Narratives about motorcycling on Northern California's back roads; Reflections on the history and geography of the North State; Memoirs and early recollections of youthful visits to towns and forests and mountaintops.
Also middle-of-the-road takes on current issues in politics and education. Middle of the road? Isn't that dangerous?
Sunday, August 26, 2018
RETURNING HOME BY A DIFFERENT ROUTE
notes from an eastern Oregon road trip – part 3 of 4
Once I’ve passed the apex of a trip, once I’m on the return home, for reasons I can’t explain – maybe it’s just because I’m smellin’ the barn – I find myself stopping less frequently, taking fewer pictures and logging a few more miles per day. It’s an inexplicable and dumb idea. Especially in this case: My wife, who flew north to join us in the chase car wouldn’t arrive home until the day after I’d arrive. What was the point?
The summer of 2018 found the west again beset with wildfires. Hot, stagnant air had pooled over southeastern Oregon and northern California. A road construction delay proved to be uncomfortable, but a needed opportunity to dismount and stretch legs that might otherwise have waited another hour or so.
I snap a picture of the rolling grasslands realizing how tinder dry they are.
I have contended before and will do so again:US 395 between Riley and Lakeview Oregon is the loneliest road in America regardless of what the US 50 crowd will tell us.
The feeling of isolation is compounded when the sky is so hazy that the closest ridges seem covered in gauze and the further ones are gone.
Gas available in Lakeview is a welcome commodity.
The section of 395 between Lakeview and Alturas pulls me back in time and I take a side trip to visit a favored barn.
Yep. Still standing.
A couple of tenets that ride with me are:
Stay to the high country for as long as possible, and
Secondary roads are far more entertaining that primary roads.
A prime example? California’s state routes 299 and 139 provide a less traveled alternative to US 395. West on 299 out of Alturas, I pass through high grazing lands and thickening smoke. Somethings a-lit up this way. Of course. Why not?
Quaffing a root beer, I check in on the saddle that straddles a nearby fence. Deteriorating. It won’t be long now.
South into Lassen County and over a rise, I arrive at the Eagle Lake Recreation area. And over that rise, the air seems to have cleared out.
Skirting the lake on a county road, I pass through a burn scar of perhaps just last year. Blackened pines stand naked against that sky and charred, spikey manzanita indicate that the latest fire in the area wasn’t the first.
The sky looks bluer than I remember it ever being.
After a night in Chester, the barn smells closer than ever. Travelling a familiar state route 32 I descend from the Sierra/Cascade into a Sacramento Valley, even in a good year, is beset in an August haze.
The bee-line from here to home actually winds through the heart of the two-weeks-ago Mendocino Complex fires.
Highway 175 which provided a firebreak for most of the “River” portion of those blazes but didn’t fully prevent the conflagration from jumping the pavement.
Click to enlarge for detail
I can still smell the ash.
Home is thirty minutes away and a shower will feel real good.