“The short way or the long way?”
I looked at my friend Steve, “What’s the difference?”
“The interstate will cut about four hours off the trip. That’s the short way. The other way is up the east side of the park. That takes us up through the high desert and ultimately, through Tioga Pass and Yosemite National Park itself before we get to the hotel. Add a few scenic detours, and we’re talking an all day run.”
I looked at my black and chrome Valkyrie parked next to Steve’s white Goldwing. Both were packed and ready to leave Los Angles and head for Yosemite National Park. Both machines were just screaming to ride. Motorcycles are meant to be in motion.
I pulled my gloves on, mounted my bike and grinned. “The long way, of course!”
The California high desert is an astounding place. Passing just to the west of Death Valley (the lowest elevation in the U.S.) and then climbing thousands of feet above sea level, the road showed us weeping vistas, rugged small towns, and great salt lakes. Huge mountain peaks above us to the west, and desert valleys far below us to the east created views that seemed to go on forever. On several occasions we would round a turn or crest a hill and the view over hundreds of miles of desert would make me gasp. It was a recipe for absolutely intoxicating riding. It was dark when we pulled into the hotel parking lot many hours later. I was surprised to find my hands shaking from exhaustion. It had only seemed like minutes.
We spent the next three days exploring the park and surrounding country from the saddles of our motorcycles. Winding roads, high passes, steep grades—in one case, a published 26%--all kept us moving. Hundreds of miles of curves, granite outcroppings, sheer cliffs, and huge trees kept us looking. Hearty cooking from small town café’s and restaurants kept us nourished.
There is a grove of Sequoia trees here. The largest living things on the planet, they are another sight that is impossible to appreciate in pictures. The scale of these behemoths simply must be experienced to be understood.
Standing there, awed by the towering trees, I burst out laughing as a busload of tourists began unloading in the parking lot. Here, in the shadows of the mammoth grove, they were getting out of the bus and photographing the motorcycles in the parking lot. They hadn’t even noticed the trees. Perception colors experience, and there is a difference in how a place is perceived that is created by how the observer travels there.
Why ride a motorcycle? Why spend hours in the saddle, exposed to the wind and weather, simply to get here? I saw it then. They had caught a plane, boarded a bus, and been dumped in the park. We were in the same place, and I was having the richer experience. The journey is the reward.
The View from Yosemite Valley
All too soon my time in California came to an end. It was time for Steve and I to part ways. He needed to head home to Los Angles, and it was time for me to start finding my way back to Dallas. As we shook hands outside the hotel, preparing for our departure, he looked at me and asked, “The short way or the long way.”
I thought about the land between here and home. Hmmm, I’ve not seen Death Valley yet, and the Mojave Desert is just around the corner. Once more through Yosemite would be a welcome distraction too. Maybe I could squeeze all that in a day or so. Of course, time was running out, I had to be back at work soon. The long way now might mean a long, fast, and hard run the rest of the way home.
Ah well. The journey is the reward. I grinned and grasped his hand. “The long way of course!”
I’ll see you on the road.
My Blog Entry:
All I can say is "Wow!"
1200 miles of twisties in 4 days, and that doesn't count the Los Angles freeway system!
Twisting and turning in Yosemite National Park
Left Los Angles Thursday morning for Yosemite National Park. My friend and host Steve took me up the "back way"...an extra couple hundred miles...but well worth it for the 350 mile romp through the high desert, and then the climb into the pass in Yosemite (I'll post pass names later...my brain is a bit fried).
We spent all day Thursday, Friday, and Saturday banging through and around Yosemite. Amazing roads there, and gorgeous mountains. Oh yeah, of course, there are the BIG trees too. Unbelievable! (I'm pretty sure that particular forest is actually part of Texas...things are only supposed to be bigger in Texas!).
A personal note: TKAT...I'm not gonna make it over! Thought I could, but I've broken some stuff (and fixed some stuff) and damaged some other stuff...and now I've got a front tire acting up. Ah well...the fun of motorcycle trips. I'm only 1200 miles away from home or so...(she'll make it).
Today...that's TODAY alone...I ran through Yosemite (and the pass), and then through Death Valley. I have some strong impressions of both, but those will have to be written up later. From 9950 feet to 282 feet BELOW sea level in just a few hours. Temperatures ranged from about 44 degrees at the summit in the morning, to 114 in Death Valley this afternoon.
So, basically, I'm fried....oh, and I turned down the girl the motel room came equipped with (gotta love cheap motels) so I'm intensly lonely too.
Of course...I'm still thinking about the ride tomorrow...where's that map?
And a blog post from the next morning:
I am eastbound.
Oh, and I can't get that damn "Smokey and the Bandit" theme-song out of my head.
Eastbound and down, rolling up and trucking...we're gonna do what they say can't be done....
Heh heh...there. Now it's stuck in your head too.
Index Introduction Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Afterword