"The mountains are calling and I must go."
Ė John Muir, in an 1873 letter to his sister.

TODAYíS ROUTE:
Visalia, CA to Berkley, CA: SR-198 West past Hanford, through Lemoore to Coalinga, North on SR-25 past Bitterwater to Pinnacles National Monument, continuing North on SR-25 to Hollister then Gilroy, US-101 North past San Jose to I-680 North to Danville and Eugene OíNeill National Historic Site, continuing North on I-680 past Walnut Creek to SR-4 West to Jon Muir National Historic Site, back East on SR-4 to I-680 South to Diablo BMW in Walnut Creek, SR-24 West to SR-13 to Berkley. (
MAP)

THE DETAILS:
The road west out of Visalia is flat and straight, a relief from the unending curves of yesterday. I'm riding through crops of fruit and cotton, clocking up the miles as fast as I can. I like to burn through 100 miles before I make my first stop of the day. It makes me feel like Iím getting somewhere.

On a cloudless morning, a shadow passes over my head. Itís a crop duster flying low over the fields, making a turn for another run. Heís cruising about 100 miles per hour, 30 feet over the fruit crops, flying parallel to the highway. At the end of the field, he pulls up just barely missing the trees, and rips around for another pass. Iím zipping along with him and give him the thumbs up. Those guys are nuts.

Past Coalinga, and a stop for gas, Iím back in the twisties, climbing across the Cholame Hills into the Diablo Range. I stop at Pinnacles National Monument, the scraggly remains of an ancient volcano. Spires and crags rise a couple thousand feet above the surrounding smooth round hills. The rest of the volcano, the Neenach Formation, lies 195 miles to the southeast, having been separated from Pinnacles by the San Andreas Rift over 23 million years. There are a number of good hiking trails here, but itís getting warm, so I just get the stamp and head north.

In Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world, I get on US-101 and head towards the Bay Area. By 2:30 PM, Iím in Silicon Valley and itís 98 degrees. Iím dying. I havenít ridden in heat like this for months. I really wish the gortex liners werenít in my riding pants right now.

I stop in Danville to get the stamp at the Eugene OíNeill National Historic Site, or at least try to get the stamp. You see, the site is only open Wednesday through Sunday, at 10 AM and 12:30 PM for tours, and you have to have a reservation. Well, I knew I wouldnít get there at those hours, and Iím sure not doing reservations on this trip, except for BMW service stops. And even the NPS web site doesnít list directions to the site. But my mapping program does. Some intricate routing through the hidden roads of Danville, and Iím there, almost.

Eugene OíNeill lived at Tao House from 1937 to 1944. He wrote his final and most successful plays here including The Iceman Cometh, Long Days Journey Into Night, and A Moon for the Misbegotten. The problem is the house now lies in a residential district and the folks living here donít want blokes like me driving though their neighborhood. So when I get to the site I discover it is behind the gate to a private community. Thereís an intercom phone, and I ring up the site. A Ranger answers and I ask if I could come up and get my passbook stamped. Heís sorry, but they canít let anyone drive through the gate. A reservation is required and a bus picks you up in town. I give him my sob story, telling him I rode all the way from New York, yadda, yadda, yadda. He buys it, and agrees to come down to the gate and bring the stamp. Five minutes later, victory is mine!

Up the interstate, near Martinez, is the John Muir National Historic Site, celebrating the father of the National Park System. Here the 17-room Victorian home that Muir lived in from 1890 until his death in 1914 is preserved, along with a part of his fruit ranch. No gates, no private community, and no reservations required.

Muir, or John of the Mountains as they called him, popularized the idea of preserving wild lands not for their commodities, but for their wildness, openness, and natural splendor. A prolific writer, his prose appeared in national magazines and his books sold widely. He served as the first president of the Sierra Club and helped create Yosemite, Sequoia, Mt. Rainier and Grand Canyon National Parks. Muir believed that human life is just one form of life and all forms have their significance and purpose. He pioneered what we now know as an ecological viewpoint, arguing that wild lands and wildlife had values of their own apart from their usefulness to man.

The Bay Area is a haven for BMW motorcyclists, and there are no fewer than eight dealers in the region. So I stop at Diablo BMW in Walnut Creek to get some oil to top off what blew out of the filler gasket. And I also get a couple spare o-rings for the oil filler just in case it starts to leak again.

Turning west on route 24, I cross through the Caldecott Tunnel towards Berkley. When I exit the tunnel, the air temperature cools by at least 15 degrees. Yes! My stop for the night is the apartment of Kelly Breen, my former Classic Sports colleague, and her boyfriend Jonas Gerber. Kelly, ever the dedicated worker, is still at her job in San Francisco when I arrive. She works for Cornyn and Partners, a marketing firm, and the secret product sheís working on is about to launch next week. So sheís putting in the extra hours.

But Jonas is home and the first game of the Yankees/Red Sox series is about to start. Jonas is in his second year of business school at Berkley, and he has some school buddies over to watch the game. Die hard Yankee fans, they are like expectant fathers, and when the Red Sox take an early lead, the guys are in physical pain. But I know there is no way the Sox are going to break their 1918 losing streak, at least not against the Yankees. By the time Kelly gets home, the game is in extra innings. Jonas has an ulcer the size of Texas. Then, in the bottom of the tenth, Bernie Williams hits a homer and the Yanks take a one game lead in the series. I guess it was Kelly bringing home a little luck.

THE DAILY TAKE:
Miles Today: 302.2
Total Miles: 17,563
Time on Motorcycle: 5 Hours 18 Minutes
Average Speed: 57.0 MPH
States Visited today: 1 (CA)
Total States Visited: 32
National Park Service Passport Stamps: 3
NPS Stamp Totals: 126 Stamps, 29 States
Weather: Very Hot and Sunny, turning cloudy near the Bay. (So thatís what clouds look like!)
Average monthly cost of John Muirís telephone phone bill: $3.50

SEEN ON THE ROAD:
"Lucky, Will You Marry Me?" Ė Enormous Billboard on I-680 heading south past Concord, California.

RANDOM PASSINGS:
Believe it or not, I actually researched what socks to wear and bring on this trip. I know it sounds a little crazy, but the BMW boots I wear are made of Gortex and leather and they donít breathe so well. The first time I used them on a hot day, with the cotton socks I wear all the time, my feet looked like they had been pickled by the end of the ride. So I started trying out different socks to find something that worked better than cotton.

I like the Thoro brand the best. A little nylon, a little polyester, and a little rayon. They magically wick away the moisture from my feet and at the end of a hot day, even one like today, my feet are still dry.

Sometimes itís the little things that matter the most.

 


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