Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Hole in the Sky - Spenceville Road

THE WHOLE POINT OF UPGRADING to the big Beemer GS model is typified by what happened Saturday. Ten days of rain seems like ten weeks in central California. So when the sun peeks through a hole in the clouds – a hole in the sky – if time permits, because the weather permits, you ride.

Dr. David Lantis, Geography, Chico State, in the 1970s taught that California’s climate is so much like that of Italy and Spain, that the early Spaniards felt like they’d come home. The arid summers and cool wet winters of California mirrored the half-a-world away climes of the Mediterranean. That the Russians, in their eastward expansion, found the coastal cliffs so foreboding inspired the loss of what arguably was their empire. The Spanish took up the pastoral life-style that lives on today along the rural roads tracing the foothills of the Sierra.

Astride the big BMW, galloping along those secondary roads is much akin to riding a stallion through the foothills near Perugia or Assisi or Siena. Palio style. The rider feels every rise and embraces every turn. Tunneling through a stand of oak one finds vineyards and pasturelands and vales of green and bluffs above. The only quantitative difference between Placer County’s foothills and those of Umbria is that the castles atop our bluffs are about 1000 years more modern.

NORTH OF CAMP FAR WEST LAKE, the Spenceville Road turns from pavement to gravel and enters the wildlife preserve. I course along at 40 miles per hour, occasionally glancing in my rear-view mirror to see a slight plume of January dust kicking from the back tire. Past vernal pools colored red with the algae that will bloom for only as long as the pool exists this spring. Bending around a cattle chute where, in about fifteen weeks, the now-scattered herd will be loaded and transported to the high-grass country some fifty miles east.

The further I travel, the greater that hole in the sky becomes. A low winter sun blinds at some points and at others, illuminates naked black bark of the valley oak and the tender green winter shoots of yet-to-be wildflowers. A blue heron stands at the edge of one of those pools and a non-descript hawk stands sentry on an ancient fencepost.

A dozen miles up the road, pavement – chunky, pot-holed pavement – returns. The Beemer’s suspension absorbs each imperfection and when the boulevard transitions to refreshed asphalt, the big bike begs to open up and run. Somewhere out on that smooth road, the hole in the sky closes up and the spatters of rain pelt the windshield and blow over the top of my helmet.

I’D PLANNED ON A NINETY-MINUTE RIDE. After about twenty, I came to the graveled Spenceville Road. On the old RT, a wonderful bike, I’da turned around, fearing damage to the plastic parts, and my ninety minute ride would have been half that. On the GSA, the gravel proved to be a new road that otherwise would have gone unexplored. And the ninety-minute ride became two-and-a-half hours.

Any questions?

1 comment:

  1. Was a long-overdue great day for some saddle time.