Rawhyde scheduled a different kind of event for November. They called it Adventure Days - part Rawhyde Rally, part "Expo", and part trade show. A lot of vendors would be there showing off their latest wares and there would be lots of clinics and seminars on various aspects of "Adventure Motorcycling". It sounded like a great way to spend a few days.

Mick said he was bringing a group or riders from Phoenix. He had talked to the folks at BMW Motorcycles of Riverside about meeting up there a day early and riding some of the back roads from there to the Rawhyde Ranch. The BMW folks had even made arrangements with a local motel for a discount. He asked if I was interested in meeting up in Riverside - I was VERY interested. We made arrangements to meet up in Riverside on the evening of November 7, I made reservations at the motel, and started planning my ride.

November 7, 2012
El Dorado Hills, CA to Riverside, CA

Riding to southern California always presents me with something of a dilemma. If I take the direct route down Hwy 99 or Interstate 5, I can easily make it in one day. The downside is that the ride down either of these freeways is certainly not my idea of a great motorcycle ride. The alternative routes that would make the trip into a good motorcycle ride all stretch out the distance enough to make it a multi-day ride. Too often I seem to opt for the quick way, as I did this time.

It is 470 miles from my house to the motel in Riverside. This time of year, that doesn't leave much daylight to waste. I was on the road about 7:15 AM and didn't stop until I hit Madera about 152 miles down the road on Hwy 99. I hadn't eaten anything before I left, so this was also a great opportunity for breakfast at a nearby Denny's.

Yesterday was the disastrous election. Although I knew the outcomes of the national races from watching the returns come in on TV last night, I went to bed fairly early, and had no idea how the state and local races had played out. I was almost sick about what I'd seen last night, but maybe there was still a little hope. With that in mind, I purchased a newspaper and spent about an hour going over the election results as I ate breakfast. What I found didn't help my appetite much - I don't know what I expected, after all I live in California. Is the American voter really that stupid and/or ill informed? Or am I that stupid and/or ill informed? Neither seems to be a good situation.

Once back on the road all those negative thoughts vanished . . . . Next stop, Bakersfield, another 145 miles down the road. Traffic was fairly heavy on Hwy 99 with a lot of trucks, but it was easy to roll along about 75 mph, nonetheless. Before I know it, I was in Bakersfield - I took the Hwy 58 exit heading east, and followed it for a few miles before exiting for fuel.

As I was fueling up, I noticed a Denny's across the freeway and decided to take a little coffee break. Unfortunately for my waistline, I saw someone eating apple pie ala mode on the way to my table, and when the waitress took my order, I had no alternative but to order the same. This time I didn't read any newspapers, I just checked my email and took a quick look at Facebook. Bad mistake . . . I don't know which was worse, reading the comments from the Obama supporters or the whining from my conservative and libertarian friends. I decided that I'd just try to forget all this political crap and enjoy the ride.

I continued riding east on Hwy 58 and the riding got a little more enjoyable on this much less lightly traveled highway. Also, the valley this morning was very hazy, and the further east I traveled, the more sky I could see. East of Tehachapi, I finally saw something that inspired me to take a photograph.


Your tax dollars at work

I continued east on Hwy 58 until I hit Interstate 15 and headed south towards Riverside. Even though Interstate 15 is freeway, the riding was a little more interesting than riding Interstate 5 down the valley - Interstate 15 crosses a range of mountains north of San Bernardino and the descent is actually quite interesting with a lot of sweeping, high-speed, turns. Rather than mix it up with traffic, I like to be out in the fast lane where they don't have me surrounded and I was riding over 80 mph to keep folks from passing me on the right. As I continued east on Interstate 215 it was about 4:00 PM and rush hour traffic began to pick up as I approached the metropolitan area. I'm always amazed at how southern California drivers can keep up those high speeds when traffic is so dense. I had both brakes covered and my eye on an escape route the entire time.

My luck ran out at the junction of Interstate 215 and Hwy 60, another urban freeway. All of a sudden every brake light was activated and traffic abruptly came to a complete stop. I was less than a mile from my exit to Mission Inn Avenue.

Usually, in this kind of situation, I would split traffic and slowly continue. Here, however, traffic was entering from the right from at least two merges that I could see and lanes were also being dropped - there was no clear path to split traffic. Finally, after about 20 minutes of inching along, I spotted my exit and a clear path to it. Let the lane splitting begin. Had I known the interchange layout, I could have made my way through it in a couple of minutes instead of 20 minutes - next time I'll know better.

I was surprised that the motel was right in the middle of downtown Riverside, but it was easy to find and I was soon settled in. There were a couple of Mexican restaurants within walking distance and I walked over to one of them and had a taco dinner, complete with refried beans and rice. After dinner, I retired to the motel and waited for Mick and his group to make an appearance. He had sent me a text message earlier that they had left Phoenix about 3:00 PM and I was expecting them to arrive about 9:00 PM, about two hours away.

As I was laying on my bed, watching TV and dozing off a little, my cell phone started ringing. My cell phone seldom rings and I was startled. When I answered, it turned out to be Owen, sales manager of BMW Motorcycles of Riverside. He got my number from Mick and since he lived near the motel and know that Mick was a few hours out, he invited me over to his house.

I walked the three blocks to his house. It was easy to find - there were two GSs parked at the front porch. I had never met Owen, or even talked to him before his phone call, but a few minutes after he answered his door we were chatting like old friends.

I'd like to thank Owen for his warm hospitality and a very interesting evening. We visited for a bit at his house, then he took me on a walking tour of the neighborhood. He told me that the nearby Mission Inn was used as the album cover for Hotel California and we could take a little tour if I liked. I liked.

As we approached the Mission Inn, Owen told me that we were going to stroll through the front door and greet the workers in the reception area as if we were guests. Hmm. We were both dressed in levis and it didn't look like a levis kind of place. Owen, however, has a commanding presence and the folks at the front desk responded cheerfully to his greetings as we boldly walked through the lobby.

Once past the lobby, we climbed the stairways built 150 years ago, checked out some of hallways, and enjoyed the many fine views of the city and the hotel's courtyards from the many vantage points around the hotel. Very interesting and I would have never had the guts to do it alone. Thanks Owen.

On the way to the Mission Inn, almost next door to my motel, we walked by Tia's Tacos. Owen explained to me that the owner had built a garden of sculptures out of recycled junk and the place was fairly famous. It was a little late, but we wandered into the garden to check it out. It was fantastic. I'll be going back there one day to show it to my wife.

It was too dark for photos, but I managed to get this single shot as we walked by on the way to breakfast the next morning.


To read a little more about this fantastic place and see more photos, CLICK HERE

We returned to Owen's house and not too much later we got a text message from Mick that he was checking in at the motel. We walked back to the motel to find Mick and Bill unloading their bikes and hauling gear into their rooms. After they got settled in, Owen made a beer run, and we spent some time catching up.

About 1:00 AM, we decided to hit the rack and made arrangements to meet up by the bikes at 7:30 AM and walk to a nearby restaurant for breakfast. We had a 9:00 AM appointment at the BMW Motorcycles of Riverside dealership to meet our fellow riders from Riverside. Owen, unfortunately wouldn't be able to ride with us, but would join us at Rawhyde later.

November 8, 2012
Riverside, CA to the Rawhyde Ranch in Castaic, CA

My alarm went off at 7:00 AM. I was just crawling out of bed when my cell phone rang. It was Mick - he asked if I was ready to go. I said: "Is it 7:30 already?" Mick told me that Bill was up a 6:30 AM and rousted him out . . . so he was rousting me out. I can never understand people who get up early. I go through the worst experience of my life every day - getting out of bed.

It took me about 10 minutes to brush my teeth, splash some water on my face, jump into my levis and run down the stairs to meet them. We walked over to a little eatery near the Mission Inn that Owen pointed out the night before - I think it was called Simple Simon's Bakery - and we each ordered up a breakfast sandwich. We made short work of our food, walked back to the motel, loaded up our bikes, and headed for the BMW dealership to meet up with the rest of the folks.

At the dealership, we met up with Mick's brother-in-law, Mike, who had ridden down from the Bay Area yesterday. We were also introduced to Dan, the owner of BMW Motorcycles of Riverside, who would be leading the ride. After a little chit chat, Dan led us out onto the freeway and we headed north on Interstate 215 to meet up with a couple of other riders. The forecast for today included a 30% chance of showers and we saw a few raindrops as we hung out at the dealership and a few more as we departed - not enough to don rain gear, however. Temps were on the cool side.

About 30 minutes later, we took the exit to Hwy 138 and pulled into a McDonald's parking lot where two more GSs sat waiting for us. Their riders, Steve, a familiar face from other rallies and Jeff, a Rawhyde instructor, would be joining us on the ride over Cleghorn Trail, 17 miles of dirt trails that apparently had something for everyone's tastes.

Everyone was in the mood for a cup of coffee, so we went inside - it didn't hurt that it was warm inside and some of us (I?) had underestimated how cool it might be in the mountains and hadn't dressed appropriately.

Since we were going to be off-road for an hour or so, we decided to air down our tires before hitting the road. Also, I decided to break out another layer against the cool weather.


Airing down our tires in the McDonald's parking lot

Cleghorn Trail was one exit south of the McDonald's and it didn't take long before we were making our way over a fire-trail-type road. Steve led the way and I was in the middle of the group - Dan was the sweep rider. The riding was fairly easy and we climbed about 2,000 feet in the first 8 miles before stopping for a photo op. As the first riders were dismounting, Jeff, Mick, and Dan took off up a little trail leading to a higher vantage point. I remembered Dan mentioning such a place and commenting that more than a few folks had crashed trying to get up there. What the hell . . . I put my helmet back on and followed Mick - it didn't look that bad . . . . . and, it wasn't.


Mick riding up to the vantage point

Soon everyone was up there but Bill, who said his previously injured shoulder was bothering him quite a bit. The views were well worth the effort.


View from the top - looking west


Dan and Mike


Mike and me

We continued on . . . . . Cleghorn Trail is actually two trails. The main trail isn't too difficult, but crisscrossing the main trail is a more difficult path. Mick, Jeff, and Dan rode the more difficult trail, but the rest of us stuck to the scenic route. Steve moved us along at a reasonable pace that left time to enjoy the views. It was cool and windy with a very low cloud cover. At one of our short stops to group up, I mentioned that I thought there was a fire burning as I saw what looked to be smoke blowing up from below and over our heads. Nope, everyone else agreed, it was clouds blowing up and over us. Since there was no smell of smoke, I was forced to agree.

Bill was having some real problems with his shoulder. At one point he ran into the bank. He said that his left arm had gone completely numb and, for a moment, he had no control over it. He explained that a week earlier, he had dislocated his shoulder and the doctor had put him in a sling and told him to take it easy. Hmmmm . . . this was taking it easy?

He said it was feeling OK to continue, however, and we continued on. Too soon were were at the east end of Cleghorn Trail, overlooking Silverwood Lake.


Overlooking Silverwood Lake - above and left of center

We stopped for a photo opportunity and to waited for the guys that had taken the more difficult route. It didn't take long before they showed up.


Everyone but me

It was another 1,000 feet drop in elevation and 4 miles of riding to Hwy 138 and pavement. When we got there, it was time to air up our tires again and say some good byes. I don't know where Steve and Jeff were headed, but Jeff said he'd see us at Rawhyde. Bill's shoulder was bothering him so bad that he said he was going to have to quit the ride and head back to Phoenix - he told Mick he'd keep us informed of his progress and let us know when he was safely off the road.

That left Mick, Mike and me for Dan to lead to Rawhyde. The plan was to ride the Angeles Crest Hwy. I have heard and read a lot about this road and I was looking forward to riding it.

About 10 miles west on Hwy 138, we cut across to the Angeles Crest Hwy on Lone Pine Canyon Road. In less than 10 miles we climbed about 2,700 feet to just over 6,000 feet and ran into quite a bit of wind and fog along the way. At some points, visibility was only about 50 feet and I could barely make out the bike in front of me. When we hit the Angeles Crest Hwy we continued a mile or two west to a little town called Wrightwood and stopped for lunch. We all had hot chocolate to warm up a little - I don't know about the rest of the guys, but I really enjoyed my hot chocolate, cheeseburger and fries. We had a lot of great conversation while we ate and I was almost disappointed when we finished our food and it was time to hit the road again.

We decided to skip the Angeles Crest Hwy this time - nobody was looking forward to riding in a bunch of fog and there was also a good chance of getting wet. We backtracked on the Angeles Crest Hwy to Hwy 138 and headed west on Hwy 18 and Hwy 14. We then cut across to Interstate 5 on Soledad Canyon Road, then north to the Rawhyde Ranch in Castaic.


Hwy 138 near Hwy 18 - Mick, Mike, and Dan ahead of me

This route took us north of the mountains and out of the weather, although we could see a lot of rainy weather going on in the mountains. We hit a few raindrops here and there but stayed mostly dry. Our luck ran out on Soledad Canyon Road. The rain was light, however, and nobody got too wet - maybe just a little damp. It was enough rain, though, that I started worrying about getting my tent set up in the rain. The closer we got to the Rawhyde Ranch, the worse it looked, and the more I worried. By the time we got there, however, the rain was finished, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

As luck would have it, right at the exit to Rawhyde, we got tangled up with some trucks and a wide load driving extremely slowly in the right lane. Dan and I were able to squeak into a couple of small gaps and make the exit. Mick and Mike missed the exit and were forced to continue to the next exit, nearly 10 more miles up the road. Since Mick has been to Rawhyde before, Dan and I continued on, knowing they would be about 30 minutes behind us.

As we were getting checked in, there were lots of people milling about and it was obvious that there was a great turnout. Barbara was organized, as usual, and in a jiffy I was all checked in and on my way to the tent camping area. I was a little surprised to see that most of the choice (flat) camping spots were already taken. I eventually found a spot that wasn't too bad and hurried to get set up before it could rain again - although it never did. Mick and Mike arrived as I was setting up and also found spots nearby.

After we were all set up, we headed up to the area where all the action was - vendors, chow, Dakar Bar, and most importantly, a fire. We stood around the fire for a while and soon I was comfortable again. We all went our separate ways, as we recognized familiar faces and joined different conversations.

Jim Hyde eventually grabbed the microphone, introduced himself, welcomed everyone to Adventure Days and explained how everything would work. As he was finishing up his talk, the chow line started forming and I hurried to the front of the line. My lunchtime cheeseburger was long gone, and I was starving.

Mick, Mike, and a few other people from the Phoenix area sat at the same table. The new people to me were Kyle, and Marshal & Jennie - all great people. We got to know each other over some spicy chicken curry and rice. The chicken curry and rice didn't last long - it was really tasty.

It had been a long day for me and I didn't stay up too long after filling my tummy. Temperatures were forecast to dip into the 30s overnight and it was already plenty cool for me. It was good to crawl into my sleeping bag and finally be warm. I slept like a baby.

November 9, 2012
Adventure Days


My campsite in the morning - check out the frost on the ground

My alarm was set for 6:45 AM and it was damn cold - it was with great reluctance that I finally crawled out of my warm sleeping bag. I brushed my teeth and splashed some really cold water onto my face from a faucet at a nearby water truck that had been set up for this purpose. I then headed for the hot coffee and a warm fire.

While we were standing around the fire and later, eating breakfast, Mick and I decided that we'd hang around camp this morning and check out the vendors and some of the clinics. In the afternoon, we would figure out somewhere to go for a ride.

We had a lot to choose from. A partial list of the vendors included: Touratech, Klim, Adventure Designs, Baja Designs, Ted Porter's BeemerShop, Best Rest Products, Black Dog Cycle Works, Edelweiss Motorcycle Travel, Giant Loop, Happy-Trail, Jesse Luggage, MachineartMoto, Ocens, Progressive Suspension, SENA, Wolfman, Woody's Wheel Works, Irv Seaver Motorcycles, BMW of Ventura County.

Then there were the clinics:

I spotted a couple of clinics that I wanted to attend: "Basics of Sand", and "Off Camber Braking". All the spots were taken for today, so I added my name to tomorrow's lists.

It was still a little cool, early in the morning right after breakfast, so I ducked inside to watch a movie presentation by Touratech on the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route. Touratech and Butler Maps have my everlasting gratitude for mapping out these Backcountry Discovery Routes - I have purchased the maps, DVDs, and downloaded the tracks. In the next couple of years, God willing, I hope to ride portions, if not all, of these routes. First on my list is the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route. To read more about their effort to map more Backcountry Routes, CLICK HERE. If anyone reading this is actually planning one of these rides, please let me know - I'd like to join you.

I've been to enough the Rawhyde events that I'm getting to know quite a few folks and I spent the morning chatting with some of them as I wandered around the vendor area. I'm even getting to know some of the vendors pretty well. I was pleasantly surprised that Paul, from Touratech, remembered me from a ride we were on together in Washington and Kurt, owner of Black Dog Motorcycle Works remembered me from Moab.

There was a "Dirt Riding 101" clinic going on and I stepped up to watch and listen. This one was being given by Shawn and Lance and I always learn something when either of them is talking.


Shawn and Lance demonstrating some of the basics


Shawn teaching focus

Late in the morning I heard the "Emergency Field Repairs" clinic being announced and decided to check it out. It was well worth the time spent. A master technician from BMW of Ventura County went over the most likely things to fail, parts and tools to carry to repair these problems, and actually went through the process of making the repairs. I was happy to find out that I am already prepared to deal with the most likely failures and decided that I will probably add a spare EWS module to my kit. I think, however, that I'm willing to gamble on the rest of the components. It would cost over $1,000 to pack every spare part on his list.

While we were eating lunch, Mick said that he'd been talking to folks about possible rides and it looked like the best plan might be to check out the Hungry Valley SVRA, about 25 miles north of Rawhyde. It supposedly has trails suitable for everyone from beginner to expert - and we all agreed it would be perfect for our group.

After lunch we assembled our little group - Mick, Mike, Kyle, Marshal and his wife Jenny, and me - and headed north.

Almost immediately after we entered the park, Mick turned left onto one of the "easy" trails and we followed it for a while. It was a single track trail that had a few sandy places, plenty of curves and some climbs. After a bit, Mick stopped and asked Mike and me to lead on - he wanted to stay behind with Marshal and Jenny who didn't have a lot of dirt riding experience. Mike was ahead of me and he took off, quickly disappearing ahead of me. Although he'd never ridden off road, he has done a lot of competitive mountain biking and his skills seem to translate well into adventure motorcycle riding.

After a couple of miles, i found myself at the top of a pretty steep grade and continued down. When I got to the bottom, I looked in my mirrors and didn't see anyone behind me, so I stopped. When I looked back, everyone was stopped at the top of the hill, so I decided to head back up. Mick came down as I went back up and we passed along the way. Kyle went up and down the hill a couple of times just for practice.

There were a lot of trails of varying difficulty leading in all directions from the top of the hill and we decided to play around here for a while. Everyone took off in a different direction. I wound up by myself, exploring a trail that looked interesting to me. When I returned to the rendezvous point, there was nobody to be seen. I waited around for a bit, then ran up another trail a ways and returned - still nobody. I waited a little longer, then headed back towards the park entrance. It was now after 3:00 PM, the temperature was starting to drop, and we still had a 45 minute ride back to camp. I didn't want to get left behind.

I headed back to the gate over the same trail that we had entered. Along the way I took a couple of exploratory detours but didn't stray too far - hoping to catch sight of the rest of the group.

It was getting close to 4:00 PM when I arrived back at the park entrance. I had texted Mick to let him know that I was waiting at the gate then killed some time in the visitor center, looking at displays of local animals, reading about the history of the area and checking out the maps of the place - it was really quite interesting. While I was killing time, Mick answered my text, so I knew the rest of the group was still in the park.

Soon, I heard a couple of bikes approaching. It turned out to be Marshal and Jenny. They too got separated from the group and Marshal had taken a pretty good tumble along the way. He had hurt his ankle again - apparently this was his first ride after breaking his ankle a couple of months ago. That's right . . . the same ankle. By now it was getting seriously cold and they wanted to head for camp. As they were heading down the road, I texted Mick that Marshal had hurt his ankle and we were all headed back to camp.

Jenny was riding a small bike - a Yamaha WR200 I believe, that has a top cruising speed of around 55 mph. As you might guess, that is very slow for a Los Angeles freeway and is actually a little risky coming down off a mountain pass, which we were. As I came up behind them, I turned on my emergency flashers and followed them back to camp. It worked like a charm. As people came up behind us and saw my flashers, they immediately pulled in the next lane and we didn't have a single vehicle cause us any problems.

We rolled into camp just before 5:00 PM and I stopped to make sure Marshal could get off his bike and navigate around camp. He seemed to be able to hobble around, but his riding was over for this trip.

I went back to my tent, got out of my riding gear, and headed for the camp fire. I stood around the fire chatting with folks until chow time. Mick, Mike, and Kyle eventually showed up - they had continued to ride until it was dark before heading back. They made a side trip to Frazier Park to do some shopping and ran into a little weather on the way back to camp, including some snow at the higher elevations. Did I say that it was cold?

When the chow line started forming, Kyle and I quickly jumped in. After we got our food, we noticed some empty chairs inside at one of the presentation areas, and ate in warmth and relative comfort rather than sit at an outside table. I don't know where the rest of the folks ate - it was every man for himself.

After dinner, Edelweiss Motorcycle Travel gave a presentation in the same room where we were eating, and we decided to stick around. A fellow from Edelweiss described their "Around the World Expedition", 6 continents, 38 countries, 365 days - I believe he said it was over 50,000 miles of riding. I would give almost anything to go on this ride, but it's just a little above my pay grade. The tour price is $160,000 - he said to count on spending $200,000 before it's over - and you must ride your own bike and be responsible for its maintenance and repairs.

When the presentation was over, I stepped outside and made a beeline for the fire. After a little more chit chat, I headed for my tent and burrowed in against the cold. It was forecast to get down to 34° in Castaic tonight and the Rawhyde Ranch is located about 15 miles north and over 1,000 feet higher in elevation.

November 10, 2012
Adventure Days

It was indeed colder last night than the night before, but I stayed cozy and warm in my sleeping bag. Again, plenty of frost was to be seen when I finally poked my nose out into the crisp, cold morning air.


Frost on my tail bag cover and seat

Yesterday I signed up for Del's "Basics of Sand" clinic which would take place at 9:30 AM. Del is a Rawhyde instructor and the best GS rider I know. Earlier this year I attended his "Next Step" training and learned a lot. He lives in the Sacramento area and I've also run into him at a couple of local rides. Every time I talk to him, I learn something I can use. Sand is my Achilles' heel and I was really looking forward to gaining some new insights.

After breakfast, I stood around the campfire chatting with folks for a while before I went back to my tent, donned my riding gear, and rode my bike down to staging point for the clinic. There were about a dozen of us and Del led us out to the sand pit and demonstrated how easy it is to ride in sand - if you know what you're doing.


Everybody hates sand, but Del

We spent the next couple of hours riding back and forth through the sand pit and I think I DID have a break through of sorts. Del explained that all riding, including sand, is simply a matter of throttle control, clutch control, braking, and balance. These skills can be developed only by repetition through practice. Once you have these skills, your subconscious will take care of you, if you let it. My tendency is to over think. When I tried to concentrate only on looking where I was going instead of consciously thinking about every little thing - butt back, loose grip, don't look down, blah, blah, blah - I actually did pretty good. My plan to get better includes lots of practicing with slow speed drills in the parking lots near my home.

We got back to camp just before lunch. As I was wandering around, looking for familiar faces, I spotted, Bob G., on old friend that I hadn't seen for nearly 4 years. We met in 2008 at the first Rawhyde Rally I ever attended, the first Rawhyde Adventure Challenge. I was just a novice rider and a spectator to this event, Bob was a competitor. It was my good fortune to be camped right next door to him. I spent the next couple of days following Bob as he completed the various challenges - I was amazed at what he could do with a motorcycle.

We kept in touch by email after that and in early 2009, we decided to meet up for the Journey to Base Camp Alpha. It was a great ride.

Shortly after the ride to Base Camp Alpha, Bob had a disastrous, head-on collision with another motorcycle and was severely injured - both wrists were broken along with a few other bones. Although we continued to keep in touch, it took him some time to get back to riding and we hadn't seen each other since.

I hollered out: "Hey Bob G." and he turned to see me. He was there on a "day pass" and wasn't there to ride - just checking everything out. With him was his son, Bob Jr. Since it was so close to lunchtime, we got caught up over lunch. It was great seeing you and talking to you Bob.

The "Off-Camber Braking" clinic wasn't until 2:30 PM and I had a little time to kill after lunch. As I was weighing my options, Stephanie announced that the "Satellite Communications 101" clinic was about to begin so I decided to see what was new in this area. The part that interested me most was the state of satellite telephones. In 2006 I purchased a Globalstar satellite phone for emergencies - at that time I was doing a lot of venturing into the wilderness alone. The phone worked OK for a year or so, then all of a sudden I started having more and more difficulty making a satellite connection. Globalstar jerked me around for months before I found out that they had lost contact with so many of their satellites that it was nearly impossible to make a phone call. They finally refunded my money on my calling plan but I was still stuck with their phone. Although they have been promising to launch more satellites each year since, I found out that Globalstar is still useless for Satellite phone service - Buy Iridium if you're in the market for a satellite phone. Anybody want to buy a Globalstar phone?

Shortly before 2:30 PM, I rode my motorcycle over to the staging area for the "Off-Camber Braking" clinic and met up with the rest of the guys - again, there were about a dozen riders. Del was again, the instructor.

Another great clinic and I learned a lot. I found that I'm OK on steep, downhill braking, and not too bad on making sharp turns, but I need some work on making sharp, off-camber turns on steep downhill grades. More practice on throttle control, clutch control, braking, and balance. I see a lot of parking lot drills in my future.

This clinic was being held in the same area as the sand clinic. When it was over, Del turned us loose to practice whatever we felt we needed to work on. I decided to work on my sand riding and spend the next 30 minutes or so riding back and forth across the sand pit.

I think I may be finally getting my mojo back. I used to feel fairly competent in sand ..... until I took a pretty hard, 25 mph tumble in some loose material in Death Valley about a year ago. My ankle was twisted and crushed under the motorcycle, and although nothing was broken (I think), it healed slowly and still bothers me a bit. Worse, it took away my confidence and until today, every time I saw sand ahead of me, I started thinking negative thoughts. Maybe those days are behind me.

After the clinic there wasn't a lot of time before dinner, so I rode my bike back up to my tent, ditched my riding gear, and headed back down to the fire. As I was schmoozing around, I heard some music coming from near the kitchen area and walked over to check it out. Owen was playing an electric violin (fiddle?), Evan was strumming a guitar, and another fellow was picking a guitar. One guy would take off with a few notes, the others would listen and study his finger positions for a few seconds, then jump in. These guys are really good! I hung around, listening to them until the chow line started to form.

An old buddy, Dave who I've ridden with many times in the past couple of years was also in the vicinity and we stood in the chow line together. It was getting damn cold again, and we again ducked inside the heated presentation room to eat, rather than freeze at the outside tables. It was great - another bigoted, red-neck, conservative, anti-Obama, scum bag sat with us, and we cursed democrats for the entire meal. One of the few times - maybe the only time - I've never heard politics discussed at a motorcycle rally. I'm guessing that politics are better kept separate from riding.

After dinner, there was going to be a lot of activity going on around the camp fire. There would be live music by The Mary White Band, and there was also going to be a ticket drawing for lots of good loot - the tickets were part of the entry fee so I already had one. All that notwithstanding, I decided to head for my cozy, warm tent. I'm not used to being up since 6:00 AM and it seemed late to me. Did I mention that it was cold?

I crawled into my sleeping bag and in a few minutes I was cozy and warm. I could hear the music as I lay there and I drifted off to the strains of "Sweet Home Alabama" - at least that's the last song I remember hearing.

November 10, 2012
Castaic, CA to El Dorado Hills, CA

Today, I was headed home. It was with mixed emotions - I had really enjoyed the past couple of days, but I was a little tired of being cold. It would also be really good to see Linda.

I was up at first light, about 6:00 AM, and decided to get a little head start on packing up before heading down to the kitchen for some coffee. I packed up my sleeping bag and pillow and broke down my Luxury Lite cot and bagged it up. I also packed up all my clothes and misc gear and got it ready to load onto the bike. I figured the rest of it could wait until after breakfast and headed for the camp fire and some hot coffee.

Last night hadn't been quite as cold as the night before. I found out while warming myself by the fire, however, that some of the guys didn't take any chances. Mike, it is said, slept in all his riding gear, including his helmet.

Last night at dinner, Dave and I decided to ride together to Tracy on our way home before splitting up and heading our separate directions. It is about a 6 hour ride for me and we decided that we had plenty of time to get going. We waited until after breakfast to finish up breaking camp we pulled out shortly after 9:00 PM.

We said our good-byes as we rode through camp. I spotted Mick and Mike helping Marshal and Jennie get their bikes loaded up on a trailer and we stopped to bid them all farewell. Marshal was standing on the trailer, tying down a bike, and I took that for a good omen for his injured ankle. It turns out that the ankle was broken and Marshal had surgery to implant some metal a couple of days after he returned home.

Dave and I didn't waste much time once we hit the road. We stopped twice for fuel, but other than that we didn't even slow down. When we hit Interstate 580 just south of Tracy, Dave headed west towards the Bay Area and I continued north towards El Dorado Hills.

As much fun as I had on this ride, it was good to be home again.

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