Fall riding: The autumn moon lights my way

Bright yellow and orange leaves are piling up on the street as I roll my motorcycle out of the garage. It’s November in Northern California and I’m going for a ride.

The air is warm. I sweat as I start the bike and head off, a welcome breeze blowing into my textile jacket.

Seeing colors in the Sierra

My neighborhood seems to shimmer in the autumn light. It’s that time of year when it’s cold enough at night to turn the leaves but so mild by day you forget its only three weeks until Thanksgiving.

Back east, they’re dealing with the aftermath of a killer storm and an approaching Nor’easter. Here we’re walking around in rolled up shirtsleeves and big smiles. It’s like we’re getting away with something.

We’re not, of course. Everyone seems to know that this fickle weather is connected to something darker and of our own doing– climate change.

But we can take some consolation in the lighter environmental footprint of motorcycles. We use less gas and emit fewer toxins so we’re a smarter, saner transportation choice.

Motorcycles are also a lot more fun for a Saturday morning jaunt to high country to see beautiful fall foliage.

I choose the route of California settlers, riding east on Highway 108 over the Sonora Pass. The first golden groves of Aspen meet me at about 6,000 feet and stay with me over the summit, into the Eastern Sierra.

I gaze toward Nevada as I descend the back side, awash in the seasonal palate of reds, oranges and yellows. With the sun at my back — and not a car in sight — I crank the throttle until it  is all a blur. Granite canyons open to  fields of technicolor grasses. Pine trees whizz by like fence posts. And hawks soar over head, just out of reach.

As I slow for the stop sign at state Highway 395, I ponder the majesty of it all. I shut off the bike and stare at a distant mountain range. My motor ticks as it cools.

Then a northbound 18-wheeler roars by in front of me, pelting me with fine sand. I blink, hit the starter and flip a u-turn.

Let’s do that again.

Here’s a short video clip of the ride:




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