Laura, I thought you would like my story from my motorcycle rental trip out there.
I thought you would like my story from my trip out there. Feel free to share, post or give to whoever
you would like. Again, thank you for an awesome time! I look forward to coming back again soon.
Kind Regards & Happy Friday!
George J. Blackham IV
California Trip 9-12-2015 to 9-20-2015
DAY #1: Saturday 9-12: An early start from my mom’s house where I grew up in the North Hills to
Pittsburgh Airport and then on my way to San Francisco w/ a flight to Atlanta 1st. I arrived in the
Bay Area touching down at 10:45 a.m. (West Coast Time). The easiest way to the Dubbelju Bike Rental
for me was BART! Bay Area Rapid Transit Train @ $9. One way to Powell Station which is right along
Market Street in Downtown San Francisco then a leisure 4-5 block walk south to the rental facility. I
had pre-shipped all riding gear via UPS and was only carrying a small backpack so travel was easy. I
strolled past all the homeless in tents under I-80 and along the sidewalks coming down 5th Street
arriving at Dubbelju before 1:00 p.m. I spotted a nice shiny Red & Silver R1200 G/S (2010) which would
be my ride for the entire week. I made my introduction, signed the necessary paperwork, laid out my
gear, suited up, and smiled as I fired up the G/S & jumped right on the Oakland Bay Bridge getting
“OUT” of the city taking 580 South and then East.
A cool 65 degrees and cloud covered ride all the way down past Livermore to Altamont Pass.
Once over the pass I hit the WALL of inland HEAT! The temperature jumped to 95 and all the way up to
105 degrees in a few places for the rest of my ride on 580, down I-5 south and all the way to Gorman
and then 138 East to Lancaster in the High Desert. Joshua Trees line 138 and looked like weird
dinosaurs froze in time as the sun set behind me to the west. I arrived at 7:00 p.m. to see my
daughter Cheyenne who is 29 and so glad to see me! I get off and she tells me to “sit down” as she has
“news” for me! (?) Here she wanted to tell me face-to-face: She had got married the day before on
9-11 in San Diego County and is now 6 weeks pregnant! I’m going be a grand-pap now! WOW. What a
surprise for me!
DAY#2 & #3: Sunday-Monday 9-13 & 14: The bike never started as I enjoyed time with my daughter.
Cooking on the grill, visit her mother & step-sister; go to the movies; sight-see in the desert to take
pictures of the Joshua Trees. It was so good to be with her and learn about all that is going on in
her life! Next time I see her she will be in San Diego with her husband and a new baby!
DAY #4: Tuesday 9-15: I’m up and ready to ride at 7:30 a.m. So hard to say good-bye but have a route
planned and things to see today. A MUCH needed rain moved into the L.A. & Southern Calif. Area
overnight. I got onto 14 North in a misty rain which shortly ended before Mojave, Calif. Filling up
there, I continued towards 178 West which had me cross an incredible pass at the bottom edge of the
Sequoia National Park. I crossed the Pacific Crest Trail (of which I would crisscross 5 times at
various spots over the weeks’ trip). It made me reflect back to hiking as a kid with my family as well
as Cheryl Strayer in the movie “The Wild”. Skirting around Lake Isabella I was simply amazed at how
little water was there. I could see the shoreline and where it once was and hundreds of feet of dry
shoreline! I followed the Kern River north into the Sierra National Park & Forest- breathtaking and
cool, crisp air! I came around a bend at one point and was stopped by a rider on a horse as “Cattle
Movement” was taking place ahead right down the middle of the road! Realizing you just cannot cover
every road in one week I opt to not see General Sherman Tree on this visit and the potential for forest
fires in that area made me head to lower elevations and a western and then northern route. I took 190
into Porterville then 65 into Lindsay for a quick lunch. Wanting to beat the crazy traffic in Fresno I
opt to jump on I-99 North via 137 West through fields of vegetables. At Fresno I easily jumped on 41
going north away from humans heading to Oakhurst picking up 49 into Mariposa. This route is just along
the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range & beautiful. I am 1st to arrive at the hotel where
I’ll meet up with Jason, JoAnn, Tim & Stacy. Remembering Tim telling me; “you can get a full 30 pack
of beer in the saddle bags on these new G/S models” I head to the grocery store for beer, cheese,
pepperoni/ meat snacks & crackers. I figured I’m there 1st so I will score refreshments for the rest
of our crew. Mariposa Lodge was a nice stay and we all went out for a pizza and ate the snacks and had
cold beers together before turning in for the night.
DAY # 5: Wednesday 9-16: Up and ready I took a morning stroll through the town with JoAnn. It is
good to get your blood flowing in the morning especially if you are going to be on a bike most of the
day. We hit the road at 8:30 heading northeast on route 140 to Yosemite National Park Valley Floor. A
beautiful blue sky day and the air is refreshing. Again, there is so much to see you simply just
cannot do it all in one week! We took multiple pictures, walked around the village, saw a museum,
visited the highly expensive lodge, hit the store & post office, and had a nice outdoor lunch.
Unfortunately, EVERY waterfall is currently DRY due to the droughts in California. If you have never
been to Yosemite, it is a MUST SEE! We saddled up and headed to Tuolumne Grove of the Giant Sequoia
Trees and did a nice hike to see the trees. What goes downhill must come back UP! A mile down is the
easy part at 6,500. Ft elevation. The air is much thinner than in Pennsylvania and we took our time
returning to the bikes at a little slower pace but was well worth seeing these massive trees! Suited
up, we STILL had to ride to a higher elevation on route 120 heading to route 395 on the east side of
the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Again, the views are breathtaking and well worth seeing! Every turn
brought amazing views of massive granite formations of rocks and mountains. The temperature
drastically changes as you drop off the range towards lower elevations! At 395 we make a left heading
north past the eerie looking Mono Lake. We arrived safely at the Bridgeport Inn and checked in. I opt
to take a “Cowboy Room” upstairs which had a shared bathroom. The place was/ is haunted by the ghost
of a woman who had hung herself there in the 1800’s. An interesting story & historical little town!
We went out to dinner at a local sports bar then headed back to our rooms.
DAY #6: Thursday 9-17: I was up before daylight and could sense a drastic change in the temperature.
I headed out for my morning walk and walked the length of Bridgeport from the Inn south then back
north. The one and only gas station in town had hot coffee and I was glad to come in out of the 30
degree crisp air for a bit! Stepping back outside I walked across a picnic area where the morning
sprinklers had just turned off and the grass was frozen and crunched like frozen waffles under my feet.
Sunrise again. Looking West at the Sierra Range the light beamed upon the tops of the ridges making
its way down the slopes. For a few miles in front of me there were cattle grazing and the scene was
very peaceful! We ate in the Inn restaurant and suited up and on the road around 9:00. We took 395 to
108 turning West and passing the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center. I always wanted to go
there but was never afforded the opportunity over my 25 years in the Corps. An awesome climb up over
the Ranges on what is known as the Sonora Pass Highway. We stopped for a magnificent view and pictures
of Donnell Lake which appeared to be several thousand feet below us and could hear the rush of the
water feeding the lake which was very low as well. Travelling west the elevation dropped and the
temperatures climbed. We rode through the beautiful little town of Sonora and took 49 towards Angels
Camp. Passing over New Melones Lake it was amazing how little water was in this huge, empty valley.
Arriving in Angels Camp we ate at a pizza/ sub shop which hit the spot. Our route following lunch was
just as magnificent! We took route 4 known as Ebbets Pass Highway. More amazing views with little
traffic and cool temperatures as we crossed the Sierra Nevada Range again. Once at route 89 Tim &
Stacy were headed for gas & Jason and JoAnn dropped over to 395 to the Nevada State Line. I took 89 to
S. Lake Tahoe as we were all close to our destination at that point. The South Lake Tahoe had a few
spots to park the bike in front of and get some nice pictures of the bike and lake in the background.
I checked in at the 7 Seas Hotel and relaxed till the rest of our crew rolled in. An old friend of
mine from the Marine Corps & his girlfriend travelled from Grass Valley, Calif. to meet me and have
dinner with me. The Hotel had its’ own bar which was a nice set-up! We had a nice dinner just a short
walk up the street on the Nevada State Line at a Brewery. I said my good-byes’ as my friend and his
girlfriend will soon be moving to Hawaii. Turning in for the night I was ready for a long day on my
own on Friday.
DAY #7 Friday 9-18: I was wide awake at 5:00 a.m. and packed up. Mounting the bike at 6:40 a.m. I was
on my way north out of the Lake Tahoe area. It was in the low 30’s and steam was rising off the lake
and small feeder streams. The West Lake Rd. (89) was slow going as there were all night crews doing
paving projects which slowed the morning down. At one point just before I-80 I got to see beavers out
in the stream paralleling the road! I jumped on I-80 east to Truckee then 89 north past large tracks
of Ponderosa Pines. The sun was refreshing and warmed the road, me and the air. This section of
California reminded me of Western Movie scenes- Bonanza, etc. A very dry and remote area. I could see
Lassen National Park in the distance- SNOW covered! I entered the park and was amazed at how beautiful
the snow looked and the bubbling, HOT blue ponds and lakes around the base of this mountain. The air
outside had warmed to around 48 but the 4 or so inches of snow were still refusing to melt. More great
pictures taken and several stops on the way around the north side of this awesome park. If I had the
time, I would have liked to hike around on the multiple trails there! I fueled just before leaving the
park and headed west on 44. In the distance to my right was SNOW covered Mount Shasta. If there were
more days and time I would have gone there as well! Travelling on 44 to Redding the temperature
climbed back up to 90 degrees. I went right through Redding without any trouble and stopped at a small
sandwich shop in the town of Shasta on 299. A neat little town with lots of historic buildings! In my
mind, I thought I was only an hour or so from Eureka for the night. Boy was I wrong! For one, they
are widening the westbound side of 299 and traffic was held up 30 min. or so. This gave me the
opportunity to meet a nice fellow on an early R90/6 airhead which he explained had been put together
using about 5 different bikes. It had seen many, many miles and not one painted part matched another!
The older man had a flannel shirt on, open face helmet, work boots and a grin from ear-to-ear. He told
me he wasn’t into modern fancy bikes like “mine” and like things simple. I let him know it was a
rental and that I owned 2 air-heads myself. We shared stories and B.S.’d to pass the time and he told
me about his place up in the Pacific Range just up ahead. Traffic flowed again and we went through
Weaverville which looked like another really cool little town to visit. No time now and proceeded
west. The 299 skirts along the amazing mountains right above the Trinity River. I entered into
Humboldt County and knew the coast cannot be far away. The air became damp and cool and soon I was out
of the Range and onto route 101 heading into Eureka. I took a few pictures along the harbor inlet and
headed to Holiday Inn Express for my room. A great stay as always with a hot tub and pool. A total of
410 miles in a 10 hour day and would recommend this route to anyone.
DAY #8 Saturday 9-19: My internal clock had me awake at 4:00 a.m. Mind you, I need to travel to San
Francisco, turn in the bike, catch the train to the airport & fly home tonight! I scrounge what I can
from the “early bird” putting out the free morning breakfast items in the lobby. I love Holiday Inn
Express FREE breakfasts! I’m loaded up and dressed to hit the road at 5:30 a.m. (it IS 8:30 back home
on the East Coast). Route 101 is a 4 lane highway down through the Redwood Forest. As it just begins
to get light I stopped for a short break in front of the tree made into a gift shop! HUGE! I missed
the turn for the Redwood Grove and was not going back north. Another time and another trip. You just
simply cannot take it all in! I took the 101 to the route 1 which was tight and very pretty. Quite a
different foliage from the last few days! It drops you out right at the cliffs overlooking the
Pacific. The coast is remote up in this section and few folks venture out here on the Shoreline
Highway (1). I headed south taking more pictures along the way towards Fort Bragg then stopping for
what was the final fuel stop of my trip. South of Bragg I opt to take route 128 back towards 101
south. This took me through Navarro River Redwoods State Park. Cool mist rose from the ground as big
shafts of light beamed down through the massive trees. The road was adjusted to accommodate the growth
of these massive trees in this valley. There is no way to really capture how massive they are other
than seeing them in person. I opt to take a mid-day coffee break in Wine Country at the town of
Boonville. Vineyards line both sides of 128 in this area as the cool Pacific fog and ideal
temperatures are very good for grape growing in this section of California. From 128 to Cloverdale at
101 I leave Mendocino County into Sonoma County and pass about 85 to 90 two stroke early Japanese bikes
heading west towards the coast out on a Saturday ride together. A geeky gang with all sorts of crazy
helmets and riding apparel! I smelled their emitted fumes and exhaust the whole way to Cloverdale! On
101 South I knew my vacation was coming to an end and soon I would cross the Golden Gate Bridge to the
city by the Bay. I daydreamed of the week and all the wonderful sites, smells and sounds encountered.
A diverse state with such variety and rugged landscapes. Right before getting on the bridge I took the
last exit and went up to the overlook on Conzelman Road which is famous for the view of the Golden Gate
Bridge and the city in the background. This is the end of Marin County and Sausalito area. I took a
few pictures as boats and ships sailed under the bridge. Everyone jockeys for a parking spot but with
a bike it is not too hard to make a quick stop for a nice photograph. Coming down the hill, I crossed
the bridge and took the 101 back into the “rat-race” city of San Francisco. I hate cities! ALL
cities… Way too many people, traffic, stop & go traffic and tons of homeless and pedestrians. I had
the bike back and packed up my gear to mail back home to myself before 1:00 p.m. Yes, I probably could
have taken in another 2 or 3 hours of riding! A total of 1,808 miles on this trip and was very
rewarding! I strolled down Bryant to 4th for a nice lunch at a Pub established in 1908 then headed for
the BART & SFO Airport. The “Red-Eye” at 9:30 p.m. took me to JFK Airport 580 MPG 37,000 ft. up in 4
hours and 50 min. then was back in Pittsburgh by 10:45 a.m. Sunday. I was back in my car and headed
home in Windber, Pa. before 2:00 p.m. I look forward to doing this again and NO regrets!
1) Pack light & you REALLY need very little “stuff”. Camera was most important.
2) Watch for fuel on long trips & stretches! I made it through Lassen Ntl. Park on fumes & took
4.4 gal. in the G/S at the end of the Park.
3) Cross the Mountain Ranges heading West in the a.m. & East in the afternoons (which we did).
4) I preferred to get my rental on a Saturday to AVOID weekday rush-hour traffic & humans
commuting. This means a long day of travel but worth it in my book!
5) “Red-eye” flight home gives you the whole day to sight-see without getting a hotel again in the
Bay Area plus you are home to do stuff on a Sunday.
6) Being a Marine I spent 7 ½ years in California and knew what to expect. September is the RIGHT
time to go visit. Dry, but beautiful riding weather!
Peace to all- George J. Blackham IV, 1stSgt, USMC (Ret) LHBMWRC- V. Pres. MOA/ Club # 29