WeSTAR 97 Mammoth, CA

by John Parker

STOC# 124
September 15, 1997

Yesterday Becci and I got back from Mammoth, Ca. and the annual WeSTAR
event. We were joined there by two other SoCal SToc'ers and their SO's,
Jeff Bertrand and his lovely wife Diane and Clayton Gradis and his lovely
girl friend Michelle Tenebruso. After a pretty uneventful 4 hr ride up hwy 395, Becci and I
arrived at the Roadway Inn in Mammoth, checked in and got to the
orientation just in time to hear the mayor of Mammoth give the "key to the
city" to the gathered HSTA group. After meeting the tour master, Dennis
Erdman, and some quick intos, everyone scattered. Jeff and Diane, Clayton,
and a couple of other SoCal riders (not liSTers), and Becci and I went out
for dinner at the "Stove" (a great place for home style food!) After
dinner we checked out the "hospitality room" for the list of ride
descriptions. HSTA events, for those who've never been to one, are a lot
like STOC events in that there is little formal organization, (just like we
like it ) so you have plenty of leeway in who/where/what/when. Unlike most
of the STOC events, the ride suggestions are rather short in miles, so we opted to
do several. Actually, I did two of them twice and one more once, but more
on that later.

I awoke a zero dark-thirty Saturday morning and went to the "hospitality
room" for some sweet rolls and coffee. HSTA really put out a nice
"continental breakfast" with Danish, coffee, fruit, etc. that I was not
expecting. Becci had a bad night battling kidney stones (OUCH!!!!) and
reluctantly opted to pass on the ride today, so I was solo. Jeff and Diane
showed up shortly after I did and indicated that they were riding the
"Benton Loop" with tour master Dennis. The planned take off time for the
"organized" ride (?) was 0830 (it was 0730 ). We were "burnin' daylight"
by that time so I decided to take off on my own.

Outside I counted approximately 40 motorcycles of various makes and models, Most
of them were Hondas, and most of those were STs and VFRs. However, there
were a couple of CBRs, Shadows, 'Wings, BMW's, Yamahas, and at least one
Ninja. Some of the STs were 'Butt ready with Major aux. tanks,
waterbottle holders, PIAA lights, etc. I fueled up at the local Shell station ($1.62 a
gallon, YIKES!!!) and headed south for the Benton Road turn off on hwy 395
(appx. 8 miles).

It was a beautiful day for a ride! Deep blue skies with puffy white clouds
and a BRIGHT sun greeted me as I rode East into the crisp fresh mountain
air at >7000'. The rare air, and the rich fuel/air ratio which resulted, caused a
noticeable loss in power, but with just one aboard it wasn't at all
critical to my ride. As I made the turn off of hwy 395 onto Benton RD, I
was surrounded by hundreds of peddle powered bikers. Apparently they were
part of an organized ride of some sort, but they were headed in the
opposite direction (WHEW!!!). As the road unfolded before me, I was
impressed with its quality, both in surface and in layout. The first 6 or 7
miles were mostly long straights with a few high speed, banked sweepers as
the road traversed the high chaparral while skirting Lake Crowley. The
visibility in this type of terrain is excellent and 100+ mph sweepers were
easily and confidently negotiated. The ATF that I installed in the forks
before I left home worked beautifully with the Progressive springs to keep
"Odd Job" tracking on line "like on a rail". On the very first straight I
got the chance to test ST nominal and compare my BC700 to the stock speedo.
Without any other vehicles on the road and visibility unlimited, I
"whacked" the throttle until the needle touched 130. A quick glance at the
BC700 showed an indicated 120.7 mph.

After crossing the Owens river (actually a stream about 5' wide), which was
crowded with fishermen, the road turned into the mountains of the Inyo
National Forest. The road now became one curve after another with none
tighter than 40 mph and no decreasing radii or debris. I came around one
corner, and off to the right side a sunshade was set up with water bottles,
tables, and kaybos. WOW!! This Western HSTA bunch really puts on a great
rally; rest stops and all! Even though I wasn't hardly ready for a rest
yet (only been riding about 30 min.), I pulled in to check it out.
Humm...no one's around. I must be early. LOTS of water but no food! Any
self respecting motorcycle checkpoint would have sweet rolls, geegunks,
etc. A closer look at the banners bordering the sun shade revealed sponsor
names like Giro, Diamondback, GT, Specialized, Shimano, Campagnola,
Outback, Cannondale, AMF...this must be a Harley Davidson checkpoint. I'm
out of here!

A couple of miles of twisties interspersed with a few nice "whack-worthy"
straights, and I was through Wildrose canyon and rolling up on the Benton
turnoff. There was another H.D. rest stop at this intersection. Boy, those
Harley guys sure take a lot of breaks! I took the side trip to Benton.

Benton, Ca is one of those little desert communities that time forgot,
After being there (this is the third time in 2 months, The other time
going and coming from WeSTOC97 in Missoula, MT), I can understand why. Its a very depressed
little place with lots of boarded up buildings. Its only claim to fame
apparently that it is the "gateway to Yosemite". Nothing was open, not a
person was stirring, so off I rode back the way I came to continue up hwy 120
to Lee Vining and complete the loop.

Once back at the intersection, and past the H.D. rest stop (still no one
there), hwy 120 turns west for appx. 47 miles of mostly straight road in
excellent condition. Somewhere along this road the ride sheet says that
there are some dips (AKA whoop-de-do's). Humm...looks pretty straight to
me...no biggie..I guess this is a good time to check my STock speedo vs the
BC700. OK....twist a little...60 ST = 55 BC...65 ST = 60 BC..etc. twist
some more... 90 ST = 83 BC..etc. to 105 ST = 97 BC...etc...twist a little
more... to 120 ST = 110 BC..10 mph difference to WFO... 130 ST = 120
BC...YAHOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! EGADS!!!!!!!! WHATTHEF#$@K!!!! That was one He!!
of a dip! Oh My...I had just found the start of the aforementioned
whoop-de-do's...at 130mph indicated* I now know why the tip over
protectors are commonly called tip over "wings" ( 8 - o ) BTW, the ST
"flys" very nicely thank you ; - ) The whoops continued for about 5-6
miles of incredible fun (makes ANY amusement park roller coaster seem as
exciting as lawn mowing in comparison) until the road twists its way into a
pine forest with some fine 70 mph sweepers through the trees until opening
up to a "surface-of-the-moon" like volcanic area over-looking Mono Lake.

There was a turnout with a picture opportunity next to one of those Harley
rest stop places that I had been seeing spaced about 10 miles apart since
the start of this loop. This was the first one that had any people at it.
While I was "de-planing" and getting my camera out, the folks there were
setting up some picnic benches and putting out some food (i.e.: fruit and
stuff). I casually remarked to a man and woman, who were involved in the
setting up, that they looked like they were really well prepared, and when
were the first Hogs going to arrive anyhow? They gave me the strangest
look and replied that they didn't know anything about any swine, but that
the bicycle riders would start arriving in about an hour.
"Oh-key-doe-key... I'm outta here then... seeya bye" ( 8 ^ }

I continued west on hwy 120 through the surrealistic countryside of Mono
Craters and Pumice Valley 'til it intersected hwy 395, passing several
swine..er bicyclists on the eastbound side of the road on the way. A
right turn here, and I headed north on 395 to the quaint little town of Lee
Vining. Unlike Benton, Lee Vining is a "bustling" community of
restaurants, gas stations, coffee houses, and the rest of the usual tourist
trappings, and TOURISTS... lots of tourists. Too many for me so I'm outa
here to...GO RIDE!

Hwy 120 continues west from Lee Vining over Tioga Pass (9941') to Yosemite
and beyond and is a beautiful ride on a motorcycle. Unfortunately this is
the weekend, and the road is filled with motor homes and buses, so I leave
it for another day/another ride. I continue south on hwy 395 retracing my
route a couple of miles to the June Lake Loop turnoff. I take the loop and
ride the gorgeous canyon through some of the most scenic country I've seen
in a while. I traveled south past the deep blue, mirrored lakes of Grant,
Silver, Gull, and June Lakes and their associated little villages.
Everywhere I looked there were fishermen. I don't know if they were
catching anything or not, but, if they weren't, it wasn't the fault of the
location. The loop ended all too soon and rejoined hwy 395 about 6-7 miles
south of where it turned off.

Highway 395 south to the Mammoth Lakes scenic route turnoff is one long,
high speed sweeper after another on an absolutely pristine, perfect road
surface. This road is a joy to ride on the ST with its glass-smooth ride
and jet turbine like torque monster engine. I arrived back at the motel in
Mammoth refreshed, recharged, and with a mile wide grin (I also had nearly
the entire flying insect population of Mono County on the windscreen and
front of "Odd Job". More on that later.)

To my surprise and pleasure, Becci was feeling better and wanted to.."GO RIDE!"
So, since the first "4 hr ride" only took me 2 hrs (it was 0930), we
set out to do the whole route again, this time 2 up!

This time the ride was less exciting (no ST nominals or speedo comparisons 2 up) but no
less beautiful or invigorating. Unlike last time, this time, the HD rest stops
were full of people. There were pedal pushers everywhere! To borrow a
euphemism from Warren Harhay, I was apparently "invisible" to the riders of these
contraptions. They would wander into my path without warning and without
regard for their own safety. Very Bambi-like =8-O Using the tried and
true ST guideline for situations such as these (if you can't eat it in one
sitting, don't hit it), I knew I couldn't... so I didn't. Because I WAS
invisible to them, I was able to observe them in their natural state. It
was interesting to note that, though they were riding through some of the
most beautiful scenery in the world, they never looked anywhere but at the
front wheel of their pedal bikes.

We skipped the side trip to Benton this time. Been there...done that. We
continued on toward Lee Vining...and the Whoop-de-does (:^) I warned
Becci when we were getting close, but I believe she wasn't ready for the
amplitude of these whoops. As I entered the first series, I glanced at the
BC700...84 mph...that should be about right for 2 up...self says. The
first one seemed easier this time than at ST nominal. However, I believe
that it caught Becci by surprise, as she wasn't hanging on very well. At the
apogee of the first launch she went weightless and started to go into low
Earth orbit. Thankfully, before she became a 25th GPS satellite, she
grabbed onto me...around the neck...tightly (choke!!!) I took this as a
sign that I should slow down a bit, so I slowed down...a bit. We took the
rest of the whoops at 82 mph (corrected). I turned to Becci and asked if
she was OK, and she said "Wheeeee THAT WAS FUN!!!!!" What a girl I'm
married to! I'm a VERY lucky guy!

Our next stop was at the Mobil station on Tioga Rd at Lee Vining. There is
a great little sandwich place inside that was recommended by Dennis Erdman.
I can vouch for the "Cowboy Steak Sandwich"; it was excellent! The steak
is BBQ'd on an outdoor grill and is TENDER and very tasty. Seeing me in my
'Stitch, the cook asked me what kind of bike I rode. I told him, and he
said that he used to have a HD Fat Boy but sold it because he never had
time to ride it. Seems he works 12 hrs a day 7 days a week cookin' "Cowboy
Steak Sandwiches'. Hum, too bad...such a great place to ride...

Next we rode the June Lake loop which was just as beautiful as when I did
it solo, but it's a lot more enjoyable to share things like that with
someone else.  Two up is great! I LOVE IT!!!

After the "Scenic" road to Mammoth Lakes, we were at the crossroads with the
motel to the left and 20 miles of twisty mountain road to the right. I
asked Becci which way she wanted to go...she said "to the right, of
course"...what a girl I'm married to :-)

The road to the right is 20 miles of motorcycle heaven on Earth. It has
sweepers, tight twisties, steep uphills and steep downhills, and about 5
miles of one lane road with sheer drops of several thousand feet if you
miss your apex...my kind of road! A "9" at least. The road would be a
perfect "10" if they didn't allow 4 wheelers on it ;^} There was even a big
tour bus putting along at a pedal pusher's pace. At the end of the road we
were further rewarded by a view of Devil's Postpile. This is a very
interesting geological anomaly caused by the effects of millions of years
of heating and cooling on volcanic rock...yawn.

It was getting late so we decided to head back to the room and get ready
for the Erdmans' BBQ scheduled for 5 PM.

Becci had been feeling good all afternoon, since passing a kidney stone
that morning (OUCH!!), but, while we were gassing up at the Chevron station
in Mammoth, she had another attack. I got her back to the room, and she
decided that it wouldn't be a good idea for her to go to the BBQ. Under the
circumstances, I had to agree. She insisted I go ahead without her, and if
she felt better later she would give me a call to pick her up.

I arrived at the Erdman's Chalet, located in a gorgeous area on the
outskirts of the town of Mammoth, at a little after 6pm. Their two story
wood-sided home blends in beautifully with the surrounding forest of
Jefferson Pine and Douglas Fir. On the street in front of, adjacent to,
across from, and down the street from their house (I'll bet the neighbors
were happy...Not 8-{ were parked 45-50 motorcycles of all shapes and
sizes. There were the same brands and makes as I saw back at the motel,
plus maybe a few more. I think someone must have put up a sign out by the
highway saying "Free BBQ this way --->" Everyone was very cordial and well
behaved (imagine that !) . No one even got thrown in the pool. Hear that
you Brits? Jeff and Diane, and Clay and Michelle were already there and had
the best table in the place nailed down for the SoCal STOCers, so I just
got into the buffet line and loaded my plate with some of the best western
vittles I've had in a LONG time.  Dennis was in charge of the grill and was
doing a grommet (sic) job of cranking out sausages, chicken, and ribs.
Yummmm... I'm making myself hungry just thinking about it! As people
finished eating they tended to mosey over to the assembled bikes for some
bench racing, tire kicking, "headshake" discussions, and general lie
swapping. I noticed at this time that most of the bikes had very few if
any squashed bugs collected on their windscreens. I remarked to several of
the gathered enthusiasts that "Odd Job's" windscreen was thickly coated
with very nearly every example of entomology's ectoskeletons in Mono County, and then some.
I then made the observation that if they had gone over the same roads as
I, albeit a bit later," why no bashed bugs?" I never did get a
satisfactory answer to this, though Jeff did suggest that I may have
killed all of the bugs before the rest of the riders got there. Since the
conversation was obviously deteriorating, many of the group decided it was
time to bid goodbye to this great gathering of individuals with one big
thing in common:  They all like to...Go Ride! Mrs. Erdman helped me package
up some food to-go for Becci, and I was off.

Back at the room Becci was still feeling terrible, so we went to bed hoping
that the 'morrow brought her better health...

At 0'dark thirty I was up. Since Becci was sleeping soundly after a
restless night, I went to the hospitality room to see if there were any
sweet rolls and coffee to be had. To my delight HSTA had again provided
sustenance. While there, Jeff And Diane came by and said their good-byes.
They said that they were going home via Lake Isabella, then over the
"Grapevine" to hwy 126. I wished them a safe trip. After they left, I
spent the morning packing gear and watching the attendees depart. I was
the most impressed with how much gear some people were able to load on
their VFRs =8-O

Back in the room Becci (still hurting) was up, dressed, packed, and had
the place cleaned up and was ready to ride home via Sonora Pass. Sonora
Pass is "made for" motorcycles. It is a VERY twisty ribbon of blacktop that
snakes its way through the breathtakingly beautiful High Sierra country
just North of Yosemite. One of the roads we had PLANNED on taking this
trip was that one. Becci had her heart set on that ride, kidney stones or
no kidney stones. What a girl...(:-) I had to convince her that we should
go the shortest way home and do the "Pass" on another ride. It was a matter
of 4hrs vs 12hrs. She reluctantly agreed, and we retraced the route we
brought coming up. The ride home was as uneventful as the one up except
for Becci's "stones" (you couldn't tell anything from her though...not a

Low mpg was 24.7 (2 up, high speeds). The high mpg was 58.6 (2 up, ...you
guessed it ...low speeds)

All-in-all we had a great time at this years WeSTAR event. We will most
definitely be back next year. The HSTA people are a great bunch. No one
was hurt, and there were no mishaps, as far as I know. The Erdman's,
especially, were most cordial. And the riding was superb!!!!

Ride safe...John