Tuesday 6 May 2014

Tuesday - The Nightmare Ride to San Bernadino from Needles

Tuesday 6th May is a day of riding I'll never forget.  We awoke in Needles just inside the Californian state line.  It was sunny, we were in California, it's always sunny here - right?  There was a slight breeze as we packed the bikes up and then headed out west on the Interstate 40.  The plan was to knock out 140 miles quickly on this fast and straight road and then turn off south and take a leisurely cruise through the San Bernadino National Forest over the hills and down into San Bernadino for the night.  Sounds great, eh?

The I-40 started to become really windy as we closed towards Barstow.  About 50 miles before our intended exit the wind was so strong we needed to stop, we also needed fuel, running straight into strong wind the bikes really drink  a lot of petrol (gas).  We also needed a warm coffee as we were starting to get cold even the though the sun was still shining. The wind must have been coming in from the North, although on the bikes it felt like it was coming at us from the North, South, East and West!    After meeting a lovely chap called Mike who was heading for the west coast with his wife and friends ready to start the annual "Ride To The Wall"  run to Washington DC we finally decided to give it a go and get back on the I-40 and push on for the last 50 miles feeling the wind would weaken the further west we rode.  To a degree it did, but not before being knocked and battered from one side of the road to the other as we carved our way down the Interstate and digested mouthful after mouthful of dust and sand!  At last we reached Barstow and turned southwards.

The change of scenery was most welcomed as we headed into the hills, which quickly became mountains as we road down California Highway 247 towards Big Bear City and Big Bear Lake. Unbeknown to us, because we didn't check the weather on route or more importantly the route altitude we found ourselves in 34 degrees (freezing is 32!) and a snow blizzard, which rather unkindly turned into hail-stones (sleet).  Hail-Stones don't really go well with open-face motorcycle helmets.  It's pure torture, like someone stabbing you in the face with a meat skewer several times a second!  Eventually I had to stop due to showing early signs of the onset of hypothermia, and put my waterproofs on.  Jon being the real road warrior battled on in jeans and a t-shirt and thin summer jacket, laughing at the crazy diverse American weather patterns in the space of just 50 miles!

After miles of really scary riding through the rain on downhill switch back mountain roads, stopping every half mile to clean our glasses because we just couldn't see the road we came out the other side and like an oasis in a icy cold desert we could make out San Bernadino in the distance.   As the altitude dropped our spirits rose as did the temperature.  Before long we were at yet another Best Western Motel, unpacking the bikes and defrosting with the help of our trusty bottle of rum (which we carry purely for medicinal purposes) swigged straight from the bottle 'Pirate Style' - we had survived, but most importantly we had learnt a valuable lesson in that you must always assess and understand the weather and terrain you plan to ride in this beautiful country.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry but I can't help but laugh at this blindsided weather experience ..... desert furnace to mountain snow, sleet-hammered face, numb lips and pirate-swigging recovery. I feel your pain because "been there done that". I'm up till 3 a.m. reading this far in your blog from the very start. What an adventure! Great stories!