The morning of day three was cold and damp, and Stormy crawled out of his tent to announce that his balls had turned blue and he was going home.
"Let me give you a piece of advice: don't ever get old," he growled.
He perked up over breakfast, though, when we unfolded the map and began looking at our big road of the day: Highway 299, from Eureka to Redding. The proprietor of our camp site had told us not to miss the Newton P. Drury Scenic Parkway off of Highway 101 as we made our way South. The sun came out for a beautiful morning.
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Watch out for elk on the Newton P. Drury:
Once we turned East onto 299, things started to warm up significantly and the riding got very, very exciting. The highway climbed up forever with beautiful sweepers and vast passing lanes. By the time we finally stopped to shed some layers I was overheated and ecstatic, and we were barely half way to Weaverville.
When we got to the area called Whiskeytown, Stormy motioned for us to pull over.
"Time for some refreshments," he yelled from the shoulder of the highway, and pointed his Goose towards an obscure looking side-road that looked like it went nowhere. I followed him, and five miles later we were in a tiny little mining town called French Gulch.
French Gulch consists of an ancient saloon and hotel, and a few houses. It was probably a hot little spot in the 1880s, and is now populated by artists, hippies and reclusive prospectors. The fantastic saloon is like a museum of old mining memorabilia, run by an old-timer bartender with a bum leg.
Inside the saloon, it was dark and cool. Stormy asked, "ya got beer in here?' The bartender sized him up for a second and said, "yep."
"Is it cold?"
"If it's too cold, I'll put it in the microwave for a minute, how'd that be?" snapped the bartender. It was the first time I had ever seen Stormy out smart-assed. We ordered two frosty mugs and looked at all the stuff on the walls.
We explored some side roads around French Gulch, talked to some locals, then headed East again towards Redding. Between Whiskytown and Redding, Highway 299 goes from fun & fast to fun and harrowing, with a long section of twisting corners that are very tight and require full concentration. I was hanging off of my tank for miles. Once again, it was the best so far.
After gorging on Mexican food in Redding, we decided to continue East into the remote Intermountain region of California to look for the next campsite. 299 wasn't as exciting out here, but the scenery was good.
We rolled into a suitable looking place to camp in a quiet Baptist community outside of the Shasta National Forest. A tiny old lady came out of a cottage, and I asked her if she had a tent site available. It was evening time and there were people quietly relaxing in their RVs throughout the campground. The lady said we could camp there. Stormy, who doesn't have the best hearing anyway and was also wearing his helmet, shouted at her in top volume,
"WHAT WE'RE LOOKING FOR IS SOME COLD BEER."
I cringed, and the lady said, "No, there's no beer here." Stormy rolled his eyes and made the universal circulating hand gesture for "let us leave this place", and we taxied our machines back to the highway.
After gabbing with some ladies at the local mini-market, Stormy found out about a better spot up the road, and we made camp as the sun was setting over Mt. Shasta.