2019 Mighty 190 Airhead Rendezvous Report
The trip was great this past weekend to the Mighty 190 Rendezvous. The first couple of hours south to Sacramento were nothing to wright home about, but from there I cut back over to the '49er Gold Country of the Sierra Nevada foothills and reacquainted myself with old favorites like Pool Station Road, La Grange Road, a bit of California 49 and 108. Stopped for gas in Oakhurst, where CA41 led me back to 99 south and more slab. Found a nice little room in Porterville, just a couple minutes walk from a steakhouse, a good thing as the weather radar said the guys already at the campsite were getting some rain. Sat at the bar sipping a beer when a couple walked up looking for a pair of seats, so I moved over so they could sit together. We struck up a conversation, and he turned out to be a materials manager with Walmart, and she was a policewoman with the local force. Nice people.
Next morning I had breakfast outside at a cafe, and struck up a conversation with a 80 something lady at the next table. I think I got two or three words in edgewise, but that was OK since the breakfast burrito was delicious. She knew everyone going in and out of the cafe, greeting them all by name. I guess she does that every morning...
The next seventeen miles were on one of the finest motorcycle roads in California, CA190. It winds along the Tule River canyon, diving in and out of the side ravines and steadily climbing another 4000 feet. When I say "winds", I really mean it! Most if it is spent winding out 2nd gear from just past the apex to the entrance to the next bend, a distance of maybe 100 feet. The sandstone cliffs on the sides of the road had really taken a beating over the past few days, and there frequent spots of sand were washed onto the road as a result. Just the thing to keep things interesting, and make it an excellent GS road.
Got to the campsite a bit early and had to pitch the tent on damp ground, but it was fine. Found a spot under one of several popups provided by the host, which would turn out to be pretty fortunate later. Finished in time to go on a ride with about a half dozen others, so up the mountain we went to a little lodge/restaurant one of them knew about. The clouds were already gathering by the time we finished the meal, and I'd offered to lead them on a loop back to camp. A few miles down the road I decided we'd better cut it a bit short as a few raindrops hit my face shield and the clouds darkened. That way led up and over another mountain, though, and while we made it to the top of the saddle dry, as we switch backed down the other side, the northern loop of each one took us under the trailing edge of a thunderhead. Yep, we all got wet, and at one point the rainwater was filling up the wheel tracks worn into the asphalt and running downhill like a pair of rivers. I'd promised no dirt roads, but not dry weather.
Not long after that we ran across another group of our folks stopped by the side of the road, and it turned out one of the bikes had conked out. They were attempting to tow it to a nearby hot spring resort where it would be easier to work on.
What could go wrong? Well on the first try, the pull was uneven and the tower ended up going almost sideways. I was about to take his place with a passing driver indicated that just over a short rise going the other way was a restaurant at the bottom of a long downhill. So two of the guys pushed the dead bike to the top of the hill and the owner was able to coast the rest of the way. We started by pulling a plug wire off and putting the plug on the head to see if it sparked. It didn't, but the other plug fired and the engine started. What??? So we put the plug back in and the engine ran fine. I asked the owner when the bike cut out, and he said right after they hit rain for the first time.
Then I realized that his bike used the infamous "Crack'o'Matic" coil that was well known to fail in just that way. One peak up under the fuel tank confirmed it. Since the bike was running, we decided to ride down into town to try to find a new coil, or at least some epoxy or RTV to seal the cracks. It was all down hill, dry, and sunny, and turned out to be a very nice ride. Checking the weather radar in the parking lot of the autoparts store, it was obvious that the campground was getting a bath, so our broke down buddy decided to head south toward Bakersfield and home. We, on the other hand, battened down the hatches to enjoy a rather damp and lightning illuminated spin back up the hill. Most were dry in their gear, but it was a little daunting when the interval between the flash and boom became very short for a while. And by the time we made camp, the rain had mostly stopped. Dinner and a few beers with friends at the honky tonk near the campground was fun, as was an evening around the campfire telling stories.
My ride home took me north through the Yokhl Valley on a dirty, bumpy little twister that in some stretches was more patches than road. Beautiful views along the top of the ridge and nice ranching country filled with golden grass and spreading oaks for the cows. A short jaunt north on 99 again led me to C41 north and Oakhurst, where I picked up CA49 again. Brunch was a pesto veggie omelette in Mariposa, dessert was the section of CA49 between there and Coulterville. The road was heavily damaged in last years wildfires, but the repairs are complete and removal of the roadside vegetation has greatly improved the sight lines through the corners. And corners there were, in abundance! Big 60MPH sweepers, tight little 10MPH switch backs, and everything in between. Almost no traffic, and the only two cars I did encounter were passed by dropping down to the apex in sharp left handers, a thrilling move every time! With traffic so light I stayed on 49 until Chinese Camp where it hits CA120, taking it to O'Byrnes Ferry Road through Copperopolis. A short stint on CA4 put me back on Pool Station again, then back on 49, which was still uncluttered. I suppose the previous Memorial Day weekend had consumed most folk's kitchen passes and they were all home mowing the grass. CA 16 took me to Sunrise and a traverse north through eastern Sacramento, then it was freeway slabbing the rest of the way.
Made it home around 5PM, unpacked the wet camping gear and got it all hung up to dry, and decided to enjoy a glass of wine on the back porch. I'd been watching the thunderheads build as I neared home, and by then I could hear the low rumbling as they approached.
The storm seemed to peter out as it got closer, but not before showing off with a very nice rainbow. Really nice way to end a fantastic weekend!
Many thanks to Jeff Jackson and his brothers for hosting the event, and the weather gods that kept us guessing and entertained.
If you missed it this year, Jeff says he's going to do it again next year, so start thinking about the Sierra Foothills east of Porterville next June!