Dirt Bike Dave, Reluctant2stroker, & Placelast do Ballinger

placelast

Member
Apr 11, 2001
1,298
1
Last weekend’s Phelan Ride was awfully tempting, but too much driving to justify, being 5 hours one-way alone. Therefore DBD (CRE) and my middle son, Reluctant2stroker (hereafter r2s) (KDX) and I (RMX) met at Ballinger for DBD’s initial adventure at this remote spot. Other’s were invited but weren’t able show for unknown reasons.

(Years ago, r2s was called here “shorty”, but as he’s been eating all that time, and as a consequence now looks at me eye-to-eye. He’s into size 11 boots, for crying out loud, yet just started riding again after a 3-year layoff. Any who, that’s his new handle; insists he’s a 4-stroke guy, but will be on 2 so long as I’m paying; and I’ll save ya’all the headache of arguing the point with him: don’t even mention it – please.)

Morning came early, and to my surprise r2s was already downstairs cooking up a breakfast-storm – odd - not his usual self to be up this early, but his habit of late, helping junior, his older brother, with a paper route. Sooooooooo, he had a spread of eight eggs – count them - lined up and nine pieces of freshly cut (dare I say) French(y) bread in one-inch thick slices poised for processing through the hot and generously buttered fry pan. Seeing my turn was not quite up, I prepared a sammich and downed a grapefruit, then a small cup of non-vegan granola – sorry: no grass-eater flavors for me, thank you; not that I have anything against tofu, but please: not on my meat-eating lips.

After finishing the Sunday paper, he was still going at it. I mean like this guy had a factory production line going! Then after 45 minutes, he said “it’s all yours, dad”. “Why, why thanks. But by the appearance of your handiwork, let alone the volume, are you feeding everyone this morning?” With a chuckle from him, I turned and prepped, easy over-ed, and swallowed my undeveloped-yet-cooked-thoroughly chick-a-dees. Burrrrrrruuuuupppp! Ah: hit the spot.

We touched the pavement a little after 6:30am, a few minutes behind schedule. Then after fueling, we got onto the 101, south towards Santa Maria, then east on 166 towards Ballinger Canyon, 80 some-odd miles and 1½ hours of driving. On the way R2s nodded off at least a dozen times, and when bobbing I suggested he lay the seatback down, but as most teenagers refused dad’s suggestion. Eventually he found a comfortable?! position in which continuous sleep was secured, without the forward/rearward head bobbing, Bob. Oh hey, Bob: you're back?

The canyon is a remote area, on the far side of Los Angeles, beyond Hungry Valley, where San Luis Obispo, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Kern Counties meet. Elevations vary between a few thousand, maybe for or five at the peaks with steep canyons. The terrain is arid, high desert-like and pre-tree line, although there are spots with scrub-like pines and short, bushy evergreens not unlike immediately south of the Hesperia airport, not far from XR’s Only shop. (Yes, I used to have an XR or three; a 250 for me, 200 and 100 for the yung-uns - the 250 was mine for 2 months before deciding I wanted more oompfh). Back to Ballinger: The designated trails and acreage are administered by the USFS, although you won’t see much of a forest here but for the distant peaks outside of the immediate legal riding zones. There are no open, cross-country spots within, albeit plenty of marked trails to make a few good loops and a day of it. Most of the trails contain either hard-packed soil or loose and sandy washes and vary in difficulty.

As we pulled into the one-and-only staging area, DBD and I simultaneously spotted each other, and we made our way to park nearby. He was nearly geared up, having arrived before us, and it was good to see him again. We last rode together a little over 14 months before, for the first time, when I showed him my old familiar stomping grounds: Hungry Valley. This was to be our second time chasing each other.

There was some evidence of the recent storm’s passage, but not to where the soil was gong to pack up and stick to everything. Gee - imagine that: no sticky to the bikey today? There was a canopy of clouds above, and was on the cool side though promising some warmth later in the day, calling for a jersey double up but no enduro jacket. After mapping out a morning loop, we left the staging are to the north.

The beginning of this trail is fairly whooped out, with some rocks thrown in for sheer excitement/entertainment at speed. It’s best to roll them early in the morning so as to reasonably assure concentration/energy for the rest of the day. Once out of the whoops, the trail runs on hard pack with several, if not half a dozen sharp 20’-high peaks; the peaks had to be approached with caution as if someone was coming up the other side – two-way traffic, but fun nonetheless.

Following the series of sharp peaks, the trail breaks up into two ways: one black-diamond trail takes a hard left onto the northern ridge, which was our route - a precarious 100’ worth of connecting climb on a tip of a ridge with drop offs on both sides; it’s comforting to know there’s a grove to fall into to hold the bike on the trail. R2s asked if the rest of the trails are like this “Nope.” It then flattens out at the top of the ridge, and on a clear day to the north one can see Taft in the distance, the site of next weekend’s D/37 Big 6 GPs, first in this year’s series. To the east, 8,000’ high lodge pole/ponderosa-pined peaks of Los Padres NF can be seen - Mt. Able in the foreground, and Mt. Pinos and Fraser hidden from view. And to the West is Cuyama Valley. Good tasting apples grow here, I might add. (Mcassle towed me thru an orchard last year.)

DBD was being his usual trail-gentlemanly self by following behind r2s, making sure he was okay, but thinking that’s my job and DBD needs to get not riding for a year off his chest, I beckoned the he go on ahead; my duties were to watch my latest at-home riding buddy. 5 miles later the trail emptied out near an abandoned corral, and we made out way to the next section’s trailhead. Now this second black diamond snakes alongside a steep hillside, shored up with retaining steel and stakes - one bad move and you’re off to pulling your bike back onto this goat trail. I followed R2s, who had two close calls by kissing the trail lip/edge – wh, wha whoa, buddy! - but for the most part was able to tractor on up. Say: he’s getting the hang of this. We didn’t see DBD again until just before the trail looped back through a north-facing hillside, with a canopy of evergreens overhead, for perhaps short of a mile. Fun stuff. The soil there was the right amount of tacky; elsewhere it was tacky but bordering on being loose to raising dust. Perfect; gimmemore.

Then we arrived at the returning canyon. This is one of my favorites here. You have to carry speed through the sand whoops, but not too much as there are several turns – or should I say many. And most come with brushing with bushes to the left, then the right. And then there’s the logs, two of them, perched above at helmet level, across the small ravine like a squirrel bridge, suspended from side to side. So you slow down, going into first gear, then tuck, clutch it, and pass under. On the second log I did not get low enough and BANG! That did not feel good to the neck. And the peak of my helmet felt different to the touch, though my MSR Enduro Pro glove. Dang! Lost the top vent. Dismounting, I walked the trail backwards, around the downed log, but alas, no vent. Onward ho! My friends.

We regrouped at the return of the tail head and decided to cross over to the south side instead of heading back to camp. Access to the south required going up, up and more up on this ATV trail, with good sized water bars for SX-like jumping. Well, not really, but it does feel like it, doesn’t it? Come on now: it always seems like we jump higher than we really do. The further up we got in elevation, the flatter the road, allowing high-speed railing with proportional grip, unbelievable layover-ability.

We peaked at the south-most trailhead, hanging a right along the ridge. This ridge differed from the north, being less rocky and clay like and sandy, whoopy, and with a familiar razorback ridge-top placement common in this area. I made the mistake of following DBD to closely, and we were riding hot when – well, I’ll let him tell the rest of the story. So sorry Dave: I should have had some sense and backed off as you have several little ones back home depending upon you staying healthy. Suffice to say it was no big get off, a simple layover, and me bad for not keeping my distance and thus breaking your concentration. But I must say the sand did have good moisture content.

Halfway thru the southern ridge we decided to head back to camp by taking several connectors. They need to redo the map, as the trail numbering was a bit off.

Upon registering 30 miles we were back at camp. DBD pulled apart his CRE to change the plug; it wasn’t running right on full throttle, and in the end he concluded the fuel line was pinched. While downing some food and gassing up we noticed the temperature had dropped; therefore I donned a jacket and elephant ears (hand protectors). We mapped out a reasonable but shorter second loop, zigzagging the few trails remaining we hadn’t seen yet.

On our way out and up, DBD wanted me to lead so it was rail time again - unbelievable traction, with resultant boost. Once back at one of the southern ridges, we hung a right down to the valley of (former) doom. I showed DBD where last year, this time, my bikes the big end of the rod froze, and where Mcassle had towed me out to save my sorry arse. The trail we went down was mostly sandy whoops, and the end a relief. Phew! It’s getting warm in this jacket! That was the zig, and now for the zag back up.

The zag was more fun as it was less whooped out, and contained more railing-type turns. Then another, even shorter zig, followed by a connecting road, and zag, at which point we decided to head back to camp and call it a day. Arriving back at camp showed 50 trail miles of fine mostly single track, all fun filled.
 

plysWfire

Member
Mar 1, 2001
100
0
Wow, sounds like once again you had a blast. I was all pumped to go, since I haven't been there since Mcassle and I went while I was riding the old 86 CR. Probably been some 4 years or so. Sad to say I had a little incident where I bashed my nose and injured my shoulder pretty good. The shoulder has been giving me some pain for the past week+ now, almost considering going to the doctor. I must say that it would be my enjoyment on this visit though. I can imagine the conversation, "NO, I DIDN'T GET HURT RACING MOTORCYCLES AGAIN, this time I was ice skating". I'm telling you, for a Bakersfield boy, that's a much more dangerous sport than the long studied art of motorcycles.

Please continue to include me on your emails when you plan rides! I'll make one yet.

Glad you guys had fun!

deano...
 

placelast

Member
Apr 11, 2001
1,298
1
Oh wow, Deano. Hope you heal up soon. Here’s something related to Ballinger, crashing, and other sport-related injuries:

In ’99 I went to my first enduro in a loooooooooooooong time, like two decades or more; my first as a TWMC guest, and it happened to be of all places at Ballinger. And to no surprise that was my last time out on my 300-lb DR441, nonetheless with this 155lb muscle-less rider as a pilot; you could imagine the rest of the story, how things would get out of hand in a hurry.

And in a hurry they did. About 6 miles into the first loop it seemed I was hitting the sand wash whoops pretty well for a guy with a bike 2x his weight, then all of a sudden: launch! I got spit off, and landed, ribs first, onto one of the whoop peaks. OooppFHHhh! as the air went out of me. A few moments pass as I’m moaning with pain, then my son comes by, and doesn’t even stop! He told me later: “dad, you said we are on our own”! Needless to say, something was lost in the pre-race instructions! So I struggle to lift the beast, and I can’t even continue; barely start the thing – must have bruished or fractured a few ribs ‘cuz it was a hurtin’ to breath. I pulled into the next check to let Tim Stoner know I was done - for the day. Back home even my wife had no mercy, teasing me by singing “the ‘ol gray mare she ain’t what she used to be…”

Figuring age was upon me, I subsequently bought a mountain bike, and actually rode it 1 or 2 times/week, but not until healing. And sold off the DR, replaced it with something lighter, ending up with the bike I now how - still on the heavy side, albeit a welcomed improvement over porky.

I remember my teething pains on that mountain bike; seemed like I’d come home with more scrapes and bruises than many a day on the dirt bike.

The next enduro attempt was 6-months later, the December one at the Slash-X. On the second loop the pace picked waaaaay up, to cross-country speeds. I managed to hang in okay but began dropping points and pushing the limit, until going through a small rock-infested section. The next thing I remember was sitting in the rock garden, and wondering how my boys were doing (back at camp? Where am I? Man, talk about your life going before you.) Then someone pulls alongside to say “hey man: you okay?” “Oh, yeah – fine”. Sure. Somehow I got back onto the course, backwards? Still don’t know, then they directed me back to camp. None of us novices finished, but my DNF was further than most except one, so I received a 2nd-place trophy!? Weird.

Early last year I treated myself to a new tennis racket, one I’ve been wanting for some time, as opposed to the kid’s hand-me-down (or is that hand-me-up?) And use it I did, playing at least two times a week. Then one day last summer I noticed this lump on my shoulder, and over the weeks a gradual increase in pain. It becomes so painful I had to quit and go see a doc, as things weren’t working/feeling right. Turns out I separated the darn thing. It’s better now, but for some reason it never healed right, so I’m going back in but will wait for the riding season to end; they may have me quit – it doesn’t affect riding, but I’m certainly not able to swing a racket, and I do not want Dr’s orders to bring riding to a halt. Who would’ve thought – tennis?
 

fremontguy

LIFETIME SPONSOR
Jul 1, 2000
580
0
Enjoy the reports as always Placelast. I'm trying to free a weekend for more creek riding fun with you all, if interested.
 

dirt bike dave

Sponsoring Member
May 3, 2000
5,349
3
Placelast - thanks for the excellent report, and for a great day riding! I really enjoyed myself, and it was a pleasure meeting your son and seeing you. We will have to do it all again soon.

Also, I appreciate your not running into me when I dumped it right in front of you - nice work on the brakes!

My mistake there could have been much more costly. We were on a 'razorback' ridge that dropped off very steeply to both sides when I had my little lapse and mistimed some bumps. Luckily the bike careened to a stop only inches off the trail. About 2 more feet to the right and my bike might have slid a long way down that very steep slope.

Ballinger really does have some fun trails. For you guys from the north, if you are coming down I-5, get off at Taft Highway and head west. Get onto 33 south, and follow toward Ventura. About 3 miles into Santa Barbara County, take a left on Ballinger Canyon Road, then go 3+ miles to the staging area.
 

placelast

Member
Apr 11, 2001
1,298
1
NVR FNSH said:
When's the Hi-Mtn DS? Brian

...kinda late this year: Sunday, April 25, 2004. It could be 'cuz of the steady rain and mud last year - most of who I let in at my Ryan's Ranch checkin seemed to come back and go around or quit - couldn't make the slimey hill climb.
 

2strok4fun

Member
Apr 6, 2002
1,085
1
Hi John,

I didnt make this ride, but I thought I'd post some pics from last season to show the area.

chris KOHO (king of head on) :eek:
 

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2strok4fun

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Apr 6, 2002
1,085
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