A Great Father’s Day Weekend


Starting Out
How’s this for a great Father’s Day weekend: Load up “MyConnie” with camera and camping gear, point the front wheel north, and GO! Just me and MyConnie getting some quality time together since the wife and youngest son are away for a few days. I plan to update this post throughout the trip, so come back often to check it out.

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Rest Stop
Thank God for Starbucks and lane splitting. Sitting still in 88 degree weather on the freeway is not my idea of a good time. Seems like everyone else in the world is escaping to Lake Tahoe. Well, at least a rider can get hydration, caffeine, a healthy snack and WiFi thanks to the Pequod’s chief mate.

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Cooling Off
Possibly the best $29 I have ever spent was on an evaporative cooling vest. After a two minute soak in the bathroom sink at Starbucks (which was immaculately clean) the vest is “charged” with water. You then blot off the inside fabric barrier that stays dry against your shirt, and put it on under your riding jacket. I was then able to ride in complete comfort in 90 degree heat. Amazing.

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Dark Territory
After stocking up on pita, avocado, bananas, water and a salad bowl at the Grass Valley Safeway, I headed north on Hwy 49 towards Downieville. This road is listed in the Destination Highways moto-map book as DH9 and carries a score of 81/100, and it deserves it. It is wonderfully scenic, twisty and empty of traffic. Downieville itself looked very cute, like a preserved gold rush era town. I decided to camp instead of finding a room, but on some future trip, I’m definitely going to stay in Downieville.

I timed my ride so that I could set up camp while it was still light, but only just. I use a great iPhone App named “Sol” that tells you times for sunset, dusk, dawn and sunrise wherever you are. This allowed me to keep riding until I found Chapman Meadows campground around 8:00 P.M.

Getting old is terrible. I remember when hotel rooms were $6.00 at Motel 6, so it makes it painful to pay $21 for one night at an unimproved campground. Well, at least it had “nice” pit toilets. The mosquitoes quickly drove me into my tent where I fell fast asleep straightaway.

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Zero Dark Thirty
The great thing about traveling alone is that you don’t need to cater to anyone else’s schedule. So, at 4:45 A.M., I rousted myself out of my down cocoon, performed my morning ablutions, and started breaking camp. I got on the road a little before six and headed over the Yuba Summit to be treated to a gorgeous sunrise over the Sierra Valley. I left Hwy 49 a little before Sattley and turned north on Hwy 89, headed towards Quincy and Lassen Volcanic National Park beyond. Although I was bundled up in layers, winter gloves, and TurtleFur neck warmer, I was freezing when I arrived at the Express Coffee Shop. Nothing that a spinach omelet and 10 cups of coffee couldn’t cure. Something tells me MyConnie is going to get a few more RPMs now that MY motor is running.

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The Pine Forests
Can you ever overdose on the beautiful conifer forests of the High Sierra? I think not, but you certainly get your fill traveling through the Tahoe and Plumas National Forests. But every once in a while, the trees are interrupted by a glorious body of water like Lake Almanor. I crossed over Canyon Dam and marveled at this man-made interruption to the Feather River. The outlet tower shown behind MyConnie sends the product of this 90 foot deep reservoir to two smaller reservoirs and others downstream to powerhouses capable of creating a total of 360 megawatts of electricity!

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Mount Lassen
I had been to Mount Lassen Volcanic National Park years ago but wanted to experience it’s burbling mudpots and sulphur-spewing springs anew. So I checked my trusty map book and found that the roads to, through, and around Lassen are included in their lists of great motorcycle roads. Without any hesitation I pointed MyConnie north along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway.

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One of the troubles of blogging “live” from my AT&T iPhone is how poor their rural mobile phone service is. However, after paying my $10 park entrance fee, I noticed this sign and for a fleeting moment hoped that the U.S. Park Service had embraced modern technology by installing WiFi thorough the park. Alas, it was the icon for an amphitheater I mistook for WiFi symbol. D’Oh!

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The Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center shows a great 20 minute documentary film every half hour that explains the history and formation of the park which is the only place on earth with all four types of volcanos.

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A mile north is The Sulphur Works where you can smell noxious fumes and see bubbling mud.

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After that, it seemed that every quarter mile were increasingly beautiful places that beckoned me to stop and take a photo.

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Unfortunately, the walking trails to “Bumpass Hell” which take you right next to all of the bubbling water and mudpots were closed due to safety concerns. But the ride up and over the ridge at around 8,500 feet elevation was spectacular as was the ride down and around to the north end of the park.

The Road Home
At this point, I had enough of solitude and decided to head home. I took a few more “Destination Highways” that were perfect for motorcycles on the way, but most was spent traveling 75 MPH on Hwy 5 in 90 degree heat. Once again, thank God for my evaporative cooling vest and the many rest stops and convenience marts along the way.

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Volcano Ride ‘n Photo Tour
I’m thinking of hosting a “Volcano Ride ‘n Photo Tour” for anyone who might want to join me. If interested, I’d be happy to share some tips on taking photos and “processing” them in the computer, as well. Please leave a comment if you are interested and I’ll start thinking about this for later this year.

As for this trip, I racked up 671 miles from noon Friday to 6:30 P.M. Saturday, a bit over 30 hours. Not bad for my first Father’s Day weekend solo trip. It’s not often I get so much “me” time to think about life without the distractions of other people (no matter how pleasant) or social media (no matter how addictive – then again, I am writing this post!). I might just have to make this an annual pilgrimage.

Note to fellow bloggers and those thinking about blogging: I took all of the photos above and wrote all of the text during the trip itself using the WordPress App for iPhone. This made ‘capturing the moment‘ much more spontaneous and added to my enjoyment of the ride. I went back later on my computer and added the sections below.

Ride Map: Click here for Google map
( Note to riders: map waypoints M through R are how to beat backed up traffic headed to San Francisco like a boss! )

Mount Lassen Ride Map

Ride Report:
– Date: February 14 & 15, 2013
– Roads: Since this trip covered so much territory, I encountered: 20 miles of lane splitting to get around everyone headed for Tahoe, wonderfully engineered and paved roads, nicely paved but less well-engineered roads, and tight curves with limited sight lines on the roads between Shingletown and Dales.
– Scenery: What can I say, I have been living in California my whole life and I am still awestruck in seeing its majesty. If you are from some other state, COME HERE AND RIDE!
– Weather: The weather was absolutely perfect on this Father’s Day weekend, albeit a little warm at times (high 80s) at the lower elevations. The sky was a sapphire blue with those intense puffy white clouds you want to photograph because they are so perfect.
– Challenge: Intermediate throughout with the biggest challenge being not getting run over my a semi-truck on Hwy 5.
– Food: Plenty of choices along this route. I stopped at Safeway in Grass Valley and stocked up on healthy food and snacks this time – what a concept!
– Gas: There were no problems finding gas, but then again, with my 7.5 gallon tank, I could have done the whole thing on way less than three tanks.
– Rating: 5-stars (out of 5) for scenic beauty. with a few most excellent motorcycle roads thrown in along the way.

Destination Highways: 
For you aficionados of Bosworth & Sanders excellent book “Destination Highways of Northern California” this trip included these DHs & TEs:
Destination Highways:
DH9 (81.9/100 rating)
DH3 ALT
DH38 (70.7/100 rating)
Twisted Edges:
TE-A (from DH59)
TE-F (from DH9)

Note: I bought the Destination Highways of Northern California book at the last International Motorcycle Show I attended. It is pretty expensive at $60, but I have to say that it is absolutely worth it. I use it to plan all of my northern california trips to ensure I get the most out of my time on the road. Although it is pricey for a map book, they actually put in the time and effort to bring the value to the rider than exceeds your expectation. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to ride in northern california.
Destination Highways of Northern California

Additional Photos:
The following photos were taken with a d-SLR: Canon EOS Rebel XSi:   

Chapman Creek Campground near Calpine MyConnie on Canyon Dam Lake Almanor June in California Vulcans Eye on Mt Lassen Peak MyConnie at Bumpass Hell Me and MyConnie in Mt Lassen MyConnie fronts Helen Lake and Mt Lassen Peak MyConnie and Vulcans Eye Sulphur Works in Mt Lassen Debris from volcano blast MyConnie fronts Helen Lake and Mt Lassen Peak 2

A Trip to Virginia City, Nevada: Motorcycle Gold — Part One


For the third year in a row, my motorcycle buddies and I planned a trip to the High Sierras over the first weekend in October. We have found that this weekend the traffic is nonexistent, the weather is perfect, and the aspens are all turning gold over the mountain passes. This year, our destination was the old west town of Virginia City and we had something special happen. One of our group entered a raffle and won a brand new motorcycle!

Bocci winning a Triumph

Bocci wins a new bike!
Frequent readers of this blog know that my brother-in-law and frequent riding partner, “Bocci,” rides a Triumph T100 Bonneville that he bought in 2010 as his get-back-into-motorcycling ride. He and I have been all over California and Oregon on my 1,000cc Connie and his 865cc Bonnie. But a while ago, Bocci started to have a wandering eye, making true the sentiment that motorcycling has never really been about monogamy. Bocci was first thinking that a pair of KLR650s would be a nice addition to our stable, allowing us to wander farther afield down forest roads. But I knew that in his heart of hearts, he really has always wanted a Moto Guzzi.

Being a mechanical engineer by trade, Bocci was not afraid of exotic Italian iron and he has talked himself into how the Guzzi’s transverse vee-twin design would make engine maintenance a breeze. So we put the KLR idea on hold and Bocci started lusting after a dual-sport Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX.

Some months later, and without mentioning anything to me, Bocci noticed that the Pro Italia Moto Guzzi dealership in Los Angeles was holding a charity raffle to publicize the opening of their new Triumph franchise. He bought a dozen raffle tickets for $10 each in hopes of winning a brand new Triumph that was a replica of the one Steve McQueen rode in The Great Escape.

As fate would have it, a week before our High Sierra trip, Bocci was washing his Bonnie and missed a phone call. When he noticed the missed call on his mobile phone, he saw that the area code was from Los Angeles. He told me that his hands started to shake a bit before he returned the call, and sure enough, he found out that he had won the replica Triumph, worth $10,000!

The only problem was that it was almost identical to the Triumph he already owned except that it was painted olive drab. Knowing that Pro Italia was also a Guzzi dealership, he asked if he could trade in the Triumph and put the full value towards the Stelvio. Pro Italia was more than accommodating and set him up with the Guzzi of his dreams for a few thousand more.

This hit Bocci like a ton of bricks because now instead of prepping the Bonnie for our annual 600 mile High Sierra tour, he was going to fly to L.A., get a motel room, arrange to be picked up by the dealership, pose for press photos with the replica Triumph, then do the paperwork to buy the Moto Guzzi. He was then going to pack up the Stelvio with his gear for the trip, swing his leg over a new and foreign bike, and head into SoCal traffic towards the back side of the Sierras where we arranged to meet him in Walker, CA the next day. What an adventure!

As for me, I hooked up with my moto-partner in crime, “Ace,” and we headed out to meet Bocci at a Walker barbecue place that we found online. Our fourth rider, Des, was coming south from Jackson and would meet us in Walker, as well.

As we expected for an October trip over the Sonora Pass, Ace and I had great pavement, no traffic, perfect weather and gorgeous scenery. But I got a little surprise when I followed Ace as he pulled off at the unmarked Donnell Lake scenic overlook to stretch. As we dismounted, two other riders joined us in the parking lot, both of whom had BMWs like Ace. So after a bit of Beemer-banter, we took a few photos at the quite spectacular overlook and started to mount up. Just then, another Kawasaki Concours rider rolled in. I stopped my gearing up to be neighborly to a fellow Connie owner when he came up to me and said, “Hello, P Radsliff.” Never having met him before, I was somewhat taken aback, and Ace was positively dumbfounded. As it turned out, the rider was a member of the Concours Owners Group (COG) and he recognized me from the many photos I posted on the COG forum and from my Me and MyConnie blog. Whereas I don’t think this was my 15 minutes of fame, I still rode out of the parking lot sitting a little bit taller in the saddle, lording my “celebrity” over my riding buddies whenever I got the chance in the following days: see video.

Donnell Lake

It was really great meeting “GF-in-CA” (his COG forum ‘handle’), whose posts I have read and whose opinion I have come to respect. I found out that he is a mechanical engineer and knows what he is doing with motorcycle maintenance. It was great seeing him roll in on his Connie and that it had a bunch of “farkles” on it — i.e. a loose acronym for owner modifications that stands for: Fancy Accessory Really Kool Likely Expensive. He was riding with his wife two-up which was also great to see. After more pleasantries and a promise to follow up via the COG forum, Ace and I headed east towards Sonora Pass.

As the road got steeper and twistier, we knew we were getting close to the pass. But before reaching the 9,624 ft. summit, we rode through a small valley with a dense copse of aspen trees that were all shimmering brilliant gold. We’ve seen this valley in its gold plumage in years past but it was no less breathtaking seeing it once again. It’s the kind of experience where you find yourself yelling “Oh my God, this is incredible” out loud inside your helmet just because you have to share it outside of your inner monologue.

Sign on Sonora Pass

In traversing up and over this formidable High Sierra pass, one can’t help but think of the first wagon train that crossed these jagged peaks in 1841. I wonder how different the roads here might have been if these mountains didn’t form a barrier between the gold and silver mines of Nevada to the east, and the international port of San Francisco to the west. All I know is that the many mountain passes that cross the High Sierras make some of the best motorcycle rides in the world, and they are all in my own back yard.

Ace and I continued down the eastern side of the Sierras into climate and country that is very different than the west side of the summit. Out here it’s all high desert scrub, not the verdant evergreen forests we just left behind. An interesting point of interest we encountered before turning north on Hwy 395 was the Marine Corps Mountain Training Warfare Center which is spread out on the left side of Hwy 108 at Pickel Meadow, CA. It’s not uncommon to see lots of military vehicles running around here, and aircraft as well.

Hwy 395 is a U.S. route that starts in Hesperia, CA about 80 miles northeast of Los Angeles, and crosses the Oregon border 557 miles later. It continues through Oregon and Washington all the way to the Canadian border. However, in California, state route 395 crosses through terrain that is arguably the most varied and beautiful in the state. Bocci was making the trek from the Los Angeles area up Hwy 395 so he was able to enjoy the stark but beautiful Mojave desert, followed by the spectacular Owens Valley which is just 60 miles west of famed Death Valley. The Owens Valley is framed by mountain escarpments that include Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States at 14,505 ft. The Owens Valley even features glaciers! Bocci stayed the night in Mammoth Lakes before heading north towards Walker and our rendezvous at Mountain View Barbecue.

We meandered alongside the Walker River which parallels Hwy 395 through deep canyon gorges and wide open high desert plains, eventually coming into the little town of Walker and our new rally point. We were greeted by a parking lot made from two-inch deep pea gravel which always makes for interesting maneuvers on a motorcycle. We saw two bikes parked at the restaurant, an orange Triumph Speed Triple that we knew belonged to Des, and a behemoth of a bike: the Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX: see video.

The Mountain View BBQ parking lot

Approaching the Stelvio from the rear was kind of amazing. With its aluminum panniers, it measures in at 42″ wide—that’s quite a bustle on its hustle! My first thought was that we wouldn’t be lane splitting anytime soon. As I walked around the bike, it was truly a thing of beauty—in a rough and tumble kind of way. Like a HumVee, but as if it were designed by Italians. The Guzzi had interesting angular lines with utilitarian bolt-ons, like the panniers and skid plates. As I walked around the bike, Bocci approached and greeted me by saying, “She’s a stout beast.” No doubt, I thought.

Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX: A Stout Beast

During our excellent BBQ lunch, Bocci regaled Des, Ace and myself with stories of his adventures: doing the winner’s photo shoot, packing the Stevio, and heading off into L.A. traffic. He told us about the Guzzi’s massive low-end torque and how well it handled for such a big bike. He bragged about its massive 8.5 gallon gas tank that gave him almost 350 miles range. I guess I can’t boast about the “measly” 7.5 gallon tank on MyConnie anymore.

Walker Wild Frogs

But Bocci had a few problems, too. A snap-in turn signal cover vibrated loose and fell off somewhere along his ride. And he felt a strange vibration that he couldn’t tell whether it was intermittent, and/or even normal for this bike that was new to him. He also experienced first hand a characteristic that is prevalent with transverse vee-twins: rev the engine while stopped at a light and the bike lurches sideways from the torque. Still, nothing could wipe off the ear-to-ear grin from a guy who had just won the bike of his dreams. Damn! Attaboy, Bocci.

Bocci and his new Stelvio NTX

Ride Map: Click here for Google Map

RIDE MAP: San Mateo to Walker, California

 

Ride Video: Click here for the full 51 minute ride video over Sonora Pass from Donnell Lake to U.S. Route 395

Next Installment: Part Two – Virginia City

Ride Map: The Great Big Sur Loop


The Big Sur Coast

Join for the bike, stay for the people” is the motto of the Concours Owners Group (COG). I echoed that sentiment myself the other day when I saw a post from a member who’s nom de plume is “SantaCruzRider.” He asked in a post on the COG Forum whether any member from the Bay Area wanted to go on a ride. Since I could tell where he lived from his moniker and knew what kind of bike he rode, I thought there could be immediate synergies. I’ve been a member of COG for about a year and a half and have found their members to be a great group of people interested in helping each other out while in pursuit of our common passion. So I posted a reply that I’d love to do a ride to Big Sur on California’s central coast and that I had read about a great motorcycle route through the Fort Hunter Liggett military reservation to Highway 101 on Pashnit.com. I was treated to an almost immediate reply, so we chose a date via email and scheduled our trip a few weeks ahead.

After doing some online research and route planning, I proposed a specific route to SantaCruzRider that packed too much saddle time into one day. He suggested we start off in Prunedale and take Hwy 101 down to King City and then head west towards Big Sur. His rationale was that it would be much more fun to ride with the sun at our back than glaring into our eyes while riding steep and twisty mountain roads. Boy, was he right! I learned a good lesson that day, which was to plan for the light when you have the option to choose directions. This made for better photography with the bikes as well.

So I left my house in San Mateo at 6:30 A.M. and headed south down Interstate 280, then Hwy 101 towards Prunedale, about an hour and fifteen minutes away. Although the forecast showed a 0% chance of precipitation, when I left the house the streets were all wet from a cloud system that apparently didn’t pay attention to weather.com. Though I hit some wet roads and light sprinkles in San José, it was otherwise dry and clear. The temperature was brisk at that time of morning, in the low 40s. But MyConnie’s full fairing kept me warm and dry as I flew down the highway.

As I got to Prunedale, I spied a gas station still a few miles before the rendezvous point. I decided to top off my gas here and leisurely check my tire pressure and pursue any other morning ablutions prior to meeting my new riding buddy for the first time at Starbucks. As I pulled into the station, I see another Connie getting air and knew immediately that it was SantaCruzRider, and he knew it was me. After exchanging pleasantries and tending to our bikes, I reflected on what an interesting and tight-knit community we Connie riders are. We are tied together by our choice of two-wheeled platform, and by the commonalities that caused us to gravitate towards the Kawasaki Concours in the first place.

Prunedale Starbucks

If I were to prognosticate, I’d suggest that Connie riders are pragmatic, frugal, social, independent, wise and fun. I base this on reading hundreds of blog posts from COG members and forming a stereotype of a prototypical Concours rider in my mind’s eye. How else would you describe people who gravitate towards a bike that isn’t great at any one thing, but is really good at a doing them all? And these are people who have eschewed spending big bucks on a Beemer, choosing instead to invest two or three grand on a bike that will run for 100,000, or much more, that they can work on themselves, and that provides little glitz but plenty of “get up and go.” That is, until all practicality goes out the window and a brand new $16,000 C14 Concours goes in the garage. Hey, what can I say? COGers are an enigma.

We hopped back on the freeway and headed to our original rally point at the Prunedale Starbucks next to Safeway on Vierra Canyon Road, each choosing to kill the morning chill with a Venti cuppa Joe. We took some time to chat about our jobs and families, and Connie’s of course. We each found out why we got back into motorcycling after a long hiatus and why we both stumbled upon the Concours and discovered it was the perfect bike for commuting during the week and touring on the weekends. But soon enough, the road beckoned to both of us. So we saddled up, and headed the 45 minutes south to King City.

Fort Hunter Liggett

We took Jolon Road west for 20 or so miles and then turned right on Mission Road towards Fort Hunter Liggett. The turn-off was hard to miss considering the welcome mat was a 15 ton Sheridan Tank with its 152mm gun leveled right at us! Fort Hunter Liggett is a 168,000 acre military reservation that boasts “a mission to provide world class training for Combat Support (CS) and Combat Service Support (CSS) units and to become the best training center in the Western United States for the U.S. Army Reserve.” I’ve been past this area both on Hwy 1 at the coast and on Hwy 101 many times and never knew it was there. Remoteness is probably one of the best reasons for its location. That, and it sports a 360 degree live fire range. Hoo-yah!

San Antonio de Padua Mission

But paradoxically tucked right next to all that state-of-the-art weaponry is Mission San Antonio de Padua, the third of what would eventually be 21 missions that stretch from San Diego to Sonoma, California. Founded in 1771 by Father (now Saint) Junipero Serra, Mission San Antonio de Padua is the largest of the 21 missions and is still an active parish, with 35 families attending services there. The grounds are quite impressive and this would be a great place to spend more time to delve into local history. But on this trip, we only had time for a few photos, a quick look around and a rapid-fire historical overview and fund-raising pitch from the docent.

Los Padres National Forest

Leaving the mission, we turned onto Nacimiento-Fergusson Road towards the mountains of the Los Padres National Forest. I can see why the Spanish settlers called the land surrounding the Mission “the Valley of the Oaks.” Unlike parts of northern california, the land heading up to the coastal range mountains was chock full of oak trees, not the one or two found on most hills in Marin. Whether because of climate or isolation, you get the feeling like you’re stepping back in time seeing these wooded hills as they were meant to be.

The gentle rolling hills gave way to curves that follow a stream through the mountains. Then you start a climb up and over an impressive range of guardian mountains to the coast. A note to photographers: there are only a few pullouts where stopping to take a photo is possible, so when you see one, pull over. You won’t find another one farther on that is better. And with the curves getting ever tighter and steeper, turning around is problematic.

The trip over the mountains was easy, or would have been if not for rock debris in just about every tight corner. The narrow road without center-stripe was typical for these types of roads, making speed control highly important. Luckily, we only passed a few cars coming the other way. But the blind curves and lack of guard rails made it impossible to do anything but leisurely meander around all the turns.

Once we broke out of the trees and crested the summit, we started down a steep set of switchbacks. Soon enough we were treated to a breathtaking view of the Pacific. On this day, the water along the Big Sur coast was a deep azure blue, not the grey-green I had become used to from years of scuba diving the waters around Monterey Bay.

Cliffs above Big Sur

It seemed that we had lucked into those most rare of occasions on California’s central coast: a brilliantly sunny day with particularly good ocean visibility. It produced a quality of color in the ocean that I haven’t seen in years. And just to complete our spectacular vista, the sapphire water contrasted with white-crested waves, seen from thousands of feet above the beach atop our mountain road. Simply, brilliant.

The Azure Pacific

Anyone who has seen car commercials filmed in California has seen the Marin Headlands, Fort Point under the Golden Gate Bridge, and the famous Bixby Bridge on Highway 1 at Big Sur. There are a number of bridges that follow the same architecture as the Bixby Bridge which was undergoing renovation at the time of our trip. The one in the distance below is not Bixby, but one bridge further south, but it is no less spectacular with its 1930s design ethic. I’ve always wanted to photograph the Bixby at sunset from down on a nearby beach. Today was not that day, but someday soon it will be.

The Big Sur coast

We decided to have lunch at the iconic Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur that looks out over the crashing waves of the Pacific. Being able to park our bikes where cars could not helped us in getting right in to eat. But if you are driving a car, parking can be a problem on busy days. For two hungry bikers, seats at the bar trumped an ocean view. So we sidled up to the bar, ordered, and ate our fill.

But all of the crazy wind-tossed riding and debris-strewn mountain curves flew out of my mind when I got home and saw my photos on the computer for the first time. Indeed it was a great day: beautiful weather, gorgeous scenery and a newfound friend. It was all perfect except for trusting my final shot to a passing vista point tourist. Here’s to the gray-bearded gentleman in the white sedan: next time, press the button down half-way to focus—like I mentioned—before taking the photo by pressing it down the rest of the way. Oh…nevermind.

Never trust a tourist with your camera

Ride Map: Click here for Google map

The Big Sur Loop ride map

Ride Report:
– Date: February 23, 2013
– Roads: All well-paved with inclusions of a few rocks here and there in turns that have no guard rails next to thousand foot cliffs – just to keep things interesting. Afternoon quartering winds on the coast with heavy unpredictable gusts made cornering on Hwy 1…uhhhh…thrilling.
– Scenery: This time of year we were treated to rolling green hills thoroughly dotted with oak trees which gave way to heavily forested and impressively high mountains with breathtaking views of valleys on one side and the pacific on the other.
– Weather: The weather was perfect on this late February weekend, sunny in the 50s with puffy clouds after the morning fog burned off. Summertime temperatures in the Ft. Hunter Liggett area can get very warm followed by the cool breezes of the coast, so be sure to wear layers.
– Challenge: Intermediate but very approachable for beginners. However with no guard rails on tight curves next to sheer cliffs, you’ll need to be very careful. This is not a churn and burn road for canyon racers…not in the least. Too much corner debris in the mountains and too many tourists on the Big Sur coast.
– Food: We didn’t see any gas or food between Hwy 101 and Hwy 1 so bring your own food as necessary. Lots of great places to eat in Big Sur, though.
– Gas: We also didn’t see any gas stations between Hwy 101 all the way until Carmel, about 100 miles, so plan accordingly.
– Rating: 5-stars (out of 5) for scenic beauty alone. I will be doing this ride many times again in the future.
– Additional Fun:
Although this time we didn’t include a ride through Carmel Valley, a trek to Pinnacles National Monument, a visit to Cannery Row, or a pilgrimage to the Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway, there are an inordinate number of fun things to do and see in-and-around Monterey Bay. And Hearst Castle at San Simeon is only another 35 miles south on Hwy 1! This would be a great three-day trip for anyone coming from out-of-state. As for SantaCruzRider and I, all this and more is a mere twist of the wrist away.

Additional Trip Photos:

Sheridan Tank

Mission San Antonio De Padua

A Padres Garden

A Mission Well

The Mission

A Highway 1 Vista Point

International Motorcycle Show: Oppa San Matean Style


International Motorcycle Show sponsored by Progressive Insurance

Not many motorcycle enthusiasts are as lucky as I am in that I live five blocks away from the San Mateo Expo Center, home each November to the Progressive International Motorcycle Show. So each year, my riding buddies and I, pay homage to our favorite pastime by getting together to visit the show and see what’s new in the moto world. This year I make a point of taking a lot of photos of the show so that the readers of Me and MyConnie who weren’t able to make it to one of the shows. Hope you enjoy the photos…

Me and MyConnie: The Book


Me and MyConnie - One Man’s Journey To Rekindle Life’s Adventure

Me and MyConnie is now a book!

I was asked to relate my story of getting back into motorcycling by a company that makes self-publishing software: blurb.com. So for the past month, I have been re-crafting the stories related in this blog plus adding ride videos and photo slideshows for an enhanced eBook version of Me and MyConnie, made for iPad.

This is the first time I have published a book, although I have written professionally before. In the 1990s I wrote a monthly column in OceanSports International magazine called “Dive Jive” and was sent by the magazine’s publisher to Fiji to review and photograph seven different dive resorts. Plus, as a marketing professional my entire career, writing has been an important part of my daily work. However, though I am no stranger to a word processor, going through the process of telling a story in book form was interesting and new for me.

The enhanced eBook format for iPad is fascinating because you can insert videos, photo slideshows and links to other media making the process of reading a book much richer. And the Blurb.com software makes this process surprisingly easy.

However, creating a book is one thing, getting anyone to take notice is another. Blurb shines there as well. They make it easy for people to find and download new titles with their own online bookstore located at blurb.com/bookstore. It’s a great way to browse and discover new eBook titles from interesting authors, most of whom are outside the mainstream of the publishing world. Another great benefit to authors is that Blurb makes it easy to publish to Apple’s iTunes book store which then broadens the audience greatly.

Blurb eBookstore

The image above was grabbed from Blurb’s enhanced eBook gallery web page. Me and MyConnie will be free the first two week of publication, Nov. 5 – 19, 2012, in the Blurb bookstore. After that, it will be available for purchase for a nominal cost. Here are links where you can preview the first 27 pages of the book on your computer or tablet, and also a link to download it for your iPad. I hope you enjoy it!

Links:
• Preview

Four Perfect Motorcycle Days


´My first camping trip on MyConnie

Labor Day weekend 2012 will go down in my personal record book as the most epic of motorcycle trips on MyConnie…so far. Four days of motorcycle camping from San Mateo, California to Eugene, Oregon and back, taking the best motorcycle roads in between. This was by far the most ambitious and arduous trip I have made on a bike in my life, racking up 1,455 miles and more than 29 hours in the saddle over four days.

Annotated map of our trip to Eugene, Oregon

This may not sound like a lot to members of the Iron Butt Association, but these weren’t just flat-out highway miles. We went out of our way to choose a route that wrung the best out of our bikes and riding skills. We started by planning the route around four goals: 1) visiting my son in Eugene, Oregon where he is starting freshman year as an University of Oregon “Duck,” 2) going to my Dad’s property in Chiloquin, Oregon near Klamath Falls to put sealant on his roof prior to winter, 3) choosing awesome motorcycle roads that were recommended by Tim Mayhew of Pashnit.com, and 4) ending each day at a campground that had beer.

The third requirement was of particular interest to me because I am an avid reader of Pashnit’s California Motorcycle Roads website where I found that there were wonderful places in the state that I had never visited, all connected by roads that are great for bikes. The fourth and final requirement was at the request of my riding buddies who would go along with the interminably long days in the saddle, but only if they didn’t have to ride somewhere to have a beer and then ride back somewhere else to bed down for the night. SInce I was also trying to experience what motorcycle camping was like and cut down on lodging bills, this meant one thing: KOA Kampgrounds.

KOA at Trinity Lakes, California

What’s not to love about a KOA? They have a store with ice cold beer, nice campsites, food within walking distance, online registration…oh, and did I mention ice cold beer? To top it off, the one we were going to stay at has an espresso machine and a gas pump. What more could three motorcyclists want?

We experienced some amazing motorcycle roads and some still more amazing scenery—learning a bit more about ourselves along the way. Here are the highlights of our adventure:

• Avenue of the Giants – Home of the giant redwoods
We decided to head north taking Highway 101 all the way to Fortuna and then turn east so that we could experience Highway 36 which drew raves on Pashnit.com. As we entered redwood country, we took a side-route called The Avenue of the Giants which parallels Highway 101 and crosses under it in serpentine fashion for about 20 miles or so. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous with massive redwoods trees, the largest living things on earth, lining both sides of the road. Here is a link to a brief video of us riding through the redwoods along The Avenue of the Giants.

Ace and Bocci outside the famous “One Log House”

• Highway 36One of the best motorcycle roads anywhere
250 miles north of San Francisco lies one of the most incredible motorcycle roads anywhere: Highway 36. This 150 mile long road connects the city of Eureka on the coast to Red Bluff in the central valley. Although highway 36 provides a handy connection between Interstate 5 and Highway 101, it doesn’t get much traffic. The lack of cars coupled with its near-new paving and perfectly engineered curves alone would make it one of the best motorcycle road I’ve ever ridden. However, its not just the banking and burning that makes this road THE best in my book, its the scenery along the way. Going from the coastal fog and redwoods, then through a tunnel of fern-like trees, then transitioning to rolling ranch lands, and then mountainous terrain would have been enough in and of itself to claim my top spot. But along the way you are also treated to absolutely idyllic sweeping views of high-country farms and ranches nestled in small valleys that butt up against steeply wooded mountains. The views were indeed breathtaking and highly recommended as a route you should plan to take someday.

One interesting item of note, at one point nearing the junction with Highway 3, we came across a sign that read, “Road Ends 500 Feet.” We thought, “What the heck?!” After riding about an hour and a half just to then find what seemed to be an impenetrable obstacle, we were dumfounded. As it turned out, the road wasn’t impenetrable, just incredibly nerve-wracking. There was road construction going on and for about a quarter mile. The asphalt had been removed and we were faced with what was essentially a gravel road. With no other real options, we sucked up our courage, stood up on our pegs, and let the bikes wiggle crazily beneath us as we drove slowly but confidently over the loose terrain. As it turned out, it was easy-cheesy, but something to remember for sure.

• Highway 3Gateway to the Trinity Alps
75 miles in from the coast Highway 36 connects with Highway 3 which heads north through the Trinity Alps. At the junction of the two roads is an unusually large triangular parking area right in the middle of the road which ended up being a nice place to stop for a brief rest. My buddy “Ace” found some previous hitchhiker’s cardboard sign and mugged for a photo expressing a sentiment that we all shared after seven hours in the saddle.

Abandoned hitchhiker sign found on the roadway

Highway 3 north through the Trinity Alps did not disappoint. Like Highway 36, it was a gorgeous road, both in ride-ability and scenery. It didn’t hurt that we were traveling during the time of day photographers know as “the golden hour” right before sundown. It was a strikingly beautiful day with the golden sun low in the sky at our backs or on our left, illuminating the mountains and small towns along the way. After winding an hour more along Highway 3 we rolled into the Trinity Lakes KOA “Kampground.” It was nice to find extremely pleasant staff, a well-stocked store, beer, ice, firewood and a nice little campsite for our three tents and bikes.

Camping at the Trinity Lakes KOA Kampground

After a well-deserved meal at the adjacent food shack (pizza for me, fish ’n chips for Bocci and Ace), we built a fire and started settling in for the evening. The next morning, I woke before dawn to see if I could get any great photos of Trinity Lakes. It was a short mile walk to the shoreline, and I wasn’t disappointed when I was presented the setting moon over hills lit by morning glow.

The setting moon over Califorina’s Trinity Alps

I sought out a cup of espresso from the Kampground store, after which, we packed up camp, gassed up, and headed north up Highway 3 towards Yreka. We found that rolling through the Trinity Alps provided an entirely different environment than the rolling valleys of Highway 36. After emerging from the mountains, enjoying some wonderful curvy roads with sweeping vistas, we entered a very large flat high-altitude valley dotted with little towns. I had no idea that a mere 30 miles to the west of Highway 5 on the way to Oregon was this idyllic sub-alpine farming area. It was truly breathtaking to roll mile after mile through these valleys surrounded by mountains all around, and such a nice change from the monotonous drone of Highway 5, California’s main north-south route. I highly recommend taking Highway 3 if you are going from the San Francisco Bay Area to points in Oregon and can afford the extra time.

• Roseburg, Oregon – A quaint jewel along the Umpqua river
Nestled alongside Interstate 5 about halfway between the California border and Eugene, Oregon is Roseburg. This city of 21,000 was the waypoint we would use to head to Crater Lake the following day, but after many hours riding in 90 degree heat, we needed to find a watering hole somethin’ fierce. We could not have had better luck than when we stumbled into the B&M Tavern which was celebrating Cowboy Days. The people were friendly, the drinks were cold, and there was a huge spread of free food on the shuffleboard table. We enjoyed the funky cowboy-chic décor and cowboy songs being sung in the street outside for an hour and then saddled up for our last push towards Eugene.

B&M Tavern in Roseburg OR

• Eugene, Oregon – Home of the University of Oregon Ducks
It should not be left unsaid that Trinity Lakes to Eugene is a heck of a long distance—almost 300 miles, in fact. On the heels of a very long ride the day before, we thought that the run to Eugene would be a cake walk. It wasn’t. However, it certainly wasn’t a difficult ride. It was just 5.5 hours long, and 85 degrees hot. When we arrived in Eugene, we were ready to arrive in Eugene. Poor planning for that evening, though, left us in a no-tell motel in two “smoking allowed” rooms (yuck). We didn’t—I guess I should cop to I didn’t—prearrange a hotel room or campsite, and we happened to hit Eugene on a Ducks football game day. We were lucky we didn’t have to sleep in a park.

We had a great visit with my son after he got off of work delivering pizzas and he introduced us to Voodoo Doughnuts, an experience not to be missed. It seems like my 18 year old is settling into college life as a freshman nicely.


Oregon Hwy 138 – The Umpqua River Valley
After a more traditional yet excellent breakfast at Glenwood we got ready for our next destination: Crater Lake via the Umpqua River Valley. After copious goodbyes to my son, we rolled out of Eugene and down Highway 5 back towards Roseburg where we turned east on Highway 138 paralleling the Umpqua River.

I should mention that Oregon is a mecca for gorgeous motorcycle roads and we certainly spent too much time on Highway 5 when we could have been exploring other river valleys and redwood forests. But we only had four days and needed to accomplish certain goals, so we would just have to leave more Oregonian exploration for a later date.

Oregon Highway 138 towards Crater Lake through the Umpqua River Valley is a gorgeous route. There is a long section where the road is low, twisty and adjacent to the river, and other sections where we cut across vast forests at relatively high speed. All of this led us to the north entrance of Crater Lake National Park, but before we could get in, we found ourselves at the back of a long line of cars stopped dead on the highway. We were surprised at this, and decided that this many people must have the right idea, so we inched forward in line for 45 minutes just to pay our entrance fee to get into the park.

Waiting in line to enter Crater Lake

• Crater Lake – Deepest lake in America and possibly the most beautiful
The road to the crater is about ten miles that crosses pretty spectacular terrain. It leads up to the crater which rises above the valley floor and offers many vista points along its rim. We stopped at the first vista, climbed a sand hill, and found this waiting over the edge:

A panorama of Crater Lake in Oregon

What a sight! We took a lot of photos at various points around the rim and then decided to skip the lodge as traffic was a mess. It was well worth the trip and the wait in line, though, for the sheer beauty of the lake. We stopped at the Annie Creek Restaurant and waited FOR-EVER for our food, which was mediocre at best. A much better idea would be to continue on to Highway 97, gas up and eat at the KlaMoYa Casino near Chiloquin.

Our goal in visiting the little village of Chiloquin was because I own property there which previously belonged to my parents, and their roof was in bad need of some sealer prior to winter. We quickly found that our bikes did not like the red rock road that led to the house as the Bimmer and MyConnie got stuck. So we hoofed it with my tools to the house and Ace—a contractor by trade—helped me out by shinnying up onto the roof without the help of a ladder and spread the gooey tar over the offending seam.

MyConnie gets stuck on the red rock road

We finally extracted ourselves from the slippery red rocks by riding out into the meadow, working tenaciously to avoid the holes and cowpies that abounded under shin-high grass. It was already getting late in the afternoon and we had many miles to go to our next campsite, so we decided to leave a visit with the neighbors for my next trip and got back on the road towards Klamath Falls.

• Lava Beds National Monument – California’s overlooked pearl
We had reservations that night at the KOA in Mount Shasta but it was clear that we would arrive there many hours after dark if we stuck to our original route. So we elected to change our camping plans instead. We took Highway 97 down to Klamath Falls and then headed towards Highway 39 which eventually turns into Highway 139. We followed this in the waning light towards Lava Beds National Monument near Tule Lake now across the border in California. This ride would have been more enjoyable if we didn’t find ourselves racing dusk and trying to find the one campground listed in the odd lava beds park. It didn’t help that the visitor’s center and ranger hut were closed so we couldn’t even ask directions.

We accidentally split up for a short time and I found myself riding a causeway through the middle of Tule Lake trying to find the elusive campground. Do you know what you get at dusk next to a large shallow lake? BUGS! I don’t think I’ve ever tucked-in so tightly on MyConnie, trying to shield my helmet from this entomological onslaught.

Tule Lake at Dusk = BUGS!

After regrouping with my fellow riders, they led the way to the campground, but it was now very dark and we had to fumble our way around to find a site and then set up our tents. However, sometimes luck shines on the ill-prepared because we found a campsite that overlooked the lava beds area and were treated to a blood-red full moon, made that way by the smoke from many California wildfires raging in nearby counties. We came to find out from the campground host that this was the only site left, and it was the best of the lot. And although there was no store with cold beer, there was a nice, clean bathroom building and someone kindly left firewood at our site which Bocci quickly lit ablaze with some help from his camp stove gas. We dined on turkey chili, beef jerky and washed it down with hot chocolate—all-in-all, a nice end to a long day.

Our campsite at Lava Beds National Monument

At dawn, the views were amazing. We came to find out that there are over 700 lava tubes in the national monument area, 25 of which are open to the public and have trails leading through them. Two campers on adventure bikes told us of one caves is 1.5 miles long with ice in the bottom! This is an area we definitely want to visit again to do some exploring. Not only to see more of this unique geology, but also to experience the incredible light of dawn over the lava beds one more time.

MyConnie in front of the Lava Beds National Monument dawn

• The Modoc Plateau – California’s upper right corner
After our last night camping, it was time to head home. We split up with Ace leaving shortly after dawn and heading south and west towards the Bay Area via a more-or-less direct route. Bocci and I took our time breaking camp and headed out of the back side of the lava beds towards Highway 139. The road leading out of lava beds monument area is not often used, and although completely paved, has a plethora of potholes and cracks with vegetation growing through. It was no problem at all, but considering we hadn’t done this before, we were worried that we were heading down a rat hole and that we might not easily get out without backtracking. As luck would have it, we connected with Highway 139 and got to see some mule deer and bunnies along the way.

One disappointment was that we didn’t have time to get to Glass Mountain, an entire mountain made of large chunks of obsidian. Not only were we not sure of how to get there, but we knew that the last couple of miles to its over 7,000 foot peak were a dirt and gravel road. So we decided to “punt” on Glass Mountain this time, but affirmed our desire to return there in the not-too-distant future.

Turning south on Highway 139 led us on a high-speed trip through beautiful high country ranch land for quite some distance. We came to a decision point of whether to head west down Highway 299 towards Mount Lassen, or to head east towards Alturas and Highway 395. Bocci’s less-than-bottomless fuel tank on the Triumph made the decision for us as it was only 20 miles to Alturas, so off we went in search of gasoline.

We noticed on Highway 139 and then on the road to Alturas that most of the cars traveling in the opposite direction were all covered with white dust. I noticed this but didn’t think much about it until we reached the gas station. After refueling, I went into the store to buy a map. In walked a very attractive young woman wearing an abbreviated halter and Daisy Dukes. Most notably, she had a foxtail clipped to her backside and was covered with the same white dust that we had seen on the passing traffic. Hmmmmmm…what was going on here?

As I exited the store, we noticed a few other strangely dressed individuals and a large van that had the eastern-Indian greeting “Namasté” emblazoned across the hood. Finally it hit me, these people were all returning from Burning Man! I have heard a lot about this festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert where 50,000 people converge to create a sustainable “city” for one week and then leave without any trace that they had been there. I aspire to attend Burning Map someday, but the exhausted look on the white dust-coated people’s faces may make me rethink that position. My main regret now is that I didn’t have the presence of mind to take photos of these desertified miscreants before we left.

Rather than backtrack towards Lassen, we decided to run directly south on Highway 395 to Susanville and then head south and west first on Highway 36, and then on Highway 32 to Chico which sits astride Highway 99. One thing was sure, we were still a very long way from the Bay Area and needed to let our war ponies run.

The run from Alturas to Susanville leads across the Modoc Plateau, a mile-high expanse of lava flows, cinder cones, juniper flats, pine forests, and seasonal lakes. Highway 395 here is dead straight with only intermittent towns along the way. The flat, straight roads and 90 degree heat led to our decision to make the hundred mile run to Susanville a constant 80 mph. Never having been to this part of California before, I was struck with the immensity of the surrounding land and just how remote it was from where most people traverse the state. I’m sure the Modoc Plateau holds many more treasures that we will explore on future trips.

• The High Sierras – The mountains in my back yard
After reaching Susanville and having a very nice lunch at the Chinese Kitchen, we headed off to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains. We would have liked to have gone through the heart of Lassen National Forest, but different wildfires were still being contained so we consulted the California statewide fire map and devised a route around them because we wanted to avoid any entanglements with fire crews. As it turned out, we found a beautiful route back to the central valley passing by the north shore of Lake Almanor and then down through spectacular pine forests to the town of Chico.

• The “Back Way” Home – Taking roads less travelled
Because this was Labor Day, we were worried about hitting holiday traffic and therefore were seeking any alternate routes we could think of to avoid it. As it turned out, we lucked upon an absolutely great way to get close to the last jump into San Francisco without suffering holiday traffic and while enjoying beautiful scenery along the way. Here’s how: From Chico, take Highway 99 south to Yuba City. Then head west briefly on Highway 20, the Colusa Highway, until you can turn south on Highway 113. Continue all the way on 113 until the city of Davis, then you can hop on Interstate 80 towards San Francisco. You will love the rural beauty of this route which is surprisingly fast.

Bocci and I finally did run into holiday traffic at Vacaville where there was a big traffic jam. We did a little end-around using Google maps and surface streets and eventually got back on track. Our fourth day ended when I arrived home around 9:00 P.M. thoroughly exhausted but exhilarated as well.

Looking back over the previous four days I was just amazed at the different climates and types of geography we traversed. And this from a native Californian who has traveled extensively throughout the state and thought he knew most of its attractions. What I learned is that there is much more to the Golden State than what lies close to major points of interest such as Yosemite, Lake Tahoe and Disneyland. And for those willing to explore on two wheels, there is yet a wide wonderful world to discover within their easy reach while enjoying the journey as much as reaching the destination.

I find myself now less interested in planning for trips to faraway lands and intrigued instead with thoughts of Death Valley, the Salton Sea, Desolation Wilderness, Plumas National Forest, Glass Mountain, Lassen National Park, Big Sur and all points in between. We Californians are truly blessed to enjoy topography this spectacular and year ’round riding weather to keep enjoying it all.

I think I’ll now log in to Pashnit.com and start planning my next adventure.

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Trip Stats:
Friday August 31st — Monday September 3rd, 2012
1,455 miles ( day 1 = 424,  day 2 = 293,  day 3 = 289,  day 4 = 449 )
The Bikes:
– 2001 Kawasaki Concours ZG1000
– 2010 Triumph Bonneville T100
– 1998 BMW R1100RT

Ride Maps:
Day One: San Mateo > Trinity Lake KOA Campground = 424 Miles @ 8.5 hours
Click here for Google map

Day Two: Trinity Lake KOA Campground > Eugene, Oregon = 293 Miles @ 5.5 hours
Click here for Google map

Day Three: Eugene, OR > Lava Beds Nat’l Monument = 289 Miles – 6.25 hours
Click here for Google map

Day Four: Lava Beds Nat’l Monument > San Mateo, CA = 449 Miles @ 8.75 hours
Click here for Google map

Additional Trip Photos:

Boldly go…


[ My photo of the Space Shuttle Endeavour on its final flight – click to enlarge ]

Sometimes we ride to feel the wind in our hair. Sometimes we ride to get from here to there. But sometimes we ride to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Today was one of those days. I took one of my “secret” commute routes to Silicon Valley and timed the ride to coincide with the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s final flyover of NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field. Although there are some spectacular photos and videos on the Internet of Endeavour and its Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft flying low over the Golden Gate Bridge, I opted to capture this last Shuttle flight as it flew by historic Hangar One, built originally for dirigibles. So I filled up my saddlebags with my photo gear, bungeed my tripod behind me, and set off to see what kind of photo I could get from a high vantage point about ten miles away as the crow flies:

Hwy 35 Skyline Drive Vista Point

As a youngster growing up first with Mercury, then with Gemini, and then with Apollo, I would consider myself a devotee of all things NASA. And considering I run a company that benefits from all of the technology that was developed for the space program, it is with much respect that I pen this ode to the final flight of the last Space Shuttle.

“Space, the final frontier. These were the voyages of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Her 25 missions: to service the Hubble Space Telescope, conduct experiments, and deliver modules to the International Space Station — to boldly go where few have gone before.”

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For my photographer friends: I took the Space Shuttle shot with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS on my Canon Rebel Xsi from about ten miles away at ISO 100, f/4, 1/4000 shutter speed. Post processing was done in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.