A Camping trip to Kings Canyon National Park

Saturday–Sunday, 13–14 Sep 1997

Three go camping… Helmut gets a flat

The strange (at least it seemed that way to Bern) group of Helmut, Mark and me were the only breakfast club members available for a camping trip to Kings Canyon national park the weekend of September 13/14. Those who couldn’t join us missed a great time, including a little excitement along the way.

At 7:00 AM Saturday morning Mark, Bern, and I meet Dave in front of the donut shop. Dave is there to pass along route advice, other duties will keep him from joining us. Bern is along for the first leg to breakfast. We head down 101, take 92 over to 280, then south on 280 where Helmut joins us at Woodside road. Riding conditions are perfect. We continue south on 280, 85, and 101 to 25. Before long we’re in Hollister: time for breakfast.

After breakfast Bern heads home and we head for gas for the next leg of the trip. Helmut notices his bike is not handling quite right but doesn’t see anything wrong. We leave the gas station heading south on 25 with Mark in the lead. About 2 miles down the road is a stop sign. Mark and I wait for a minute, but Helmut, who dropped back a half mile earlier, doesn’t show up. We turn around to find Helmut checking his rear tire. It is very low. Back to the gas station.

The gas station mechanic is quick to mention he does not work on motorcycle tires. We’ve all looked the tire over and can’t see a puncture. Air is added and we try to splash some water on the tire. No luck. We debate pulling the rear wheel off to put it in the trough to check for a leak. A bystander and the mechanic mention that there is a motorcycle store about 3 blocks away: perhaps we can find some help there. The tire is inflated and we find the store.

The store is a hole in the wall that stocks accessories for the dirt bike crowd that frequents the Hollister hills. They do no work there but mention a branch that does work on bikes about 5 miles down the road. To go on or not to go on? The rear tire went from 40 psi to 25 psi in the three block ride to the motorcycle store. The attendant is not sure, but maybe they only work in dirt bikes.

Mark says he’s used the goop in a can that stops leaks with good luck. We’re actually parked in front of an independent gas station/store along side the motorcycle shop. A quick look in the window shows that they have it. Soon the can is attached to valve stem and sticky goop is being forced into the tire under pressure. This is where we get lucky: the puncture is just opposite the valve stem and we can see the sticky goop coming out. The puncture was hidden in the grove formed by the tread. Mark adds the entire can of goop to the tire. Pressure is at about 40 PSI and the amount of goop coming out the puncture slows down. The next step is to drive around to spread the goop. We may as well continue! Back on 25 south. Next stop: Coalinga, but we’ve lost over an hour.

Almost. Mark takes the lead and I follow Helmut just in case. About a mile out of town Helmut pulls over because the bike still isn’t handling right. Perhaps it’s because of the goop filling the back tire? Pressure seems OK, so we continue on.

About 20 miles later Mark is far ahead when Helmut again slows down and pulls over. He says that the bike handles OK at speed, but not too well when going slow. The back tire has lost a little pressure, but otherwise seems fine. The front tire is checked: it only has 25 PSI. I tell Helmut that a low front tire will certainly cause low speed handling difficulties. He agrees. And the solution is simple: ride fast. We take off just as Mark returned to see what was up. I take the lead. Next stop Coalinga.

Just under 80 wonderful miles later we pull into Coalinga and stop at the first place offering gas, air, and a shady place to check things out. The rear tire is not holding air. Time to go to the BMW tire kit.

For those who don’t know, BMWs come with a repair kit used to plug tube-less tires. The reason we didn’t use it in the first place was because we didn’t know where the puncture was until we put the stop leak goop in the tire. This time the tire plug kit comes out. The following set of pictures is Helmut plugging his tire.

The kit includes a few bottles of CO2 to inflate the tire. We don’t need them as we’re parked next to the compressor. Both front and rear are inflated. Mark and I check our tires, too! The plug seems to be holding and we’ve new spent an hour and a half or so on tires. Time to move on. Next stop Visalia for quick bite to eat.

We stop at a great BBQ place on highway 63 in Visalia where we accidently exited because of a sign saying that way to Kings Canyon. A fortuitous accident! Friendly people and a real character of an owner. Good food, too. It turned out to only be a minor detour. We took 63 to 216 which then brought us to 245.

Highway 245 is a Motorcycle delight. I think we only saw two or three cars which were soon passed. Great twisties: I don’t think I ever got out of 2nd gear! 245 hits 180 just a mile or so from the gate. We hit the gate about 4:00 PM, paid the fees, then continued down into the canyon to the campgrounds, about 32 miles. We were pitching camp around 5. Total for the day was about 340 miles for me.

Once we got things set up it was a short walk to the store for the important things (cold beer and firewood). Back to camp where Mark showed us his eagle scout skills in fire starting after I showed him how to abuse a hammer: use the claw as an ax to split off medium size kindling. A knife is good enough for the small stuff. Note: add hatchet to check list for next trip!

Once the fire was going I made some soup and started boiling water for my main meal. Cook bow-tie noodles, drain, throw in a can of cream of mushroom soup concentrate, add a touch of water, throw a polish sausage on the grill while the noodles heat up again, cut the sausage into the noodles and dinner is served.

The sun has fallen behind the canyon walls by the time dinner is ready, but luckily at least one of us had a lantern. A candle lantern! A one candle lantern. It throws out a surprising amount of light. Dinner by candlelight. Helmut and Mark shared some of the noodles. After dinner it’s time to sit around the fire.

The next morning started when every bird in the valley made a racket about 6:00 AM. Helmut and Mark say they didn’t hear anything. Mark used his eagle scout skills to get the fire going while I made myself an espresso on the camp stove. (Doesn’t everybody bring an espresso maker when camping?)

I made some scrambled eggs and used up the rest of the polish sausage. Helmut and I shared the eggs, Mark was going to try some of the pre-packaged, dehydrated camping food in a bag. Some people can eat anything, but I think he shared some of the sausage, too. The camp and breakfast can be seen in the following pictures.

Helmut checked his tire before we left. It was down a few pounds, but no more than you’d expect than the difference between hot and cold. Breakfast and breaking camp took up a few hours, so we took the direct route home: 180 through Fresno until it stops at the junction of 33, north on 33 to 152, east on 152 to 101, north on 101, 85, 280, and home.

Lots of fun. Think about joining us next time a camp-out is planned.