Riding for me falls in one of three camps: solo adventures, random wanderings with a few people, or full on organized trips. This time it was the latter. I was fortunate to have a great group. Rather than ride from motel to motel this time we went camping! I learned a lot through the process and how to improve it next time.
The last time I went to Kings Canyon I picked up a set of bedbugs. With camping, you get most of the benefit without the critters. Well, you still have critters but just different critters. 🙂 The last time I was in the canyon I rode home on highway 245. I remember it being exhausting as the road is very technical and lengthy as well. Most riders would consider that awesome, and I do too, it was just a long stretch after a long ride in the heat.
My packing regiment got all thrown off as well as I usually never bring stuff to cook or eat with. I usually just have the one top case but had to move to two side cases to accommodate the pot, a frying pan, a spatula, 18 sets of silverware, and 18 plates. I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal but having a vertical side case makes getting stuff in and out of the side cases much more difficult. Every time I opened the saddlebags the stuff on the top would fall out.
The day started off very cool as it was only in the 60s. We rode on US 101 south. to Highway 25 south to get gas in Tres Pinos. That is the last gas station for another 80 or so miles. Thus it’s great to stop there for the smaller range bikes. The cashier there seemed to take a liking to our group which was great! He was curious where we were coming from, where we were going, and let us know it was going to be a great day for a ride (but we knew that) The further south we got the warmer it got. By the time we had reached highway 198 it was nearing the high 90s.
We had two copper bikes this ride. Copper tends to be an unusual color for bikes it seems.
We saw a fire truck come screaming down the highway and without smoke in the distance we all had a hunch it was bad news ahead. Just over the crest on highway 198 we saw that one bike was on the side of the road standing up and one bike on the side of the road laying down next to the mountain. It had appeared the rider went down hard. While this section of road is generally forgiving, you can never respect to your machine enough. Hopefully the rider turns out okay.
Lunch was in Coalinga at none other than Harris Ranch. I been hearing for years that it’s the best place to get beef in California. You can see cows all around the restaurant so there is plenty of local supply. For once I decided to keep it simple: a hamburger and sweet potato fries.
Harris Ranch (C is average. No grade inflation here):
|Seating||B+||This place was busy. I’m surprised they got us in so quickly given our group of six.|
|Atmosphere||C||Felt a lot like an Applebees. Nothing to write home about.|
|Wait Staff||A||My waitress was great. Spot on for managing the group’s drinks and being responsive.|
|Food||D||The fries were cold and the burger didn’t taste like it was fresh. Looked more like a beef puck than a hand formed burger. This was a big disappointment.|
|Value||C-||Burger, fries, coke, and tip was $18. That felt high for the area.|
|Overall||C-||Pass. I was hoping for good beef… but I’d not go back and try the steak.|
After lunch it was time to start climbing out of the valley. Highway 201 shot straight across the valley to highway 63. The GPS told us to turn north where highway 201 continues south cosigned with highway 63. The turn north brought us to Boyd Road which turned out to be a fun jaunt to highway 245. Highway 245 was as technical as I remember it. With the triple digit heat it was exhausting climbing out of the valley. Once we turned onto highway 180 the elevation started to kick in and the temperatures dropped. That intersection is between 5000 and 6000 feet so the temperature dropped quite a bit. We breezed through the canyon because it was important to get down to Cedar Grove before things closed. Once the store closes you’re out of luck. The ride down Highway 180 is still one of my favorite rides in California. Traffic is generally minimal compared to other roads of similar scenery and the turns tend to be very predictable all the way from Fresno to Cedar Grove. Those in the front of the group got a great ride but unfortunately there was a Nissan Sentra which spoiled it for those in the back half of the group.
We got camp set up and then headed off to the store to get dinner. I kept the macro photos going:
The parking spot wasn’t too sandy which was awesome!
Steve was ready to go before the rest of us!
I remember the general store having a lot more to eat. Since the stove that I brought didn’t work it was going to be hamburgers over the grill. We bought one of those camping griddles, some frozen beef pucks, a whole lot of chips, and beer. About an hour later we were all fed and happy from the day’s events. As with every camping trip good times were had around the campfire. I slept hard that night. I fell asleep without a sleeping bag and then woke up cold at three o’clock in the morning.