Mono Lake, CA
June 11 - 12, 2011
Bike: 2006 BMW R1200GS Adventure (aka "Gretel")
Camera: Canon G11

Ryan and I were talking about a weekend trip.. First one of the year - and trying to decide where to go. Weaverville was an option.. Lots of great riding up there in the Trinity Alps. I suggested Mono Lake, as neither of us have been there and it looked like it could be a beautiful ride, up thru the Sierras. I poked around online and booked us a motel room for the night in Lee Vining and then planned our route - I thought we could take State Route 108 up through the Sonora Pass and then down into the Mono Lake area.

click to enlarge

I checked weather reports for several of the towns we'd pass thru and looked like it was going to be in mid to upper 60's the whole weekend, so we were good to go! I figured we could take Hwy 120 back, which runs up along the north side of Yosemite.

We left the bay area about noon and set off. On SR 49 right outside of Angels Camp there is a campground recreation area called "Glory Hole Rec Area". We almost died laughing when we saw the sign, so we had to turn around and go back for a picture.

For those of you who don't understand the humor in this, do a search online.

We got back on our bikes and took off up SR 108. It got noticeably cooler the higher we got, of course..Up thru Confidence, Mi-Wuk Village and higher into the Sierras.



There was some really nice views and not alot of people on the road, so we got to stop quite a bit to take some pictures.

Pretty soon we saw some snow. The road was clear, obviously, but the snow along the side of the road got deeper and deeper and we slowed down quite a bit because there was alot of runoff on the road. Pretty soon the road got more narrow and then it got cold - down to 48 degrees at the highest elevation..

The snow was about 10 feet high now, and it was like we were going thru a tunnel. My brain was getting a little confused... "OK.. we're on our motorcycles.. It's 48 degrees and there is tons of snow all around us.. There are snowmobilers out having fun.. We ride by them.. Something is not right".

Surreal is the only word I can think of to describe it. When we stopped to take some more pictures, I told Ryan that it was very dreamlike for me to be riding thru that last section. But in a good way.

After we saddled back up, we made a bee-line for Lee Vining, as we had to get to the hotel to check-in before 8PM and we were both getting hungry and starting to get a little tired. SR 108 ended and we were on 385. It was chilly and there was lots of farmland and cattle everywhere around us as we rode on.. We came to a town called Bridgeport and as we rolled through, I thought that next time we ride this way, I'd like to spend the night here.. It's a really beautiful little town.

385 into Lee Vining was pretty uneventful.. We pulled into the Murphey Motel about 7:15 or so and got checked in. Murphey's Motel is clean, basic accomodations. I was surprised by the beds, as they seemed new and had a layer of memory foam on top, which I just loved. Ryan wasn't so enthusiastic about it, however.

Below is a panoramic photo taken with my iphone using the Microsoft Photosynth app. Pretty cool.


The toilet situation in our room was REALLY bizarre:

It was about 3 inches from the wall. Unless you're 5 years old, there is no chance in hell of taking a dump in there while sitting on it straight. Side-saddle was the only way! LOL!

We had a good laugh and headed half a block to Nicely's restaurant for some dinner. Their homeade chili was AWESOME! So good, in fact, that Ryan had a 2nd bowl!

After dinner we went back to the room and hung out.. Ryan fired up NetFlix on his laptop and we watched "Cycles South", a 1971 documentary about 3 friends who get on their motorcycles in Colorado and ride to Panama, chasing women, getting drunk and acting like complete morons. It was great fun capping on it!


I woke up about 5:15 and got up and took a pee and got back in bed and started looking at my email, etc. on my iPhone. Ryan woke up and we started talking about the day's agenda. We knew that SR 120 was closed, so we looked on a map and decided that it would be fun to take SR 89 to 4 and over Ebbett's Pass for the journey home.

I showered and then we walked over to Nicely's for breakfast, which wasn't as good as the meal the night before. Oh well.. Can't win 'em all.

We ran into some other motorcyclists at the hotel on the way back and chatted with them for awhile, which was great fun. Both guys were retired and meet up with other riders into "thumpers" (single cylinder motorbikes) all over the country. We said goodbye to them and headed up to the room, where Ryan showered and I got my bike all packed up and ready to go.

We left about 10AM and headed to the Mono Lake information center where we snapped off a few pics before hitting the road.

We both commented that the sun was very intense and we were both starting to roast, so we hit the road and headed up 395, but instead of turning inland on 89, we drove up to Topaz Lake, which is right across the California/Nevada border. We topped off our tanks ($4 per gallon vs $5 per gallon in Lee Vining) and then went back down 395 and got onto SR 89.

SR 89 to 4 is twisty and smooth, as most of it is new blacktop. Ryan took the lead and I brought up the rear, trying to see as much as I could between the twists and turns. We saw lots of bicyclists on this part of the trip, which I thought was unusual.

We only got off the bikes a couple of times to take pictures, but they were pretty spectacular.

We headed back to the SF Bay area on Hwy 4 all the way into Walnut Creek, where we stopped one last time, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

Conclusions, Notes, etc.

This was a really nice weekend trip that I would do again in a heartbeat. Of course, later in the year when SR 120 is open, there are majestic views of the Yosemite valley from 120, which is really awesome.

Day 1 - 241 miles
Day 2 - 295 miles

MPG: 40.5

This was the first trip that I used my SPOT Satellite Messenger. While we were riding, I had it on "Tracking Mode" which sends our location to my account on the SPOT system every 10 minutes. . Below are a couple of maps that show where we went


Here are a couple of videos I took along the way: