Grumbler's note: It was during the 70s when Jack and I happened to own
Triumph Bonnevilles. During this trip, mine was a black '72 T120R while his
was the '73 T140RV. One of our longest rides was up to Lassen NP.
First Day: My coworkers who are gathered around us had mixed expressions
of envy and skepticism as we're warming up our Bonnys with our packs and
sleeping bags tied down to our bikes behind us.
Most of the guys I worked with have dirt/trail bikes for their Saturday
afternoon "Weekend Warriors" rides in the hills of Santa Cruz Mountain.
I used to ride with them, one or two winters ago, on my '59 Bonneville
flat tracker with GP cams. I had to admit that we did have fun slinging
Our Bonnys were up and down for upgrades, maintenance and preparations
during early spring... Now, August has come and almost gone.
Sheesh! We've been trying to go on this run with our two weeks paid
vacation that was promised to us since the beginning of summer. Business
was thriving and we're swamped with extra work, our bosses wouldn't let us
go till now. If it wasn't for the weekends overnighter runs we would have
Destination: Lassen National Park, Reno, Carson City and Lake Tahoe. Hmmm...
I wouldn't mind trying my luck on the Blackjack or Poker tables in Nevada.
Return trip: Spit in the palm for a day or two in the Sierras. We had
plenty of time to explore the CA/NV border.
We both had installed "Kerker's Two into One" exhaust systems, did some
serious rejetting in the carbs and ignition work last winter. The bikes
had increased in mid/top end performance but our Bonnies lost some bottom
It was a fair trade off since I've added two teeth in my drive sprocket
when the warranty ran out on my Bonny. Originally, I wanted to drop one
tooth, from 20T to a 19T on the counter-shaft sprocket but then I would
have to R&R my clutch pack and 5-speed tranny to change the sprocket.
My drive chain had to have "half-links" due to the longer drive chain.
Not so good. "YA get what you pay for." Right. Hey! Give me a break!
With our navy watch-caps on and secured with our goggles. We pulled our
clutches in, clicked in first, eased the clutches out while twisting the
throttles a hair, and headed out onto North Branciforte Dr. We had still
practiced our freedom of choice of not wearing helmets.
As our bikes straighten out, I gave a "Good-bye Wave" by popping a wheelie
in second gear for about 100 feet or so. It was easy to do with all the
added weight packed behind me.
Eventually I would master the "Wheelies" without the extra weight in back
and stay up as long as I keep shifting up the gears during maximum
torque/HP range. But that's another story to tell.
Soon, we're cruising north on #17 with the city limits disappearing behind
us. It was widely known that, this stretch of highway was infested with the
"State Boys" during the rush hours.
Every "work week" there were always bumper to bumper traffic moving at a
snail pace headed northbound to San Jose in the mornings then it would
reverse in the evenings.
During the tourist season it's worse. The people from the "Over the Hill"
would spill over the Santa Cruz/San Jose pass to spend their hard-earned
money on the Boardwalk and to cop some rays on the pristine beaches.
It wasn't difficult to pass cars quickly then slide back behind others as
long as that there wasn't a "Smokey" in line of sight and at our back door.
By mid morning the traffic thinned out. None of this weaving in and out
was needed anymore.
The 2 into 1 mufflers had a gradual upswept angle towards the back of the
bikes on the right side of our Bonny's. That was a plus if one wanted to
bank further than the stock duals without scraping the chrome or brackets
off. The left bank was free from any exhaust plumbing. At times we would
burn the ends of the footpeg rubbers off when we banked to the extremes.
Every other month I would replace the footpeg rubbers with new ones.
The center stand had to be removed to install the 2 into 1. We've already
ditched them before. They tend to slam up and down of the bottom of the
frame as we're roller coasting the steep bumps and dips on the highways.
Also, when the shocks were compressed it had improved our bankings on
the curves. Heck! Every little bit helps.
We were abreast of each other when we connected on I-680 then I-80
towards Sacramento. That's when we noticed that our 2 into 1's had
a medium to high pitched resonating exhaust sounds as we rode side
But, Ahh! I did missed the distinctive tones from the stock mufflers.
While on I-80, our rear muffler brackets kept getting loose, either you or
I had to pull over to tighten our securing nuts and bolts or readjust the
brackets every other 20 miles or so. It was very time-consuming and
About an hour and half later we found ourselves at a "Truck/Cafe Stop"
on I-80 just before Sacramento, had lunch, gassed up and did a visual
check our bikes.
I noticed that my securing nut and bolts of the muffler bracket(s) were
gone. The muffler was hanging on with just the rinky dink front brackets
on the frame and at the exhaust headers clamps. "Uffda!" As my ancestors
would have said.
Riding bikes takes some mechanical application, a half way decent tool kit,
hardware and "elbow grease". One is expected to do repairs from time to
time. Especially when one did "aftermarket custom" work or changes on the
We've already wasted a couple of hours or so on the mufflers. Heck! That's
life... We weren't in a hurry but we would rather be riding than twisting
nuts and bolts. Right!
After scrounging around in my tool bag, found some spare hardware, twisted
nuts and bolts, we were back on the freeway and took a freeway loop to
bypass the Sacramento business center and found ourselves on US #99 then
onto #70, Feather River Highway, towards Oroville.
Gawd! It felt so good to ride without stopping for repairs. Our mufflers
brackets seems to take hold as we clicked on the miles and climbing higher
into the foothills.
By sunset we arrived at Oroville... We had planned to reach Lassen Natl.
Park on our first day. But, No! We had "fun" wasting time on twisting nuts
and bolts today.
We decided to make camp on a hill overlooking the "Oroville Dam Project".
There were abandoned ranch houses, buildings, barns, etc, at the floor of
the valley below us. I thought to myself will they still be there when the
dam fills up? Hmmmm...
We had to keep a low profile on the hill because it was privately owned.
We were surrounded by occupied ranch houses at a distance of a half mile.
Therefore, no camp fire to draw unwanted attention.
I had my trusty old GI Korean War single gasoline camp stove to cook our
supper... You guessed it... Our usual, canned beans and hot-dogs, warm
water from our canteens, and this time we topped it off with "Twinkies"
We're dogged tired and our asses were still buzzing from freeway flying
all day. The intense vibration from the Triumph's bench seats would seep
through to our tail bones between 65-70 mph. We really couldn't
reposition ourselves as we've had packs and sleeping bags behind us.
Needless to say, after supper we crashed in our sleeping bags. Sleep is
good, almost as good as riding.
Second day: Early morning, we checked the fluids in the bikes or we would
have to take the packs and sleeping bags off later in the day's ride to
check the engine oil level. One bad design of the bike if one had to carry
a pack and sleeping bag. Heck! Triumph were designed as "Sport bikes."
"Oh, hell!" My muffler was hanging close to the ground again. This time
the nuts and bolts rounded out the factory welded slotted bar that were
welded on muffler. Therefore no way to secure the bracket to the muffler.
Yours was loose but soon it'll end up like mine.
I had used some old rusty wire that we found nearby or from our tool bags
and temporarily wired my muffler up. So we can ride to a hardware store
and figure out what will remedy our problem.
We spent most of the early morn installing/retrofitting plumber's tape to
secure the mufflers on our bikes. Not as pretty as the chrome job. BUT!
"Chrome don't bring you home." Right!
I really don't remember if we had ate "brunch" or not by the time we
finished our handiwork. But I'll tell you, we're outta there and flying up
the Feather River Highway towards #89 trying to make up for lost time.
We would stop briefly to check on our mufflers after a few miles. Then
later on we would eyeballed each others mufflers as we ride side by side to
make sure they weren't loose. It's a "GO!"
Mucho miles later and just passed a 5,000 ft elevation marker, we stopped
at a road side rest stop with facilities. After tending to our "needs" we
sat down at one of picnic tables near the cliffs and had a "smoke break."
We're sight seeing the valley below southwest of us and the steep canyon
walls to the east. Breath taking view... But the ride was much better!
After we loosen up our joints and expanded our minds we roared up the #70,
soon connecting to #89. That's when I noticed that I'm losing power in
fifth gear. Down shift one... Fourth gear is my main cruise as we
ventured higher into the mountains.
I had expected that due to the fat jets in my carbs. They work fine at
"Sea Level" but after 5,000+ ft then they'll be richer. Your Bonny seems
to take the "climb" a bit better than mine. I had to downshift earlier or
stay in gear longer to keep up with you.
After riding through series of steep bends and curves for couple hours we
saw snow on the road banks from the last winter snow plows and upon the
north side of the slopes. Heck! It was getting a lot colder and we must
be reaching crest soon. Lassen Peak is tad over 10,000 ft if my memory
serves me correct.
We motored into the one of park camp grounds, found a camp site and quickly
scrounged around for firewood. Since it was a Tuesday most of the weekend
campers were gone and we were able to find some "left behinds" of partial
burnt logs, some kindling and "what nots" at other camp sites. The Rangers
don't think to kindly of us if we tried chopping down trees.
We had a decent fire going. We had enough firewood that'll last two or
three more hours. A dude rode into the park on a Honda CB350 with his
pack strapped on his bike. We invited him to share our campsite and fire.
He was most grateful and wanted to share his grub in return.
As we were eating our supper while sitting on our sleeping bags near the
warm campfire "Honda" would talk our ears off about how he didn't need
anything bigger than a 350 CC on this trip.
A real jerk! But we kept our mouths shut and let him rant and rave about
the money that he'd saved by getting his "beloved" Honda. Then he compared
our camp gear and said we wasted good money on them. By that time, I was
seeing red and went into a "self preservation shut down mode."
After hearing an ear full of his BS all evening I decided to turn in. The
camp fire was dying, we added the last of the wood... I moved my sleeping
bag as much as I dared toward the campfire and snuggled into my bag.
"Honda" and you were still up but I can see that you were ready to crash as
I was zipping my bag over my head...
I woke up in the middle of the night, crawled out my ever so warm
"5 LB Coleman" sleeping bag and went to an outhouse. The dude was
not in his sleeping bag when I returned. I then hurried back to my
bag. Dang it! I was freezing as I slipped back into my Coleman bag.
Soon, I was warm.
Dude returned with some wood to put in the smoldering camp fire. He was
fanning and blowing on the coals trying to restart the fire but he failed
miserably and crawled back into his "money saving" sleeping bag.
I can see that his bag shaking something fierce as I slowly zipped the top
of my bag over my head. HEH, HEH.
Third day: We broke camp real early. Our Bonnys wouldn't kick over. Oil
was thicker than molasses. After the several "switched off" cranks the oil
in our crankcase loosen up. Honda was stirring in his sleeping bag but
didn't say anything.
We had to keep the bikes running way above idle almost racing just to keep
them from stalling. With all the noise we made and roared out of the
campsite, the dude was still in his bag.
We passed another elevation marker as we left the campground stating it was
7,000 ft level and we're still climbing. Right away, I noticed my bike had
lost a lot power and black smoke was billowing out of our exhausts.
I couldn't stay in fourth or I would go below my 3,000 RPM torque range.
I'd downshifted to third then powered it up to 6500 rpm and shift back up
to fourth again. Slowly I would lose rpm back to 3,000 in fourth again. I
would repeat this for several miles. Must be the combination of fat jets
and high elevation... Wished I had brought my smaller jets along. But
then, I wouldn't need them cause we'll be going down soon.
My left bank started missing and shortly afterwards I was running on one
bank. We pulled over and checked the plugs and they were gas fouled to the
max. After seeing mine, you pulled yours, they were black and sooty. We
replaced them with one range hotter plugs which we just so happened to have
in our tool bag.
We're back on the road! "Happy days are here again." (It's that same dang
A few miles before we crested the pass, a Buck and a doe jumped in front of
us on the highway. We had plenty of time to slow down and let them decide
which way to escape. Skittish animals aren't they? Especially when two
noise makers like us barreling up the road towards them.
We stopped at Old Station/Cafe on #89/#44 junction to have breakfast,
hot coffee and warmed up from our freezing early morning ride over the
pass. I couldn't believe it could get that cold in August.
It was getting warmer as we descended down the eastern slopes. The
elevation was tapering off about 4,500 ft level as we're heading towards
Susanville on #44. Seems that we're on a plateau. The bikes were running
top notched and with plenty of power to spare.
After ten miles or so we pulled off to the side of the highway, drove onto
a forest road a bit and had a "smoke break." A lumber truck rumbled by and
gave us a friendly "toot" as we waved back. We wondered if he knew?
Heck! We didn't care and we continued enjoying the scenery.
We've must have taken our sweet time to get to Susanville cause we arrived
just in time for lunch at Dairy Queen. (Hmmm... I wonder why?) We stuffed
our faces and still looking for more to eat. Must have been the "High".
Then we went out a Honda Dealership, checked out their show room floor,
bought some NGK spark plugs, installed them in our bikes and put our
hotter plugs back in our tool bags.
As we would all say, we farted around some more and soaked up more of the
country life. "Yeah, right!" Enough of this... We looked over to our Bonnys
and said... "Let's Ride!"
We rumbled out of town but keeping an eye on the city speed limit. No need
to delay our departure by getting pulled over. The "locals" were smiling
as we're leaving... I couldn't tell if it's the hospitality or they're just
glad to see us leave... HA! HA!
On #395 heading towards Reno, the barren mountain range was on our right
and there was a dry lake to our left that had spanned for miles along the
To break the boredom we twisted our throttles, blasted by 70 mph, reached
100 mph, held it for several seconds, eased back to 80 mph and held it
there till we reached CA/NV border about an hour later.
We slowed down to the posted speed limit as we crossed the line. A few
clicks later NV State Trooper flashed us over. What the f...!
We killed our motors, swung our kick stands out and got off our bikes as
the "Trooper" walked slowly towards us. We go through the rituals of
handing over our M/C licenses, registrations, call in for any outstanding
warrants that we've might have, then hands back our licenses.
He took his aviation sun glasses off, eyeballed from you to me and said,
"No helmet, no ride."
"Huh?" we replied.
"State of Nevada has helmet laws."
"But sir, all we planned is to go to Reno then head to Truckee, CA."
"Not without helmets, best you turn back and 'do' have a safe ride."
Hmmm... Change of plans... We yanked out the road map as his cruiser
pulled out, passed us slowly, drove a little ways and made a U-turn and
parked on the other side of the highway, waiting for us to make a decision.
Seeing this, we decided to get the hell out of here before he loses his
"good manners." We high tailed it while he followed us as far as the
border. "Trooper" dropped back and made a U-turn and settled back to
where he first spotted us.
We ended up at Hallelujah Junction a few miles back. Had some cold ones
while we're remapping our route. After several corrections, we yelled, "We
have a plan!"
Our gas tanks topped off and we blasted out of the junction headed south on
#49 to Randolph then connected to #89 to Truckee and Tahoe City.
That route, mostly paved, had tight bends, some hair pins and we seemed to
be right at "home" with the Bonnys between our legs. There were more than
plenty of S- curves, 50-60 miles worth. Took us better than an hour and a
half to travel that route. Of course we stopped for "breaks" from time to
I should thank the "Nevada Finest" for redirecting our course or we would
have never found this stretch... Hmmmm.... Fate?
Our bods were weary and sore from all the day ride today. It felt so good
to lie down on my bed in our motel room in Tahoe City. A short nap was
very inviting and off to "La-La land."
We cleaned up and went to dinner at a nearby restaurant. We actually had
sat down at a table and ordered full dinner specials.
Later, I inquired at the front desk about if there were any bus service to
any of the casinos on the NV side of Lake Tahoe. Seems that we've "missed
the bus" but they could call a taxi for us... "Nah... I'll pass on that."
After discussing our options we decided to ride back our rooms and get a
good night sleep for our last day ride... That's what this is all about...
"It's the Ride not the Destination." Right!
Fourth day: My bones and muscles were like petrified wood when the morning
sun was filtering through the drawn curtains. I slowly rose from the "Dead"
then dragged myself to the curtains and took a peek outside to see if our
bikes were intact... "Yep."
I made a pit stop at the bathroom and went back to my bed. A bit later,
you got up and went to the door and opened and looked out and closed it.
Then you made a bee line back to your bed. Without question, we wanted to
sleep more than to ride.
We checked out around 11 AM and had a quick breakfast, of course junk food
at 7-11. Motored out of Tahoe City, got back on #80, passed Truckee and
now headed west towards Sacramento.
As we flew down the slopes, I could see the smog in the valley. Hmmm...
"Back to the cesspool." I said. About 90 minutes later we made a pit stop
about 10-15 miles east of "Sac." Traffic was congested but clipping at 60+
Another hour of riding we left I-80, connected to I-680 headed for
Fremont/San Jose. We're weaving in and out through the traffic jams during
the rush hour, again.
Tired, my eyes burning and wouldn't stop tearing from the merciless thick
smog. We made another pit stop in San Jose and headed for highway #17.
We then broke free from the "wolf packs" as we motored by Los Gatos
headed up the "Hill." At last! Escape from the "Big Cities" and
headed for smog free city of Santa Cruz.
We encountered a Jag as we approached Mt. Herman Rd and raced him to
Scotts Valley. Kind of gave us a charge when we arrived home.
We felt good that we made fantastic time from Tahoe City to Santa Cruz. We
rode about 260 miles worth that afternoon. In spite of the rush hour
traffic and "wolf packs" we still made it in less than 5 hours.
Overall, we had rode 800+ miles in 4 days and 3 nights.
Home sweet Home! We took our packs and bags off the bikes and cleaned
ourselves up. We're starving and the night was still young... You betcha!
We rode our Bonnys to Denny's, probably ordered Chicken Fried Steak Dinners
and discussed options for our next run... We're picking up our weekly
payola at work tomorrow and still have another week of vacation left.
"Die Hards" aren't we? HEH, HEH.