Day 3: San Simeon – Cupertino: 245 miles
Dr Gil left us on Sunday morning, to head south to the land of señoritas, cerveza, and federales.
The mighty Guzzi rode with Andrew and I for the couple of miles down to Cambria, where we peeled off for gas and the good doctor continued on into the sunset…or, well, the 10am shoreline mists, at any rate.
We were down to just Andrew and I now, as Gary had turned north on Highway 1 to ride directly back to the Bay Area.
Andrew and I were jonesing to hit some nice inland backroads, so I led us east on Highway 46 to Paso Robles (no pics this year, sadly, as it was so foggy that visibility was limited to the slow ass RV in front of us) and then northeast to Parkfield for lunch.
My shoulder was starting to really bug me once we got to Vineyard Canyon Road, so I pulled over at a neat-looking barn to rest, pop some ibuprofen, and take some photos.
I don’t have any idea what causes the nerve damage to flare up on some rides but not on others, but it was really bad on Sunday. My whole arm goes heavy and numb and I have to ride really slowly as the reaction time with my left arm is non-existent. Fortunately, the rest helped and the remainder of Vineyard Canyon Road was without incident.
Andrew was finding shell casings all day, it was a little disconcerting.
We pulled into Parkfield right at lunchtime. The lady at the Parkfield Cafe recognized me (uhoh) and chatted with us about bikes as she brought our nutritious lunches, complete with root beer float for me. When asked about the road condition, she warned us away from riding Parkfield Grade. “We’ve had a half inch of rain,” she said, “I wouldn’t go up there on the bikes.”
Her warning fresh in our ears, we saddled up and headed….to Parkfield Grade. What could possibly go wrong?
The first couple of miles out of Parkfield are paved and easygoing. When the pavement ended we thought, “hey, this isn’t so bad. A little bumpy, but it’s only about 5 miles long. No problem.” We agreed to keep going up the mountain.
Things started to quickly go downhill on our uphill. The bumpy dry mud became more and more damp and soon had morphed completely into bumpy wet mud. There had been enough truck traffic recently to form ruts in the road, but not enough to smooth the mud back down, so we had to ride slowly and take wide sweeping lines in order to hit the ruts perpendicular in the corners.
The road is also pretty heavily cambered towards the inside of turns, so we had to be careful when entering a turn not to go too closely to the cliff wall or the back tire would wash out and get stuck. I only made that mistake once. Thanks again to Andrew who got on my F650GS and used his magical tall person inseam to walk the bike out of that particular mud trap.
Around this time, we noticed that our traction was really not what it once was. My Mefos weren’t a huge improvement over Andrew’s tires when they looked like this:
Just when we thought things couldn’t get any more fun, the bumpy wet mud became flat glassy snotty slick mud. Mmm, wet clay. Nothing like riding up a road that feels like god sneezed all over it.
By this point, Andrew was stopping every 500 yards or so to scrape the mud out from under his front fender with a stick he’d found along the side of the road. He’d scrape out the mud, stow the stick in his gear, ride 500 yards, lather, rinse, repeat. He wound up removing the fender entirely a bit further up the road, which seemed to make a huge difference for him.
For my part, I’d given up trying to “ride” on the snot and was instead paddling the bike as much as I could while going about 7 mph. Any slower and I’d get stuck, but any faster and I’d fishtail all over the place. I couldn’t really stand on the pegs because so much mud had glopped onto my boots that anytime I put my feet on the pegs, they’d slide right off. Scraping mud off the boots lasted for .0001 seconds before the next glop surgically adhered itself. It was really a great time.
So, yeah, it was slow going. We stopped and rested and scraped off mud and went a little farther then stopped and rested and scraped off mud. The weather and views were beautiful, though, and we both did have a lot of fun. Or perhaps that laughter was hysteria. You never know.
Andrew contemplates the remains of the last rider to try Parkfield Grade after the rains:
Miraculously, I stayed up the whole time up the road, but I firmly credit the Beemer and the Mefos instead of any particular skill on my part. Andrew only went down once — amazing, in my opinion, given his street tires — and agreed to let me take a photo after I asked if he was OK.
The STN dualsport pose!
After what seemed like forever but was actually only about 2 hours, we hit the Fresno county line, where Parkfield Grade is paved again. I have never been so happy to see a sign saying “Fresno” in my life.
Look! No mud!
The rest of the ride home was pretty uneventful. The paved section of Parkfield Grade had spectacular scenery as always, and we rode at a spirited pace because, well, we could! Our bikes pooped mud for the rest of the day, which was always fun…I’d come around a corner just as Andrew hit a pothole or something and suddenly there’d be a chunk of mud coming right at me.
In one corner, I saw a little creature run off the road as Andrew passed, so I slowed down, only to find two big badgers on the side of the road! Taking their picture must have angered them, as the bottom one puffed up and said “HUPHHUPHHUPH!!!!” at me before running away. Sorry, badgers!
I was actually pretty surprised to see badgers; I had no idea they were local animals. It turns out a badger sighting is pretty rare indeed as populations have dramatically declined over the past century in California. The region in which we saw them (western Fresno county) is pretty much the only area of California left that has badgers, and they’re considered a “Species of Special Concern”.
Anyway, post-badger, we hopped on Hwy 198 to Hwy 101 and then slabbed it home. Aside from an expectedly artsy fartsy photo op at a gas station in Salinas, the rest of the evening was uneventful and I made it home in time to go out for sushi with Peter.
91.5 mph max speed (go, little F, go!)
14h 18m moving time