28 November 2010

Thanksgiving Trip 2010 - Summary

It took me a while, but here's now the summary of my trip during the Thanksgiving week and some notes for doing motorcycle trips.

Highway 1
On Monday, Nov. 22nd, I left Sunnyvale around 10 in the morning. I didn't want to spend too much time on roads I already know pretty well, so I headed out on 101 South towards Monterey to get on Highway 1. It was cold and windy in the Bay Area, the weather forecast was promising, rain later that day and I was hoping to escape the rain by heading towards Los Angeles and finally San Diego. 101 was as boring as expected but once I hit Highway 1 it was a very nice and pleasant ride.

Around Big Sur
At that point the weather was quite nice and I got in a good mood, swinging through the curves, the powerful boxer engine purring like a very large and very comfortable cat. The BMW R1200GS is really made for trips like this, it's fast, comfortable, can easily carry whatever luggage you throw at it, and is still a lot of fun to ride.

A while later the rain caught up with me and I got a bit wet - just a little bit though, not even worth putting the liner into the jacket. The windshield deflected most of the rain, the little I got on the pants and shoulders wasn't a problem and about half an hour later I was in great sunshine again.

Near Hearst Castle
Passing Big Sur, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (wet ...) my plan was to get as close to Los Angeles as possible without pushing it too hard on the first day.

As it was getting colder and colder later in the day I scratched my plan to go all the way down to L.A. It was getting dark pretty fast around 5 in the afternoon, the liner was already zipped in, I was freezing. Then, after missing a very promising looking turnout in Santa Barbara with motels and restaurants, I took the next one where a saw a hotel: the Best Western Carpet Inn in Carpinteria. Nothing great, just a solid, not too expensive hotel along Highway 1.

Getting off the bike I was thankful for the great ergonomics of the GS - not too stiff, backside still okay, a bit stiff in the shoulders, but very, very cold. So, first things first, a hot shower, after that: food. The hotel's restaurant looked promising enough and not going out in the cold again sounded even better, therefore a good steak right there was just about perfect for dinner. Watching some college football (I already forgot which teams ...), eating a good steak in a warm and cozy room after a good day of riding. It was a promising start.

Carlsbad, CA
The next morning started really early, alarm at 4:30, another hot shower, a granola bar and some water for breakfast and off I was. Unfortunately putting on the several layers of clothing, packing everything, and getting on the bike took longer than expected and I hit the road only at around 5:45 which meant that I was going to see at least some L.A. morning traffic. Setting the GPS to "fastest way to San Diego" I followed some highways through and around L.A. and at around 8:30 or so I was finally through. Turning off GPS routing and getting back to the coast was the program now. I just followed the general bearing South and was waiting for a good opportunity for the real breakfast which presented itself in form of a Denny's restaurant. As much as I dislike most restaurant chains, Denny's is not too bad and somewhat reliable in quality. It also has Hot Chocolate with free refill which would be more important on Wednesday, but is something good to know anyways.

I reached San Diego around 11am or so, heading for the harbor and, more interesting, the Gas Lamp Quarter - the old area in San Diego with restaurants, pubs, and so on. Seeing a motorcycle parking space for free (San Francisco, are you listening? Payed motorcycle parking is shit - especially if you can't pay right at the curb!) I stopped, and left the GS sitting right there, walking through the Gas Lamp Quarter and just plain enjoying a nice, fresh day, lots of sun and friendly people and later Chai Latte at Starbucks (with free Internet to plan the next leg of my route). San Diego is definitely worth another visit, maybe a weekend or so, it's not that far away, maybe if we get some cheap flights one day.

Clouds and an insanely
cold wind. About 1500m
high and 0 deg C cold.
I left San Diego around 2pm heading towards Joshua Tree National Park, mainly on twisty backroads. Going through Cleveland National Forrest and Anza Borrego Desert State Park was really a lot of fun, apart from freezing my little b... off when going over some passes about 1500m high (4900ft). It was interesting seeing the temperature drop more and more and more going higher through the mountains. I hit 0 Celsius (32F) for quite a while and was really happy when the road led me back down into warmer areas. My gear was unfortunately just not right for this kind of weather.

"Pee Stop" in the Desert
The ride from Julian through Anza Borrego was full of fast sweepers and not too many cars around. Again, lots of fun on my bike which performed absolutely flawlessly at any given time. Vibrations were bearable (Seems to be getting less or is it just me getting numb?), fuel consumption not too good but also not too bad (5.4l/100km / 43.5mpg), but given the pace I rode those numbers are very reasonable. With the F800GS I would have done the same with around 4.7l/100km or 50mpg, but I would have to have my butt surgically replaced after the first day. The seat of that bike would have killed me on this trip.

The day ended in Indio, CA, close to Joshua Tree National Park in a Motel 6. If I had seen that the motel was right next to a train line I would have gone somewhere else, but I didn't, got the room, it was okay and cheap, and so the day ended around 7pm. A very long day. I was dead tired, needed a hot shower again, and was still looking forward to the next day in Joshua Tree NP.

Joshua Tree NP
After an only kind of comfortable night (because of noise from trains and neighboring rooms) I started late - 9 in the morning - towards Joshua Tree NP. Getting there was surprisingly fast and getting in surprisingly cheap. Our NP pass expired in September, therefore I bought a one day pass for the bike and myself and paid $5. That's okay and good because I really didn't want to buy another yearly pass just before the winter. Makes more sense to get one in the spring.

Right at the entrance I met two other bikers, sorry guys, I forgot your names! One on a white 2010 R1200GS, just like mine but much, much more farkled. Aftermarket seat, Aeroflow windshield, GPS, pannier racks, engine bars, additional lights front and back and so forth. Quite some interesting stuff and it was nice to see it on a pretty much identical bike to mine. The owner, Rob, if I remember his name correctly, a retired guy from near Vancouver, BC, Canada, told me he got the bike recently and took his time transferring equipment from his old R1150GS - whatever fitted was transferred. Good things for a great bike. His companion was riding a Honda Valkyrie, not quite the perfect bike for the curvy roads in Joshua Tree, but he wasn't slow either. And, as always in groups - you just wait whenever the road splits. Therefore, no problem when everybody goes his own pace. Rob (Was that the name?) was riding a nice pace so I just followed along until we split up again, after setting up a lunch time meeting in the village Joshua Tree, as the two were heading a different way for a closer gas station and I was following through Joshua Tree, occasionally going on dirt roads to view points or just to make the trip more interesting. Quite a lot of fun but still new to me and I was careful in the sandy conditions.

Following a dirt road that looked interesting.

Still in Joshua Tree NP

After leaving Joshua Tree NP I met the two again for lunch in the town Joshua Tree. A nice, small, family owned restaurant where I got some fried Thai food - yum. The two headed back to their basecamp and I rode on towards Barstow and Bakersfield.

The original plan was to stay in Bakersfield over night and then leave for the coast very early in the morning. But then, checking the weather forecast, made me re-consider. The forecast was very cold for the morning, my wife was at home, we could go on a ride together in the Bay Area if I was home on Thursday, so I decided, if a warmer pair of gloves was cheaper than a motel room I was going to ride all the way home on Wednesday evening.

In Bakersfield I found a pair of Frank Thomas gloves - the warmest they had in the store - trying to get the size at least kind of right and then pressed on. I5 North was it now, towards 152, over the foothills to Gilroy and 101 and 85 the rest of the way back. I had to stop one more time around 9pm somewhere along I5 as I was again shivering like crazy and I could barely move my hands anymore. It was that cold and the gloves were not nearly as warm as they looked. Not the best quality, but cheaper than a motel room, what did I expect? They'll make for a pair of "visitor gloves in spring / fall conditions", but definitely not for cold weather gloves for me.

But again, Denny's free Hot Chocolate refill and $2 for two pan cakes saved the day and after a 45 minute warmup I was back on the road and home by about 0:45. Again shivering and freezing like crazy, but I was at home and getting warmed up again took only another 45 minutes ...

It was a great trip, lots of great sights, lots of kilometers covered on windy roads (roughly 2100km / 1300 miles), some lessons learned:

  • When going on a trip like that I either need a different hair cut or a baseball cap in the top case. For now, I'm carrying a cap.
  • My BMW Rallye II jacket is not up to the task when the temperature drops below 5 degrees C (40 Fahrenheit) in windy conditions over a longer time. A trip like this calls for a warmer jacket.
  • My BMW Airflow pants are survivable with long ski underwear and rain pants pulled over in the same conditions. Not comfortable, not warm, but survivable. Warmer pants might be on the horizon if I plan another trip in similar conditions.
  • I need, and I mean need, warmer gloves. No way around that in the long term.
  • The bike used again a little bit of oil, I refilled 250ml during the 2100km. It's still okay right now.
  • Even with the Givi Airflow I get buffeting. It's not too bad and I'm still experimenting whether it's from the windshield or the large handguards. More experiments will show more.
  • The GPSMap 60CSx worked great if I don't try to find a route on it. The display is just too small for this but other than that it worked absolutely great. The Touratech mount works really well and having the GPS powered by the bike gives peace of mind regarding batteries.
  • The weight high up in the top case was no problem on the road, but is still not a good idea when going on unpaved roads. Side case are needed sooner or later.
  • A solid bash plate and engine bars are even more needed than side cases. Going on unpaved roads - I will drop the bike sooner rather than later. And I don't want to damage it.
  • Metzeler Tourance EXP are not the preferred tires in sand. But the wear was fine, the rear got a little bit of flat spot in the middle but that was to be expected after my blast home.
More to come. I'll probably prepare the GPS tracks and put them here, too. 


  1. Great trip report. For those of us who have no opportunity to ride this time of year due to ice and snow, it's nice to at least read about others trips. I like the summary at the end of what worked and what didn't. Good information.

    Thank you.

  2. Great write-up. I am glad that you could finally test the bike and your gear under real trip conditions. I see more farkling coming.

    Actually I am a bit surprised that the fairly expensive Beemer gear didn't hold up. I have ridden my First Gear Kilimanjaro and lined Frank Thomas leather pants in 5C minus, and it kept me pretty warm, I just had to add a fleece collar because the cold kept creeping down my back. I am still riding with my summer gloves, but with silk gloves inside. Nevertheless, the heated grips and the hand protectors do a pretty good job.

    Funny that you couldn't remember the names of the riders, but recalled what bikes they were riding, and the farkles you noticed ;-)

    I will gladly take on using the gloves that you purchased by next time I am down in California.

    Cheers, Sonja

    PS: I know how busy you are, so I really appreciate that you acutally took the time to write this down, and share your experience. THANKS!!! I enjoyed it very much. S.

  3. @Richard: I can more than relate to that! I'm often in the same position, not because of weather but because of lack of time.

    @Sonja: The BMW gear is more for summer riding with the addition of a liner to make it worthy for three seasons. But when you ride for hours and hours around 0C it just starts getting cold in several places. The pants are mesh summer pants, don't forget that. And the jacket is also not even meant as a warmer jacket, it has way too many "fresh air intakes" all over the thing.

    The silk inner gloves is a good idea, I bought some woolen ones at a rest stop in the Sierras ... ;-)

    Regarding time, yes, that is completely crazy at the moment, but very fortunately I had a week off and could spend it riding a writing. It was relaxing but too short. As always.

  4. Was für ein toller Bericht - und so schön zu verstehen, trotz meiner noch sehr ausbaufähigen english skills. Nachdem Markus und ich ja im September 09 im Joshua Tree NP waren, reizt es uns sehr, diesen Ort irgendwann einmal im Februar zu besuchen, wenn die Wüste blüht und man nicht nach 3 Minuten in der Hitze austrocknet.

    By the way: Das vorletzte Foto gefällt mir sehr gut!

    Weiterhin viel Spaß bei euren Motorrad-Touren.

    LG Ingrid

  5. Ist ein ganz brauchbares Photo - ich habe einige in der Art gemacht, bis ich dann wieder anhalten und die Kamera wegpacken konnte.

  6. Did you ever consider electric? Like Gerbings heated gear? I live in Indian Wells near Indio and ride up to and through Julian and the surrounding areas at least weekly. BMW clothes with windproof liners and my Gerbings liner and Gerbings gloves (the new "thin" ones) are good to 17F, my lowest recorded temp.

  7. I thought about it, but haven't seriously considered buying. The problem with the gear I have is that it's just not meant for cold weather. I have summer BMW gloves (the GoreTex ones, but still summer), BMW Airflow pants (the rain pants helped), and a Rally II jacket. The problem with the jacket is that it would need the GoreTex membrane in the jacket, not in the liner to keep the cold further away from the body. And it has way too many openings that can't be closed completely.

    In Germany, with better winter gear, I was comfortable down to -5C. And that was on a bike with less wind protection, just better gear. Unfortunately that box must have gotten lost during the move to North America or it is somewhere I should remember but don't.

  8. Hi Guido,

    I live in Santa Cruz and ride my white 2010 GS everyday...I wear Lee Parks winter gloves. They are deerskin gauntlet gloves with a technical liner material that helps the heated grips keep your whole hand warm. They are pricey ($180) but I have put about 50,000 miles on this pair in the past 3 years and they are still very functional. He has a website (Lee Parks Designs) and you can check them out for yourself. He was at the San Mateo IMS as well.

    Enjoy the good weather,

  9. Thanks Colleen! I'll take a look at those when I see them somewhere!