The Ducati Multistrada does the California Sierras

The Multistrada found its way into my garage for me to open my street riding horizons.  It is here to take me on long distance trips while bringing an edge to the touring side of riding, the Ducati edge I learned about with the Streetfighter. Therefore, when guys from the Ducati.ms portal invited me to attend their annual west coast meeting in California I thought it was a good idea. The meeting was scheduled to be in Graeagle, in the California Sierras, in June 2013, from Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd.

Getting ready to go, June 22nd, 2013

Getting ready to go, June 22nd, 2013

When my work commitments did not allow me to take Friday off it did not phase me out of the plan. After all it was just a 1,000 miles (1.600 km) round trip for the weekend,  the perfect excuse to ride the Multistrada and test its long distance capabilities.

I left Saturday morning, took Hwy 58 out of Eugene. When I got to Oakridge I spotted a classic cars get-together, I had to turn around and check them out.

Oakridge, OR, June 22nd, 2013

Oakridge, OR, June 22nd, 2013

A couple of photos later I was back on the road. I connected with Hwy 97 towards Klammath Falls where I filled up the tank, last stop with non-ethanol gasoline.

Last tankful of non-ethanol gasoline for a while. California does not have non-ethanol gas stations (as far as I know)

Last tankful of non-ethanol gasoline for a while. California does not have non-ethanol gas stations (as far as I know)

From there I connected to Hwy 39 and then 139 and crossed the border to California.

First time in California for the Ducati.

First time in California for the Ducati.

For several miles California roads treated me with views of Mt. Shasta.

Mt Shasta and irrigated fields.

Mt Shasta and irrigated fields.

The miles were flying by, this bike is simply superb. The speed limit in California country roads is 65mph (55 in Oregon) which allowed me to cruise at higher speeds, which shall remain non-disclosed. But, as an example, if you are on 6th hear at 5,500 rpm, the lower part of the nice envelope of torque this motor offers, and you want to pass a truck or a car, and instead of going down to 5th gear, a gentle twist of that throttle and the engine note and its vibes as RPMs climb is just something… it is like music or something better than that.

Somewhere before Susanville

Somewhere before Susanville

I was enjoying the landscapes along Hwy 139 in California.  I had been in this area in 2011 on my way to the Death Valley, it was great to be back. Riding was at a brisk pace, when I started to notice a gradual deterioration on the bike’s clutch actuation, clutch travel had been shortened, gears were getting hard to get in without throttle blips and rev matching.

I think this is Eagle Lake.

Eagle Lake?

Eagle Lake?

The plaque on the viewing area talks about the Federal Highway Aid Program.

IMG_2762A quick search  and now I know the program had started in 1916, with milestones of Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944 and Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 and its three parts (according to Wikipedia):

  • The Interstate Highway System
  •  The Federal-aid primary highway system (FAP system) is defined as a system of connected main highways, selected by each state highway department subject to the approval of the Bureau of Public Roads. It encompasses routes of the Interstate System and other important routes serving essentially through traffic with their urban extensions, including important loops, belt highways, and spurs.
  • The Federal-aid secondary highway system (FAS system) consists of the principal secondary and feeder routes including farm-to-market roads, rural mail and public school bus routes, local rural roads, county and township roads, roads of the county, road class, and their urban extensions. These roads are chosen by the state highway departments and appropriate local road officials cooperatively, subject to approval by the Bureau of Public Roads.

The 139, referred as FAS 988 in the plaque is part of the Federal-aid secondary highway system (FAS).   This very point marks where the final section of what was the longest continuous FAS route in California was completed, dedicated to the public in August 1956.

Hwy 139, perhaps one day it was called FAS 988

Hwy 139, perhaps one day it was called FAS 988

Soon I was in Susanville. I stopped at a gas station to fill the tank and to check the clutch.  The motor would practically not disengage from the transmission with the clutch lever pulled all the way in. I noticed a lot of slack on the cable at the lever, so I adjusted the clutch at the lever and the clutch actuation returned to almost normal.  Although it was buttery smooth again, I could tell it was not working at its designed specifications, the lever push back was too light.

As I was riding on Main Street to connect with Hwy 36, I came across a typical Art Deco movie theater. If you’ve read previous posts of mine, you probably came across other pictures of these movie theaters I’ve photographed in small towns in Oregon.  Particularly, you may have come across one post where I talk about the Save America’s Cinemas site (it’s a 501(C)3 non-profit fundraising group providing financial assistance for small theaters to acquire digital equipment).

Sierra Movie Theater, Susanville, California

Sierra Movie Theater, Susanville, California

As I was photographing the building the owner showed up and we talked for a short while. Because the building had been renovated recently, I asked him if he had heard of the Save America’s Cinema nonprofit program.  He said he had never heard of it, and as a matter of fact, he told me the amount of dollars he had just recently invested in the purchase of digital equipment for his two movie theaters (he has a second theater in Susanville, not too far from this one).  It was quite a large sum of money! By the way, he had just finished painting the building himself. It looked quite good.  He invited me for a tour of the facility, but I declined, I still had a long way to go.

Movie Theater in Susanville and the proprietor

Movie Theater in Susanville and the proprietor

It is great to know there are people out there putting an effort to keep these buildings and movie theaters available for today’s audiences. Particularly when they face competition from multiplexes and the never before so affordable large-screen high definition TVs paired with high speed internet and cable services.

I continued my journey, stopped for a very late lunch in Westwood, a small town in  apparent economic decline.

Westwood, CA

Westwood, CA

How did I reach this conclusion? Well, this picture tells the story.

When was the last time this car ran?

When was the last time this car ran?

But the motel, if you go around the car, as well as the supermarket, appear to still be open.  As I was there, getting granola bars and water from my top box, my lunch, the supermarket was closed, lights were off. A lady coming from the motel office walked past me and opened the supermarket, lights were turned on. The shelves did not look empty, but they did not appear updated.  It seems to be a one person operation with very little customer traffic these days.

Supermarket in Westwood

Supermarket in Westwood

Just a couple of days ago my good friend Sierk, whom I met when I was in the City and Regional Planning graduate program at the Ohio State University, so many years ago, I realize, mentioned he wanted to create a new job for himself. One of his ideas is to offer city planning consultation services to small towns that are in need of revitalization. I thought it was a great idea and I believe he has the capacity to make things happen.

The Northwest Public Radio has been covering a series on small northwest towns recently. When riding in Oregon, in the valley or the desert, I pass by many small towns, mostly towns that came into existence because of a road going by, the railroad, timber or mines.  Many are no longer in existence today. Some have many buildings being boarded up. But so many towns are coming back to life by re-defining themselves on a newly found business vocation. Anyway, this town, not too far from touristic attractions in the California Sierras, and on the confluence of two major roads has opportunities waiting to be discovered.

Westwood, California. An opportunity waiting to be discovered.

Westwood, California. An opportunity waiting to be discovered.

I exited 36 and took 147 and continued towards the south, got a glimpse of the Lassen Peak and thought that it could be a good route for the next, on my return to Eugene.

Lassen Peak, California

Lassen Peak, California

147 goes along the east side of Lake Almanor.

Lake Almanor with Lassen Peak on the background

Lake Almanor with Lassen Peak on the background

Then I made a left turn to Hwy 89, eventually connecting to Hwy 70/89 and I was in Graeagle before 5pm. I checked in, the manager apologized for my room not having parking in front of it, so she suggested I could park the motorcycle in the walkway. I thought it would block the service people from walking between rooms, so I found an alternative by taking it to the gap between bushes, and found a brick to prop the bike’s side stand.

Bike parked in front of my room in the River Pines Resort

Bike parked in front of my room in the River Pines Resort

Saturday was the day the guys would be riding together in the area, the riding day which was the point for the trip, which I missed, as I spent Saturday getting there. It was not too long after I had checked in at the hotel when groups of riders started to arrive from their day rides in the area. Mostly everyone parked their bikes on the covered walkways.

ST3

ST3

Perhaps I could had done that as well.

Hyper Motard and Streetfighter

Hypermotard and Streetfighter

I met most of them, had a beer with them in what had become the hang out area of the group staying at the hotel (a few others were staying on an RV park not too far from the hotel).

The "headquarters" of the operation

The “headquarters” of the operation (or where the beer cooler was)

The original plan from the organizers, who trailered their bikes to the event was to have dinner at a pizza restaurant, about 2 or 3 miles from the hotel. None of the riders wanted to walk there. No one wanted to ride there (drinking, you know). So we were about to go rogue on the plan. Then we found a compromise. We ordered the pizzas and someone who had a truck (one of the guys who trailered his bike) picked them up and brought them back to the hotel. You see, when we plan motorcycle events, we have to make sure the drinking stays where we are staying, so that when the party is over all we need to do is walk or stumble back to our rooms. Next time I know the planning committee, who drive to the event, will take that into account.  Anyway, it was all good and it offered me a chance to get to know these guys better as we went back and forth with dinner plans.

Breakfast in Graeagle

Breakfast in Graeagle

Next morning, I checked out of the hotel and had breakfast nearby with some of the guys. And one of the riders who lives in Oregon invited me to return with him.  I can’t remember his real name, but he goes by “Chick”. You know, it takes me time to understand these guys’ aliases at the Ducati forum. For them, Ducati is a Duck-ati, I suppose. To me it is always Doo-cati, so I’ve never seen ducks out of the bike’s name. I have to train my brain to understand these guys’ thing for duck-related aliases.  I fueled the bike and we were on our way back to Oregon. Chick lives on the Oregon coast, north of Lincoln City, so we will be riding together until I take Hwy. 58 towards Eugene, from Hwy. 97. He will continue north and go west later.

Chick agreed to go via the Lassen Volcanic National Park.  The first stop was lake Almanor, this time we would be going on the south margin of the lake and then north from there to cross the Lassen Volcanic park.  The skies were getting dark, rain was on the forecast.

Lake Almanor, Lassen Peak on the background, dark skies announcing rain

Lake Almanor, Lassen Peak on the background, dark skies announcing rain

We were both surprised by the beauty of this park. Really nice. At the highest area of the park, getting closer to the peak, we could not ride more than a mile or two without being forced by the beautiful views to stop for pictures.

Nice views at the Lassen Volcanic National Park

Nice views at the Lassen Volcanic National Park

As we climbed towards the highest elevation on the road, and it started raining, the temperature dropped to the low 40′s (or high 30′s) if I remember correctly.

Climbing towards the road summit.

Climbing towards the road summit.

At the road summit, Ducati red looks good with the subdued colors of this landscape.

At the Sumit

At the Summit

From here on, as we started the descent from the Lassen Peak area, it started raining. First there were drops here and there, then sprinkles then a steady rain all the way to Burney (I think that’s what this small town was called), on 299 where we refueled the bikes.  From there we went east on 299 towards 139 and no more rain. Although my smart phone’s three different weather forecasting applications indicated we would be facing rain once again when in Oregon. I was following Chick, riding at a good clip.  Not too many stops after the Lassen Peak area.

Somewehre along 299

Somewehre along 299

We refueled again close to Klammath Falls. My bike took less fuel than his ST3, for the same distance and speed traveled. For an average speed of 72 mph…

Average Speed 72 mph

Average Speed 72 mph

…the bike averaged 46 mpg.  Really not bad at all. I can get 50 mpg at somewhat lower average speeds. Just that you may not want to go too slow on this bike.  Or this bike is not conducive to lower speeds…

46 mpg fuel consumption rate

46 mpg fuel consumption rate

We waved each other goodbye when we reached the 97 / 58 split.  When I got closer to Eugene it started raining a lot.  I took I-5 for a couple of miles and then 105 west towards my house.  It was raining copiously.  I got home dry enough, though, while the rain cleaned the bugs off of the bike fairings.

Back home, tucked in with the sisters.

Back home, tucked in with the sisters.

In conclusion, the bike did very well.  The next day I woke up and I missed not having an opportunity to continue the ride, after all, I was home. But I was getting into the riding mode and I wished I had more distance to go, I missed not having another 400+ mile day. This bike handles the distance very well, it makes it effortless, and it makes it fun.  Mission accomplished!

Almost 1,000 miles in two days

Almost 1,000 miles in two days

You may be wandering about the clutch issues I mentioned earlier. Although the bike had good clutch actuation, I knew it was not normal, I could feel the low pressure at the lever. I took it to the Ducati shop the following week and asked the guys to take a look at it. Take a look at the clutch fluid on the picture below: it is almost black!

Clutch fluid, almost black!

Clutch fluid, almost black!

The guys found out there was an air bubble somewhere in the system. A fluid change and it was all good and back to normal.  In less than 15 minutes I was back on the road.

Next post, another ride to the Cascades Highway, an organized ride by the Ducati Dealer folks.

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4 Responses to The Ducati Multistrada does the California Sierras

  1. Greg says:

    I’ve had a similar recurring problem with the clutch on my 2013, which happens every 1-4000 miles. In every case an air bubble seems to form up near the master cylinder. Now I just make sure I have a wrench in my toolkit, and I’ve found I can “burp” the air bubble out on the side of the road in about five minutes.

    • cesardagord says:

      Hey Greg, I’ve heard of other 2013 bikes with the air bubble issue on the clutch fluid. Never heard of it as a recurring problem. I’m keeping an eye on it and it has been good since the fluid flush. Thanks for heads up.

  2. Adrian says:

    I found the clutch lever on my 2013 Multistrada to have too little pull when the bike had about 6,000 kilometres on it (I’m Canadian – 4,000 miles for you guys), after a run through 120° heat in Death Valley. The fluid was really dirty, like yours. I had both brake reservoirs and the clutch reservoir bled when I got a mid-trip service in Denver, and everything’s been fine since. It has 20,000 km on it now (12,000-ish miles) and no repetition of the problem.

    • cesardagord says:

      This reminds me Adrian… my rear brake fluid is almost black as well. Although I rarely use the rear brake, the default ABS/brake mode on Touring links the rear with the front actuation. It must be the reason for it being black, I’ve used this bike on touring mode for about half of its miles.
      Thanks for writing!

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