happy birthday tony!
March 10, 2003
First of all, before saying absolutely anything else at all about the ride, I just want to mention how much I genuinely love riding with the ST.N folks. Thanks, Ted, and anyone else from the forum who reads this. :D
getting everyone together.
At around 9am, Steven casually looked at his watch and said, "hey, aren't you guys meeting Ed and Mark at 9:30?" Unfortunately, we were meeting them in Orinda -- at least an hour away. Looking at a map now, after the fact, we also took The Long Ass Way to get there, so we ended up pulling up to the second meeting place at 10am, just as Ed ("Goldylocks303") and Mark ("Sprintrider") were about to give up on us. We stopped for gas in Orinda and then hauled ass over to....some gas station in the middle of nowhere....to meet Steve ("DogBoy").
A big group from the Bay Area Riders Forum pulled in just as we got there, so we decided to wait around for them to leave. There had been posts on their board recently about how they'd taken our same route and had had three different people crash, so we figured we were probably better off well behind them.
the ride to lake berryessa.
The riding up to this point was pretty aggressive. I was riding directly in front of Mark, and I felt as though I was holding him up. We talked about it at our rest stop, and he assured me that he wasn't being held back at all, but I let him ride ahead of me for the rest of the day. He seemed to know the roads pretty well, and it was only my second time on them, so I felt more comfortable being towards the back of the pack.
During most of the morning, I hadn't thought that I had ridden those roads before. Like I said, we were riding aggressively -- for me, at least -- I felt as though I was just on the sane side of pushing my personal envelope. In general, I'd say we were going around 15 or 20mph faster than I might have ridden, had I been alone. This isn't to say that I was riding outside of my skill level -- one of the reasons that I love riding with the ST.N folk is that I always feel challenged without feeling as though I'm really in any danger. There were a couple of turns later on in the day that were pretty scary, and I backed off a lot after those. At this point in the day, however, I was awake and comfortable, and doing 60-70mph through the turns was definitely....exhilerating, but not dangerous.
When we pulled into The Corners General Store parking lot, I realized that I had been there before -- on my first ride up to Napa County in May 2001. This was the same parking lot that we had stopped in -- the very one in which I'd stepped in a gravelly pothole and dropped the bike such that my foot got stuck in the fairing! I was laughing so hard that it took us forever to extract me and get the bike back up. I would have remembered that gravelly parking lot anywhere. It was somewhat of a shock to realize that I had taken the same road on that long-ago Calistoga trip -- I remembered that road as being, well, really challenging. In fact, from my journal entry about the trip:
"I need more practice in the twisties. I still did pretty well, but I caught myself braking into turns far more often than I was comfortable with (well, OK, braking into a turn at all is too often). I think it was mostly because I'd never ridden on those roads before; I'll have to take more varied routes in my weekend jaunts around here to get a wider range of experience on different roads."
Logically, I know that I've had two years of experience since then, but it was a startling example of how far I've come. I mean, I had just been feeling guilty for "only" going 65mph through some of the turns! And, I didn't drop my bike into any of the potholes this time.
We continued on Highway 128, all along the western coast of Lake Berryessa. We stopped for a break near a large bridge; I think it was at the northwestern side of the Lake, just before we turned onto Pope Canyon Road. Not 100% sure, though.
the long road to lunch.
This time, we passed the Pope Valley intersection and rode into the town of Saint Helena. Ironically, we all remember this clearly, because of the sign for "Sanitarium Road". I'm not sure what it says about our group that each and every one of us noticed this sign.
This section of the road was pretty tough. There was a really tight uphill right-hander right at the beginning that at least three of us (myself included) boffed -- thank goodness for a lack of oncoming traffic. I was hungry and tired by this point, and could really feel my concentration wavering. It was disconcerting.
As we entered St. Helena, Steve was supposed to lead us to a pizza place for lunch. "It's great pizza," he said, "you'll love it". I'm sure we would have. We drove straight through St. Helena, Carl and I almost immediately getting separated from everyone else by ill-timed traffic lights. Just when we thought for sure that we had missed them, we spotted Ed in a left-hand turn lane, gesturing for us to follow. We pulled into the parking lot of what surely would have been the fanciest pizza place on all Earth, had it actually been a pizza place. It turned out that Steve had missed the pizza place and we were conferring about what to do. We decided to go to a burger joint back in town, easily identified by the yellow Ducati parked out front.
Fortunately, the Duc rider was still eating his lunch when we went back, and we found the burger place easily. There was only one available parking spot in the lot, and somehow, we managed to smoosh all six bikes into it.
We commandeered two picnic tables (one for us, one for gear) and got in line to order food. It was one of those side-of-the-road outdoor burger stands, and so we were all terribly amused to see the extensive wine list. Seriously, this place must have offered twenty kinds of wine. I've eaten at five-star restaurants with a poorer wine selection. All of a sudden, while waiting in line, Steve busted out laughing. It turned out that the pizza place was right across the street, but he'd been too busy ogling the yellow Ducati to notice.
Lunch was really good; we all had burgers and fries. I had the most intense garlic fries that I've ever had -- my gums were actually tingling by the end of lunch.
After lunch, we somehow got all of the bikes back out of the parking spot, and Ted was talking about this really weird light on his dash. It was, apparently, a sidestand indicator light, but Aprilia decided to be fancy by having a picture of what could maybe be a lowered sidestand if you drank heavily before looking at it, and squinted a lot. Someone mentioned that it looked more like a swizzle stick, and I think I agree with that. I have no idea who said what here, but this became my favorite overheard conversation of the day:
"Well, it's an idiot light. It's got a little picture."
Maybe you had to be there.
Sadly, it was time to head out if we wanted to make the most of the remaining daylight hours. Ted and Carl and I headed back to 121, which had a few last minutes of pretty green sweepers before we turned onto 12 and headed back towards 680. While at the gas station in Napa, I'd mounted my camera to the RAM mount on the bike (I'd had the GPS on for the rest of the day) to see how pictures would turn out. I think they came out pretty well, considering that they were just proof of concept shots. Note the glorious scenery on Highway 680.
I think they turned out pretty well, especially the freeway shots. I mean that there's very little distortion from vibration, not that they're particularly well-composed shots. ;) Now that I know that it works, though, I'm going to have fun taking more pictures during rides. It drains the battery pretty quickly though (I kept the camera on the whole time, so I could just press the button whenever I wanted), so maybe I'll hook up an adapter to my 12v socket. Who knows.
So that was our ride. I got home just before 7pm, with the odometer showing about 350 additional miles (I'd forgotten to set the trip counter until Concord, so I'm just estimating).
Here's my rough estimation of where we went. It's probably a little off.