Another shot at Yosemite

After a week's vacation, once again, I'm back in Modesto.

Saturday morning, I began to figure out what I could do to amuse myself.  I eliminated San Francisco because, there's just too many people, traffic and ...just too many people.  So, I thought I'd take another shot at Yosemite National Park.

The ride down and over from Modesto was pretty nice, riding through the rolling hills through very little traffic.  Arriving there, I once again presented my (I hate to admit this) Senior National Parks pass to get in free.  A couple of miles on the road winding around boulders as big as houses, I found myself stopping several times just to soak it all in.

I climbed down the the very low flowing river, found a couple of ducks that had no more fear of humans than the deer I  had seen a few weeks ago when Darlene came up to visit.


Even squirrels and chipmunks were sometimes within arm's reach.

The road into Yosemite Valley is not a through road.  There are the iconic monuments such as El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridal Veil Falls, Mirror Lake and Yosemite falls, most of which can actually be observed from the comforts of your car if you're so inclined but you really can't appreciate it until you get out and walk.

The last time we were in Yosemite, the falls were completely dry but today, Bridal Veil had began to spray a little water over the top but not the signature Yosemite Falls.

I had hoped to see some fall flowers and colors other than brown grass but there just wasn't any flowers left.  I did find some tiny purple flowers near the edge of the road.  They were the last hold outs of the year.  Bear in mind, this is an extreme closeup shot and they are not larger than a half inch in diameter.  So that tiny bug in the center ( if you know how to zoom in on it - click the photo, hold down the ctrl key and scroll the wheel of your mouse) is very, very small.

This time of year, the crowds and traffic are greatly diminished but there were still plenty of cars, motorcycles, bicycles and buses.

Several times, I had passed a group of people with telescopes on tripods at the base of El Capitan.  A poster on the tailgate of a van encourage passers to "Ask A Climber".  OK, I believe I will.

I got out and walked over to a group of other curiosity seekers and eventually began to talk to a young woman who seemed very knowledgeable about climbers and what was actually going on.  It seemed her husband and a climbing partner were up on the side of that piece of solid granite, climbing to the top.  I've found amusement in a lot of dangerous things but I figure I have a lot more things to do before I run out of other things to do closer to the ground.  I believe that has to be worse than sky diving.  Again, if you can zoom in, there are 3 climbers in the very middle of this photo.

The lady told me that the trip up the side of that mountain would take 2 ½ days to reach the top and another half a day to walk down the trail behind it. She herself, was a climber.

It was virtually impossible to make them out without the benefit of a telescope or in my case, a 200 mm zoom lens on my camera.  Even that was really insufficient for a good look.

I watched for an hour or so, soaking in a lot of information I probably didn't really need to know.  She told me those big bags they were pulling up with them, was supplies including bedding (I don't know how they could sleep), food, climbing ropes and (you won't believe this) an orange colored bag to carry body waste in.  The rules are, you bring everything back with you, including that.  They also had a few beers that they would pop a top on to celebrate when they reached the top.

Of the climbers, there were four distinct groups in various places and heights on El Capitan.  One group of three were all females.

Anyway, it was a nice trip and really hated to head back into the setting sun.


Bikes, Blues and BBQ ... or something like that

"It's not the destination but the ride", the story goes.  Gary, my brother-in-law and I had planned on riding up to Fayetteville, Arkansas last year for the Bikes, Blues and BBQ festival/motorcycle rally but something came up at the last minute that made us back off.

This year, I scheduled a week of vacation for the trip.  No, I'm not all that wound up over BBQ and I've been to a couple of motorcycle rallies which turned out to be pretty boring after you've seen one. As for blues, it's kind of like Cajun or Bluegrass music; after a few renditions of it, you've had enough.  However, it's like my opening line says, it's not where you go, it's how you get there.

Monday, we fired up at the crack of dawn in the general direction of Mena, Arkansas.  Filling up our rides in Krotz Springs, LA, we found our tanks getting very low a couple of hundred miles north and in northern Shreveport.  Pulling over to an Exxon station just north of Cross Lake, we were disappointed to not be able to pump 93 octane gas.  The large tanker truck was there replenishing their supply so they had cut off all pump activity.  Probably a good thing because who knows what trash gets stirred up when the low supply gets refilled.

Anyway, we reasoned that we should move on up the road to another station.  Surely there would be another station...surely, there would be another station...just over the next hill.  As the miles rolled up on the odometers, our gas gauge lights began to flicker.  An executive decision was made to turn around and go back toward Shreveport to find fuel.

As we rolled back south, my bike began to occasionally sputter (I knew the end was near) but kept on the course.  Gary's bike was low too.  Eventually, Boudreaux II wouldn't fire another piston so I found myself pulling to the roadside and putting the kickstand down.  Gary kept on plugging.  After all, why stop if he had gas.  I took off the helmet, walked down to a shady spot by a fence, checked the time on my cell phone and tried to calculate how long it would take him to get the few miles back or run out of gas himself.  After 10, minutes I called.

"Where are you?", I asked,.

"I'm at the Conoco station, gassing up.  I'll bring you some back."  How nice.

Anyway, in about 10 minutes, Gary rolls up with a used plastic jug that once held orange juice in it with a total of 7/10ths of a gallon of gas.  A welcome site.  Enough to get me back down to the station for a fill up.

We were both running relative new bikes and the gas mileage is good but I have to say, if it hadn't been for Gary's bike getting at least one more mile per gallon than mine, we'd either be hitching a ride into town or waiting forever for roadside service on highway 71.

We arrive in Mena, Arkansas later that afternoon, chose a campground and pitched our tents on some pretty rocky ground.  Rocky or not, I was ready for that sleeping bag and grateful it did not rain on us.

The next day, we rode on into Fayetteville and met up with an old friend who had retired from the company 2 or 3 years ago.  Since his retirement, Tom had bought a couple of bikes for himself and had taken a 2 month odyssey from his home in southern Missouri to San Diego and up the coast into Oregon.

Tom gave us the grand tour or the area and we followed him up to a campground near his home in Shell Knob, MO.  After setting up camp, we rode down to one of the local roadhouses and swapped motorcycle war stories before going back to sleep on yet, another pile of rocks.

 At this point, a Motel 6 would have looked like a Waldorf-Astoria.

Wednesday morning, we struck the tents, packed up and rode over to meet Tom and his gracious wife Joann, for breakfast.  It was good to talk and renew acquaintances before taking a ride south through Eureka Springs and on into Fayetteville where the motorcycle rally was in full swing.

We cruised the booths and a few displays before taking a few more rides through all the hoopla of the festival and riding back up to the...ahhhhh.....Marriott.  Man, those beds were comfortable.  We even found a barbeque joint near the hotel.

I'm wondering if the amount of custom trikes on display there in Fayetteville has a message regarding the age of many of the bikers there.

During the night, we began to watch the weather channel and saw a disturbing front beginning to roll in from the west.  A new executive decision the next morning found us all re-packing and checking out of the hotel. Our original plans were to stay in the area another day and night but our calculations said that if we did, we'd be riding at least 650 miles in the rain for the next two days.  While I'm not afraid of a little water, 650 miles and 2 days of it ain't my kind of adventure so we turned our wheels due south and went for it.

I just so happened (likely story), my sainted mother just happened to live a day's ride south of there, so before sundown, Gary and I arrived to partake  of the hospitality of Mrs Ida Belle.  It never gets old seeing her face.

After a good night's rest and a nice sausage and biscuit breakfast, we once again rode hard, escaping foul weather.  Except for a brief 30 minute ride through a northern Louisiana rain shower, it was an easy going 250 mile home putting us in the garage by early afternoon, five days, 1,500 miles and a couple of tender rear ends but entirely worth the effort.