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 MOTO GP Laguna Seca 2011 
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Location: San Diego, CA
Post MOTO GP Laguna Seca 2011
If you didn't get a chance to make it to the races at Laguna Seca this year, here is a photo re-cap of what you missed. Enjoy! (photos courtesy of Efraim M. & Reggie R.)



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- Efraim
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Tue Jul 26, 2011 10:01 pm
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Location: San Diego, CA
Post Re: MOTO GP Laguna Seca 2011
More pics...

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_________________
- Efraim
DOCSD Pres
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Tue Jul 26, 2011 10:39 pm
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Joined: Thu Sep 08, 2005 9:42 pm
Posts: 305
Post Re: MOTO GP Laguna Seca 2011
And here's a written account of my experience of the event (tl;dr version -- I went, I saw, I had fun, I crashed on the way back. I'll heal, the bike is fixable, wear your gear, folks.)
=====
First, I want to say that I discovered that this sort of thing is way better with a good friend along. In 2005, my wife came with me. In 2008 and 2009 a good friend was there with me to hang with and see it all weekend long. This time, it was just me. I was a bit surprised by how much this affected me; I’m generally just as happy alone as with anyone, but this is an experience better shared.
=====
I followed my usual plan this year: ride up Wednesday to Big Sur, camp there, spend Thursday ambling through the fine art galleries of Carmel-by-the-Sea, head to the track and set up camp Thursday evening, hardly leave until Monday morning, ride home. This year, I also bought a ticket for a parade lap on the track, since I hadn’t actually had the chance to ride that track yet.

I checked my fluids and tire pressures, lubed and adjusted my chain, and left San Diego at about 0900h Wednesday, packed as usual -- big magnetic tankbag on tank and bedroll bungeed to passenger seat. South of San Luis Obispo, Hwy 1 (PCH) is spotty for scenery and quite slow in many areas, so I decided to skip that and just slab it to SLO, and then enjoy the upper section in the best part of the day. SLO is 330 miles from San Diego; I got there about 1430h, had a tasty lunch at Taco Roco, and hit the PCH for real at 1500h.

The weather was delightful, bright and sunny but not too hot at that point. With about 150 miles of twisty PCH to Big Sur, and several hours of daylight left, I was set for a good time. And I had one. There were, as always, sections under repair and rough patched bits, but no gravel pits this year, so that was nice. I kept a pace just fast enough to feel fun, but slow enough to be able to safely pay some attention to the scenery. Traffic wasn’t too bad; I could usually make a safe pass pretty quickly and be on my way. Most of the cagers were courteous and made some effort to make room and let me by.

I reached the South end of Big Sur at almost exactly 1800h. There’s an art gallery there called the Coast Gallery, that I’ve never driven by before early enough to stop and see, and it was open. I parked, got off my bike, and watched the lady lock the door because they close at 6pm. Harrumph. She did confirm, though, that they are open on Monday, so I planned to stop on the way back.

Just north of there, the Henry Miller Garden and Library was still open, though, so I went in and had coffee and explored the bookstore and all. Then another very short hop to Nepenthe for a fine dinner -- I had Muscovy duck with a bing cherry salsa and a glass of a blend that was mostly grenache. Very tasty. This is not a restaurant for the budget-minded, but it’s fine food and a great view and worth the experience.

Then time to find a camping spot. By this time it was about 1930h, and I had about an hour of daylight. There are several campgrounds in Big Sur, and in past years I haven’t had trouble getting a walk-in spot. This year it was full up, both at the private campgrounds and at the state parks. The very last state park on the north end, the chart at the kiosk showed one camping space left, so I filled out the little envelope and put my money in it and put that into the little metal pipe that you can’t get it back from, and hoped the spot was actually open and that someone hadn’t just failed to put the X on the chart. The campground was actually about a half-mile hike from the parking lot, so I didn’t have time to make sure first. So then I pulled my tankbag (which is very much not designed to be comfortably carried for half a mile) and bedroll off the bike and hiked in. Pretty scenery, a few streams, nice campsites (fully provided with bear boxes, I note), and my campsite has a tent in it. Harrumph. Nice family from Philly, though, touring the country. They apologized for failing to check the box on the chart, and the campsite was plenty big enough, so we just agreed to share it.

Thursday morning opened uncharacteristically sunny. Normal weather all along this coast is heavy fog every morning, burning off around 1000h or so. That’s why the redwoods grow here; they actually get most of their water from the air instead of the ground, which is also why they can grow so tall -- they don’t have to pump the water they use all the way up from the ground to the treetop. But this morning, I was forced out my sleeping bag by hot bright sun at 0700h, so I packed up and hiked back to the bike and got back on the road. And instantly hit the fogbank that was covering every bit of the coast except where I was sleeping. Carmel is only about 30 miles from Big Sur, so I rolled in there before 0800h, and got a leisurely breakfast, since the galleries mostly don’t open until 1000h to 1100h. Since I had all day, I really was able to cover the whole downtown there, see all the galleries and studios and little parks and odd shops and so on, see what has changed from past years and what hasn’t, which art salespeople are at a different gallery than last year, etc. I saw a great deal of very nice art, although nothing that really said “buy me now”. Which is good, because dropping a few grand on an unnecessary purchase isn’t in the budget at the moment. Had a nice dinner in Carmel (remarkably, at a reasonable price) at the Em Le restaurant; I had the calamari steak dinner.

Then headed for the track at about 1800h. Traffic medium-thick, but got there with no trouble, showed ticket and camping pass, got my wristband, and rode up the dirt hill just inside Turn 6 where we motorcyclists all get to camp. Several people there already; made some new friends, re-met several I’d seen there in past years. Quite a few retired fellows who had taken the time and ridden out from Wisconsin or Indiana or Canada, etc. All kinds of bikes -- Japanese sport, BMWs and Gold Wings, Harleys, Ducatis and Triumphs, a Guzzi, a Cagiva, an Aprilia, etc. Enjoyed sitting around the camp stoves and chatting with everyone each evening. Lots of them bring the full camping kit and cook their own food in camp and so on. I do that if I’m camping for real, but there are plenty of food vendors at the track, and some of them even have pretty good food, so I just bring $20 a day to spend.
=====
Friday morning opened cold and rather damp, as is normal there. Friday’s schedule is mostly just practices, so I use that day mostly to go see all the vendors and displays and where to find the good food and all that. I took my bike down to Ducati Island; I didn’t have the special parking pass for it, but the parking guy there recognized my bike and sort of looked the other way.

I wandered all the paths. I badly needed a new jacket, as the one I’ve been wearing I’ve had for 14 years, and it was 40 years old when I got it, and the stitching was finally all getting weak. It’s ‘50’s vintage genuine horsehide, and you can’t get that anymore, so I might see if I can get a good leather guy to do a total rebuild on it. I bought a Vanson in the Dave Aldana “bones” style; it’s very neato. As usual, I got my wife a top from the Ducati vendor tent; she likes a present after a trip. When I heard a race practice going, I’d just go watch it from the closest view of the track to wherever I was at the moment.

Friday evening, there was an unofficial Ducati gathering in Carmel at 1800h -- band, taco bar, etc. -- Sponsored I think by Motorcycle USA. I went for a bit and did the usual, chat, look at bikes, and so on. Some nice examples there. At 2000h there was a dinner in Monterey for Ducati Owners Club officers; the San Diego prez was allowed to invite a couple of people and extended that to me. That was fun, getting to know some others from around the country. Scored a parking pass for Ducati Island for the rest of the weekend.

Then back to the campground. Friday night was *very* wet. Fog so thick it was almost raining. My sleeping bag was partially under a tree, so I’d get a big drip of water now and then, and had to pull it up over my head to avoid getting them on my pillow and head. In the morning, everyone’s everything was soaked. I was still fine and dry in my bag, but had to hang it in tree for the day for the outside to dry out.
=====
The fog, wet as it was, cleared fairly quickly, so the practices started on time. Saturday has practices and a lot of qualifying, and one race, the AMA Supersport -- 600cc limited modifications, for young new racers.

One of the things I don’t like about the Laguna Seca event is that they don’t bring the GP support classes. Moto2 and 125GP go to Indy, but not to Laguna Seca; this event is supported by AMA races. Which in 2008 and 2009 were simply unprofessional. Badly organized, inconsistent rulings and decisions, just not up to par. I had heard that DMG was improving and that the AMA racing was good this year. I hoped that was the case.

I had the parade lap of the track this day, so I brought my bike down for that, signed the forms, etc., went and got breakfast, watched a couple practices. I like to watch practice and qualifying at the Corkscrew. For those events, you’re not keeping track of the order of everyone on the track, so a wide overview isn’t needed. That’s one of the most interesting corners in racing, and it’s a good place to get a look at the dynamics of the bikes, and of the qualifying strategies -- who is pressing hard when, etc.

As you come into that over the crest from Turn 7, the track drops away as you turn left, then you make the transition from that left to sweeping right, and right in the middle of that transition the track drops away even more steeply, so the bike almost completely unweights its suspension right in the middle of the transition, then settles down and almost bottoms out in the middle of the right sweeper. No matter how impatient the rider is to get on the gas and head for the exit, he has to wait for the bike to settle down there before getting on it. If he does so too early (as one Supersport guy did during practice) he hasn’t got the traction yet and he’ll get an instant lowside and a big shower of sparks as his bike slides across the track. You can see the top guys practically twitching with impatience there, as they hang at the top of their suspension travel and have to wait for the traction to arrive before hammering it onward.

The parade lap started us at Turn 7 and led us through the Corkscrew pretty slowly. They had about 300 bikes out, and really didn’t want a great big domino fall there. Once through it, they allowed us a fairly decent pace through several parts of the track. Not racing speeds of course, or even really fast road speeds, but enough to get a little feel for what it’s like. I’d like to get a trackday there or two.

The AMA Supersport race did not bode well. First, they ran it two hours before the time given in the program and all schedules, without announcing that anywhere, so a lot of people just missed most of it. Then they started, had two riders crash in Turn 2, and stopped it. Hrrrm. Yes, if you have a 5-bike pileup there, it makes sense, because it’ll probably take longer to clean up than the time before they come around again. But 2 bikes? Push them off and let ‘em keep going. But apparently one of the two was a top contender, so they decided to halt the race and have a restart and let them have another chance. This does not seem seemly to me. Then neither of them was going to be able to make the restart anyway, so it was for nothing. Then they had to wait 15 minutes anyway because of some rule that you have to wait that long for a restart. Then they restarted, planned for the full length, but a little more than halfway a guy crashed in the Corkscrew, and they ended the race on the spot. Whoever’s ahead right then wins. The end. So much for anyone conserving his tires or planning a race strategy. Really, guys?

MotoGP qualifying was pretty normal. The only real surprise being that Stoner didn’t get pole; Lorenzo and Pedrosa both did better.

Saturday evening is a big bike night on Cannery Row in Monterey; they block off streets and it’s a zoo of bikers. I usually go to that, but I had been down there Friday night, so I decided to stay at the track. Yamaha had some events going -- a Q&A and interview session with Edwards, Spies, and Crutchlow, along with Kenny Roberts and Wayne Rainey. That was cool and interesting. Then a concert with a band called the Dirty Heads, who were supposed to be this great new band with a creative sound combining reggae, hip-hop, and surf music. They sucked. Just clichés of each genre mashed together. They got five songs out, then the generator crashed. I went back to camp.

Saturday night wasn’t nearly as damp as Friday had been.
=====
Sunday morning is the normal gloom, burning off when it should. I brought the bike down to Ducati Island. They were lining us up along the edge; there was a couple right ahead of me, him on a black older MultiStrada, her on a shiny new Monster 696 with matching leathers and all. They parked with about half again as much space as everyone else to protect their bikes; the parking guys asked them to tighten it up like the rest of us to get as many bikes on the island as they could. The couple gives them a hassle, but then complies, taking forever because neither of them (and especially her) apparently knows how to maneuver a bike. Then they get parked and she gets off and stands where I’m supposed to pull my bike in, and starts cleaning every speck off her bike. I wait a couple of minutes, then shut off my engine, as others continue to line up. I wait a couple more minutes, and am just about to start making snide remarks about people being inconsiderate and/or oblivious when she finally finishes. Sheesh. Sometimes I think Ducati should screen its customers better. I go get breakfast.

Warmups in the early morning, races in the late morning and afternoon. I staked out a good spot on the other side of the hill that the Corkscrew is behind. From there you can see most of the track, from Turn 9 all the way to start/finish and on around through Turn 5. Laguna Seca may be a primitive bowl of dirt with porta-potties and only tents for vendors, but it is a great place to actually watch a race. There are several areas from which you can see about 2/3 of the track, and can really watch what the racers are doing and how they do it.

First race is the “E-Bikes”. Lots of hype and foofaraw. 12 bikes on grid, of vastly different capacity. Whizzing by -- WHIZZZZZZZZ -- a completely boring exhibition parade of a dead end technology. Yay. Big news is that Mission Motors, Steve Rapp at the helm, qualified with a 1:31, which they made a big deal of being as fast as some of the 600cc bikes. But that was one lap. For the race -- even though it’s only 8 laps instead of the 23 that the 600s run -- he had to go several seconds a lap slower to make the distance. Tons of pointless blather from the announcers and their guests showed the biggest flaw in the E-Bikes for racing purposes: they aren’t loud enough to drown out the blather. The AMA bikes can mostly drown them out. The MotoGP bikes do it completely; the announcers actually just shut up during that race. Maybe the E-Bikes need to all run with sirens or something.

The AMA Daytona Superbike race was pretty good. Mostly Japanese 600’s with a few Ducati 848s mixed in. Fairly close racing, some good passing, no big organizational screwups. Cool.

The MotoGP was fairly uneventful. The start came out in pretty much grid order. Crutchlow crashed out right away, Simoncelli a few minutes later (surprise!). Ben Bostrom had a wildcard ride, but he just couldn’t adjust to the bike. He made faster laps on his AMA Superbike than on the MotoGP bike; he rode a few laps about 5 seconds off the pace and headed into the pits before getting lapped. Edwards and Abraham fought for a while for best non-factory bike placement; Edwards got it. Bautista crashed the Suzuki. Rossi and Hayden spent the entire race in 6th and 7th, lapping as if tied together by a 100-meter line. Spies tracked down Dovizioso and passed him to finish 4th. Stoner tracked down and passed Pedrosa, then Lorenzo, and won. Tadah! Not a lot of stand up and cheer moments, but a good clean race and really top riding.

The AMA Superbike race was quite good as well. Some good close racing and good passes. The Buell was running pretty well for the first half, but then fell back a bit, and ended up 10th again.

It’s only another $10 to camp Sunday night, so I as usual plan to do that and ride home Monday. I walk down to Ducati Island to fetch my bike, and see the same woman wiping specks off her bike next to mine. I roll my eyes and go make a last tour around the island, looking at the goodies and saying goodbyes to various people. There were four guys who all showed up on 750 F1 Ducs, a bike you don’t see every day, much less four in a row; it was cool to watch them ride off together. After about half an hour I head back to my bike, and she’s still picking nits off hers. I get within sight just in time to see her knock my helmet off my bike, down the slope and into the lake. F***. She did wade in and fish it out, but no apology, no offer of anything, just handed me my soaked helmet and finally got her bike out of there.

Nice cool night, not too damp.
=====
I had to wait until about noon before my helmet was dry enough inside to wear. So I was the last guy out of camp. Loaded up and rode back to PCH and pointed south. Weather was gorgeous by that point, though -- nice ride.

Got to Big Sur about 1300h, stopped at the Coast Gallery as I had decided to do when I just missed it on the way up. A lot of nice stuff there. More fine crafts than fine art -- pottery, woodwork, glasswork, some sculpture. And a café, where I had a distinctly mediocre sandwich. I know it’s Big Sur and the land’s expensive and the scenery is wonderful and it’s normal to charge $8.50 for a sandwich. But it should be a better sandwich than that. Bump it up to $9 and put real cheese on it.

Off again, lovely view, traffic a little on the heavy side; have to work my way through clots of cars. Winds are a bit gusty, but otherwise a great day. About 20 miles further along, I was behind a white Chevy, going about the speed limit, and one of the corners going left tightens up a bit more than I expected. I started to lean further in, but just as I did, a gust of wind came down the hillside and blew me back upright. I was unable to make the corner and ran wide to the right into the dirt, braking as much as I could, lost traction and fell down. My left foot is trapped under as the bike hits the ground and smashes my foot, then the bracket that holds the footpegs/shifter/muffler assembly broke off and came out from under the bike, along with my leg. We slid a very short distance and stopped. I stood right up and picked up the bike, looked down to see if the kickstand was still there, which it was, and put it down and parked the bike, noticing as I did that my left boot was missing and I was wearing half a bloody sock.

I sat down, feeling just a little bit woozy, and took off my helmet and jacket and gloves and peeled off the sock. The white Chevy stopped, as well as a guy on an older Gold Wing who had been behind me, and as they couldn’t get phone reception there they both went up the road a bit to call 911. I was less woozy by that time, and thought that sitting in the full sun wasn’t going to serve me well, so I hobbled a couple hundred feet up the road to where there were some pine trees, and laid down behind the guardrail that was up there, and elevated my feet on the guardrail post. The car and bike returned and were confused for a moment that I was no longer where they left me, but I stood up and waved my arms and they found me. The bike guy gave me a bottle of water, as I had finished mine. He took a couple pictures, one of the fine view -- just about the most beautiful place to crash a motorcycle in the world, and one of me lying there waiting for emergency services. I didn’t think my foot was broken; I could move all my toes and there were no sharp pains, just a strong dull ache. I seemed to have no other injuries at all. He gathered the bits that had broken off the bike, as well as my left boot, which was torn nearly in half across the instep; not on seams, actually ripped the leather. That’s a lot of damage my foot didn’t have to take.

A park ranger showed up, then the ambulance after about half an hour. Standard practice for them for any motorcycle accident is to strap the patient to a C-Spine board, and start an IV in case of internal bleeding, so they did all that and transported me to the hospital in Carmel, where I waited for various people to show up with various forms, and to assess the wound, take X-rays, wash the wound, and stitch it up. X-rays showed nothing was broken. So they bandaged it and let me loose. I’ve got a great big swollen bruise, and three stitches on the top of my left foot, and that’s it.

They set me down in a waiting room with a phone and a phone book, and now I needed to figure out the next steps. First, I called my wife, to let her know I wasn’t making it back that night; as by then it was about 1830h, and was too late to get my bike out of towing. I did call the tow guy, and he suggested a couple of motels and a rental car place. But the motels were all full except one had one suite left for $159, and none of the car rental places had a pickup for one way rental to San Diego. Then my wife called back -- one of her friends has a brother that lives in Monterey, and he’s coming to pick me up and will let me crash at his place. And my sister and BIL have figured out that the bike will fit in my parents’ Ford van and have already pulled all the back seats out of it, and she is coming to get me. Good job, sweetie.

So Paul picks me up, and he’s cool, and it turns out we had met once before, at a gathering of friends. He took me to his apartment and made me dinner, and set up the spare bedroom for me, and I went to sleep. Kristine drove through the night and was there in the morning; she went to Walgreens for ibuprofen and a cane, we went and got the bike ($540, ugh!), and they helped load it up, and we headed back home. It was another lovely day, so we decided to drive PCH and see the view. That’s the first time I’ve been down that stretch as a passenger, where I could just look and not drive. That was cool. We got to SLO about lunchtime, and ate at Taco Roco again, and it was good again. By then Kristine was pretty exhausted, so I drove the rest of the way back (the van is an automatic, so I didn’t need my left foot).

We got into Los Angeles (where I’m working these days) about 1700h. My roommate Tamara was all worried because I was a day late and I had forgotten to call her in all the eventfulness. Kristine stayed the night there with me, dropped me off at work, and took the bike home.

So I worked Wednesday and Thursday, and she came up in her car and got me Thursday evening, because I had another client back In San Diego I had agreed to do some work for on Friday, and they had coordinated it all and couldn’t move it. It involved standing on ladders in a mechanical space in a building mezzanine for hours, which was definitely not very comfortable under the circumstances, but we got it done by noon. Then my doctor wanted to see me and the injury that afternoon, so we went in and he prescribed some antibiotics to keep it from getting infected. And that’s that.

I’m hunting down the bits to fix my bike, an opportunity for some upgrades. Probably Cycle Cat rearsets, convert to GP shift, and new cans to replace the stock originals that were still there after 18 years (leaning towards Staintunes).

I looked into renting a scooter, since they are automatics also, but it’s about $250 a week to rent a Vespa, and that’s way too much. So I’m driving the big Ford van, since that’s the only automatic in the family, until my foot heals and my bike is recommissioned.
=====
Take home lessons:
a) Even if you are an experienced and careful rider, S*** can still happen. There’s no sense in riding like an ass and increasing those chances.
b) Wear your gear, and make it *good* gear. If I had not been wearing full-height real motorcycle boots, my foot would be far worse, and possibly missing. That boot made this a minor incident instead of a permanent disability.
c) And my wife rocks. (Of course, I already knew that, but still.)

PhilB

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Mon Aug 01, 2011 11:42 am
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Joined: Tue Aug 25, 2009 8:45 am
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Location: Chula Vista
Post Re: MOTO GP Laguna Seca 2011
philb wrote:
And here's a written account of my experience of the event (tl;dr version -- I went, I saw, I had fun, I crashed on the way back. I'll heal, the bike is fixable, wear your gear, folks.)
=====
First, I want to say that I discovered that this sort of thing is way better with a good friend along. In 2005, my wife came with me. In 2008 and 2009 a good friend was there with me to hang with and see it all weekend long. This time, it was just me. I was a bit surprised by how much this affected me; I’m generally just as happy alone as with anyone, but this is an experience better shared.
=====
I followed my usual plan this year: ride up Wednesday to Big Sur, camp there, spend Thursday ambling through the fine art galleries of Carmel-by-the-Sea, head to the track and set up camp Thursday evening, hardly leave until Monday morning, ride home. This year, I also bought a ticket for a parade lap on the track, since I hadn’t actually had the chance to ride that track yet.

I checked my fluids and tire pressures, lubed and adjusted my chain, and left San Diego at about 0900h Wednesday, packed as usual -- big magnetic tankbag on tank and bedroll bungeed to passenger seat. South of San Luis Obispo, Hwy 1 (PCH) is spotty for scenery and quite slow in many areas, so I decided to skip that and just slab it to SLO, and then enjoy the upper section in the best part of the day. SLO is 330 miles from San Diego; I got there about 1430h, had a tasty lunch at Taco Roco, and hit the PCH for real at 1500h.

The weather was delightful, bright and sunny but not too hot at that point. With about 150 miles of twisty PCH to Big Sur, and several hours of daylight left, I was set for a good time. And I had one. There were, as always, sections under repair and rough patched bits, but no gravel pits this year, so that was nice. I kept a pace just fast enough to feel fun, but slow enough to be able to safely pay some attention to the scenery. Traffic wasn’t too bad; I could usually make a safe pass pretty quickly and be on my way. Most of the cagers were courteous and made some effort to make room and let me by.

I reached the South end of Big Sur at almost exactly 1800h. There’s an art gallery there called the Coast Gallery, that I’ve never driven by before early enough to stop and see, and it was open. I parked, got off my bike, and watched the lady lock the door because they close at 6pm. Harrumph. She did confirm, though, that they are open on Monday, so I planned to stop on the way back.

Just north of there, the Henry Miller Garden and Library was still open, though, so I went in and had coffee and explored the bookstore and all. Then another very short hop to Nepenthe for a fine dinner -- I had Muscovy duck with a bing cherry salsa and a glass of a blend that was mostly grenache. Very tasty. This is not a restaurant for the budget-minded, but it’s fine food and a great view and worth the experience.

Then time to find a camping spot. By this time it was about 1930h, and I had about an hour of daylight. There are several campgrounds in Big Sur, and in past years I haven’t had trouble getting a walk-in spot. This year it was full up, both at the private campgrounds and at the state parks. The very last state park on the north end, the chart at the kiosk showed one camping space left, so I filled out the little envelope and put my money in it and put that into the little metal pipe that you can’t get it back from, and hoped the spot was actually open and that someone hadn’t just failed to put the X on the chart. The campground was actually about a half-mile hike from the parking lot, so I didn’t have time to make sure first. So then I pulled my tankbag (which is very much not designed to be comfortably carried for half a mile) and bedroll off the bike and hiked in. Pretty scenery, a few streams, nice campsites (fully provided with bear boxes, I note), and my campsite has a tent in it. Harrumph. Nice family from Philly, though, touring the country. They apologized for failing to check the box on the chart, and the campsite was plenty big enough, so we just agreed to share it.

Thursday morning opened uncharacteristically sunny. Normal weather all along this coast is heavy fog every morning, burning off around 1000h or so. That’s why the redwoods grow here; they actually get most of their water from the air instead of the ground, which is also why they can grow so tall -- they don’t have to pump the water they use all the way up from the ground to the treetop. But this morning, I was forced out my sleeping bag by hot bright sun at 0700h, so I packed up and hiked back to the bike and got back on the road. And instantly hit the fogbank that was covering every bit of the coast except where I was sleeping. Carmel is only about 30 miles from Big Sur, so I rolled in there before 0800h, and got a leisurely breakfast, since the galleries mostly don’t open until 1000h to 1100h. Since I had all day, I really was able to cover the whole downtown there, see all the galleries and studios and little parks and odd shops and so on, see what has changed from past years and what hasn’t, which art salespeople are at a different gallery than last year, etc. I saw a great deal of very nice art, although nothing that really said “buy me now”. Which is good, because dropping a few grand on an unnecessary purchase isn’t in the budget at the moment. Had a nice dinner in Carmel (remarkably, at a reasonable price) at the Em Le restaurant; I had the calamari steak dinner.

Then headed for the track at about 1800h. Traffic medium-thick, but got there with no trouble, showed ticket and camping pass, got my wristband, and rode up the dirt hill just inside Turn 6 where we motorcyclists all get to camp. Several people there already; made some new friends, re-met several I’d seen there in past years. Quite a few retired fellows who had taken the time and ridden out from Wisconsin or Indiana or Canada, etc. All kinds of bikes -- Japanese sport, BMWs and Gold Wings, Harleys, Ducatis and Triumphs, a Guzzi, a Cagiva, an Aprilia, etc. Enjoyed sitting around the camp stoves and chatting with everyone each evening. Lots of them bring the full camping kit and cook their own food in camp and so on. I do that if I’m camping for real, but there are plenty of food vendors at the track, and some of them even have pretty good food, so I just bring $20 a day to spend.
=====
Friday morning opened cold and rather damp, as is normal there. Friday’s schedule is mostly just practices, so I use that day mostly to go see all the vendors and displays and where to find the good food and all that. I took my bike down to Ducati Island; I didn’t have the special parking pass for it, but the parking guy there recognized my bike and sort of looked the other way.

I wandered all the paths. I badly needed a new jacket, as the one I’ve been wearing I’ve had for 14 years, and it was 40 years old when I got it, and the stitching was finally all getting weak. It’s ‘50’s vintage genuine horsehide, and you can’t get that anymore, so I might see if I can get a good leather guy to do a total rebuild on it. I bought a Vanson in the Dave Aldana “bones” style; it’s very neato. As usual, I got my wife a top from the Ducati vendor tent; she likes a present after a trip. When I heard a race practice going, I’d just go watch it from the closest view of the track to wherever I was at the moment.

Friday evening, there was an unofficial Ducati gathering in Carmel at 1800h -- band, taco bar, etc. -- Sponsored I think by Motorcycle USA. I went for a bit and did the usual, chat, look at bikes, and so on. Some nice examples there. At 2000h there was a dinner in Monterey for Ducati Owners Club officers; the San Diego prez was allowed to invite a couple of people and extended that to me. That was fun, getting to know some others from around the country. Scored a parking pass for Ducati Island for the rest of the weekend.

Then back to the campground. Friday night was *very* wet. Fog so thick it was almost raining. My sleeping bag was partially under a tree, so I’d get a big drip of water now and then, and had to pull it up over my head to avoid getting them on my pillow and head. In the morning, everyone’s everything was soaked. I was still fine and dry in my bag, but had to hang it in tree for the day for the outside to dry out.
=====
The fog, wet as it was, cleared fairly quickly, so the practices started on time. Saturday has practices and a lot of qualifying, and one race, the AMA Supersport -- 600cc limited modifications, for young new racers.

One of the things I don’t like about the Laguna Seca event is that they don’t bring the GP support classes. Moto2 and 125GP go to Indy, but not to Laguna Seca; this event is supported by AMA races. Which in 2008 and 2009 were simply unprofessional. Badly organized, inconsistent rulings and decisions, just not up to par. I had heard that DMG was improving and that the AMA racing was good this year. I hoped that was the case.

I had the parade lap of the track this day, so I brought my bike down for that, signed the forms, etc., went and got breakfast, watched a couple practices. I like to watch practice and qualifying at the Corkscrew. For those events, you’re not keeping track of the order of everyone on the track, so a wide overview isn’t needed. That’s one of the most interesting corners in racing, and it’s a good place to get a look at the dynamics of the bikes, and of the qualifying strategies -- who is pressing hard when, etc.

As you come into that over the crest from Turn 7, the track drops away as you turn left, then you make the transition from that left to sweeping right, and right in the middle of that transition the track drops away even more steeply, so the bike almost completely unweights its suspension right in the middle of the transition, then settles down and almost bottoms out in the middle of the right sweeper. No matter how impatient the rider is to get on the gas and head for the exit, he has to wait for the bike to settle down there before getting on it. If he does so too early (as one Supersport guy did during practice) he hasn’t got the traction yet and he’ll get an instant lowside and a big shower of sparks as his bike slides across the track. You can see the top guys practically twitching with impatience there, as they hang at the top of their suspension travel and have to wait for the traction to arrive before hammering it onward.

The parade lap started us at Turn 7 and led us through the Corkscrew pretty slowly. They had about 300 bikes out, and really didn’t want a great big domino fall there. Once through it, they allowed us a fairly decent pace through several parts of the track. Not racing speeds of course, or even really fast road speeds, but enough to get a little feel for what it’s like. I’d like to get a trackday there or two.

The AMA Supersport race did not bode well. First, they ran it two hours before the time given in the program and all schedules, without announcing that anywhere, so a lot of people just missed most of it. Then they started, had two riders crash in Turn 2, and stopped it. Hrrrm. Yes, if you have a 5-bike pileup there, it makes sense, because it’ll probably take longer to clean up than the time before they come around again. But 2 bikes? Push them off and let ‘em keep going. But apparently one of the two was a top contender, so they decided to halt the race and have a restart and let them have another chance. This does not seem seemly to me. Then neither of them was going to be able to make the restart anyway, so it was for nothing. Then they had to wait 15 minutes anyway because of some rule that you have to wait that long for a restart. Then they restarted, planned for the full length, but a little more than halfway a guy crashed in the Corkscrew, and they ended the race on the spot. Whoever’s ahead right then wins. The end. So much for anyone conserving his tires or planning a race strategy. Really, guys?

MotoGP qualifying was pretty normal. The only real surprise being that Stoner didn’t get pole; Lorenzo and Pedrosa both did better.

Saturday evening is a big bike night on Cannery Row in Monterey; they block off streets and it’s a zoo of bikers. I usually go to that, but I had been down there Friday night, so I decided to stay at the track. Yamaha had some events going -- a Q&A and interview session with Edwards, Spies, and Crutchlow, along with Kenny Roberts and Wayne Rainey. That was cool and interesting. Then a concert with a band called the Dirty Heads, who were supposed to be this great new band with a creative sound combining reggae, hip-hop, and surf music. They sucked. Just clichés of each genre mashed together. They got five songs out, then the generator crashed. I went back to camp.

Saturday night wasn’t nearly as damp as Friday had been.
=====
Sunday morning is the normal gloom, burning off when it should. I brought the bike down to Ducati Island. They were lining us up along the edge; there was a couple right ahead of me, him on a black older MultiStrada, her on a shiny new Monster 696 with matching leathers and all. They parked with about half again as much space as everyone else to protect their bikes; the parking guys asked them to tighten it up like the rest of us to get as many bikes on the island as they could. The couple gives them a hassle, but then complies, taking forever because neither of them (and especially her) apparently knows how to maneuver a bike. Then they get parked and she gets off and stands where I’m supposed to pull my bike in, and starts cleaning every speck off her bike. I wait a couple of minutes, then shut off my engine, as others continue to line up. I wait a couple more minutes, and am just about to start making snide remarks about people being inconsiderate and/or oblivious when she finally finishes. Sheesh. Sometimes I think Ducati should screen its customers better. I go get breakfast.

Warmups in the early morning, races in the late morning and afternoon. I staked out a good spot on the other side of the hill that the Corkscrew is behind. From there you can see most of the track, from Turn 9 all the way to start/finish and on around through Turn 5. Laguna Seca may be a primitive bowl of dirt with porta-potties and only tents for vendors, but it is a great place to actually watch a race. There are several areas from which you can see about 2/3 of the track, and can really watch what the racers are doing and how they do it.

First race is the “E-Bikes”. Lots of hype and foofaraw. 12 bikes on grid, of vastly different capacity. Whizzing by -- WHIZZZZZZZZ -- a completely boring exhibition parade of a dead end technology. Yay. Big news is that Mission Motors, Steve Rapp at the helm, qualified with a 1:31, which they made a big deal of being as fast as some of the 600cc bikes. But that was one lap. For the race -- even though it’s only 8 laps instead of the 23 that the 600s run -- he had to go several seconds a lap slower to make the distance. Tons of pointless blather from the announcers and their guests showed the biggest flaw in the E-Bikes for racing purposes: they aren’t loud enough to drown out the blather. The AMA bikes can mostly drown them out. The MotoGP bikes do it completely; the announcers actually just shut up during that race. Maybe the E-Bikes need to all run with sirens or something.

The AMA Daytona Superbike race was pretty good. Mostly Japanese 600’s with a few Ducati 848s mixed in. Fairly close racing, some good passing, no big organizational screwups. Cool.

The MotoGP was fairly uneventful. The start came out in pretty much grid order. Crutchlow crashed out right away, Simoncelli a few minutes later (surprise!). Ben Bostrom had a wildcard ride, but he just couldn’t adjust to the bike. He made faster laps on his AMA Superbike than on the MotoGP bike; he rode a few laps about 5 seconds off the pace and headed into the pits before getting lapped. Edwards and Abraham fought for a while for best non-factory bike placement; Edwards got it. Bautista crashed the Suzuki. Rossi and Hayden spent the entire race in 6th and 7th, lapping as if tied together by a 100-meter line. Spies tracked down Dovizioso and passed him to finish 4th. Stoner tracked down and passed Pedrosa, then Lorenzo, and won. Tadah! Not a lot of stand up and cheer moments, but a good clean race and really top riding.

The AMA Superbike race was quite good as well. Some good close racing and good passes. The Buell was running pretty well for the first half, but then fell back a bit, and ended up 10th again.

It’s only another $10 to camp Sunday night, so I as usual plan to do that and ride home Monday. I walk down to Ducati Island to fetch my bike, and see the same woman wiping specks off her bike next to mine. I roll my eyes and go make a last tour around the island, looking at the goodies and saying goodbyes to various people. There were four guys who all showed up on 750 F1 Ducs, a bike you don’t see every day, much less four in a row; it was cool to watch them ride off together. After about half an hour I head back to my bike, and she’s still picking nits off hers. I get within sight just in time to see her knock my helmet off my bike, down the slope and into the lake. F***. She did wade in and fish it out, but no apology, no offer of anything, just handed me my soaked helmet and finally got her bike out of there.

Nice cool night, not too damp.
=====
I had to wait until about noon before my helmet was dry enough inside to wear. So I was the last guy out of camp. Loaded up and rode back to PCH and pointed south. Weather was gorgeous by that point, though -- nice ride.

Got to Big Sur about 1300h, stopped at the Coast Gallery as I had decided to do when I just missed it on the way up. A lot of nice stuff there. More fine crafts than fine art -- pottery, woodwork, glasswork, some sculpture. And a café, where I had a distinctly mediocre sandwich. I know it’s Big Sur and the land’s expensive and the scenery is wonderful and it’s normal to charge $8.50 for a sandwich. But it should be a better sandwich than that. Bump it up to $9 and put real cheese on it.

Off again, lovely view, traffic a little on the heavy side; have to work my way through clots of cars. Winds are a bit gusty, but otherwise a great day. About 20 miles further along, I was behind a white Chevy, going about the speed limit, and one of the corners going left tightens up a bit more than I expected. I started to lean further in, but just as I did, a gust of wind came down the hillside and blew me back upright. I was unable to make the corner and ran wide to the right into the dirt, braking as much as I could, lost traction and fell down. My left foot is trapped under as the bike hits the ground and smashes my foot, then the bracket that holds the footpegs/shifter/muffler assembly broke off and came out from under the bike, along with my leg. We slid a very short distance and stopped. I stood right up and picked up the bike, looked down to see if the kickstand was still there, which it was, and put it down and parked the bike, noticing as I did that my left boot was missing and I was wearing half a bloody sock.

I sat down, feeling just a little bit woozy, and took off my helmet and jacket and gloves and peeled off the sock. The white Chevy stopped, as well as a guy on an older Gold Wing who had been behind me, and as they couldn’t get phone reception there they both went up the road a bit to call 911. I was less woozy by that time, and thought that sitting in the full sun wasn’t going to serve me well, so I hobbled a couple hundred feet up the road to where there were some pine trees, and laid down behind the guardrail that was up there, and elevated my feet on the guardrail post. The car and bike returned and were confused for a moment that I was no longer where they left me, but I stood up and waved my arms and they found me. The bike guy gave me a bottle of water, as I had finished mine. He took a couple pictures, one of the fine view -- just about the most beautiful place to crash a motorcycle in the world, and one of me lying there waiting for emergency services. I didn’t think my foot was broken; I could move all my toes and there were no sharp pains, just a strong dull ache. I seemed to have no other injuries at all. He gathered the bits that had broken off the bike, as well as my left boot, which was torn nearly in half across the instep; not on seams, actually ripped the leather. That’s a lot of damage my foot didn’t have to take.

A park ranger showed up, then the ambulance after about half an hour. Standard practice for them for any motorcycle accident is to strap the patient to a C-Spine board, and start an IV in case of internal bleeding, so they did all that and transported me to the hospital in Carmel, where I waited for various people to show up with various forms, and to assess the wound, take X-rays, wash the wound, and stitch it up. X-rays showed nothing was broken. So they bandaged it and let me loose. I’ve got a great big swollen bruise, and three stitches on the top of my left foot, and that’s it.

They set me down in a waiting room with a phone and a phone book, and now I needed to figure out the next steps. First, I called my wife, to let her know I wasn’t making it back that night; as by then it was about 1830h, and was too late to get my bike out of towing. I did call the tow guy, and he suggested a couple of motels and a rental car place. But the motels were all full except one had one suite left for $159, and none of the car rental places had a pickup for one way rental to San Diego. Then my wife called back -- one of her friends has a brother that lives in Monterey, and he’s coming to pick me up and will let me crash at his place. And my sister and BIL have figured out that the bike will fit in my parents’ Ford van and have already pulled all the back seats out of it, and she is coming to get me. Good job, sweetie.

So Paul picks me up, and he’s cool, and it turns out we had met once before, at a gathering of friends. He took me to his apartment and made me dinner, and set up the spare bedroom for me, and I went to sleep. Kristine drove through the night and was there in the morning; she went to Walgreens for ibuprofen and a cane, we went and got the bike ($540, ugh!), and they helped load it up, and we headed back home. It was another lovely day, so we decided to drive PCH and see the view. That’s the first time I’ve been down that stretch as a passenger, where I could just look and not drive. That was cool. We got to SLO about lunchtime, and ate at Taco Roco again, and it was good again. By then Kristine was pretty exhausted, so I drove the rest of the way back (the van is an automatic, so I didn’t need my left foot).

We got into Los Angeles (where I’m working these days) about 1700h. My roommate Tamara was all worried because I was a day late and I had forgotten to call her in all the eventfulness. Kristine stayed the night there with me, dropped me off at work, and took the bike home.

So I worked Wednesday and Thursday, and she came up in her car and got me Thursday evening, because I had another client back In San Diego I had agreed to do some work for on Friday, and they had coordinated it all and couldn’t move it. It involved standing on ladders in a mechanical space in a building mezzanine for hours, which was definitely not very comfortable under the circumstances, but we got it done by noon. Then my doctor wanted to see me and the injury that afternoon, so we went in and he prescribed some antibiotics to keep it from getting infected. And that’s that.

I’m hunting down the bits to fix my bike, an opportunity for some upgrades. Probably Cycle Cat rearsets, convert to GP shift, and new cans to replace the stock originals that were still there after 18 years (leaning towards Staintunes).

I looked into renting a scooter, since they are automatics also, but it’s about $250 a week to rent a Vespa, and that’s way too much. So I’m driving the big Ford van, since that’s the only automatic in the family, until my foot heals and my bike is recommissioned.
=====
Take home lessons:
a) Even if you are an experienced and careful rider, S*** can still happen. There’s no sense in riding like an ass and increasing those chances.
b) Wear your gear, and make it *good* gear. If I had not been wearing full-height real motorcycle boots, my foot would be far worse, and possibly missing. That boot made this a minor incident instead of a permanent disability.
c) And my wife rocks. (Of course, I already knew that, but still.)

PhilB



Thanks Phil for the write up. So true is the take home lessons!

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Tue Aug 02, 2011 8:52 pm
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Post Re: MOTO GP Laguna Seca 2011
+1

Great write up Phil!

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Thu Aug 04, 2011 5:57 pm
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Post Re: MOTO GP Laguna Seca 2011
With E's pics and Phil's write up, I don't even know why I had even bothered to go this year. They pretty muched summed up the entire weekend right there! :[]:

Glad to hear that you're ok Phil.

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Fri Aug 05, 2011 12:47 am
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Post Re: MOTO GP Laguna Seca 2011
thanks for the pics and summary. i was able to experience the weekend through your lens and story. i havent been up there in years, or since motogp came back. im hoping to make it up next year.

sorry to hear about the accident.

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Post Re: MOTO GP Laguna Seca 2011
S*** happens. I don't believe that *everyone* has or will crash, but if you ride enough, odds are that something will happen to you at some point. I'm fine, though. I get the stitches in my foot out this weekend; I'm going to give it one more week just to be sure it's fully healed, then back on two wheels.

In 24 years of daily riding, over 300K miles total (and over 40K of just lanesplitting), this accident is only the second day of work I've ever missed due to motorcycling. So that's not too bad. Permanent injuries suck, but anything I can heal from in a few weeks I figure is no big deal. DO wear your gear, folks. My boot was torn almost in half, and that's a lot of damage my foot didn't take.

My bike will be out for a bit. I'm taking the opportunity to make some upgrades since I've got to get new parts anyway. Cycle Cat rearsets, switch to GP shift pattern, and Staintune mufflers are on the agenda. The Staintunes, though, come from Australia and take 4-6 weeks. Fortunately, a couple of friends have offered bike loans to bridge the gap, so I'll be on a BMW K100RS for a couple weeks, then a Kawasaki Z1000 (previous generation, not the new one) for a couple more. Sweet.

PhilB

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Fri Aug 05, 2011 9:43 pm
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