Last Minute Ride to Yosemite Photo Gallery

Story By Joe McKimmy • Photos by Jeff Allen

Joe McKimmy: "I'm thinking about riding somewhere this weekend."

Jeff Allen: "Me too!"

JM:"I'm thinking of riding to Utah in the dirt."

JA: "Nah, let's go to Yosemite! I have never been."

JM: "Me neither, I'm in."

My last two motorcycle trips have started this way and they have been some of my best rides ever. With the plans hastily arranged we had very little prep to do on the Dirt Rider BMW GS1200 Adventure and the Cycle World KTM 1190 Adventure, other than scrounging for some tires in the shop. I was getting a little desperate in my search and tried fitting some super narrow tires to see if they would work. Not a chance! The side walls were sticking out past the tread and riding on the street with these would be super sketchy. Lucky Jeff was able to find some slightly used Continental TKC80's that would work perfectly. We threw a few sets of clothes in our bags and we were set. Where they clean? Who knows? Did it matter? Not even.

We didn't really have a set route planned for the trip other than a general direction. For personal reasons, I was trying to persuade Jeff into a more dirt-oriented, technical ride along the way. This was mainly because Jeff is extremely good rider on the streets and I didn't want to have to white-knuckle the entire trip trying to keep up with him. More dirt it would even the playing field a little. We picked our routes along the way trying to find the areas we had never been to explore. This worked for a while but is very time consuming. Knowing we were running out of daylight we had to choose a faster route and just get there. However we did choose a route that ran us through area of the Old Greenhorn Enduro ( I am not totally certain but it was probably one of the first hard enduros ever and I was pretty stoked to ride this area because I have read about the Green Horn Enduro for years. I just envisioned guy’s like Bud Edkins hammering through these woods on bikes with virtually no suspension. Not to mention dealing with the elements and how close the trail ran to the edge of the cliffs. For me it was a lot less about hammering and more like riding a bull on a tightrope. I am pretty new to riding these big Adventure bikes and riding dry slippery conditions on a BMW was a steep learning curve for me. I have a hard time judging traction and stopping distance since I feel very little feedback from the bike so I am little cautious. However the smooth, controlled power of the beemer sets you at ease a little. After some fun trails and a few misguided directions from the GPS we made our way through Greenhorn Mountain and booked it up to Oakhurst before it got too late.

Before blazing back to the highway we happen to see a sign that read Trail of the 100 Giants. “With a name like that it really has to be impressive,” I thought to myself. Impressive it was! This was probably one of the most amazing things I have seen on this planet. Experiencing the Giant Sequoia trees for your first time, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. When you realize that some of these trees have been here for 3,000 years it makes it even more impressive. After admiring and snapping a few photos we saddled back up and trekked on.

For the next section of long, straight road I swapped my earplugs for ear buds to give me a little mental break. However if you have a teenager in the house that shares their music on the same iTtunes as yours, you might come across some unexpected music on your selected playlist. At this very moment, it didn’t have any ill affects yet earlier when I was changing tires in the shop with my riding buddy, that was a different story. Lets just say there were a few sideways glances and tilted eyebrows. These are the thoughts running through my head as we make our way north that just make me chuckle in my helmet.

We had planned to grab some cigars and brews at a near by store that we could kick back and enjoy after dinner. But our previous wandering left us behind schedule and my riding partner was loosing patience with the slow moving cars on the road.  Watching Jeff navigate ahead of me I could see he was getting antsy with his twitching to pass cars as they lined up in front of us. I could practically see the steam coming out of the helmet at one point. The smoke shop was closed and the hotel was almost a capacity so the prices were higher than we expected. However, we did find a nice brew house walking distance, had a great dinner and a bunch of IPA's, and swapped few stories about the awesome ride we just had to make up for it. I think the best moment of the night came on the walk back to the motel when we saw a group of deer close to the road and Jeff was trying to call them closer with a nic nic call like a cat! Seriously Jeff? He certainly is a city boy for sure.

We had plans of getting up early the next day to grab some sunrise photos but, honestly, that didn’t happen. The night before, in our post-ride high, we may have enjoyed just a few too many libations, making early rising out of the question. But we did come up with great ideas on how to make our jobs more profitable and better places to work, however, we had forgotten to write all this down before the booze wore off we couldn’t remember any of it. Oh well, we still had Yosemite to look forward too.

So, in the late morning we made our way into the park with the rest of the tourist trying to take everything in with the lens of a camera. Jeff said it best, “I just can’t capture this in the camera,” referring to the amazing views from within the floor of the valley of Yosemite. It was such an odd thing to hear from a professional photographer like Jeff. But he was right. It’s hard to capture the experience of visiting a place like Yosemite on a motorcycle. Feeling the cool air, the smells and the 360 view you have... A pretty amazing place. We proceeded through the park and back towards Oakhurst going a different route on the way back. It is an great feeling encountering awesome twisty roads and cruising though great little towns like Groveland that you would never know were there if you didn’t do trips like this.

The day had a different start than the previous, but ended at the same brew house from the night before. This night we met an interesting young couple from Switzerland that had quit their jobs and have been traveling since the beginning of the year seeing amazing places all over the world. This really made me think that our little trip was nothing in comparison. But nevertheless I was enjoying it all the same.

After several minutes debating the best path to take on the way home to avoid hitting the same trails and getting back at a decent hour, we decided to make a complete direction change and head to the coast and maybe meet up with a friend of Jeff's along the way. What a great plan this turned out to be. Riding from the mountains to the sea is a great way to kill the feeling of going back home. We ended up in San Luis Obispo and hit a bunch more of fun twisty roads and stopped at some cool little towns before finishing up in Santa Monica to take a quick sunset photo and go our separate ways.

This trip was such a last minute, unexpected, fun trip that I would encourage anyone to ditch the typical weekend chores, grab a buddy with just as much spontaneity as you, get a little lost, and let your motorcycle take you someplace you’ve never been before. When it comes right down to it, isn’t that what it’s really all about.