Challenging roads, scenic
make for ‘fun-tastic’ time
Bikers on GSR 2013 take a breather at 9,200 feet on Sherman Peak in the Sierra Nevada mountains. California’s tallest peak at 14,500 feet, Mt. Whitney is visible 40 miles away. Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.
PERHAPS BECAUSE IT IS vastly overshadowed by its world-famous cousin the Sequoia National Monument to the north, the lower reaches of California’s spectacular Kern River are somewhat less well known.
The river, which winds its way 165 miles southwards and is fed by snowmelt from California’s tallest peak, Mt. Whitney, empties into Lake Isabella about 130 miles north of Los Angeles.
The town of Kernville (pop. 1,395) sits serenely on the banks of the rushing water, which attracts visitors from around the globe, some even in winter.
It was this bucolic destination chosen for the 2013 Gay Sport Bike Riders’ annual run of motorcycle enthusiasts (mostly from southern and northern California) seeking camaraderie, hard and fast motorcycling, challenging terrain and an all-around great time.
This year’s run began in Los Angeles (and San Francisco) on Aug. 1.
WACTH THE MOVIE BELOW THE FOLD
Story continues below movie
EVENTS LIKE THE GSR run to Kernville do not happen by accident. Somewhat unknown to the participants – about 20 this year – a huge amount of advance planning and preparation is required.
Leadership for the group is provided by two officers of the Oedipus Motorcycle Club, Howard Ferguson (its current Rex or president) and Lou Willsea (regent, or road captain.)
“The purpose of the event is just to get together with friends who are motorcycle riders … it really doesn’t matter what kind,” said Ferguson in an interview.
A map of the area around Kernville in the southern Sequoia National Forest where the GSR 2013 run took place. Click image to enlarge.
With the experience of organizing 11 previous runs (not all to Kernville), Ferguson knows the territory.
Months prior, Oedipus M/C Road Captain Lou Willsea set up an online database for those interested. “The road captain is considered the hardest job in the club because I organize all the rides and … the hardest part of all is finding somewhere to go for lunch that everybody will agree on and enjoy,” he said with a grin.
Not everyone reached the destination at the same time, or even together.
A group of eight (including your raconteur) met in northern Los Angeles County around lunch time Aug. 1 and rode together through the Mojave Desert around Palmdale, through the Tehachapi Mountains and into Kernville.
A few days earlier an email from Willsea explained the route:
“Total distance for this leg is 130 miles – with a stop for rest and refreshment around Tehachapi, and a scenic stop somewhere along Bodfish [Road], we should be arriving in Kernville around 5 p.m.,” he wrote.
It went pretty much as planned.
“I came here to get in contact with others who like riding, and to enjoy the great rides we have in California,” said Andreas Muno, 44, who hails originally from Cologne, Germany.
He rode a Harley Davidson 2011 Road King, with his 15-year-old niece (visiting from Germany) on the passenger seat.
Andreas Muno, who hails from Germany, is seen with his 2011 Harley Davidson Road King. His niece, 15, accompanied him on the passenger seat. Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.
Muno lives now in Redwood City, Calif., but previously worked for the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C. as an information technology specialist.
THE FOCUS OF THE WEEKEND, of course, is the motorcycle riding.
After a scrumptious breakfast in the Kern River Inn Bed & Breakfast (cooked by Virginia McLaughlin, a delightful personality with a bright smile and warm welcome) we gathered in the parking lot.
“The Friday ride will be a 130-mile loop north to Kennedy Meadows, then back to Kernville,” Willsea explained in his email.
Fifteen riders, most on sports bikes, some (like me) on cruisers pretending they were sports bikes, followed Ferguson as he led the group north on Sierra Way towards Fairview.
This was a relatively relaxed part of the ride, excellent paved tarmac, few obstacles, a couple of tight turns.
It was only after we turned east on Sherman Pass Road that the challenges began, fast and furious.
The road is narrow, winding through dozens of tight turns (recommended speed: 15 mph) as it rises from 3,500 feet in Fairview to the 9,200-foot summit at Sherman Peak.
The views of the Sierra Nevada mountains are breathtaking, but there’s not a moment for distraction as riders focus on negotiating the turns and, more importantly, the rocks and dirt strewn by winter storms on the pavement.
David Schnur of San Francisco rode his Aprilia Falco SL 1000 to Kernville for the GSR run. Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.
Two things scare motorcycle riders most: water on the road, and loose gravel. They turn tires into mush; extreme caution is required or the wheels will slide out from under the rider in a micro-second.
“When you are on the bike, you are all by yourself,” noted David Schnur, who rode an Aprilia Falco SL 1000 motorcycle, an unusual brand for sure, but a thing of beauty to behold. “But it is still good to be in a group of people you like,” he added.
Schnur, a graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, formerly worked as a Deputy Press Secretary for U. S. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Mass), who is now CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America.
Schnur now lives in central San Francisco, where he works at a non-profit developing housing for the homeless.
“This is my first time [in Kernville,]” he said, “but I’ve been on GSR runs two or three times in the past. I will come back!”
Continues with Part II later this week on In the (K)now.
FEEDBACK: Contact site admin directly