Thursday, September 22, 2011


No place on earth is home to such scenic wonder
and is visited by roads engineered with such grace.

More evidence that God must,
in her leisure time,
ride a motorcycle.

The Vaca Hills west of Winters, CA

STATE ROUTE 128 climbs across California’s Coast Range beginning in the Sacramento Valley at Winters and ending on the rugged California Coast below Fort Bragg.

Monticello Dam
Along its route one passes through the arid rain shadow of the Vaca Hills, past what used to be the Monticello Valley (now inundated by Lake Berryessa)...

Dry Creek area vineyard
 ...among vineyards of the Napa, Alexander and Anderson Valleys...

Where angels may be heard on occasion

...finally tunneling through redwoods before achieving the coast.

STEWARTS POINT SKAGGS SPRINGS ROAD offers an alternative route to the Pacific. Heading west from US 101 at Healdsburg, this secondary road explores the Dry Creek wine-growing region…

Escaping the Tule fog
…before rising to capture of view of Lake Sonoma.

Historic Haupt Creek Bridge
From there, it skips from ridge top to ridge top, plunging into and out of tiny stream courses that have worked for eons to sculpt the Coast Range. Within the last two hundred yards, the road emerges from the redwoods to afford the rider a heart-stopping glimpse of the ocean.


Near Caspar (Google Img.)
STATE ROUTE 1 is legendary. So much so that people fly in from all over the world just to ride or drive its winding course, absorb lungfuls of fresh maritime air…

Coastal California
…view the sea chewing away the ancient cliffs and stop for rest or refreshment in any of a number of quaint, rustic shoreline villages.

Farming the north coast
The route seethes with history from the ancient Pomo, the failed attempts of Russian settlement, the glory days of redwood lumbering and the boom and bust cycles of the salmon industry.

Light plays in the redwoods (Google Img.)
US 101, north of Leggett picks up the state route’s theme, coursing through parks of towering redwoods where echoes of siren songs can still be heard if one simply gets off and listens. The play of mid-day light through the ancients creates kaleidoscopic colors that change with each turn of the highway.

Coastal cooling
Further north, through the area’s capital, Eureka, the seashore’s moderate climate underpins the unique and delicate ecology where the Coastal Redwoods thrive...

Old PalCo mill at Scotia

...and air conditions the old mills where these giants had been harvested and transformed into fencing, decking and trim.

US 199 departs a fog-blanketed coast at Smith River and quickly climbs north of the Trinities…

Crossing into Oregon (Google Img.)
…passes through the Randy Collier tunnel under Hazel View Summit and enters Oregon. Tiny towns dot the route – somewhere the lunch spots don’t open until nearly noon and premium gas for the bike is unavailable. Out of the groves of sequoia, forests transition to yellow pine and the rocky pastures provide forage for deer and cattle.

Indian Creek Road
A SECONDARY ROAD leads south out of O’Brien, twisting and switch backing over the Siskiyous. The Rogue-River Siskiyou National Forest management has chip sealed the road ensuring its longevity for a season or two longer, but tempering the degree to which one enters the inviting turns. At the summit, views stretch southward over range after range of rugged territory.


Happy Camp (Google Img.)
Winding down into Happy Camp it is easy to see why these remote reaches of forestland burn so readily and often. Steep. Rugged. Difficult to access. And full of forest tinder.

Rt 96 in the Klamath Canyon
STATE ROUTE 96 traces the Klamath River in through the depths of its canyon. The late summer water is emerald green and the hillsides deep, dry golden. The cool temperatures of the coast and the high country are long gone as the thermometer reads mid-nineties.

Crossing the Shasta River
At I-5, an alternate highway, State Route 263 (perhaps the old 99) slips through a canyon, and just before Yreka crests to afford a breath taking view of Shasta.

Mount Shasta from McCloud
STATE ROUTE 89 begins in Mount Shasta City and may prove to be the best motorcycling road in the entire state. After departing McCloud, the struggling once-lumber town...

Burney Falls
…the highway rifles straight through tall forests of buckskin pine, the floors of which are neatly manicured to reduce fire damage potential. 30 miles on it swings south past Burney Falls, through the placid pasturelands of the Hat Creek Valley…

Mount Lassen over Hat Creek Meadow
…thence through Lassen Park and then off to explore the high country of the Sierra.

High meadows near Mineral, CA (Google Img)
STATE ROUTE 36 is joined east of Mineral. Traveling west we descend through the cinder-soils and fir forests into the land of Ishi, the last North American stone-age man.

Ancient Cinder Cone near Red Bluff (Google Img.)
The road is chiseled across ancient mud floes and through small lush valleys supporting small acreages of irrigated pasture. A fifteen-mile stretch of hardpan leads down to the northern Sacramento Valley where I-5 is accessed for a quick blast north to Redding.

Platina.  All of it.
36 IS AGAIN PICKED UP at Platina, former lumbering transshipment point and one-time platinum mining berg – hence the name, at least according to the young woman working the watering hole there.

The highway immediately climbs over several ranges finally descending into the course of the Mad and Van Duzen Rivers. No real food or gas until Fortuna out by the coast, but the turns are luscious and one never knows when the next curve over a ridge will afford a view that you’d stop for if you weren’t having such fun in the saddle.

Looking east on 128
 Approaching the coast, again we tour cathedrals of redwoods. Road noise slips away to be replaced by that soft choral siren song of the ancients.

Noyo Harbor
 THE LOOP IS COMPLETED by heading south on 101 to Leggett and following 1 back to Fort Bragg. This time we take 128 east and enjoy a final few miles along the Navarro River and its attendant redwood groves.

West end of Berryessa
A “shortcut” through the Seventh Day Adventist community of Angwin adds an additional 80 minutes to an already too-long, too-hot final day. The west shore of Lake Berryessa appears where my mental compass said it shouldn’t have been.

Winters Main Street
But a twenty-minute stop in Winters allows enough energy regeneration for a charge across the valley to home.

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. Wild Goose rider Pete suggests:

    Many thanks for the pictorial trip back to the Land of my Youth! I was born in Eureka, and raised in Orick- the photos brought back many old memories... from abalone diving at Fort Bragg to cruising the back roads on my yearly summer camping/fishing/riding pilgrimidge back home.

    The next time you get the chance, allow me to recomend Hwy. 96 from Happy Camp South. Much nicer biking road- lots of nice curves along the Klamath and Trinity rivers. Upon reaching Willow Creek on Hwy. 299, go five miles East to Friday Ridge road, or go five miles west to Titlow Hill road and follow them. They come together later, so it doesn't matter which you take. The road is for the most part good, paved Forest Service two lane blacktop- not too good for high speeds due to the turns and grades... but if you go too fast, you'll miss the view!

    The road follows the top of South Fork Ridge, and finally drops down Eight Mile Ridge to meet Hwy. 36 at Mad River- home to the Mad River Snack Bar...which, by the way serves arguably the best cheeseburger on the planet! Locally raised beef... Buns baked in Eureka... truly food fit for the gods!

    Another posibility is to take Bald Hills road from Orick over the hill to Wichipec on Hwy. 96, if you don't want to go all the way to O'brien and Happy Camp. I wouldn't recomend this for full-on highway bikes, (lots of gravel and washboards) but it would be OK for a dual sport. I do it every summer on the Ural.

    Thanks again for the memories!

  2. Pete: Thanks for the suggestion! We drove through the metropolis of Mad River (don't blink or you'll miss us) a day or two after we crossed the Siskiyous. Stopped for a refill of bottled water but didn't get the tip on the cheese burgers in time. Won't pass up the opportunity in the future.

  3. From another at Wild Goose:

    Man you were in some awesome riding country. Northern CA. reminds me of North Carolina blueridge country but with bigger trees and better beer.

  4. That and instead of moonshine, "medicinal" marijuana.