Archive for milk run


Kicking Out The Rust

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It’s been a while.

Not only has it been a while since I’ve written a blog post, but since I’ve donned a jacket and helmet and gone for a ride. Maybe that’s what’s been wrong with me lately. Today, I set out to find out.

First I had to round up all my gear. My tankbag was well hidden under some Christmas stuff. My helmet visor needed a good dusting – never an encouraging sign. Slithering into my riding pants, the zipper of the fly bursts off, which is absolutely not a good sign. Rain Cloud Follows, my trusty and faithful Yamaha FJR, sat dejected under its dust cover, still dirty from the last ride – which was so long ago I can’t even remember what it was.

(I exaggerate. I remember it well. The last long ride Fiona and I took on Rain Cloud Follows was to Napa and Oregon – which means the last real ride report I’ve done – a long, long time ago – can be found here.)

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Got Milk?

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Another beautiful, sunny California Sunday dawns, and, as I’m awake early enough, with plenty of time before work imposes on fun and I have to catch my flight to Raleigh, I heed the call of the faithful. Donning my riding gear, the usual involuntary smile creases my face, in anticipation of the riding rapture to follow. Rain Cloud Follows, my trusty Yamaha FJR 1300, fully repaired after the last big ride, sat in the garage waiting, ready for some Sunday worship in the Church of Azusa Canyon.

The ritual of pre-ride checks complete, I swing a leg over, thumb the starter, and my old friend, garage bound for far too long roars to life, ready to roll. The shifter snicks into first gear, and Rain Cloud Follows and I are off on a Sunday Milk Run, our first fun ride in months.

I marvel at how long it’s been since I’ve ridden. The planning and successful execution of Fiona’s surprise thirtieth birthday party, work, and life in general have all conspired to get in the way of this year’s rapidly ebbing riding season. I swear a silent vow in my helmet to correct this issue, and correct it soon. Thoughts come and go as my motorcycle, on autopilot, leads me through town to the start of the Milk Run.

I pick up a few more of the Congregation of the Faithful on the way, three sport bike riders in full leather racing gear. I’d love to say I left them in the dust at the start of the Milk Run, but that was impossible. Not because they were much better riders than I, which they probably were, but because after the first few turns, our merry band of worshipers were blocked by a clot of unbelievers clogging the road with their minivans and pickup trucks.

My new friends, apparently much more devout than I, take matters into their own hand, twisting throttles, jumping over double yellows, passing rolling roadblocks, then disappearing down the road, willing to sacrifice their personal safety on the Altar of Speed.

Me? I’m not quite as fervent in my beliefs, so I wait for my opportunities to pass. I wait, and I wait, patiently crawling through the mountains of Southern California behind the ‘Soccer Mom Heathens.’ Soon enough, my patience pays off, and I’m free, winding my way through Azusa Canyon, the familiar curves in the road rising up like old friends to greet me once again.

For a while I find myself singing in my helmet, entertaining thoughts of all the far off places I want to ride to, the exotic locals drifting in and out of my tiny brain. I pass clumps of the faithful congregated on the sides of the road, happily exchanging the secret hand sign with others of the Brotherhood of the Motorcycle. Some of those same faithful later return that greeting as they roar past me on the way down the mountain.

While I ride, I contemplate. Next to a dimly lit bar with a pint of Guinness in hand, the best place for me to plan a ride is… riding. A few choice destinations keep burbling to the surface, and as I weave left and right and left again, I scheme how I’ll get to those places, who I’ll invite to come along, and exactly where we’ll go. Halfway through the ride, the random pieces have started to fall into place, and another ambitious plan has started to form. Now all I need is that frothy pint and a napkin to commit the route to paper.

At the crossroads, I have a choice to make. Sell what’s left of my soul to the Devil, head left toward Mt. Baldy, and miss my flight, or take the shorter, safer and most sensible alternative. A sudden blast of good sense overwhelms me, and, with a twinge of sadness, I turn right, finishing out my Sunday Milk Run by heading down the excellent Glendora Mountain Road, back home.

Sunday Milk Run Route – Short Version

All too soon, the road comes to an end, as it always does. My small sacrifice of rubber and fuel was apparently enough to appease the Gods of Speed and Safety, and, with neither harm nor foul to man or machine, I return Rain Cloud Follows to the garage. I’m happy about this newly formed plan for another epic ride still marinating and incubating in my head. My involuntary smile couldn’t be wider if it was surgically enhanced.

It’s just ten in the morning, but already it’s shaping up to be the Best. Day. Ever.

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Going For Milk

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I don’t know about everywhere else, but the weather in the Kingdom of Rhode Island right now can only be described one way: shitty.

Rhode Island – January 12, 2009

Thank goodness I’m about as far from the Kingdom as I can be, with Sleeping Beauty in my adopted home of California.

California – January 12, 2009

I’m an early riser, while Sleeping Beauty, well, let’s just say she has that nickname for a reason. So, it’s early morning, I’m wide awake, the sun is shining bright and it’s already 68 degrees, and there are three motorcycles in the garage – Rain Cloud Follows, Abi’s bike Snowball, and Little Red Riding Hood, Fiona’s brand new Ninja 250.

I know what I’m going to do next, it’s pretty obvious. I just need to sneak out without waking Sleeping Beauty. I started gearing up as silently as I could. She stirred, then said, “Uhh… hmmmph… where’re… where are you goin’?” She turned to me, half awake.

Busted. Damn.

“Just going to get some milk, honey. I’ll be back soon, OK?”

“Hrrm… ok.” She rolled back over and fell back asleep.

That was close. I opened the garage, and an involuntary smile appeared. A chorus of angels sang sweetly as the door rose. Then, the three still-functioning synapses in my tiny brain linked up, and a thought formed. ‘Take the Coucours.’

I called Abi, wondering if I could get away with it or not. “Hey buddy, I’m standing in front of your bike, and it looks sad and lonely. It’s been sitting here, basically neglected for a few months.”

He interrupted me, “What are you getting at?”

“Well, I was thinking I would take Snowball out for a little spin. Get the blood moving and all that.”

“Fine. Just remember, the tires are brand new.”

Oh, don’t worry, I remember…

Those three synapses worked together to remember something I’d been told a few months ago. “Azusa Canyon is a great ride, and it’s just five miles from the house.”

Perfect. Let’s go! Evidently, I wasn’t the only one on a milk run. Two sport bikes passed me, obviously with CA Route 39 in mind. I waved as they passed, mentally assigning them the names ‘Tom and Dave’.

As soon as we were away from the busy streets, which only took about five minutes, I noticed my involuntary smile magically reappeared.

‘Tom and Dave’ took full advantage of the traffic free two lane roller coaster, while I took a more leisurely pace; stopping to take in the sights, and relishing the fact that I was riding in January, on a deserted two lane mountain road. It really doesn’t get better than this. (I don’t say that to rub it in to the subjects of the Kingdom of Rhode Island. Honestly.)

Snowball loved being out almost as much as I did.

There was hardly any traffic on the road, and after a while I started to give Snowball a bit of a workout, testing the new tires, the new brakes, and the lean angle limits. The involuntary smile is more of less a permanent fixture. My completely uneducated assessment of the Concours? Kawasaki definitely got this one right. I have to say that while I love Rain Cloud Follows… Naah, I won’t say it.

The only traffic I saw was LA County fire vehicles, about seven of them, heading the other direction. They didn’t seem to be in a hurry, so while I wondered what they were all doing up there, I didn’t worry about it. A few hundred curves later, I found out what all the fire trucks were doing.

Fire camp. That sounds like fun. I want to go to fire camp when I grow up. If I ever grow up. While I was snapping this picture, ‘Tom and Dave’ passed me. Again. Those guys seemed to be doing laps. I waved again as they went by.

Very nice of the state of California to build us our very own racetrack out here in the San Gabriel mountains. Thanks, guys!

What a great day! I stopped when the spirit moved me to stop, and enjoyed the scents, the sounds, and the bright sun and warm feeling on my face’s pasty fluorescent-light-bleached pallor. (OK, I’ll admit, I put that in to rub it in just a bit…)

Mount Baldy has some snow on the top. I bet it’s cold up there. See? I feel for Rhode Islanders enjoying the day’s high temperature of twelve. I really do.


I also felt for this guy. It seems the motor fell right out of his motorcycle! I asked if he was OK. He nodded and he dismissed me with a friendly wave. While I was stopped making sure this fellow motor-less cyclist was OK, I heard a beautiful sound from down in the valley. None other than ‘Tom and Dave’ appeared for a third time.

This time I set off after them, catching them in mere seconds. They quickly signaled to turn off, and pulled into one of the thousand scenic stops on this excellent road. The conversation started as pretty much any conversation between motorcyclists does. “Hi!” the taller one said. “That’s a nice bike you’re riding there.” We talked about the Concours, the roads, and riding in general. I asked their names. The shorter of the two was named, I shit you not, Dave. The taller guy was Gary. Oh well. One outta two ain’t bad. Gary asked me what brought me to Azusa Canyon. “Oh, I’m supposed to be getting some milk.” I replied, remembering my reason. “It’s been over an hour, I’m probably in trouble by now.” They laughed. As I was leaving, Gary said, “Be careful. I just read in the paper the other day that this road is the most-crashed-on road in all of Southern California.” Great.

Gary and Dave – Two New Friends

That’s why I don’t read newspapers.  The descent from Azusa Canyon back to reality was a bit hairy in spots. Off camber, decreasing radius curves would sneak up out of nowhere. The mighty Concours handled it all without a thought.

Smog Factory in the Distance

A few more enthusiasts were headed up as I headed back. We passed with a wave. I made it all the way back home before Sleeping Beauty got out of bed. My plan would have been perfect except for one thing.

I forgot to get the milk.

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