Greetings to the NORCAL group and thanks for a great weekend in the beautiful Sierras!
Long time riding buddy and colleague Joyce Sampson extended the invitation to come down and see how it is done in California. Since I am always grateful for an excuse for a road trip, and the 25th Annual Range of Light Gypsy Tour was a wonderful opportunity, I started this trip from my home base in Mount Vernon, WA on Friday, burning down the slab for about 13 hours to arrive at the Orland, CA kickoff location.
Upon arrival, it was quickly obvious that Joyce and the rest of the crew were a busy bunch making this event happen. I appreciate Scott Maas taking me under his wing and showing me around. In fact, before the weekend was over, Scott and I had put on a few hundred miles of great riding together. I'll shamelessly admit I hijacked a hard working volunteer and kept him from being the target for additional tasking from the boss.
I am an 'outsider' in a couple of ways. First, simply because I am not in the club and live some distance away. Second, and more acute, I am new to the BMW world and events like this. I have never been a camper and this is my first BMW. Being an East coast transplant, I also have had few opportunities to ride in California.
To put things in perspective, here is the sum total of my California riding experience.
I ordered the 2015 R1200GSA in January, when it was a pile of un-assembled parts in Germany. By March, it had still not found its way across the pond so I took my first ride down to visit Joyce on my Honda GL1800. That was my introduction to Yosemite and Joyce apparently had no qualms about leading me and my half ton of bike on a wild ride on gravel roads somewhere near Oroville. That was my first forest road ride.
By May my new GS had arrived in time for me to take it to the 49er Rally at Mariposa. This was a first for several things – first long-ish trip on the GS (and a chance to check out my new Rich's Custom Seat!), my first BMW oriented rally and my first experience sleeping in a tent since I was about 8 years old. I was also grateful to take advantage of the GS Clinic and get some idea of what I should do when the pavement stops. My next visit was for the Range of Light.
As for the summer in between these rallies, I did a little riding on my own – a 14,400 mile “Ultimate Coast to Coast” ride up to Deadhorse, AK then to Key West, FL and back to Washington State. With a little local riding thrown in, the GS now has 22,000 miles on the meter.
The Range of Light was a perfect bookend to the official summer season. I can honestly say that I doubled my camping experience over this weekend. I am happy to say that I felt quite comfortable on the GS loop and the weekend was great. The scenery speaks for itself. It was also a treat to see the R1200GS bead breaker in action. That is one expensive tool, but handy to have!
The “Range of Light” comes from a John Muir description of the Sierras and is certainly appropriate. The 'Gypsy Tour' comes from the mystery routes and destinations of the ride, which are only revealed the night before. The volunteers worked hard and late getting route files loaded onto GPSs each night. Clearly, events like this take time to organize and I have to give credit to the team for their agility and resilience in executing this whole affair. Especially when the Saturday venue had to cancel two weeks before the rally (the fairgrounds was preempted to be the forest fire base) causing a rapid re-plan with a new venue, new support and new routes for the whole weekend! The good news is that this is an area with an abundance of great rides. The daily ride distances of between 200 and 250 miles were perfect for the rally, with scavenger hunt stops to make and lies to be told over lunch.
This was certainly a change from this Iron Butt rider's normal mode. I think the lengths were just about right. Much of the fun of a ride like that is the visiting done at the stops, lunch, etc. So, with twisties and towns, a 35MPH moving average is the most you can expect and an 8 hour ride with stops, makes around 200 easy but attainable (6 moving hours @ 35MPH is 210 miles, lunch is most of an hour and other stops always take at least 15 minutes, etc). For comparison, from my Iron Butt experience, in order to maintain a 60MPH average speed, you need to spend most of the time at 80 to make up for stops. What wasn't a change is I have maintained a perfect record of never having won a poker run or a raffle prize.
I would like to note that both the Range of Light Gypsy Tour and the 49er Rally shared common attributes. They were both superbly run events and certainly reflected an immense amount of effort and attention to detail. My hat is off to Joyce and Andy Anderson for the events they chaired, as well as the host of other volunteers that made both weekends a success in my book. Well done!
My ride home on Monday kept me off the freeways and on nice twisty roads through Northern California, Oregon and Washington because I just wasn't ready to stop the great riding. I put another 1800 miles on the GS this weekend and they were all fun. I look forward to coming back again to sample more of that great country!