeated prompting from Todd, Paul asked about a test ride. After signing the waiver and getting some instruction on a ride route, Paul mounted up and took off with Todd in tow. We waited for a bit in the hot parking lot and finally decided we could wait just as patiently with a nice cold ice tea at the planned lunch stop. Tom agreed to wait for Paul and Todd’s return while Jess and I took off to find Doc’s Q’in Pit Stop and reserve a table.

Todd chasing Pdub on a Ducati test ride.

We found Doc’s and then checked in with The Don who walked us inside, by phone, introduced us to our waitress, Tanya, and then led us through the menu. He should have ridden down to lunch with us. He’s only about 40 miles away but he must have had something else going on to prevent that.

Jess waiting for his baby back baby back baby back ribs.

So that we could document our visit to this eating establishment and collect points in the Rat Ride Eating Game, we were sure to get pictures of ourselves with the menus. So we could truly test the food, I ordered a “Three Way” with pulled pork, tri-tip and chicken. It came with two sides. I chose baked beans and cold slaw. You also get a cornbread muffin. Todd and I split that meal and it was quite enough for the two of us. Jess ordered the baby back ribs only to learn they weren’t ready yet but after a quick group meeting, it was decided they would be worth the wait. Jess had come a long way, had set his mind on baby back ribs the night before and by golly we were going to get that man some ribs! Tom had a problem with the greens he ordered as they weren’t quite ready either. If you show up too close to 11 a.m. when they open for lunch, some of the stuff might not be ready for the table yet. You just can’t rush perfection. Everything was delicious. It’s easy to see why The Don likes this place. {Hey, the regular ribs are greaaat!! and so is the brisket - Don} They offer peach cobbler for dessert but due to a totally inexplicable surge of willpower, I was able to resist. We thought we might try to put the entire lunch on Don’s tab but Tanya wasn’t going to go for that. She’s got your back Don.

The BMW, Triumph, Vespa dealership was just about three driveways down the street so we headed there after lunch to view the bikes and to see if Dirk might be able to fix the Hyper Light problem. They were really busy so we had to wait awhile. While waiting, Tom and Todd decided to do a couple of laps in the recliners. They went nowhere really slow and both of them seemed to totally enjoy the ride.

Boogar flirting with the little Vespas. It was fun to be the big guy for once.
Test riding the recliners at the BMW/Vespa/Triumph dealership.

With the Hyper Lights calmed and minus Jess who had to leave us to meet the prearranged ETA time for his arrival home, we progressed to the Yamaha dealership where Paul once again fell for the charms of a low black machine. This time it was the Yamaha Roadstar 1700 Midnight. “If I were looking for a cruiser” is what he was heard to mutter apologetically to the bike as he walked away and left it there on the sales floor.

Showroom test ride of Yamaha Roadstar 1700 Midnight

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. While Tom, Jess and I were still at the Ducati dealership flapping our gums with the salesman, we heard sirens go by. We joked that it was police chasing Paul and Todd. Turns out that wasn’t true even though it should have been perhaps.

To fully test this speed machine, one must get it up to speed right? Laboring under that line of logic, Paul opened the bike up and took it to 100 mph. I would hate to live in the flight path of that motorcycle shop! Todd said the Ducati was almost silent as it pulled away from him. The softail was at full throttle from the stops and the Ducati was pulling away with what looked like no effort at all. Both Paul and Todd were very impressed with that machine.

Pdub prior to 100 mph Ducati G-force that permatized the smile on his face.

When Todd and Paul arrived for lunch, they told us the sirens we heard were for the two riders we had seen leave the Ducati shop just ahead of them. They heard that one of the riders had wrecked the bike he was test riding when a car pulled out in front of them. If he was also traveling at 100 mph, it’s easy to see how that might happen. Judging from the damage the guys saw on the wrecked bike, it looked like it might have flipped. They heard the rider was going to be alright. I scanned through the internet in an attempt to find more information on the wreck but found nothing. We’ll have to assume the rider was alright and be grateful it wasn’t one of ours.

Happily we live to recklessly blast through city streets at 100 mph another day!? I shake my head in consternation. Let’s put that boy on a moped to save him from himself.

From the Yamaha dealership we rode to the land of Suzuki. They had a warehouse full of bikes but nothing Paul couldn’t leave without. The best part about this stop was the rider we met while parked in the tow-away zone. Funny how if one bike parks in the tow-away zone, other bikes will follow. It’s like the sign no longer exists somehow. Or maybe such signs don’t apply to motorcycles? That must be it. Motorcycles must be exempt from parking laws. What if you pulled up to a place and saw a whole line of bikes illegally parked. Hey, there’s a whole bunch of them. Can’t haul us all off. Think I’ll park there in the shade too. Good spot. So you park your bike there and go inside. A couple of minutes later the Hells Devils mount up and ride off leaving only your bike obviously illegally parked. By the time you come back out, you’re just in time to wave good bye to the tow truck driving away with your bike. Sounds like good material for a repetitive stress nightmare.

What sign? That doesn’t mean motorcycles does it?

Anyway, this fellow pulled up and parked his bike next to the rest of us. Todd yelled over to me to check out the new bike. It was an older relative of Boog. A 1993 Suzuki Intruder with only 8,000 some odd miles on it. Clean machine too. Boogar is a 2005 model with 25,200 plus miles. It was interesting to see just how much alike the two bikes are. All Suzuki really changed was the handlebars (changed to drag bars in 2005) and I changed them back to the old Intruder bars right off the bat. Not much sense in changing a model once you get it right I suppose.

Boog meets an older relative at the Modesto Suzuki dealership.

The freeway entrance toward home was very conveniently located right there by the Suzuki dealer so we hopped on and headed north.

TOM TOM the human GPS rode home via Hwy 49. He shared in a post that he was overheated within about nine miles and pulled off to rest on a bench and cool off. That’s a testament to the efficacy of the cooling vests because the three of us were rolling along in the freeway heat without any problem. Sure it was warm and we sweated profusely when stopped for gas but nothing unmanageable.

Tom resting on a bench.

I can remember one time riding in hot summer California weather when I had to stop and lie down on my bike in the shade. It was a combination of heat stroke and dehydration I’m sure. After soaking my jacket (didn’t have a cooling vest yet) and drinking some water, I was ready to ride again without passing out. You can indeed get too hot on those bikes. The cooling vest really works for me. It cools you just enough that the ride is no longer unpleasant and you’re not at the brink of falling over. It’s a very good thing.

We waved Paul off at his freeway exit and continued toward Auburn. We hit a little bit of stop and go traffic but thankfully nothing that stopped us for long. We were home by 5:45 p.m. That left Todd just enough time to climb out of his gear, get something cool to drink and catch the beginning of his Raiders pre-season game. Perfect timing at the end of another perfect riding day.

My post-ride ride to get back home to Carson on Sunday was both pleasant and uneventful. The cats were most pleased to have me home to turn on the air conditioning for them. Maybe I can sew little cooling vests for them.

In case anyone else would like to make the run to Modesto, here is the ride route from Don that we followed:

Catch the River Road from Paul's place in West Sac.
1. Turn left at Freeport Bridge - 0.2 mi
2. Turn right at Freeport Blvd - 0.8 mi
3. Continue on River Rd - 19.4 mi
4. Slight left at CR-J11/Walnut Grove Thornton Rd Continue to follow CR-J11 - 5.2 mi
5. Slight right to merge onto I-5 S toward Los Angeles - 24.9 mi
6. Take exit 468 toward French Camp - 0.2 mi
7. Turn left at French Camp Rd - 2.4 mi
8. Turn right at S Airport Way - 15.0 mi
9. Turn left at Kasson Rd - 2.7 mi
10. Turn left at CA-132/Maze Blvd - 12.0 mi
11. Turn left at N Carpenter Rd - 0.8 mi

Harley dealer will be the first shop you encounter on the ride side of Carpenter Road. Hit the internet for the addresses of the other shops from there. Doc’s Q’in Pit Stop is located at 421 Maze Blvd.

Enjoy. Las :-)


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