Camping trip to Silver Lake

Riding thru the local hills

Day 1

We headed out in the middle of the week to take another trip on our new Ural motorcycle sidecar rig. We have owned it for a couple of months now and it’s still a ton of fun getting on it and going for a ride each and every single time.

This adventure took us on a three day camping trip where we had a great time riding almost all the way to our destination on small country back roads, from our home near Sacramento all the way to the campsite in the Sierra’s located about 30 miles from Lake Tahoe.

Fiddletown Road

We rode up thru the El Dorado Hills and into Amador wine country where we turned onto Fiddletown Road and meandered our way on the Ural thru the remote golden hills, covered by ancient oaks, heading southeast to our campsite destination.

It was neat to ride thru the small old towns of Plymouth, Fiddletown and Volcano where it looks like we’ve stepped back in time. Most of these places are from the gold rush era and are still pristine and beautiful and open with very few houses and very little traffic.

Eventually we ended up on old highway 88 and heading east up towards Carson Pass in the mountains at 9000+ ft. elevation. We rode on up into big tree country with spectacular views of the mountains and valleys and various lakes all along the way.  P.S. You haven’t seen a big tree until you’ve seen a giant Sequoia.

Silver Lake West Campgrounds

Eventually we found our destination just outside of Silver Lake where we located a great spot to setup our camp at the Silver Lake West campgrounds run by the El Dorado Hills Irrigation Dept. FYI – their service was impeccable, the grounds and restrooms were always kept clean. Props to EDH County for doing a great job with this EDH owned site.

The campsite we picked was right above the Silver Fork of the American River. It was a nice spot because it was quiet and we found some great views along with our nice quiet site. According a camping guide we always use, this place is rated 9 out of 10 – and they were right on the money. This is a very nice campground.

Ural at Camp

After registering and paying for the three nights, it was time to setup camp. We unpacked the Ural, setup the tent, stowed all our gear in the bear box and made our plans for the rest of the day.

Our campsite at Silver Lake West

As usual, the Ural Delay Factor occurred. When people saw the Ural they wanted to find out more about it so we got a lot of visitors from campers nearby and we made some friends with a few folks that were there all three days with us. The nicest folks go camping 🙂

Silver Fork of American River

After setting up camp we went for a hike both up and down the river near our campsite, checking out all the scenery and views and having fun taking photos all along the way.

After setting up camp we rode the Ural over the a local lodge/resort and picked up some firewood.  Can your motorcycle haul stuff like this? The Ural can!

Picking up wood for our camp fires

Day 2

The next day we made plans to hike to a local site called “Pot Holes”. We also made plans to do some fishing on nearby Silver Lake later in the afternoon.

After cooking and enjoying breakfast, we packed our cameras and some water and followed the signs to the Pot Holes trailhead and set out on the hike.

Pot Holes Trailhead

The Silver Fork of the American River begins at Silver Lake and meanders tranquilly along for about a mile before taking on the more rugged characteristics of a typical Sierra river. Before it does this, however it reaches a granite plateau where the waters have formed some unusual pools and hollows that make an excellent, unique, and beautiful swimming hole on warm summer days. The area is located just outside the Silver Lake West Campground and can easily be accessed from there or from Highway 88 as it passes nearby.

Pot Holes

This place is really neat to see. We had fun dipping our toes into the waters and exploring and taking photos of the giant trees and giant granite rocks.

After hiking back to camp we loaded up the Ural with some picnic fixings and also loaded up my fishing pole and gear. We rode down the road and over to Kit Carson Lodge on Silver Lake and rented a small boat and outboard to cruise and fish the lake.

Silver Lake

It was fun riding in the boat around the lake and seeing it all. The weather (for now) was great and we found a really nice remote spot to stop to enjoy our picnic and do some fishing.

After eating and doing a little bit of fishing we sat there relaxing and Ronda started noticing the clouds getting darker and darker and mentioned we should go soon. So I packed up the boat and we got back out on the lake, but instead of going back to the dock, I headed south to check out the other parts of the lake (there was a lot to see). That was where I made my mistake.

Ronda noticing the weather

The weather started getting rough…

It started to sprinkle a bit. Ok I guess she was right and we should head back, so I turned the boat around and started heading north. Then the sprinkles turned to rain. Then the rain turned into a downpour. Then the downpour turned into hail, and lightning. Uh oh, it’s probably not a good idea to be in the middle of a lake, in the middle of the big storm while on an aluminum boat.

It soon started raining and hailing so hard, the drops were splashing down in the lake so hard it looked like the lake was boiling, it got so heavy that we couldn’t see the shores or figure out which way to go.

The fun part was when Ronda mentioned lightning could be an issue, and a minute later KABOOM! A huge bolt of lightning hit the mountaintop that was about a half mile away. Then came the instantaneous KABLAAAAM sound of almighty thunder!

Bad Weather

It was right above us. We were caught in the perfect storm… (Ironically I had been joking about that earlier when Ronda mentioned the dark clouds approaching).

The tiny boat was lost…

We were completely soaked head to toe by now along with all our gear and the boat was filling up with water growing over an inch deep. I eventually spotted some trees and rocks I recognized and we followed the shoreline from there until we found the cove and boat dock to return the rental boat and get off the lake. The guy who rented us the boat came running out when he saw us approaching, he too got totally soaked by the rain that was some great service! I think he was really scared about us getting hit by lightning.

A little rain

Once we were on dry land and all was said and done, all we could do was laugh. We were soaked to the bone, it was still raining, and we still had to ride back to camp.

As expected, the Ural did fine in the rain. When we got back to camp we changed our clothes and dried off, then we hunkered down under a tree to wait out the rain. It lasted about another hour and soon sunshine broke out and we got to see a spectacular sunset thru the trees. It may have rained, but I’m not complaining, that’s all just part of the adventure and fun!

Gone fishing

Almost forgot to mention, while we were out on the lake when the weather was nice. We got dive bombed by two giant four prop cargo or military planes, it was spectacular to see such large planes being handled like jet fighters – those pilots were having a ton of fun!   They also flew by the next day right over our campsite; the plane was so low we all thought it was crash landing – that was a serious adrenalin rush for everyone there.

Day 3

I was still reeling from seeing that giant plane buzz over our camp this morning, that was crazy…. and spectacular!

Today was the day for some first time off-roading with the Ural. I had checked out the local maps and found a route just off the highway that led to some back country camping and hunting areas.

GIant Sequoia Trees

We packed up our gear in the Ural and hit the road. The off-road area was about 5 miles from our camp. I took the turnoff, stopped for a minute to engage two wheel drive on the Ural and headed for the dirt. It was time to see what 2WD can do on a Ural.

Forrest Pond

We rode up the trail for a while and found it got rougher and rougher as we went along until there was barley any resemblance of a road. After a couple of miles we came across an empty campsite in the middle of nowhere. Just past that spot was where the road became nearly impassible.

The road at this location turned into a small rock outcropping that became a challenge to cross. I have to admit I got stuck on my first few tries and eventually dug a hole in the dirt with the rear tire. I was unsure and gave up. I reversed it out of there to head back down the road and go up another way. I wasn’t sure if this rough road would get much worse after those rocks or if it was worth continuing along that route?

As I headed down the road I came across a camouflaged hunter walking up the road with rifle in hand. I decided to stop and talk to the guy to try and find out more about the area to see what was around and confirm my alternative route plans.

Turned out he was a really nice guy named Richard. He was Vietnam vet, living out his existence on his meager social security income camping for free out in the woods during the summers, living in a trailer park outside of Georgetown in the winters. He was out hunting predators (wolves, coyotes) for now and waiting for deer season to start.

Riding the Ural

He told me that up ahead on the road we were coming down from was some great camping and views and that the rock outcropping was the only obstacle on the road. Conditions would get better after that he said. We talked for a while and he told me his history and how he got there and about hunting and off-roading in the area, he was a wealth of local area knowledge and it was great getting to meet him.

We turned around the Ural and rode back up the hill until we got to the rock outcropping again. I tried a few times and once again got stuck. Then I got the idea of lightening the load – so we both got off the Ural and I proceeded to “walk” the Ural up and over the rocks slowly and was finally able to get past the rock section of the trail. That was pretty easy to do that way I learned something new about riding the Ural over huge rocks. I will have to remember that again for the next time.

Rough Road

We continued up the road and found the campsite that the hunter had told us about, it was pretty nice. We will need to go back country camping out there someday soon.

From here we rode until the dirt road ended and asphalt began. We were back on highway 88 and so we headed up to Carson Pass.

I love the Ural, it’s a really fun bike, but I found out it does have it’s limitations. It did not like going up big hills. I could only do it in 2nd or 3rd gear at best. Max speed with the Ural loaded going up hill to Carson Pass was 30mph. That’s ok though, the heavy hills were not very long and I pulled over for the faster moving trucks and cars but it was a bit uncomfortable not being able to keep up with the flow of traffic. I need to learn how to work this better next time. It was not bad, but I think there is a way the performance can be improved.

At the top of the pass we took some photos of the spectacular views and then headed back down highway 88.

Carson Pass

From here we rode to the south end of Silver Lake to check out Plasse’s Resort and grab some lunch. Turns out their restaurant was closed so we bought a few things at the market and headed back to camp to go hiking and have a picnic out on the trails.

View of Silver Lake

After getting back and packing up our picnic lunch and camera gear, we hiked back down the river along the granite slabs to the pot hole pools where we did more exploring all over hiking up and down the boulders. We soaked in some sunshine and took more photos. I even did some experimental underwater videos with my GoPro gear. I’ll get those videos edited and posted later.

Silver Fork American River

After the hike, we went back to camp, made dinner and enjoyed a bottle of wine. The rest of the evening was spent gazing at the campfire and reminiscing over the day.

Dinner time

Day 4

On Saturday, our last day here; we woke up early, made some breakfast and started packing up our gear and loading the Ural.

I knew I had very little fuel left in my tank of gas that I had traveled from home with. After riding all the way there and riding all over on road and off-road in the area for three days, the tank was getting dry.

Since there is no fuel gauge on the Ural, my method of checking is to take the gas tank cap off and move the bike back and forth to shake the gas to see what’s in there – not too scientific but it’s been working out pretty good so far… and then there’s that handy odometer thing. I think I’m getting around 150 miles or so on this 5 gallon tank but I’m not certain so don’t hold me to that.

I found I had about ¼ gallon or so left in my tank so I busted out the Ural’s jerry can that I had filled with gas back at home and used a funnel I made out of a cut up water bottle to put in around 10 liters of gas into the tank. That ended up being plenty of gas to get all the way home. It was nice to know that with my jerry can of spare gas, I can ride anywhere without worrying about needing a local gas station nearby. Did I mention that the nearest gas station to the campsite we were at was about 40 miles away?

Camping gear all packed up

The ride home was nice; we headed back down Fiddletown Road thru the hills and back towards home. As we got closer to our city, we stopped at one of our favorite pubs – 36 Handles in El Dorado Hills for lunch, then headed home to start unpacking and planning our next trip.

Here’s the ride route we took going both there and back.

Ride Route

Thanks for reading about our trip!

Ride Safe!

Can your motorcycle do this?

Can your motorcycle handle river riding?
The Ural can!

Ural Factory managers took five 2014 Urals, camping gear and waterproof suites and went on a crazy adventure.

 Chistop Khrebet, the area in the northern Ural mountains near where the infamous Dyatlov Pass incident occurred.

Motorcycles:  2014 stock, except for modified intake and exhaust system for water crossing.


Day 4 – The Coast and The Castle

Day 4 – The coast and the castle

California Coast

California Coast

We had a nice restful night in our ocean front hotel room in Cambria and awoke early and refreshed.  After grabbing a quick breakfast at the hotel, we got our gear ready to head out to explore the local area.

Today we rode up the coast a few miles thru San Simeon to the world famous Hearst’s Castle.  We’ve been here a few times before but this time we went on a different tour (they have several to choose from).

Hearst’s Castle

Although we’ve both been here several times before, we never grow tired of visiting this spectacular historical estate built by Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate.

Outdoor Pool (drained due to drought)

Outdoor Pool (drained due to drought)

The estate offers multiple tours of the castle and grounds and this is the first time we went on the Cottages, Kitchen and Wine Cellar tour which took us down to the wine cellar, to the outer buildings (where Hearst and his family lived during the construction of the castle) and to the massive kitchen that was used to serve the family and guests for many extravagant soiree’s over the years.

Spectacular View

Spectacular View

After the tour we walked around the grounds to admire and photograph a lot of historical architecture, statues and views that can be seen all over.

One of many statues at the estate

One of many statues at the estate

For today’s lunch we rode down the street to Sebastian’s Store which also includes Hearst’s Wine tasting room where we tried out several of the local wines and purchased a couple of bottles. Sebastian’s is a historical monument; it’s one of the oldest stores still in existence in California.  Unfortunately Sebastian’s (the sandwich shop part) was closed today so we just enjoyed the wines for now J.

Cambria View

Cambria View

We headed back to Cambria after a few more ocean side stops to check out the great views.  After we got back, we unloaded the bike and relaxed at the hotel for a while. Later we went on a long walk along the boardwalk and then had another nice dinner at Moonstone Grill again.  We ended the evening with a good glass of wine some star watching and enjoyed listening to the waves as we sat out on our patio.

Today’s travels:

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 10.10.04 AM

First Ural Ride Video (attempt)

This is my first attempt to make a short video from some of the footage that was recorded during our trip to pickup the new Ural and ride it back home last month.

For this video footage, Ronda accidentally set her camera to record in slow-motion while we were riding along some back roads behind Santa Barbara.  After a little bit of editing, titling and goofing around with audio add-on’s, it came out half way decent (I think…?).

Check it out…..

Day 1 – Taming the Beast

Day 1 – Taming the Beast

Day one is now in the books, we are the proud owners of a 2014 Ural Gear Up 2WD Red October Custom Motorcycle/Sidecar.


Our New Ural Motorcycle Sidecar

Our morning started at 3:30am, getting up and getting ready to head out to acquire our new bike.  We got a ride from our daughter to the Sacramento airport at 4am (bless her heart), caught our Southwest flight to Los Angeles and even arrived 30 minutes early – wait? What? Arriving earlier then scheduled almost never happens… this was a good start to our trip!


Landing in Los Angeles

After we arrived at LAX, we picked up our bags and then tried something new (for us).  We ordered an Uber cab/car ride and were pleasantly surprised how very well that ride worked out, and best of all it was ½ the price of a regular cab ride.  I’d recommend using Uber based on this great first experience alone and plan to use them again in the future.

We were dropped off at California Boss Hoss and Ural motorcycle dealership in Harbor City where we met up with Don.

Don took care of our Ural from the day it was delivered from Ural of New England via truck until the day we picked it up.  He did a great job, we were very happy with how everything worked out.  The guys and gals at Ural of New England and Boss Hoss are top notch.

If you are ever in or near Harbor City, check them out, they have some really cool collector bikes (not for sale) on display on the showroom floor.  From 1920’s vintage Harley’s, to vintage Indian’s, Enfield’s, Cushman carts, Big Dog customs and much more.  This shop is worth visiting. Their Boss Hoss monster motorcycles have full size V8 Motors in them! Biggest motor of any bike I’ve ever seen – really cool stuff!


Boss Hoss Motorcycle

After being shown the basics of the Ural controls by Don, we loaded up all our gear onto the sidecar rack and tied everything down.  We were off!  Boy howdy….. This was like no other ride I’ve ever experienced before.

If you’re curious about how to ride a Ural, here’s the detailed book online -> Click HERE

The first thing I noticed (everyone had been warning me about this for weeks) was to watch out for the right turns, they are indeed a doozy as you first get used to them on a Ural.

It is like wrestling a bear getting used to the way the rig rides when giving it gas – it pulls very hard to the right. I thought holy hanna what have I gotten into – but after riding it for a few hours it became like second nature and I didn’t even notice the effect anymore after becoming used to it.  I had tamed the beast!

The bike looks beautiful and runs great. After several hours of riding it a little over a hundred miles I related it to a combination of riding a dirt bike, with the “smoothness” of a rigid Harley and steering control like a tractor in heavy dirt.

I’ll be honest, it isn’t easy at first but after a while learning how it rides and figuring out how to control the beast, it became one helluva really fun ride!

For this first day out on the bike we headed north on PCH and stopped for lunch at a restaurant I had read about in Redondo Beach called Rock and Brews, which is owned, by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of the rock band KISS.

Rock and Brews Restaurant Redondo Beach

Rock and Brews Restaurant Redondo Beach

The place was nice, the service great.  The beers were tasty but honestly the food was just ok. But it went well with beer and that’s what really counts right?  The best part of stopping by Rock and Brews was meeting up with and visiting with our old friend Rob who we hadn’t seen for over 20 years. We all had a great time catching up and talking about bikes and rides and more. Good times for sure!

After the lunch stop we hit the road again and rode thru some really heavy traffic in the south bay going thru Santa Monica (not a very fun way to learn to ride this kind of rig but you do what you gotta do). When we finally got onto PCH the traffic was even more horrendous but we pushed on and made it thru the fray and got to Malibu where we took a break at the famous motorcycle hangout – Neptune’s Net.

As expected on a sunny Saturday afternoon, there were tons of bikers there and the place was packed.  Somehow I scored a spot right up front.  It was really cool how a lot of people stopped and turned when we rode up. This bike is definitely an attention getter and we had fun telling folks about the bike and our journey.  The most interesting part was when we left we had to ride thru a tight squeeze of bikes owned by a local 1%er MC club with the guys all hanging out around them. They looked at us on our ride and they all parted the way and took photos as we rode by and they were all giving the thumbs up – that was pretty darn cool!


Neptune’s Net

From Malibu heading north, the road was wide open and I got to really wind up the Ural to a whopping 55-65 miles an hour which went well. The bike ran smooth and accelerated decent enough to keep up with traffic…. in the slow lane.

I still have a lot to learn about this bike.  Getting it into neutral is a challenge but I will master that by tomorrow I hope.  I need to read all the documents on the bike and really get into it to learn about it as much as possible.  This is a simple but very rugged bike and I think with proper care and feeding, it’s going to have a very long and adventurous life.

After an hour or so we finally landed in Oxnard for our first night.  Got a nice room at the Residence Inn and had dinner at the Yard House a few miles away.  After this long first day, we were wiped out and ready for a good rest because tomorrow it’s going to get even better as we travel farther and head north to Jalama Beach and Lompoc.

I’d have to say that Day 1 was a rousing success and I look forward to tomorrow’s continued adventures.

Some quick notes: The company, Ural Motorcycles IMZ really rocks! With the bike I received a fully equiped tool kit with work gloves, an extensive owners manual with service info in great details with photos, an air pump, a set of touch up paints and I also purchased a digital copy of the full service/repair manual along with twenty two videos on each service procedures – that’s gonna come in handy!

So far we really like our new Ural!

Todays Travels:

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 8.44.58 PM

Day 1 Route