Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fall Colors at a vineyard in the Sierra Foothills

On a Sunday afternoon, I found myself with nothing to do. The forecast was calling for the sudden arrival of winter like weather on Monday, with overnight drops in max/min temperatures of at least 10 degrees. This Fall, I hadn't yet taken the time to go leaf peeping anywhere in the Sierras', it appeared this maybe my last chance to do so before the leafs get shed for good. 

I took a short couple hour trip into the wine country in the Sierra foothills. Found a couple of new roads I hadn't yet been on, spotted a few dastardly Deer, and saw a spattering of color in the trees amidst an overabundance of evergreens here in California.

My one and only stop was at a small vineyard/winery, I went into the tasting room to talk to the friendly folks and left a few dollars in the tip jar and got their permission to wander a bit in their vineyard. I wasn't there long, maybe 20-25 minutes or so, I wanted to be home well before the fast approaching dusk. 

I had borrowed a friend's Canon, similar to one (a couple generations newer), that I am looking to purchase to upgrade from my Panasonic. I had some trouble with the Canon, while quickly trying to figure out all the controls and had some trouble getting used to it's viewfinder, so my composition sucked, but the f1.8 lens on that Canon was beyond fantastic. My Panasonic with it's f2.8 lens paled in comparison. I am used to my Panasonic, having had it for a few years now, so the composition maybe better with the Panasonic. I leave it to the reader to figure out which picture is from which camera. 

I wanted to try some experiments comparing the bokeh from the Canon f.18 and the Panasonic's Leica f2.8 lenses. I would focus on something close-by and try to make everything-else fade away, hopefully into some kind of artistic oblivion. Honestly, I didn't have much success in my opinion. More studies are needed! Haha! :-)

Hope you enjoy these few images!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I left my heart in Big Sur.

A story of a much anticipated weekend spent on my motorcycle. Dedicating this to the memory of my friend John Ryan. I hope he would have enjoyed reading this blog post. May you Ride in Paradise John!


Three months of motorcycle withdrawals, for someone who loves motorcycling that can prove to be quite the damper indeed. In the parts of the country which gets blessed every year with that funny white stuff which falls form the sky, sometimes in obliterating amounts, they actually have a term for it. It's called PMS or Parked Motorcycle Syndrome, so you might say I had been suffering from PMS for the past three months! My PMS was due to some other funny stuff which was going on within the bowels of the motorcycle itself. Not 100% sure the funniness has gone away completely, but for now, that seems to be the case, and hope it remains so. Knock on wood!

This was the first long-range test, relatively speaking, of the FJR since undergoing multiple investigative surgeries to root cause symptoms which had rendered it unsafe to ride. There was also this errand I had to take care of on the Central Coast, something to do with a certain amendment to the constitution, two birds with one FJR, this was going to be fun. I won't go into the details of the errand, I will just say that is for me to know and a rude shock for anyone who decides to find out. 

I was sticking to the main thoroughfares on the ride south, this was a test run after all, if I did run into bike trouble, better chances of finding help if I am not out in the sticks! If I had any hint of trouble, I had planned to return the same day and on the same route, but when 352 miles of riding produced nary a hiccup, I switched plans and headed for the coast. 

Makes me think of Finding Nemo.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Peaks and Falls - Another Anti Ride Report.

I apologize for the non-motorcycle content as of late. I would have liked to figure out a way for these non-motorcycle related posts to appear else-where, rather than the main motorcycle ride archives, which still remains the main driving force for creating this blog, but I confess, I haven't spent much time at all trying to make it happen, so please bear with me.

Motorcycling and photography continue to be my two true loves and passions, but how do you motorcycle when your trusty steed has been rendered not so trusty anymore? There is no point and no sense in not being outdoors enjoying all the sights that traveling has to offer, while you await a remedy to all that ails your two-wheeled companion. That means falling back to my backup transportation, which is no slug by comparison, even if it has 4 wheels, it still has bigger Brembo ABS brakes, traction control, and a 6 speed transmission as a conduit to a snarling motor which (through some modifications) churns out 300+ HP at the wheels. Not bad, not bad at all.. :)

What follows is another collection of photographs from a spontaneous and unplanned excursion into Northern California, to see some sights, enjoy some hikes and visit with some of my favorite people in this world. Unlike my motorcycling posts, this blog post, will be far less effusive. Writing about non-motorcycle trips doesn't quite inspire prose which bubbles from my heart and tingles my fingertips to dance on the keyboard. So like the blog post preceding this one, I will keep banter to a minimum and let the beauty of Northern California speak in it's stead. I hope you enjoy the view! :)

My favorite mountain hide-away. Mt. Shasta in a veil of silk.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Into The Unknown in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming - The Anti Ride Report.

Not really a ride report, as riding was not involved. I had initially planned on taking my motorcycle to the "Into The Unknown" LD event in Big Sky, Montana. However, reliability issues in my usually bulletproof and reliable Yamaha FJR1300, poured some very cold water over those plans. Nevertheless, I decided that staying home is not an option, so I took my oft neglected (as far as driving it is concerned), but probably also far more reliable car - my Nissan 350Z on this trip. 

As I mentioned before, this is not really a ride report, but rather a collection of images from the trip. I have discovered that while cooped up in a car, I hardly take any pictures at all. That burning flame of freedom and adventure, and the desire to freeze frame those moments of exploration for all time in a memorable photograph, somehow that flame barely flickers alive when seated inside a 'cage', no matter how gilded or how sporty! 

Instead of linking to a slideshow of pictures, what follows are the few pictures I did take, with a footnote description of each. I hope you enjoy looking at them, even if they weren't taken whilst atop a saddle. 

The Martin Hotel.
The Martin Hotel in Winnemucca, NV. A Basque style restaurant, established in 1898. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Wandering the Cowboy Country of the Western U.S. - Chapter 3: The Mountain Hideaway.

The culminating Chapter, of the journey from Chapter 1, and Chapter 2.

I love Mountain hideaways. They are amazing not only for hiding out from the Zombie Apocalypse, but pretty much for hiding away from almost everything including all those worries, chores, stresses and the busy-bee activities of your day to day life. It's the perfect hideaway from the Zombie that one becomes in real day to day life! 

Stanley is one such hideaway, I have come here twice now and have loved it both times. Although, this time the weather was starkly different from last, but it just added a different element to the appeal of this place. This morning the sunrise was greeted by moody skies, still lingering after last night's storm. The previous evening, I had enjoyed hearing the moo'ing of the cows right up to sunset. They had moved on this morning or had been herded back to where ever they rest for the night. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Wandering the Cowboy Country of the Western U.S. - Chapter 2: Big Skies.

Continuation of the story from Chapter 1. 

It had been fun riding with Brian the past couple of days. I have been thinking of making this an annual tradition, find a trip or a rally to ride together every year if possible, Brian has been my riding mentor and even though we don't stop for pictures as much, when we ride together, we still have a good time. Pictures can always wait for when we stop for the evening. :)

Our ride together on this trip, was coming to an end. We were parting ways in Salt Lake City. Brian was heading out at O'dark thirty for a blast on I-80 across Nevada to return home and tend to Kudlow - the little prince doggie of Fernley. I had other plans, I already had the time off, so I was going to make a quick swipe across some beautiful country, before dropping back home.

The Monday after the rally, I was heading to Big Sky, MT to see my good friends Bob & Sylvie. I was taking the scenic route there, riding the very pretty Hwy 89 across a major pass to Bear Lake. A very pretty lake and the water really does appear a turquoise blue from a distance. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Wandering the Cowboy Country of the Western U.S. - Chapter 1: Wrangling The Final Utah 1088.

Preamble to the 2013 Utah 1088.

One of my longest, if not the longest ever series of entries in my motorcycle ride journal, of a little over a week spent in the saddle wandering the Cowboy Country of the Western United States. So please, by all means grab a seat, top off that beverage and/or light up that cigar and settle in for a read and I promise to try and keep it stimulating.

It would seem there is no purpose to riding all half day across an endless desert, but that's how the journey started. The supposedly loneliest highway isn't so lonely, if you know where to stop for some refection. Like almost an year ago to this date, an used up Honda and it's rough and tumble rider (and self proclaimed people person) had joined me, but unlike last year it was only for part of the journey. 

We had a leisurely start, just because we were riding to an endurance rally event didn't mean we needed an endurance ride to get there. After all, who wants to run a half marathon to get to a half marathon? Also, I like to eat good while I am on vacation, so I had already planned our food stops for the ride to Utah. The first one being a brunch stop at the Middlegate Station on Hwy 50 in Nevada. The owner's wife is a phenomenal cook and the breakfasts and lunches here have certainly been worth the mention. We were looking for breakfast, but unfortunately we had miscalculated and brunch was lunch menu only. Which wasn't necessarily a bad thing. The Western Bacon BBQ Cheeseburgers here are to die for. Lunch it was to be! 

Middlegate station used to be an overland stage station that was used by the Pony Express in the 1800's. There is a lot of history associated with this place and it maintains an old west charm, rustic but not entirely run down. I walked around for a few minutes, glad for some time to scour for photo opportunities, as we were the first customers to drop in for lunch and had to wait a bit for our cook to appear. 

I found plenty to photograph, including an attractive, young cowgirl in tight jeans and cowgirl boots and a button down tie top, a fellow shutterbug who was on her own road trip (albeit with her guitar strumming boyfriend). I know what you are thinking (pictures or it didn't happen), but we don't always get what we want, so here are some other photographs of that stop. 

The cow may have jumped over the moon, but I loved how this horse jumped over our rides! 

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Dashboards of IBR 2013.

I was working the IBR (Iron Butt Rally) 2013 Checkpoint 2 in Sacramento all day Sunday, so I have no pictures to post from the checkpoint itself, but early on Monday morning - I walked the parking lot full of IBR bikes while the riders were in the riders' meeting. I didn't have my camera with me, but I did the best I could for some quick pictures of the dashboards of some of the IBR bikes with my cell phone camera.

Hope you find these interesting to see how much electronic stuff is jammed onto the rally bikes for these extremely competitive events! The IBR being a show like no other. 11 days, 11,000 + miles. The world's most farkled motorcycles rode by the world's toughest riders!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Weekend To Celebrate.

A story told in reverse chronological order. The pictures were taken on my return journey. I had come home safely from a celebration weekend under the gaze of an imposing mountain. Getting home safe from a motorcycle adventure is always worth a toast. We don't like surprise endings in motorcycle stories, the cliche and boring "Home safe and sound" ending never gets old in our world. 

It had been a great ride, astride my fire breathing monster of a steed. Fire breathing both literally as in it was a 100+ degrees outside and the heat from this 1298 cc engine between my knees was roasting my ... ahem ... nuts, and figuratively as in some scorching performance on the winding roads of the Sierra mountains.

It's not unlike the well muscled and sculpted steed of this Pony Express rider, whose statue stands (gallops?) in Old Sacramento, where I stopped for a few minutes on my way home, but the monster of an FJR doesn't need a whip to goad it to go where I point it to, and go there fast, it just needs a gentle roll of the right wrist..

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Weekend To Remember.

A weekend to remember. A Memorial day weekend spent enjoying some of the freedoms we are so accustomed to, the freedom to travel and to explore and make memories out on the open road. Some of our freedoms for which some gave all.

There are many ways to remember and thank those who sacrificed their lives, so we may continue to enjoy our liberties. My way was to go out and explore and enjoy the sights, the sounds and the beauty of the countryside and the love and company of my family and friends. Maybe those who gave their lives for us, would want us to honor their memories by living our lives doing what we love to do.

I had a very late start on Saturday morning, but for a very good reason. I had spent over a couple of hours on skype with my parents and my sister. We hadn't had a chance to sit down for a virtual visit for a few weeks, so it was great to 'see' them and catch up! After our talk I geared up and headed south towards Mokelumne Hill, where I was meeting my friend Tyler and her motorcycle group for lunch. 

On the way I stopped to take a picture of this barn next to the gnarly old Oak tree..

Sunday, May 19, 2013

In Good Company in Creston.

This is probably my shortest blog post .. yet, of a long day in the saddle. It wasn't a stop to smell the flowers (almost none left here inland, just dried up golden stalks) type of ride. I had a lot of ground to cover this day approx. 500 miles a lot of it back road country. The only stop was in Creston to see my buddy Don and his better half for lunch. I had a great time visiting with both and it was good to see them both after what has been quite a long time. Both very good people!

The Loading Chute. Not the only game in town for a bar and a grill, well just one of the only two - but definitely the best ;-)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Scouting the Guardians of the Valley - Yosemite.

So, I bought an annual National Parks Pass. Good for entry to all National Parks for an entire year for up to two motorcycles! I want this to be a year of the National Parks - starting with this weekend trip to scout the 'Guardians of the Valley' in Yosemite. I have rode across Hwy 120 (Tioga Pass) a few times before, but I never ventured into the Valley floor. Something about madding crowds always puts me off and keeps me as far away as I can muster, but the desire to see the grandeur up close was too strong and I finally relented. 

The trick was to pick the right time of the year to visit - late enough in the Spring to have enough snow melt to give life to the waterfalls, and early enough in the Spring to avoid the stampede which ensues, especially when the kids get out of school.

This April has been warmer than any I remember in the recent past, dryer too - lots of melting snow and clear roads! All signs were pointing to the last weekend in April as the time to strike.

The goal as I hinted earlier, being to scout the various vista points and points of interests and best time of day to view and capture, for repeated forays into the park over the next year, except maybe the summer "it's a zoo" months.

On an early Saturday morning, I met my friend Mike, who had also expressed an interest in a stop to take pictures and let the view sink in kind of a riding weekend. We decided on an IHOP in Folsom (This one) for a quick and simple breakfast before we set off. The day was warm, bright and clear, the scouting incursion was a go ... little did we know as we rode south ... the guardians knew we were coming ... and we had been poisoned ... :(

We stayed off the heavily patrolled Hwy 49 and stuck to back roads, not that it did us much good. We counted 1 CHP, and about 4 Sherriff's vehicles along our route. Only CHP had his radar on. Luckily no one stopped us to sell tickets to the patrolman's ball.

It was already over an hour past noon. Ticket seller presence and lunch in Groveland had slowed us down. When we finally reached the valley floor, we headed straight for Bridal Veil Falls.

An easy, relatively flat hike led us towards the base of the falls. I stopped at a couple of points along the way to photograph the "Pohono" effect. When the wind picks up, it lifts up the falling water at the top of the falls and swirls it around in the air..

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Small Flake of Gold Country.

Just a small dose of two wheel therapy I took after work one day. A quick run to Coloma in the Sierra Foothills, to the Marshall Gold Discovery Site, where a man named ... James W. Marshall discovered flakes of shiny gold at the Saw Mill he was building on the South Fork of the American River in 1848.

This discovery ushered one of the most colossal migration of people in the Western Hemisphere known to historians. A promise of wealth and fortune which flared the dramatic and explosive growth and development of the American West in the following decades.

For me today, it was a brisk run on Salmon Falls Road - no traffic on a late week day afternoon. There used to be a time many years ago, when I loved Salmon Falls as a great motorcycling road right outside my doorstep. Over the years there have been quite a few McMansions springing up on Salmon Falls, with blind driveways and gravel driveways, which introduce risk from hidden vehicles entering the roadway or vehicles dragging gravel on to the road. So, while it still is a good curvy road, it is no longer a great motorcycling road, but rather just an OK road to get to the great motorcycling roads in the Sierra Foothills.   

As I passed the Salmon Falls Bridge, I spied Lupine covering the hillsides on either side of the bridge. The early warm weather and snow melt has this fork of the American River flowing pretty good already. The water level is rising fast. When I approached the water after taking the shot below, I found rows of Lupine submerged by the rising water line. It was a very pretty sight, more so than my shoddy picture could capture.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Life is blooming ..

It is the season, and it is in full bloom and that applies to the riding season as well. It has been blossoming for a few weeks now, not entirely uncharacteristic for the bipolar winters that we have been having in California, for the past couple of years or so. Not that I do not ride in the winters. I ride year around, a luxury we get to enjoy and pay through our noses for to do so. My winter riding started slow and late this year, only two rides in February, and then this one to witness the flourishing of Spring in the foothills. I have to get out there more often, even if I don't write about it later. Something has to change, and some things have changed..

"Is that your Steel Horse I see, across the road there?" said the one with chestnut hair, with a long face. 

"It's Aluminum mostly, and plastic."  I replied.

"My owner has one of those contraptions." came the reply. "He is quite obsessed with it, seldom rides me anymore.."

"Funny, you should say that." I said. "You should talk to Big Blue across the road there, she says the same thing, the latter part. I tell her give it time, the year is young, things will change!"

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Valentine's on two wheels.

What's a single guy to do? Well, let me rephrase that question. What's a single guy, whose bike is broken, to do? That's correct, fix his bike! Women will leave you, yes, even the good ones, but a man's motorcycle is forever (or can be repaired, improved or replaced, hopefully with something better - somewhat easily!). ;-)

So, what's a single guy to do, but to relearn, reacquaint and rekindle the romance and the passion which rises, when astride 1298 cc's of raw, sonorous power for hundreds upon hundreds of gorgeous miles!

This year, Valentine's day was to be for me a celebration of some of my loves. Motorcycling, photography and photography while motorcycling, among a few other things. It was only mid February, in the dead of Winter, but the weather gods had changed their mind and decided to let Spring in, if only for a few days. No better day and no better weather to be on (you guessed it) the California coast at Big Sur.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A 'Crappy' Ride Report.

Riding a bike is like learning to swim, they say. So they say, you never forget, but you do get a bit rusty. It had been over 4-1/2 months, notwithstanding the hour-long ride the week before to gently probe the extent of the cobwebs.

It was groundhog day, where we look to a rodent to predict the weather, which actually is just as good as any other method that we know of. The forecast was for sunny skies and 67 degrees. As I rolled over to Al's house at a leisurely 9AM, the weatherman was going to prove just as smart at predicting the weather as a rodent. No precipitation,but a chilly morning in the high 40s and the typical Sacramento valley low clouds/fog/smog had yet to burn off. Maybe after breakfast..