When exploring a new road, there is no good time to lose the light. We’re riding west through northern California toward Yosemite National Park, and highway has given way to a sidewinder, cliffside stretch of Route 120. As we negotiate the twisted ascent, each new turn is a mystery, full of promise and peril, and the challenge of unlocking its secrets grows more onerous as the distant mountain skyline prunes the reach of our nearest star’s dying glow.
We’re approaching a cabin lodge where we will stop for the night in Groveland, CA, a small town of roughly 600 people on the western edge of the park. Having ridden on mostly urban roads for just four years, I’m the newbie in our group, still unable, or at least unwilling, to lean my 2004 Triumph Bonneville T100 full-on into the blind apexes of the unguarded mountain pass. I struggle to keep pace with my older brother Steve and our friend Josh. They’re piloting another T100 and a Ducati Multistrada, respectively, and are far more experienced. I watch them slingshot in and out of view around sheer rock walls, their laughing voices intermittently emanating from my intercom speakers.