By admin on May 21, 2012
Check out the posting on my Council blog at http://council.olbert.com/2012/05/21/on_public_comment/.
Posted in oddball
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Username or Email Address
Highway 25 runs north/south between Hollister and Peach Valley. It’s a fun ride, good pavement, great scenery…and hardly any other vehicles, at least on a weekday in early October.
If you get the chance, take it north out of Peach Valley into Hollister. It’s the same ride either way. But running north you get some truly amazing views of small mountains rising out of the valley floor that are worth seeing.
One of the unexpected highlights of the trip was the passage from San Miguel up to Highway 198/25. I knew from past experience that the Monterey Peninsula was breathtaking; I had no idea the valleys east of the US 101 corridor were so spectacular.
Yes, almost the entire way is a one-and-a-half lane road, with stretches that are not particularly well-maintained. But the scenery, wildlife, geology and isolation more than made up for any riding inconvenience. Plus, I got to try out the “soft” setting on my FJR-1300ES’ electronic suspension.
I didn’t stop to take pictures, which would not have done the scenery justice anyway when done with an iPhone camera. But you can get a hint of what some of the geology looked like from this Google Earth screen capture of part of Peach Valley (click to enlarge in a separate tab/window):
What this doesn’t convey is how the sides of the valley look like they’ve been sliced open with a knife, as if they were just huge piles of sand that you were being privileged to see in cross-section.
In addition to many herds of cattle, several herds of deer grazing through cleared out fields, and a seemingly infinite supply of birds and squirrels, there were two particularly interesting wildlife encounters.
The first was with a fox. Stationed in the midst of a herd of cattle. Who studiously ignored him, while he studiously ignored them…and kept his eye on me.
The second was something I’d never seen before on a road, anywhere. I was coming up a hill, and around a curve, fortunately going fairly slow. Only to see a small creature dragging itself across the road. My first thought was that it was the survivor of a hit-and-run…until I realized it had a lot more legs than any mammal I’d ever seen. It was a tarantula! Speeding — in tarantula terms — across the road. Later on I saw a second one, also attempting to cross the road. Hopefully they both made it.
Okay, Atascadero isn’t really the middle of nowhere, and I don’t mean to either offend anyone who lives there or highlight any Bay Area arrogance.
But still, I was pleasantly surprised at finding a neat, old — but very well-maintained — hotel, The Carleton, in a place where I would never have expected to find one.
Atascadero has a nice little downtown area, too. Plus, best of all, there’s a great little Mediterranean eatery — Byblos Mediterranean Grill — right around the corner from the hotel.
Thanx to Wikipedia and the original photographer for making this image available.
Morro Bay is an iconic, if less-known, image of California. Something about a very large rock jutting out of the ocean just offshore the downtown sticks with people (BTW, there’s a neat little French pastry/lunch shop right across from the rock; great food, great coffee, and you can study French there with a group of local residents most afternoons if that’s your fancy).
There’s an interesting story behind that rock. It turns out it’s just one of a number of similar onshore rocks that dot the landscape southeast of the city. They’re all the remnants, as I recall, of ancient volcanoes (technically, they’re volcanic plugs).
What’s even more interesting is that they mark the boundaries of an ancient tectonic fault, and used to be much farther south. Over millions of years they’ve migrated to their current locations…and are still, slowly, on their way out into the Pacific.
Well, elephant seals at least. At least hundreds of them, scattered along every flat stretch of beach front that I rode past.
Accompanied, of course, by dozens of large ape-like creatures busily snapping pictures of them.
I was a little nervous about riding the Monterey Peninsula given there was a chance of rain. Not much of a chance, and not for much rain…but even a little rain is nerve-wracking, particularly so on twisty roads next to sheer drop-offs. Protected by guardrails and separated by a shoulder, but the downside of an error is uncomfortably large.
So while I was relieved that I never encountered actual rain, riding through clouds on some good twisties got the old SI* up to 7, or maybe even 8.
Along the way I experienced another one of those interesting trade-offs that you have to master to ride successfully. Riding thru clouds means riding on roads that are at least damp, if not wet. Wet roads reduce traction, which encourages you to take turns more slowly, with less of a lean (you turn a bike by leaning, sort of like how you ski). But less lean means broader turns…which can put you off the built-in curve of the road, resulting in you, worst case, crossing the double-yellow. Which is inadvisable when there’s on-coming traffic. So you have to balance your rational caution regarding loss of traction through too much leaning, and the pretty important goal of staying in your lane.
Riding is, or should be, a total engagement experience…because if you let your attention stray, you can pretty much guarantee that’s when something unexpected is going to happen, which will require a quick evaluation and possible response. So it’s eyes on The Road, and any other road-like thing that connects to The Road.
It turns out, though, that that’s not enough. At least during deer rutting season.
I noticed the car in front of me jam on its brakes, so I naturally hit mine, before I even realized what the underlying cause was. “Oh, it’s just a doe, dancing around on the shoulder, no doubt spooked by the cars. Ride on.”
Which is when I had to jam on my brakes really hard, again, because that lead car’s driver had stood on his. Because it turns out the doe was only one half of a pair of deer, and that six point buck on the other side of the road was going to get to his doe, whatever it took.
Fortunately, lust had not quite turned off his entire mind, so he hesitated charging across the oncoming traffic, enough so that an accident was avoided.
New riding rule: when in a forest, sweep beyond the road and shoulders to keep an eye out for crazed wildlife.
Before this trip I thought of Marin County as a place I drive through on the way to something. But not anymore!
The back roads take you through all sorts of beautiful vistas. Impressive hills. Vast, rolling plains of grass. Creeks and lakes and ponds. Forests. You name it, it’s there…and there generally aren’t many other vehicles around.
The ride is even worth the traffic you have to put up with to get back to the 101 so you can get over the Golden Gate Bridge.
Highway 29 between Middletown and Calistoga is a great ride: part massive redwood forest, part spectacular views going south, with a good dose of twisties.
Definitely recommended, although it’d be even more fun on a day with less traffic than I experienced (it’s a major north/south route).
Lakeport is a small city located on the western shore of Clear Lake…which until I planned out this trip I didn’t even know existed, despite the fact that I’ve traveled up and down the 101 corridor it’s near for years. Shows the value of getting off those freeways! Clear Lake is the second largest lake in California, and the largest one (I believe) wholly within California (Lake Tahoe is split between California and Nevada).
I enjoyed a nice break in a shore-front park in Lakeport, and then stayed overnight at a B&B further south in Middletown. Which is itself a nice, albeit smaller, community that happens to have a great Chinese restaurant.
Sadly, the entire Clear Lake/Lakeport/Middletown area has been ravaged by major fires over the last few years. It’s really knocked the local economies for a loop; I hope they bounce back soon.
A bevy of quail in the backyard of the B&B I stayed at in Middletown (click to enlarge)
How can you not stop in a place named Boonville? I don’t mean to insult the town or its residents; it’s a nice place to take a breather, with some fun outdoor cafes and restaurants.
But the name is the clincher. I applaud the sense of humor implicit in a community that would choose the name!
One of my goals, in plotting out these multi-day rides, is to stay as far away from freeways and major highways as I can. Besides the fact that too many four-wheelers don’t bother to check for riders when they change lanes, freeways are generally pretty boring. The point of a freeway is to get from point A to point B as quickly as you can. The point of riding, at least for me, is to enjoy the ride.
Which is why I found myself on Mountain View Road…and learned something I hadn’t anticipated. Yes, twisty, somewhat ill-maintained roads are technically challenging, and therefore fun. But you don’t actually experience all that much of your surroundings. Because you have to really pay attention to the road 🙂 . If you don’t , you may end up taking a side trip to a local hospital.
So I’ve restructured my trip goals. Add twisties when you want some technical fun. Minimize time on freeways to avoid boredom. And spend more time on better-maintained, and better-designed, highways.
The ride north out of Fort Ross is spectacular, particularly if you can do it on a weekday when there’s hardly any traffic. Beautiful ocean vistas, pounding surf, forest canopies…and turkeys.
Or at least one turkey. Who couldn’t even be bothered to fly away, or even pick up the pace of his walking, when I came upon him around a curve. No, he just gave me a brief, disdainful glance, and kept on his way.
Fortunately for both of us, Thanksgiving did not come early this year.
The ride up Highway 1 takes you through a bunch of neat seashore communities (Stinson Beach, Point Reyes Station, Bodega Bay) before going really rural (a nice place for lunch is The Lodge at Point Reyes, where Sir Francis Drake Boulevard starts). You eventually climb up quite a ways as you approach Fort Ross, so named because it was the site, many years ago, of a Russian colony set up to provide food and logistical support to Russian fur trapping operations in Alaska.
Fort Ross Lodge is a neat little roadside motel/hotel that I stayed at. Beautiful views of the ocean, as well as some interesting looking birds. Plan ahead, though, for meals, as the only food nearby is a general store/restaurant that closes early.
One of the great things about heading north out of San Francisco takes place right away: you get to enjoy the spectacular panorama of the Golden Gate Bridge. Assuming it’s not too foggy, of course (click to enlarge).
I don’t think I’ve ever gone up 101 without making this stop, even when the weather is lousy. Because even then the view is frequently amazing, with billowing fog blowing around the Bridge and through the Gate.
Most definitely recommended!
This stretch of California 4 is a good technical workout: it twists and drops (when going from west to east) a couple of thousand feet in a relatively short distance.
Adding to the fun is that, in many places, an error can be costly. Because there are no guardrails.
There are a surprising number of surprisingly large lakes way up in the mountains.
What’s even more surprising, if I can overuse that word, is that almost all of them have at least a couple of people fishing them.
Despite the fact that they are miles away from anything.
I’m not sure who Ebbett was.
But he must’ve really liked to explore, because his Pass isn’t a really easily passable pass like Donner Pass.
It’s just over 8,700 feet above sea level.
California 4 is a narrow and often really twisty road for many miles on each side of Ebbetts Pass.
Fortunately, it’s pretty lightly traveled (and I believe large trucks are banned).
A famous ski resort near the Bay Area that I’ve never skied, and before this ride, even knew where it actually was.
Click to enlarge (you’ll have to close the popup box to bring the image into the foreground).
The condo complex’s corridors made me feel like I’d wandered into The Time Tunnel (extra points if you know what that is).
One of the things I love about riding, particularly in the mountains, are the interesting cloud formations you often see.
Click to enlarge (you’ll have to close the popup box to bring the image into the foreground).
But since it takes almost 20 minutes to stop, unpack the camera, take the shots, and repack the camera, you’ll mostly have to just take my word for it.
Originally, I planned to stay overnight in Markleeville, it being the furthest east community on this ride. Sadly, if it has any hotels, they don’t participate in hotels.com, so I had to stay in Kirkwood instead.
There is a great little restaurant in Markleeville, though, that I really recommend: Alps Haus. The Caesar Salad is to die for. Of course, that may have been helped by the appetite I worked up dealing with all the twisties coming down out of Ebbetts Pass.
Within a couple of miles I encountered two interesting animals.
The first was a squirrel, sitting bolt upright on the side of the road. Clearly trying to figure out, with his tiny squirrel brain, just when it might be safe to dash across the road.
The second was a beautiful red/tan deer, also standing next to the road. I slowed down, figuring I might be able to sneak up on it and grab a quick picture. Which, in hindsight, was ridiculous: while my bike is not particularly noisy, it’s not quiet.
Of course, slowing down caused the deer to leap across the road in front of me. Fortunately, its sense of timing was better than mine.
So that’s where he wrote his law… 🙂
I’ve driven past Murphys on a number of occasions over the years, but never realized how charming a little town it is, ’cause it’s about a quarter of a mile off California 4. While I picked it solely as a convenient rest stop, I’m definitely planning on taking Barbara back to visit.
The downtown is really cute, they have a great park just off it, and, if you’re into wine tasting, you’ll find plenty of places to get your fill.
But it’s short of coffee shops. I only found two, and they happened to close the day I got there (a Thursday) before I could get my afternoon fix.
Click to enlarge (you’ll have to close this popup box to bring the enlarged picture into the foreground).
When I see these signs, I always wonder where the posters think the money to keep up their community comes from. No offense, but it sure isn’t coming from just local sources!
Crashes have a way of staying with you, particularly when they involve five days at Stanford Hospital and months of recovery from broken ribs. Which is why I’m especially leery of any precipitation, and always closely monitor weather forecasts before long rides.
So I wasn’t too happy when those rain drops kept falling on my head leaving Kirkwood Saturday morning. I was even less happy, after getting through the first minor “storm”, to ride through another, bigger one…on pavement that was pretty wet.
Fortunately, I was the only vehicle on my side of the road for many miles, the pavement was in excellent condition (thanx, CalTrans!), and the roadbed was well-graded.
But I was really glad to get out from under those clouds.
Most people not from California assume it’s called The Golden State because of the 1849 Gold Rush at Sutter’s Mill (I know I did, before moving here).
The reality is it’s because the native grass, at least in Northern California, turns gold as summer wanes and the growth spurred by the previous year’s rain fades.
That was on beautiful display along this portion of my ride: miles and miles of golden grass, waving in the breeze, dotted with beautiful California oaks every thousand feet or so.
Riding this area proves, if proof was needed, that people really like fermented grape juice.
I hadn’t thought of this part of California as being home to vineyards…but it grows a lot of grapes!
Miles and miles of it! I had no idea California grew so much of what I think of as a mid-western crop. But there it was.
On the way home I stopped for lunch at what amounts to a seaside community that happens to be really far inland, pretty much at the east end of San Pablo Bay. Or at the mouth of the Sacramento River (I presume), take your pick.
There are a lot of, if not rivers, large streams flowing through the Delta. Which means there’s need for a lot of bridges.
Most aren’t wide enough to allow large trucks or buses to pass each other going in opposite directions. So it’s common to run into stopped traffic, in the middle of nowhere, as one truck or bus waits for another truck or bus to complete its passage.
You can’t miss the power-generating windmills when you drive 580 east of Livermore.
But they look really different when they’re sweeping around right next to you as you ride by!