I almost wimped out on this glorious ride, so hat's off to Mark for holding my feet to the fire on this ride. Errr... well, it felt more like "waterboarding" I suppose. When I woke up at 6am, the rain was pelting the house and with visions of last nights wind advisory in the mountains, I texted Mark to say I was gonna do the responsible thing and wuss out. His one-word response spoke volumes: "OK".
Crawling back into a warm bed, I was still thinking about the ride but only on a different day. Mark was having none of that - his next text: "For someone who wants to ride to Alaska someday you're letting a little rain stop ya? It's gonna be a great day! It's only an hour ride to the desert." *sigh* He was right!
We had a short call and I was to meet him at 9am instead. I set off in chilly but scattered cloudy weather here in the city, but dressed to the hilt for warmth. Highland Valley road had puddles and mud to dodge, but slow and steady was the name of the game today. The rain started as we entered Ramona and there were nothing but dark clouds ahead. The going was slow, but the bikes felt pretty sure-footed on the tarmac. I'll be replacing the F8's tires in another month or so though.
Passing through Santa Ysabel, Wynola and Julian, the rain was steady, the chill deep (about 40 degrees), and the fog deeper. Really brutal and as miserable riding conditions as I'd been in since the Seattle Sabbatical 17 years earlier - good training ride, I thought, as if trying to pump myself up. Did I mention is was cold, cold, cold?!!
We'd agreed to just blast through Julian and continue down to the desert as fast as possible. Banner Grade in the rain was interesting - they call it a grade because it's steep and curvy I suppose. Ha! Once we straightened out, the bikes got their legs stretched a bit as we headed out S2 and passed the sign demarcating the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Mark had been out this way a month ago and had been itchin' to take a dirt trail to the Indian Pictographs, but wanted an able-bodied sucka to go with him. Ummm... that would be me.
Turns out this was a GREAT destination, a really fun 8 mi ride on mostly hard-packed jeep road punctuated by puddles and some loose sand. Each of us nearly keeled over a couple of times on the big Adv bikes, but somehow kept them upright. The air was crisp and the rain had stopped. The heavy smell of wet creosote bush wafted into our nostrils; one of my favorite smells from the monsoon seasons spent in Tucson.
Probably the funniest, best story of the day trip had to be Mark turning his R1200GS into an "ark" of sorts. We'd been dipping the bikes into a few puddles as we made our way down the road and, feeling a little froggy, Mark steered the GSpot straight through the middle of one of dem dar puddles. The next thing I saw was his front wheel heading DOWN into the puddle instead of through it! The water was well over his cylinder heads and a huge wave of water splashed up from his "bow." He gunned the engine and plowed out of the puddle, but not before being drenched head to toe.
I laughed my ass off, neatly steering around the killer puddle, as he stopped his bike to assess the situation. Muddy water was dripping from all over, including from the top of his helmet. Crazy stuff; good stuff! Watch the "debrief" video here.
We made it to the Pictographs all right, and set about climbing off and stretching after nearly 2 cold hours on the iron steeds. Giddy happy, and proud of the way the bikes had performed for sure. As Mark wrung out his socks, I took some pics and surveyed the squall coming up the valley behind us. It was clearly going to be a rainy dirt ride back to S2. We decided to bring the kids back to this spot and actually hike to the Pictographs next time - neither of us were up for a mile hike in riding boots in the rain.
Heading back on the trail was just as much fun as heading in - picking your line, avoiding deep sand, only heading through water when absolutely necessary. Rain pelting, but that just added to the "aliveness" of the moment.
We decided to stop for coffee in Julian, but the weather was so lousy, we kept moving until Wynola when I pulled over to check out lunch at a bistro called Jeremy's. Much higher class than I expected, but food oh so good - highly recommended. Hey, any place that lets me hang the dirty Aerostich on their fancy coat rack goes to the front of the line in my book!
I should have stopped for gas in Ramona, but was late getting home as it was - pulled into the garage with an indicated 9 mi left on the tank. All I could see was the mud and grime of another excellent adventure.