Friday, March 27, 2015

Foggy Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)

I reached Palo Alto, CA and the home of my brother Carlos and his lovely wife Ling mid-afternoon yesterday, and reintroduced myself to their sons as its been years since I last saw them.  Their names are Evan and Nathan and Nathan was but a baby then.

After waking at 5AM PST this morning, did some work till 8AM and then it was time for a short break so my nephews could ride in Scarlett's sidecar and be taken to the nearby elementary school.


After I returned back to their home, my brother went off to his job and I geared up fully to go riding US1 or the Pacific Coast Highway portion from Half Moon Bay to San Francisco.

I took US280 to State Road 92 which takes one via a twisty two lane road through the intervening hills and onto the town of San Mateo and from there one can see the Pacific Ocean!  I rode North on US1, mentally noting the spots I'd be able to safely stop at for pictures on the way back from San Francisco.  It was very foggy on the way up and things really wouldn't get better on the way back.

The traffic wasn't too bad till I reached the San Francisco city limits using US1.  I should have gone around 19th Street as it was bumper to bumper traffic due to repair crews doing something and blocking lanes of travel.  You'd think they could do that at night but what's inconveniencing hundreds of motorists instead right?

I made it to the Golden Gate Bridge and crossed over it without incident after failing to find a parking spot at the vista parking lot on its southern end.

There was no room on the northern end parking lot either, popular attraction, the Golden Gate Bridge....who knew?  ;)

Still, I'd spotted what looked like a great vantage point up a hill to the NW of the bridge and found that Alexander Avenue takes one up that hill which makes up part of a coastal highway.  I think there's a children's science museum in the area somewhere too.

Higher up, one could see the bridge with one end of it shrouded in thick fog but still quite scenic.  I briefly posed Scarlett and got proof she'd been to the bridge:

Scarlett on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

A little further down the hill, there's a parking spot for a few vehicles near trails to where a Coastal Artillery Gun emplacement had once been located.  A short walk from the rig and you can get this angle of view on the Golden Gate Bridge


You can see the US101 Highway coming from the hills to the north
in Marin County, feeding to the right and onto the Golden Gate Bridge
It was quite sunny away from the bridge, go figure!

Scarlett and I re-traced our route on US1 once we re-crossed the bridge and this time traffic was much better as we motored southbound.  I soon got on US280 till it got me to the Pacifica exit and from there Scarlett and I motored southwards looking for spots where one could see the ocean.

 In the town of Pacifica I believe, a big beach is available for 
folks to swim and surf.  I remembered Pacific Ocean water as cold, 
so I didn't walk out to the water.



South of Pacific, there's this weird rock "formation" on top
of a sea-facing cliff/hill.

 I've no idea what it's supposed to be.....anyone?

 Further on towards Half Moon Bay, there was this isolated
beach surrounded by steep rock walls with signs warning
folks to stay out, no hiking or climbing!


The rest of the ride was under brightening skies (of course) as I retraced my way back along the Half Moon Bay Road and back onto US280.

Had myself some excitement as I was starting to merge onto traffic on the 280, a bee flew into helmet, under my sun visor and lodged itself between my right lens on my glasses and my eye.  It then proceeded to move around and sting me!  I must have been quite the sight, frantically trying to raise my sun visor and trying to dislodge the stupid bee.

I got off to the side of the road while slapping at my glasses, and looked down to see the stupid bee lying there on the fuel tank, still twitching!  The sting really stung too.

Still, no allergic reaction to speak of, though it hurt like blazes for quite a bit, a very strong stinging/burning sensation.  Still, I continued riding on towards the exit for Palo Alto, stopped for gas, and made it to my brother's place with no further incidents.

This portion of the PCH was not bad in terms of views, the really gorgeous stuff must be further south or north of the area I am in.  I'll have to see about exploring further along US1.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Reno, Nevada

Enroute with Scarlett, my 2014 URAL Patrol Sidecar (on a trailer pulled by the family's spare car aka the expendable car the boys will drive soon).

Exploring the concept of using a trailer to get Scarlett to interesting destinations without spending a lot of time on the super slabs inducing wear and tear that has no scenic value for the most part.

Yesterday, spent it fighting eastbound wind storms in Wyoming on Interstate 80, boy was I glad I wasn't riding the URAL!  It would have probably not even been able to hold 50 mph in the face of the 35-50 mph wind gusts.  Heck, the PT Cruiser was having a heck of a time with the winds!

Still, the PT Cruiser persevered and by the end of the day we were out of the winds and in Utah for a night at a KOA campground where I tried out the sleeping accomodations I'd made within the PT Cruiser.  Results were mixed.  More on that in future posts.

Today, we continued on I-80 westbound with the goal of reaching Reno.  The day went pretty well, things got warmer as we moved west.  Nevada has some nice scenic spots with snow-capped mountains dominating the horizon at several points.

 Not so photogenic eh?

 Somewhere on I-80, in Nevada.
The view of Scarlett that I had each time I looked at
the rear view mirror.

Got to Reno shortly before 6PM Pacific Time, and checked into a hotel I found online away from the downtown area since I was concerned about lots of people walking by the hotel and being curious about Scarlett on the trailer!  

Before anything else though, I got Scarlett off the trailer, geared up and went for a ride.  Damn it felt good to be riding her again.  Sure, driving the PT Cruiser is more comfortable, and out of the elements but its a bit boring you know?

I was chasing the sunset and in the process ended up in the downtown area and cruising near the big casino hotels.  I couldn't find a good spot for a sunset picture so instead went chasing neon.


Circus Circus was advertising rooms for $30 online but
I wondered where I'd end up parking the vehicles!

Kind of like trailering one's Harley to the outskirts of Sturgis, and then unloading it to ride it into Sturgis but what the heck.  Now I can claim I've motorcycled in Nevada.

Tomorrow after a half morning of work, it's a four run to my destination of Palo Alto, CA where I'll be staying with my brother Carlos and his family.  I'll be in the area visiting my parents with my two sons who fly into SFO Friday night.  

Then, once the boys back in Colorado, I'll be heading homewards via the southern route to see what Scarlett and I can see.  Stay tuned.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pikes Peak, twice in one day.

Yesterday, Sunday, it was time for Scarlett, my 2014 URAL Patrol and I to ride to the nearby "church" of Our Lady of the Snow-Clad Mountains: Pikes Peak.

Before I left shortly after 9AM I called the Pikes Peak information line.  The recording from Saturday said the Pikes Peak road was open all the way to the summit!

So we headed on down to Colorado Springs, using the I-25 Super Slab, and yes, moving at URAL speed I was the slowest vehicle in the right lane.  I did manage to pass someone though, a nervous cager in the Colorado Springs portion before Cimmaron Road/US24 West.

I got to the toll both for the Pikes Peak Road and was disappointed to find out it was only 13 of the 19 miles that was cleared of snow and ice.  Well, I was there anyways, and elected to go on up for pictures.  Note to self, if in doubt, call AFTER 8:30 AM, according to the toll booth operator.

The dam at Crystal Reservoir

I was a bit bummed but my spirits were raised slightly when Mile Marker 13 came and went at Glen Cove and I actually reached close to Mile Marker 14, or what I call the Rock Pile from previous rides up the mountain.

 Between MM 13 and 14, is the Rock Pile, and here was a Park Ranger
truck making sure folks didn't sneak past and interfere with the
work of the snow clearing crews further up the mountain.

 Note the top of the mountain on the left portion of the 
picture, that's around MM 16 I was told and below I 
managed to capture a glimpse of the snow plow at work.


 Pano of the Rock Pile Area.

 A view of Colorado Springs from the Rock Pile


There was a bunch of us waiting, hoping for news that the road would be cleared further up since there were crews on the job.  So with some time to kill, I took the above and below pictures:

 On a clear day, you can see forever....


I went perhaps a half mile down the mountain for the below shots:






 Pano of the hairpin turn before the Rock Pile, it looks icy
because it was icy....windy and cold at times, I would see
a low of 27°F (-2.7°C)



As I was finishing with the above pictures, a park ranger truck stopped near me and I queried him as to the road status.  He said he'd just heard on the radio that they would be stopping for the day at MM 17 due to icy conditions on the road.  The skies overhead were pretty overcast and there was doubt the sun would be able to shine on the ice on the road to melt it.

So I decided to motor on down towards Colorado Springs to find the "America the Beautiful Park" which I'd seen pictures of on FaceBook.  It has an interesting sculpture:

Kind of fitting, don't you think, since the series Stargate
was based out of nearby Cheyenne Mountain and NORAD.

It was so warm and sunny (a 30 degree difference in temperatures from the mountain) that as I finished up, I called the Ranger Station at Pikes Peak to check and damn if they now hadn't opened the road to MM 17!

I checked in with my loving wife and she said to go for it, quite the enabler she is.  So I rode back towards the Pikes Peak Road and breezed through the toll station where the ranger confirmed that it was clear to MM 17.

Mile Marker 17 came and went, and my hopes climbed as Scarlett climbed the mostly clear and dry road towards the summit.  It was nice and sunny up there and before I knew it, I was in the parking lot at the summit!  Many other folks were there ahead of me, blocking a clear view of the summit sign:

 Scarlett at the Summit of Pikes Peak, elevation 14,115 ft or 4302 meters.

  Exiting the summit parking lot, one is presented with quite the view

As I descended with Scarlett towards the Rock Pile, I would stop where safe to take pictures.  Such a clear day for the most part, with some cloud cover to give the sky some depth, conditions were damn near perfect.





Along with other visitors, we were shooed off the mountain by a park ranger truck once 4PM rolled in. I was off the mountain a little after 5PM and it was time to do some highway riding to get back home.

I got home shortly after 6:30PM, using the I-25 slab again with no issues, moving at URAL speed which is about 55 mph.

Hope you liked the pictures, it was a good day at church, so good, I went twice!  :)

Previously: Mountain Peak Views along the Front Range

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Long Peak and nearby Front Range Mountain Peaks

A gloriously (yawn) warm and sunny day here in Colorado.  Scarlett, my 2014 URAL Patrol Sidecar Rig (with her new clutch disks) and I motored out into the Metro Denver area shortly after 9AM after breakfast.

The views of the Front Range Mountain Peaks were pretty clear as I neared I-25 so I got onto it heading north, past the downtown area and out towards the Longmont area.  I was trying to find the spot where I had found good views of Long Peak before with Valencia, my 2011 URAL Patrol Sidecar Rig but ended up overshooting that spot.

Still, I think and hope you'll like the spots I found to picture the nearby range of mountain peaks that end with majestic Long Peak on the northern end.

 Taken as I neared Boulder along Colorado State Road 7.
The above shot is in Enhance Auto mode, which I've found has
some issues with the kind of long depth of field shots I like to take.
Often, my motorcycle will be slightly blurry.

 Above and below, shot at different distances from Scarlett, 
using aperture priority with a setting of F13 to ensure everything was
in focus.  This mode also allowed to me add in some underexposure to
bring out the colors and give it some warmer tones.  It did have the effect
of dulling the brilliant blue sky however, which I sort of fixed in post-processing.


Scarlett and I then avoided going into Boulder itself, heading north instead on Colorado State Highway 157 which becomes CO 119 after a few miles.  I did this since I'd lost sight of Long Peak due to the now closer foothills blocking the view.  Soon though, I was next to the Boulder County Fair Grounds and found a nice empty parking lot within to pose Scarlett with Long Peak in the background.

Again, playing with the telephoto len's ability to pull in the distant mountain peak.


After the first shot below though, I forgot I left some underexposure turned on so the shots turned out a bit warmer than seemed right.  No worries, though, a little post-processing to 'cool' them down did the trick.


Motoring onwards, we started heading east on CO119 and I spotted a likely open area next to the highway where there wasn't yet a lot of construction or buildings.  Suitably named, Skyway Drive, gave me some nice views of most of the peaks one can see while heading either north or south on I-25.

 Left to Right, (I think), Mt Jasper, Apache Peak, Mount Audubon, Ogalalla Peak,
Meadow Mountain and finally Long Peak

A view of the southern half of the peaks line

Scarlett and I then just meandered the county roads to the east of the I-25 Super Slab, which was choked with cager traffic.  Lots of views of gas and oil drills dotting the prairie; with ranch homes and clusters of cookie-cutter type housing where there once was just open prairie or farmland.

Large oil rig construction towers imposed themselves on the horizon as work continues to add even more gas and oil drill sites in this part of the Front Range.  

I even went past one of the sites I'd visited as a contractor for Encana Natural Gas, their Wattenberg Storage facility looked unchanged since I was there over a year and a half ago.

Slowly working my way south and east, soon it was just mindless riding in medium to heavy traffic within the Metro Denver area.  I-25 was jammed up south of 120th Street so I abandoned the super slab at 104th Street and made my way through NorthGlenn and soon was heading south on Tower Road towards home.

Temperatures ranged from 47°F (8.3°C) at the start of the riding to a high of 72°F (22.2°C) when I got home shortly before 2PM.  It was, quite warm by then!

Scarlett got 38 MPG by the way.

So, Spring is has arrived to Colorado as of yesterday, now there's really no excuse for motorcycle owners here to not ride!