Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Perhaps the only conceivable upside to climate change…

MANY INDEPENDENT SCIENTISTS believe fervently that changes in weather patterns over time are the result of human activity. Industry scientists disagree. Either way, January 1, 2012 found the temperature hovering around April 1st levels and a mid-winter motorcycle ride was in order.

MOST OF THE ROADS in my area I’ve enjoyed; few I’ve enjoyed in January. Heading north on state route 49, I approach Grass Valley. Just one year ago, this little gold country town was blanketed in previously unrecorded amounts of freezing snow and ice. I remember watching people shush along town sidewalks to carry on commerce in the many independent businesses there. Today, there may as well be pansies planted in the flower boxes.

WINDING THROUGH TOWN, I find myself on the old Rough and Ready highway heading west toward a berg of the same name. A century and a half ago, folks in these parts had had just about enough and seceded from the union. Bloodlessly, they rejoined, perhaps when they discovered nobody was paying attention.

OUT PLEASANT VALLEY ROAD, a renamed section of the old Henness Pass Route, nee: Virginia Turnpike, one discovers a string of what used to be gold encampments along the course of the South Yuba. At Bridgeport, a covered bridge spans the river. Purported to be the longest in all the country, it is closed to pedestrian traffic due to structural concerns surrounding earthquakes, so for the time being, the span serves merely as historic eye candy for the passer-by. South Yuba River State Park is on California’s heartbreaking list of those slated for closure.

Nicely groomed trails and abandoned wagon roads course over these foothills and long the route of the Yuba – both upstream and down. In two months the flattened dry grass will yield to sweeping fields of lupine and poppy. I must make a note to return, if only to test this theory. There is adequate paved parking both inside and outside the park’s gate. A delightful reconstruction of an old Shell Gas Station and a tiny interpretive center invite some off-saddle exploration. When the park closes, one trembles at the thought of the place’s demise – and multiply that by 70 other parks, I am told.

UP THE ROAD A PIECE, the pavement angles through French Corral. One could speculate on the origins of this town’s name, but I’ll bet some guy name Pierre or Andre or maybe just “Frenchy” may have had something to do with a livery there. An historic marker indicates that the world’s first long distance telephone line linked French Corral with Bridgeport. The associated story tells us that during prohibition, the phone line was as a means to warn those upstream of the approach of revenuers. Students of area history dispute this claim, but as with the secession of Rough and Ready, it makes a good tale.

PLEASANT VALLEY ROAD continues through the temperate regions of Nevada and Yuba County intersecting with State Route 20 at Sweetland. A bar sits at the corner – one frequented on weekends by droves of riders on big vee-twins. I’ve not stopped in.

A DESCENDING SUN reminds me that I am, indeed, riding in January. The spring-like temperatures will not hold past dusk. Plus, it’s my night to cook. State Route 20 provides a pleasant run back across the South Fork, through Nevada City and Grass Valley and on the bottomland suburbs of Sacramento.

Regarding climate change? I’m not one who’d like to see our beautiful planet rendered into little more than a charred bit of puffed wheat, vacantly orbiting a sun none too quick to nova. I’d like us to regard our activities with a little more care and take every conceivable action to retard the overall warming of the place. Still, on a 68-degree mid-winter day, I’ll probably compromise my concerns and head out for a few hours on the bike enjoying dry pavement, sunny skies and those April-like temperatures. Call me selfish.

MORE PICTURES from the South Yuba River State Park:

View down the South Fork from one of many area hiking trails.

One of three or four plaques placed to provide details about the covered bridge.

Back in the day, one pump meant only one flavor of petrol.

Inside a restored barn, several examples of early transport - horse or ox-drawn - are preserved.

The "Virginia Turnpike" is also known as the old Henness Pass Route.

At the Kneebone family cemetery.

On the current circumstance surrounding the historic bridge.

Bitney Springs
TODAY’S ROUTE: State Route 49 north from Auburn to Grass Valley; exit Bennett Street left toward town; left on West Main which becomes Rough and Ready (R&R) Highway to R&R. Backtrack east on R&R Highway; left on Bitney Springs Road (a delightful section of pavement through small farms, pastures, and past the spring itself); right on Pleasant Valley Road to Bridgeport (South Yuba River State Park), French Corral, Birchville and Sweetland; right on State Route 20, return to Nevada City – Grass Valley.


California State Parks: www.parks.ca.us

South Yuba River State Park Association: http://www.southyubariverstatepark.org/
Please check out the link to this important volunteer group.

This poor fella's on display at the visitor's center.

Regarding Rough and Ready seceding from the Union: http://www.roughandreadychamber.com/rough_and_ready_004.htm

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press

1 comment:

  1. Mr. B,
    Carbon tire tracks are more fun than carbon footprints. I'm guessing carbon off-sets should be cheap for a two wheeler. You are a lucky dog to be where it is warm and dry. Luck may run out in a few months unless you get some Seattle there. On my way and I am more effective than a rain dancer.