The Memorial Day Mingle is our “season opener” as most of the Sierra passes are open and it’s time to brush off the winter coat and go have some curve carving fun up in the hills. Sure, it’s California and we ride all year, but there’s something really special about being deep in the mountains. It’s a deeply spiritual experience for me. Memorial Day tends to kick off the year.
The other aspect of the ride is that it’s the mingle. The Memorial day Mingle is an early season ride for us mingle with other riders and clubs to promote an open riding community. We usually tend to center around members and potentials but this ride is to be open, much like the Queer Invasion of Death Valley. Come, ride with us and be social.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the ride last year. Because of that and my trip to Sydney taking all of the winter, I didn’t change a thing. We even ate at the same restaurants. So what was different? Well, almost everything. And that’s what makes riding fun.
John came in from Atlanta to ride with us. We were supposed to meet up on the Death Valley ride. With the imminent trip to Sydney and trying to get everything organized, it was better to meet up in the spring. That was good. It was good to hang a day or so before the ride. He rented a bike from Dubbelju Motorcycle Rental. Thebike was a kick ass BMW F800 GS that was basically new. It was way better than the well loved F650 I got in Sydney… No I’m really not jealous, really :). Ok.. maybe just a little bit 🙂
We all left from San Francisco and Oakland about 8 and made our way out to Manteca. Since we had riders coming from a few places, it made sense to meet at Manteca so no one really had to backtrack. Surprisingly, John and I were the only ones that met up at the San Francisco meet point. Those that were on the east side of the city went to Oakland.
It was a typical San Francisco morning with deep fog that was cold and wet. I was wondering if it was going to be wet all the way through the east bay but things dried out right near the Bay Bridge. We made great progress across the east bay. Traffic was cooperative and we rolled into town to meet everyone right on time at 9:45 am.
The next phase of the ride was hot and dry with loads of traffic. The freeways did a good job keeping everyone moving but crossing the valley on two lane roads was painful. Traffic near Oakdale was particularly bad as we inched along in traffic. Once we passed Oakdale and the road moved back to 4 lanes, life was good. We hit our old favorite, the Old Priest Grade which was awesome. We had no cars around us which made a fun ride up to lunch at the Priest Grade Cafe.
The next phase of the ride opened up and it was a glorious ride out to Crane Flat. The roads were open and the line to get into the park was pretty painless. The roads were in good shape. We gassed up at Crane Flat. It was getting late in the day so I starting yelling :10 mins and roll so that people are mindful of time.
We rolled out of Crane Flat at 3pm and life was good. My face shield was up and the cool breeze was all around me. Not 5 mins after getting out of Crane Flat an insect flies into my helmet and starts stinging the heck out of me. F*&^(*&)&^(*ing-A. I pull over, rip my helmet off, and compose myself back to normal. The last time this happened was back in 2001. My ride lead mode kicked in and hands the reigns over to Tom and ask John to stay with me as we return to Crane Flat.
I wanted to go back as Yosemite has park staff there. If there was any sort of reaction, they’d be able to get the right people involved. We were burning daylight and I wanted to ensure we got over the mountain before dark and cold trapped us. We ran into a ranger about 45 minutes into the incident and explained my predicament. He reassured us if something bad would have happened, I’d be in hot water by now. The bite was swelling, but not way out of control. We iced it and kept a close watch.
At 5pm we hit the road as it was getting cold and we still needed to climb another 4,000 feet. It was a quick ride through the park. We only briefly stopped at Olmstead Point and Tioga Lake. Olmstead Point is a great view of the park and Tioga Lake is one of my favorite places to stop (also Tenaya Lake as well). The high alpine air stung as the wind blew, but we knew warmer moments were ahead.
The rest of the group had moved on from Tioga Gas Mart in Lee Vining so we kept moving too. I knew the group was worrying about us and T-mobile had no coverage here to reach them. US-395 was a welcome, easier ride down into Mammoth. We were both tired and relieved to hear the group had dinner all set up. We dumped all of our stuff at the Juniper Springs and hopped onto the bus for dinner. No bikes made for a nice glass of wine at dinner.
We missed the hot tub cutoff as we got in late which was a bummer. The Juniper Springs lodge has really good, private hot tubs that I was looking forward to. Another adventure for another day.