Sunrise Mono Lake While Waiting For UPS and the Thermostat

The good news is we will have another shot at sunrise over Lake Mono. This means leaving by 5:30am. The bad news is, there is no UPS early morning delivery in Lee Vining. According to the locals, the UPS truck arrives late afternoon, sometimes after 5pm. We’ll be waiting in Lee Vining all day long for a new thermostat.

The BMW tech from San Diego BMW motorcycles told me that a thermostat is absolutely necessary. We can’t ride the F650GS Dakar without something to restrict the flow of water through the radiator. Without the thermostat the water flows through too quickly leaving the radiator no time to cool the water. At once this makes sense, and it doesn’t Years ago we used to remove faulty thermstats from cars to solve overheating problems. Then again, the radiator on our bikes is very small.


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We spent the day reviewing our photos, reading and finally closing the evening with yet another meal at Lee Vining’s Mobil gas station’s infamous Whoa Nellie Deli.

Lee Vining is not only famous as the eastern gateway to Yosemite National Park, Bodie Ghost Town California State Park and Mono Lake, its reputation as perhaps the windiest spot along California Route 395 was confirmed as all night long the chilly winds shook my tent and whistled through the leaves of distant cottonwood trees.

Eager to catch the early sun at Mono Lake, Jeremiah and I took off around 5am. In an effort to spare my shock further abuse, Jeremiah took his bike hoping it’d be cool enough to allow him to get there in time. Unfortunately, he had to pull off the road about ten times, let the bike cool and move on. An eerie steely blue sky with streaks of grey and platinum clouds accented by the subtle glow of the rising sun made for better pictures this morning as we tried to rationalize our time pent here as prisoners in Lee Vining.

Sitting in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and on the fringe of the shores of Lake Mono, Lee Vining takes the brunt of climatic activity as cool air whips down from the mountains and meets the warm desert. This contributes to the windy climate. But the odd thing about the small historic town of Lee Vining is its lack of shade. There are no mature shade trees, and none of the businesses and even the school, local park and community organizations have built any shade structure. One restaurant in town has a few umbrellas on its patio, but that’s about it. So the prospect of tearing down Jeremiah’s bike in the blazing desert sun wasn’t appealing. Figuring a UPS arrival of late afternoon, we reasoned that the local high school building would provide a tad of shade and flat concrete sufficient to work and layout tools.

We waited in the Lee Vining Public Library, which is open only three hours daily, from 2pm until 5pm. We were still mulling around the high school parking lot at 5:30pm when UPS finally arrived. Jeremiah jumped into action and in less than an hour the thermostat was fit in place and we were bleeding the cooling system and packing our bikes.


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The only shade in Lee Vining — behind the High School and next to the library.

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The new thermostat on the left has four tabs keeping the spring in place. The old thermostat barely has one tab, while a broken piece fell out as Jeremiah pulled the unit out. Where are the other two tabs? Perhaps floating around El Viento’s cooling system. Uh oh.


Notice the wacky hose clamp sculpture. When removing the thermostat housing, Jeremiah cracked the bottom of the housing where the clip secures the unit and keeps it from dropping down. So with pressure that crack will get larger and eventually break the housing. Using this maze of clips is Jeremiah’s way of jerry-rigging the unit for longevity — we hope — by reducing pressure down.

Worried about the presence of deer on the road to Yosemite, we headed up Tioga pass with trepidation. But it wasn’t the deer that fouled up our plan just 3 miles into our journey, it was coolant spewing onto Jeremiah’s riding pants and all over the left side of his bike. The new thermostat failed to correct the problem.

Now we were stuck. As daylight faded, Jeremiah waited on the side of the road while I ran back to Mono Vista RV Park to grab the last campsite while spreading the word we were looking for someone with a pickup or trailer who wouldn’t mind earning a little money by taking Jeremiah and his bike to Reno, 120 miles away and home to the closest BMW dealer . But it was inevitable. We’d spend a third night in wonderful Lee Vining.

When I returned roadside to Jeremiah he was talking to a man in a late model pickup. In his hand was a familiar looking computer case. Confused, I wondered why he had my computer. I used it last at the Lee Vining public library and packed it up before we worked on Jeremiah’s bike. Turns out I never locked in my pannier, instead it lay under the only shade tree in Lee Vining. After leaving for Yosemite, the school bus driver saw it under the tree and tried to catch us. But he was too late, we were already a few miles up 120 toward Yosemite. Amazingly, he passed us in the other direction as we headed back to town. He pulled a fast U-turn and caught up with Jeremiah as I headed to camp.

Back luck for Jeremiah, turned out to be good luck for me. If Jeremiah’s latest fix hadn’t worked and we made it to Camp 4 in Yosemite tonight, I would’ve been in for a devestating surprise–my computer would be gone. What would’ve I done? Go back to Lee Vining to look? I’d rack my brain for the chain of events to the last time I saw my computer. Luckily a good samaritan in Lee Vining went out of his way to help us—and returned my computer. Just goes to prove that while I experienced kindness, trust and friendship from humanity all around the world, we have the same right here in my backyard— in the USA. I was lost for words. But still needn’t to get Jeremiah out of his jam.

We headed to the Whoa Nellie Deli one more time: looking for food and truck ride to Reno.

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3 replies
  1. dalesmith
    dalesmith says:

    Allan, Jeremiah
    Been following Allan’s travels for quite some time.
    Testa Racing in Minden, NV may be a better bet for you (50 miles closer, less pricey) than Reno BMW. I ride a R1100GS and they do all the work on my bike. 775 782 6707. Ask for Rob or Todd. They have the contract to do all the work on the local NHP bikes.
    Dale Smith
    530 913 1758

  2. Johnny A
    Johnny A says:

    The good Samaritans are following you everywhere Allan.
    Hey Dale! Long time… John Angus from Redway here… I just bought an 1150GS last week. Let’s take a ride!

  3. WorldRider
    WorldRider says:

    Hi Dale – Thanks so much for the info. That’s good to know and I’ve added Testa (and you) to my address book. As the story unfolds, Jeremiah and I convinced a worker from the Whoa Nellie Deli to take his bike to Sparks, to Sierra BMW, so I ended up in Lee Vining another night and Jeremiah at some dumpy motel outside Reno.
    @Johnny A – yep, good people everywhere I travel. The beauty of humanity. I love it!


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