RawHyde Adventures - The Journey Back to the Ranch (Part 3)
I awoke from my slumber fearing that my body would be unbearably sore. The previous day was physically grueling yet mentally stimulating. Laying flat on my back, I could hear my comrades moving around outside, conversing and laughing. I figured I would have to get up some time or another so why not now? I tightened my core and rose to a sitting position like Dracula in the old black and white classics, I reached forward and grabbed my toes. To my surprise I was not THAT sore and got in a little stretch. After stretching out the stiffness, I found my body to be in pretty good shape. Still a tad little groggy, as I typically am in the morning, I tossed on my boots and made a straight line for some coffee.
Row of Bikes Morning Prep
I must have tripped a sensor that warned of my approach because as soon as I arrived at the kitchen container, Julia walked right over to me and said, “Here you go sweetie.” She handed me a hot cup of coffee with a touch of milk and sweetener already in the cup, just how I like it, “Breakfast burritos are right over there.” I smiled and grabbed a burrito.
I ran into Scott and Shawn in my stupor and I cannot recall if it was before or after my coffee, or exactly what was said but I'm sure it revolved around me looking like hell and asking me if I was ok? I do recall Shawn wear a stupid, stupid hat. I told them I would get back to them in 15 minutes. I never did.
Shawn and his Stupid Hat
Bruce and Scott Owen and His Awesome Sailor Hat Monring CoffeeNothing quite like conversing with friends in the morning over coffee. Puppy Dog!
Fully awake, I had very little time to get all my personal effects in order for the ride back to the ranch. Unlike every other day on this trip, today, I had slept in a bit longer than usual. Packing everything up became a bit of a mad dash. Halfway through the process, I opened up the main compartment of my day pack and my heart sank. I was looking at the front lens element of an L series lenses attached to my Canon 5D mk2. It looked as if had been pierced by a small caliber round. There was a hole in the glass and fracture lines emanating from the point of entry. I gently took my camera in my hands as though it was an injured kitten and to my surprise and luck, the only damage was to my UV filter. My lens had survived unscathed and I breathed a sigh of relief and thought to myself, “hey $70 lost is better than $800 lost.” Evan walked up behind me and saw my camera, “Awe man, dude! What happened? That sucks man, are you ok?” I appreciated the concern for my gear but I turned to him and said it could have been worse and that I didn’t feel bad about it.
In all honesty, I was surprised I made it this far throughout the weekend without breaking something. I had been riding pretty aggressively all weekend. I surmised that a tiedown in my bag banged into the lens just enough to shatter the filter. I managed to get the filter off and clean the front lens element. I then made sure my camera was stored safely in my bag for the ride home.
Shattered UV FilerAt least the lens was ok.
Dodged a Bullet
While I was scrambling to get ready there was a brief pow wow and itinerary overview for the 5 or 6 riders heading back to the ranch. Everyone else was enjoying a day off around the camp before pressing on for another 3 days into Expedition CV, a more advanced adventure ride for seasoned and skilled riders.
By time I got my gear squared away, everyone in my group was on their bikes at the edge of the highway. I quickly and intensely ran around the camp with the intent of saying goodbye to all my new friends but there came a point when I realized I could only say goodbye to those I within view. I spotted Jim Hyde, thanked him for everything and gave him a big hug, I found Fonzie, slapped him a high five, gave him a hug and told him he was awesome, lastly I ran up to Shawn, gave him a big hug and thanked him for being such a great coach and such a damn fine person. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my shattered lens filter, “my friend, it's a bit cheesy but consider this a gift and symbol of my badassness, I will be back. You are awesome...Rock on!!!”
In the distance I could hear a HONK HONK HONK….”C’mon, Sam!” Jason Houle, one of the RawHyde coaches shouted from the highway, “We’re leaving, lets go!” I was standing at my bike somewhat in a panic because I knew I was holding up the group, something I hate to do no matter the situation. I did one last safety check around my bike to make sure made everything was tied down and just before hitting the ignition switch it hit me, I forgot to say goodbye to Evan! I scanned around the camp and I did not see him any where, in a last ditch attempt I yelled out as loud as possible, “Evan!!!” The sound reverberated throughout the hills and everyone paused to look over at me as if I had been totally mad.. About 200 feet ahead of me Evan popped up above the sea of motorcycles and people and hollered back, “Sammy!!!!”
In the process of putting on my gloves and shouted back, “Dude, Im leaving! See you later man!” Evan did not miss a beat, by the time I finished my sentence he was 20 feet from me. I walked around my bike, gave him a big hug, told him he was the "most awesome" of all the people I met this weekend and vowed that I would see him again soon. Evan appropriately responded with, “You’re damn right mother fucker. You have a great ride back man, we all wish you were coming out on CV with us. You let me know when you pull the trigger to do CV and I’ll ride down here and do it again with you.”
I really did not want to leave. I wanted to stay with my new found friends but such a plan was not in the cards. I jumped on my bike, hit the ignition and kicked up the side stand. I took a second to look around only to notice there was no clear path to the highway, I was blocked in. So, like any good adventure rider, I carved my own path through the bush and made it over to the highway. As soon as I put a foot down on the tarmac, my foot went right back up onto the peg. We were off, the journey back to the ranch was underway.
Leaving Base Camp Alpha
On the open road heading into the low desert, the view was beautiful. Before me lay a ribbon of groomed asphalt surrounded by a tapestry of maroon hills and mountains on the horizon. The sky even seemed more vibrant and blue. Like the jolt of a powerful earthquake, a profound wave of emotion enveloped me. I did not want the experience I enjoyed all weekend to end. I was sad because I was driving away from this amazing group of people I had come know intimately over the past few days and who welcomed me as their own regardless of my riding ability. I was sad but at the same time I was blissfully happy. I had the great fortune to meet and befriend amazing people. The only real parallel I can align with how I felt would be the feeling of being a child and leaving summer camp after having the best summer ever. For me, the past three days were that powerful and memorable.
To fight off the intense feelings swirling around in my head, I recalled a quote by Dr. Seuss, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." To distract myself entirely, I reached for my camera, took a few photos and centered my focus on the road in front me. Today was going to be a great final day.
Quintessential Motorcycle Selfie
After a quick bit on the highway we arrived in Trona, a desolate and isolated town on the western edge of the Searles Lake dry lake bed. We jumped off the highway onto a road that would take us toward the Trona Pinnacles. The path was relatively easy going, wide enough for two cars to race side by side with gradual inclines here and there. For the most part, it was like tearing ass through the desert like a scene from Mad Max.
The Trona Pinnacles are these interesting rock formations that speckle the landscape in this remote sections of the lake bed. Almost concrete like in texture, the rocks are very rough and jagged and make a sound similar to glass bottles when clanked together. I climbed up the slope of one of the pinnacles and lost my footing and fell to my knees. If it was not for my knee protectors in my adventure suit it would have hurt pretty bad. Around the pinnacles there is a well groomed dirt track that was a hoot to race around. For about 20 minutes it was our own personal off-road race track in the desert.
This is What Happiness Looks Like Rocks at TronaHard, sharp, pokey....these rocks are not friendly. Trona Pinnacles Near the Searles Dry Lake Bed Riding around the Trona Pinnacles You're the man Mike. Photo by Mike K. I Was Here - Trona Pinnacles The Coolest Track EverSeriously, its like a personal race track out in the desert with cool landmarks plotting the way. The Bend Up Ahead is Where I Will Make My Pass Taking a BreakSometimes you need to lay down your bike and enjoy the view.
Leaving the Pinnacles meant a relatively straight shot out the desert and back into the highway. That straight shot consisted of about 30 miles of hard packed dirt and a number of mild whoops's that I tackled at around 60mph. It was a total thrill and even with the stock suspension on the R1200, the bike managed to absorb the beating I was giving it. There were a few times I bottomed out the bike but I later found out that due to my riding technique, I was attacking the whoops improperly.
Jason Taking the Lead Heading To Lunch Thumbs Up! Lunch Stop! The Guys Eating and Chatting
We stopped for lunch at Jawbone Canyon diner, fueled up our bodies and headed up the hill, through the valley, and into the Sequoia National Forest. The view leading out of the desert and into the lowlands was remarkable. The roads were well groomed and took on the calming color of khaki under the sun . Cruising along at a brisk 50mph, there was still room for the occasional long gaze and admiration of the scenery. A part of me wanted to stop, turn off my bike and listen to the winds sweeping through the valley but we were behind schedule and needed to make up for lost time. As we began our ascent away from the desert floor, the dry, warm climate gave way to the cool, crisp air of the Sequoia's.
The change in climate could be felt with every switch back heading up the mountain. The grasslands of the prairie gave forth to bushes and shrubs which in turn evolved into small trees and eventually beautiful grand pines. As the temperature began to drop ever so slightly, I found myself zipping up the vents in my jacket to keep warm and slowing down to take in more of the view. From the highlands of the forest, I looked down upon the sweeping vista to behold an environmental gradient washed in color. I could see the desert, the valley and the woods in the frame of my vision, it was nothing short of spectacular.
Through the Hills Toward the Sequoias. The High Sierra'sJust a lovely day for a ride. Photo by Mike K. The Sequoia National ForestThis was my favorite part of the day. I love forest's.
Progressing up the mountain, the trail became increasingly windy with numerous switchbacks to attack. These hairpin turns, along with increased elevation and low speed became a true test of my ability to control this big BMW. The GS commands a light and smooth touch on all the controls as well as total focus on body position while providing counter weight to the outside peg. In this serene landscape my riding ability was tested once again. I would say I passed with a solid B-. It surely did not help my cause when I began practicing and experimenting with counter-steering and back wheel drifting. Within a 5 minute span I found myself low-siding the bike more than a handful of times. Owen rode up behind me a told me to take a break and grab some water. “If you lift that bike one more time you’ll be absolutely exhausted and useless for the rest of this ride.” He was right. After laying down the 600lb Beemer and lifting it up 3 times in those 5 minutes, I was beginning to feel the effects. After a quick break and a protein bar, we caught up the rest of the group.
We continued on and when I thought the landscape could not get any more majestic we came upon a ranch nestled in the middle of the mountains. A wooden fence cut from cedar and pine and interlaced like lincoln logs surrounded the property. A man rode up to the fence on a small dirt bike flanked by two huskies to say hello. We exchanged cordial greetings and eventually pressed on.
A Ranch in the Middle of the Forest
We kept climbing in elevation and at one point the air drastically changed, it was cooler than before and kept dropping in degree. Suddenly there was a new element to behold, an element alien to a Southern Californian motorcyclist...Snow and ice!
As I neared a bend in the trail, the side of the mountain was completely covered in snow and the path before me was a pure white. At this point it would have been prudent to stop and let me tell you, that is the first rule in adventure riding when you encounter ice. If you cannot determine your line of travel or have an inkling of doubt regarding the terrain in front of you, STOP. Assess the situation and ask yourself if it is safe to proceed. There are no bonus point for attempting to be a badass and then failing miserably.
With that said, I did the exact opposite because I saw my fellow riders stopped ahead at the next bend. I figured they rolled across the snow-laden path and were waiting for the group on the other side. This determination was made in a fraction of a second so I proceeded through the snow which was not snow at all, it was ice. A massive ice sheet about 100 yards in length. About 10 feet into the patch I knew something was very wrong. The back end of the bike became very loose, I shifted my weight back and let off the throttle to get some traction. It was working but the second I got back on the throttle, as lightly as I did, it all went to shit. There was very little to do when the back wheel came roaring out to my right side. Time to become one with the ice I thought. BAM! I hit the ice and began to slide, as did my bike. Typically a crash involves an impact and an abrupt stop but not on ice. My momentum carried me on nature’s cold, wet slide left toward a dirt embankment which thankfully kept me and my bike from going over a nice steep cliff. This all occurred over the course of 3 or 4 seconds, I found my left foot pinned between the handlebars and the ground with my bike completely turned upside down. I managed to reach over and kill the engine and wiggle my way out from under the bike. My adventure boots saved my ankle and my adventure suit protected me from the harsh impact. I walked off the fall, did a quick physical check and looked back to my bike. The only thing I could do was laugh, I had no idea how I was going to get this thing back on the road.
Oops. So Yeah....Photo by Mike K. The Guys Admiring My Crash SkillsGood team effort here while I filmed a re-cap video of what happened. Owen and My Bike
The remainder of the off-road section was tame and beautiful, much like the entire day. We came across a tree that had completely blocked the road but we were on GS’s, no stupid fallen tree would stand in our way so we forged our own path and eventually made it back to the highway.
Jason and Owen Adjusting My Handlebars Good To GoOwen and Jason adjusted my handlebars to give me a bit more rise due to my abnormal height. Come to think about it, this should have been done on the first day. Photo by Mike K. Drive on Dirt, not IcePhoto by Mike K. Checking out the Fallen TreePhoto by Mike K. Forge Your Own PathWhen a tree falls in the forest and blocks your path, create a new path. Truck Follows BikesThis guy was just as gung-ho as we were but the difference was, we were much more graceful in our off-roading. From Dirt to Pavement Lost for a ReasonDone with the Dirt for the Day. It was an amazing ride.
Back on the road, we proceeded through a fun canyon section with a generous handful of twisties. As an urban rider who loves to lean off his bike, I felt at home. I was finally able to test out the maneuverability and agility of the BMW R1200 GS and let me tell you, it’s no sports bike but it sure possesses the ability to behave like one. I came close to dropping a knee a few times but the placement of the boxer engine made me weary. There were a few turns where my lean angle was a bit heavy and was not sure how close I was coming to scraping the engine guards. I already put this bike through enough off-road, I did not think scuffing it up on the pavement would earn me any favors.
Stopped at the Railroad Tracks There is No Going Around a Train
Riding through Caliente Canyon
We made our way along the Purple Heart Trail and back to Interstate 5. The Ranch was only an hour ride away and the ride was gentle and serene. Upon arrival, I drove into the paddock and did some slow speed maneuvers as the final amounts of sunlight faded away. Eventually I stopped and parked the bike but I could not bring myself to get off. The second I did, I knew that this magical weekend would finally be over. I sat in a calm, meditative state thinking about the profound impact the past 4 days had upon me. I had been introduced to new world of motorcycling which I believe everyone should experience, especially if you are a new rider just learning how to ride.
I said it once and I will say it again to anyone and everyone, this experience was entirely life-altering in the best way possible not just because of the skills I learned or the bike that I learned on, but because of the people, the community, and camaraderie I shared with my fellow riders and coaches. I cannot look at a dirt road or hiking path any more without thinking about how I would traverse it on bike like the GS.
I dismounted and took a moment to look at the bike that was mine for an intense four days and said goodbye. I walked away with a smile on my face and my gear in hand and made my way into the bar to grab a beer. The ranch was silent with very few people around. It was a peaceful and solemn. As I looked out over the driveway, I made a mental note and added something new to my bucket list: Buy an adventure motorcycle and use it to see the world.
Many thanks to Jim and Stephanie Hyde for their hospitality and for operating a world-class institution for motorcyclists looking to get dirty. If you are interested in a proper vacation filled with adventure, amazing food and people, visit: RawHyde Adventures
My Apparel and Protection on this 4 Day Trip:
Revit Lombard Jeans with KNOX Knee Protectors
Keywords: ADV, ADV motorcycling, Adventure, Adventure motorcycling, Fuji, GoPro, Iphone, Mojave Desert, Motojournalism, Motojournalist, RawHyde, RawHyde Adventures, Sam Bendall, X100, XPro1, documentary photography, how to ride a motorcycle, motorcycle, photography, samuel Bendall Photography, travel
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