My first dual sport ride! It was kind of like I expected but it wasn't like I expected. I drove to Frazier Park the morning of the ride (75 miles, 1:15 minutes) pulling the Honda in a U-haul trailer. I had a hitch and lights added to the truck on Friday. I bought some clothes and parts for the motorcycle on Friday as well. I didn't use any of what I bought. :(
The drive up went fairly smoothly. The motorcycle bounced around a lot in the trailer, but it was secure. When I reached Gorman, a lovely rainbow was glowing against a dark grey sky. It had been clear on the way up, but this looked ugly. And Mt. Pinos was covered in snow! Wait, this is October in Southern California! It was close to 100 F last week. What's going on here??
I was tempted to turn around then and there. But I'd come this far so I was at least determined to ride a couple of miles. I drove in the the Flying J parking lot and it was raining. It was really cold outside. I had a t-shirt and a windbreaker on. The jacket was a last minute thought as I was driving off. This weather looks like January, not October. I got out and made a beeline for the trailer where Jesse was checking people in. A few guys were standing around outside, no one said anything. Hmm, I thought people in this sport were supposed to be friendly. I said morning to a man who was walking up.
I signed in and received my rollchart. I had to get dressed and put some stuff on the Honda. But my hands were freezing just trying to get the Honda off the trailer. This is crazy.
Finally, the rain/hail stopped and it was time to take-off. I asked Jim if I could tag along. He had a 1987 Honda XL600R, so at least we were compatible in terms of our motorcycles. He said it was fine and off we went. He navigated (good thing, I was too busy looking where I was going.) I finally figured out that you just look for the pink ribbons that marked the trail. It was a well marked course.
We started off in Hungry Valley. I felt OK here as I had ridden this part with Lloyd and John. Ha ha ha. With the rain, part of the fireroad had turned into a sticky, muddy mess. I locked up my rear wheel and started sliding. Too late, the bike went down with me. Yeck. There was mud stuck all over my boots inches thick. There was mud on my hip and my elbows and all over the bike. I picked it up but couldn't get it started. Darn. Jim came back and finally started it for me. I went about 50 feet and this time I fell over the top to the left. Darn!! This is not fun and it is hard work. I picked the bike up again - it was quite difficult as it was over more than 90 degrees. Jim came back just as I got it upright and I got it started. I was thinking about turning around, 6 miles into the ride!
I went very slowly down the sticky, sliding hill. The trail was a bit easier to ride on when the mud was on an uphill because you were using the engine not the brakes. It wasn't until much later in the ride that I discovered you can't use the rear brake. I found that using just the front brake worked and kept me from sliding and falling.
We finished the first section of the ride. 2 falls, nothing broken and just my front brake lever knocked out of kilter. It was too tight to move back into place. I had loosen the clutch but not the brake lever. Hmm, I missed something. Hey this whole ride is a learning experience and I'm learning. We rode on the pavement to the next section. I was happy to be on solid ground.
The second section started OK, but then we hit some steep stuff and I got scared. I was afraid that if I got in to deep, I wouldn't be able to get out. There were some steep uphills that I managed to ride. The rear tire was getting caked in mud and actually locking up. No wonder I didn't have any traction! The Honda would then bounce all over the place as the rear wheel slipped. It was nerve racking until I learned to just slowly open the throttle. The bike jumped around but it went up the hill. I was getting better at riding in the mud. Then I came to a steep downhill. I got off the bike and tried to find Jim. I wanted to turn around. I didn't like this. Then I remembered that this was an "easy" ride. Ok, maybe this just looks difficult. I finally started down the hill and met Jim coming back up. As long as he was in front of me I felt OK. I could see him ride the trail. But around a few more corners was a very long and steep downhill. I didn't want to go down it., I started down and stopped the bike. Hmm, now I am too far down to go back (I'd fall over trying to turn around) and I didn't want to ride down. I thought about trying to slowly walk it down by sitting on the bike and keeping my feet down. But it was steep and slippery. The *only* way to get down was to release the brakes and use the engine to keep the bike straight. I sat there for a bit telling myself to let go of the brakes - but I was scared. Finally, I let go and started gaining speed. The bike was going quite fast and at the bottom it actually got some air! I jumped! Wow! I was very pleased with myself that I hadn't crashed.
More hills and on one uphill at the top here comes a road grader! He let me go by, but I was really glad I didn't meet him partway up the hill. This meant that I had a compact set of tracks to ride on. And I did! We had a gradual downhill and then we had a gradual uphill to the end of the section.
At this point we joined the old grapevine road. It was in a terrible state but it wasn't dirt! I wanted to bail. I was getting tired and I was afraid of more stuff like we just went through. Jim told me that the next section was easier - fireroad along the ridge and then we'd be at lunch. OK, but what he didn't tell me (and I didn't look at the map carefully enough) was that it was 25 miles!
We started climbing into the cloud cover. At first it was just overcast. Then it got foggy and then it started to hail! I couldn't believe it! Hail and I'm riding a motorcycle on a road I've never been on and it's freezing. What am I doing?? The road was actually fairly good even though it had rained. It was a bit drier than the other road (different soil?) and I didn't slide as much. Since we were climbing I could use the engine to keep me going straight. I was doing fine except my hands were really cold and my breath was fogging the faceshield. We met a few cars and trucks coming the other way on this one lane road. The wind was blowing and when it blew hard, besides blowing the Honda around, it blew ice off of the trees that hit us. Pieces were lying on the road looking just like broken bits of glass. An they bounced off your helmet and made you try to duck out of the way. It was fun and lovely when the hail lined the road and was covering the trees. I wanted to stop and take a picture but Jim kept going and I had already slowed him down.
The view was beautiful. I was enjoying this part of the ride. I could manage to stay up with Jim and not be too concerned about crashing. I was relaxing on the bike.
We crossed over the spine of the mountains and reached an overlook of the desert. Wow, it was so beautiful up here. I felt like I was on top of the world. This was great. Then the road started down. If wasn't too bad but I was tired. A few times the rear end slipped out and the only reason I didn't go down was ??? At one point when this happened, I had my left leg out and the resulting shift in the bike's placement caused me to hit my foot hard against the ground. "Ouch!" My knee didn't like that. OK, sticking your leg out isn't a good idea. I was learning by trial and error - lots of errors.
As the road descended and I became more fatigued, the riding became more difficult. I started oversteering and overbraking. Come on. Just relax. When I could relax it made a huge difference in how I rode.
Down we went. I managed to hang on and keep Jim somewhat in sight. Finally the grade leveled out and we reached a paved road! This was a joy as the road felt like silk after all the trails. We rode to the rock store where we were supposed to have lunch.
Amazing, other riders were still there! We had already decided that we would take paved roads back. It was too late to start riding the second half and there was no way that I was going to attempt more dirt roads today. I was too tired to risk crashing again.
After lunch and a lot of coffee we headed back towards Frasier Park. It was cold and damp. Even on the paved road it was cold. My hands were unhappy with the weather. (Next time I bring glove liners.) But it was faster and easier than riding the trails back. The Honda didn't like to go real fast, or perhaps it was me. After riding a beautiful winding road out of the mountains we reached Quail valley. The road from here to Gorman was rather busy.
I reached the starting point around 3 p.m. I was tired but thrilled at the experience! I had a wonderful time, thanks to Jim for sticking with me. I would have given up if I had been on my own.