Old Stories; New Beginnings

My bike has been in the shop for almost a month. Having just rolled over 12,000 miles, the Beemer needed its thousand dollars of love. That includes a major service: oil, valves, and a whole bunch of other stuff. I also wanted BMWs to help troubleshoot why the installation of HeliBars was crimping the front brake line – rendering a safety issue. That resulted in needing to replace the front brake line. That part, unfortunately, had to ship from Germany, which was a three-week wait.

The shop called, and the bike was ready first thing Saturday morning! It was time to go riding! Now that I’ve got resolution on bars that mostly fit me, I want to start bonding with my motorcycle. I’m hoping I’m through the dating phase where we’re still trying to figure out one another. The GS is a fantastic bike, and while I love pulling fault codes from the engine computer – it’s time to ride and see the world together again.

I set my eyes on the coast. This time of year, it can be insanely warm out where I live. The temperature gradient can be almost 40° between my home and the coast! Today was no exception. I was looking forward to the fog and cold on the ride ahead.

After so many years of riding, I still love the simple pleasures of being on the bike. Most of the San Mateo Bridge runs right along the water. The wind was stiff today. I was tight on the bike but loose on the controls, getting tossed a bit in the saddle. Near the San Mateo side, the bridge shoots straight up into the air so boats can sail down the bay. Climbing this section in the rough air felt like flying! Seeing the planes flying overhead and landing a short distance away added to the experience. I must’ve been over this bridge almost 500 times, yet today was unique. These sorts of surprises are always welcome on the bike.

Winter was in full season by the time I hit the coast. Temperatures struggled to stay above 50 degrees. After getting gas, I strolled along Main Street through downtown Half Moon Bay rather than jumping on Highway 1. In my 20 years of living in the area, I’ve been down Main Street maybe twice before. Half Moon Bay was always a waypoint. It’s a place to go somewhere else. Today was a ride with no real direction, and the path less traveled made all the difference. Near the end of Main Street, I stumbled into a small fruit stand with glorious fresh produce to bring back to an empty refrigerator.

There is a small turnout on Highway one just south of San Gregorio and a bit north of Pescadero, next to beautiful bluffs overlooking the water. When I have time, I always appreciate taking in this place of the land meets the sea. Another rider had the same idea. His bike sat in the same spot. After a few minutes, I walked over and said hello.

In some ways, our conversation was like looking back in time and seeing how much joy came from motorcycling. Chan was beginning his motorcycle career. He peppered me for at least an hour with questions. Where was your first overnight? Where are all the places to go in California? Where are your favorite roads? How do you prepare for a trip that’s longer than an afternoon? You could see the adventure coming out of his eyes.

At the same moment, we then transitioned to his bike. He rode a 2006 V-Strom 650 with 80,000 miles on it. That bike got around with its former owner! We spoke of tires. We talked about valves. We rambled on about fluids: oil, coolant, and brake. We then shifted to the brake pads and rotors when I thought I saw the front brake master cylinder shed a tear of brake fluid. The possibility of leaking brake fluid worried me.

We talked about the braking system needing to be a sealed system. Leaking fluid could compromise the bike’s ability to slow. That worried me. The brakes held pressure, but something didn’t seem right. Chan said he’d get it looked at when he got back over the hill.

I appreciated Chan’s wide-open eyes about the journey ahead. I needed an injection of his enthusiasm in helping give me perspective on my journey as a motorcyclist. When I started riding, I was afraid to work on my bike, thinking I’d screw something up. Little by little, I learned how to service my motorcycle. It gave me the confidence to handle the basics should something go mechanically awry out on the road.

The experience on my V-Strom gave me the confidence to buy the required tools to work on the BMW. I chose one last dealer service to ensure that everything was functioning as it should before the warranty expires. My next service, however, I’ll be taking the reins.

Pescadero Road is a fun squiggle back towards town. The pavements are more challenging than Highway 84 and has significantly less traffic – especially on the late Sunday evening. A spirited Mazda Miata and I enjoyed snaking up through the hills. As we approached the redwood forest, I waived him on for a more mellow descent.

With darkness beginning to cloak the forest, the solitude of the redwoods flooded the surroundings. I chose to coast through this section to silence the motor and hear the forest. It was a brief reminder to sometimes pause and soak in the surroundings. Pescadero Road soon gave way to the busier highway 84, bumping over the Santa Cruz Mountains. I found a rare moment with no cars ahead of me near the top of the road. Highway 84 has the most awesome turns allowing the rider to load and unload the suspension through left and right turns where rider and machine truly becomes one amongst the redwoods. It’s one of my favorite sections of road here in the area.

Highway 35 follows the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Riding the ridge afforded summertime temperatures in the low 70s. I was able to catch bits of the sunset as I followed the highway’s gentle curves. I was fortunate to capture the sunset with fog masking the landscape below. It was a beautiful moment.

Literally, in the next turn, the temperature dropped 20 degrees with white-out conditions due to the “beautiful” fog. The wind was howling. Five miles, I told myself. I just needed to get below the fog layer. All the bumpiness of the San Mateo bridge returned without the ability. I kept repeating slow and steady wins this race.

I was thankful to be underneath the fog and begin the journey home. It was a lovely day seeing where the ocean meets the sea. That experience never gets old, and it was lovely to share it with the new rider on the journey. Thanks, Chan!

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