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Street Vibrations – Getting There

Tuesday, September 23, 2006 --- It was warm and sunny when we (my wife and me) left out home in Sacramento on Saturday morning heading for the Reno Street Vibrations motorcycle event. This was our first out-of-town ride on our new 2006 HD Wide Glide, and we were pumped up as we got on Interstate 80 with the other zillion motorcycles heading for Reno. Sacramento to Reno: From Sacramento to get to Reno, there are two routes available, HWY 50 and Interstate 80. Highway 50 goes through Lake Tahoe, then Carson City, and finally Reno. Most of it is two-lane twisties up through the beautiful forest.

Continuing Hwy 50 east, after Lake Tahoe, there’s a few more miles of twisties around to the east side of the lake (beautiful scenery if you can look) and then down the backside of the Sierras to Carson City on the valley floor. From Carson City, it is about forty miles of open freeway to Reno. South Lake Tahoe. Don’t get too excited about sport bike fun because on the weekends there is a lot of slow traffic on this route and 50 mph runs are few and far between. Weekdays are pretty wide open and your speed is between you, your skill level, and the CHP (California Highway Patrol).

We chose the other route Interstate 80 which is a freeway through the mountains with two or three lanes in each direction all the way. It has gradual Freeway style turns rarely slowing down to 55 but you need to really watch for slow trucks grinding up the mountain grade. It’s about 60 miles up the mountain to the top neat Truckee, CA, and then about forty miles down the backside of the Sierras to the valley floor and Reno.

Sierra Nevada Mountains: Sacramento is 20 ft above sea level. Truckee is 6,800 ft and Reno is 4,800 ft so there are some significant elevation changes. This means that there are some significant weather changes along the way. I plan on finding out if HD’s EFI closed-loop system on this 2006 Wide Glide is all it’s cracked up to be.

My wife chose long johns and chaps while I stuck with Levis saying, “Hey, if it gets cold on top of the mountain, it’ll only be cold for an hour or so. I can stand the cold for an hour or so” spoken in typical guy logic.

I won’t leave you in suspense, yes the HD EFI worked like a charm and yes, my wife was well prepared while I froze my butt off for most of the ride to Reno. We stopped at the rest stop on top of Donner Summit. Do you remember the Donner party? Reduced to cannibalism while trying to survive a brutal winter on top of these Sierra Mountains, well we were not close to cannibalism, but I did place chaps on my “must buy” list when we got to Street Vibrations.

The Ride: Leaving Sacramento and into the first twenty miles of the ride, we changed our regular riding style. Usually, we are the 65 mph riders just bumping along in the traffic taking the good with the bad. We are “old fart” safe and conservative but not yet Royal Glide or Goldwing ready. As the driver, I like the Dyna handling which to me is the quick and nimble Harley. I always try to be ready to adapt to the rod conditions, so today, I changed my style to match the conditions.

Today’s conditions were hundreds of motorcyclists all heading to Reno just like us. Like moths drawn to the light, we watched as dozens of bikes in fast lane packs passed us at 75 or 80 mph. There were so many of them that the cars were pulling over into the slow lanes to let them go by. It must be crowd mentality or it’s just driver confusion, I don’t know which, but result was the vehicle traffic was parting like the Red Sea to let the bikers take over the fast lane. Sure, there was the occasional car-phone SUV driver, oblivious (as usual), creating a moving roadblock but by and large, the cars were keeping the road open.

I could see that it was time to get out into the fast lane and run with the big dogs. (Not the motorcycle “Big Dogs”, but never-the-less big dogs to me).

The Wide Glide was running strong so into the fast lane and I cranked it up as I merged into an open spot in the next pack. We spend the next two hours in high-speed “meet and greet” riding on the way over the mountain and into Reno Street Vibrations.

During this ride over the mountain, we saw just about every kind of rider and machine you can imagine, mostly HD sprinkled with a few sport bikes and the occasional Goldwing independent. Bikers and motorcyclists, T-Shirts and full leathers, skid lids and full-faced, Hells Angles and Bikers for Christ, singles, and two-up, loud pipes and stock pipes, packed for cross country travel (kitchen sink) and not packed for anything but Testosterone (AKA Big Dogs).

All of this really got my juices going and I realized that my wife and I had happened into something special today.

I always love riding and I riding together with my wife. You know the thrill of the open road and all of that stuff you can read in any motorcycle advertisement. All that works for me but being together with all these riders, on the same road, at the same time, heading up the mountain, moved the riding thrill up to the next level.

I was riding along thinking that I had missed Woodstock (I was in the Army) and I have never been a deadhead (Jerry Garcia, doesn’t he make ties?) and I don’t even want to go to Lollapalooza (whatever the hell that is). I realize that I will probably continue spending most of my day-to-day life doing all those mundane things like work and paying down a mortgage. But today I have stumbled into an extraordinary experience. Today, I started out going on a ride and somewhere in the last twenty miles, we became the ride itself.

This wasn’t some organized poker run; turn here, stop there, but a real-time merging of a motorcycle lifestyle. The only thing organizing this ride was Street Vibrations drawing in riders from every direction. Riders surrounded me. Every rider was just out basking in their love of their machine and the open road. I was really moved by the realization that I was one of them.

Oh yes, Street Vibrations was its usual celebration of the American motorcycle, great bikes, great people-watching, great partying, some great gambling. But to use a well-worn phrase, Street Vibrations was not so much about the destination but about getting there.