October 14, 2003

Life looked a whole lot better after a good night’s sleep. I slept more soundly than I have in weeks; guess I need to do long riding days more often! Steph and I woke up at 6:45 to gas up, shower, find food, and be ready to ride by 8am. We helped each other clean and lube our respective chains, and loitered about in the motel parking lot. The continental breakfast at the Holiday Lodge was really nice — fresh fruit, good coffee, bagels, english muffins, milk, OJ. The motel lobby had a chatty pair of birds, and I entertained myself by talking back at them. I think the motel proprietor thought I was nuts.

It was 50 degrees when we left Grass Valley at 8am. Steph had, thankfully, followed through on her promise to bring an extra layer for me, so I was up to five: an Underarmor T-shirt, an Underarmor turtleneck, a regular cotton T-shirt, Steph’s thin turtleneck sweater, and my leather jacket. All of these layers had the disconcerting combination of being both impressively ineffective at retaining heat and being amazingly bulky. I felt like Charlie Brown lying prone on the ice in his snowsuit. I started wishing, not for the last time, that I’d brought my windbreaker like a marginally intelligent human might have.

Leaving the motel, we all hopped onto Highway 49 and, once again, pretty much immediately lost the faster riders. I wasn’t sure whether Steph had a detailed map (I didn’t — I only had an overview), so I waited for her at the first intersection of Hwy 49 and Moonshine Rd. She waved me on ahead, saying that she did have a route map, and so I rode alone along Moonshine until I got to Marysville Rd, where Lutz was waiting for me (one of the nice things on this ride was that people generally waited at intersections until they saw that the person behind them had made the correct turn). He turned right, so I waited for Steph and turned right. A minute later, I saw motorcycle headlights approach, so I stuck out my arm to wave…and realized that, wow, those bikes looked really familiar. It was one of the earlier groups of our guys. I kept going for a minute until Lutz, Steven, and David appeared, and Lutz made the “do a U turn!” wave in the air. Whoops. I did, and quickly caught up with the LA guys, who’d waited to make sure Steph and I saw their U-turn sign. I was relieved to see that I’m not the only one who makes wrong turns. 😉

Now that we were all facing the correct way on Marysville, it was a short hop, skip, and a jump to Oregon Hill Rd. Oregon Hill was a bit of an adventure — to be sure, it was the best thigh workout I’d had in a while. The whole road was covered in those little acne-ish mini potholes. Seriously, it reminded me of this kid I went to high school with. Anyway, I ended up standing on the pegs motocross-style for the entire five miles or so of crappy bumpy pavement. Woooooie!

A little while futher north, I saw a rider waiting at an intersection where we were to turn right. At first, I thought it was Lutz again, but as we grew closer, I realized that instead of a tall German dude with a Road Star, it was a tall blonde dude with a YZF600R! It was Ed! He’d ridden up from the Bay Area that morning and was waiting for us. By sheer luck, he’d gotten there less than five minutes before we pulled up. We hung out and kibbitzed for a few minutes, and the now-slightly-larger group of us continued on towards Quincy. The scenery was all very “stereotypical northern California” — clear blue skies and tall pine trees as far as the eye could see.

I did make one completely asstastic move along this stretch — I decided last-second to pull over into a large turnout to take a picture, and unfortunately, I hit some gravel, started skidding, and then promptly locked up the rear wheel. Luckily, I guess, I used to overuse the rear brake on the SVS when I first got it, so the rear wheel fishtail was no stranger to me. The bike obviously stayed upright, and I was actually in control the entire time, though I think I gave Steven — who was riding right behind me — a bit of a heart attack. At the next stop, he walked up to me; I expected him to give me shit about it, but instead he shook my hand and said “nice save!”.

We stayed on Highway 89 as it wound its way north towards Lake Almanor. Lunch was a short hop up to Chester, CA, on the northwestern shore of the lake. We found a Subway right off the highway, which was perfect — the parking lot was large enough for all the bikes; the restaurant was large enough for all of us; the sun was shining and it was getting warmer out.

Mark (“Sprintrider”) had already left the group by this point — he had to get back home as he and he wife were selling their house. I didn’t get a photo of him by his bike before he left, sadly. I’d photographed most of the riders at a regrouping spot earlier along Hwy 89, and I got some more (though much less interesting, scenery-wise) in the Subway parking lot.

I ate lunch with Bill, Steph, and Sean, and the lunchtime conversation pretty much centered around “that one turn I almost died on”. There had been a steep downhill section just before lunch, and it seems as though everyone had one Really Bad Turn. Fortunately, everyone’s rubber stayed down and shiny sides stayed up, though there was probably more than a little seat-puckering going on. I remember at least one sign cautioning truckers against “steep downhill grades – 26%”. Damn.

After eating came the highlight of the day: Lassen Volcanic National Park. Aside from being really gorgeous, Lassen is actually a really cool park. All four types of volcanoes can be found there: cinder cones (the appropriately named Cinder Cone), composite volcanoes (Mt. Shasta), shield volcanoes (Mt. Harkness), and lava domes (Lassen Peak). At the southern tip of the Cascade Range, Lassen last saw major volcanic activity in 1915, though minor activity continued through 1921. Until Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980, Lassen Peak’s was the latest volcanic eruption in the lower 48 states.

But aside from being geographically downright neat, did I mention that the park was drop dead gorgeous? Very little traffic, cleanly paved roads, nice sweepers, outrageous scenery. When can I go back? Steph, Bill, and I stopped for pictures approximately every sixteen inches again, and I still feel like we managed to miss out on a bunch of scenery. Some of my favorite shots were right around Diamond Peak in the southwestern corner of the park. Part of the Lassen “volcanic center” that began to erupt 600,000 years ago, that area of the park is full of steep cliffs and stark rocky outcroppings over acres and acres of pine trees. I also got a nice shot of the SVS in front of Lassen Peak and Lake Helen.

There was just so much to photograph. I didn’t know much about Lassen before I went there (and, honestly, most of it I’ve learned since getting home, while researching this write-up), and the knowledge is whetting my appetite to go back. National Parks are really amazing.

The other really wonderful thing about Lassen was that, for the first time all weekend, I wasn’t freezing my ass off. Despite the approximate 8000′ elevation, the park was pretty pleasant. As we continued on westward towards Red Bluff, it actually became warm. I began to see why Astute Reader Geoff, who lives in Redding, had cautioned me about the warm temperatures before the ride. Frankly, before actually arriving in Red Bluff, I was beginning to think that Geoff was either thermostatically challenged or playing a cruel joke on me.

Steph, Bill, and I met up with the LA contingency of Dave, Steven, and Lutz once more at the gas station in Red Bluff. Stephanie got us a bit of a reputation with an old gentleman loitering nearby, who somehow decided that we were lesbians. This caused some mirth, though I still maintain that were we lesbians, my evenings in the motel rooms might have been more entertaining.

From Red Bluff, we got onto Highway 36 and began the last long westerly leg to Weaverville. The route map called for us to turn north at Wildwood Road, but it was looking gravelly down at the south end, and we were pretty tired, so we all opted to continue west until Highway 3 and take that north up to Weaverville. I’d been on these roads before, on my way to the 2001 Women on Wheels conference in Redding, which was pretty neat for me. I distinctly remembered taking a picture at the Hayfork Summit, so it put a smile on my face to be back there. Mental note, however: Hayfork is warmer in July. Not so warm in October. It was almost surreal to be back there. As my first solo/overnight trip, that ride up to Redding is pretty well burnt into my memory, and to ride those roads again brought back a lot of memories. Odd how that works.

My earlier adventure with fishtailing on Hwy 89 made me pay extra attention to my cornering for the rest of the day. Lutz gave me a really nice compliment at our last regrouping stop before Weaverville — he’d been riding behind me, and he told me that I was demonstrating a “textbook example” of how to really turn one’s head to look towards the exit of a turn. That made me feel really good — not only because it was a nice compliment, but because I’d been consciously trying to improve my cornering, and it was cool that not only could I tell the difference in my riding, but other people commented on it looking nice as well.

We finally got into Weaverville as it was turning from dusk to nightfall. Our motel, the 49ers Gold Country Inn, was adorable, clean, and our room was huge. The whole group met in the parking lot once we’d showered and changed, and decided to walk into town for dinner. We stopped at a cafe called Le Grange on the main drag, which earned a place of honor as the singular worst service that I’ve ever encountered in my entire human life. To make a long story short, we got our drinks about an hour after we were seated, bread about 15 minutes later, and the rest of the food another hour after that. No apologies, no explanations, nothing. It was as though they just ignored us. We started taking pictures when various foodstuffs arrived, just for the timestamps. Steven tried to lead us in a stirring redition of Homer Simpson’s Do Re Mi Beer in an attempt to hint our thirst to the waitstaff, but sadly, even these best efforts failed.


Steph gave up partway through the wait and left. She told me later that she’d walked down the street to a nice little Chinese restaurant and gotten takeout. She was happily sitting in the room, munching on dinner and watching the autopsy channel or something when I arrived back. I made it through the sternum (“looks like baby back ribs!”, said Steph), heart, lungs, and a bizarre story about a mother who’d given birth to, and eventually killed, nine babies in a row before someone finally wised up and investigated. By the time the cadaver was having the stomach removed, though, I’d had enough and we turned off the TV and went to bed.

Saturday’s GPS Track Log: Grass Valley – Weaverville


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