I did it! I was off on my first solo motorcycle trip in over two years. I thought my grin would split my helmet in half as I turned onto Highway 50 from my neighborhood. Relief was a small part of the equation, to be sure. Packing and getting out the door had its challenges. But really it was the pure joy of motorcycle travel that coursed through my body. I basked in the motorcycle traveler’s equivalent of “runner’s high” as I opened Evie up and felt her thrust forward underneath me. Ahead lay endless open road. Looking at the expanse stretching out in front of me, all I saw was possibility.
The solo ride
As I talked about in the first part of this series, it took some orchestration to put this trip together. Timing, weather, and logistics were not as straightforward as I would have liked. But once on the road everything fell into place. Other than a general direction for the first night and knowing I had about eight days to explore, I didn’t have a plan. That’s the beauty of the coddiwomple.
With no plan though, what did I know that shaped the trip you see on the map?
- I’d be working around challenging wind and temperatures the entire trip.
- I needed to be prepared to have a day off the bike. Depending on how the forecast shaped up, I knew I might have to wait out disagreeable and potentially unsafe riding conditions.
- At some point, I’d meet up with my dear man.
- I wanted to renew my motorcycle camping skills.
In the end, those factors led me to a sort of circumnavigation of the southern Sierra. Only 1,132 miles but they were glorious. Revisiting some familiar roads and exploring some new ones made for a pleasant mix of comfort and excitement. (PS – the map is interactive if you want to take a closer look. I’ve dropped pins on points of interest. Zoom in to see those.)
Here’s the breakdown and highlights by day with some recommendations if you find yourself in these areas.
Route: US 50, US 95A, NV 339, NV 208, NV 338, US 395
My experience: I headed south towards Bishop, California with the intent of finding a campsite somewhere along the way. I watched the weather shape up through the day. The overnight temperatures in the higher-elevation Forest Service sites along US 395 were going to be a little lower than I was prepared for. With some reluctance I pushed into Bishop and set up shop at an agreeable county park. Still chilly but manageable. It wouldn’t have the peace and quiet I was hoping for but it gained me a few perks like easy access to water.
Getting my moto-camping skills reinvigorated that first night was a bit of a goat rodeo. I’d made a good choice on camp though. A developed front-country site made the transition easier. Fortunately a lot came back to me quickly and I had camp set up in fairly short order. I got reacquainted with my equipment, feeling like a beginner. Things like remembering how to run my camp stove, set up my cot, and how to store my moto gear in my tiny tent.
Access to electricity was a nice bonus. Working at my little computer while bats hunted overhead in the evening was exquisite. I could feel the off-kilter things in my life resetting as I pecked away at my tasks and watched their winged acrobatics, sometimes even feeling them swoop within a few inches of my head.
- Mono Lake Vista on US 395: If you’re in the area, be sure to stop at the overlook. The view over the lake is spectacular. If you’re approaching from the north, you’ll get a jaw-dropping eyeful of the lake as the view opens up around a big downhill curve.
- Browns Millpond Campground: This is a nice little county campground, especially if you need amenities like water, electricity, and showers.
Route: US 395
My experience: Yep, a very low-mileage day; the lowest of the whole trip. I was relaxed and reveling in my solitude. Dusting off my solo motorcycle travel and camping skills felt amazing. I took the time for a leisurely working breakfast, a stop to refuel, a beef jerky run, and a trip to the auto parts store to pick up a new headlight bulb for Evie.
In between all of these stops, I watched the winds to decide what to take on for Day 2. It was not a favorable day for motorcycling. I’m well aware of what wind speeds I can handle, as well as the limits on the fun factor when gusts are high. Being able to handle the winds and enjoying the ride are two distinctly different aspects of a motorcycle trip.
So I mosied south though Big Pine to Lone Pine, stopping at places I normally blast through on my way to other destinations. I took a long break at the Bristlecone Pine Information Center, waffling greatly (ok, maybe epically) about riding the rough, twisty road up to the forest. And I almost decided to go for it after chatting with a couple who was heading up. They promised they’d have my back if shit went bad for me. I took one last look at the wind reports and opted for prudence. Riding an unfamiliar and challenging road alone in high winds on a heavily loaded motorcycle seemed to cross the line from adventure into unnecessary risk. Really, it was only a postponement in hopes the winds would subside in the next day or two and I could ride it then.
Instead, I wandered into Lone Pine and spent some time at the Lone Pine Film History Museum I’d always passed by but never visited. I’m not a film buff by any means but the whole point of this trip was to travel slowly and dig a little deeper, knowing that there are surprises in expected places. In addition to honoring the vision for this trip an hour or so respite from the wind did me good.
By the time I finished up at the museum that afternoon I had a better idea of timing, location, and weather to meet up with my dear man. We initially thought that would be on Day 4, given the weather forecast. But he was anxious to get on the road and the winds were proving to be tolerable for a short ride on Day 3. That meant I would stay the night in Lone Pine and head back north the next day to meet him.
That gave me a motel night to shower, get some work done, maintain my physical therapy routine, and be out of the wind for a spell. Chatting with a fellow rider at the motel had me tempted to leave my load in the room and ride some dirt in the Alabama Hills less encumbered with heavy gear. Again, prudence won out. Dust filled the air from the heavy winds. Visibility was abysmal. The wind gusts were bone rattling. An evening walk through town to dinner at a taco truck was a better choice.
- Jack’s Restaurant: Great little stop to eat in Bishop.
- Mahogany Meats: Great sandwiches and all kinds of yummy jerky. I typically stock up here for snacks on the road.
- The Roosevelt Tree: Located at the Bristlecone Pine Forest Information Kiosk at the intersection of US 395 and CA 168 in Big Pine.
- Lone Pine Film History Museum: The Lone Pine area is home to the Alabama Hills, a popular filming location mainly for westerns but some sci-fi productions as well. It’s a small museum that you can enjoy in about an hour.
- Castro’s Taco truck: If you like to add a taco safari to your travels like I do, this is a great stop. Lovely people, great food, and budget friendly.
- Dow Villa Motel: Groovy historic hotel in Lone Pine.
The solo adventure portion of this trip only encompassed two nights instead of four. Is that ok? I’m happy with it. I did what I needed to do for myself and that’s just how it played out. Will I arrange more solo travel and camping? You betcha. It’s an extraordinary experience to be self-sufficient.
Next up in the April Escape saga: orchestrating a rendezvous with my dear man in horrendous winds.
Adventure on, friends!