October – Birthday with FishWitch Syd
October 24 – California
Today brings yet another anniversary of my 29th birthday.
Sigh…. I remember well the sweetness of my 16th birthday and the significance of my 21st as well as all the banner birthdays that define our character and lust for passion and possibility. But damn it, who is that woman I see in the mirror each morning before my first cup of java??
Ah, birthdays… filled with introspection and a serious dose of reality. So, today I am ready to make this birthday one to remember, one that will challenge me as a woman and, more so, as a female motorcyclist.
I await the arrival of my forum friend, Sydney, a woman who, like me, started riding in later years and also loves the freedom and personal expression that motorcycling represents. We have never met face to face, however, her humor makes me smile and I can only think that we are “old” souls. Riding into the valley from Truckee, California, she would already have put in a couple of hours on the road, and more than a hundred miles to meet at my home in the Sierra Nevada foothills.
Within moments of her arrival, a kinship is established, like we have known one another for an “age”. We chat and discover we’re both celebrating birthdays in the same week! The great meeting of the minds agrees on Yosemite as the destination, to see what the afternoon will deliver. Lola, my 1100cc V-Star Classic is primed for the ride with a full fuel tank, optimally inflated tires and an iPod chock full of road music. We are ready to go, so we aim the bikes into the foothills, southbound.
We slide over Latrobe Road to E16, jog south over Willow Creek Rd. and east again via Sutter Ione Rd. The morning is unspeakably gorgeous, an autumn sun filling the sky, and diffused cloud cover lending a slight chill to the air. We are jazzed about the possibility of riding Hwy 120 through Yosemite and over Tioga Pass. But with a sketchy weather report we decide to wait until we arrive in the park to commit to a specific course.
We make a quick coffee stop at the Sutter Creek Coffee Company, a coffee shop I discovered on the “Hunny Ride” a couple of weeks before. The caffeine is a final “wake up” call for a day on the road. The prospect of heading south on Hwy 49 seems a breeze! Well, almost.
Today is one of those SLOW traffic days on Hwy 49. Tractor-trailers liberally impede traffic flow. Sydney is riding a 2005 V Star 650. Her passing abilities can’t match my 1100, so she’s a bit compromised for passing speeds. I have the lead and know I need to wait for a good clear opening so the two of us can pass. On Hwy 49, there are areas that are clearly open but out of the question for passing with numerous, dreaded, blind corners. We bide our time then give it a go. My large bike zips easily ahead, but Syd is quickly maxed out, a traveling factor I note as we ride ahead in search of birthday Nirvana.
Sydney and her gorgeous V Star
Donna and Lola
We finally reach Hwy 120 and head toward the park. The switchbacks are a blast, as well as the long, tight, twisty incline up to Big Oak Flat and Groveland. The view — breathtaking! As the elevation rises we hit the cooler air, where the cloud cover appears increasingly gray, but layered and plush.
From 120 looking over at Old Priest Road
Entering Tioga Pass