Kings Canyon/Sequoia Camp-Out
or… why Carl and Fred went to Fresno in the middle of a camping trip
Preparations for the Kings Canyon/Sequoia camping trip typically start the last day of the previous years trip. That’s when we decide what we’re going to do next year. This year, for example, we did the same thing as last year but a week earlier. Next year we’re going to do something a little bit different. More on that later.
Active preparations typically start the week before the trip. In my case I checked my camping gear on Wednesday. Thursday I gave the bike a once over:
- oil: OK
- tire pressure: down a bit. Brought it back to 36 front, 42 rear.
- tire condition: OK
- lights: OK
Tire condition on the rear was a minor issue as I’d noticed the tire was wearing faster than normal. I still had over 1/16" before the wear bars. Should be fine for a 600-700 mile trip. I put my gear on the bike as I was going to be busy Friday.
On Saturday morning I put my food in the ice chest then bungied it to the back seat. After filling the tank I met most of the fellow campers at the do-nut shop. Carl, Fred, Pete and Joey, and I rode down 101 toward Hollister. A bit before taking the exit for Ca 25 Pete pulled off the road holding on to Joey with his left hand. Joey had fallen asleep. Soundly. Pete had to stop to wake him up. He made it to the Cozy Cup only a minute or so behind us.
Rich pulled up to the restaurant just as we'd finished our breakfast. Perfect timing. He had time for a pit stop as we put on our gear for the ride to Coalinga.
We rode down 25 to 198, stopping at that intersection to re-group. Riding gear was shed as it was beginning to warm up. When ready we continued Coalinga for a gas and rest stop. The next stop was in Visalia for gas, again. I wasn’t that far from Coalinga, but the next gas stop was 180 miles away. Better to gas up while we can.
Pete and Joey were the last to leave the gas station in Visalia. I told Pete the restaurant was about a mile up the road on the right (he’d been there once before) and left. Oops. The restaurant was less than 1/2 mile up the road. As the rest of us were taking our gear off we saw Pete ride by in oblivion. He says he kept looping back to find us, but apparently believed my “mile or so” statement so strongly that he never went back far enough. The rest of us had fish and chips then continued on our way.
After lunch the group split up with Carl and Rich taking the direct (easy!) route and Fred and I taking Ca 245, a road with more twists per mile than most. I felt off on the ride so let Fred take the lead. Things were just not right – I assumed I was having an off day so slowed down.
We entered the park and made our way the 35 miles or so down to the campground. Our timing was perfect! We met up with the other three bikes less than a mile from the campground. We set up camp, got wood, beer, and ice from the store, and proceeded to enjoy a pleasant afternoon with almost no worries.
I was the one worrying. I took a look at my rear tire in the campground and found that in the last 300 miles the tread had disappeared at the center of the tire. Lots of tread at the sidewalls, but nothing at the center. Ouch. At the rate the tire was wearing it would not get me home. Maybe that is one of the reasons I felt off on the ride.
Just before it started getting dark the camp stoves were fired up and dinner prepared. Rich brought home made chili. I made some pasta and then dumped a couple of cans of store bought chili in it which Fred and I shared. I don’t think anyone went hungry. Or thirsty.
After dinner Pete started the fire and he and Joey roasted marshmallows while the rest of told lies over beer and tequila. One-by-one we went off to bed.
The night was uneventful save for Carl tripping in the dark because he’d locked his flashlight in the bear box. Perhaps it was Carl that the neighboring campsite mistook for a bear. We’ll never know.
Morning breakfast was bacon and eggs for most, oatmeal for others. We broke camp and started loading up the bikes. Pete and Joey were the first to leave as they were heading home instead of joining us for a second night in Sequoia park.
Since the next camp site was less than 80 miles away the plan was to do some sightseeing, with the first stop being the General Grant tree at the top of the canyon. Given the shape of my tire I took it real easy the 35 miles or so from the campground to Grant Grove. It didn't help. That tire was not going to make it many more miles. We took the loop to the General Grant tree while thinking about tire options.
Sightseeing done, the plan is to ride to Grant Grove Village a mile or so away and start calling around Fresno for a new tire. On a Sunday. Oh boy.
That’s what the tire looked like at 21116 miles on the odometer. Remember, there was more than 1/16” left before the wear bars when I left home about 350 miles earlier. The tire was only 5500 miles old. The bike wasn’t going anywhere with that tire.
I borrowed a phone book from the inn at Grant Grove Village and saw an add for a motorcycle shop in Fresno open 7 days. A phone call found that the service department was closed on Sunday. While on the phone Fred found a listing for Cycle Gear in Fresno. They were open and had one sport/touring tire in the needed size: 170/60x17. They said they’d save it for me. I said someone would be there in about an hour.
We removed the camping gear and rear wheel, strapping the wheel to the back of Carl’s bike. Rich and I stayed in Grant Grove Village to watch my bike and the gear as Fred and Carl took off for Fresno to get the tire replaced. They left a minute or so before noon. My guess was that it would take 3 hours: an hour to Fresno, an hour to replace the tire, and an hour to get back. Rich and I found some shade in which to wait.
At exactly 3:00 PM Fred rode into the parking lot. Carl was no more than 90 seconds behind him. How’s that for guestimations! I mounted the rear wheel on the bike, giving Fred no end of pleasure as I used some of his chain lube on the lug bolts to help wipe away some corrosion. Some water had gotten in there sometime in the past. Camping gear was stowed and we finally took off for the campground, taking it easy to give the new tire a chance to scrub in.
The next stop was at Lodgepole village to buy food, ice, beer, etc. You know, the basic necessities. Rich and I had planned dinner while waiting for Fred and Carl to return. Chili dogs with the dogs cooked over the fire, smothered in real Velveeta cheese-like stuff. Heaven. After loading up with supplies we continued to the campground at Buckeye Flat and set up camp. No rain fly for me. Rich went as far as no tent, deciding to sleep out in the open.
Before dinner we walked down to the river to soaked our feet and splash some water on our faces. It felt great. It probably would have felt even better had we gotten there about 3 hours earlier. Oh well, there’s always next year. Carl, Fred, and I had shorts and shoes suitable for getting wet. Rich didn’t. Of course it was Rich who slipped on wet rocks getting down to the river, landing in a small stream of water. Next time he’ll have a change of clothes as insurance against such slips.
We headed back to the campsite just in time to be told we were bad boys for leaving without storing all food (and other) stuff. Bears, you know!
Carl adds: When we were chewed-out (pun!!) for having left food items at our unattended campsite, one of the items on the list of offences was insect repellent. Apparently, it smells like food to a bear. Unfortunately, none of us were quick enough of wit to ask the ranger what the bear might think of someone who had just liberally applied said insect repellent across the broad expanse of his body. Needless to say, the repellent was quickly placed in the bear-proof storage box as demand for its use came to an abrupt end.
Next time we’ll be good boys, promise! Since we were back in camp the food came out, dinner was made, then Fred and Carl stoked up their cigars to keep the gnats away. I think we managed to make it until 10 PM before going to bed.
The next morning we broke camp and were out of the campsite by 8:30. We rode down the hill to 3 Rivers for a gas stop and then into Visalia for breakfast. Breakfast was great, but we don’t know if its because the restaurant is so good or we’re just tired of eating our own cooking. Probably a combination of both. At breakfast we decided to change the route home. None of us wanted to get on I5. The new plan was to take 198 all the way to 101, then up 101.
As I said at the start of this, planning for the next trip starts at the end of this one. Next year we are not going to camp in Kings Canyon. We’re going to go directly to Buckeye Flat and stay there for two nights. We’ll use it as a base of operations for sight seeing, stopping at many of the places we missed this trip. Come join us.
Trip totals for me (Carl and Fred had an extra 100 miles):
- 712 miles
- 48 MPH average speed
- mumble MPH max speed
Fred’s snapshots from the trip can be found here.