Saturday, June 23, 2012


1.            Find a new road

…many roads exist by which men have pursued
and still pursue their quest for the truth
and none has universal validity.
Kenneth Scott Latourette
on Hinduism’s basic tenet

The morning ride over Carson Pass and into Woodfords Canyon had been joyous.  The pavement on State Route 88 is nicely engineered, the weekday traffic light and the views of both the crest of the Sierra and Nevada’s Carson Valley made me wonder why I would consider returning home at all.  I gave some thought to pulling out of Woodfords Station and retracing my steps back to Jackson.  In my experience, riding any road back the other way is like a new ride all together.  Right? 

2.            Return by a different route

And being warned of God in a dream…
they departed into their own country another way. 
Matthew 2:12 – American King James Version

On the eastside of the Sierra, plenty of unridden roads web the valley and the mountain’s morn-facing rise.  Nearly into Nevada, I veer north on new-to-me Foothill Road, tracing in and out the steep and stubby canyons that dig into the Sierran escarpment.  Glancing eastward, I think of the growing stream of possible invectives and recriminations employed by the earliest pioneers – ragged from weeks of deprivation having crossed the plains, the Rockies and now the arid basin and range – as they grew closer to the massive uplift that shot the range skyward.  Woulda been a helluva lot easier to turn tail and return to Illinois, had they the provisions and the strength.

3.            Stick to the high country as long as possible

Elsa:  …there's only right and wrong - good and evil.
Nothing in between. It isn't that simple, is it?
Steve:  No, it isn't. It should be, but it isn't.
From Ride the High Country (1962)

US 50 in California crosses from South Tahoe to Sacramento.  For a major highway, all but the Sacramento section presents a pretty good run, descending on good pavement through beautiful scenery, verdant forests and along a rushing South Fork of the American River.  I’d done this several times, passing a sign for Wrights Lake with each journey.  Today, I would discover Wrights Lake.

The US Forest Service has provided the citizenry with many paved access roads to the high country of the El Dorado.  Wrights Lake Road (FR 4) is no exception.  Winding up the north side of the South Fork canyon, the road makes quick work of necessary elevation gain.  Each turn exposes a new view of the depths below and each invites a stop for a photo.  None of the photos, however, do justice.

Once atop the ridge, FR 4 passes through spring like meadows and into stands of fir and pine.  Nature hasn’t been kind to the pavement so it pays to moderate speed and keep an eye out for chuck holes that, taken at the wrong speed or angle, might rattle loose one’s fillings.  But the prize at the end of the road is worthy. 

Wrights is a high country lake rimmed in granite peaks, cloaked by forests and dotted with summer homes.  Camping is available in clean sites accessible to those with trailers as well as those of us on scoots.  A hand-hewn boat ramp of sorts allows access to those with paddle craft.  A stroll along the lakeshore offers unfolding views of the High Sierra and pleasant hellos from those fishing or picnicking or boating. 

A couple had just pulled ashore in a pair of mahogany kayaks, available from a company in Port Townsend, WA.  I comment on the graceful lines of their crafts and ask if they are Pygmies.  Astounded that I knew the make, I explain that one rests in my garage gathering dust – and has done so for the eleven years since I returned to motorcycling.  They opine that there are many, many ways to enjoy the scenic high country besides the BMW. 

I cannot disagree and finding yet another new-to-me road to explore as I make my way home (FR 32 to FR 3 – Ice House Lake Road) I resolve to dust off the kayaks, hook ‘em behind the truck, pack a lunch, invite my wife and revisit the area soon. 

This, I determine, is why I find new roads, different routes and stick to the high country.

Today’s Route:  From Woodford’s, east on 88; left onto Foothill; left onto Kingsbury Grade at Mottsville (west of Minden).  [A nice extension is to continue north four or five miles and visit Genoa, Nevada’s oldest town site.]  From Kingsbury Grade, left on US 50 through South Lake Tahoe, eschewing the casinos and t-shirt shops.  Continue west, turning left (southerly) west of town.  Cross Echo Summit.  [Another extension is the old Echo Summit Road, which zips up the canyon wall to the right a few miles west of Meyers reconnecting with 50 a few miles on.  Great views of the Tahoe Basin!  What’s more, a detour down to Echo Lake is enchanting.  Do this.]  West on US 50, right on Wright’s Lake Road.  Return:  Left on FR 32 (Wrights Lake Tie Road) to FR 3.  Right.  Left at Wentworth Springs Road to Georgetown; right or left on CA 193 to CA 49 and Placerville (south) or Auburn (north).

Bonus Rule – Use “…” freely when quoting others

The nice thing about using ellipses (…) is that you can edit any quote or scripture in a manner that allows it to support whatever’s on your mind. 
[Makes you wonder what I left out, doesn’t it?]


Pygmy Kayaks:  Check these out!  If I can build one, anyone can.

On Kenneth Scott Latourette (although probably not too scholarly):

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


History is an amazing great thing. 
If you don’t know a specific detail, you can always just make something up.
- Carl Rove did not say this, however...

Hiking buddy Joe once told me that State Route 88 from Jackson to the Nevada State line was one of the prettiest roads anywhere.  It had been some time, so a revisit to the area was in order.  After breakfast at Mel and Faye’s in Jackson, I rolled east on 88.  The BMW seemed eager to climb the gradual ascent through oak studded hills, into the mixed pine belt, then Ponderosa pine, then lodgepole, and up into the glazed and beautiful granite county.  This would be one of those days the late Robert Goulet crooned about.  Thirty miles on, I recalled that my goal was a leisurely ride, stopping here and there for photographs.

East of the Mormon Emigrant Trail intersect, Shot Rock rest area offers stunning, panoramic views of the Sierra.  A quarter mile trail leads to a rock barricade perfect for rest and reflection.  The sky is deep blue and the air sweet enough to drink.  Down from the vantage point, glacial polish tells of the power of ice to scour clean the ancient topsoil of the region.  Huge granite boulders rest on broad flat plains where they were deposited once that ice melted away.  Erratics, they are called – and they are not named after those who drive on Interstate 80 in the Sacramento area.

The power of ice is further on display as one passes a huge specimen of granite that appears to have been cleaved in half.  Only ages of water gathering, freezing, expanding, melting and repeating could have produced this split.  And only in the last few moments of its existence, a bit of what appears to be pine mat Manzanita has gained foothold.

Up 88 a few ticks, the road courses past Silver Lake and Caples Lake, two early day examples of man harnessing the river by inundating a meadow.  Now the shallow water washes over the lake’s decomposing granite floor.  Tiny tempests kick the surface into a minor flurry.  Back in the day, you’da probably sipped this water in its raw form.  No more.  Still, camping seems glorious here.  A kayak or a canoe on a moonlit night would be perfect. 

Secluded off the highway rests the Woods Lake Recreation Area.  I’ve camped here several times.  If on a multi-day trip, this spot might command two nights. 

Woods Lake is an alpine body surrounded by peaks soaring a thousand or more feet above.  Snow still clings to their protected flanks and the water feeding the pond is cold enough to shatter teeth. 

A marvelous hike loops south, east and then north past Winnemucca and Round Top Lakes.  Each is a delightful pool – a few thousand years short of becoming a meadow – positioned on the higher ground.  Early July is only early spring in these parts and a carnival of wildflowers frolic in the afternoon breeze alongside the trail.  A bonus on this hike is passing an up-until-quite-recently-active hard rock mine.  Look for the Model A engine with a flat belt pulley fashioned on its drive shaft and pointed toward a hole in the ground.

State Route 88 gracefully climbs over Kit Carson Pass.  Here, the Pacific Crest Trail crosses.  There is parking and a manned informational kiosk.  

Like a seven minute waltz that only lasts three, the descent into Hope Valley doesn’t last quite long enough.  Unlike the gradual rise from Jackson to the summit, the trip down is abrupt and the road is painstakingly engineered into pinkish rock variants that no longer seem like granite.  As the route begins to level out, one of the most photographed, sketched and/or water colored cabins on the planet comes into view on the left.  Built decades ago, it appears rustic and romantic prompting thoughts of wouldn’t that be a great place to have.  Maybe with Maureen O’Hara.

Although now, nearly completely screened by willows I stop for my perfunctory picture and discover that the forty acres upon which it sits in on the market.  Immediately I call my wife on the cell phone, which amazingly has coverage here.  She just laughs.  It is then that I realize I don’t have Maureen O’Hara’s number on my speed dial.
Hope Valley is a year round Mecca for hikers, mountain bikers, fisher people enjoying the Carson River, and XC enthusiasts.  Sorenson’s is the hub.  North from here is the crush of South Lake Tahoe.  South finds us in Markleeville, the state’s smallest county seat.  East takes us to Woodfords, my final stop on this crossing.

Back to making up history:  That’s what I must have been doing when, back in the late 70s and early 80s, I taught my fourth graders about the perils the Pony Express endured while crossing the Sierra near Donner Pass.  So, when I took a break yesterday at the Woodfords Store, I was surprised to find (or had forgotten) that the frontage road is called “Old Pony Express Trail.” 

Just outside the outpost, an ancient apple tree hangs over a pair of picnic tables where I would enjoy a Payday bar and a bottle of Calistoga water.  Across the road rests a plaque correcting my story.  As I spat out some candy wrapper that had stuck to the caramel, I wondered how many other facts I’d told my delicate nine-year-olds that were forty miles south of the truth.

Shot of the Day:  Industrious red beetles work over a piece of thistle or meadow cabbage of some sort in Hope Valley.  Click on the photo to enlarge.

Today’s Route:  From CA 49 in Jackson, head east on CA 88 over Carson Pass and into Nevada.

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press

Friday, June 15, 2012


Summer in the Sacramento Valley is an amalgam of high temperatures, congested freeways and drivers with thorny attitudes.  The best summer goals always involve either a multi-day trip to the high country or to the coast.   

Ahhh!  The high country!
Mid-July affords me an opportunity, as my wife, a third grade teacher, will be engaged in one of a couple of weeks of continuing education.  (Who says teachers take the summer off?)  She’ll be tethered to the house, dogs and outdoor plants.  I won’t.

The question becomes: “With three or four free days, where to next?”  Here are three bucket-list ideas I am weighing: 

The cool, inviting fog of the Mendocino Coast.
Fort Bragg / Mendocino Coast in Depth:  Chances are in about three years, we’ll relocate from the Sacramento area to the Santa Rosa area as we’ve sorta worn out this region’s roads.  I’ve been smitten with the idea of a condo in someplace like Windsor or Healdsburg and a small house in a coastal town like Fort Bragg.  Option I involves spending a couple of nights in Fort Bragg to explore the town itself on foot and the surrounding roads on the bike.  I spent several weekends a summer on the Mendocino Coast as a kid and the cool mornings and verdant hillsides offer a delightful contrast to a parched Sacramento Valley.  Revisiting byways along the Russian River, North Coast and through the redwoods seems like a pleasant way to spend three of four days and chalk it up to the family-oriented responsibility of “researching where we might next live.” 

Another high point along CA 89 - in Lassen Park
California Route 89 from Top to Bottom – or from bottom to top:  A convincing argument could be made that California’s Route 89 is among the most scenic in the state.  Winding from the leeward Nevada side of the Sierra, over a half dozen summits and passes, past glaciated peaks and high meadows, into and out of tiny, historic mining and lumber towns like Markleeville, Truckee, Sierraville, Blairsden, Quincy, Greenville, Chester, and Mount Shasta, through congested recreation areas, along the Truckee, the Feather, the Yuba, through Lassen Volcanic National Park into the Hat Creek Valley – every new turn offers something to capture breath and inspire awe.  I’ve done this entire road in several different sections, but never all of the road in one sitting.   With its delightful inns, resorts, camping and towns echoing yesteryear, making a three-day tour of this high mountain, serpentine strip would invite plenty of exploration and introspection.

On the trail of Peter Lassen's ghost
Journey to the Corner of the State:  California’s northeast corner is not where California’s northeast corner is.  The maps show us one thing.  The original surveys had something lightly different in mind.  North and east of Forth Bidwell, up in remote Modoc County, the road turns from pavement to gravel.  It climbs over a ridge and descends into Oregon.  The ghost of Peter Lassen haunts this region.  Somewhere up that way, just before one crosses into the Beaver State, a jeep road or a trail tees off and heads east toward that moving target.  A short but rugged drive from Cedarville, north and east of the Warners it is a locale I’d like to visit simply so I could say I’d been there.  A couple of buddies have indicated they’d like to come along – albeit in their Fords or their Volvos.  Towns like Likely, Bonanza and Denio await, I’m sure.

Some other coastal sojourn
So the question is: Which of the three?  Or is there some better Sacto-centric tour I should be considering? 


Note:  Readers wishing to comment are invited to do so on any forum to which they see this post posted, or, braving those befuddling idiocy words that filter spam, directly to the comment section of the Church of the Open Road blog.  When the trip is scheduled, the Church will so post inviting anyone who’d like to come along to do so.

This oughta be fun.

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


How do you structure communication to ensure the greatest number within the population get the message? 

The effective message will have three components.  In order, those components will:

1            Tell the target audience what you’re going to tell them.

2            Tell the target audience.

3            Tell the target audience what you’ve told them.

Sound repetitive?  If the message is important, that may be just what it takes.

Just for grins, try this: 

Using a sheet of paper placed “landscape” in front of you, draw an east-west line across the middle edge to edge.

Make a row of letters, A through Z, using the tiles from a Scrabble® Game.  No need to use either of the blanks.  You’ll only need twenty-six of the tiles.  Place the letters below the horizontal line in alphabetical order.

Assume that the row of letters represents the universe of people with whom you need to communicate an important message.

Compose a memo including those three sections of text.

Read section one [telling the audience what you’re going to tell them].  As you do this, move all of the vowels north of the line.  This is a smidge under 20% of the population.   

These letters represent the individuals in the organization that are involved and engaged in just about everything.  They are the ones who will figure out the point of your missive right off the bat.  They are essential to both communication and to getting the job done.  Imagine having to communicate any message wtht ny vwls whtsvr.  Move the Y north also, because s/he’s pretty much in that category.  [Note: if you understood “wtht ny vwls whtsvr” in less than a few seconds, you’re probably a vowel yourself.]

Next, read section two [telling the target audience].  As you do this, move any Scrabble tile with a point value less than five north of the line.   

The letters represent the people in the organization that have a lot to do, that may be distracted by the innumerable tasks at hand or issues du jour from some other aspect of their life.  They want to get the message and will get the message, but perform better when the message doesn’t sneak up on them.  Once they’ve received the message, they can go forward with the mission, integral to ensuring its success.

That leaves us with 5 letter tiles: J, K, Q, X and Z.  Again, just fewer than 20% of the population.  Before reading section three [telling the audience what you’ve just told them], consider where our language would be without these letters in our alphabet.   

How would we articulate “jazz,” or “kiss,” or “Quixotic,” or “exotic,” or “zest.”  Or "sex," for that matter!  Some of the most engaging, thought-provoking, sensual and meaningful words we speak employ some of the least used letters. 

These five letter tiles represent not the ne’er-do-well, who-gives-a-damn crowd.  Rather, they represent a creative element whose minds may be off in many directions simultaneously.  They are not multi-taskers; rather, while doing the task, they likely have dendrites engaged in lots of different endeavors.  These represent the if-you-want-to-get-something-done-ask-a-busy-person subgroup.  The first two sections of the memo were simply an effort to get their attention funneled in your direction for long enough to deliver the message.   

The third section, to them, is the message.

In short then:

The first part of the memo or talk alerts all that something important is coming.  (Note to leaders: Make sure that the something coming is important.)

The second part succinctly offers a narrative message, list of steps, procedural outline or management report important to the mission of the organization.

The third part represents the leader’s best effort to ensure everyone gets the message.

A small disclaimer: Should all communication include this repetitive format?  Probably not.  But understand that if the leader doesn’t make every effort to ensure that his or her most creative personnel absorb the critical message, the result of the overall mission will fall short of its potential.


Q:  Scrabble tiles include two blanks with no point value.  What should I do about them?
A:  What benefit are they offering the organization?

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press

Sunday, June 10, 2012


07 Breva in Fiddletown (Amador Co.)
The other day, I received an e-mail from Dave, the sales guy at the local BMW shop, reminding me of the first anniversary of my purchase of the Breva from the used bike floor.  “My how time flies,” he’d written.  His note prompted me to organize the photos I’d taken of the bike I call “Aria,” review what that year had looked like and what I had learned about Moto Guzzi.

'83 BMW R 65
Outside of Gillette cartridges for my Trak-II razor, I’m not much of a brand loyal guy.  Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Ford, Jeep, VW, Isuzu – all these manufacturer's products have spent time in my garage.  But when it comes to motorcycles, I’ve owned more BMWs than any other brand.  Two models, a ’83 R-65 and a ’00 R1100R held special memories – first Beemer and first Beemer upon re-entry into the sport. 

Cornfield in the California Delta
So when a black 2007 Breva roadster, shined to showroom perfection, sat amidst all the other hardware on the floor, it was if a light shown from above.  I was experiencing first love for the third time.  (Disclaimer: as far as motorcycles go.)  It didn’t take more than a couple of hundred yards on the test drive to know this two-wheeled roadster had to be mine.

In the intervening year, here’s what I’ve done and discovered:

The Breva is a beautiful example of Italian form with graceful lines and artful touches like the bronze on the heads that angle out from its iconic "Vee" engine.  They don’t do this bronze color thing any more - at least on bikes currently imported into the US, but I certainly like it on my ’07 as it adds depth to the aluminum casings and complements nicely the jet black paint.

Placer County CA by-way
“Aria” loves pavement that curves and twists and handles especially well when fitted with Michelin Pilot II tires.  This addition was a marked upgrade from the Metzelers that came on it, although I’ve trumpeted Metzes for other applications in the past.

'07 Breva at Yuba Pass (Sierra Co.)
Intermittent problems with starting were solved by consulting the Wild Goose Chase Forum and being instructed to secure the electrical fittings under the seat.  Not being too mechanical, and after a couple of incidents, the last one being somewhere the other side of Yuba Pass (CA 49), I finally removed the seat and just squoze every connection together with random abandon.  The thing has started up like clockwork every time since.

'08 1200 Sport at Elk Grove - "The one that got away."
My local Beemer Shop is ten minutes away.  The closest Guzzi shop is about an hour.  I thought this might be a problem, but most Guzzistas would be delighted if their shop were only an hour from home.  Elk Grove Power Sports has proven to be a good place to take her for service.  And they have a nice selection of MGs (Aprilias, Triumphs and Vespas) on their floor.

'07 Breva at Georgetown (El Dorado Co.) Community Park
The Wild Goose Forum is a great community of riders and a terrific resource for know-nothing guys such as myself.

Aria, the Breva, on the Foresthill Divide
A 300-mile day is quite doable on the Breva, even though it is a bit short in stature for me.  Two 150-mile days are better.

Department of Redundancy Department photo:  Crossing the North Fork of the North Fork of the American
The bike gets looks from passers-by and those in various parking lots dotted across Northern California.  The other day, a flagger at a construction site stopped me just so he could comment on the bike.

California Delta
Many folks cannot get “Goot-zee” out of Guzzi.  But they can get “Pete-zah” out of pizza.

On Bowman Lake Road (Nevada Co.)
The side stand on the Breva is a necessary design issue in that the bolt holding the stand in place unscrews itself, but because of the location of the exhaust, cannot easily be accessed for torquing.  My local dealer took about four hours to secure the thing, but only charged me $35 for the effort.  Mighta been the first time he’d seen the issue.

On Bowman Lake Road (Nevada Co.)
A ride to a favorite place on the Breva is different than a ride to the same place on an R1150RT, R1200GSA, R1100R or the KLR.  Or the Nissan Frontier.

California Delta (trip iii)
My concerns for the future of Guzzi USA may have been unfounded.  The dealer network is sparse, but there seem to be some stalwart shops unwilling to let the marque die stateside.  New models making the covers of several motorcycle magazines also give me confidence.

Drum Powerhouse Road (Placer Co.)
Guzzi fans help the cause by patronizing the dealer and by bringing riding buddies to the dealer.  Also, when we have a gripe about a dealer, talking to the dealer before broadcasting it to the universe is probably the honorable thing to do. 

Shearland Tract, near Auburn, CA
A little more heat pours off the heads on the Breva than I am used to on the Beemers.  Taller boots help.  Avoiding rides in 100 degree weather helps as well.

Ascending into Lakes Basin (Sierra Co.)
The bike likes the high country and the physics associated with the roads therein.

I am going to arrange a trip to Northern Italy for my wife’s 60th next year.  She’ll think it’s because she’s turning 60.  In reality, it’s because I want to tour the factory at Mandello del Lario on Lake Como.  Shhhh!

I have no regrets about my purchase.  I’d like to keep the little black Breva for a long, long time.  I suspect there may be another Guzzi in my future somewhere down the road.  There may not be another Beemer – although I cannot see myself without the big GS for long distances over rugged terrain: those places I wouldn’t risk the beauty of the Breva.

And to the kindred spirits over at the Wild Goose Chase forum: “Thanks for everything.  You have made the few quirks bearable, if not downright humorous, and all of the rides enjoyable.”


Related Resources:

Elk Grove Power Sports:

Wildgoose Chase Moto Guzzi (Enthusiast’s Forum among other great stuff for this Italian marque):

Moto International (a premier west coast dealership in Seattle):

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press