Gasoline and Pumice
Respect the pumice! Respect it!
Total miles: 122 miles
Estimated travel: 2:17
[ Saturday - August
22, 2009 ]
Last night's temperature probably dipped down into the 60s. It
was cold but it wasn't too bad overall. However, a 30 degree bag
is insufficient. Fortunately I have enough clothing to take care
of the matter. The day started for me as I woke up at
8:20am. I can hear Nu snoring away. That's good. It's
an indication that he's able to sleep. Once Nu's up, we started
with a bit of
coffee and begin the packing process.
Things to be aware of when camping at Lake Mary.
Looking at the size of the parking area, we probably could have camped
right next to the bikes.
It would have been nice and flat.
Getting ready for some coffee. Check out the heavy duty bear
Our camping neighbors. The lot
is from Moorpark. The group consists of:
Paul, Pamela, Quintin, Resa, Cole, Omar "The cool dude", Ivan, Shane,
... and a less serious picture.
First order of business after packing is all done, around 10:20 am, is
to go back into town and gather needed supplies. This includes
fuel and water. However, more coffee and food is also
welcome. Originally we planned on going to "The Good Life" for
breakfast, but we settle for Schat's Bakery instead. Surprisingly
this time around the bakery is nowhere near as busy as last year.
In and out with 4 cinnamon rolls and two cafe mochas.
Alright, let's fuel up, go get some more water and head on out.
The plan is to ride the trail until it's time to camp out. I
don't know what the trail condition is so all we can do is hope for the
best. As I recall last year, it was soft but there were plenty of
sections with hard pack. I load up the bike with two gallons of
water and 2.5 gallons of fuel. I can feel the weight of the fuel
as it sloshes around a bit on the back of the bike. We take the
395 N heading towards Mono Lake. A glance at the sky has me a bit
concerned. Most if not all the clouds are dual layered with the
lower clouds being awfully dark. It looks like we're in for some
rain. Looking towards the east I can see some ominous clouds in
the direction we're heading. It's definitely raining in that
direction. Let's hope the trail isn't wet. If it is, at
least we won't have to worry about dust. Sure enough, after a
couple of miles on the 120 Hwy, we hit a heavy dose of rain. If
this keeps up, we're have to pull over and put our rain gear on.
Luckily the rain only lasted for several miles. Like I mentioned
to our camping neighbors, "The first part of our off road trip is 26
miles, but I don't know how far we're going to go. We might just
go in a section and come right back out."
At last we arrive at the trail head. We turn right off the road
and head up the trail. The gravel section seems to be plenty
good. Still, there are sections of the gravel road that is pretty
squirly. As the climb increases, the bike gets more and more
squirly. Remembering what everybody else has told me about off
road riding, I held a tight grab of the handlebar, lean forward, and
give it some more gas. The power got me out of a sticky
situation. Leaning forward puts more weight onto the front wheel
and allows me to climb the initial section of the trail without
problems. I got on the horn and radioed to Nu about the track
conditions. To stay on the left side. I didn't realize it
at the time, but my PTT button was stuck. I got into the trail a
bit and unstuck the PTT. Just as released the PTT, I get a call
on the radio, "I'm down." Oh man. I hope it's not
bad. I radioed back, "Are you alright?" "I'm fine."
That's good. I unplug the intercom and started walking back
towards the entrance to the trail to help Nu with the bike situation.
As I get closer and closer, I can see the bike, but I'm not quite sure
I see what I'm seeing. It looks like the back of the bike.
Shouldn't I be seeing the front of the bike? Nope, it's the back
of the bike. I asked Nu how that happened. He motioned to
me that the front of the bike picked up and the bike landed on it's
side. Nothing appears to be broken so we proceeded to pickup the
bike. The video below best captures this activity. It looks
easy, but the bike was face towards a downhill slope. The
softness of the pumice doesn't help any.
Finally the bike is back up and facing in the right direction. I
told Nu to ride up to where I'm at and we'll have a bit of a
breather. In the meanwhile I hike back to my bike.
This section is hard packed, but the rest of the trail is really soft.
Standing in the middle of the trail, without anybody else around,
listening to the wind blowing the tree tops, it's so peaceful. I
can just lie down in the middle of the trail and take a nap. Of
course that's not possible because there are ants everywhere. The
Captain would have had a field day up here. No matter where he
goes, he seems to be able to spot enormous sized ants. Where is
the Captain? He should be here to tell us how big the ants are in
Alright, let keep moving. We have a lot of ground to cover.
Still, the plan is to know when to give up and turn around if we have
I ride for a while sitting down while Nu stands up. He seems to
be doing alright. The bike shift back and forth underneath
me. I put both feet down to stabilize the bike. It works
but it gets tiring after a while. As we reach another
intersection of trails, I resort to start standing up on the
bike. It makes a world of difference. Leaning forward while
standing also helps a great deal to offset the weight on the
back. I didn't realize it at the time but I'm a bit insane to
take a bike fully ladened in excess of 600+ lbs off road. That's
alright, I can't argue with experiencing life.
Next thing I knew, I hit a patch of really soft pumice.
Remembering what Simon Pavey, in "Race to Dakar", said about being a
petrol-head when riding sand, I clenched the handlebar, opened up the
throttle, and hang on for dear life. The 8GS bucks like a bronco
underneath me giving me a sense I'm about to fly off at any minute, but
I never flew off. The rear end whips around but that's all it
does. Adding more throttle simply allows me to plow through the
soft stuff coming out unscathed. When all is said and done, I was
easily doing 25MPH while loving it and being scared senseless at the
same time. One section, two sections. I'm amazed that I'm
still standing and I'm able to steer the beast out of the soft
stuff. This bike is extremely forgiving. As I reach a hard
pack section, I stop for a quick breather. Next thing I know I
received a ding on the radio. Nu's down again. He's OK just
that the bike is dug into the pumice once more. He also mentioned
the mirror is broken at the mount. Walking back, I see that he
went through the same soft sections that I went through. However,
in his case he didn't power the bike out. It's pretty well
stuck. I try to pull it back out but no go. The pumice was
so soft and the bike is so dug in that human power just isn't
enough. We resorted to bike powered to get it out. I put
the 650 in first gear, and started walking the bike out while twisting
first gear. Nu was in the back helping to keep the bike upright
while I power the bike out of the soft stuff. At one point I
stalled the bike, but I just hit the starter and continued to power the
bike out. Cool beans! We're back out on hard pack
again. Yeah, it would have been better to keep on the right
side. It's a much better line.
Once again Nu rides up to where the 8GS is sitting for another
break. I start the hike to the bikes.
I can sense Nu's frustration as we're sitting there talking about
what's happening. Last year he made it through this trail without
problems. This year, he's having all kind of issues. Of
course the difference between last year and this year is the bike's
configuration. Last year he had an unladen bike.
This year, he's packed with panniers and a bunch of other stuff.
As for me, last year I had the R12R and this year it's a complete
different experience with the 8GS.
In reference to the Hitler's got the
wrong bike video, I now regard myself as a proper tractor
driver. Plowing through the fields of Crooked Meadows.
While we're standing here taking a breather, we hear a motor of some
kind. A motocross is rapidly approaching us. We can see the
dust storm he's creating as he heads in our direction. He spots
our bikes on one side of the road, slows down and dust us while we wave
at him. It's a Yamaha 250. He waves back and keeps
trucking. Out of sight but not out of mind. It sounds like
he's detoured and heading in the a different direction, but next we
know, it sounds like he's coming back. Sure enough comes back
again. We receive a second dusting while we wave at him a second
time. He disappears for a while until we hear a bunch of motors
coming our way. 4 bikes in all. They're all either 125cc or
250cc motocross. Of course the Yamaha is back again and dust us
the third time. Once again we wave as they all scream pass
us. At last, it's clear once more. Clear of motocross bikes
that is. It takes a while before the pumice cloud is blown
away. Nothing like a bit of pumice to grind your teeth on.
Nu start contemplating about his configuration. Perhaps the gear
is not tied on correctly. Perhaps a better balanced configuration
can be attained. I told Nu to go ahead and get rid of the fuel in
the gas can. He starts filling up his bike and then dump some of
it into my bike. In all we got rid of at least 1.5 gallons of
fuel. That should help the matter. When he opens his
panniers to start rearranging items, he see an envelope, "Oh no!
I was suppose to mail this yesterday." I asked, "What is
it?" "It's a bill that's due on Wednesday." Yet more
frustration sets in. There's definitely no post offices out
here. Because of all this calamity, I decided to end the off road
ride early and head back to Mammoth so Nu can mail his envelope.
Since we're no longer camping out here, he might as well dump the 1
gallon of water also. This should also lighten his load a bit
more. He was reluctant to dump the water so I did it.
Now we have to make it out the way we came in. There are some
soft spots so we have to take it easy getting back out. Fearing
the current spot we're at doesn't have sufficient room to make a
U-turn, Nu tells me to move ahead into the clearing before turning
around. We move further in and the condition gets worse.
The so called clearing is even softer than where we were at.
Alright, we do it here or we keep going. Nu assists me and I
managed a successful u-turn. Now it's Nu's turn. We both
good. However, when I get back on the bike and start the process
of climbing back up from this soft spot, I get a bit timid and what
happen? The bike digs in an fall over. There you have it,
my first 8GS crash. Both arms go up in the air in celebration of
one of the lames slow crash ever.
Like Nu, I'm not afraid of coming off the bike, especially off road,
but I just hate that you have to pickup the bike afterwards. Now
we get to experience the weight of the 8GS in its full glory.
With the amount of fuel, and water it's carrying, the bike is easily
over 600 lbs counting me. I take off the gas can and Ortlieb
bag. That should help the matter. Yeah right! First
attempt, the bike doesn't budge. Second attempt, it move a
little. 3rd, 4th, and 5th. Finally, it's up. Dam this bike
is heavy. The next time this thing goes down, I have to remove
the panniers to make life easier. Now that's what you call
work. I get back on the bike while Nu helps to hold the bike up
right and we have the bike to the hard side of the trail. Being
concerned about the fact that we're on the wrong side of the trail and
behind a blind turn, I radioed to Nu that we should move out of this
spot. Just then another motocross shows up. The guy is
riding a small 125cc. He slows a bit and then speeds on by.
Good. At least he's able to see us and not crash into us.
As we're getting ready to take our leave, another motocross shows up,
KTM 250. He asked if we're OK and whether we saw a little 125
pass this way. "Yes, he went down in that direction."
Apparently, it's a small group of motocross and they're a bit lost.
We begin out trek back out. As we're going out, we stick to the
left side of the trail, driving like we're in New Zealand, as it's a
little more hard packed. However, not to long after, it gets soft
again. I radio to Nu to keep the speed up as we plow through this
soft stuff. Once again, I grab hold of the handlebars, open the
throttle, and hang on for dear life. The bike whips back and
forth and plows through the soft pumice. As I near the end of the
really soft stuff, I noticing that I sometimes don't have very good
steering capabilities. Nonetheless, I manage to get the bike
towards the more hard packed side of the trail and stop when the gravel
part begins. Again, I don't see Nu anywhere. Oh man, this
isn't good. As I put the kickstand down and lean the bike over,
the stand goes down deeper and deeper into the dirt. Even with
the expanded kickstand foot plate there is still not enough surface to
offset the weight of the bike. This shows how soft the pumice
really is. I lean the bike over and kicked a bunch of rock under
the kickstand hoping it will hold. It does.
I start the hike up the trail once more to check on Nu's
condition. I have no idea how far back he is. I made
several attempts to contact him via radio with no response.
Several yards up the trail, the two motocross guys appear on the
trail. The KTM guy told me that Nu drop his bike back there, but
he's OK. He helped him pickup the bike. I thanked him and
continued the hike.
When I reached Nu, he's down again. In the attempt to get the
bike moving, the bike simply plowed into the soft pumice again and
caused him to drop the bike once more. While I take a quick break
from the hike, Nu tells me that he actually crash the 650GS. He
was doing anywhere between 10-15 MPH. The front dug into the
pumice and threw him off of the bike. He landed on his left side
on the shoulder and helmet. He mention feeling the Leatt
neckbrace holding his head back. There you have it folks.
Proof that the $650 was well spent. Without the neckbrace, Nu
could have suffered an injury. In this case, it was nothing and
he simply dusted himself off. In fact, the KTM motocross guy saw
Nu crash. He rode up to check on him to see he's OK. Nu
mentioned the guy looking at his neckbrace as Nu responded that he's
Again, we walk the 650GS out of the soft stuff using the bike's
power. After a short section, Nu gets back on the bike and rides
toward the 8GS. In the meanwhile I hike back to my bike.
From here out, the rest of the trail was uneventful. We make it
out without further spillage.
Back on the tarmac we go. The first order of business is to head
to Mammoth Lakes and mail Nu's envelope. It's pretty obvious that
it's been raining on the 395 when we got off of the 120 Hwy.
"Let's mail that envelope and then get something to eat," I squelched
on the radio. "Sure that sounds good." "Where do you want
to eat?" "Pizza!" "I knew you were going to say
that." It looks like we're heading to Giovanni's Pizza
Parlor. On the way back to Mammoth Lakes, the question was posed
whether we should shorten the trip and head back to LA tomorrow instead
of Monday. This is to be determined after dinner. We
haven't even eaten lunch yet. In the end Nu opted to mail the
envelop tomorrow since we're going to head back on Monday. How
quickly plans change. So be it. We head home on
Monday. Where are we going to stay the night? Let's camp at
Lake Crowley. It will be a little closer to the way home for
We both have spaghetti bolognase and minestrone soup. As we begin
our little journey towards Lake Crowley, I'm cramping up left and
right. I keep on having to lower the foot to prevent the hip from
completely seizing up in pain. Dam I with the salt from the
spaghetti would kick in sooner. It's obvious that my body needs
salt to fight the muscle camps. Eventually, the camps disappear
once my body is able to absorb some of the salt from the food.
We take the exit to Lake Crowley and see no signs of a
campground. What the heck? I stop at a gas station to ask
about campgrounds. The clerk tells me there aren't any here and
the closest one is a couple miles in the opposite direction. What
the heck. There a campground sign on the Hwy sign. Screw
this, it's getting late. We don't have time to search for a
campsite and setup tents. Let's go down to Bishop and rent a
hotel room. This will be better anyway because of the
construction zone. It's better to deal with the construction zone
now instead of tomorrow when everybody, their mother, dog, and cat are
heading back down to the LA area.
We get to Bishop and find a Best Western. They still have one two
bed room still available. $107 later, it's mine. At least
we don't have to worry about pitching tents in the dark. We just
have to worry about finding parking and removing all articles off of
the bike that can be stolen. Oh the irony. You go to the
middle of nowhere and don't have to worry about things getting
stolen. On the other hand, once you're in so called civilization,
you have to worry about people stealing things from you. From the
way things look, civilization is nowhere near being civilized.
It's just the opposite.
While in the process of taking things apart, a British gentleman looked
at me and said, "You guys looks like you're ready to ride the
world." To that comment I said, "Riding to Mammoth or riding the
world, you pack the same. The only difference between the two is
the amount of underwear you need." The gentleman was delighted in
the humor and laughed to no end. I'm always glad to be able to
bring a smile or laughter to lighten someone's day. In this case,
We put everything away, cleaned up, and crashed for the night.
Day 1 - Marathon riding
Day 3 - All that is needed to get back
Written on: August 25, 2009
Last modified: August 28, 2009