After I rode Sonora Pass as part of my 4 day California ride a couple weeks ago, I got to thinking it’d be great to head up to Ebbetts Pass before the snow hits and closes things down for the winter. So I put together a loop from San Francisco to Ebbetts Pass to Monitor Pass to Sonora Pass and back to San Francisco and said to my friend Gregg, “Hey man, what do you think about heading up to Ebbetts and Sonora Pass this Saturday?” He responded with an enthusiastic “Hell yes!” so the ride was go.

As the week progressed, the weather predictions ranged from really good to “uh oh…” with rain and snow up in the mountains. The passes gets up to almost ten thousand feet in several places, so the weather can be pretty intense and there has already been significant snow. But according to CalTrans, the roads were still open and as the week progressed the weather looked more and more amazing: sunny and not raining or snowing. At the end of the week, I heard from a couple guys who’d been up to Ebbetts during the week and road conditions were good. So Saturday morning, we headed out around 7:30 AM and rode across the valley. We stopped to gas up in Murphys and then the real riding began.

Highway 4 up to Ebbetts was amazing. New, clean pavement and not much traffic. We stopped to take photos here and there, but it was hard to not stop about every ten feet – it’s just so damn beautiful everywhere up there. As the day progressed my threshold of “Wow, I should take a picture of that” got a lot higher – we had almost five hundred miles to cover.

We grabbed lunch somewhere along 395 as we cut over from Monitor to Sonora Pass, and struggled a bit to avoid a food coma-induced slowdown as we headed out for Sonora. Since I just rode this Sonora (the other direction) a couple weeks ago, it felt amazing and familiar. For Gregg, who’d never ridden any of these roads, it felt amazing but also a little sketchy. These are not easy roads – lots of blind turns and up-down, off-camber madness. Awesome fun once you find your rhythm.

We stopped off in Jamestown on the other side of Sonora Pass. We gassed up the bikes (and gassed up ourselves with espresso and ice cream cones) for the 140 mile freeway death march back to SF. Total saddle time for the day: about 12 hours, minus photo stops and lunch.

The R1200R continues to prove its mettle – it’s just an amazingly composed, rideable bike. Twelve hour days in the saddle? No problem! I’ve had it about 6 weeks now and I’ve turned over 3,000 miles on it already.

So here are some photos – mostly mine, but there are a few of Gregg’s shots in here too.

And here’s the trip on Spotwalla, as tracked by my Spot Satellite Messenger.

Google Maps route over here, if you’re looking for an awesome day-long ride.

Bridge over not-so-troubled waters at Redinger Lake.A little over a month ago, I broke down and bought a new bike – a BMW R1200R Classic – yeah, that one. The Gentleman’s Hooligan Bike. I’ve had it just over five weeks, and it’s already got almost 2,500 miles on it. I put about 1,000 miles of that on it in the last 4 days.

My route was something like this:

Day 1: South out of San Francisco to San Jose, over to Mount Hamilton and across the valley through Patterson to the covered bridge in Knight’s Landing, through Chinese Camp and across Don Pedro Reservoir, through Tuolumne City and into the mountains headed towards Strawberry via Deadwood. Yes, there’s a Deadwood in California too, or at least there’s the word “Deadwood” on a map. Turns out there’s nothing there – as I found out after miles of dirt fire trails. Video to come. After about ten more miles of gnarly fire roads, I headed up through Strawberry and over Sonora Pass in time to see some beautiful sunset scenery, down 395 and into Lee Vining/Mono Lake. I made camp (got a hotel room) in Lee Vining and crashed out for the night.

Day 2: I grabbed breakfast at Nicely’s (who weren’t especially nice to me) and headed out for an early walk around Mono Lake. No, not all the way around. I then saddled up and headed up and over Tioga Pass, and down through Yosemite where they were doing a maintenance burn – lots of smoke. Video of that to come, too. From there, I rode down 41 out of Yosemite to Fish camp and Sugar Pine and then along Bass Lake. I then headed down Italian Bar Road, which turned out to be a crazy goat trail descending to Redinger Lake and then rode back up the other side. I had routed another hundred plus miles of this goat trail stuff but when the roads started turning to dirt trails again I gave up and made my way back out to some pavement and rode down out of the hills towards Visalia where I crashed for the night.

Day 3: I was exhausted from all the hairball goaty stuff, so I slept in and then relaxed a bit and sipped coffee. Once I got rolling, I headed across the valley, up through Atascadero and into Los Osos where I met the nice folks from Elemental Herbs (and scored some awesome lip balm!) and enjoyed the best damn roasted veggie sammich I’ve ever had at the BeLoved Cafe. From Los Osos, I headed up through Morro Bay and on up Highway 1, hoping to make Monterey before the rain hit. No such luck – I had to suit up in my raingear a couple hours from Monterey and ended up riding up the last leg of Highway 1 through Big Sur after dark, in the rain. Not so much fun.

Day 4: While reviewing my maps in the breakfast room at my hotel, I discovered that Wunderlich’s US office is in Watsonville – gotta stop there. In the parking lot of the hotel, I met some of the folks from MCi Tours – they were just wrapping up three weeks on the road. And here I thought I was pretty bad ass with my four days of riding. Eventually I got enough coffee in me and the roads had started drying out, so I headed for Watsonville to check out the Wunderlich shop. After that I stopped in La Selva Beach for a surprise visit with my Grandma. After hanging with Grams for a bit, I headed through Santa Cruz and up the last leg of Highway 1, home to San Francisco. Thankfully, I only ran into a light rain here and there and made it home nice and dry.

More to come, but a few things to note:

  1. The R1200R is the greatest bike that has ever existed. Solid, predictable handling and plenty of guts – it handled everything I threw at it with impeccable composure, including 15 miles or so of off-roading. Fabulous bike!
  2. I ran a GoPro Hero video camera on my handlebars and captured about 60 gigs of video. I’ll post the tasty bits once I’ve dredged through it all – including my visit to legendary Deadwood.
  3. I need to plan more of these long rides. I want to ride the Cal 24 in 2013, and I need to do lots of “training” for that. ;)
  4. The R1200R is the greatest motorcycle that has ever existed.

© 2013 Surj's House of Awesome

Surj's House of Awesome

Surj Gish – eCommerce & Online Marketing Expert / Gearhead / Musician