Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cold Vegas Ride

Just over Cajon Pass, literally, on the edge of a storm.

When I first started riding, I remembered looking through various catalogs and seeing all sorts of cold-weather riding gear.  One item that caught my attention was heated grips.  Having never really ridden a bike anywhere else but SoCal at the time, I thought to myself: "man, you must been a real pansy to need heated grips."

Fast forward a few years later.  I had relocated to NY and I still remembered the first time that I had ride in the cold.  We had some prototype that needed to be tested and this is around early winter in NY.  It was a cold, sunny day.  It had been snowing lightly but nothing really stuck on the ground.  I hopped on the SV and off I went.  I was fine for about 10 minutes putting around town, then I got on the interstate and I quickly realized how big of a pansy I was.  My fingers were the first to go and it got extremely uncomfortable in a hurry.  I had to cut the ride short as I couldn't bear the cold wind blasting on my fingers.

That winter I learned to appreciate winter gloves and heat packs.

A few years later, I got my first bike with heated grips, a BMW K1200S.  A great accessory except by now I'm in sunny LA and I used it sparingly, only on trips outside of the LA area.

The K1200S was retired last fall and I now ride a Kawasaki Ninja 650.  It's probably the funnest bike I've ever owned.  Since getting it, I haven't really missed the K1200S at all.  Until last week.

I rode the bike out to Vegas for last week.  It had been cold here in LA and before I left, I checked the weather in Vegas.  In the mid to high 40's and sunny.  Just like LA.  So I thought to myself, just layer up and I should be fine.

I left LA mid morning on Thursday.  Having layered up and all the air vent zippers closed off on my GlowRider jacket, I was comfortable even cruising around the high 90's.

Traffic out of LA was light and I was zipping along at a pretty good pace.  When I got to I-15, a black SUV zoomed by me and it must've been doing well over 100.  A smile quickly appeared on my face.  I let the SUV get a few hundred yards in front and picked up my speed to match that of the SUV.  I love having a rabbit!

I tailed my rabbit for a good while until all of a sudden, my trusty TPX Detector went off on a light Ka alert.  I instinctively let go of the throttle and dropped my speed down to around 75.  Needless to say, the SUV quickly disappeared ahead of me and I kept my caution on.

At this time, I was thinking that if there is a cop ahead catching speedsters in my direction, that SUV is toast!

The Ka alert slowly got stronger, and sure enough, about 3/4 of a mile later, I went by a CHP on two wheels on the side of the road.  To my surprise, the SUV was nowhere in sight.  Not sure what had happened, but either the SUV also had a radar detector and slowed down, or exited the freeway before he got to the cop.

Regardless, had it not been for the TPX Detector, I'm sure that I would've had a chat with that CHP.

Now, back to the conversation about cold weather.  Shortly after my encounter with the CHP, I started heading up Cajon Pass.  As I was approaching the ascend, I could see heavy clouds at the top of the pass.  This is when I realized that I had forgotten to check the weather conditions in between LA and Vegas and I could be in trouble.  A portable sign on the side of the road warning motorists about icy road condition followed, then I start seeing cars with snow on their hood and roof on the opposit traffic.

By now, I know for sure that I'm in for a cold ride.  As I got near the top of the pass, it started to snow.  I went from being very comfortable to very, very cold quickly.  So quickly that I didn't even realize that my fingers were freezing numb until pain started radiating from my finger tips.  How I miss my K1200S with the heated grips now!

I decided to keep on going instead of pulling over because there weren't any exits, and I braved the cold until I got over the pass and immediately pulled off at the nearest fast food joint, a Jack in the Box.  After dismounting the bike I beelined directly to the restroom and had my hand under the faucet for what felt like an eternity before I could feel my fingers again.

I knew the ride should be better after the pass as I could see nothing but sunshine ahead, but I was in no hurry to get back on the road.  I took my sweet on lunch and used the time to defrost myself a bit before finishing up the ride.

I returned from Vegas the next day.  This time, I checked the weather in between LA and Vegas.  Sunny the whole way, but still cold.  I braved the cold as the return trip was not as bad, but still, pretty darn cold.

Surprisingly, not a single threat encountered on the way back.  Maybe the cops didn't feel like being out in the cold!

Another trip, another save, and I definitely learned that I'm a pretty big pansy when it comes to cold weather riding!

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