Monday, April 04, 2005

RawHyde Adventure Camp - Training Day 3

Awakened by the sound of rain on my tent. It was 4:00 a.m. Needed to make a pee run to the pasture. (Does this occur more frequently when camping?) Since I was up, I crept around the camp, moving others’ riding gear out of the rain.

After breakfast, we all packed up. The weather was changing, turning cold and threatening rain (or snow?) Our first test for the day was taking our fully-loaded bikes down a hillside to the road. The plan was for everyone to assemble at the nearby town of Gorman, where we could refuel before heading out to the California Poppy Preserve. Jim had suggested a few options for our final day of training. We chose the Preserve, out in Antelope Valley.

Near Gorman, a light rain began falling. At the gas station, a woman pulled in driving a well-worn car. She had a couple of kids in the back seat. A few of us riders were loitering, waiting for others to arrive, and watched her with curiosity.

She climbed out of the car and scurried about. Scantily-clad, her huge breasts and very ample behind barely contained by her stretchy clothes, she was struggling in the cold and rain to raise her front passenger-side window.

I went over to assist, wondering if the absence of any others joining me meant I was suffering some lapse of judgment. This woman, whose profession I was guessing, was a complete mess.

The window mounts were clearly broken and the window had fallen into the door. She explained how she usually “secures” the window in the upright position. I was able to fish it out of the door panel and eventually get it wedged closed, though I doubted it would remain that way. She, however, was satisfied, and I left it at that. I had done my duty. (“Just don’t ask anything else of me,” I thought as I walked away.)

Jim arrived, his truck pulling a trailer loaded with bikes. We all followed him east, out into Antelope Valley. Buffeted by a cold north wind slanting across the highway, I looked off to the left, the valley sweeping up into distant snow-dusted mountains. I imagined this must be similar to riding on the North Slope of Alaska in June. I’ll soon have a chance to confirm this notion.

Soon we reached the master grid that is the Mojave Desert Development Plan. Jim turned left onto one of the numbered “streets” (out in this barren desert landscape) and pulled to the shoulder. This would be our take-off point.

We unloaded his bike and were soon heading north to intersect the California Aqueduct. A dirt service road runs alongside the aqueduct, and this was to be our warm-up ride. We gathered around as Jim reminded us of some riding techniques we’d need out here. He warned there was one stretch of deep sand. We would know it because he would be waiting there to monitor us, and he emphatically added “don’t slow down!”

This photo, snapped by Julian Orr, was taken as we were riding along the California Aqueduct in Antelope Valley. Jim Hyde, the creator of RawHyde Adventures is the silver-haired fellow in the center. Yours truly standing to the right of him. Anne Girardin, on her yellow R650GS is to the left.

Then we were off. Gradually becoming accustomed to the road surface, I joined Gary, Daryl and Boyd who were “hot on the heels” of Jim. Standing on our pegs and traveling at 50 or 60 mph through the dirt was a kick, knees pressing against the gas tank to push the bike into turns, shifting weight to the outside peg to maintain stability and rolling on the throttle when the sand got deep and squirrelly. It was a great opportunity to put Jim’s lessons to work.

We turned south, rejoined the highway, then aimed for a butte out in the valley’s center, which marked the Preserve. We rode right out into the middle of fields carpeted with poppy, lupine and goldfields, following a barely-evident path. “Is this legal,” I wondered?

Jim Hyde took this photo of his Adventure Camp "graduates". California Poppy Preserve, Antelope Valley. I'm the one with the half-hearted gesture.

Rider training. California Poppy Preserve, Antelope Valley. (Yours truly can be recognized by the shiny crown.) This photo was taken by Julian Orr.

A photo Brian Barbata took with his cell phone!

We ate lunch standing beside out bikes, knee-deep in flowers. Posed for photos. Jim had one taken of him with “the World Travelers”, Anne and myself. After a break, he gave us an overview of the trails in the Preserve, the technicality of each and a few cautions, then set us loose to explore.

Besides the flowers and bluffs, one of the Preserve’s main features is a dry, sandy riverbed winding through the landscape. My least favorite thing, sand. I forced myself to try crossing the wash (maybe 25 or 30 yards wide at this point.) Made it across the first time, however during a second attempt, I was too timid with the throttle and sunk the bike deep in sand. (It just stood there in the sand after I climbed off.)

Up on the bank, Jim smiled broadly as he announced “Tim’s stuck!” Then rode off to check on his other charges. Soon, I had spectators commenting that it was “my turn” to play.

Those with experience in this situation advised me to push the bike over on its side, fill in the tire ruts, lift it up again, then try to drive it forward while walking beside it. The method worked, and I was able to crawl out of the sand and up the bank. The exertion destroyed any notion that riding in sand might eventually be “fun”.

Followed Kari up a small but steep hill, well-used by dirt riders. A rush of energy. Turned around to go down and stalled just over the brink, nose pointed downhill, clutching the brake.

“Now what do I do?”

Watching from below, Kari talked me down. “Put it in neutral, then let her go. Just ride it down.”

Jim sensed things were getting out-of-control. He couldn’t account for all the riders, so he called for us to regroup, darting here and there through the fields like a cavalry scout on his mount. We waited quite a while, scanning and listening before the last rider appeared. Daryl had been exploring the bluffs on his KTM “Adventure”. He is quite the adventurer. (I learned over the weekend that he’s a highly-regarded yachtsman in the Pacific.)

Jim Hyde, creator of "RawHyde Adventure" with his graduate "World Travelers", Anne Girardin and the bald guy

Returning to our take-off point, we said our farewells. Kari and Julian were hauling their bikes back to Mountain View. Anne and I joined them for the ride north.

Out on Interstate 5, I soon became aware of the downside to riding with others. You are so focused on following group protocols and monitoring the others' positions and actions, that the scenery becomes secondary. And plans must be negotiated. I proposed a stop at “Harris Ranch”, but Kari and Julian wanted to drive on through.

Of course, I had to demonstrate a couple of times how quick my bike is, especially when passing trucks on the busy interstate. We split up at the Highway 152 turn-off.

Crossed Altamont Pass around sunset and soon stopped for dinner at an “In-N-Out” restaurant. I noticed that I carried myself as “the weary traveler”. Simply an act. In the Bay Area, drivers were noticeably more aggressive. Usually, I just respond in kind, but today I was more shocked than agitated. At the Benicia Bridge toll plaza, I fumbled with cold and weary hands to extract my wallet, then pull out some currency.

Reached my home on Sonoma Mountain after 9:00 p.m., standing on my pegs as I rode up the gravel driveway. Just like a true GS rider!

(4/11/11 update: Sadly, I learned today that Kari Prager passed away last November 14th, the result of a respiratory ailment.)

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