Friday, June 30, 2023

Sunset Campground to Calimesa

I woke up and broke down camp. I got everything packed up, drank my coffee, and hit the road around 9:30. I headed out of the park on the Generals Highway.

Shortly after leaving the park, I encountered the first examples of my GPS being on crack. TomTom, what are you doing? TomTom tried to send me on a Forest Service road off the main highway. Normally, I don’t have an issue with Forest Service roads, but as soon as I turned, it looked like an evil dark tunnel out of a horror movie. The road was covered in fallen tree debris, and the road had deep ruts. While this road may have once been passable by most vehicles, it certainly appeared that the previous winter was not good to this road. Not something I was going to do alone.

I got back on the main highway and continued west. A few miles later, TomTom tried to send me on a road that was blocked by several construction trucks. TomTom, what is you doing?

I got back on Highway 245 and took it to Hogback Drive. If it was good the first time, the second time would be twice as nice. I’ll do this road all day. Indeed, it was just as fun the second time around. I continued onto Dry Creek Drive toward Lemon Cove.

In Lemon Cove, I made a quick stop at the old Richfield gas station.

TomTom tried to redeem himself by directing me onto a side road through the farmlands north of Lindsay. The road went through the Yokohl Valley and over a pass between two hills. I soon found myself on Highway 65, heading south. Highway 65 was still boring, but there were a lot less trucks today, so it went a bit faster.

Soon, TomTom struck again with his crackheadedness. As I got to Bakersfield, TomTom had me exit Highway 65 to take some surface streets heading east out of the city. After turning left off the highway, TomTom had me go to the next intersection, make a U-turn, then get back on the highway I had just exited. TomTom then directed me to go one more exit and ride through a part of Bakersfield that looked more like Tijuana. TomTom then sent me through this part of Bakersfield, as I watched the temperature climb to the high-90s, before making a final turn to put me on Highway 58, which I would have gotten to if I had stayed on Highway 65 for a few more exits. I suppose TomTom was looking for his crack dealer.

I took Highway 58 for a few miles, then got off to take a side road into the Tehachapi Pass. Bena Road followed the path of the dry Caliente Creek, and boy was it caliente out there. I watched the air temperature gauge on my bike stay in the high-90s and hit the low-100s a couple times. I needed to stop for water, but there weren’t any shady spots to stop along the road. I thought I would get lucky by stopping under a highway overpass I saw, but there was a creepy guy in a white van parked there. Not today, Chester! I continued on and drank hot water from my backpack in the sun. Bena Road ended and put me back on Highway 58 for a few more miles until I got to Keene. I hopped on Woodford-Tehachapi Road to continue climbing the pass. It was just as fun going in the opposite direction.

A short distance from the Tehachapi Loop, I spotted a train going toward it. I didn’t want to miss it, so I gave the old wrist a twist and beat the train to the top. Seeing the train coil over itself was a cool sight.

I stopped in Tehachapi to top off the gas tank and to get some lunch in someplace with air conditioning. It was 95 degrees when I parked (in the shade) at the Burger Spot (since 1956!). I dropped my jacket on a seat and ordered a Western bacon cheeseburger and a big soda. I was hurting all over from the trip, and the heat was sapping my energy. I had planned a night near Wrightwood, but the thought of a nice shower, a dip in the hot tub, and night in my own bed overpowered the desire for another night of camping. I decided it was the same amount of time to get home, so I chose to head there.

From Tehachapi, I took Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road south through the Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm. The farm is home to more than 3,000 wind turbines and was one of the first large-scale wind farms in the United States. In total, the giant turbines in the pass generate more than 700 megawatts of electricity for the state.

When I got to Palmdale, it was up to 108 degrees. I stopped for a Gatorade and a cool-off in the shade at a gas station, then continued the push for home. It was about 3 p.m., and the Friday afternoon traffic was already starting to pick up. Traffic came to a standstill near Little Rock, and the mercury had risen to 110. For my own safety, mostly to prevent spontaneous combustion (or maybe to prevent heatstroke), I took to the shoulder and rode to the front of the line as fast as I could.

Pretty much what it felt like between Palmdale and Phelan. (Image: Gunshow Comics)

Each time traffic slowed, I did what I could to keep air moving over me to keep me cooler. Traffic stopped again in Phelan, where the temperature was 114 degrees! After feeling like a pot roast in the oven, I finally reached Interstate 15. There was some traffic on the freeway, as is always the case, but not so much that it was slow going.

I ditched the freeway and the holiday traffic in Highland and took the back roads home. I got home around 4:45 p.m., parked the bike, dropped my jacket, and walked directly to my shower. Now, I felt like a million bucks with another adventure in the books.

Miles: 297
Total Trip Miles: 678

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Tooling Around Sequoia National Park

I got up, had my coffee and breakfast, and got on the road around 8:30 a.m. Rather than move onto another place, I booked two nights at the campground and would just ride around the park to see the sights.

I hopped on the Generals Highway toward Sequoia National Park. The road was in great condition, despite the previous harsh winter, and wound its way along cliffs, through the conifer forests, and grassy meadows. There was no traffic to worry about either!

I spied a waterfall going down what looked like a giant granite waterslide, so I made a quick U-turn to look at it.  Cabin Creek falls were flowing heavily, and the falls’ water flowed under a large stone bridge down the granite waterslide.

I stopped at the parking lot for the General Sherman tree, the largest tree in the world by volume. The parking area is at an elevation 212 feet above the tree’s base. The tree happens to be 275 tall, so you park almost at the tree’s top. The trail then winds its way down to the tree’s base with signs along the way pointing out where you are on the tree’s trunk. Getting to the tree’s base, you realize just how massive it is! The tree is 36 feet in diameter, or more than 113 feet around. The Coast Redwoods (sequoia sempervirens) in Northern California are huge, but they’re not as chunky as this particular Giant Sequoia (sequoiadendron giganteum). The hike back up to the parking area was steep and took some time. The National Park Service was kind enough to place benches along the way for visitors to take a breath.

I continued down the Generals Highway and pulled off just south of the Giant Forest and visited the Tunnel Log. The Tunnel Log is a famous fallen sequoia that had a tunnel carved through it. Surprisingly, unlike the drive-through Redwood trees up north, there was no line of cars waiting to go through the log. I had plenty of time to park the bike and snap some pictures of it “inside” the tree.

Near Tunnel Log was another fallen giant, the Buttress Tree. The Buttress Tree fell in the 1950s and its root complex was exposed next to the road. The 20-foot-tall root complex of the tree dwarfed my bike.

I parked at the parking lot for Moro Rock and changed out of my riding gear for the hike to the top. Moro Rock is an exposed granite dome that protrudes 245 feet above the surrounding land. The trail to the top is 800 feet long and has 350 steps. Once I reached the top, there was a vast panorama of the surrounding area – the snowcapped high Sierras to the east, and the Kaweah River Valley and far-off Central Valley to the west. The path is tight and narrow, with steep drops along both sides, but the views were worth it.

Back on the Generals Highway, I got stuck behind a Toyota pickup towing a camp trailer, and he was stuck behind a slow-moving van from Missouri. The van driver didn’t get the hint for several miles, doing 10 miles per hour under the speed limit. When he finally wised up, the Toyota took off, and so did I. Thumbs down to you, sir!

I turned off the Generals Highway and got on 10 Mile Road (Forest Route 30) to head toward Hume Lake. The joys of another empty road. The twisty road drops down into a valley toward the lake, dropping nearly 1100 feet. The area around the lake was packed with people for the upcoming holiday weekend and summer camp attendees. Since this was the closest place to get gas, I made sure to top off and pick up some supplies for the night.

Climbing out of the Hume Lake area, I was greeted by amazing views of Kings Canyon to the east. I had to stop a few times to take it in. People hate on California, but it definitely is a beautiful place! Unfortunately, I could not ride into the canyon as the road in was badly damaged over the previous winter and was not scheduled to reopen until 2024.

I arrived back at the Kings Canyon visitor center around 2 p.m. I grabbed lunch, a grilled chicken sandwich that took way too long to get and cooled off.

I got back to my camp around 3:30 and just relaxed. I washed off the sweat with a camp bath of cold water and a washcloth. I didn’t quite feel like a million bucks, but maybe a half million.

I had heard my chain slapping while riding, so I did a little maintenance on the bike and reduced its slack a bit. I took it on a quick loop around the campground and found it to be much better.

I spent the night watching dancing flames in my fire pit and gazing up at the stars.

Total Miles: 85

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Calimesa to Sunset Campground, Kings Canyon National Park

It was a long weekend at work, so it was time for another road trip.

I hit the road around 9:30 a.m. and started north. A holiday weekend was coming up, so I expected a little traffic. Surprisingly, I didn’t run into any – even when climbing the Cajon Pass. Maybe the people of Southern California weren’t headed for Vegas yet. For the end of June, it wasn’t even hot.

Highway 138 was not very exciting, the same as before. Just a straight line between Interstate 15 and Palmdale.

I made a detour in Palmdale to stop at Blackbird Airpark. The park is part of the Air Force’s Flight Test Museum, and is near the Air Force’s Plant 42, where many of the force’s secret planes were built. On display were the Lockheed A-12, SR-71, and U-2 spy planes. A nearby display, which was closed when I was there, had other planes that had a connection to Palmdale and nearby Edwards Air Force Base, like the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft and some of the Century Series fighters.


On my way out of Palmdale, I passed Lockheed’s famous Skunk Works. The Skunk Works is famous for secret projects, and the fence makes note of this, warning passersby that bad things will happen if you jump the fence, and that photography of the area is prohibited. As I rode past, I wondered what kind of cool secret stuff they were working on.

Skunk Works

I headed north on Highway 14 – more straight lines – and made a quick detour to Mojave Air and Space Port. From the road, I could see several of the planes being stored at the airport’s boneyard. The dry desert air is good for the planes, in case they need to be brought back into service.

JAL 777s

China Southern A380s

Highway 14 was very windy being at the base of the Tehachapi Pass. Air from the coast gets funneled through the pass and picks up speed, then once it leaves the pass it spreads out across the desert. I’ve probably mentioned before, but I hate the wind when I’m riding. Normally, I scooch a butt cheek off the bike on the side from where the wind is coming. Today I tried something else that I saw in a video about riding in loose sand, and I’m not sure why I never tried it before because I do it all the time in turns. I looked straight ahead where I wanted the bike to go. Sometimes we forget the simple things, like the connection between the eyes and riding, and when things get difficult, look where you want the bike to go. Suddenly, it was like the wind disappeared.

I turned onto Highway 58 and climbed Tehachapi Pass in the shadow of the many wind turbines. I pulled off in Tehachapi to look for lunch. Just as I had gotten a green light getting off the freeway, a semi blew through its stop light. As I passed, I reminded him he was #1.

I stopped at a little place called Gracian Grill – a little hole in the wall across from the Tehachapi Airport. The décor was straight out of the 70s. There were wooden posts on the dividing partitions, and lots of orange glass and wood paneling. I ordered the California roast beef sandwich. Of course, when you add “California” to anything, that means avocado and/or chiles. The sandwich of sliced roast beef, avocado, cheese, and Ortega chiles on sourdough was ready good. The fries even had seasoning on them. Despite the place being nearly empty, the service was still slow. However, I would still eat there again.

California Roast Beef

I decided it was time to get off the main highway and look for fun roads. I headed out of town on Woodford-Tehachapi Road. The road twisted through the Tehachapi Creek Canyon. The road was delightful. The road followed the railroad through the canyon, and I stopped at an engineering landmark, the Tehachapi Loop. The loop is a big spiral on the railroad that keeps the grade low enough for trains to climb or descent the hill. The spiral is notable that trains that are long enough will cross over themselves as they go through the loop. Despite the plaque saying 36 trains a day come through the loop, I saw none while I was there.

Woodford-Tehachapi Road

I made my way back to Highway 58 at Keene and continued out of the pass toward Bakersfield.

I hopped on Highway 99 for a few miles and stopped for gas in Bakersfield before going north on Highway 65. I won’t bore you with the time on Highway 65 because it was BORING. It was straight as an arrow, and full of slow trucks.

At Lindsay, I got off Highway 65 and headed east on Highway 190, which was much more fun. As I passed through the town of Lemon Cove, I passed several old, abandoned gas stations with classic names such as Richfield (now part of ARCO), and Standard (now known as Chevron in California). I turned west on Highway 246 and took it to Dry Creek Drive (County Road J21).

Dry Creek Drive was amazing. It followed Dry Creek (which was notably not dry), into the Sierra Foothills. There was no traffic going my way, and only a few cars passed me going the other way.

Dry Creek Drive

Near Badger, I turned onto Hogback Drive. This was an amazing road. It climbed up a narrow ridge – not as narrow as another “hogback” I’ve done, Skyline Drive in Colorado – but narrow enough to see down into the valleys on both sides. The twisties were tight, and the road narrow with views of the Sierras off in the distance. This was not a road that was built for speed; I stayed in first and second gear most of the way.

I soon turned onto Highway 245 for the final stretch to the park. Highway 245 was tight and twisty, but faster than Hogback Drive. I made it to the park around 4:30 p.m. Since it was getting “late” for the park, I stopped at the nearby market to see if they were close to closing for the day so I could make sure I could pick up ice, firewood, and dinner. They were going to be open for a few more hours, so I went to set up camp to make more room on my bike.

My neighbor at the campground seemed a bit strange. For some reason, he kept staring at me as he cooked his dinner while I unpacked. After he finished, he just went and sat in his truck. Weird.

I grabbed some dinner and supplies at the store. The wood they sold was very hard to split, so I had to search around for some kindling and tinder. Fortunately, there were a lot of fallen logs with really dry bark that worked well.

I wasn’t able to stake down my tent. The campsite had about a half inch of dirt covering solid granite underneath. No stake would be able to go through that. Fortunately, it was not windy, and the weight of my gear inside would hold the tent down. The solid rock under the tent also made me glad to have a cot to sleep on.

I finished the day sitting by the fire, enjoying a cigar and a brew.

Total Miles: 296

Friday, June 16, 2023

Jalama Beach to Wrightwood

I slept so well last night. The sound of the waves and my new cot that kept me off the ground were a great combination. However, I was awakened around 6 a.m. by the sound of garbage trucks dumping out all the park’s trash cans. The trucks finished their business, and I went back to sleep, waking up around 7:30, this time to the sound of the neighbor’s toddler screaming.

I made my morning coffee, broke down camp, and planned out my day’s route. I got on the road around 9:00.

I hopped back on Highway 1 and took it a few miles to Santa Rosa Road. The road was windy, bumpy, and had terrible pavement. The road took me past many farms, vineyards, and quarries. I even passed a large farm growing either marijuana or hemp – I didn’t stop to check.

I got onto Highway 101 near Buellton and took it to Highway 166, a former offshoot of the famous Highway 66. Highway 166 was a really nice road that wound its way through scenic canyons and the Twitchell Reservoir, which appeared to be more than full.

I entered the Cuyama Valley, and the temperature rose to the 90s. To the north were rugged red mountains with well-defined visible rock layers. As it turned out, I was a mere 10 miles south of the Carrizo Plain, which I had visited a few years ago on my Tour of California.

Mountain road

I made a quick stop for gas in New Cuyama and kept going east before turning onto Hudson Ranch Road, which is laid essentially right on top of the San Andreas. The road entered the Bitter Creek Wildlife Refuge and climbed into the San Emigdio Mountains. I passed views of vast valleys, and amazing red rock formations. There was no traffic on the road, and I was able to move about quickly.


Rock formation

I stopped for lunch in Frazier Park along Interstate 5, then headed south toward Gorman. I crossed over I-5 and hopped onto a former portion of the Ridge Route, the original road that crossed the Tejon Pass between Los Angeles and the central valley.

After a short stretch on Highway 138, I turned onto LA County Road N2. This was an amazing road that twisted through the hills. I passed another blue V-Strom going the opposite direction with a wave and carried on.

It started getting hot near Elizabeth Lake just before I dropped into Palmdale. I ran into afternoon traffic on the streets of Palmdale and the temperature rose to 90. For some reason, the GPS took me on the surface streets through the middle of town, so I was stuck in the old stop-and-go.

Soon I reached the Big Pines Highway and climbed into the San Gabriels. What a great road! The view alternated between the Mojave Desert and the tree-covered mountains as it climbed. As I neared the top, I was greeted by the smell of pine trees.

I reached camp around 4 p.m. Off in the distance, I heard thunder while setting up camp. I quickly set everything up to keep my stuff dry while I went to a nearby store to get some supplies for the night.

Motorcycle at camp

After getting back from the store, I got a little drizzle. I stuck my firewood inside my tent to keep it from getting too wet. I kept checking the radar on my phone to see where the rain was going. Fortunately, it stayed to the east and the skies cleared up.

Wild mustard

From my campsite, I could see puffy clouds in the sky and the Mojave Desert off in the distance.

Trees and sky

Sunset tree

Group of pines


I made a fire but had a hard time keeping it going. I’m not sure if the wood was not completely dry from being stored, or if it was the 7,000-ft altitude. I managed to keep it going by blowing it with my air pad inflator.

After dark, I sat and looked at the thousands of stars in the sky above the trees.

Starry night

Total Miles: 265

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Calimesa to Jalama Beach

It was time for a trip. Alicia had left the previous day for a girls’ trip to Europe, and my mother was willing to watch the boys, so off I was going.

It had been a while since I had heard the ocean, so I reserved a spot at Jalama Beach Campground near Lompoc. Falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves sounded like a great way to spend my days off.

I got a bit of a late start, not hitting the road until around 11 a.m. But the good thing about that was that I would miss the traffic of the morning commute. As I rode away from the ranch, it was still cloudy and cool.

I hopped on I-10, Highway 210, and I-215 to get out of the Inland Empire and on my way. Unfortunately, freeways were a bit of a necessity to go anywhere from here, unless I wanted to add several hours to the trip.

As I got off the Interstate and onto Highway 138 at Cajon Junction, the skies cleared thanks to the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains blocking the marine layer from the high desert.

Shortly after getting onto Highway 138, I made a quick stop at the Mormon Rocks. The rocks are a large outcropping of sandstone called the Cajon Formation. The rocks dip to the north and were pushed up by movement of the adjacent San Andreas Fault. The rocks were a campsite for Mormon settlers heading to the San Bernardino Valley in the 1800s. Today, they are a pretty cool backdrop for trainspotters watching trains climb and descend Cajon Pass.

Highway 138 was pretty boring and straight as I headed west toward the Antelope Valley. Sand, desert scrub, and Joshua trees dotted the landscape all the way to the horizon. As I entered Palmdale, the winds coming off the north side of the San Gabriels got pretty strong, pushing my bike toward the shoulder. I had to take a moment on the side of the road to wait for a lull in the gusts.

Soon, I found myself on Highway 14, the main route between Los Angeles and the Antelope Valley. I had expected to make a turn onto a road that headed toward Elizabeth Lake, but I must have missed it. I pulled off the freeway to figure out where I was and found myself on the Sierra Highway. This was the old highway that the Highway 14 freeway replaced. It was once part of the coast-to-coast US Highway 6, which at one time ran from Long Beach, Calif., to Provincetown, Mass., but has since been truncated to start in Bishop, Calif.

Sierra Highway was a fun detour from the freeway that took me through treelined canyons and past several spots used by Hollywood productions when they need rural scenery. The road soon entered the city of Santa Clarita, where I found myself surrounded by McMansions and shopping centers.

I crossed Interstate 5 just north of Magic Mountain and continued west on Highway 126. The road headed into the valley of the Santa Clara River. Farms lined both sides of the highway. Initially, I was greeted by the scent of cilantro, but soon the scent of the farms changed to a mixture of smells I could only describe as smelling like barbecue seasonings.

At Santa Paula, I turned onto Highway 150 and headed north. This highway was a sweet, twisty route that climbed Santa Paula Ridge into the Upper Ojai Valley. The low clouds of the marine layer were hanging over the ridge, and I got the tiniest bit of drizzle as I entered the Ojai area. It was about time for a lunch stop, so I pulled off at the Summit Drive-in. I ordered the Firehouse #20 burger – covered in jalapenos, pepper jack, and spicy mayo. The fill-up hit the spot.

I continued and Highway 150 dropped into the lower Ojai Valley. Just before dropping, I passed a Ducati rider staring out over the valley below from a vista point. The highway dropped 400 feet in a short distance through a series of tight switchbacks.

After passing Ojai, the highway followed the shore of Lake Casitas and I noticed there was absolutely no other traffic on the road. I had it all to myself. The highway climbed over Casitas Ridge and I got my first glimpse of the Pacific in the distance. The road dropped into Carpinteria and the smell of the ocean air was refreshing.

I made a quick stop for gas and continued pushing north. I ran into some afternoon traffic in Santa Barbara but filtered through with ease.

After passing through the Gaviota Tunnel, I turned onto Highway 1. The final stretch was on Jalama Road, 14 miles of bumpy, narrow, windy, crumbling asphalt that winds over the Santa Ynez Mountains and several large ranches before its final drop to the beach north of Point Concepcion. I rolled into the campground right around 5 p.m.

I quickly set up my tent surrounded by RVs and trailers. I tossed my gear into the tent and hurried to the camp store before it closed for some supplies and dinner before they closed. The Jalama Beach Store was allegedly famous for the Jalama Burger, but I opted for the tri-tip sandwich on garlic bread with some homemade potato salad and seasoned fries.

After eating and setting up my sleeping arrangements inside the tent, I took a stroll on the beach. Surfers were out on the water catching waves and fisherman were lined up on the waterline trying to catch dinner of their own.

I walked around some more and found dozens of velella – a small blue relative of the Portuguese man-o-war – washed up on the beach.

I navigated through the piles of velella and washed-up driftwood and sat along the banks of Jalama Creek, looking up at the railroad trestle above the campground. Amtrak’s Coast Starlight passed by on its way to Lompoc and points north.

I walked back to my campsite and grabbed a cigar and beer. I went back to a bench overlooking the beach and watched the sun set over the surf while listening to the waves.

All proper camping trips need a campfire, and I got mine set up. I finished the night watching the dancing flames.

Total Miles: 259