Getting out of Laguna Seca was no problem. And I actually love the route they send the motorcycles. You get a great tour of the now defunct artillery range that surrounds the track. Laguna Seca was part of Fort Ord. The road out is long and winding, a little gravelly so Sean kept nailing me with rocks that shot out of the tread of his rear tire and ricocheted off my helmet and jacket like bullets. This only added to the artillery range experience. But it really is a nice ride and you're usually in the midst of hundreds of motos just cruising out to the highway. It's all low shrubs, a couple out buildings falling into disrepair, warning signs to keep out for fear of unexploded ordinance or alien autopsies being performed. Last year we rode into the races this way and out the front gate. This year the reverse.
As we got onto the highway and down the road just a mile or so, the first bad, awful, stomach sinking thing. We were entering this long, slow curve, the whole distance of which you can see, and up ahead we saw a bunch of bikes pulled over and a car or two. There was debris in the road. At the same time I can hear something ticking from Sean's bike. He was looking back at me to see if I could see what was happening. I was thinking it was just a rock stuck in the tire treads slapping against his hugger, but I was also getting that sinking feeling as we were getting closer to the mess in the road. Something was wrong. And my "something is wrong" feeling got translated to Sean's tire so then I started thinking that we were going to find a massive nail and that our journey home was about to get really ugly.
We finally reached what we're seeing is a wreck and Sean pulled off behind all the other bikes taking the opportunity to find out what was happening with his tire. I pulled off behind him, but Rob, being in the lead, failed to see this and went through the scene, directed by one of the stopped bikers. I pulled up right next to Sean and could see the piece of gravel stuck to his tire merely with tar. I leaned down and wiped it off and that was all that was wrong there. We pulled back onto the road and the devastation became pretty clear when we started to ride through the accident. We were avoiding bits of fairing and bike and actually a biker splayed very unnaturally across the road, her legs at wrong angles. There was a field on one side of the road and not really any shoulder. Another rider was face down on that side of the road, his torso on the narrow shoulder and his legs down the small hill into the field. Another rider, not involved in the accident, was down next to this guy's helmet, talking to him, telling him not to move etc. With everything else running through my head it was then that I realized that this must have happened moments ago. There were no police or fire or paramedics even on the scene yet. In total, there were three bikes strewn across the highway, all kinds of parts and four people. I only got a good look at the two I mentioned. That was enough, and I was also trying to navigate through this mess. I know as we were passing it, I wasn't thinking that anyone was seriously injured. I mean, in retrospect and with the information that Sean found about the accident when we got home, yeah, the one girl on the road did not look good. But when we were there I was just thinking, "Uhg, what a wreck. People are stopped and helping. Everything should be fine." Now I wonder should we have stopped too? Not that I have any talents that would have helped the situation, but don't you always wonder that?
Rob had pulled off on the other side of the accident and looked like he had his phone out and was about to text us when we pulled in behind him. We got going again. We did eventually get all the way back to the front gate where we hit the traffic coming out from that side. Little snippets of conversation through the fat padding of our helmets and the rumble of the exhausts.
"Looked like four bikes down," Rob said.
"What?" I said.
"Looked like four bikes involved," he said again.
"Yeah," I said.
It is very easy to get contemplative on a motorcycle. Even when you're sitting right next to a friend, the noise and helmets really make communication tough, so not talking to your friends is socially acceptable in that situation. And if you aren't talking, you're thinking. And we were all thinking about what we just saw. I know I was.
The sun was warm, we were sitting on our rumbling bikes waiting for the CHP officer to wave our line of vehicles through the intersection, the smell of grass from the sides of the road and every few seconds a nose full of exhaust when the wind would change. This and the adrenaline from the races wearing off, it made me sleepy, dreamy even. Things looked purple in the afternoon light and then an emergency vehicle would scream by. I thought about the people folded across the road, pieces of metal and plastic... Then they got us moving again.
The ride toward the coast and the hotel got foggier and foggier. By the time we got back I was pretty wiped. We looked at the photos I took on Rob's iPad and he said he was probably going to go back to San Francisco that night. If someone was going, I was going too. Sean was talking about staying another night, which I probably would have if Rob hadn't said that. So we all decided to leave. Rob went over to his uncle's house to collect the rest of his stuff and Sean and I passed the eff out at the hotel. Luckily my annoying text message alert is just that. Sean heard it, I was gone. I think he said he had to shake me awake.
Right away, on Highway 1, there was massive traffic. This is where being on a moto is glorious. Well, actually is sucked until Rob finally got the hint that we wanted to lane split to get the hell out of there. It was pretty dark by this time, but not full night. The fog above was keeping it cold and darker than it should have been. We took 1 to 156 to 101 battling traffic pretty much the whole way. The cool thing, being that it was mostly moto-riders-in-cars kind of traffic, they would pull over to make the lane splitting easier. I was trying to wave thanks to everyone who did. I love them. I really do.
At some point on 156 I think, the traffic thinned out and sped up. I was pretty much thinking that we didn't need to lane split anymore. Rob and Sean, not so much. I kept up with them until we got on 101 and I felt comfortable that I knew where I was going, but I was done weaving between speeding cars. It was also right about when we hit 101, somewhere way below Gilroy, that I realized my ass was killing me. And not just killing me, but oh sweet jesus imma die if I don't get off this em effing moto soon kind of pain. I was standing on the footpegs every few minutes, stetching one leg out in front of me, then the other... This helped for a couple minutes until the pain crept back up my hammies. It was also around here that I noticed the edge of the fog. Beautiful, dark, dark blue, clear sky in front of me and black sky behind. It was actually amazing, especially when I got a little farther inland and the fattest full moon was creeping up behind me. That made me a little more comfortable. I'm a big moon lover. It's nice when it's full and following you along, keeping its eye on you.
It's then that I started to tick off the cities... "Oh man, get me to Gilroy. Oh, okay, there's Gilroy exits. Okay, get me to San Jose... Jees, where the hell is San Jose? Seriously? Oh, okay, San Jose exits. Now gimme some Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto... Wait, I'm still in San Jose? I haven't even reached the airport? Oh what the hell? How big is San Jose? Oh thank god, Great America!" I literally kept that monologue running through my head the whole way up the peninsula. It could have been worse. I could have had "Oh Sherry" by Steve Perry stuck in my head. Not that I don't like that song, but I only know so many lyrics. And if that's the case, they just keep getting repeated and repeated, "You should ah been gone, knowing how I made you feel. You should ah been gone, after all it was a steal?" What does he sing there? Was a steal? That can't be it... and then I go back to singing, "Oh Sherry, our love, holds on, holds on, oh sherry. Oh Sherry, etc., etc."
You have no idea how awesome it was to peel my legs off the seat and hobble into my little apartment. Oh man, I never loved home as much.
I thought I should post the link Sean sent me after we got home concerning the accident. Click here.
We woke up around 6-ish basically so I could get to will-call and do all the crap I needed to do to get my forgotten ticket. It was a good idea to go early. There were no lines for anything and I got the stuff done that I needed to do quickly. Finding the ticket office in the bowl full of fog was a little difficult, but when it all came down to it, I was only parked 3 or 4 bikes down the line from Rob and Sean (meaning they were only a few minutes faster getting to parking). Sean and I used the Jesus Freak Helmet and Jacket check to store our stuff for the duration of the day. It's actually a great thing they do and if it takes Jesus to help them to do it, well... amen.
The aforementioned fog was tight around us and I thought it would end up being a pretty funny day if it stayed like this all through the races. Everyone watching would have to be pressed up against the fences to see anything. Yes, I posted this photo before, just a reminder.
Ducati Island in the fog
We walked around in the fog, looked at the moto schwag (Rob bought some nice new Alpine Stars gloves), ate Frog Dogs (basically a hot dog stuffed, pornographically, into a baguette), and took photos of the cool bikes, etc. Before we knew it, the AMA Sport bikes were taking their sighting and warm-up lap. Their morning warm-up was cancelled because of the fog, so we saw some tentative laps and some dainty runs through the corkscrew. Danny Eslick looks like he hasn't found the correct line here:
Once they got going, it was a really good race with Martin Cardinas winning after Ben Fong crashed out. The leader crashing out seemed to be the theme for the day.
Sport Bike race-winner Martin Cardinas on the 36 bike. Points leader Josh Herrin is directly behind him.
After the race we walked around some more and the sun started to come out. Luckily, Rob brought some sun block or this pink boy would have fried. As it goes, sitting in the sun all day, makes me feel sick. I kept looking for shade, probably being a whiney bitch about it, but uhg... California sun is brutal. You don't realize it because the temperature is so pleasant, small breezes keeping you cool, the sky so blue and cloudless (after the fog burns off) that it will disorient you if you stare into it too long. It was one of those days. Finally we climbed back up to the top of the corkscrew to watch the beginning of the MotoGP race. I was glad to see the AMA races, but I was hoping to see the 125's and Moto 2 from the MotoGP circuit. I had no idea they have a break while the big boys keep racing. I'll just have to make it to Catalunya next year. Who's going? We can watch Isle of Mann as well. Coverage for the Isle of Mann TT starts on August 23rd on HD Theater, by the way. Can't wait.
The race was a good one with Lorenzo winning. The Americans didn't make much noise except for Ben Spies right in the beginning of the race. He does seem to always start well, but then starts getting shuffled back. Maybe he'll get a few more podiums in the second half of the season.
I may be a bit motorcycled-out for the week, although yesterday I did go up in the twists. Still the most fun thing I'm doing right now. I had no traffic in front of me from San Gregorio General Store all the way back up to Alice's on 84 e. There is nothing better than that. Right at the top, where you can see the curves and the banked road laid out in front of you like all your favorite foods laid out on a table... It's a feast of fun. And watching those guys diving into the Corkscrew and riding the edges of their tires through those curves was amazing. I need leathers and a day at the track. Looks so fun.
Okay, next post will be about something other than motos. Can't promise anything about the one after that though.
We rode over to Seaside to meet Rob at his high school home and then head to Cannery Row from there. I'm usually pretty good with directions and Google Maps. I had a spaz moment as I missed one turn and then couldn't figure out which way we were facing on the iPhone map. Rob, a 3gs veteran told us about double tapping the little locate me gps thingy to get the map to turn with the compass later. Sean figured it out this time and the 3 SV's were reunited again to head over to Cannery Row.
I won't say I was disappointed with the Cannery Row scene... wait. Yes, I will. That notion,even now that I ride a motorcycle, that I don't really like people who ride motorcycles, reared its head again. Why do moto riders... OH WAIT! Digression. I forgot. I also decided this weekend that I was going to refer to myself and anyone controlling a motorcycle as a motorcycle pilot. Rider sounds like you're not doing anything, just letting the moto do the work. This is true for anyone riding passenger, but the person driving? Definitely a pilot. Correct me if you hear me referring to motorcycle pilots any other way.
So, I don't really like motorcycle pilots. Most come across douchey. And the Cruisers and Sport Bike pilots are douchey in different ways, but they're still douchey. Which is odd because when I watch interviews with pro pilots, they seem so friendly and calm and collected. Even the fastest guy in the world, Jorge Lorenzo, comes across as a nice guy on twitter (@lorenzo99) and Rossi, last year's MotoGP Champion, seems like a fun and funny guy. Why do moto guys (moto girls do not have this problem) come across as pills?
This attitude spilled all over Cannery Row when the "rev your loud Harley pipes as loud as you can" contest started up. Retarded. Here are a few more of the photos from that night. A few of the bikes were pretty cool and/or funny. The pumpkin head bike was a good one.
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I took this in Watsonville with my iPhone when we stopped for gas. I'm not sure why, but it is the only photo from the drive down.
So we got down there around... I already forget. One, maybe two pm? Rob came over to the hotel to meet us and hook us up with the key to his uncle's room. I'm still in debt to Rob's uncle for that. Such a last minute save as we were unsure where we were going to stay. While waiting in the parking lot a man walks up to Sean and I and asks, "Hey, can you help me pick up my bike? I just dropped it off the back of my truck." Oh man, an awesome Moto Guzzi bounced on the ground. Given the circumstances, this guy's bike remained pretty amazingly intact. The front windshield and fairing were a bit smashed, the tail section scraped up a bit, but all the vital parts looked great. We decided it was the kickstand that saved the engine from a beating. After picking it up (and drenching my hand in the gas that was leaking from the tank), bashing some of the parts back into place, he hopped on and started it right up. He even rode it a bit. Pretty lucky for such an unlucky thing to happen.
It was at Denny's later, while we were eating lunch that I had the horrid realization that I forgot my ticket... Yes, I forgot my ticket. Shut up, you've done stupid things too. After a few phone calls back up to the Bay Area, and some attempts at organizing friends who were coming down here (Justin) to meet up with room mates who have access to the tickets (Jeff), I saw that that wasn't going to work. I called the ticket office with my fingers crossed. To make a long story short, it was relatively easy to get it all together and get my ticket, parking pass and paddock pass and enjoy the races.
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Where did I leave off? Oh yeah. Just got my moto license and bought my bike. A side note, The Motorcycle Rider Safety Course is a huge recommendation from me. Apart from my aforementioned rider experiences, I had never piloted a motorcycle in my life until I took the course. They really gave me the perfect mix of confidence and fear to get excited about getting a bike and riding, but riding safely. I said I would be riding like and old man and for the first few months, I definitely did. By most standards, I still do.
I clearly remember our first little group ride up to Alice's for breakfast. Alex was up front with Kate on the back of Alex's Dad's GSXR, Rob was behind him on his SV, then Sean, Me, and Ally was the safety guy at the back. Sean and I were nice and protected in the middle of the pack. I remember seeing the speed limit posted at 50 and me thinking, "They're fucking crazy if they think I'm going 50 down this twisty, bumpy road." Alex and Rob took off on Skyline when we were closing in on Alice's. I was busy pissing my pants hoping that Ally could somehow catch me when I went flying into oblivion off this crazy machine. It's bizarre how much I've come to love those roads.
Okay, some photos from the other day and some explanation.
I think the first thing I did to the bike was to eliminate the rear fender and change out the taillight and rear turn signals, to an integrated tail light from Clear Alternatives. I got the blue lens to match the bike and I think it looks pretty cool when the bike is turned off. The light goes red when the bike is on, of course. And I know the changes I did don't make the bike look so crazy different from the day I got it with almost all stock parts still on it even though it had gone through 3 owners before it got to me, but I'm all about the subtle differences. The tail light is one of my favorites because people are like, wait... what? That thing is blue. Here is a close up:
I believe the next thing I did was change out the headlight to a pair of Dominator headlights, but this was a short lived mod. I didn't like the look with my instrument cluster AND I was clueless on what to do with all the extra wire that was stuffed into the original head light housing. Tried a hobby box from Radio Shack, but it just looked crap:
I just realized while looking at that photo that I had put my bar end mirrors on there as well by this time. With the lights on, it doesn't look too bad, but I couldn't handle that hobby box hanging down like a scrote. Nasty.
The next project was the exhaust. I bought the Stubby Delkevic. So did Rob. Still love this decision. It's just loud enough for me. It's not Harley, filling-rattlingly annoying. It's throaty and just loud enough so cars at least take a bit of a second look... At least that's what I'm telling myself. Maybe you need those crazy Harley pipes to be heard on the freeway. I don't know. I just know that I love the look and sound of this crazy inexpensive exhaust.
I think the last things I did were the handlebars, the Type 1's from Suburban Machinery, and the front turn signals, cheapy something somethings from some online place.
With that last picture you're seeing one of the parts of my bike I'm less happy about, the rusty fork thing. There are a couple things on my bike I'd like to fix up, but I have no idea how. I tell myself these spots give the bike character, and in some places they do, but I'd rather change them than have more character. Here are some photos of the spots that I'm not very happy about. Any suggestions are much appreciated.
And a couple parts of my bike that I really like. The first one is the yellow spring. I have no idea why I like this so much. Has something to do with that little blast of yellow deep inside the bike. Just a cool flash of another color. I know I like it enough that every time I wash my bike I try to get more and more of the grease that has collected over the years, off that spring.
I remember the color of the bike being a huge stipulation for me when I was shopping Craig's List. I told Sean that it had to be blue or black. I'm glad I went blue. Okay, this is big enough for tonight. If you got through it, I'm impressed. You must like motorcycles and seeing what people do to them. There will be more to this Big, Fat Moto Post. As I said, MotoGP this weekend!!! You have no idea how excited I am about this this year. So much more into it than last year. I'm also ready for someone to buy me full leathers so I can ride Laguna Seca... or any freakin track. You can only go so fast through the populated roads of the twisties. Soon, I shall drag my knee... Soon.
I bought my bike on September 26th, 2008, I think it was the 26th. I bought it from a guy who lives just on the other side of Golden Gate park in San Francisco. Let me back up a little more...
Most of my life I've had in the back of my head that I wanted to have a motorcycle, or at least know how to ride one. Probably started back when I was nine or ten years old and my brother, nine years older than I am, took me for a ride on his motorcycle:
I've talked about that ride before and posted about my brother riding his moto in an earlier post titled Motorcycle Wave. But I never thought I was either tough enough or cool enough or something enough to learn to ride through high school and college. Then this other thing started to get at me. It still does a little, even though I ride a motorcycle. I don't like people who ride motorcycles. Seems like the guys on Harley's are trying real hard to be... I don't even know, but it wasn't me. And the guys on sport bikes were just pills. That's when I started thinking I need something old or retro or Steve McQueen-esque, the Nazi bike he road in The Great Escape. Of course, now those bikes have become hipster and douchey too. All of this is just me. I like certain aspects of all those bikes. Maybe it was an excuse not to get off my ass and ride...
When I first moved to California and I was working for The Gap, I started in the mail room in the San Bruno offices and another of the guys who went to college (there were 2 of us) had a Ninja. I think this was before helmet laws in California. I moved to CA in 1991 and the law passed in 1992. I just looked it up. He took me for an incredibly fast ride up and down the streets around the office buildings. Even though he warned he was about to pull a wheelie, it both freaked me out and pumped me up. Without the helmet it was both dangerous and fucking awesome.
Still I didn't go get a license or bike.
Fast forward to May-ish of 2008 and my friend Sean bringing it up again. All it takes is a partner in crime, or someone in the same place at the same time and before I knew it I had signed up for the class and in July had a moto license. I knew if I didn't hurry to get a bike soon, I never would. I sold some stock and that takes us back up to where I started this post. [to be continued...]
Sean's camera and better editing skillz:
And the party shot and edited all on the iPhone 4: