The Tahoe Return



I knew this was going to be a short trip. It was about burning fuel and exercising all of the systems in the motorcycle, as a moving motorcycle is a happy motorcycle. I got in at about 9 o’clock last night after a pretty intense evening ride. I slept hard that night and woke up refreshed – to rain.

I’ve always said I will deal with wet, or I will deal with cold, but I don’t want to deal with wet and cold. Fall has come early to the Sierra Nevada. I didn’t expect to see rain. It was supposed to be the warmest and sunniest day out of a 10-day forecast. I was supposed to swim in clear blue waters next to boulders at Sand Harbor Beach. Instead, I heard the pitter-patter outside my window of cool air coming down from the mountains and the beginnings of renewal all around me. While pretty, the last thing I wanted to be was riding through this mess at high altitude so wet would follow me down to low altitude.

I felt scattered, preparing for my departure from Truckee. The fact that I would be riding in the rain bothered me more than I was willing to admit. Once I got everything packed and ready in my gear, I placed the keys on top of the rear top case of the motorcycle. I hopped on the bike and started riding. About a mile and a half later, a bright yellow screen popped up on the dashboard: “Key not in range. Motorcycle will not restart.”

While I love the key fob for many reasons, misplacing the key is too easy. I’m surprised something like this didn’t happen earlier. In one moment, all the oh shits begin raining down.

  • I have to find the key.
  • Where could it have fallen?
  • How do I keep this motorcycle running?

Every action was slow, intentional, and deliberate as a failure to operate the motorcycle would make a big problem significantly bigger. My mind instantly jumped to:

  • What if I have to tow it?
  • How will I get home?
  • Hell, how will I get back here.

I slowly started riding back to the cabin, hoping I would find the keys. I rode as slowly as possible to keep the motorcycle running and upright, scanning the road left to right and in the dirt gutter, hoping to find my keys. I got back to the house with no luck. Even if I took the freeway, I didn’t have enough gas to return home. With another slow scan across the route, I saw a silver twinkle on the dark, wet pavement. My keys! Safe at last!

I didn’t want to bail out and take the freeway home. That felt like cheating. I was supposed to hang out with a friend in South Lake Tahoe, but COVID-19 had other plans for them 😔. Even Highway 50 heading out of South Lake Tahoe didn’t feel like a fun ride. Highway 88, an old favorite of mine, clearly was calling. Its honest turns sneaking down the mountain always remind me of a trusted friend where time doesn’t seem to pass each time you meet.

There was a dampness and coolness to the air surrounding me while climbing the mountains. The trees, however, were still getting ready to show their bright yellows. A few more cool evenings will bring fantastic colors throughout the Sierras in October. I was just too early. While I missed Sand Harbor Beach, I wouldn’t pass up Caples Lake – another favorite of mine in the area. The craggy mountains backing the view from the damn always make for a lovely photograph of the motorcycle 🙂

I wasn’t on the road in earnest until 3 o’clock (Just like yesterday), so I had resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t get home until dark. I continue to snake down Highway 88, thinking about dinner options. On this section of Highway, there is little. I had the choice of resort food at Kirkwood if they were even open. There were a few options for small-town dining in Pioneer. Last, I could take a detour into Jackson. Plus, I needed cell coverage to help me decide.

My Garmin GPS has a database of someone in date but not totally in date database that often helps in these situations. Scrolling through the options along Highway 88, I had settled on Ray’s Pizzeria in Pioneer. As I was rolling into town, the evening was quickly settling in. When I got to Ray’s, I could see the difference between what I asked for and what GPS thought I asked for. Sure, Ray’s was a pizzeria. However, I had no oven to cook a take-n-bake pizza. 🤦🏻‍♂️

At this point in the journey, I was ready for dinner in Pioneer. I wanted a break and didn’t care what kind of restaurant it was. Plate 88 was next on the list of restaurants in town. At first, it looked upscale as everyone coming and going wore a collared shirt and khaki pants. I was in swim trunks, a T-shirt, and motorcycle gear. I ran into a lovely local couple who were motorcycle riders in the parking lot, and they assured me I would be just fine in the bar area.

The food was good; however, the service could have been faster. It was 75 mintues from my order to dinner showing up. A large group ahead of us delayed a number of orders in the queue. The sun came and went, and at this point, it would be a dark ride all the way down the mountain – just like last night.

I shed some of the more technical aspects of the ride. I wanted to avoid being on small farm roads that would save me a few minutes here and there. The one execption was the GPS and Google Maps were insistent on E. Kettelman Rd over Highway 12. E. Kettelman Rd began just like the road I didn’t want to be on: a small, dark farm road. I kept the speed down and the reflexes up to increase the margin all around me. Once arriving in Lodi, E. Kettelman Rd joined Highway 12 again. At that point, I was immersed in a sea of red lights. I’d shift to first, shift to second, shift to third just to reverse my actions all the way back to neutral for the next red light. It’s frustrating, for sure, nearing the end of two long days.

Moreover, the wind aggressively picked up as I took the left onto Highway 160. Like OMFG picked up around me. The weather system I had left high in the Sierras likely influenced the strong, shifting wind around me. I struggled to stay tight within my lane even with a combined 800+ pound man and machine. It had been a while since I was knocked around aggressively in the wind. “Slow and steady,” I’d repeat to myself repeatedly during that section. Slow and steady, man.

Taking another right turn to Highway 4, a super slab was a welcome return to the Bay Area and the comfort of home. 🙂 Mission accomplished. Three tanks of gas and 400 miles later, the bike is happy again.


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