Friday, September 9, 2011

September Ride for Sausage, 2011 version.

by Ted (Britwheels)

I’m late. I need to be at Peet’s at 8 am and I’m not going to make it. Oh well, if the Presidents have left when I arrive, I’ll just beat it down to and meet them there. As I’m filling the tank in I can see the bikes still waiting near the coffee shop. I’m glad they waited but feel guilty that I’ve delayed the start. The Presidents are gracious about it and we stand around chatting for a while, no one overly hurried.

Who called this start so early anyhow? Well that would be our esteemed leader-for-the-day, Randy of the Russo Paso. He slips on his helmet and we follow suit, firing up the bikes for the day’s delights.

And lead he does, up through the foggy Oakland Hills. East of the hills the sun has risen and its soft late-summer rays warm the day and lift human spirits. But on the bay side a cool fog blankets the land. Fingers of moist fog envelop our group as we climb the twisty streets following Russo Paso to the summit. Then across the spine of the hills and down to Redwood road. Redwood road coils around the natural contours of the land crossing and recrossing the ridgeline. Thus we are alternately bathed in warm sunshine then cool fog and back again. Seven riders in line lean into the curves of Redwood road forming a Triumphant train. From the rear the view of my friends leaning their bikes left then right then left again is a poetic sight. It’s a celebration of our mutual fascination with motorcycling. A fascination that has lead us to ride together every month for what? Eight years?

Soon we enter and my thoughts turn to Baldwyn who broke his arm in a fall from a ladder and so will not be along today. Heal fast my friend; our rides are incomplete without you. And where is Phil? We hope all is well at Casa Hawkins.

We are now solidly in the sunshine and won’t see fog again today. has been featured in many of our rides and is a curvacious delight. Today there is dirt and debris on the road in places and a slip or two of the front tire slows me down a little. Soon we are on Calaveras road and meet with two more of our group. Now we are nine for the narrow blacktop snake that curves its way alongside the beautiful Calaveras Reservoir. There is more water than usual in Calaveras for September, a testament to the heavy Sierra snowpack we witnessed during the June Sunrise to Sundown ride across the state.

The warm summer sun casts soft shadows across the road and lights the green foliage with a glow of life. A deer stands in indecision above the road thus saving both this rider and itself from an unpleasant meeting. A redtail hawk glides above the scene its wingtips adjusting for the unseen aircurrents. A sudden dive to the ground and a puff of dust means breakfast for Mr. Hawk.

We wind our way to the summit overlooking the whole of , a swell of city filling the landscape nearly to the horizon. Just 40 years ago this was all orchards and farmland. We truly did, as Dion Warwick sang, “pave paradise and put up a parking lot”. Do you know the way to ? Russo Paso does and he leads us there for our first gas stop of the day. We remark how mild the temperature is today. In past years this ride has been a scorcher, but today is perfect. Andrew, late of NYC, has joined us today bringing his red Bonne out of its hibernation. He is in the process of moving back to the City (San Franciscans refer to their city as ‘the City’ as if there is no other. I imagine New Yorkers do the same). It’s good to ride with Andrew again.

After our break we saddle up and head south, leaving the city (lower case c) and its snarl of traffic and again finding moto nirvana in the undulating roads leading across the valley and ascending Mt Madonna.

As we begin the climb I spot Malcolm on his Street 3 R coming the other way. He has joined us from , his first ride since a mishap in July on the way to our July ride. The mother of all tank-slappers resulting from a huge pothole put him down and under the knife to repair damaged fingers. Both he and his Bonne faired well considering going down at, ahem, highway speeds. A testament for ATGATT. It’s good to see him.

Onward we go to lunch and natter at Coralitis and the all-important purchase of sausages for the cookout later. The roads to ’s are curvy, narrow and at times rough and ready. But there is little traffic and the scenery is spectacular. Randy leads with brio and we follow with gusto. The impromptu moto show at ’s is fun as always and our group of Bonneville’s draws attention and admiration as it usually does. Riders of all stripes mosey over and reminisce over the Triumph they used to ride. Likewise we wander around admiring the other bikes and striking up conversations with the assembled riders.

A ride across the San Mateo bridge and up the urban sprawl takes us to the Island home of Russo Paso and his lovely wife Alexandra and (when did he get so tall?) son Julian. There we enjoy the garden and cook our sausages on the grill. Conversations range from cooking to architecture and to bikes and Presidents both present and mia. The smoke from the charcoal fire and ahh, other sources mixes with scents of the garden and the murmur of conversation among friends. It’s a perfect ending to a wonderful day’s ride. We’ve done this ride several times now; it’s become the September ride for the NorCal Presidents. I never tire of it, it’s one of the best rides we do. The roads are entertaining and the scenery beautiful. The best part is, as always, the camaraderie of the Mild Bunch. Thanks Randy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2011 January Ride

January saw some cold temperatures, so the plan was simple: meet late for breakfast, somewhere centrally located (not including Malcolm into the map), and not necessarily spend the day in the saddle. This month, we are blessed by several ride reports:

a few brave presidents gathered in pleasanton...rode somewhere and had lunch.

i was too much of a wimp to brave the 38deg weather...hope you had a good ride.

We rode.

Foggy, wet.

We ate.

We laughed.

We rode.

Still foggy.

We oggled.

We rode.

STILL foggy.

We oggled.

We laughed.

We rode.

Yep, foggy.

We shopped.

We rode.

We coffeed.

We laughed.

We rode...home.

Still foggy.

Ride Report: January 2011 Ride

First of all, 3 Presidents changed their plans and didn't come. That left 5 of us. Of that 5, Randy needed to "Pull a Russell" and go home to make a living. That left 4 of us; Andrew, Malcolm, Ted and myself. But, hey, it only takes 3 to make an official ride!

I always wanted our rides to include more visiting/site seeing stops and this ride fulfilled my wildest dreams. The weather was cold and overcast. After our leisurely 10 am breakfast the weather was unchanged. Therefore, we rode to a classic car dealer and imagined ourselves driving cars that others would envy. With the weather still unchanged, we went over to Arlen Ness to admire the craftsmanship of bikes that none of us would have bought. The weather, still being stubborn, convinced us to go to Cycle Gear so I could find some appropriate gloves before my fingers froze off like cubes being removed from an ice tray. Malcolm suggested we get something to drink and so we went to Starbucks and discussed how we are a bunch of aging guys with old folk memories and values. Depressing yet fun. By then it was 2 pm. The ride had lasted 4 hours and we had already ridden about 7 1/2 miles. We agreed that was pretty good. We shook hands and expressed how we can hardly wait to do another bad ass motorcycle ride next month.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

2010 November Ride: Party by Sonoma Coast

by Baldwyn

I climbed onto my bike at 7:30am, with Richard following on his Thruxton. It was a chilly morning, one where I wished I had a charging system that could support heated clothing. Of course, then I'd also have to get off my butt and make some clothing, something that I've been planning for the last...6 years? But, even though we were headed for the coast, it really could only get warmer, right?

The official ride start was at Northgate Mall in San Rafael, but we stopped at Peet's in Montclair, our usual start location, to pick up other riders. Andrew was there, coffee already in hand, but no one else. I had been worried about missing the narrow window of "meet at 8, kickstands up at 8:15", but it turned out we were exactly on time (7:59). And Peet's was already buzzing with activity, as I pulled up to a red curb. 99% of motorcyclists are law-abiding citizens. Ted pulled up after a few minutes, and eventually was followed by a wild eyed wild haired Randy, who carried an air of "overslept, and made up for it by some spirited riding" about him. Randy's birthday, Nov 13, lined up perfectly with ride day.

Terribly cool new garbage receptacles outside Peet's now. Solar powered trash compactor!

We headed off for the highway, and made our way to San Rafael. The air was already growing warmer. Our directions showed us where Northgate Mall was, but not where Peet's was in the mall, so we rode like doddering fools in the vast abandoned parking lot, looking this way and that. At one point, the 1% in me almost ran through a stop sign, only to find a police car parked on the other side. Really? But that was one of the undertones of the day; just enough patrol cars to keep us safe and honest.

When we found Peet's, Joe, our esteemed ride leader, was there, and Cliff with his Jetson inspired Victory Vision. Cliff had recently had knee surgery, so we forgave him for bringing out his motorized La-Z-Boy. Malcolm, as usual, was there after a much chillier commute than the rest of us, having come up from Monterey.

I hadn't been making many rides of late, so it was a good to catch up. The economy hadn't been as kind to others as it has been to me, but everyone keeps plugging away with a sense of optimism, I hope. Meanwhile, my friend Rich went from bike to bike to talk about each different part everyone has. It was fun to watch, and reminded me of the first Presidents ride, back when I was 32, as pointed out by birthday boy Randy. Phil made a remark about how young we all looked back then. Except for Ted, who looks no different. I said, "But he's looked this way for centuries", because if any one of us had sold our soul to the Devil to be immortal, you know it had to have been Ted.

Phil was the last one to pull up, so naturally he got the most fanfare. His wife Kareen helped to brighten the group up, as well.

Cliff went his separate way, so two Thruxtons, four Bonnevilles, one Bonneville America, and one Ducati Paso headed out on the route Joe had picked out for us.

View Larger Map

Starting on Lucas Valley Road was a real treat, with smooth sweeping curves. Joe led at a comfortable pace; just about perfect for me. Especially this day, where we found slick, wet corners where the sun hadn't quite reached the pavement. The cool air quickly turned warm, and by the time we pull off for our first pit stop, riders were ready to shed inner layers.

I almost immediately regretted taking my inner liner off, as it got colder as we approached coast, but it was fine. We hit Highway 1 by Marshall, and headed north, briefly hugging the Pacific coast, before jogging inland. This section of Highway 1 was really one a fun stretch. Cars kept our speed in check, and this day found an uncharacteristic patience to the Presidents' spirit.

Once again, the highway meandered towards the coast, and the vistas were incredible. There was a slight mist in the air, and the ocean a deep cerulean. The waves moved slowly, but building grandly into picturesque white capped breakers. Everyone had slowed down through the section, and the traffic suddenly thicker. The beaches were surprisingly alive on this perfect November day. I knew that PCTR's Stinson Beach 50K was going on south of where we were, and I expected those runners to be having a spectacular time.

We had no trouble parking our bikes at the Boat House in Bodega Bay, but we did have trouble finding seating together. Fish and chips, calamari, bbq oysters, and other feasts of the oceans were ordered and greedily consumed, washed down with local beers.

The ride officially ended at the boat house, but all of us were headed back south. I now make it a requirement to stop for oysters when we ride Marin, and some of the others decided to skip it. We passed by a very busy Hog Island Oyster Company. The parking lot had overflowed to the highway itself. I favour Tomales Bay Oyster Company anyways, which was further south. Their parking lot wasn't much better, but we were down to 4 bikes (Hawk, Rich, Ted and I) at this point, that fit into one spot right up front. My bike started handling differently through this section. I had a bit of a speed wobble that seemed pronounced through curves. I was down to my last hundred or so miles on that tire, and thought maybe the wear was causing the issue.

Man, this spot is a little slice of heaven. And I wasn't the only one to think so. Music blared, the smell of barbecue filled the air, and people were having a blast. The other Presidents hadn't seen one of these places was like and we decided on the spot to make this a destination on future ride.

I grabbed my order; 50 oysters, 2 pounds of clams and a bag of ice, and tried to bungee it securely to my backseat. Ted was headed home past the Cheese Factory, through Novato, and Rich and I decided to go with him. Phil and his wife were headed a different way to Fairfax.

I followed Ted, and was surprised to turn a corner to find Phil snapping pictures. I shouldn't be, I should be used to it by now. As we approached Novato, my bike started feeling really funny. Like my tire was flat. The pavement was really rough, and I thought maybe that was it, but at a stop sign, Rich pulls up and says "HEY YOUR TIRE IS FLAT!" Ah! I honk at Ted, but he continued off before I got off the bike to assess the situation.

Horseshoe nail. Ted wasn't gone long before he came back. I had Ride-On in my tires, which is supposed to seal holes as they happen. We debated on whether to pull the nail, but in Ted's experience, the tire goes completely flat when you do that. I proposed we try putting air in, just in case the Ride-On works, and Ted said the gas station was only a mile away, so off we went. The bike actually felt ok up to 45 mph. But to get to Castro Valley from Novato has to involve a bridge, and highway.

Incidentally, post-ride research reveals this paragraph from Ride-On's website:

    Ride-On TPS will eliminate 85-95% of your flats in tubeless tires from objects up to 1/4" (1/8” for tube tires) that penetrate the contact area of your tire. Ride-On’s efficiency in tube tires is reduced to 55-65% since puncturing objects often tear the tube. It is impossible for a tire sealant to seal a tear. It is vital to remove the puncturing object immediately from a tire containing a tube to prevent further damage that can result in tearing the tube.

So perhaps I should have yanked the nail as soon as I found it. Anyways, I will continue to use the product! I believe it saved the tire from going flat quickly, and perhaps more disastrously, and it demonstrated that it could somewhat seal this leak.

Adding air didn't help, so I pulled the nail. The tire didn't go flat, but adding air just leaked out from around the valve stem. Another motorcyclist was at the gas station, and Rich told me he has a tire-plug kit. But I had been through this before; it doesn't work on a tubed tire. I finally got a hold of Phil, who had arrived home, was ready for a cocktail and to relax the rest of day. I asked him if he had that spare rear wheel with a tire around, which he did. I asked him if he could bring tools, a lift, and the tire, and after some griping, of course he says yes.

We filled the hour or so of waiting being entertained by a mall security cop, various people going into Walgreens, watching Rich help people fill their car tires with air, and discussing the evils of spoked wheels and their alternatives.

Phil arrived, and we got to work. He made some comment about just about to have a cocktail, so I handed him money to hit the liquor store for beer. Four Sierra Nevadas. We transferred the cush drive (much snugger on the later wheels), brake rotor, and assigned re-attachment to Rich, since hadn't had to struggle through the job before, unlike the rest of us. The guy was a natural, and managed to do the job without a) removing the brake caliper, b) removing a chain adjuster, or c) touching the chain adjuster. Pretty sweet. The tire on the loaner wheel had less tread than the one I just took off, but would certainly get me home. We scrambled to get the truck loaded, and headed out as dusk hit.

Ted's route back would have been much nicer in the day time. I was actually surprised how much I didn't enjoy riding in the dark on rural roads, with thoughts of crashing into deer going through my mind; probably with good reason. The ice and the oysters shifted around annoyingly, and only got worse when we made it to the highway. But the rest of the journey was uneventful, and I come home to a joyous 2 year old, and a hungry wife who was waiting on the secret ingredients for dinner.

The oysters were delicious.

Picture Galleries
Baldwyn's pics
More to come

Thanks to Joe for putting together a great ride. I can't remember the last time I've seen the coast look so beautiful. Happy birthday Randy, and great seeing Ted, Malcolm, Phil, Kareen, Richard, Cliff, and Andrew! Thanks to Phil for his spare, Ted and Richard for hanging out with me during my down time!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Remembering Kari

I must have seen Kari Prager dozens of times at the frequency I was in and out of CalMoto with my 2001 Triumph Bonneville. But the first memory I have is when I showed up for something or other with incredibly obnoxiously loud pipes that Ted had once described as "Evil Loud". I fired that baby up as I was leaving, and I looked over to see Kari pause. He had the appearance of a clean(er) cut businessman and I was expecting stern disapproval, but he gave me an incredibly enthusiastic thumbs up.

His first Cambria outing, it became clear that he was one of us. He talked about his anarchist past, his adventures around the globe, and well, just enjoyed our company. How many people have that honour? He said that Cambria was the most fun he ever had at any rally, and man, he's been around....that's got to mean something.

Kari made it to three Cambrias. I, personally, consider him a President.

Ride On, Kari.


The NorCal Presidents

The NorCal Presidents came into being with one simple, innocuous post on the The New Bonneville Delphi Forum:

    From: BritWheels 3/5/2003 7:53 pm
    To: ALL (1 of 135)
    OK all you NorCal Bonneville riders, it's time for a little backroad ride. On Saturday March 15 (not coincidentally, my birthday) I'll be takin' a little ride in the East Bay hills. Sure would be nice to ride with a bunch o' Bonnies. Like to join me?
    I'm thinking 5 to 6 hours of hilltop and canyon roads with a stop in one of the parks for lunch (bring your own).

    Plans are flexible, how about meeting in Lafayette for breakfast, say 9 am?

    Any takers?

    BritWheels aka Ted

    01 Bonneville
    02 Sprint ST

    I'm purty sure a fella needs more than one motorcycle.

Even for that very first ride, "herding cats" was required; over 100 follow-ups were written, and the ride eventually took place on April 6, 2003 (also known as March 37th). It didn't take long to recognize kindred spirits, and the Mild Bunch was born, with very simple rules:

    1. There will be a ride every month, and only the President can organize a ride.
    2. After two (later revised to three for unknown reasons) rides, you are a President.
    3. Only new Bonnevilles and variants, and former owners.

Remarkably, these terms have been debated at length, and caused their share of heartaches, but they still speak of the spirit in which we ride. RIDE ON!