Memorial Day weekend, Los Angeles, Saturday morning. Under a dull grey sky, our fully loaded BMW GSs charged up the on-ramp and merged onto I-5 North. The weekend warriors were just starting to filter onto the road with their roof-racked station wagons and pop-trailers, but it'd still be a few hours before the happy-go-lucky glampers were out. This left us plenty of time to blitz up the big empty slab of concrete that lay between us and the Sierras.
While any well-trained sales reps will attempt to convince you otherwise, the fact is that any motorcycle can be used for camping. Whether you're riding a Honda Rebel or a brand new GS Adventure, the only thing the type of motorcycle determines is the style of camping you're able to enjoy. The smaller the bike, the more you'll need to embrace the minimalist backpacking method. The bigger the bike, the closer you can get to that everything-but-the-kitchen-
After many long hours of sitting on a motorcycle, it's amazing how refreshing it can be to sit on another surface that isn't a motorcycle. A picnic bench, for instance, or the top of a pannier, or even the ground, as dirty and rough as it is, seem to hold a new and completely satisfying comfort that was previously overlooked before.
After our posteriors had adequately recovered, we set about putting up camp. Tents were erected, fire wood was procured, and a one-pot dinner was prepared under the resolute glow of a butane burner. Things were really coming together, although it wasn't until the third or fourth campfire-grade cocktail that the "vacation" part of the vacation really started to kick in.
Mono Creek Hot Spring didn't disappoint either. We took a nice long soak in one of the twelve open air springs located in the area. Many of the springs have been developed with man-made concrete tubs, but a few of the more remote ones remain untouched. With a water temperature of only 100 degrees, our particular spring was technically only a "warm" spring, but the water felt just fine to us.
Once our bodies warmed up enough to start affecting our hubris, we decided it would be a capital idea to take a swim in the nearby, and perennially frigid, San Joaquin River. Jumping into a mountain river (the water of which was probably melting snow not 45 minutes ago) has got to be the closest thing to taking an adrenaline shot to the heart. Both of which probably have an equal chance of inducing cardiac arrest. However, for those who take the plunge, there awaits a feeling of total rejuvenation, bordering on rebirth, which is reserved for both the very brave and the very foolish alike.
With our skin tingling and our lips still blue, we swapped out our wet bathing suits for the warm, dry comfort of our motorcycle pants and jackets. Rarely does such heavy gear feel so good on a warm afternoon.
The sun was hanging low in the sky and the shadows were growing long, and all agreed it was time to start heading back. It had been a long, full day. As the shivery excitement of the river left our bones, a new excitement took its place. We still had Kaiser Pass Road to look forwards to on the ride back, this time in reverse, and that was really something to be excited about.
Gear Above [in order from top left to bottom right]:
Schuberth GmbH C3, Aether Welded Duffle, Excursion Day Pack by Poler, Bell Bullet Helmet,
Deus Gripping Gloves, Thermarest ProLite Plus, MontBell Down Hugger, Big Agnes Air Core, Sierra Design Elenor
Guide 10 Plus Solar Kit , Bulleit Whiskey, Coleman Lantern, MSR Whisperlite, Overland Journal Tool Roll
Aether Apparel gear featured in this story:
All photos by: Megan McDuffie