Adventure is misery recounted at leisure

Yesterday I had An Adventure!

I decided to ride up to Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton for my “free day” ride.  I was last up there in 2007 or 2008, so I figured I was overdue.  I headed south on Highway 101  down the peninsula to San Jose and Highway 130 (Mt. Hamilton Road).

Mt. Hamilton is a fun road, especially on a weekday.  It’s a popular sportsbike road on weekends, but on a Tuesday morning there was almost no traffic at all on the ~4000′ ascent up into the Diablo Range.


One exciting thing about Mt. Hamilton Road, as any Bay Area motorcyclist will tell you, is the gravel in the corners.  It’s ubiquitous.  No matter what time of year, there’s gravel in the corners.  So, when I came around a corner and saw a “Loose Gravel” sign, I didn’t think too much of it…

…until I came around the next corner and there was NO ROAD.  Well, there was gravel.  But no asphalt.  Hello!  Fortunately I ride like a grandma and was only in second gear when I hit the gravel.  No worries.

It was kind of fun, actually; it forced me to go slowly (er…MORE slowly) and appreciate the scenery.  It was about 6 miles all told though, to be fair, most of it was paved with a layer of gravel on top, as opposed to not paved at all.

So, you should all deeply appreciate this next photo because this is really where the adventure started.

What a nice photo of the Ninjette with Lick Observatory!  It was so nice that I had to stay there on the roadside for an hour.

As it turned out, when I got back onto the bike to head to the observatory….nothing.  The bike was completely dead.  WTF! I had been riding all morning with no problems at all and, in fact, had stopped just a couple of miles earlier for photos.  No hard starting, no lugging engine, no warning at all.  Just a whole lot of nothing when I hit the starter button to head off again.

A long story short, I called my buddy Andrew (I was harboring the delusion that maybe he would come up with something fixable-on-the-side-of-the-road) and Peter.  At least I managed to break down on the only section with cell signal!  Eventually, I started flagging down cars and the second car did have jumper cables.

Thank you, random person visiting Lick Observatory yesterday!

The bike started right back up, so I continued on to the Observatory.  I didn’t tempt fate enough to turn off the bike, but instead left it running in the parking lot while I ran inside to get some water.  The lady working the gift store was the only person there; she took pity on me and gave me her own bottled water to refill in the drinking fountain.  Thanks, Lick gift store lady!

At this point, perhaps I should have turned around and headed home the way I got to the Observatory (back through San Jose).  But I figured the bike would be fine as long as I didn’t turn it off, and it was only about 20 miles farther to go my original route up through the East Bay.  And I didn’t really feel like doing the bunch of miles of gravel road again.  So I continued on.

At first, all was good.  The bike was running fine, the weather was gorgeous, there was no traffic at all on San Antonio Valley Road.

And then things started to not go so well.  The engine started lagging and it felt like it was going to stall.   I was really losing confidence that we were going to make it back to civilization, so I hightailed it to the only inhabited place I knew of in the area — The Junction.

The wonderful gal working there, Justina, and I tried to jump start the bike again from their truck but it was no use; it wouldn’t turn over at all.  Dead as a doornail.

Unfortunately I had no cell signal at The Junction, but Justina let me use the restaurant phone multiple times.   One such phone call was to R Lance & Sons, a towing company out of Livermore.  “Oh my, you’re way out there,” the dispatcher said.  Yes, I had in fact noticed that.

At least I had the good sense to completely break down at a restaurant that caters to motorcyclists, so I had a cheeseburger and fries and read City Bike while waiting the 2 hours or so for the tow truck.

My dad would have been impressed with their National Geographic collection; their oldest one was from 1953.  It was fun to look at the advertisements.

Eventually, Michael the tow truck driver appeared and we put my tiny little Ninjette on his big flatbed trailer.

It’s only about 35 miles from The Junction to Livermore, but it took us over an hour to navigate the curves of Mines Road.  Michael was a good conversationalist, though, and we had a nice time chatting about our motorcycles, our children (and, in his case, grandchildren), idiot drivers we encountered, etc.

Michael dropped me off at Cattlemen’s Restaurant in Livermore, which I picked in part because I had eaten there the last time I had driven over Mines Road to pick up a dead motorcycle.

Peter was on his way with Kira and the pickup truck, so I did the only logical thing — I ate dinner and had a beer.  Any motorcycle ride that ends with a Firestone beer has to be considered a decent ride, even if the bike did wind up on a trailer.

So that was that.  A new battery has already been ordered and it’s looking like next week Tuesday will be a “wrench on the bike” day instead of a “ride the bike” day.  That’s OK, though, the bike is probably overdue for some routine maintenance anyway.  Fun times!

This entry was posted in Ninja 250, Rides. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Adventure is misery recounted at leisure

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *