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Weekend to Clearlake

Saturday, November 22: San Carlos - Clearlake

Colleen and I had plans to ride around the North Bay on Saturday. We sketched out a couple of fun-looking dualsport roads and then thought, hey, why not make a weekend out of it?

We met at Nini's in San Mateo. I really like Nini's food (not greasy!) and atmosphere (quirky small-town diner).

We wanted to get up to the Napa area as soon as possible, so we hopped on the freeway. The Bay Bridge was surprisingly light on traffic and we pulled into Napa a little over an hour after leaving Nini's.

From Napa, we took Hwy 121 northeast towards Lake Berryessa. "Napa" means "land of plenty" in the native Wappo language and it's easy to see how the valley earned its name.

We turned north onto Berryessa-Knoxville road for a quick jaunt up the western edge of Lake Berryessa. There are a frustratingly small number of views of the lake along the road, so we stopped at the intersection of Berryessa-Knoxville and Pope Canyon Roads for a rare vista point.

The lake is very low right now, which isn't good for late November. Vacaville, Suisun City, Vallejo, and Fairfield all get their water supply from Lake Berryessa and we're going to have a nasty winter and next summer if it doesn't start raining soon. Dry weather is great for motorcyclists, but not that great for sustaining communities.

Berryessa-Knoxville Road soon narrows and turns to rough pavement. In the winter and spring, there are numerous creek crossings (even though the road is ostensibly paved) but, again, the dry weather makes the crossings non-events.

We turned onto Reiff Road with the intent of heading east over to Highway 16.

Unfortunately, Reiff Road seems to be permanently gated now at the Lake/Yolo county line. It's always been closed's hoping that it returns to that status. We had a lot of fun on Reiff up until the gate and I'd love to return and ride it all the way through sometime.

Sad picture:

We retraced our steps back to Berryessa-Knoxville Road and rode into Clearlake for lunch. A quick stop at a historical marker in Lower Lake made me giggle:

Lunch was Cabo's in Clearlake; the food was OK but I really liked the decor. Next time I'll try something other than the side order of chicken burrito -- the size was perfect (small) but it only came with chicken and tortilla and was thus a little bland.

OK, enough lollygagging around -- time to find some dirt roads! Happiness came quickly in the form of High Valley Road leading north out of Clearlake.

Even the early paved sections are fun to ride, as Colleen demonstrates by modeling some of the ubiquitous vineyards.

Ahhh, this does not suck.

This past summer's fires were evident everywhere. I think this area was part of the Walker Fire that burned over 14,000 acres over a week in June. The fire was caused by a vehicle whose metal undercarriage struck a rock. Oops.

Did I mention that this did not suck? It was absolutely fantastic riding all the way around.

At the end of High Valley Road, we turned east for a few miles onto Bartlett Springs Road. In an ideal universe, we'd have taken it all the way over to Indian Valley Reservoir, about 20 miles or so, but the sun was already getting low. We decided just to play around for a few miles and then head back to Clearlake to our hotel.

We made a quick side jaunt onto a road that my GPS claims is called NF-17n01d; hey, why not? It was an awesome trail full of washouts, deep ruts, and mud...all covered with fallen leaves! We had a blast but, when we came to a fork in the road a mile or so in, decided to turn around rather than risk getting lost in the mountain woods at night.

More playing around on Bartlett Springs Road ensued...

When we got back to the intersection of Bartlett Springs and High Valley Road, we took the downhill turn onto Barlett Springs that winds its way back down the hill and towards Highway 20.

The setting sun made for some great views of Clear Lake down below us.

Even though we were back on pavement, how could I complain about Hwy 20 when I got scenery and lighting like this??

We pulled into the El Grande Best Western in Clearlake just as the sunset was fading.

The highlight of the night is hard to choose: fun conversation with the older couple manning the hotel bar? Making fun of Con-Air, our television entertainment? Or catching the second half of the 3rd period of the Sharks game, cementing our victory over the Capitals, 7-2? Ah, such choices.

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