Thursday, September 10, 2015

San Diego Wildlife

"What have you learned this year?" My sister asks me at a happy hour meet turned surprise birthday celebration with some friends. I was reluctant to get into a philosophical discussion about life's lessons, while the drinks were flowing so freely, besides I have always been a much better writer, than I have been a speaker. I tried to deflect her query, but she persisted.

"Perhaps, you have learned there is no such thing as making a lifetime career at one company.", she offered. I agreed. 

"Perhaps, you have also learned that you can always have family." I couldn't have agreed more, she is not my sister by birth, but she is my sister by heart! In a land I have made my home over the past 18 years, with my family of birth half the world away, I have been blessed with some very close friends, who have become my family. I have my "aunt" and my adopted family up by Mt. Shasta, I have my American "dad" near Reno, and my wise sister dear here in Sacramento! 

What else have I learned? Perhaps that I have to keep enjoying and living my life, while I explore my options and opportunities, in this niche technical field where I have found employment for the past 16 years. 
Funds have been tight, as I navigate a period of transition, and as a result, the wanderings on a motorcycle have cooled down considerably, except for the occasions where the kindness of friends and family have provided me a roof over my head during my wanderings, knocking off the ledger, one of the biggest expenses while traveling!

On this occasion it was a trip to San Diego, and I was fortunate enough to spend several days in the area. I have been to San Diego multiple times in the past few years, my modus operandi here hasn't varied much - enjoy the relaxed beach towns of north county, photograph the sunsets by the ocean, and ride some magnificent roads east of San Diego.

This time around I didn't chase after the sunsets as much as I usually do, trying my hand a little bit at street photography for a change. Although, the locales I was spending my time in were mostly gentrified, and not too adventurous of places for street photography, it was nevertheless a target rich environment. 

For instance this puppy mill (and not the kinds which are frowned upon for good reason), caught my eye. Perhaps I even found myself relating to it in some regard - caught in the wind, as I am at the moment. The wind churning my legs, but trying to keep my head up high and a smile on my face. :)


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Mystical Mt. Shasta.

I have been making this pilgrimage for over 8 years now. My adopted family lives here, in this mystical place. This place seems to exist at the confluence of the natural and the metaphysical. It has for millennia inspired lore, legend, and spirituality - from the times when native tribes roamed the land to the present day. 

One such folklore about the origins of the mountain has stuck with me, and I will share it here.

Some time ago in the very distant past - this land was populated by an ancient tribe, which migrated seasonally between the coastal mountains of California, and the great plains which once existed here. 
They were led by a much loved and revered chieftain, who guided them in their passages for many years. There came a time, however, when the ravages of old age had made the chief too frail, and too feeble to make the trek through the coastal mountains. Yet, the chief longed to see the ocean one last time. 
It was unlikely that he would have survived the treacherous journey to the ocean one last time, but his people loved him so much, they embarked on an undertaking which would change the landscape forever. 
If the tribe couldn't get their chief to the ocean, they were going to build him a pedestal so high, that he could see the ocean from atop it. So, they labored - far and wide, and day and night, and they terraformed, carving out earth from the far reaches and building a colossus underneath their beloved chief. 
Thus, the mountain rose, higher and higher into the heavens, until finally - the chief could once again see the ocean, from up among the clouds. His dying wish gratified, he immediately asked his people to stop building. When they stopped, they dropped the rest of the earth they had collected at their feet, where they stood - giving rise to the lesser mountains and hills which surround Mt. Shasta. :) 

I hope you enjoy the pictures which follow! 

Running dry for a lack of rain. A natural spring also feeds this lake, albeit now, a bit feebly.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Things don't go as planned - A wandering ramble through the great American South West - Part 2.

Picking up from where I had left off in Part 1 (clickable link). 
If you haven't read part 1 yet, please click on the link and read that first. :) 

Also, fair warning. Part 2 is even longer than Part 1. I had a request from a reader, asking me to make Part 2 as long as I wanted to. Request granted. :D

As voiced in Part 1 - Brian and I were having a disagreement with our riding styles. The ride plan now in effect was that Brian leads and we curtail our picture stops. I still have route suggestions and we attempt to strike compromises on the routes. Brian just wants to get to Albuquerque, he has his tall blonde 'girlfriend' to look forward to there, and to lighting up cigars and telling tall tales in the IBR parking lot with all his IBA buddies. He lives for moments like these, and I don't blame him. They are all very lovely people, some of the best that I have come to know, but we will be there all weekend long, and I am in no hurry to get there right away.  

Brian wants to take the most direct and efficient route there. As you would, perhaps, if you were in a competitive rally. Why dilly-dally, when there are points to be accumulated, and points per mile statistics to stack in your favor.
I am on the other side of the spectrum, for me the journey is the destination. I want to enjoy the journey, and linger, and soak up as much as I can. The destination is secondary and it can wait. 

I also wonder if "Been there, done that, got the T-shirt" has a role to play here. In his 57+ years on this earth, Brian has criss-crossed the country many times over. I on the other hand, have not enjoyed these vistas as often as I would like to, I still marvel at the sights, they still take my breath away, I still want to sit and stare at them. Will I still do that 20 years from now? Oh God - I sure hope so!  

To his credit, Brian is taking what scenic route we are taking, and the resultant torture - for me. If it weren't for me, he would have run across I-40 to Albuquerque, interstate freeway riding is his thing anyway. For all intents and purposes, for him, he is dragging an anchor, and I am holding him back.

Crossing into Colorado from Utah, we route on CO Hwy 141 to Hwy 62. Hwy 141 is in the rain shadow and a high desert at the start, a fun twisty ride in the beginning, eventually giving way to valleys and high farm country. Not quite as scenic as Hwy 145 through the San Juan Mountains and Telluride, but then again, not as busy either, and Hwy 141 is the most direct route to Ouray. It's obvious I am not the one routing today, if I was riding by myself, I would have taken the longer but more scenic route. Riding separately is unmistakably the solution, but it isn't happening just yet. 

My first view in almost 5 years, of the rugged and jagged peaks of the San Juan Mountains looms ahead. Brian is in no mood to stop, but I am, and I am not letting it pass by. I wouldn't do this on a remote back road, but we are on thoroughfare highways, if we get separated, we can pull over and wait for the other, or just link up with each other along the way. We both have SPOT and GPS devices and we know exactly where we are going.  

San Juan Mountains from CO Hwy62.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Things don't go as planned - A wandering ramble through the Great American South West. Part 1.

Things don't go as planned. How many times are we reminded of the idiom - "Best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray"? Now this might sound like a pessimistic view to hold, but I disagree. Is it still a compelling story - if everything goes as planned? If everything is instrumented and executed smoothly and perfectly, like a machine? Although, aren't machines just as flawed? Conceivably inheriting the inherent flaws of their human creators? 

I am reminded of a recent conversation I had with a new acquaintance over a campfire in Yosemite. This person had just hiked the Mt. Whitney trail, a 22 mile round trip, and a portion of the longer John Muir Trail (a 210 mile hike with a ~10,500 feet elevation gain), which he is planning to tackle next. An avid hiker, who takes great pride in his planning and execution as well as his physical abilities. During our conversation, we started to discuss the protagonist in the recent bestseller - Wild. I asked him if he had read the book, and he had, but didn't like it. When aksed why, he replied in a long-winded fashion, but which I distilled down to the woman having made every mistake in the book. I countered - that's what made her story a fascinating read. She was/is flawed, she made mistakes and lots of them, she encountered peril - even if sometimes it was of her own making, but there was also perseverance, learning, and growth from those hard knocks. I don't think I sold him on the concept. What do you think? If she had done everything by the book, how many would have bothered to read her story?


This story is not nearly as exciting, except things didn't go as planned. It isn't even by any means - concise, so go grab that coffee, tea, or maybe even a real drink. You might need it! : )


This jaunt through southern Utah had been planned several months ago, with Brian - my mentor and riding partner on some such touring excursions in the past. Despite our starkly different riding styles, we had on previous occasions managed to ride together with only a minimum of friction. That may have been because those outings were some years ago, and being new to longer distance touring at that time - I mainly just acquiesced to his plans, riding style and wisdom, the last of which he does have an over-abundance of. At this point you may be wondering, what is so inexorably different about our riding styles? It boils down to our personalities and motivations. Pitching the stop to smell the roses, and stop to take in the sights personality vs. the stop for nothing, just keep on riding, there is still miles to go before I stop/sleep type. The satisfaction we derive from the type of riding we prefer also resides in different hemispheres.  I prefer the twisty and scenic byways and back roads, Brian prefers the freeways and the long, plumb highways through vast valleys and farm country. Something had to give for this dynamic to work. Would it work?


A brisk and for summer, a surprisingly balmy run across the high desert of Nevada was first on the agenda. Brian was on his Honda ST1300 a proven touring and rally bike with over 100,000 miles on it. I had left the veteran, just a bit shy of 80,000 miles Yamaha FJR1300 in the garage, instead deciding to stretch the legs of the rookie Suzuki DL1000, it only had about 12,000 miles at the beginning of this journey and hadn't before been ridden past a 500 mile radius from home.  We weren't setting any speed records in the desert. We had chosen the northerly route on US Hwy 50, over the much faster and much hotter E.T. highway, running +8 to +12 the speed limit out of towns. It was an uneventful journey across Nevada, we noted and commented on the desert being unusually green for this late in the season. Spring Valley pictured below in White Pine county, Nevada was still grassy and living up to it's name.


US Hwy 50, Spring Valley, Nevada.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Getting out of my comfort zone - Yosemite.

There have been an interesting sequence of events these past couple of weeks, in this adventure called life. The theme has remained the same - getting out of my comfort zone. One was planned, something I wanted to push myself into this weekend - to expand my horizons, and to discover a new experience. I have wandered solo for respectable distances, if not far and wide, but I have never camped before, having preferred the luxury of a comfortable bed and a hot shower at the end of the night. For the first time, I wanted to dip my foot into a new stream, albeit in a place with unrivaled charm and beauty, which perhaps made the experience infinitely more enjoyable, even for a first time. 
The other had been planned for me, by fate/life/chance/destiny - whatever you want to call it, perhaps giving me a chance to see what I was made of, and what I can make of myself. I wouldn't find out about these other plans till the Monday after I returned home, and then again unceremoniously, as is often how these things are practiced. Involuntarily coerced out of my comfort zone on a much larger and definitely life altering scale. For the time being, I have been taking a little bit of time 'just for me', before I start contemplating my options in all seriousness and unfold the sails and set a new course. 

I will be refraining from dulling this blog post further with the philosophical grappling in my mind, but my hope is that I will soon see the light at the end of this tunnel, and it will likely lead me to a better place.



Saturday, May 16, 2015

Monitor Pass - Riding the Sierras Series.

Arguably for some, but inarguably for me, some of the best riding in the alpine country of the Sierras, and with some spectacular views! This stretch of Hwy 89 or Monitor Pass as it is called, is unlike the other highway passes which bridge the West side to the East (and entirely a different planet) side of the Sierras, in that it is entirely a two lane highway, and in my experience has also been *almost* always entirely deserted throughout the riding season. Which means, a much diminished chance of a smug Californian's snail paced Prius polluting your fun. In comparison Hwy 4 (Ebbetts Pass) while beautiful, is a one lane highway for about half of it's length, the stretches of Hwy 108 (Sonora Pass) are immense fun, but you will find it peppered with slow trucks and other four wheeled obstacles. Not to mention Hwy 120 (Tioga Pass) - the views are dramatic, countered by the astoundingly dense drivers and traffic you will encounter, either precipitating from or perhaps vindicating the 'retarded' speed limits on Hwy 120 as it passes through Yosemite National Park. 

This Road Report picks up right out of the town of Markleeville, CA on Hwy 89. Markleeville is a tiny town in Alpine County, which has grown quite popular with the motor sports crowd and is a good option for a brunch or lunch stop while you transit to or from the destination passes (Monitor/Ebbetts). You never know what you will find in Markleeville, CA.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Couple Of Old Classic .. Cars.

Well.. actually, mostly just one. :)

I went for a ride this weekend, the V-Strom needed a new set of chain and sprockets. It's a 2006 V-Strom, and I bought it in Nov of 2013 as a companion bike to the FJR, which had been giving me some trouble in the latter part of 2013.  This V-Strom had mostly been a garage queen when it was living with it's previous owner. It barely had about 5000 miles on it when I bought it. A 7 year old bike with that little mileage obviously meant it mostly just sat in the garage a lot, so when I bought it I replaced all the fluids in the bike, put new tires on, new plugs, new filters, basically did ALL the requisite maintenance and tune-up except for the chain and sprockets. I have put another 8000 miles on it since then, but despite regular cleaning and oiling, the chain was getting in pretty bad shape and had just started spitting O-rings, which is a death knell for a chain, but understandable since this bike previously just sat around for so long. 

Long story short! I rode up to see my motorcycle guru in Fernley for some chain-work and took the slightly longer but much more fun way over Carson and Monitor passes. I am still looking through those pictures at the moment, and when they are ready - so will I be, to do another trilogy (hopefully) of 'Road Reports' in the Sierra mountains. 

Till then, I thought maybe you would like to take a look at some old classic cars that I found along the way in Markleeville, CA. This was on Mother's Day and a couple of them were out for a Mother's Day drive together.

First up was a pristine restored/maintained 1950s (I forget which year exactly) Hudson Hornet. This is the only picture I took of it, before I caught sight of the car that I fell in love with..

1950s Hudson Hornet.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Hike and Shoot - Lupine Fields of Folsom Lake (Not Motorcycling Content).

I recently joined some photographers' social clubs. One of them had a meet to explore and shoot pictures of the Lupine fields of Granite Bay State Park, besides Folsom Lake. 

The Lupines are in full bloom right now, although they are much diminished from previous years due to the severe drought we are currently enduring. 

Nevertheless, it was a fun photo shoot, made some new friends, also with some people who were out there exploring with their kids in tow, and they modeled for us, which was great! 

Since I have all the requisite model releases now, I am sharing the pictures here with you. I hope that you enjoy them! :)


A Walk in Fields of Purple.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Save A Horse, And Ride The Motorcycle.

There is always a good reason to go ride and to go take pictures, but sometimes the good reason is also for a good cause. 

All About Equine in El Dorado Hills held a fundraiser today, so I rode my own steel horse there to support them. It was open to the public to picnic, and wander the stalls, and look at the Horses and other farm animals that this animal rescue takes care of, and puts up for adoption. 

I was there as part of a photography group - which had organized a photo shoot for the benefit of this rescue organization. We had so called backstage access to the horses, so in addition to pitching in a few funds to keep the wheels turning at this rescue, we were also donating our pictures to them (in my case those that were any good, animals are hard to photograph), or the ones that the rescue might want to use. They have many good looking and some very friendly horses up for adoption. I didn't take a picture of every one of them. 

This rescue does not adopt out gnarly or ragged rescue horses, they rear them back to health (if need be), before the horses are put up for adoption. 

If you or your friends love horses, please feel free to help spread the word. There are animal rescue organizations which go belly up all the time - in fact All About Equine has even rescued horses from other rescues which had failed. 

Here is their info: All About Equine.

I am posting up some pictures, that I took this day. I was here for about 2 hours, talked to the volunteers, talked to the photographers, roamed the grounds etc, before stretching the legs of my steel (well, aluminum mostly) horse for the rest of the afternoon. 

Friends..

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Looking through a new lens.

Spring is finally upon us. Even though it feels like it arrived in February, as we didn't really get a Winter season with all it's accompanying rain this year, in another week it will officially be the end of the rainy season in California and the beginning of the sunny season. 

As if on cue, I picked up a new Nikon last week, I have been wanting one for a few years now, watching and waiting for just the right one for me, and finally pulled the trigger last week on a Nikon. I could have waited till the end of the year for better deals this holiday season, might have even saved some money, but I couldn't fathom the thought of going through three more seasons before finally getting my hands on one. This certainly wasn't an impulsive instant gratification thing, I have been waiting a few years for this. 

I haven't had much time to get familiarized with the new equipment and lenses, just a couple of outings on a mostly rained out weekend, before work has separated me from my new love. 
Foolishly, I had jumped right into very shallow depth of field snaps - to mixed results. This camera is unforgiving of rookie mistakes, and a shallow depth of field requires you to nail the focus exactly where you want it to be. Yet here I was fiddling with AF areas and modes etc. as I played around, even throwing in focus and recompose into the fray. I didn't always succeed, actually mostly didn't, but maybe more practice will make perfect. 

What follows are a few examples of my goof ups, which I felt were decent enough to share. Here is to hoping that I get better, much better. That would be something! :)

Hopefully you would enjoy looking at these, even if they are nowhere near perfect!



A Rose at Villa Toscano, an Amador County Winery.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ice House Rd - Riding the Sierras Series.

The savvy reader has probably figured out by now, that I have split one ride into three different road reports. It would seem I was taking a page out of Hollywood's playbook, but that's not so. It actually was the intention - report on one road per blog post. Instead of one blog post with a glut of pictures on all three roads, we now have three (hopefully) useful blog posts to keep a reader's attention. 

For more detailed road Intel on this road - Pashnit.com can be a good resource.

Needless to say, this road report picks up where the previous one had left off. Wentworth Springs Rd dead-ends into a T-junction. Turn left and you head into ever more desolate wilderness - the road is rough and bumpy, but the rocky and rugged views can be engaging as you head towards Loon Lake Reservoir.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wentworth Springs Rd. - Riding the Sierras Series.

The second in a series of pictorial blog posts focusing on one local motorcycling road at a time. Once again presented in the context of a rider's-eye view. For reasons which will become evident as you read on - Wentworth Springs Rd is an extremely well known and popular motoring road around here. It starts in the Sierra Foothills out of Georgetown, CA and spits you out in the Sierra Mountains. Positioning you perfectly with two choices to weigh - Into the wilderness to the North, or to the South on another delightfully delicious winding road back towards civilization. Those two choices to be the subject of another blog post another time. 

Once again, not meant to be a Road Guide. I will once again refer you over to Pashnit.com for Intel on Roads in California.

The first 14 miles or so out of Georgetown are "boxed in",  even if ever more sparsely populated as you traverse. The road is still more or less lonesome (look to the right of the photo below..). The lonesomeness depends much on the day you are riding through. :)



Monday, March 16, 2015

Salmon Falls Rd. - Riding the Sierra Foothills Series.

Just a short pictorial blog post about a local road. Presented in the perspective of a rider's-eye view. Thinking of doing some pictorial series of the kind. This would be the first of that series. 

Not meant to be a definitive road guide or anything resembling the like (Pashnit.com is a good resource for road Intel in California). This is just for fun. 

Salmon Falls Road. A short but fun road, right in my backyard. Getting busier as the years roll on, it's best motorcycling days are way behind it. Depending on the day and your luck, it could be wide open with no cars, no squids and no CHP, or it can be chock-full of all of them. Roll the dice, take a chance, but ride prudently and safely!

When you come to a fork in the road. Take the one more fun! 




Monday, March 2, 2015

Go Big (Money Rally) or Go Home..

I hadn't been taking any pictures while riding. Sure, I take plenty when I am off the bike, or when I have reached my destination for the day or night, but none while riding. There is a certain element to a ride report which actually has riding pictures, a lack of which is a missing ingredient whose absence is definitely felt, even though it is not an absolutely essential element.

With that in mind, and also being mindful of some upcoming trips to some beautiful Western and South Western countryside, that is in the works - I decided to invest in a GoPro, like many have done so before me. Go(Pro) or Go Home, they have said, which could easily have been the title of this ride report, but I am no Pro, and I like big money (rally) better. :)


Having said that, I am actually not a registered rider in the BMR this year. The scales of the work-life balance have tipped very unfavorably in the past few months, and I foresaw and correctly so, that I wouldn't have time to do a whole lot of riding this year. Not as much as I would like to anyway, and certainly not as much as I did in early 2014. 

Becoming a BMR finisher isn't a difficult task, I mean you have almost 5 months to do it, but since when has just being a finisher been enough for me? I may say it is initially, if you asked me, but I know better. Once those competitive juices start flowing, there is no stopping till Gold. 

I don't have time for Gold, not this year. I do have time for Finisher, but I wouldn't know what to do with that competitive devil hovering over my left shoulder, hungry for and pissed there isn't going to be any Gold! 

Fortunately for me, a solution presented itself. My very good friend Albert signed up for the BMR. Al has been recovering from an incident a while ago, when a car turned left in front of him, while he was riding his motorcycle. I won't go into any detail about his injuries or his ordeal since then, suffice to say - he has been suffering from the aftermaths of that concussion. He doesn't ride much anymore either, for him joining the BMR was an avenue which would lead him to getting on the motorcycle a bit more. A form of meditation and therapy, of being mindful, focusing, anticipating, processing and of course having a little fun. 

Anyway, Al has asked me to help him be a BMR finisher, and I am more than happy to help him with the research and routing/planning and riding along. His riding range is limited these days, so it will be short(er) and sporadic rides on a few weekends, but it should be enough to get him to finisher, besides it is all I have time for these days, so it will work for me just as well as it works for him - I still get to (kind of) ride in the BMR and I get to help my friend while doing so. Perfect! :)

This past weekend was our first BMR outing. A short 160 mile ride door to door, but rich in points. When I did my research, I found a treasure trove of points right in our immediate vicinity, with some terrific weather and great riding roads in the mix to get to them. This was going to be a wonderful start! 

Laird Rd.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Let there be .. A Ride Report.

Let there be .. a ride report! Yes, finally and long overdue! :) 

A few months ago I had predicted, if not promised that it would be 2015 before any motorcycle content may show up on this blog. At that time I was expecting that I may actually not have any time to ride till the new year rolls around. I was only partly correct, and the report which follows is of a ride in December of 2014. It's just that I have only now found the time to write about it. :)

It was not a foray into uncharted and unknown territories, I was re-discovering some familiar grounds, which I had not stomped on in quite a while, while hoping to rejuvenate some friendships along the way, which had also laid dormant for quite some time. It was to be an oft piloted route to San Diego, with some beloved stops along the way - including the Big Sur coastline. The weather gods, however, had a different plan. The California coast and the rest of the state, had just a day ago, been hit by what some were calling the "Storm of the Century", the Pacific Highway had predictably experienced landslides and was closed in several locations, it was going to be a pre-dominantly uneventful and very fast in-land route for me, until I could mosey over to the coast just past Paso Robles on Hwy 46 to meet the coastline just south of Cambria. 

It had been a while, since a ride of a longer duration, and I wasn't quite in the mood to stop to take pictures along the way. In fact, I didn't take any pictures along the ride on this day, till I reached my destination. I had a feeling this first day had actually set the trend for this trip. No pictures, till I was stopped for the day, so that's what this ride report will present, for the most part. 

My stop of the day was beloved Morro Bay. I was meeting my friends Tim and Mary for dinner here, before dinner, however, I was going to catch the show .. the light show. :)

Let there be .. Light! 

The show was only just beginning. Here is the first view, looking at the Morro Bay Docks as the sky was just beginning to turn.