I just got back from a 4 day trip to the Sierra Nevada mountains with the West Coast Ducati owners. My wife and I rode up on Thursday to a little resort on the shores of Lake Almanor called Plumas Pines Resort.
It was a very long day in the saddle for us that first day. We got on the road around 10AM and slabbed it up Hwy 505 to Hwy 5. Hours later we took the exit at Willows and rode some back roads to Chico. Kind of a mistake in hindsight.
There were no gas stations out there causing us to double back and get gas at a real isolated spot out among all the orchards. They only had regular. As in 87 octane. Works fine in the little Gixxer...even in my Aprilia. Just not so much in my 996.
We finally made it to Chico and the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company tap room and restaurant around 1:30 after yet another stop for gas. Basically we spent an extra hour and a half on that back tracking adventure and then navigating our way along orchard roads to the road into Chico. Lesson learned.
After lunch, we headed out on Hwy 32. What a road. Too bad we were already worn out from the slog up 505 and 5. The 996 does not make a great sport touring bike to say the least. We had fun for about the first 50 miles of tasty twistiness.....and then we started to tire. Not being able to concentrate as I liked, I slowed. Then I thought about my wife. She doesn't ride nearly as much as I do. If I was losing concentration, she likely was too. I slowed some more.
Now, I'm tootling along at well below the 996's happy spot. Adding both time to our trip and my fuel consumption. With about 10 miles to go on 32, my fuel light comes on. So, we reach Hwy 36 and I'm thinking I have about another 10 miles left in the tank. Nearest town is Chester. 11 miles away.
I decided right then, I'd go for it, and see what happened. I wicked up the pace so I could cruise in 6th and keep the RPMs down. I tucked in behind the screen to further streamline things. We made it to Chester and right into a driving rain and hail storm. Crap. Finally found a gas station. Opened my tank and took a look inside.....about a beer can worth of fuel left in the bottom. Damn. Just made it.
Waited out the storm under the pump awning and finally, around 25 minutes later the rain started to taper off to just a drizzle. We went for it. 3 miles back to the intersection and the pavement was dry. Made the turn thinking it was just localized to the North end of the lake and wicked up the throttle again.
I just wanted to get to our resort, get our room and have a beer and some food and relax. Then, the rain came again. The hail too. Added in some sleet for good measure. Mind you, we went from 109 degrees that Monday, to high 90s in Chico only an hour or so before....now it's like 50 and there's a driving rain, hail and sleet. Water is ponding on the road by this time. Slowed yet again. Couldn't even see my wife's headlight in my mirrors it was coming down that hard.
Somehow, out of the haze of spray, I saw a sign at the side of the road well ahead of me. I clicked up a gear and got on the throttle.....suddenly, no more rain. Pavement is dry. WTF? This is insane. Reach the sign....it's the road to our resort. I check behind me, wife is right there. We trundle on down through the state and national recreation areas and find our resort. The guys are waiting with beers. Thank goodness for that.
Know what all that has to do with my new helmet? I didn't mention it once. Because it was a great, light weight and well vented helmet. Super comfortable. So much so, I barely gave it a thought all day.
I ordered a tinted visor for it from Amazon. That arrived the very morning we were leaving. It got to my place about 15 minutes before we departed. I seriously already had my other XLite out and had worn it to go and fuel up the bikes. That was pretty sweet. I swapped out the visors and we hit the road. It was the perfect level of tint too. Not too dark, not too light.
The were so few niggles with this helmet during the trip, I wondered if that would hold up over the 4 days of the trip. We rode every day so it got a lot of use. Still, very few niggles, and even then, they're simply of the nit picking sort. The way home was far, far better.
I chose to ride the same route back to Chico but instead of going all the way to 5, we dropped in to 99 instead. Waaaaay quicker getting back than the way out. Cooler and much windier too. Blessings both really. Riding in Yolo County normally means getting peppered with Yolo bugs. Due to all the agriculture out there, you get tons of bugs. Usually all over your visor, helmet, wind screen and head light.
Due to the wind, far fewer bugs than normal. Also, kept the temperatures down as it was a Delta Breeze coming in off the water. Again, I barely noticed I had a helmet on. About the only noise I could hear was the normal engine noise and wind noise at speed. Then the cross winds started. There is a pronounced whistle from the chin scoop when you turn your head just right in those cross winds.
Other than that, it is supremely stable in the wind. Nothing seems to cause it to buffet or wobble. Not when tucked in, nor when sitting up as straight as one can. Over all, despite the odd view out of the visor, it was a perfect companion on a long trip with well over 600 miles of riding.
Only one thing left to mention. Lake Almanor was beautiful. Chester had a surprise for us too. On our last day I just wanted a cup of coffee and a pastry rather than anything heavy. I figured that we were gonna hit up the curviest road on the entire ride home, we might as well enjoy it. I hate riding on a full stomach.
Anyway, we found this European Coffee House patterned after Dutch/German beckerei. I can't remember the name of it. It was a perfect choice. The coffee was good, smooth...didn't need cream or sugar. Strong as it needed to be. The real star attraction though was their bear claws. I've never had one as good anywhere in the world.
This was no ordinary bear claw. It was a light, flakey pastry topped with large crystals of raw sugar and toasted almonds. Inside it was filled with an almond paste. Perfect in it's balance. Not overly sweet, full of flavor and a perfect match for the coffee. Even my wife loved the bear claw...and she doesn't even like almonds.
The other surprise of the trip was the local beer. There were two, one was a hazy honey blonde ale called Biz Johnson Blonde Trail Ale, the other an amber. Both have to be tasted to be believed. The Almanor Amber was my favorite. The Biz Johnson was very popular with the other guys. About half of us chose the amber, the other half the blonde.
Unfortunately, I was packed light for the trip home and did not bring any back with me.....sean