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(Shaver Lake, CA) Just under a year’s come and gone since last fall’s adventure as a guest of Cycle World Magazine’s 30th Annual Trek. The event gathers together industry affecianados in what I’ll describe as a remote part of the country for the sole purpose of enjoying the best part of dual-sport motorcycle riding. My ride this year was a Honda XR650L, a great bike for the three-day ride–eat–sleep–repeat affair.


This year’s Trek came a couple of weeks earlier, in no small part because last year’s early blizzard ended up taking the lives of a couple of Japanese rock climbers.

As one of about 50 invitees to join most of CW’s editorial, production, and sales staff, and admitedly probably the least experienced dirt rider of the bunch, I nontheless was selected to lead our merry band of adventurers, as we began Day One’s 141-mile meander through the Sierra National Forest that just brushed the extreme southern tip of Yosemite National Park. (I’m sure the thought process behind this went along the lines of, “If all of a sudden he’s not there any more, look out for the cliff.”)

A little under eight hours later, we pulled into the Sierra Summit Lodge at nearly 8,000 feet altitude, happy to have survived, elated over the route, and thrilled that the open bar was running on all cylinders.

Saturday, in a replay of last year, we again charged up to Mono Hot Springs. The Kaiser Pass Road – goat path is more like it – runs up and down through redwood forest and loose boulder fields, twisting and turning as it rises and falls several thousand feet over the course of 20-plus miles, before coming to a cul-de-sac.

That afternoon, we went in search of Strawberry Lake, accessable via several logging roads that weren’t that well marked on the National Park Service map, so the upshot was the photo taken in the headline, an under construction ski run at the end of a trail I don’t recall seeing on the map.

Sunday it was 70 miles, after circumnavigating Huntington Lake and some more trail runs along the way, back down to Oakhurst first, then Fresno for the much less exhilerating pedestrian hop home. The extremes in altitude and environment are probably the most fascinating aspect of this unique riding experience, and something I’ll savor while blundering along the hiways and otherways of central Florida.

The Big Muddy Just Got Murkier
Next week we’re off to Louisiana to visit friends and neighbors and see for ourselves the changes in the state’s now largest city – Baton Rouge – since the last trip mid-July. Then, just six weeks out from an event that would reverberate around the world, Baton Rouge on a typical Saturday morning was still mostly asleep on anything other than a football game day at LSU.

Traffic downtown was nonexistent, and parking was quick and easy alongside the government garage on Fifth and Main., site of the weekly Red Stick Farmer’s Market where we stop on our way out of town to pick up baby zuchinnis and yellow squash, creamed honey, Smith Creamery's (above right) whole and chocolate milk, butter, and heavy cream, cornmeal, and whatever else we’ve got room for that we think will survive the trip.

That’s where we met the mayor, Kip Holden, as he helped out in the watermelon booth of one of his friends, and helped us select a couple of red, ripe melons to take with. Typical July, it was wilting, stifling, no breeze at all, and the heat made everyone just want to find some shade and lie down in it. He gave me his card, we exchanged pleasantries, and then everything changed.

The stories we’ve heard since, of a 30-mile drive taking two and a half hours, seem all too familiar of local traffic nightmares like U.S. 19 through Pinellas County – and Baton Rouge wasn’t exactly commuter friendly before the storm.

The Brennan family announced plans to open a restaurant, maybe two, in the Capitol City, and others are eyeing the opportunities. (Meanwhile, the venerable Ruth’s Chris has announced that the chain will relocate their corporate headquarters to Orlando.) Downtown, some of the smaller, eclectic dining experiences, like the Lava Room, have given way to more of a New Orleans bar influence – not that BR didn’t have plenty of great watering holes before. We’re especially anxious to judge the impact on favorites like the Superior Grill and Juban’s.

If ever there was hope for substance to an adage, it’s an ill wind that blows no good. Change is in the air, big time, and whether it blows ill or good remains to be seen. There’s plenty of opportunity, if nothing else than a cool appraisal of Florida’s growth plan, or lack of same.

We’re anxious to check the pulse, attempt to intuit the long-term impact, and with a little luck slip in someplace familiar for some Dixie beer, oysters, soft-shell crab, and maybe a little turtle soup. Oh yeah, and a cup of Community Coffee and a dish of bread pudding (the real kind, made with baguette, eggs, and cream, not Wonder Bread left out in the sun for a week) as an afterthought.

Ron Jon’s Surf Shop - Not Just Baggies Anymore
No news for readers who live there, but Ron Jon’s has opened a timeshare, the Cape Caribe, just north of the surf shop. Though technically a timeshare, rooms can be rented, if you can shoulder your way through a sales pitch, for $120 to $300-plus per night, depending on the size of the unit.

While on the topic, did you know that: peak sales for Ron can reach more than $200,000? With over 100 billboards along the East coast, the shop’s one of the biggest single users of out-of-home media. There’s no Jon in Ron – it was added for effect. And the shop actually opened in New Jersey back in ’61, with the southern outpost added in 1963.