Northern California Tour, Winter 2014

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Chico, Jan 14, 2015.

  1. Chico

    Chico Thief and Saboteur

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2005
    Oddometer:
    850
    Location:
    Chico, Ca
    Living on the East Coast for the last several years, I’ve made a habit of trying to fit in a good ride every time I come home to Norcal to visit family. Over in the regional forum, I found an interesting route between Chico, Ca and Ft. Bragg, passing through the Mendocino National Forest then the Jackson State Forest. It’s about 180 miles as the crow flies with mixed surfaces but mostly small paved and dirt roads. With the recent heavy rains (and some snow), I wasn’t sure whether the forest roads would be open or not but intuition told me everything would be fine. Inmates familiar with the region mostly thought it would be fine but some expressed reservations about washouts and the snow level preventing two wheel travel. I would be on an 1150gs with my girlfriend on the back so I was looking for something interesting but not too challenging. We got just what we were looking for and maybe more.


    We left Chico on 99N, then West on South Road through Corning to Paskenta, Ca where where we stopped for gas before beginning to climb from the flat valley floor into the Northern California Coast Ranges.

    We’re having fun here coming up the east side but noticing this is more rugged than I had imagined or seen on google maps:

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    First signs of trouble:
    <iframe src="//player.vimeo.com/video/115885916?byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ec5727" width="500" height="889" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href="http://vimeo.com/115885916">Chico - Adventure Rider(4326706)</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/tapatalk">Tapatalk</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>



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    With the rock fall and sheet ice being impassable, we tried a different route that I hoped would circle and connect back with the main route I had plotted. We ended up on the M4 and a series of smaller forest roads.

    Lunch at Log Springs:

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    When we left the Log Springs camp area, we immediately started hitting shady pockets on the eastern facing slopes with snow and more sheets of ice:

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    <iframe src="//player.vimeo.com/video/115886102?byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ec5727" width="500" height="889" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href="http://vimeo.com/115886102">Chico - Adventure Rider(4326706)</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/tapatalk">Tapatalk</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>



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    Too bad there are no pictures at this point but there were other things on my mind. We were about two hours into hitting snow, getting off the bike to walk ahead and scout a possible line, walk back to the bike, ride the snow and ice (girlfriend hiked it), then repeat. We stopped at a particularly long stretch of snow with big ice patches about halfway through and a running drainage gully on the right. It was foggy, cold and at about 3:30pm, the day was already turning to dusk. The last thing I wanted was to get the bike into a spot that we couldn&#8217;t get it out of.

    There was no good line through this stretch. The ice covered the road from edge to edge and was so slick, there was no way I could risk riding it. If I dropped the pig, I don&#8217;t know that we&#8217;d be able to lift it on such a slippery surface, not to mention possibly getting hurt in the process. I had no idea if there was five more miles of this or if we were on the verge of punching through and finding better roads. If we turned around now, it meant two hours back through difficult snow stretches and down into the valley but at least we would be on roads that we knew were passable. If we kept going and things didn&#8217;t improve quickly, we could be stuck out here at night, which we would survive, but sounded like an absolutely miserable possibility.

    If the mud in the drainage wasn&#8217;t too soft and deep, I might be able to ride up that little creek, past the ice, and then try to get back up a steep, snowy ledge onto the road. Then I could pause and carefully ride across the last patch of ice. I put some branches on the ledge between the drainage and the road, thinking it might help with traction. The mud was soft but seemed worth a try.


    Getting through that section didn&#8217;t feel like a real accomplishment until we realized that indeed, it was the last bad section and soon, we were dropping in elevation and the dirt road was clear and smooth.



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    With the snow and ice, it was more of an adventure than I signed up for and at one point I got worried about making it out before dark but, I learned a few valuable lessons: call before you go, bring detailed paper maps instead of just a GPS, if your girlfriend hikes a couple miles in the snow on a 'motorcycle ride' in December without complaining, she's a keeper.


    After we got through the mountains to Covelo, it was getting dark and we booked it to Willits and warmed up in a gas station for a bit, ate a snack and rode South to hwy 20 and West to Mendocino. I had planned to ride more forest roads between Covelo and Ft. Bragg but it was already dark so we stuck to the main roads. It was too bad that we hit hwy 20 after dark--I remember it being a beautiful stretch of road but this time I couldn&#8217;t enjoy it. It was dark, I was tired and afraid of not being able to see ice on the road. In fact, it was one of the few times I can remember really struggling to ride smoothly. I kept slowing too late for turns and then over-braking because I was misjudging the road. It was a weird feeling--I was mentally spent and my body was tired. We checked into our hotel in Mendo, got some food at the little pub and slept well. We had left Chico at about 10am and arrived in Mendocino at about 7pm.


    The next morning, we wandered the shore and poked around in the tide pools.

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    After that, we rode down the coast to Bodega Bay. There was very little traffic and only once did I get caught behind a car. It was actually in a good place because I hadn't realized we were in an open range and just as I did, a big cow crossed the road in front of us. After food and sleep, I had my rhythm back and the riding was excellent. There are no pictures of this section because we were just cooking along, enjoying the road along the coast.


    We cut over to 101 just south of Bodega, crossed the Golden Gate, navigated SF (I still don't know the best way to get through the city from North to South) and headed south on 280. Originally, I had planned to hit the Skyline (hwy 35) to Santa Cruz but I looked at my girl and knew she just wanted to get there. The sun was low and we were tired from two long days on the bike. Instead, we rode fast down 280 to hwy 17 (I love that road) and got in to Santa Cruz at sundown.

    Sunrise the next morning over the Santa Cruz Main Beach and Monterey Bay:



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    We spent a couple days in Santa Cruz catching up with good friends and their young families before heading out on December 31. There was supposed to be severe wind on the 30th and 31st so we had decided that after the Santa Cruz Mountains, we were just going to take freeways back to Chico so we wouldn&#8217;t be on the road after dark.

    We left Santa Cruz on Empire Grade and two or three miles above the university, we came to a massive tree that had come down across the road. It was stretched across, about 10 feet off the ground but a hwy patrol officer had arrived and a tree crew was already sawing away at one end so we couldn&#8217;t ride under and continue up the road. We waited for twenty minutes or so to see if the crew would make any progress but then turned around and headed north up hwy 1. The north wind was blasting so I took Bonny Doon Rd, hoping to reconnect with Empire Grade above the fallen tree and continue to Alba Road down to hwy 9 to hwy 35. These roads are phenomenal and it was a blast riding these familiar routes after years of being away.

    Once we crossed hwy 92 to the East Bay, the fun was over and it was a long slog North back up to Chico. We arrived in the late afternoon feeling cold and battered but after hot showers and some food, were able to enjoy the next couple of days relaxing with more friends and family.
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    <iframe src="//player.vimeo.com/video/116801724?byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ec5727" width="500" height="888" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href="http://vimeo.com/116801724">Chico - Adventure Rider(4326706)</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/tapatalk">Tapatalk</a> on <a href="https://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>

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    All in all, an excellent trip and I'll definitely be going back to explore Mendocino National Forest and the section between Covelo and Ft. Bragg. Next time, I'll make sure there's no snow.
    #1