Street Vibrations, sponsored by the Harley-Davidson Dealers Association of Northern California and produced by Road Shows, Inc., is billed as an annual celebration of "music, metal, motorcycles and you," and it's that and much more.
I sent my check early and got my pre-registration card in May. Later I made a reservation at the Silver Club in Sparks, across the Truckee River from Reno and across the street from John Ascuaga's Nugget.
It took a lot of research and planning to decide which route to take from the Bay area to Reno. I am quite familiar with the fastest freeway routes but this time I wanted to take a less-traveled route, and was particularly interested in roads that I'd never experienced.
Wednesday, September 20
My twenty-seventh work anniversary. Instead of waiting around for someone to call and congratulate me (they never did), I spent a short period of time packing the T-Bag with a few important things. Some shirts, socks and underwear, an extra pair of pants, maps and hotel reservation papers; that was about it. I left a little room for trinkets I would be acquiring while there.
Thursday, September 21
I was up and moving shortly after 7:00 a.m., packed the last few toiletry items in the T-Bag, did some household chores, swigged some orange juice and got under way shortly before 9 a.m. After a quick stop at the bank I was off for points north and east.
I was hoping to minimize freeway driving but there aren't a lot of alternatives for getting out of the valley. My route was Northbound Almaden Expressway, Northbound Hy 87, Southbound Hy 280, Northbound Hy 680 and Eastbound Hy 580 into Livermore.
I turned Northbound on Vasco Road and went about 17 miles past wind farms (yes, it was quite windy) and some agricultural areas on the outskirts of Brentwood.
I hadn't quite done my homework and got to a "T" junction with no signage for Hy 4, so I just guessed and turned right. My next guess was wrong. I turned north on the next street and drove about two miles before finding a sign saying "Hy 4 West," so I made a U-turn and continued on "Hy 4 East," past Discovery Bay and along the levees toward Stockton.
Luck was still not with me and we had a delay for some Caltrans work. But then it was smooth sailing across two bridges, by a roadhouse or two (with lots of bikes parked outside) and into the western outskirts of Stockton.
A Unocal station beckoned, and operating under the theory of "get fuel when you can," I stopped at 102 miles into the trip.
Highway 4 is part two-lane, part freeway, part Hy 99, then continues east into the foothills. I knew I was going the right direction when I saw the sign saying "Markleeville 120 miles." After waiting for a train and then getting around far too many slow drivers, the road opened up as I passed Jack Tone Road.
A group of 8 riders came up behind me and I "kept up" as best I could, but they clearly wanted to go much faster, so after I found a safe passing lane and waved them on, I pretty much had the road to myself. I spent most of my time watching for obstructions and some of the time enjoying the beautiful scenery of this part of California.
I was passed by two small groups of riders and then passed them when they stopped to refuel at two different stations in Angels Camp. Another 8 miles down the road in Murphys, I stopped at Galvin's Family Restaurant, nearly four hours and 163 miles into the trip.
After lunch I continued Eastbound on Hy 4, through Avery and Arnold and then the road narrowed from two lanes to one large lane (with no yellow line) and beautiful tall trees on both sides. I thought I was aproaching Nirvana until * whomp * "construction ahead" signs. "Expect 20 minutes delay." Grrrrr!
It really wasn't 20 minutes but it was longer than the five minutes the flagman quoted. I shut down the Big Twin and waited as cars stacked up behind me. The one vehicle in front of me was a Calaveras County deputy sheriff. He got out and came back to admire the Road King. Making small talk rather than interrogating me, he asked where I was going. I explained Street Vibrations. He wished me a safe trip.
The pilot car got there in a few more minutes and took us past the paving equipment and trucks depositing their loads of asphalt in the middle of the eastbound lanes. I wanted to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding areas but had to keep vigilant for stray hunks of asphalt.
The road turned curvy and winding, then curvy and winding and downhill, then curvy and winding and downhill and steep as I traversed Ebbetts Pass. Not a wonder all the "no trucks" signs way back there.
Suddenly, but not unexpectedly, Highway 4 ends and I continued on Hy 89 into Alpine County. Just a few miles down the road is historic Markleeville. The bikes were spread out in front of the Cutthroat Saloon and the joint was jumpin'. After noting that the symptoms of Sore Butt Syndrome had begun to set in, I gently dismounted and recorded 236 miles and almost 7 hours had elapsed.
I stood in line to get a tasty beverage but the bartender was hard of hearing and the people in front of me had a difficult time making their choices known. Kind of reminded me of going to a drive-up window with a broken loudspeaker.
I wandered back into the daylight and walked across the street to the Markleeville General Store. As I was picking out a couple of cold Mountain Dews, the proprietor saw "San Jose" on my vest and shared the fact that he had lived in Cupertino for a long time before moving up to God's Country.
He brought out two faded photographs of the house where he had lived as a child on what is now Stelling Road. The pictures must have been taken in the middle forties and looked nothing like what Stelling Road looks like today. I paid for my drinks and downed one of them while walking around just a bit more, then stowed the other and continued the journey.
Pretty soon Hy 89 meets Hy 88 and I turned right/east towards Nevada. California 88 turns into Nevada 88 with nary the blink of an eye and then continues north. Soon enough it was time to turn North on U.S. 395 toward Carson City.
One lane was closed for construction, a fact that the Nevada DOT web site had failed to mention. But I had been warned that there could be construction in this area, so it wasn't that big of a surprise and it wasn't that much of a delay. Soon the single lane was widened to two lanes in each direction, but we had orange barrels on both sides for several miles.
Why they have not chosen to bypass (or chosen not to bypass - not sure which) downtown Carson City is beyond me. Everyone had to stop at every light for cross traffic, and sometimes for no cross traffic at all.
I knew it was only another 30 miles to Reno after I got through the jam, but it was getting late, so I stopped at a pay phone near Carson-Tahoe Harley-Davidson to call and was assured that they'd hold my room until 2 a.m.
Then, with all the stop and go, I wasn't sure I'd have enough fuel. Tow truck drivers always have a laugh when they arrive and you tell them "I thought I had enough gas." So I stopped at an ARCO at the north end of town and filled up. So far 272 miles and over 9 hours elapsed time. But who's keeping track when you're havin' fun?
U.S. 395 north of Carson City continues through some rural areas, then some business areas, then turns to freeway a few miles south of Reno. It felt good to get back up to speed again, if only for a short distance.
I took the Moana Lane off-ramp, turned left and headed west. Another left turn on Virginia Street and a few hundred yards later I pulled into the Atlantis Hotel Casino. I parked where other bikes were parked (not necessarily "bike parking") and went inside to register.
I found my way to the second floor and quickly got my packet. It contained the proper size t-shirt, Hog-tag, schedule-on-a-chain, complimentary fanny pack, two Street Vibrations pins and lots of other stuff, including the all-important sticker to put on your headlight to assure access to the "street closed" areas.
Back on the casino floor I saw the Club Paradise booth, so I stopped and signed up for a player's card. I knew this would result in more junk in my mailbox but sometimes that junk can be freebies and I'm always happy to have freebies.
On my way back outside I found a likely-looking 25 cent slot machine and tripled my money in just a few minutes. Thank you, Atlantis! It looked like it would be a nice weekend.
Outside I applied the sticker to my headlight and headed downtown to look around. After entering the "closed" portion of Virginia Street I ran two red lights and parked at a red curb (I am a shameless scofflaw!) near the Harley-Davidson Motor Company trailer. I looked at the fancy new 2001 models and picked up a couple of Parts & Accessories catalogs. (I can always use some ballast to keep my T-Bag from flying off.)
Things looked good so I proceeded out of the "closed" area and learned some new streets on my way over to the Silver Club. I parked in the city parking lot across from the hotel with 307 miles on the odometer in just about ten hours. The symptoms of S.B.S. were overshadowed by the fact that I had to lock and unlock the saddlebags several times to get everything stowed securely. I made a mental note that I must get this down to a science.
My reservation was in order and while I did not have a good view of the parking lot, the room was fine, I hung up my clothes and tossed everything else onto the bed.
Last year I was surprised to find that Sprint PCS had no service in the Reno area. And even though they had sent a mailing this year indicating that they had expanded their coverage, that was an error and my phone was useless. Perhaps next year.
I walked down to the lobby and across the parking lot to the Silver Club Casino to see what I could win with my "free play." I won a $2 food credit at one of their three restaurants. Certainly better than a sharp stick in the eye.
But then my luck began to turn. I put some money into a 25 cent machine and asked the passing cocktail waitress for an orange juice. I never saw the money again and never saw the waitress again. Oh, well.
One of the things on the Street Vibrations agenda was a free concert at Atlantis on Thursday evening, so I headed back over there to see (the late Rick Nelson's sons) Matthew and Gunnar.
Atlantis had set aside special motorcycle parking on the west side of Virginia Street. It was marked with plastic flags and guarded by Security officers 24 hours. So I parked and walked up and over Virginia Street in the Sky Terrace, then back down to the Casino, then back back up again to the second floor ballroom. The band was good and loud (mostly loud), I had my complimentary juice and went along my merry way.
As it had been a long day, I was back in the parking lot at my hotel in about 15 minutes, parked the Road King under a street light, locked, chained and covered her for the night. Total mileage for the day was 319 miles. Checked my maps, watched the news, took a shower and went to bed.
Friday, September 22
I slept fitfully, as I often do in hotels, waking just moments after my alarm would normally wake me on work days. I was up at 6:00 a.m., watching CNN and starting my day with the left-over Mountain Dew from Markleeville which I had kept cold with hotel ice. (Am I an experienced traveler, or what?)
Road Shows had arranged with the Reno Elks Lodge to serve a continental breakfast, so I went downstairs and unwrapped the RK, warmed her up and got on my way to the south end of town. The message board on the Convention Center said 55 degrees, just a tad chilly but the sun was shining, so I knew it would improve.
I parked at Atlantis, thanked the Security guy for being there all night and went inside to throw away some of my hard-earned cash. A short while later I made my way back to the Elks lodge, along with a couple dozen other early-risers, just as they opened.
I certainly cannot speak for the New Hampshire Buffet King, but he would not have been amused: plastic-wrapped bear claws and Danish, small cups of fruit, coffee and orange juice. But - it was free.
From there I made the pilgrimmage to Reno Harley-Davidson, on Market Street just north of Vassar, right next to U.S. 395. They were open early, with a small crowd already there, but didn't have a bargain table, so I didn't buy anything.
It was nearly 9 a.m. and beginning to warm up so I got back on the RK and headed downtown. I stopped at the AAA office (California State Automobile Association, Nevada Division) on Moana Lane to add to my map collection. My three-year old Reno map was helpful but needed updating. The map clerk was very cheerful, polite and helpful to the unshaven, out-of-town rider. She was even aware that it was Street Vibrations weekend and wanted to know how far I'd ridden and if I'd had a good trip. It was quite nice to be welcomed to town.
Again I rode into the "closed" area, ran a couple of red lights and parked at a red curb (a scurrilous knave, I am!) before going into Circus Circus for a slot tournament starting at 10:00 a.m. I stood in line for a players card (more freebies later?) and then stood in a long line for the tournament. It was $10, you got a t-shirt and bandanna but they didn't have the right size shirt and the wait looked like it was going to be a long time, so I canceled that plan and moved along.
Since the Silver Legacy is almost next door, I slapped a few coins into a few slot machines, putting away a tidy little sum from a lucky hit on a $5 machine.
Outside I sat on a bench near my bike and watched people walk by. I made the acquaintance of a letter carrier and his wife who had ridden down from Washington state on their Sportsters. Whew, what a ride that must have been! Very nice people.
I walked down Virginia Street and over to Chrome Alley, the indoor commercial sales area. I spent a few of my hard-earned dollars on some head wraps and some Lighted Jewels from Auto Gem in Caledonia, Wisconsin. (I've never even thought to look and see if my jewels were lighted .. or needed lighting.) It's a new product you'll eventually see in the aftermarket stores: small 12 volt lamps with real glass lenses and stainless steel bezels that screw into your license plate holes and light up with your tail lights (or however you wire them), giving additional visibility. Looks like an interesting product. I haven't yet installed them so I don't know how well they work, but for $20 (which I would have gambled away anyhow), it will be an interesting experiment.
After wandering the vendor area a while longer, I returned to Atlantis in time for a free slot tournament. On the way down I noticed that it looked and felt like rain was coming.
I scored enough points in the tournament and they told me to come back at 4 p.m. to see if I would advance to the finals the next day. So I rode back to the Silver Club to put away the stuff I had accumulated in my pockets and saddlebags.
On the way over, it began to rain. This was my first rain experience and I didn't like it. I specifically didn't ride the RK in the rain when I first got it (January 2000) because I didn't feel safe in slippery conditions. Now that I have put over 4,000 miles on it and know her every move, I felt much more safe but that doesn't mean I have to like riding in the rain.
As I parked in the garage next to my hotel, I talked to another rider who had just gotten into town. He was also a little irritated about the rain but managed to cope, along with many others. As I was waiting for the hotel elevator, I overheard a woman rider saying that she (they) had passed twelve accidents on their way in on U.S. 395. What a mess that must have been.
About an hour later I returned to Atlantis to see how I had done; there were a few sprinkles but noting bad, although there were still a lot of angry, dark clouds in the sky. They said my score was high enough to move to the finals and to come back at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Meanwhile, they were giving out freebies in another hour, so I had a late lunch at the Purple Parrot restaurant. They had an excellent Chicken Caesar salad for $8.95 plus tax.
As I stood in line to pick up my free t-shirt, I watched a woman playing two one-dollar slot machines. She cashed out of one of them with $800 and the other one was reading $1196 as I moved forward in the line. It must be nice. I wonder how much she started with?
On the way back to my hotel it started raining again. Miserable rain. I parked in the garage and schlepped my miserable wet self and my miserable wet stuff upstairs.
Later I traipsed across the street between raindrops to the casino for a little snack and something to drink, took it back to the room attempted to dry things off, took a shower and watched a little TV, then went to bed.
Saturday, September 23
I was awake at the crack of 6:17 a.m. and got up at 6:30 to renew my acquaintance with the porcelain. I looked out the window and there was no more rain. A few puddles here and there but nothing new coming down.
After washing, combing, brushing and shaving, I looked out the window to see bright, beautiful sunshine coming over the top of the mountains to the east. Shortly thereafter I saw a wisp of smoke coming from what I believe to be a wood-burning stove in the little house across the street from the hotel. Reminded me of an early morning in New England.
It was 7:35 a.m. when I went down to the parking garage and fired up the RK. It was sunny but cold as we started down the highway for Atlantis. I parked in the sunshine and wandered up to the grand ballroom for another wonderful continental breakfast. There were several choices of items but nothing was hot except the coffee.
I had previously noted a Smith's Food & Drug on Kietzke Lane just a few blocks from Atlantis, so I stopped to get some orange juice and cash back. Then I headed down to Virginia Street to pose - I mean - to enjoy the sunshine and the people. While parked at a red curb ( ! ) I ran across a couple from the San Jose area that I'd seen on a couple local runs.
When I got back to Chrome Alley, I saw another San Jose couple and chatted for a while about their unique accoutrements. She wears full-finger jewelry and he wears chain mail. It's quite a look. Before leaving, I found the perfect bell for one of my local riding partners.
Across the street at the Silver Legacy I put a few dollars into another machine and came away with a little more than double what I'd put in. But then I lost a little on another couple of machines.
Just before noon I returned to my hotel, stashed the juice and goodies, then pointed my front tire south. Due to at least two different poker runs going on with checkpoints in Virginia City, there were hundreds of bikes going the same direction. The Nevada Highway Patrol had a big presence at U.S. 395 and Nevada 341, since the route turned to the east at that point.
On the way up I stopped at a vista point and took a couple of pictures of the downtown Reno buildings several miles away. I was lucky enough to persuade one of the people at the rest stop to take my picture on the Road King.
As we approached Virginia City, I was (once again) lucky enough to be right behind a Storey County Sheriff's patrol unit. He wasn't the only one - his partners were on foot, on horseback and in patrol cars throughout the area.
There were bikes parked in parking lots and on the street for at least six blocks - the entire downtown area. As I stopped for some pedestrians to cross, two of them happened to be San Jose friends. I knew that Eric and Rudy would be in the area but didn't think there was any way I would be able to pick them out of the crowd. I barely got a chance to say "hello" and then had to move on.
Although I managed to find a place to park, it was just too crowded to see much of anything, so I went off the beaten path a couple blocks to the Virginia & Truckee Railroad. I was lucky to see the the steam engine pull into the depot, and I was even luckier when a woman photographer willingly took my picture (with my camera) so that I would get the heck out of her way, so that she could take pictures.
Then I was back on board the RK and headed down Gold Hill (steep grade), through Silver City and back to Carson City on U.S. 50. I couldn't find a Unocal so I fueled at a Chevron station downtown, then worked my way through town in bumper-to-bumper traffic, again stopping at every signal. While creeping through town, I talked briefly with Mike and Wendy, also from the San Jose area.
On the way back I noted a Unocal in Washoe City, about 12 miles north of Carson City, where I could have gotten the gasoline I wanted. Oh, well. Next time.
I got back to the parking lot at Atlantis in plenty of time to check in for the 4 p.m. tournament finals. I earned 1441 points for my five-minute session and was instructed to return at 6 p.m. for the awards presentation.
That gave me enough time to get back to the Silver Club for their special prime rib dinner for $6.99 (from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.). It was good but not great. I got back to Atlantis shortly before 6 p.m. to find that I didn't win anything, but it had been fun trying.
After a little more gambling, I rode downtown to find that even registered bikes were not allowed to enter the "closed" areas, so I snuck around and parked (for free) in the Silver Legacy's parking garage and walked though the casino to the El Dorado. It was awfully crowded and awfully noisy, so I went outdoors again.
It was approaching 9 p.m. and I didn't see much point in going into a hot, stuffy, overcrowded ballroom to not win a bike. (Call me a party-pooper.) Instead I used the time to explore the Sparks area, riding on some streets I had not seen, getting the lay of the land for possible future trips and picking up some dinner "to go." After a short while I went back to the hotel to eat, count my winnings, take a shower, watch a little news and go to bed.
Sunday, September 24
I slept okay, got up at 6:30 a.m. I could see out the window that it was clear and cool. The sun rose shortly after 7 a.m. I was downstairs a little before 8 a.m. for a little more exploration of the Sparks area. I found another Smith's Food & Drug and got some orange juice and cash back.
When checking the maps I had noted that Mc Carran Blvd encircles the Reno-Sparks area, so I followed the eastern leg south across the Truckee River, down past the airport and then around to South Virginia Street, past the Convention Center (the sign said 45 degrees) and then into the parking lot of the Peppermill for a really chintzy breakfast. Admittedly it was "continental," but they had little tiny paper cups with various juices and cups of coffee; the pastries had been cut into small pieces. Most of them were gone by the time I got there, not long after it started. They had to send someone out to the grocery store to buy several boxes of donut holes to feed the people standing in line. It was very poorly planned.
I shared a table with a rider who told me all about the riding he's done on his used 1983 Gold Wing until he finds another bike as good as his 1947 Shovelhead.
As I finished and went outside, it was 10 a.m. and the beginning of the Parade was just leaving the parking lot with full Reno Police Department escort. There were several hundred bikes lined up. I got in line near the end but there were still another fifty to one hundred behind me.
We rode up Virginia Street with RPD blocking most intersections along the way. There were many people pulled over and watching, along with a few confused souls trying to cross the line of motorcycles without success.
As we entered the "closed" area, there were crowds of people standing several deep for about five blocks, many with video and still cameras. Of course there were quite a few pillion passengers also using video and still cameras while riding.
After two loops through the "closed" area, the parade disbanded. I was amused to see that quite a number of the riders had packed and attached their T-Bags and left for home directly from the parade. Others skirted the periphery of the "closed" area and found places to park (red curbs!) on Virginia Street.
I talked for a short while with another San Jose resident who has a States Blue Pearl Road King like mine, but with a Lehman trike conversion. I asked him about his helmet hanger and he gave me some information about where to get the parts.
Later I found a guy with the chrome license plate/tail and brakelight combination and asked if he knew about installation; but it was his dad's bike and the son didn't know anything about fitment. So I'll keep asking.
I ended up sitting on a bench and writing my notes when an older guy commented that he wished he could write things down like that. It turns out that he had only a sixth grade education and doesn't do much reading or writing. Doesn't drive, either. Makes my problems look sort of insignificant by comparison.
I went back into Chrome Alley to pick up a couple more items. I don't know what I'm going to do with a "remove before flight" tag, but now I have one. And I got a few bottles of glasses and plastic cleaner from the Zooke people.
On leaving Virginia Street I detected something rattling under my bike but I could not find anything loose, even though I stopped to look. Since I wasn't far from Reno H-D, I took a chance and went over there to see if someone could help me. As I got into the Service Department, another customer was being given bad news about his bike's problem. I didn't hold much hope that my problem would be fixable today. However, one of the employees came right outside, got down on his hands and knees and looked under the bike, and in two shakes of a lamb's tail had diagnosed it as a slipped jiffy stand bumper, which he pushed back into place and the problem was solved. No more noise. Thanks!
I had not made it over to the Reno Hilton on this trip so I made that short drive and parked right in front. There were only a few dozen bikes there since many of the people had already checked out and left for home.
I found a $2 slot machine that I liked and evidently it liked me because I left with slightly more than when I had started.
I stopped for a newspaper and some grub, then went back to the hotel and watched a little of the Olympics on television and took a nap. (A real wild partier, I am!)
At this point I realized I wasn't going out any more that evening so I went down to the parking garage, locked and covered the bike.
I watched a little 60 Minutes, a little Nature, a little CNN and then took a shower and starting packing things in the T-Bag in preparation for departure the next morning.
Monday, September 25
I was awake two minutes before my alarm would normally go off, got up at 6:30 and turned on the news while I made a few notes and had some juice. I watched the sun come over the hills at 7:07 a.m. and was down to check out at 7:30.
It was another clear, cool morning. It took a little while to uncover and unlock the bike, start it, fold the cover, attach the T-Bag, roll up the cable, etc., but everything went smoothly. I got out the cold-weather gloves and hit the road at 8 o'clock.
It took 10 minutes to get onto Southbound U.S. 395 and I was into Carson City shortly after 8:30 a.m. I had wanted to stop at the Nevada State Railroad Museum sometime during this trip; lucky for me they opened at 8:30, so I stopped, parked the bike in the sun, went inside, made my donation and walked around admiring a lot of old rolling stock, mostly from the Virginia & Truckee Railroad. I need to visit this place again when I have more time.
I continued Southbound on 395 and then turned Westbound on U.S. 50 for the short jaunt over Spooner Summit to Lake Tahoe. There was barely any traffic and even when we had to stop for road work near Zephyr Cove, it didn't take long.
I stopped in South Lake Tahoe for a bagel meal and hot chocolate and then again for gasoline, then continued Westbound on Hy 50, what I call "forty miles through the forest."
In Placerville I stopped at Hangtown Harley-Davidson and was helped by Paul, the General Manager. I "paid my dues" (bought a t-shirt) because I really like their logo on the back. After a quick stop at the AAA office where I got a Placerville street map and was treated very nicely, I was back on the road headed Westbound on Hy 50 and eventually Westbound on Interstate 80.
S.B.S. set in about Davis, so I stopped at a Safeway store in Dixon for some juice and walking around, then continued Westbound on 80 and then Southbound on 680. Another hour later I pulled off at Crow Canyon Road in San Ramon for fuel, then poked down the street a short ways to the new Mc Guire's H-D in San Ramon (they're closed on Mondays) but look like a nice place to visit.
Back in San Jose an hour later, I stopped at the post office and bank before pulling into my driveway at 4:20 p.m. Today's trip was 292 miles in 8 hours, for a total of 796 miles for the entire trip. Not a record in anybody's book but a good start for me.