Range of Light Gypsy Tour, A First Timer 's Perspective, by Dave Craighead

15 Sep 2015 5:10 PM | Anonymous

I’m sure that most everyone who rides a motorcycle remembers the first time they saddled up.  That inexplicable feeling of freedom that came with the ability to all of a sudden become detached from the connected world and focus on a much more finite universe.  At least, that’s how it was for me.  I was 21 and scraped $1250 to purchase a used 1983 Honda Magna 750 and my life changed.  I was elated with this new world I was now a part of, a world that has become an obsession. 10 years and two bikes later I finally found myself on the back of a GS.

The first time I heard of the Range of Lights Gypsy Tour was a few months prior to the ride at another BMW NorCal event, the 49er Rally.  I met a few of the folks from the club as well as some weekend warriors who also decided to remove themselves from the comforts of their bubbles to venture out on a new adventure in search of expanding their network of ridden roads.  That’s where I met the “Rabbit” Peter and Wendy who ride two up but you’d never believe it trying to catch them.  After riding the poker run with the two of them along with some other riders, all of which suggested that I attend the ROL, I marked my calendar.

Upon arrival at the Orland fairgrounds I signed in and headed off to find a shady spot to pitch my tent.  I immediately noticed that a lot of the riders showing up hadn’t quite shaken off the daily grind and I started to wonder if I had chosen the right event to spend the holiday weekend.  As riders got settled in and possibly after a few of those graciously provided Lagunita IPAs, the story telling and lighthearted banter started and things began to shape up.  The universal truth about these types of events is that everyone has one thing in common, they love the ride.  It’s amazing how quickly this one commonality can bring together such an array of personalities that would have otherwise never crossed paths.  Once settled in everyone was so open to sharing their riding experiences and bike modifications.  Just walking around the facilities looking at all the different bikes was great. It turned out to be a perfect evening and I had a blast meeting all the new faces and listening to their stories.

In the morning after some well needed coffee and pastries I packed up and got ready to chase the “Rabbit”.  Our group was completed at 7 bikes and eight riders; Jens, Kelly, Jon, Steve, Peter, Wendy, Jeffrey, and myself.  We headed out at around half past eight in the morning, rode through the remaining valley floor between Orland and the Mountains, finally reaching some twisties! That’s when the day transformed into an amazing mixture of beautiful scenery and amazing riding for me.  We flew past Lake Almanor, down through Greenville, and stopped in Quincy for a little lunch (The food and waitresses were great).  I had never been up that way prior to this ride and appreciated it immensely.  The towering Ponderosa Pine trees and beautiful outcroppings of rocks made for some impressive views, not to mention the “Rabbit” pace is brisk (hence the “Chasing the Rabbit”).  We then headed across some back country roads and finally down the backside of lake Oroville and out through the valley to the destination for the night, Yuba City.   The fairgrounds were welcomed, the hot showers were welcomed, and most of all the ice cold beverages that were waiting to quench us few arriving parched riders were welcomed!  The rest of the night was filled with food, laughter and great stories from the days ride. 

Day 2 started off in about the same fashion as the previous day with one small difference, I was a bit nervous about chasing the “Rabbit” down the GS route.  I voiced my concern about it with my riding group, in dramatic fashion, saying something along the lines of, “I don’t want to die.” Admittedly, up until this point I’d never needed to turn off my ABS and honestly had to be shown how to do so.  True to form these seasoned riders said, “Don’t worry, we’ll keep track of everyone’s whereabouts.”  The safety plan was sound, one rider would ride a few miles and wait until he saw the headlights behind him before continuing.  That was enough to put my mind at ease and we headed out at around 8 in the morning.  The ride was fantastic right out of the gate! Following the “Rabbit” out of the valley, winding down a canyon alongside a river, through some tunnels, and out past some campers.  It was a beautiful flow to the ride, there was very few cars or obstacle, the tarmac was in good condition and once again the pace was great. 

We got through the GS portion of the ride without incident, ate lunch in Greenville and headed though what was in my opinion the greatest portion of the ride. The ride around Antelope Lake and over the Janesville grade, what a fun road! The feeling I got riding down this grade can only be equated by adding up all the rushes of excitement during each Christmas morning for the first 8 years of my life, which would probably generate enough energy to power a small locomotive up an 18 percent grade for 32 miles towing 13 cars full of coal.  We were carving up the path between the lake and 395 like a wild pack of hyenas, tearing through the byway!  I was so incredible focused on the road and maneuvers. Also, for the first time I was the “Rabbit” as my group allowed the young guy out front for a few miles.  It was incredible, one of those moments where you feel completely connected.  My machine, the road, and I were all one entity.  We came down the grade into the valley feeling as if we were storming the beaches of Normandy and reaching the chevron was our victory hill! When we pulled in, feeling like we had won over the mountain, we were high fiving and laughing like school children!  The last few miles flew by and we arrived at our destination for the night in Susanville.  The night was once again filled with jovial riders sharing stories and I couldn’t help but feel like I was a part of a family now.

All in all I would recommend this trip to any rider, at any skill level as there is a group to follow and help you out along the way if you get hung up.  A wonderful experience and ride.

A huge thank you to BMW NorCal for putting on this amazing adventure as well as my riding group; Peter, Windy, Jens, Kelly, Jeffery, Steve and Jon.  You all made this trip so much more enjoyable, a truly great group of people.

Dave Craighead

R1200GS rider


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