Old roads are now new roads - Day 2

Day 2 [September 24, 2006]

Another day and another 250+ miles.  The plan for today is to ride North on the 41 highway until we get into Oakhurst.  From there we'll take the 49 until we reach the 120.  The 120 will take us through Yosemite and back out onto 41 highway.  From there we head South and back into Fresno.  It all sounds so easy.

The day starts off slow.  Eugene is the first one to bed and the last one up.  I guess yesterday's ride really did him in.  Minh and I are both up and are prepping our bikes before the day's trip.  This essentially means cleaning off all the bug from the previous night's ride on the 41 highway.

There you have it, bugs galore.  This is the off season.  It normally get much worse than this.

We cleaned up our face shield, helmet, windshield, lights, and any thing else that got covered by bugs.  Since the bikes have been in the cover of the garage, the bug guts weren't baked onto the bike so a little water and a wash cloth removed everything.  The cleanup took us about 1/2 hour and we're ready for some breakfast.  Minh and I made the decision to ditch our panniers for today's ride and we're both sure Eugene will do the same.  Definitely a good decision.

Minh and I are both chewing on breakfast, sumi (oriental meatballs with peas inside) and French bread (baguette) when we finally saw glimmers of Eugene being awake.  Eugene emerges from the bathroom down the hall way.  There was snoring last night and I don't know who won the battle as I was sleeping in the adjacent room.  Nonetheless, one of the two was practicing to be a lumberjack, or was that both were practicing to be lumber jacks experimenting on logging exercises.  After coffee, energy drink and whatever else to keep us going through the day, we finished prepping for the ride.  I had made sure I had plenty of outlets dedicated to my helmet can batteries and camcorder batteries.  I then transferred all the tools from my panniers to the center bag to get ready for a fast and more nimble ride.

We finished all our prep work and then mulled around the house a bit to talked to my mom and uncle.  We got roped into conversations so it was 10:00AM by the time we left.  A bit later than I had hope but it's all good.  I took Minh and Eugene through the scenic route of Fresno:  Van Ness, Maroa, and then Gettysburg.  Eventually we had to head out to Blackstone to make the trip to the North end of Fresno a little faster.  Later Minh and Eugene claimed that they were riding through the Beverly Hills of Fresno.  Knowing those areas, it's not quite Beverly Hills but the scenery is definitely better than a lot of places in LA.  Too bad we didn't have time, I would have taken them to the fancy part of town.  The newer stretch of Van Ness Blvd North of Shaw Ave.  We made a quick stop at Best Buy so I can get more video tapes for the second day (8 Hi8 tapes).  Quick in, quick out, we're ready to get gas and head to the mountains.

I was hoping to get to a gas station on the stretch along Blackstone between Pinedale Ave and Nees Ave, but no luck.  It was all a shopping center so we headed North on the 41 freeway in the hopes of finding a gas stop on the way.  Here is where I started noticing changes in Fresno and the 41 freeway/highway because I haven't been to this part of Fresno in a long while.  The last time I did any type of serious driving on the 41 highway North of Fresno was when I was working at Sierra On-Line (SOL), the video game company located in Oakhurst.  The SOL activities dated back to the middle of the 80's.  From what I can tell, the 41 freeway was extended a little further North in comparison to what memory I have of this place.  Interestingly enough, we got off of the 41 freeway on to the 41 highway in order to fuel up.  Once again, the TomTom told me to go in the wrong direction because it thinks I should be on the 41 freeway instead of taking the 41 highway.  Again, Minh point me in the right direction, against what the navigation system says, and we're heading in the right direction.  Hm, maybe I should tie Minh to my handle bar and use him as my navigation system.  Bad idea.  In reality, it would have been good either way.  One has a little bit of back tracking while the other way doesn't have any back tracking.  Hence Minh is a genius.  Don't tell Minh but either direction would have yielded the same result

We saw a lot of motorcycles on our way North.  Most were sport bikes and cruisers out for a ride in the Yosemite direction.

The road to Oakhurst was pretty much the same as I remembered it back in the day.  However, I do see improvements in terms of safety.  The 41 highway from road 145 (west to Merced) all the way to Oakhurst now have many more passing lanes.  In the past, there were only about two or three passing lanes on the entire route and you had to rely on your whits and the power of your car in order to pass vehicles that refused to use the turnout to allow faster traffic through.  In reality, even with these passing lanes, there are still plenty of people that refuse to believe that they're slower than motorcycles.  In particular are mini-vans.  As for the part of the highway from Oakhurst to Yosemite, I can only hope the highway has also been improved.

It didn't take us very long to get to Oakhurst.  The roads are familiar and different at the same time.  Old roads are definitely new roads.  The other thing I have to attribute to the different feel is the fact that I'm riding a motorcycle as opposed to a car.  All the turns appear so easy to make and they aren't as tight as I remember.

Right before we reach Oakhurst, as we come out of a right hand sweeping turn and down a steep hill, I look to my left, while standing on the bike, to see if I can spot the original Sierra On-Line red wood paneled building.  Sure enough, it is still there.  Back when I was working at Sierra On-Line, we were HQ'ed in that building for a while until a new build was constructed further in town.  I can remember making a left hand turn just before you get all the way to the end of the down hill to go to work.  Again it looks the same but it feels different.

We reach the Southern end of Oakhurst and not too far up is the turn off for the 49 highway.  My trip odometer shows that we've been traveling for approximately 28 miles to get to Oakhurst.  We turn on to the 49 and then turn off into a parking lot to decide what to do next.  This also gives me the opportunity to change out video tapes.  We're parked along the side of a supermarket, that I use to make runs to purchase snacks and lunch when I was slaved to SOL, and South of a bank.  It is approximately 11:30 so we decided to go ahead and get an early lunch.  The Jack-In-The-Box across the street looks like a good a spot as any.

Jack In The Box is on the right side of the picture behind the trees.

Eugene and his insistence on making people blind with his safety vest
tied to his center bag.

We pulled up to Jack's place and noticed a nice brandy new Harley parked outside of the place.  We went in, ordered, and sat down to wait for our numbers to be called.  Numbers called, food received, and food devoured.  When we were all done, Minh noticed that the Harley is still sitting outside while there were numerous people flowing in and out of the place.  Most of the people didn't fit the bill of a Harley rider.  At that point the inevitable question came up, "I wonder who's Harley that is?"  As for me, I had been asking myself that same question.  The only person that fits the description of a Harley rider is the restaurant manager.  He's big, bulky, has not hair, and looks like the type of guy that would ride a Harley (pleasant guy).  At that point we just knew it was his bike.  All he needs to do is put on a leather vest and skull cap and he's the mang.

About 1/2 hour to 45 minutes after we walked in to Jack's place, we were back on the road.  From here the goal is to see the Little Dragon.  Minh had found this road on another web site and wanted to ride it.  This is our priority for  today.  Off we go heading North West on the 49 highway.

As we left the parking lot, where Jack's place can be found, there was another train of Harley's driving down the road on the 49 heading towards the 41.  Must have been a good 12-18 Harleys.  Apparently the 49 is quite a popular tour ride.  Let's hope it's not clogged up.

The initial stretches of the highway was normal.  A steady 65 with occasional cars here and there.

[October 19, 2006] - Tangent
If you think I write this stuff in one day, forget it.  It sometimes takes me a week to write about a single day for a trip.  After all, I have things like, work, and goofing off to do (e.g. playing video games and work on Mr. Moto).  Anyway, I digress and need to get back to the story.  Recently though, I had to ground my bike for two weeks because I did something stupid to my darling R12GS.  Good thing is, it kicked my arshe and taught me a valuable lesson.  No more will I attempt to install lights or do major electrical work.  I'll elaborate more on this strange tale in a different article.  Now, back to the Yosemite blabbing...

There is not much to report on the 49 aside from a lot of trees (big tall trees), a lot of Harleys going in the opposite direction, and a lot of open tarmac.  Town one, town two, we kept on trucking.  We went through Ahwahnee, Nipinnawasee, Elliott Corner, Bootjack, and finally Mariposa.  The road in Mariposa forks right to go to the 140 highway, and forks left to go on the 49 highway.  We know we have to fork left but we decided to stop at this gas station to rest and get our bearings straight.  Plus Eugene has to leak again.  Minh and I still didn't know whether we have passed up the Little Dragon or not.  Minh kept asking me if we have passed it.  Heck, I don't know this road.  How am I suppose to answer that?  I haven't been on this stretch of road before.  I might have lived in Fresno for 20+ years but that doesn't mean I go touring Fresno like a tourist.  We look at Minh's map a lot closer and came to the conclusions the Little Dragon is most likely still ahead.  Happy with the fact that we didn't miss any photo opportunities of the serpentine road, Minh sighed relief and was happy.  He then reminded me to stop for a photo of the Little Dragon when it comes up.  You bet your asteroid man, I'm not going to miss on photos especially when it's the focal point of our ride.

We're not sure how close we are to the Little Dragon but at least we're having fun.

Just around this point as Eugene came out of the mini-mart, we saw this older fellow riding up to the pump to fuel his bike.  Curious enough he had a cool little passenger.  It's a Daschund in a sling complete with goggles.

From what the driver told us, his Daschund was happy as a clam being a passenger on the bike.  He loves it except when he sees deers.  That's when he want to leap off and chase after them.  Pretty cool little guy.

It was time to go.  We started suiting up for the ride ahead.  Just about when we were almost ready to go.  A car pulled up and parked in front of us.  The lady walked into the market while her kids are waiting outside in the car.  Not too long after I put on my helmet one of the kids popped out of the car and asked me,  "Excuse me, is that a camera on your helmet?"  To which I replied, "Yes, it's a helmet cam."  "Cool!"  I Guess he hasn't seen one in real life before.  You don't know how many times I get asked that question.  A camera stuck to the top of my head attracts all kinds of attention.  Unfortunately it doesn't help me pickup chicks.  Darn!  You have two choices when it come to having a helmet cam.  Either the people freak out when they see you or they look at you funny and then pop the ten million dollar question (e.g. Is that a helmet cam?).

Off we go onto the 49 highway.  Again, Trees, dead grass, and a lot of tarmac.  The towns Mt Bullion and Bear Valley whizzed by.  Approximately 2 miles North of Bear Valley as the road start sweeping right, there is a vista point over looking an open valley below.  My immediate reaction was, this has to be the beginning of the Little Dragon.  Sure enough, it is.  Minh is absolutely elated.  The view is spectacular.  We couldn't ask for anything more, except to ride the road ahead of us.  "I want to cross that bridge!"

A fireman snap this picture for us.

Some of the pictures aren't very clear because there is a bit of a haze on the horizon.  This might have been cause by forest fires.  When you look at the panorama, take a close look at the second panel of the picture.  There is a large puff of smoke in the distance.  Yup, a forest fire.  In fact, as we were parked taking pictures, a fire man drove up to see what we were doing.  We started talking and he mentioned his son was currently working on putting out the fire that we can see in the distance.  He said the fire started not too long ago and isn't really too bad.  It's pretty much contained.  I mentioned to him that we passed the big fire off of the I5 close to LA as we were heading up towards Fresno.  There are numerous forest fires going on in California.  He mentioned this is the high season for fire fighters and that his son doesn't get a break these last couple of months.  It's pretty bad since there are so many fires going on at the same time.  We chatted a little longer and then he said his farewells.

Seeing the bridge below, Minh and I were both wondering if we will get a chance to cross it.  I can't see too far ahead with my TomTom and Minh's map sucked.  Nowhere on his map does it show switch backs down to the bridge, but we can see with our own two eyes the road in front of us has switch backs.  The road on his map looks almost like a straight line.  This made me rather confused, but I figure we're going to end up going in the right direction anyway because at this point there is only the 49 highway.

At one point we hear a motorcycle in the distance.  From the sound of it, it's a Harley.  It's a good several miles away from us down the valley below, most likely close to the bridge.  Let's pretend it's 2 miles away from us.  The fact that we can hear the pipes from two miles away means it must be deftly loud to the driver.  To this day I still don't understand how anybody can handle the noise and vibration from straight pipes.  I know it grabs automobiles' attention, probably piss off auto drivers too because the noise is so loud, but how can you hear anything above all that noise?  Ah, nothing like an excellent source of noise pollution to disrupt nature's beauty.  Surely enough, about 5-10 minutes later, the Harley pass our vista point.

Now we suit up to continue our trek.

As we finish and are ready to leave, this RV pulls up and makes a really bad parking decision (e.g. no consideration that they might be blocking Minh's egress).  The way our bikes were parked, we were all facing down hill so it's almost impossible to backup and move our bikes around.  Well, this RV decided they owned the entire parking area and parked right in front of Minh so that he can't turn right to leave.  He's trapped.  I then motioned to Eugene to help Minh by pushing him backwards so he has a shot of going around the RV.  Job done, we all took off for the open road.  People can be so rude and inconsiderate.

Now that we're done staring at and taking pictures of, we're off to ride the Little Dragon itself.  Since Minh's map is so incomprehensive (e.g. just a road map not a high resolution topo map), it doesn't show the steepness of the switchback.  However, we did end up passing a street sign that read "6% grade".  That' pretty steep for most vehicles.  That also means the switchbacks could be pretty sharp.  Yes indeed they're sharp, but the road is a pleasure to ride.  No imperfections on the road and there is only mild cases of sand and dirt on the road.  It's quite technical.  Poor Eugene is not use to this type of riding so he's lagging behind.  Eventually we get to the bottom of things, and boy did I want to go backup and ride down again.  Just before the bridge crossing, we stopped to take more pictures.  The bridge itself is pretty cool.  It looks new.

Bridges are always so cool regardless of age.

Improvised sun shade for the camera.

I took a picture of Minh.

He took a picture of me.

The road we came down.

Here he goes again folks.  Center on the double yellow.

... But this is a truly cool shot.  Maybe Minh is on to something.
I love the texture and colors.  OK Minh, so maybe you're not so completely odd after all.

There is an interesting Harley like sound, but it's not entirely Harley in origin.  Rather it's the sound of a speed boat's engine.  I kept on thinking a Harley is coming when it was a boat passing underneath or near the bridge.

At this stretch of the road, a small band of moto cruisers passed us in the opposite direction.  Everybody has been very friendly today.  Only in several rare occasions did other bikers ignore us.

Riding the bridge was cool.  I should have doubled back and rode it again but it's already 2:30PM and we need to finish the remaining part of our day trip.  The Little Dragon went on.  The road got more curvy and more technical.  What Minh and I didn't realize was that Eugene wasn't familiar with this type of riding and he didn't know about engine breaking.  He pretty much rode the entirety of the Little Dragon only using rear and front breaks.  That must have been tough.  The road curves, the country side is absolutely gorgeous, and the technical aspect of the riding made it all an exhilarating experience.  One of my thoughts, "Too bad Russell isn't here.  He would have loved this road."

This is a typical sampling of the scenery around the Little Dragon.

Relaxing his back, I guess.

The Little Dragon ends and the 49 highway continues on.  My original hope was to reach the 120 highway by 3:00PM so we need to keep moving.  We reached 120 highway around 3:30PM.  Not too bad.  Only 1/2 hour off.  I pulled over to change camcorder batteries and put in a fresh tape.  This also gives Minh an opportunity to take pictures of a near by power plant.

Just several hundred yards ahead is the 120 junction.


... and still fidgeting.

While we were on the side of the road, A BMW tour bike, it looked like a K1200LT, passed us, and another train of Harley passed on the opposite side of the highway.  Forget raising your hand to wave at every one, just hold it up.  There must have been at least 5-10 of them.  All in all, I think that makes it three trains and a count of approximately 40-50 Harleys for this entire trip so far.  Man, that's a lot of rumbling under the pants.

A couple hundred feet further and we make a right turn onto the 120 highway.  Again, a good clean highway.  Well maintained with no visible ruts or anything.  It must have been recently repaved.  This time around, even Minh's map shows the switchbacks that we have to go up on this part of the 120.  The good news is Eugene knows about engine breaking now.  However, he's not going to need it going up hill.  Next thing you know traffic backs up.  The culprit is some construction work being done on the road.  Heading up this stretch, my trip odometer shows 140+ miles.  Time to fuel up when the opportunity appears.

The 120 is not quite the same as the Little Dragon but it's still fun nonetheless.

We made it to the out skirts of the town called Big Oak Flats and go for the first gas station we spot.  We all fueled up and pulled off to the side.  Eugene, his uncontrollable urges for ice cream, went into the mini-mart and got himself 3, yes 3, ice cream sticks.  Feast your eyes on this proof.

One going into the mouth and the other two in hand.

It's become quite apparent that he just doesn't stop eating.  He's like a mean food processing machine, and he has to go whiz a lot too.  By this time you should recognize that we stopped a lot this day.  We could have just fueled up and kept on going but nope.  Eugene has to get his cold treat fix.  We stood around for a while talking about this or that until Minh asked Eugene how often he lubes his chain.  Hehe, I don't have a chain to deal with.  Yes, I'm a lazy bastard and I love it.  Blab this blab that, next thing you know we were all trying to get Eugene's bike on the center stand so we can lube his chain.  "Spin the wheel!" Minh claims.  I'm standing there kicking Eugene's bike rear wheel as Minh sprays chain lube on the chain.  What was Eugene doing?  Standing there watching of course.  Minh and I are both already doing the work so why worry about right?  Right.  Lazy bugger.

Once again, off we go.  On to the road in front of us.  We have to pass through Yosemite in order to get to the 41 highway and then home.  My concern was that we might end up riding home in the dark.  Not something I would prefer to do but will do if we have to.  Having been through Yosemite so many times, I know the speed limits in the park is outrageously slow.  Not only that, auto drivers have a tendency to not use turnout lanes when they should.  Anyway, we press on.  The speed limit in Yosemite is slow, but Big Oak Flat takes the cake.  25MPH through the entire town.  Doggin' it.  Not only that, the fuzz was all over the place.  Bummer.

The fun really began when we got out of Big Oak Flat.  The road is wide and the turns are slow and sweeping.  You approach, lean in a bit, and add a little throttle to finish the execution.  It was dreamy.  There are no real words to describe this part of the 120 other than heavenly.  It gently sweeps back and forth.  You lean one way, go through it, and then throw the bike into the other direction and lean into that turn.  It was effortless bliss.  The country side is breath taking, and the temperature is perfect.  Not too hot, not too cold.  Just right.  I wish I could ride like this forever.  Traffic?  There is none to be seen.  The road contained just the three of us.  We were in heaven until we reached yet another vista point near the Tuolomne River.  We stopped for some pictures and a quick restroom break, for me.  By the time I was heading to the rest house, the parking lot had emptied.  There originally were two large vans full of girl scouts or some organization like that in the parking lot when we got there.  When I came out, nobody was in the lot.  Eugene was starting to eat again, while Minh and I were taking pictures.  After a short amount of time, more and more folks started showing up.  Initially two Star cruisers showed up.  Then, one by one, a bunch of vehicles started pulling in.  At this time, we had already gotten ready to continue our journey.  Some of the guys started looking at Eugene's bike and started trippin'.  I guess they had never seen a F650GS before.  Bla bla bla, with a bunch of laughter, and then they started heading in my direction.  At this point I had already saddled up.  When they finally noticed my helmet cam and everything else, it got really rowdy.  One of then made a comment to the effect, "Look at this one, he's like James Bond."   They hovered laughing and smiling.  I thanked them for all their compliments and started up the engines.  We waved them goodbye and headed off on our way.  Man, what a mob scene.  It was a good mob though.  Pretty funny and pretty weird.  I guess they have never witnessed an R12GS before.

The 120 bliss continued until we reached the West Yosemite gate.  $30 bucks later ($10 for each bike) we're in Yosemite continuing on the 120 trying to reach the 41.

Eugene and I riding off in the distance as Minh snap some pictures right after
we entered Yosemite.

Little did I know, we were still very far from where we should be.  As mentioned before, Yosemite's speed limit is really show.  The maximum speed you can expect to drive at is 40-45MPH.  Passing lanes, what's that?  Turnouts?  Sure there are, but who's going to use that?  Initially, this part of Yosemite is not too bad.  Traffic still consisted of Minh, Eugene and myself.  We cruise slowly but we're make pretty good progress.  I had never been on this part of the 120 before so I didn't know what to expect.

We even ran across several fellow R12GSers.  They were all loaded up with panniers and what looks to be camping equipment.  They must be with the ADV Rider group.  I even had a chance to see the new blue Rally 2 Pro suit in action.  For an entire 3 seconds.

Yet more awesome scenery so we had to stop and take more pictures.

R12GS glamor shot.

CBR1100XX glamor shot.

The road behind us.

The road in front of us.

At this point I'm still clueless as to how far it is to the 41 highway.  My TomTom tells me but I truly have no point of reference because I have never been on this part of the 120 before.  We kept on going.  The 120 eventually meets up with the Big Oak Flat road.  This is where the scenery start to get familiar.  The further we go, the more I started worrying.  Why?  Because this road resembles the road that I use to take to go to Yosemite Valley.  If it is the same road, it's going to take a long time to get out of Yosemite. 

Big Oak Flat road turns into Northside drive.  North side drive eventually meets up with the 140 highway and the 41 highway.  An interesting point.  While we were driving down Big Oak Flat road (about 35MPH), we had quite a bit of elevation from the stream/river below.  At one point we drove pass this series of trucks parked to the right of the road.  What's even worse is we noticed two guys, most likely a National Park rescue team, was putting on climbing harnesses getting ready to rappel down the side of  the mountain.  Not a good scene to behold.  Either they're practicing or they're getting ready recover or save somebody.  We never found out the reason nor the outcome, but it was a curious scene indeed.

I drive for a little bit and next thing you know, I was all alone.  I knew Minh wanted to take some pictures because the scenery was gorgeous.  I hope I caught it on the helmet cam.  As before, what I did next was to find the closest spot available to pull off to wait for Minh and Eugene.  I found a spot right after a small tunnel.  I think Minh and Eugene will spot me when they get close.  Next thing you know Minh pulled up right behind me.  I then see Eugene and motioned for him pull up in front of me.  Instead, what did he do?  He kept on going.  Huh?  Dam hand signals.  Everybody keeps on misinterpreting them.  Now that Eugene is off and running (at 25 MPH), Minh and I took and chased after him.  When we caught up to Eugene, I got him to pull off and then told him that I wanted him to park in front of me.  Oh well, so much for the photo opportunity.  It's getting late so we just pushed on.

We stopped again where Big Oak Flat road meets the 140 highway for some more photos. I was still worried about our time.  It is already pass 5:00pm and we're barely at the 41 junction.  As you can tell from some of the pictures, we're starting to loose sun light.

The orange tinge of a sunset.

Now this is funny and weird.  Several guy drove up in a pickup truck, jumped out of the struck, hopped over this
stone barrier and ran down to the stream.  Screaming and yelling as they go, of course.  I don't know
What the hell they were doing but there was definitely a lot of noise.  Whatever makes them happy I guess.

To the 41 highway.

I try to take a couple more pictures but all of my flash memory cards are full.  No more photos for this boy.  Minh and Eugene has to do the rest.

The orange sun light in the sky means the sun is setting soon.  So I told Minh and Eugene that we have to get going and hopefully get out of Yosemite before sunset.  As we round the corner to take the 41 highway, my suspicion was well founded.  We are on the road to go to Yosemite Valley.  This means we're in fairly deep and have to get out as fast as we can if we hope to reach Fresno with any amount of sun light left.  My concern about not wanting to drive in the dark has to do with my experience on the 41 highway in the past.  It's a dangerous road during the day let alone driving at night.  Night time presents more problems because you can't see too far ahead of you.  On a country road you never know what manner of creature might walk out onto the highway in front of you.  It's a big problem for cars let alone motorcycles.

As we round the beginning parts of the 41 and head up the mountain side, there is not doubt in my mind that we're in for a long ride out.  The proof is when we go through the two granite tunnels.  Of course what do you do when you go through a tunnel?  You have to honk for joy.  Beep, beep beep beep, beep ... beep beep!  So far there are no signs of traffic and we're the only three on the road.  Maybe we'll make it out without a problem.  I never should have thought that.

The road is slow and the turns are sharp.  I can see why they post 35 as the speed limit.  However, being motorcycles, we can take the turn at 45 and it's not a problem.  In some cases, even a little faster.  Left, straight, right... left, straight, right... it repeats over and over.  We're still making decent time until, you guessed it, traffic!  Three car in front of us.  The one immediately in front of me is keeping a little distance from the car in front of him because the car in front of him is tail gating the car at the very front.  Tourist driver(s) that don't know how to negotiate mountain roads and probably will refuse to use turnout lanes.  Fun...

About 15 minute staying behind this bunch, traffic is backing up because of the idiot in front.  There were numerous turnouts but he refuses to take them.  How rude.  I kept on pressuring the car in front of me in the hopes that the front most car would yield to traffic.  No such luck.  We're stuck.  This is why I hate driving in Yosemite.  At one point there was a Harley behind us.  Of course there is not even one single set of dashed yellow lines to allow for passing.  Everything is solid double yellow all the way through.  Whenever there is a straight, it was too short to make a passing maneuver.  Even an illegal passing maneuver.  The Harley guy chanced it and made it through.  I don't like the idea of making that illegal pass and end up being road kill from an on coming car.  Plus, I have two other people to worry about.  When we finally reached the South gate, it was about 7:30pm.  We could have easily shaved off 30 minutes if the idiot in front of us would have let us by, but that's not the end of it all.  The other thing was, it's starting to get cold.  Very cold.  I knew that if we make it to Oakhurst, we stand a better chance since it's lower elevation and would be a little warmer.  As we got out of Yosemite, the cars in front of us are still in front of us.  They're not that much faster than when they were in Yosemite.  The other bad news is that the 41 from Yosemite to Oakhurst has not changed.  This means it's narrow, sharp, and slow.  The hope that I had, earlier today, about this part of the 41 being improved is dashed.  It's hopeless.  It will be slow going and dangerous.

I was so focused on putting pressure on the car in front of me that I hadn't notice Minh trying to signal me to pull over.  Eventually I saw his blinkers and flashes of the high beam and acknowledge his desire.  I then look for an open spot to pull over.  Sure enough we found a pull out area and pulled off the road.  The train of cars whizzed pass us in a hurry to head South.  Minh then told me that he had been trying to get my attention for the last several miles.  He needs to change his face shield and put on a liner.  I was cold too but I wanted to get to Oakhurst where the temperature is warmer.  Oh well, nice try.  Eugene put on his liner, and a hood under the helmet.  Minh put on another layer and changed his face shield.  I think Minh also put on a hood under the helmet also.  I put on my Gore-Tex coat liner and used a bandanna instead of a hood.  I was looking for my scarf but I must have left it back in LA.  Bummer.  I also took off the neoprene over grip from the grips as they prevented me from using my heated grips to warm my hands.  We were doing all this milling around in the dark.  All we had were our bike's headlights and my hazard blinkers.  I left the hazard on so that passing cars would see us and not flatten us where we stand.  Thank god for hazard lights.  While we were milling around trying to put on warm layers, I mentioned to Eugene that I haven't seen one person pull over to ask us if we needed help.  I also mentioned that most like nobody will stop and ask us.  I was wrong and had to eat my words as one of the locals stopped on the opposite side of the road, made a u-turn, stopped next to us and asked, "Are you guys OK?  Do you need some help?"  I replied, "No, we're just putting on clothing to keep ourselves warm.  Thanks for checking on us."  The gentleman said "No problem" and circled around to head where he's going.  I mentioned to Eugene, "I guess I'm wrong."  while Minh made comments to the effect that the people around this area are pretty nice.  I gave a quick call to my mom to let her know we're all OK and that we're going to be late heading home.  I think I only had one tick mark on my cell phone but I was glad to be able to make the call.

We started up our engines and headed off.  Boy I could really use the auxiliary lights right about now but they don't work.  Oh well, at least the low beam was working well enough because of a recent H7 bulb change out.  BTW, I have made it a policy for myself to change out my light bulbs every year.  From my experience the halogen bulbs loose their intensity after so much repeated use.  The H7 bulbs don't cost a whole lot and it's a small price to pay to be bright enough for people to see you.  Anyway, the first thing that struck me as being odd is the fact that my grips are so small.  I have been riding my bike with the neoprene grips on for a long while so it's an odd change out.  Not only that, the darkness was so dark that all I could see was my instrument cluster and my head light.  Everything else was not visible.  This includes my switch for the heated grips, the left/right turn signal switch, the horn, the high beam switch, etc.  I can't see anything else!  What a trip!.  I was in front so I kept turning the high beam on.  In several instances I was a little slow on lowering the light because I couldn't tell where the switch was.  Talk about drive by feel.  This is it.  It is a surreal feel driving home.  It felt like I wasn't on my 12GS.  Weird.

I sigh a sigh of relief as we reach Oakhurst.  I also noticed the temperature change at the Southern edge of Oakhurst.  We got to and passed the 49 and 41 junction.  The same junction we took about 8 or so hour earlier this day.  It doesn't look the same in the dark.  We pushed on.  I'm so glad to have the high beam that I have on the R12GS's.  I can see really far when it's on.  I wish I could leave the high beam on as it makes driving in this pitch black a lot easier.  Unfortunately there is still a substantial amount of traffic on the opposite side.

Photos?  Forget it!  Don't even think about it.  I just want to make it home.  Plus it's so dark what am I going to take a photo of?  South of Oakhurst we ran into more traffic.  We ditched some of them at a passing lane and made it into Coarsegold.  As I got out of Coarsegold, I look at my rear view mirror and only saw one headlight.  That's not good.  I'm suppose to have two headlights behind me.  Who is the one headlight?  Is that Minh or is that Eugene?  It's Minh.  Where's Eugene?  What happened to him.  Minh and I rode slow on the highway letting cars pass us while looking and waiting for Eugene.  At some point I even contemplated turning around to go look for Eugene.  Eventually I spotted the lone headlight.  "OK, there he is.  Where has he been?"  Oh well, he can catch up to us.  I cranked the throttle and started off.  Minh is right behind me and his light is super bright in all this darkness.  I periodically check my mirrors to see where Eugene is.  He still lagging behind in traffic.  We hit a couple of stop lights on the way back.  I can see Eugene is behind us by several cars.  A couple of lights later, he right behind Minh.  Excellent!  Now we can speed home.  We do a good 65-70 all the way until we reach the 41 freeway, just North of Fresno.  We take the freeway until we reach Shields Avenue.  We take the exit heading down Shields until we reach Maroa.  Maroa to Mc Kinley and next thing you know we're back at my parent's place.

My parents came out to greet us and are glad to see we're all OK.  They weren't too worried since I had called ahead.  What were the words that came out of my mouth?  "Ten hours in the saddle!"  "Yes, another ten hours in the saddle, and it was all worth it."  I then proceeded to make comments about idiot drivers in Yosemite.  Not something uncommon.  We all parked, went in cleaned up, and had dinner.  The clock on my bike shows 8:30PM.  We had left my parent's place at 10:00AM.  That's easily 10+ hours.  Wow!  What a trip.

Day 1 [September 23, 2006]
Day 3 [September 25, 2006]

Written on: October 6, 2006
Last modified: October 23, 2006