Final shakedown ride.

The bikes have been twiddled and massaged into TAT form so we did a final test ride. Temps were expected to reach triple digits and while we didn’t look forward to sweating our kidneys dry, it was a good opportunity to see how we’d do in outrageous heat.

We left the house at around 8:30 and and headed east towards Ramona. Even though it was still early in the day, the sun was hammering away. Any remaining optimism for a tolerable day was quickly burned off. Here’s Simon soaking in the morning sun — he doesn’t realize he’s about to get those stabbing rays in spades.

We topped off our tanks in Ramona and headed to Palomar Divide. The temperature wasn’t bad as we climbed, but as soon as we started dropping back down towards Aguanga, it felt like we were getting the hot iron face punch. It didn’t matter how fast or slow we went; wind chill factor was a fanciful concept.

The forecast said there might be rain in the mountains so I decided to capture the clouds as they grew. One minute there was the standard fluffy stuff.

A few minutes later it started getting more vertical.

By the time we were off the mountain, the clouds had gotten a lot grayer and a lot more spread out.

Even if it rained, it didn’t matter. We were so hot — Wayne’s digital thermometer was reading 105 — that we were actually excited at the idea of some refreshing rain. The sun and/or sand was hot enough that when I stepped out of the shade to take this picture, Simon followed but soon ran back to the bikes under the tree.

To help Simon keep cool, I rubbed some water into his fur before he went back into the pack. I was pretty relieved that he didn’t balk at returning to his little prison.

As we headed into Anza, we could see lightning in the distance. A light rain started to fall, taking the edge off of the heat. Sweet! Now was a good time to grab some lunch and enjoy the cooler weather.

We weren’t sure how much Simon was stressed from the high temps so we used the traditional test to check if a dog is sick: Put food in his face. If he is rapt, he is not sick. As you can see below, the test returned a favorable result.

Nary a sign of listlessness. There was only crisp, militaristic target fixation, which meant the dog was a-ok.

After lunch we headed towards Lost Valley Road to make our way back home. By now the thunder was booming so loudly I could easily hear it through my helmet and music player. The overhead shade of grey was continuing to deepen. Still, I wasn’t worried since I was delighted to no longer be drying up from the inside out.

Unfortunately, the opportunity to not worry was fleeting. The lightning was becoming much more frequent and seemed uncomfortably close. If Wayne wasn’t standing on his pegs, I sure wasn’t standing on mine because I did not want to be the high point!

I grabbed this still from a video I shot. Looks like Wayne is heading off to some Highlander-esque destiny.

This not-overly-dilapidated RV looked recently dumped (or perhaps a victim of very bad driving?). I would’ve loved to have stopped and taken a peek inside, but the weather said keep moving.

Drops of rain began to fall. They were infrequent but notable for their size — it was like getting hit with the occasional soft, fat insect. I dropped my faceshield. SPLAT, pause, SPLAT, pause, SPLAT. Minutes later it was SPLATSPLATSPLATSPLATSPLATSPLAT. The thunder and lightning was now all around us. The wind kicked up and the rain entered a lashing phase. We never stopped to put on our rain gear because we figured we’d be hot again as soon as we dropped off the mountain. This was a tactical error, as I will explain shortly.

Hail was added to the weather mix. It felt like we were on the receiving end of a target practice using frozen peas.

It hurt too much to leave the face shield up, but when it was down the trail was a smear. I alternated between taking fire and being blind — I just switched whenever I couldn’t take the current option any longer.

There’s a tipping point for motorcyclists when you’re being rained on: You can feel that you’re wet and unless it’s cold it’s not all that uncomfortable. You just have something wet laying on your skin. The tipping point comes when all the exposed parts are saturated and the only place left for water to go is down into to your Secret Garden. VIOLATION! It’s like a levee breaking, but instead of it happening in the Mississippi Delta, it’s happening in your pants. Beyond discourteous!

We finally left the worst of the weather behind. It was still raining, but I could sense there was an end to the punishment. Then, the bike hiccups. Or did it? I goose the throttle and sure enough, it stumbles. The motor dies. There’s a gentle grade so I drop my feet and start paddling to bump start the bike (which is an unpleasant task given the spongy load in my pants). The bike would catch but die immediately. I’m paddling away like Fred Flintstone, not sure how long I can keep it up. Finally, I hit a steep enough stretch where I can get some speed. When I dump the clutch the bike catches and thankfully continues to run. I catch up to Wayne and we get off the mountain without any more stops.

We reach the 79 and it’s all pavement from here. A few miles into it my bike stumbles again and dies. Wayne takes a look at it and after a bit of pondering he jams a stick up the gas tank vent hose to see if it’s clogged. Bingo! Thankfully, he had experienced this before on his KTM and although that episode took a lot longer to resolve, the stored knowledge got us out of our situation in minutes.

We made our final and traditional stop at Dudley’s Bakery. Wayne took this opportunity to get some sun on his chili peppers. I was wearing padded cycling shorts so unless I also had a blowdryer, dropping my pants would’ve gained me nothing but unnecessary comments.

I’m glad we got this beatdown. It’s one thing to be heading home where you can throw everything into a dryer. It’s another to be camping and hanging your junk from a tree hoping they’ll dry by morning when you’ve got no choice but to put them on again.

Lesson learned!

    • mike_in_la
    • August 31st, 2011

    Have you ditched the stock vacuum opperated petcocks? Those are notorious for failing and doing the same thing you describe ie fuel starvation. The petcock off the drz “E” dirt model fits and is a traditional on/off/reserve petcock. Dont forget to cap the vacuum port on the carb.

      • piratemonkeycult
      • August 31st, 2011

      Yes, stock petcocks are gone. The bike was running great after the vent hose got cleared. That better be the problem or Wayne is gonna spiral into a deep depression…

  1. Regarding the rain smearing of your face shield – I assumed you tried Rain-X? I’ve found it works really well. I use it both inside and outside of mine.

    I’m really excited for you and your trip. Best of luck to you all.

  2. When are you guys leaving again?

      • piratemonkeycult
      • September 5th, 2011

      We’re leaving Friday 9/9…just enough time to jam a lot of last-minute “must bring” items (hairdryer!) into our cases.

    • Kug
    • September 7th, 2011

    I am all excited about your trip !

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