Wasn’t sure where I was heading today other than up Highway 395. I had two days to get near Roseville near Sacramento for a talk at a moto shop. Al had recommended a ride up to Mammoth Lake and I wanted to check out Mono Lake which I’d read about recently in Mark Twain’s Roughing It.
First I needed to find a new o-ring for the Leaking Containment fuel bladder, or better still a regular red plastic fuel can. I’ve lost faith in the LC. It’s definitely the answer for occasional use, but not every bleeding day! I was getting tired of petrol splash. A rigid can may be more bulky but will be easier to lash down securely. Anyway, a guy at a tranny shop in Bishop gave me a seal and up the road a couple of Subways would placate the day’s appetite.
Just after I’d left Big Pine I remembered to deploy Plan B – untape the extra holes drilled into the air box to lean out the mixture. My immediate impression was a bit more induction growl and perhaps it was running better – hard to tell for sure as you always think that with more noise. But out of Bishop on the long climb from 4000 to over 8000 feet the L was indeed trucking along and headwinds notwithstanding, was touching 70 on the downgrades (all speeds are true, read off the Trail Tech not the under-reading Honda speedo).
By the time I got to Mammoth town I had some power loss but I’ll accept that – I wasn’t feeling so sprightly myself. Mpg at the servo clocked in at 58US or 70UK – that will do nicely. The snow barrier was only a couple of miles on at around 8500′ and to me was just your regular alpine scenery – pretty enough but nothing very Yosemite on this side at least. I swung back down to the 395 and continued north sitting at around 7000′, snuggly wired in to my Aero Kanestu vest. Where yesterday I could barely crack 40 now it was pulling up to 65.
Mono Lake was an eerie spot, if for no other reason than the wind had dropped out of sight. The strange tufa columns exposed after LA’s water department drained half the lake in the 1940s added to the ambience. I’m sure the Owens Valley was mentioned in Chinatown, set in that era just as LA started booming.
That’s the great thing about riding around the US of A; from The High Chaparral to Breaking Bad I’m as steeped in modern US cultural iconography as the rest of the world. It’s not unusual to find a place that’s in a movie, a TV series or mentioned in a great song. The fabulous theme from Chinatown itself is surely in that category.
Al had suggested I swing out to Bodie ghost town but I wasn’t sure of the fuel situation, having given my bladder a day off. Plus I don’t think I’ll be short of ghost town action on this ride. Instead, I filled up in Bridgeport where mpg was still a promising 58 and where they advised I head another 40 miles plus two feet over the border to Lake Topaz Casino, NV, if I wanted cheap lodging. I set the satnav but a few miles up the road a dirt track heading in the right direction caught my eye. Shall I, shan’t I, it’s getting late, WTH, let’s do it – satnav suggests it’s only an 8-mile detour.
There’s got to be a name for the sort of dirt you get up here in the high pine country – a kind of sandy loam that agrees very nicely with the L’s tyres. Soon I passed a parked up MAN overland truck – Germans to be sure saving a penny and having an adventure. Then up ahead I came to a flat grassy clearing and wondered should I camp – this nightly moteling is getting expensive after all. The place was on a pass, exposed and with little cover from the wind, but dry and with some firewood. I dithered and looked for a sheltered spot but then checked the satnav again: 8034′ – I don’t think so. It will freeze for sure and with only my flysheet for a tent I’d spend the night huddled against the chill. It will warm up somewhere sometime soon.
Down the far side of the pass there were still patches of snow and muddy ruts to navigate. I came across an even more idyllic pitch at only 6500′ plus tree shelter and snow to melt (above). And like the other place, there was not a speck of rubbish. Well it’s good to know these places are out here.
I carried on downhill through more mud and snow and rock falls and had a mini panic when at 8 miles it was another few miles of dirt. But round the ridge and riding along the top, down below I could see the road to Topaz that I was cutting around.
Pleased with my late afternoon adventure, I pulled into the casino which was no real bargain at $70. Plus it felt like the sort of place I’d want to take all the luggage indoors.
Next day I chose to forsake the Chevron and take off up over US89 towards Lake Tahoe, but soon regretted it when the two villages up the road weren’t serving fuel. Let’s see if the satnav can help. “7-11, Gardnerville Ranchos, 12.3 miles”. So it was, plus a quick snack and then over the windy pass into Lake Tahoe’s pine-rimmed bowl where the air was sharp enough to slice week-old tomatoes and the scenery redolent of a Redwood Creek poster.
I pootled round the east shore, past glittering Emerald Bay, ending up at a mate’s cabin out of Truckee, scoring a record 73US or 88mpg on the mpg-o-metre. Opened out airbox holes have fixed the mpg and power. Now I have to fix the air box holes.
Before I had a chance to do that, Christian insisted we go out for a burn up in the woods, him on his 950 Adventure. OK then. Unhitch the bags and off we go – me soon eating dust spun off his TKC as wide as my head. As before on the dirt, the Honda’s wide gearing was exposed and so was the harshness of my jacked-up rear shock (see this). Still, I’m not complaining – the bike is as light as a feather and the preload is keeping the loaded bike level. Too hard is better than too soft. Plus I’d just read on Thumper Talk that Hyperpro in the Netherlands have brought out a fully adjustable shock for the CRF (unlike Race Tech’s basic unit). So it’s there if I want it.
The little L was being hung out to dry by the KTM, but that 950 has got to be running five times the horsepower with only half as much weight and top-of-the-range suspension. A decent shock would sure improve CRF-L dirt riding at this sort of pace, but it wasn’t all bad; I was lucky enough to have a few days’ house sitting for Christian – a chance to reorganise and sort out that fuelling once and for all.