I’m taking a small break from blogging about my time in the Pacific Northwest to focus on some events in the current day.
I know, I know – These are small problems but I sometimes worry about my motorcycle sitting too long. Motorcycles are happiest when they are ridden. My motorcycle has been sitting for about two months and while nothing is in real jeopardy (other than the battery needing some love), I wanted to get out and cycle the fuel through the tank a few times.
I’m settling back in after a few weeks out on the road. I decided to take a quick run up to Lake Tahoe as it a) burns gas and b) gets me back into shape for the Queer Invasion of Death Valley. As with every Friday, there were a ton of things to tie up before I could head out.
- Friday at noon came and went.
- Friday at 1 p.m. came and went.
- Friday at 2 p.m. came and went.
Now it’s Friday at 3 p.m. and all the Bay is heading out for the weekend. Yay for traffic! So here I am about 30 miles from home sitting with 10,000 of my best friends on Interstate 80. I could see Moses ride up behind me on a mid 1980s Yamaha Virago cruiser motorcycle. Moses rode up and work boots, dirty jeans, a hi-viz fluorescent green t-shirt, and a helmet revving the engine to make his presence known. While the authors of the Bible probably envisioned Moses differently, this Moses knew how to part the I-80 freeway.
Moses knew how to lane split and made my job significantly easier following him through the construction area between Fairfield and Sacramento. While I’m certainly capable of lane splitting, it’s always easier not having to be first.
By the time I got to the east side of Sacramento’s metro area, it was already 6 o’clock. Even into September, it was hot crossing the Sacramento Valley well into the low 90s. Taco Bell has always been a staple of mine on motorcycle rides – three soft tacos and a drink. It’s filling, predictable, and reasonably easy on the blood sugar. I had three options from here: continue Interstate 80 into Truckee, divert to Highway 20 through Grass Valley, or take Highway 49 up and over Yuba Pass. Just taking 80 straight through felt underwhelming. I didn’t think I had enough daylight to take 49 up and over the pass. Plus, I didn’t want to get stuck out in the back country after dark. So, I took the middle road and headed for Grass Valley.
What I didn’t realize was how little daylight I had left. September is a weird month. It presents like summer, which has the daylight characteristics of winter. Unlike June’s sunset at 9 o’clock, September’s sun is setting just after seven. I was barely through Grass Valley before it got dark.
Autumn always brings out the “when is sunset conversation?” as daylight is becoming a precious commodity. I love the app SolarWatch as it calls out the multiple phases between light and dark. I consider civil dawn and civil twilight as light outside. By the time nautical twilight sets in, it’s getting dark. Anything beyond that really does mean night riding for the motorcyclist. Time went faster than I wanted it to. I only got to Grass Valley at the end of civil twilight, leaving another 50 miles to go in the dark. While not as technical as the climb over Yuba Pass, the darkness and construction push a very conservative journey through the mountains.
The return to Interstate 80 requires an abrupt shift in how I ride the bike. Dark country roads require a much more conservative approach. Being thrust into an interstate with tons of truck traffic, degraded pavement, and decreasing radius turn is never fun jockeying between traffic. What was mellow becomes instantly assertive – borderline aggressive.
I was hoping to pull over into the Donner Pass rest area to see if I could catch some stars, but alas, the rest area was closed for maintenance. I landed in Truckee about 5 1/2 hours after my departure in complete darkness already thinking about the ride through the mountains back home. 😜