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 proof locker.

Our camping neighbors.  The lot is from Moorpark.  The group consists of:
Paul, Pamela, Quintin, Resa, Cole, Omar "The cool dude", Ivan, Shane, and Hawley

... 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 Mammoth.

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 to.

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 fine.

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 tomorrow.

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, night.

We put everything away, cleaned up, and crashed for the night.

Day 1 - Marathon riding
Day 3 - All that is needed to get back home.

Written on: August 25, 2009
Last modified: August 28, 2009