Thursday, June 2, 2011



Unseasonable rain is not uncommon this time of year.
Me, attempting to make small talk 
with seat mate Jennifer Lopez 
on a flight from Sacramento to LAX
May 2004

I’M ON RATTLESNAKE BAR ROAD approaching a southeastern arm of Folsom Lake and outside of the pleasant temperature, the pavement tunneling under a canopy of blue oaks, a perfect cloudscape, and the breeze rushing past my helmet, I wonder if there really is a Rattlesnake Bar. And if there is, suppose I went in there parched but didn’t know what to order? Would the rattlesnake bartender grin and then hiss, “Pick your poison?”

BUT I DIGRESS. Today’s mission would be two-fold. Job one: to put a few more miles on the GSA prior to my 18,000-mile service scheduled for tomorrow. Job two: after cleaning it and stripping away some of the touring accoutrements, see if my BMW’s sporting characteristics would steer me away from test riding both a Triumph Bonneville, a traditional British two-wheeler, and...

...a Moto Guzzi Breva, a sophisticated Italian beauty with lines that invite all kinds of passion. Both of these candidates offer traditional, old world, back when we wuz kids, wind-in-the-face riding and both currently sit on the showroom floor of A&S Power Sports where my beloved BMW regularly receives its physical.

After its bath, I lowered the GSA’s windscreen to deflect airflow on to me instead of over me. I removed the ponderous looking Jesse luggage and stood back. These modifications changed the world-circling nature of the big adventure touring bike, but not into some sort of a sport tourer. No, without these appendages, the do-anything machine looked a bit ungainly, rather like a big, red preying mantis on two wheels. But proof of the pudding is in the ride, so I set off for one of the Sacramento area’s riding Meccas: Salmon Falls Road east of Folsom.

SALMON FALLS ROAD starts in the bedroom community of El Dorado Hills and twists eastward past Folsom Lake joining state route 49 just north of Lotus. Its pavement is nicely maintained, sweeping curves well engineered and, with the crest of each hill, views enticing. This is a road sport bike riders like to blast through testing the limits of their equipment - particularly their tires - and their own mettle. On any Saturday, bikes with exotic exhaust systems scream by, sounding so much like angry wasps. A series of one, two, three crosses affixed to a rather stout guardrail suggest that not all the wasps survive. I make my pace leisurely.

Although the second of June when average temperatures range in the low 90s and rainfall is measured in wisps, a horrendous storm had blown through yesterday. Today, fair-weather clouds drift across an azure sky looking like a piece of Hallmark stationery one might select for use on a holiday letter or party announcement. The thermometer stretched to reach 70. Deer, who normally would be much higher in the hills, literally hang out in the roadway. I hope aggressive sport bike riders would remain aware.

ACHIEVING ROUTE 49, the “other end” of Rattlesnake Bar Road beaconed. Rattlesnake Bar Road used to connect the Newcastle area of Placer County with the Pilot Hill area of El Dorado. The construction of Folsom Dam inundated the old road. Now, it lays like two ends of an untied shoelace providing boat ramp access to the reservoir. While I frequent the Placer County side, I’d never tackled the nine miles in El Dorado.

On a really good day, one discovers a new road, and I had. Rattlesnake Bar is narrow and windy. The pavement does not receive regular maintenance. In many places, traffic, if there is any, needs to slow in order to safely pass. Oaks drape their stiff arms over the roadway in some sections. Brooks trace the edges here and there. Occasionally, the road tops a little hill offering stunning springtime views over the lake, across the valley, past the Sutter Buttes and off to the distant Coast Range. The hillsides are dotted with an odd mix of dwellings. Interspersed among old-time ranches replete with hay barns, fenced pastures and no trespassing signs are Tuscan style mansions with sweeping lawns and covered RV storage.

The full Folsom Lake makes a nice stopping point for note taking and the ten-dollar fare is reasonable given the financial straits our park system finds itself in.

I’D LOWERED THE WINDSCREEN on the GSA to experiment with where I might be hit by the blast when at speed. I thought that, perhaps, if the wind wasn’t directed at my helmet, and if my aging ears weren’t further deafened by the roar, I might avoid choosing between the Bonneville and the Breva as a second bike for simple Sunday tiddling. My little experiment involved riding at speeds up to 65 miles per hour as well as standing on the pegs to assess the wind-rush if I knew it was hitting my chest rather than the head. It is two hours later and my ears are still ringing.

Tomorrow while I wait, I’ll ride.


A&S Power Sports is one of the premier BMW dealers in the nation.  In the past two years they have added Ducati and Vespa.  Quite recently, they rounded out their Euro collection by obtaining the franchise for Triumph Motorcycles.  Genial.  Knowledgeable.  Dedicated.  Well-staffed.  Their tag-line suggests "It's about the ride."  Indeed it is.  They may be contacted at

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press

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