We had been riding in a new area near Gorman, but on the east side of the I-5 freeway which is also known at the “old” grapevine Hwy. in the Los Padres National Forest. The distance from home in Harbor City was only 99 miles. Randy Martin and I went for three days and nights (“dirt bagging it”) in May of 1993.
We need to describe the ride we were fortunate enough to survive! We left camp at 9:30 with a really “tits” official trail map. The first trail we rode, however, was naturally not on the map, and this turned out to be the first of many tactical blunders yet to befall us. The trail was really a really narrow side hiller for almost three miles to the bottom of a canyon with a big stream running through the middle of it. When we got to the bottom, the trail washed out due to the latest rain. We saw some old ribbon that looked like it might have been from some old enduro. We later found out that this was wrong; it was from a bunch of horseback riders. Thinking we were on a fairly recently-used enduro trail, we continued and crossed the stream about a million times and were successful in traveling about ½ mile in four hours. At that four hour point, we were almost out of beer and always thirsty…so thirsty, we started drinking the cow turd, bug-invested stream water using empty beer cans for cups while contemplating just how we were going to haul our sorry butts out of that stupid canyon. (Note: We always bring cans back to camp.)
We were putting along, bashing and crashing over log, rocks, yucca trees and all kinds of terrible stuff, when Willie got stuck in this big pile of leaves. With his short legs, he had a hard time starting his bike. Willie took off his helmet and found a big rock to get one foot to stand on. After a couple of kicks, the bike started and Willie had to gas it to get off the pile of leaves. This was not a good idea. Underneath that pile of leaves was the biggest red ant resort and spa west of Watts. So at that juncture, about a gazillion ants with attitudes went flying straight up into the air and com snarling, biting, and chewing on the top of Willie’s now uncovered melon and down his shirt.
On the way back up, blunder #2 was made by missing a turn where we had by-passed a washed-out section. Here we were with a trail that was narrower than the motorcycles. We can’t back up, (ever try to steer a bike backwards?), so we found ourselves needing is to dig a cave into the side of the cliff so we can push the bikes into it enough to turn the suckers around and go back the way we came….a distance of 50 yards. This “engineering feat” to about 2 hours!!!
We started back up the sidehiller, but we were so wasted we kept messing up and almost going over the cliff. Therefore, we walked the bikes a lot. Every time there was a switchback, we had to get off and push the bikes around the switchback which was, naturally, always uphill. After these bits of efforts, we had to stop and wait for our “pump rates” to get below 540.
Blunder #3 was committed when Randy finds a place wide enough where he’s not to paranoid to ride. Unfortunately, a humongous rock whacks the skid plate and highsides Randy’s hummingbird butt over the bars and over the cliff. His flight was a basic free fall for about 40 feet, but fortunately, he landed in soft shale. All he lost was about 700 square inches of skin and all he now has to worry about his is 250 lb. bike.
One wouldn’t believe it, but the bike ended up on its left side leaning on some kind of bush to keep the bike from tumbling over. The bike sort of hung smoking and dripping all kinds of explosive stuff into the virgin forest. Randy was crawling back up to the trail with me cheering him on.
ARRGH!!!; this was now a totally hosed situation. By laying down on the trail, we could just reach the front and rear wheels with one hand. Somehow, we got the bike wheels back on the trail, but the bike was hanging out in space. So we slithered over the side like a couple of snakes and manage to get the bike standing against the wall. After a 30 minute cardiac arrest break, we literally pushed on. The last major obstacle was a really soft and rocky 30 degree uphill which we followed by pushing up two feet at a time (x 2 bikes) until we got to the top. This took an hour and a half. At that time, it was darker than a well digger’s ass. NOTE!!!: Our bikes were running (idling) almost all the time. I was working the clutch and throttle; Randy was behind steadying the bike and also pushing.
We rested again for a long time. Again, started the bikes, ride (yes ride) around a corner. Randy waits for Willie. Willie saw headlights coming. Now it’s Willie’s time to blunder. Willie did not make the corner; Willie bailed off!!! Willie’s bike stops just hanging over a cliff in a pine tree. With sweat, Willie hauled the bike back on the trail. We took off again. Two more stream crossings and we are back in the forest on a semi-wide trail. Of course we couldn’t see since the dork that designed the Honda headlight has it pointing so you can see your front fender really well, but the rest of the trail is blacker than the ace of spades. Bitchin! At this point, the troops are totally pissed off, so we just gassed through the trees and weeds, killing or maiming any nocturnal critters unfortunate enough to get in the way. We finally reached the fireroad and promptly stop and give ourselves a double high five!!
We got back to camp at 11:30 PM. The next day, we rode 10 miles on a road. That was it for Friday. On Saturday we found really neat trails and rode about 40 miles. We went home on Sunday morning. Randy ended up with 200 blisters on his feet (his boots were not made for walking) and he did not wear shoes for two weeks! Willie survived; he learned a lesson: Do not go down into a totally unknown canyon!
Willie Hockie 2/20/06