Thunder and Lighnin'

Wow! What a ride!  I left the bay area around my usual 3 PM.  I was only going to the gold country, so it wasn’t actually that long of a ride.  Leaving the Bay Area was the typical jaunt: freeway to freeway to freeway.  Once in the Central Valley though, things changed rapidly.  There was a weather system off to the east and the winds were picking up.  It being Memorial Day weekend, I didn’t expect any weather.  This is California, right?  Well, they do say you learn something new every day.  Heading further east on Highway 88 the clouds got darker and the wind got stiffer.  About 25 minutes east of Interstate 5 the skies opened up.  It was pouring.  To make things even more interesting there were forks of lightning flashing across the sky with loud claps of thunder.  I’ve barely ridden in rain, much less a true thunderstorm. Seeing that lightning fork across the sky was something else!

One of the advantages to the freeway is that there are bridges every so often.  Growing up in Georgia I would often see motorcyclists hidden under overpasses in the short-lived rainstorms there.  Where I was though there were no bridges.  I was just going to get wet.  It was even cold.  How dare the weather gods bring the temperature under 70° in the middle of summer!  After about 30 minutes in the washing machine the rain subsided and the rest of the journey was easy traveling.

Dinner that night was great!  There were good friends around, plenty of good food, and a time of war stories to share about the ride there.

Saturday’s ride had to be much better!

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We pretty much puttered around the Gold Country exploring roads that were both familiar and unfamiliar.  The big feature of the day was Wentworth Springs and Loon Lake.  Both of those were very familiar to me.  Highway 193 however, was not.  From Placerville to Georgetown the highway was quite technical and provided a good workout for even an experienced rider.  Heading northbound the first part of it is the most technical and it’s downhill.  As you get further towards Georgetown the road mellows out and provides easy passing opportunities for slow cars.

I’ll just say it “I LOVE Wentworth Springs!”  The road as well paved, lightly traveled, perfect curves that are honest  and which makes for truly great riding.  I snuck away from the group to take a few pictures of the riders:

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Most all of the turns are clean and honest like this one:

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Once at Stumpy Meadows Reservoir however, slow down.  The turn following that body of water is much sneakier than the others.  The reservoir is nice to look at!

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I’m a sucker for snowy mountains.  The rain that happened the day before provided a little extra snow cap for the aspiring photographer :-).  I was rolling along and saw this vista and slowed way down:

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I rarely use HDR photography but wanted to give this scene a shot in HDR.  I do like the way it came out.

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And the full scene in panoramic format

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Lunch was at Loon Lake.

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And a few early season flowers were adorning the shoreline:

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I searched around the lake but couldn’t find the group.  At this point I accepted that I was separated from the group and on my own. I ate a quick lunch and started exploring.  I’d been to the main campgrounds and boat launches but hadn’t seen the areas further down the road.  About a mile or two from the boat launch the road turns to dirt, runs over the dam, and down to the Rubicon Trail staging area.

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I took the dirt road over the bridge and could see off-road heaven below:

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After about an hour, I ran into Eric from the group.  They sent him out to search for me.  Turns out they were in the far campground just below the fold in the land.  I went by the campground but they were just out of sight.  The others had already left so we quickly made her way down the mountain to see if we could catch the others.  As we rounded the turn there was an officer sitting in the fold waiting to pounce on some hurried traveler.  We hit the brakes and got the nod from the officer but she didn’t pursue us.  Leaving the national forest there is a great view of the mountains behind.

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Once we got to US Highway 50 we found the group.  Unfortunately one of the bikes had a severed electrical system.  She wasn’t going anywhere.  While we’re waiting for the tow truck, I got to take the Volkswagen Bug into town for the Starbucks run!  If you’re going to wear all the gear all the time on the bike when I do the same in the car?

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Thankfully we got the bike back to camp and with a little ingenuity the bike was running again!  One the way back we took a quick stop at Bridalveil falls.  With the late sun I was able to get some ghosting in the water!

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The Route:

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