The Breakfast Club: Sequoia Park Campout
Words and pictures by Alberto
Thursday, Sep 15 2016
“We shall meet at the Cozy Cup in Hollister at 8:15”, suggested Marco. Alberto arrived a bit early, and shortly Harry. Carl very punctual, and Marco, ehem… Late. Mike? “Is Mike coming?” - “yes he is, but remember he works, so he is likely to come up tonight. I do not know how he does it, guess it is just being young”.
Breakfast was the standard fare, in other words, a generous amount of food, which I could not finish. Lots of coffee, and you know what that means. You don’t? Bathroom, my good reader, bathrooms more than once, or whatever the highway provides.
We started out from the Cozy Cup, only to find Mike arriving on his green Kawasaki Versys. God to see him!
And off we went by way of SR 25. Is there any other way to head South? Seems that 25 is a default road. Too many times, by now, and I am tiring of it. It is a great road though.
We stopped at the Coalinga/25 intersection as we have done every time we come this way. You’d say boring. Not this time. Harry had a great little story to tell. “Do you know why it is called “Coalinga”? - “Long ago, this was a train stop, known as “Coal Station A”, place were the train loaded coal, a procedure called “coaling”. No you have it: Coaling Station A, today, Coaling-a”
Enough history. Back on the bikes, read that as zoom! All the way to SR 198. I swear it took three minutes. Harry and Marco kept a quick pace, hmmm… Is this prudent? But I went along. We had to wait for Carl and Mike, who have it right at “touring”. Why hurry?
From here, Peachtree Rd had a sign warning “1-1/2 hour delay” for road work. We stayed on 198, which is no bad until you get to Coaling-a, that name will never be the same, thank you Harry! Here starts the Central Valley with straight roads stretching into the horizon. For entertainment we appreciated the mini-dust storms created by farmers plowing the soil, and the corresponding mini-tornadoes that rise. Fun. Yes, much fun when this observations is all you have for entertainment, aside the occasional genius riding a Harley with Handle bars a foot over his head - for sure riding no more than ten miles if he can keep his arms high for that long!
Coaling-a, top off the gas at the Chevron with a ten minute break, chit-chatting with a couple of locals on their Harleys. Fun guys. Easy riders of heart and attitude. I am certain that Harley bikes are a great bike to many, but yours truly cannot develop a taste for them. Loud, boisterous and obnoxious. “Varoom, Varoom, weeee!, Look at me!”
Next stop, Three Rivers, some 90 miles away. After a yawn or ten, we arrive at the market and another gas topping. You’d think because it is a gas station it’d have a bathroom, eh? Nope! And they do not care in how much in a hurry you may be. No bathroom. Solution, try behind the dumpster just to left side and set back a little, of course, privacy is limited.. Sorry ladies, no curtains which for me is not a requirement, in fact I hardly noticed that there were no curtains!
Ice, beer, a couple of complimentary munchies and we are heading to the National Park. Ahh, love it, senior has its benefits… Go straight in - no pay. My membership card, a one-time payment of $10, good for life!
The road to our campground is a dream of left-right-and-again… And more of the same. Here you can test your riding skills, until you come to another park visitor who is convinced that 10 mph is the safe speed. Pull over!! Is the only thought I can harbor. Alberto. You are supposed to be a grown up! After 68 years, I am convinced that there is no chance for me to grow up. Well, I ride a motorcycle, what else do you need to know about my growing up?
We arrived at Buckeye Flat late in the afternoon, ready to cook and call the day off. 8:30 pm and I was looking forward to reading for a while and truly knock out.
Friday, Sep 16 2016
Snoring was the topic of conversation for breakfast. It does not matter how many times it has been said, but, “you snore something horrendous”, - “well, mister, yours I heard all night long!” It is all very manly of course.
Most had instant oats with cinnamon and raisins. Coffee, always, whichever way it comes out is delicious. Except Marco’s coffee, which has all the appearance of being ambrosia, at least by the dedicated effort he puts at it. For someone like me, who is not really all that demanding of luxuries or comfort, it would be an overkill… Read that as “life can be so simple”… I do not care what I have, so long as I have something.
And in this manner we get ready to go… Go where?
Here you have it. Marco, who makes an effort at being rough, and socially inept (condition which I doubt) asked Harry, “have you been here before, Sequoia, that is?”. - Nope. Harry, despite being rather well traveled, has never been to this park. Generous Marco, as he is henceforth to be known, offered to lead the way by Generals Highway and the giant Sequoias, later onto Kings Canyon. He’d been by these roads many times, I am sure, yet, he was willing to do it one more time! Just for Harry. Now you know why… “Generous Marco”, at least in my eyes, and if you do n see it that way, I may recommend an optometrist. Still, he tries hard at being a hard-ass, but miserably fails. Sorry Marco, this is one of your few failures, which I a certain you will not admit. Live with it!
But too much about Marco, Mr. generous. We went up the hill, on the Generals Highway (SR 198) to the visitor center of the Sequoia named The General Sherman, hiked down the 1/2 miles to it. Well, they did, I stayed behind having seen the tree only last year, and with a drought in California, I am certain that the tree is exactly the same and… In the same location! Go figure that one.
From there we skipped the other tree named for yet another general. Yes, once you have seen one, you have seen them all.
Continuing on 198, to Overlook, turn right on SR 190 heading for Kings Canyon, Cedar Grove and the dead end of 198. Well, kid yourself, but the ride there is worth going, and then coming back. It may be the same highway, but not the same ride - one is down the other up!).
Much to our delight, there, at the end of SR 198, was a concert taking place. Yes, yes, I exaggerate, but then, with me, what’s new! The ranger was an accomplished banjo player who with great relish showed us his talent after two and a half years of practice. One song. That’s it! Oh, but how sweet it was.
Thank goodness for the ranger station’s bathrooms (you’d think I spare you this part of the story, well! obviously you know me not well enough.). Full use, and may I take the opportunity to thank our wonderful Parks department for providing. Much relaxed, I am ready for the return trip to camp, and it was very much to my good fortune that I alighted, Marco was inspired and made the return to camp at Warp-III speed. It is best not to carry anything inside your lower intestines.
Ahh, but here is the good on that return trip to camp. Harry, at my prodding, gave me a few pointers on faster speed left-right-and-again turning. Reluctantly, I may add this I extracted from him. “When you choose to lean with the bike as you turn, leaning with the bike is not enough, you would do well in “leaning forward”, your chest almost on the tank and to the side”
Now, Harry may, or not, go with all I have written, but then you all know this is historical fiction, so extract what you will, disregard the rest. I for one, swear by the lesson, after two days experimenting. Thank you Harry.
Now it ain’t cool to admit “Hey! That was one fabulous ride”. At SMBC, you kinda take it for granted that everybody is a great-cool-rider, and in the spirit of being cool… You say nothing! Screw it. I like the entire thing of riding and want to talk about it, not once, or twice, but all the time!!
We stopped at one of the Generals store to purchase some beer. Marco could not wait for the slow pokes, and took off on his own. You know him, independent to the marrow, leaving the rest to us to get back however we can. Not bad, the returning to camp happened at miles per hour, no need for warp-speed. Alberto however, he cannot read speed limits. At several spots were it said 15 MPH, he whizzed on as if no sign was ever posted… Alberto, have you heard of being considerate? …Me? sympathetic? (Since I am writing this, I cannot defend myself, just as Marco cannot defend himself). And I agree with Harry, who aptly described considerate or “sympathy” as, if you want sympathy, Go ahead look it up in the dictionary, it is there somewhere between SHIT and SYPHILIS”. Now you know, Alberto is there, somewhere in between.
At camp. We met Carl’s daughter Emily, who came up from the Bay Area for a little camping with dad. We did not have the pleasure of her company, Carl opted for going into town, with the princess, for a proper dinner, and the next day they went hiking all day.
That evening, I made some kind of spaghetti dinner. Yecch!! dang it, it came out pretty bad. Imagine I was hungry, but refused to eat it. And I can eat garbage… Not this garbage!!
Fo the night, Mike was hung up on playing cards. He even went to town and got a set of Sequoia themed cards. So, we payed a Canadian game called “Asshole”. Yes, that is the name. It was not a bad game, but had a peculiarity… Mike kept making up rules on the fly, and yes, he won!
Nah, nah, the US contingency would not be outdone. Harry, suggested a deadly version of Crazy Eights. I could not win as I was not allowed to cheat. What kind of game is this if you cannot cheat? Forget it!! I went to bed all frustrated. That night I dreamt of winning at crazy eights… It was wonderful, Yes, I cheated all dream long.
Saturday, Sep 17 2016
As usual, got up early. I could see that Carl was already up and about, but kept to himself. I opted for not disturbing him. He looked satisfied with life, he does not need any of my diatribes this early. I had to wait for anyone else to wake up to make coffee. My gas container ran out of gas last night. Shortly Mike and Harry surfaced and life got on in full swing.
Coffee, oats, and I am ready to get going. “Harry, where would you like to go, you too Mike?” Harry is not feeling all that great, altitude affects him. “Think I’ll stay”. Mike had chores to do, declaring, “I think I’ll go into town” ….Whatever!
That left Marco and I. “So, Marco, you riding?” Yep, I am heading toward….this and that” (I heard what Marco said but failed to register what he said), I could care less where he would go, but “Can I come with you? “Sure” he said.
And so, off we went by way of Three Rivers, and in the general direction of SR 245, and Dry Creek Road, wherever that may be. Asking Marco later that evening where had we ridden, “CR 49, I don’t know, a whole bunch of roads”. Translate that into, yes, we got lost but not really. You should know that Marco has the brain of a homing pigeon… He can always find his way home!
The ride was, in the manner of Marco… Warp-IV. But, I’ll say this in his defense. The road was recently paved, white lines shining clear, excellent conditions. He was having a great time, either that or seriously trying to get rid of me by leaving me behind. Either way I survived the experience and eventually found our way to the town of Woodlawn were you can have a fifty-pound hamburger for $2.75 the fries go in for free. “I have to remember this place”, satisfied, Marco wanted to get back to camp. Eager to go swimming in the water hole. I cannot blame him, a quick look at the temperature-gauge gave 95°. Ouch!!
At camp I wanted to take it not exactly easy, but rather lazy. I know, you all do not know me for much of a thinker, yet, surprise! I am. I needed some time to myself and the guy that lives inside my head… And he is talking up a storm. I wanted to review all about the bike riding I had just had. Technique, speed, curve entry, etc. I concluded that the most critical part of bike riding is curve-entry and path along the curve. If you nail correctly the entrance and path for a curve the rest simply falls into place, even if your pace is too high, you can always adjust it while in the curve (not quite what you want to do all the time, but adjustments you will do).
4:00 pm. One by one Harry and Mike came back from having gone for a ride on their own. Marco came back from the pool all wet and refreshed. Carl showed up returning form a hike , I know not wherefrom.
This evening is the last one. Tomorrow we return to the Bay Area. Sitting sipping coffee and listening to Desolation Road, by Dylan transported all to their youth and college days. It was a lazy end of the day as it befits the last day camping. Not nostalgic, but it seemed hardly uplifting. In silence they all went into their heads… Not for long. Soon enough the yappin starts in earnest with the music of Steve Ray Vaughn taking backstage.
That evening, Mike’s suggestion of card playing was not exactly rejected, but another game took its place:
Think of a famous personality alive or dead. The rest of you by questions which I can only be answer yes or no, are to discover the identity. Does not seem like much of a game, but it worked.
Sunday, Sep 18 2016
Harry and I were up by 4:45 am. Coffee, and serious yapping about anything not important, like the Irish stone-wall builder called O’Malley, fun story. Credit to Harry. Neither politics nor religion and conversations remain civil, no matter the topic.
By six am others commence to stir. Harry and I had decamped and packs our bikes early, awaiting the rest to get going. Marco and Carl do not function until the luxuries of life have been done… Gourmet coffee, ground to perfection and French Pressed just right.
Too much waiting for us, Harry and I, deciding to head a bit earlier to Visalia. Harry leading is always an experience, Warp-IV of Marco, for Harry, is just an engine warm up. Harry starts at Warp-IV and accelerates from there. 80 miles an hour?… In the curvy road? - well, what’s wrong with that?! Visalia… Here we come! Three minutes and 45 miles later we were there. Quick, eh?
225 WEST Main Street is the place, something called Mama’s Café or some such name. One warning…. Order small. One pancake, should do it for the entire group…. They are huge! Harry ordered for himself a short stack. That was two pancakes. He could barely eat 1/4 of the order, bursting at the seams. Carl, who is a notorious pancake eater left part of his order uneaten. Here is an idea, team up, and order just one order for two people.
Time to head home. We took the cut-off Coalinga road. A true Old West feeling, twisty and questionable road, hard living ranches and oil wells aplenty. An old abandoned park facility provided us a break. Just do not use the bathroom facility, if you do, you may be in for an adventure. Not necessarily a pleasant adventure… Try the bushes nearby.
From here to Hollister, a ninety minute hop, in 103° F will test you. But it is over before you know it, and a fun ride as SR 25 is.
Ice cream at the Chevron Station… Gas up… Heading for the home stretch, on a Sunday afternoon, highway 101 can be an adventure. Lane splitting can be fun.
Once at home, I took a shower as soon as I got there. I should not tell you the filth that three days of camping will cause, but… I will … Naaah! Too gross.
This is as far as this story goes.