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.
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!