Mammoth-Yosemite - Day 2
No Captain?  We're off roadin'!
(Paradise lost)

Total miles: 155
Estimated travel time: 3:36 hours

[Saturday - August 23, 2008]

We both slept like rocks.  I haven't slept like this in a long time.  The milk shake yesterday did help in the acceleration of the acclimation process.  I don't have the normal intestinal altitude sickness that I get from a fast altitude climb.  This is good.  I have to remember this trick for the next instance of Mammoth.

Once again, it's unfortunate that the Captain isn't here, but this also give us the opportunity to try something new... off road riding.  Why didn't I do this back when I had the R12GS?  Because I had mix company when I had the GS.  Plus, it's a pain to pick up a 500+ lbs bike in the dirt.  The other factor is the confidence level I have on the R12R.  The ability to easily touch just does loads for the self esteem and moral.  I've read other forums on the net where a fellow by the name of ChiTown did a bunch of off road riding on his R12R.  He's the reason why I have Pirelli Scorpion Syncs on my bike.  He's also the reason why I'm trying my hand at off road riding on my R12R.  More power to ChiTown for leading the charge.  As some have said on the forum, it's no longer just a R12R, it's now a R12R/GS.  Saweet!!!

I knew I forgot something.  I forgot to check my oil levels before I took off yesterday.  As Nu checked his oil level, I also checked mine.  Oh drat!  My oil level is at half, and I forgot to bring along a quart of oil.  Double drat!  Nu offered to give me some of his oil, but he is SG and I'm SH.  Not only that, I'm 15W50 and he's 10W40.  triple drat!  I know I'm not burning oil so I should be OK.  However, I'm concerned that taking the bike off road could change that outlook.  Oh well, I'll just have to put up with a medium oil level.  I just hope it doesn't get to the low side after the off road business.  Hopefully ditching the panniers will also help the matter because the bike is lighter and will take less effort to move through the ocean of air.

The funniest thing happened to us as we pull out of the Motel 6, to head across the street to the Schat's Bakery.  A car was driving down the main stretch of town when all of a sudden he paused and waved us to cut in front of him.  I'm doing a double take and wave him to continue to pass us.  Instead of accelerating to continue on his way, the car stopped before he reached the motel entrance/exit and insisted on us crossing his path.  In the end I said, "OK! Whatever..." and cross his path taking the road heading in the opposite direction.  The "he" turned out to be a she and she was very curious/determined to checking out us and our bikes.  Then again it probably just our bikes.  She was absolutely fascinated and glared at both the R12R and the F650GS.  Being happy with our spectacle, she finally continued on her merry way.  As for us, we pulled into the Schat's Bakery parking lot.

Nu watches while his sandwich is being cobbled together.

The last step before wrapping it up.  It's a fresh roast beef on cheese bread.

Have you ever seen a bakery this busy?

Two sandwiches, two cinnamon rolls, a bear claw, an eclair, and two small mochas.  That's enough food for lunch, snacks, and breakfast.  If you haven't notice the panorama above, Schat's Bakery is always jammed packed during the mornings.  If you say there is probably not enough cashiers, I say nope! they have 4 cashiers and they moving as fast as they humanly can.  How long did we wait before we got served?  About 15-20 minutes.  You can do the math.  Heck!  It's worth the wait.  They have award winning pastry in my book (check out the little video below about the cinnamon roll).  Big is one thing, but these cinnamon rolls are heavenly tasty.  You have to try one if you even manage to get yourself to Mammoth Lakes.

This place is so jammed packed full of people that we had to start out eating our food at the bikes.  Eventually the crowd dispersed and we finally managed to get a table.

Time to joe it up before the ride.

Mammoth cinnamon roll.

Only one cookie for two orders?  What a rip!

Finally, a table.

Picture by Joel.

Joel and Joane.  The friendly folks from Pahrump.

While Nu was sitting there consuming his delights, I was snapping some photos.  That is until a fellow by the name of Joel offered to take a picture of both of us.  Sure thing.  When asked where they come from, Joel mentioned Pahrump.  My god, I actually have an idea where that is.  Pahrump is about 40 miles north east of Las Vegas.  Of course the couple were sorry for us when they heard we came from Los Angeles.  In fact they have a son living in Simi Valley so they know exactly what we have to deal with in terms of city life.  The two mentioned that Pahrump is a small town (if you call 40K people a small town).  It's suppose to be out in the middle of nowhere and, in Joane's words, "It's ugly looking."  There are suppose to be billboards all over the place on main street.  "It's ugly!"  Nonetheless, it sounds like an interesting place that we might have to visit one of these days.  If anything, it will be an experience.

Java done, eclair and cinnamon roll eaten.  Now we're off to see the forest.  We start the day by taking the Mammoth Scenic route.  I thought I didn't know this way until Nu reminded me of the Inyo Crater mountain bike ride.  "Oh yeah!  I remember that ride.  The one where we got out at the wrong spot and ended up doing an extra road climb just to get back to where we were suppose to stop."  What a pain.  At least this time around, I don't have to pedal if I take the wrong road.

One thing is for sure, Mammoth Scenic Loop sure does seem a lot shorter on a motorcycle.  Next thing we know, we're at the intersection of MSL and the 395.  Since we're going to be heading off road around the Sagehen area, we make a left turn and head towards Mono Lake.  My god Mammoth is beautiful this year.  All this green and flower blooms just make for such an enjoyable ride.

I remember the 120 east of the 395 being a pain to drive in a car, but it's much more fun on a bike.  It rolls, it twists, and it turns.  We see bikers in droves.  Harleys here. Harleys there.  There are occasional sport bikes but they are far and few in between, relative to the Harleys that is.

At long last, we signal to turn right and take the bikes off road.  We stop several 100 yards beyond the road to adjust our suspension for the possible bumpy road ahead.  This baby has never been off road before, but I think she'll do fine.

As for all things related with our off road experience, I'll let you look at the pictures and videos.  It's more telling than I could ever write about.  Plus it would just be a repeat of what you would see on the videos.

A Stormtroopers with a camcorder?

Crooked meadows/Sagehen trail head.

A tribute to Captain Morgan.

Are my pants falling down?  He was just scratching is beehind just before this picture.

At Crooked Meadows.

Street bike on a dirt trail.

OK!  Here I come!

The slow speed crash!

Oh the nerve!

You can see the difference between the pumice and dirt on the rear tire.

Full length videos of our off road excursion.

Suffice to say, I'm exhausted by the time we reached the end of the trail.  I akin my first true off road ride to learning how to ride a motorcycle for the first time.  It takes a lot of concentration and a lot of terrain reading.  I'm definitely a rookie so it gets really mental for me.  However, I liked it enough to seriously consider getting another 650GS just for trail riding.  Maybe by late summer next year I will have an enduro bike to come back to Mammoth with.  If that's the case, forget the hotels and motels, we're bike camping for real.

Getting out was a lot easier and faster than getting in.  Perhaps it's because we're going down hill (slightly), or perhaps it's because I've figured out the techniques to prevent another crash.  You know, the "I'm down baby!" bit.  The slow speed and the weight of the R12R is ever so apparent while dirt riding.  Also the bike doesn't have the nimbleness of a 650GS.  Still, the suspension did great even with the tires fully inflated to 37/44 psi front and rear.  If you ask me why the tires are inflated so high, I would tell you, "I didn't inflate the tires to those psi levels.  Instead the higher altitude is increasing the tire pressure from the lack of atmospheric pressure."  In layman's terms, 35/42 at near sea level will change to 37/44 at 7800 feet.  Still, everything worked out fine.

Once we make it all the way to the 120 Hwy, it's time once again to readjust the pre-load to stiffen up the bike for street riding.  A couple of quick turns of the knob and Nu's done.  As for me, I have to unmount the cooler, pull up the seat, make the adjustments, and then reverse everything.  It took a little while but it got done.

From here on out it's unknown territory.  After 15+ years of going to Mammoth, we're going to ride the 120 east of Sagehen for the first time.  We're regular Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone.  Not!  The sky is blue, the road is smooth, and there are flower blooms everywhere.  What more can you ask for in nature's spectacle.  the further we go, the more awestruck and dumbfounded how we could have missed this road so many years before.  Awesome and beautiful are two words that cannot describe what our eyes are beholding.  In addition to the panoramic views we're soaking in, we're noticing trails everywhere.  Here a trail.  There a trail.  This land is criss crossed with dirt roads all over the place.  Man I have to get a GS and come back next year.  I want to explore these trails.

You get a rough idea how steep the grade is by looking at this level picture.
Cars definitely have problems climbing this slope.

Even after riding at 65-70MPH, this pumice won't come off the rim.

Nu sees the same thing on his rim.

What's so interesting about this?

Since the scenery is so out of this world, we have to stop and take some pictures.  We did.  When we're all done and it's time to go, I happen to look down at the bike.  What did I see?  The kickstand has sunken into the tarmac by at least an inch.  That's interesting.  If I let it go for long enough, I think the bike will eventually fall over.  The road side feels solid enough for us to walk on, but apparently it's too soft for the heavy bikes.  Nu kept on screaming at me to get on the bike and stand it up right before it falls over.

Look at the kickstand.

By the time I got on, I think it was at least an inch or two deeper.  By the I rev the engine and eased off the clutch to get moving, the tires have settled into a new rut on the side of the road.  The bike refused to move forward without more coercion.  Funky!  A little more gas and I'm out of my rut.  Looking into the rear view mirror, I think Nu experienced the same problem.

The road continues to be unspeakably beautiful.  Until we have to stop again at the north side of Crowley Lake.  While we're milling about, we waved at vehicle passing by.  We even waved at a bus.  The driver didn't know what to make of us but eventually waved back.  The passenger windows are tinted but we also spot some people waving back.  We even received two thumbs up from a passenger of a passing sedan.  They digged the bikes sitting on the side of the road.

We continue on the road until we passed the natural hot springs.  Some of the springs are spitting up steam all over the place.  We didn't stop because we're saving the hot spring visit for the next time when the Captain can join us in Mammoth.

It was a good ride but it eventually ended.  If we come back to Mammoth next year, I have to ride this road again.

What's next on the agenda?  It's time to go dine at the restaurant at the end of Paradise.  It's been many years since we've dined there so I'm really looking forward to it.  I just hope they are open today.

We arrive at Tom's Place and make the right turn onto Lower Rock Creek road.  We ride for a short distance and then... Woaw!  What's this?  There are a bunch of emergency vehicles, highway patrol, sheriff, fire fighters, and paramedics.  The sheriff distracted me from the view when he waved me to go, but told me to take it slow.  "Will do!" was my response.  We make it pass the other end of the emergency.  Nu then radioed to me, "Wow!  How did that happen?"  Not seeing what that was all about I said, "What?"  "Did you see that van?"  "No, I didn't see a van."  "It was upside down with all four wheels up in the air." "Woaw!  I didn't see that."  "That's one serious crash."  "I guess these people don't know how dangerous this road is."  While we're climbing up the side of the mountain, more emergency vehicles are coming down.  That last crash must have been pretty serious for all these guys to come to the rescue.  Either that or they need something to do.  Perhaps both cases are true.  Just about that time my Palm TX decided to give a moratorium to the van.  It crashes in salutation.  The one song got stuck on a track and keeps repeating itself.  It repeats over and over and over.  What the heck?  "Oh man, the stupid thing crashed."  This is the first time the Palm has crashed from playing music for so long.  I guess there's a first for everything.  I had to unplug the audio out to prevent myself from going insane.

At last, we reach the small town of Paradise and make the faithful last right turn at the end of Paradise where the restaurant is located.  My initial impression is, "Uh oh.  It looks awfully devoid of cars.  It looks like they might be closed."  We pull up in front of the restaurant where the entrance is to see what the hours are.  First look, second look.  It's even worse than I had thought.  It looks like the place is closed for good (e.g. shutdown, out of business, kaput).  Oh this sucks.  Then again there are some planks and a couple new windows inside the establishment.  Perhaps they're just remodeling.  Yeah, that must be it.  They're remodeling.  With that in mind we walked around the place to see if there are any indications as to when the place is going reopen.  Nothing.  All of a sudden we see a construction truck come out of the trail to the left of the place.  The guy got out to chain up the trail entrance.  "Hey, maybe he knows when this place is going to open again," I said.  Nu walks over to talk to the guy.  I followed in tow.  When asked whether they're remodeling and when it would be opened again, the guy said, "Somebody bought the place and they're going to turn it into a house."  "A house?"  "Yeah."  "When did they close?"  "It was a couple of years back."  "That's too bad."  "You guys were thinking about eating here huh?"  "Yeah, it's been a while since we've been here."  "Sorry."  With that the nice man chained up the trail, got back into his car, and left.  How sad it is to see this restaurant go.  It was a good place with really good food.  Nu and I surmised that the bad economy probably was a major contributor to it's demise.  Not only that, but it is tucked away from any form of traffic so business must have been hard to come by.  If we ever come back this way again, this restaurant will be no more.  These are the last pictures of this place before it turns into somebody's house.  A true case of paradise lost.  Farewell Paradise Lodge.  This is the last time we'll see you in your familiar form.

Resetting the Palm TX after it crashed in the middle of a song.

Sadly, there will no longer be a restaurant at the end of Paradise.

With that we head back up Lower Rock Creek road to go back to Mammoth Lakes.  On our way back up the road, we spot a tow truck on the side of the road servicing a couple.  Upon closer inspection a truck has managed to get itself off of the main road down a steep slope onto the bike trail below.  Wow!  Today is a day for crashes.  Nu chimes in on the 2-way, "Man!  Did you see that?"  "Yeah!  These people need to understand their mortality and slow down on these roads."  "Yeah!  He even broke his rear axle."  "Really?!"  "Yeah!"  Two major car events in one day.  I'm just glad that we were nowhere close to these people when all this happened.  It must have been fairly recent because I don't remember seeing this when we first head down the road.

Once again we reach the first blockade.  The highway patrol man eventually let us through without too much hassle.  This time around we see a Ranger's SUV pulled up from the creek below.  That's new.  We didn't see that the first time we went through.  There must have been something going on between the Ranger and the van.  It looks like they both crashed together.  Three crashes in one day?  Possibly.

We reach the 395 and turn left to head to Mammoth Lakes.  Once again, this is the last time we'll see Tom's Place until next year.  "We better soak in this view because we're not going to see this again for at least another year," I chirped.  "Yeah!  That's right."

We reach the motel, hauled all the stuff into the room, ordered Domino's Pizza, and relaxed for the rest of the night.  Tomorrow is going to be interesting.  I've never been on this side of the Tioga Pass so I'm looking forward to it.

Mammoth-Yosemite - Trip planning
Mammoth-Yosemite - Day 1 (Balls and thighs.)
Mammoth-Yosemite - Day 3 (Mammoth to Fresno with one tank?)
Mammoth-Yosemite - Day 4 (For once the I5 is not so bad.)

Written on:  September 8, 2008
Last modified:  September 11, 2008