Wine Country Finish

On Sunday July 15, we cheered for Croatia against France (divers!) from our motel room in Nevada City, enjoying a lazy morning after the long ride Saturday.

Looking ahead to finishing in SF on Wednesday, and our desire to ride through Napa Monday and Sonoma Tuesday, and the fact that it was close to noon and already blazing hot, we decided to do some hitchhiking. We made up a pair of “Sac” cardboard signs and rode to the on ramp for Hwy 59 towards Auburn and Sacramento. After about 90 minutes “Pete” rode by on his bike, chatted with us some, and offered to give us a lift to Sacramento in his pickup (and some gas and beer money wouldn’t hurt.) Pete’s a retired hotshot firefighter for the USFS with some time on his hands and sympathy for bikers out when its 95 degrees. An hour later, we’d learned a lot about firefighting tactics and public policy, before he dropped us in Old Sacramento.

We rode on Sunday towards Davis, along well designed bike paths the whole way – with Davis being called the bicycling capital of America.

In Davis we’d arranged a tent spot in the backyard of “Warm Showers” hosts Kathy and Ed in Davis. Warm Showers is a wonderful community of bicycle touring people hosting each other for a spot to camp and a warm shower (and often some snacks and drinks or more…) Alex and I have stayed with WS hosts on previous rides, and also hosted about 3 times in Alexandria. Also special about staying with our gracious hosts Kathy and Ed was their community — a planned sustainable community called “Village Homes”, built to make walking between houses and to the common lawns and the common orchard, very enjoyable. They invited us to join for a neighborhood pot luck, and then we strolled the orchard picking mulberries, peaches, and pluots for a cobbler.

We rose early to ride towards Sonoma before the heat built, and as we left Davis, riding a broad bike path past flat fields of crops and orchards, we felt a little like we were biking in Holland.

After breakfast in the cute town of Winters at Steady Eddies’ (thanks, John!), we rode west on 128 and soon were climbing up steeply to go above and beyond Lake Berryessa. The road went up brown grass hillsides, scattered oaks and other trees — many of them singed from fires last year. We had to crest about 5 climbs to get to Napa, each about 30 minutes of cranking up steep grades, and then flying down the backsides. We soon were down in the flat Napa valley, green vineyards all about – and Marian noted how they are completely artificial, but beautiful as they spread across the brown hillsides.

All riding and no play is dull, so we ditched the bikes at our B&B and did some wine tasting at the Cosentino winery. And we found some very good food in Napa at the Oxbow Market.

Tuesday morning, Jim Cashel rode his bike over from Sonoma to join us to bike back there, over rolling hills of vineyards.

We had a comfortable day at Jim and Anne’s, a little touring of the town and refresher on the Mission history, some more vineyards, some more delicious food – wonderful.

And then it was Wednesday, out last day of this ride – only some 65 miles on the scenic route into SF. We followed a bike route through Petaluma, San Rafael – parts of it brown scrub hills, vineyards, and redwoods. In San Rafael, Alex found Horchatta at a neighborhood store – joyous!

After about seven hours of riding and breaks we were riding along the coast of Sausalito, and the Golden Gate Bridge came into view. Like something out of the Wizard of Oz… the goal of our long ride, on the glittering sea with whisps of fog high up…

One last climb to get from sea level up a few hundred feet to the bridge (gasp), and we were crossing, with a brisk wind off the ocean pushing us hard from the side. Alex led us into the city and down Market Street to the Mission District and his apartment on Ramona- we’d made it! From beer country (Bend) to wine country!

Anna flew into SF Wednesday night and the five of us enjoyed a long weekend in SF- good food, walking tour of the Murals of Mission, SF MOMA, dinner with the Witzel-Williams gang, and not bicycling (apart from an amusing hour cycling around Golden Gate park on a 4-seater surrey.)

SF is just wonderful to visit- and we really enjoyed having Alex to show us around and share his infectious enthusiasm for the city.

Sixteen days of cycling from Bend to SF; Warm Showers hosts – 1 night; friends 2 nights; motels 3 nights; camping 10 nights. About 900 miles of cycling, some 40,000 ft of climbing; passing through numerous different ecosystems from lava pumice deserts to redwood stands, and a lot of warm people along the way. And only two flat tires! We’re already thinking of routes for future bike trips!

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Out of the Mountains..

After 12 days of riding in the Cascade Range, it was time to head down towards the coast, towards wine country, towards San Francisco.

We rode Friday, Jul 13, through Lassen Volcanic National Park and then to the southeast along the spine of the Cascades. We passed through think forests of Ponderosa Pines and Douglas Firs…. also areas of past forest fires… through small touristy towns like Chester on the shore of Lake Alomar… half of the town shops offering some combination of ice cream and burgers.

Too much detail to be of interest to anyone but us, but from Chester we followed the guidance of our ACA maps and caught the shuttle bus east 40 miles to Quincy, to avoid a particularly bad stretch of road, which was indeed bad — old and cracked road surface, nonexistent shoulders, and very windy. The county shuttle bus had a bike rack to hold two bikes, and we three were there along with a local who threw a brief fit (not directed at us) when he saw that there were 3 bikes ahead of him at the bus stop. But we convinced the driver to let us pack bikes into the back of the bus, and handled the bike loading including of the local’s bike, and so everyone and their bikes got accommodated.

We arrived in Quincy, after the bone-rattling bus drive, about 7:45pm, and asked to be dropped on the east side of town at the county fairgrounds. Our ACA map said that the only place to camp in town was at the fairground (“call ahead and they’ll leave the bathroom open for you”.) While waiting for the bus in the prior town of Chester, we’d called every motel and lodge around Quincy and all were full – so the fairground it was. After the bus dropped us by the entrance in the edge of town, dusk descending, we rode to the gates, which were locked, but found the side service entrance open. On the grass promenade inside the gate was a camper and tent and a handful of people and kids sitting around – who told us there were there to set up for an event that weekend and did not know *anything* about bicycle camping. Hmmm. We ride further in, past the “Art Barn”, and came upon a busy looking woman in a tie-dyed shirt running about in her pickup truck. She saw us biking and pointed to the side gate and said – you can head out there to get back to Main Street. I thought – uh-oh, does not sound very welcoming. I said – we’re wondering if there’s camping for bicyclists, and she said – oh, okay- follow me I’ll show you where over by the Goat pavilion. She proceeded to show us a nice patch of lawn beside the Goat pavilion, just across from the bathrooms, with warm showers, which she said she’d leave open. We all exhaled and smiled and appreciated the “trail magic” of when people and the ACA map notes come together. We quickly had our tent set up and had showered and were climbing into our sleeping bags.

In the morning, Alex awoke with a stunning hair style that Marian gleefully photographed:

Goat pavilion camping, and bus knitting.

Saturday, Jul 14, we had a challenge — we were heading down out of the mountains towards Sacramento Valley – and needed to end up someplace where we could watch the World Cup game at 8am PT Sunday morning. Very important! The towns along the small windy mountain road about 50-60 miles away were all booked up, being a summer weekend, so we booked a motel room in Nevada City, about 100 miles away- no problem we hoped – as it was 1,000 ft lower. What we (I) did not realize was the significant climbs we’d need to do in making our daylong descent (Google maps for mobile does not show the trip profile, alas.) We left early from the Fairgrounds and rode through thick forests to the town of Graeagle, a cute north-woodsy cluster of homes and shops where we had delicious scones and coffee at a bakery.

From there our “Gold Lake Highway” route went up and up, gorgeous glimpses of high peaks above us, emerald lakes beside the road, trees windswept and more stunted as we rose. But the climb was tough and more than our trip planner had told us we’d be in for! After about four hours of up and down and up and up and up… we crossed the highest point and started down. We later learned we’d climbed from 4,300′ at Graeagle to about 6,700′ at highest.

At the top we were in the “Lakes Basin” around Gold Lake, a beautiful string of high mountains lakes, and were being passed often by cars and pickups with canoes and paddle boards strapped on.

And mountain bikes. Lots of ’em. As we headed down, gleeful descent on the windy road alongside growing rushing Yuba River and rocky hills, we were going through the Downieville area – popular for downhill mountain biking. We stopped in D-villa for a long lunch to rest and let the heat of the day pass — and enjoyed seeing the dozens of mountain bikers coming and going- baggy shorts and shirts in muted colors, knee and elbow pads, distinct mtn biking helmets, and full suspension bikes… like a different species from us tight fluorescent Lycra clad touring cyclists. While resting after lunch – Eugenie enjoyed an outdoor massage of her aching shoulders and neck by a sports masseuse.

After lunch we had a ride down the Yuba and up and over a ridge towards Nevada City – a long slog uphill from the Yuba River crossing at about 7pm, when we were all beat. Long day. Fortunately, the motel we’d booked was great and we were shortly showered and enjoying cold beer and Dominos pasta and salads.

For you days geeks we ended up doing about 95 miles (we’re calling it a full Century, considering the climbs!), and about 8,000 feet of climbing – a combo which was a personal record for each of us.

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Alex and Volcanos

Alex joined us for the second week of our ride, catching buses up from SF to Redding to Burney. It’s fun to have him join and to be a four-some. We rode into the amazing Lassen Volcanic National Park – home of a huge 1915 eruption. Beautiful sunset and camping there – and early ride out Friday morning to climb the 2700 feet or so to the summit, about a 3-hour aerobic workout. And then we race down past emerald mountain lakes, dramatic carved gullies, and back into thick pines.

And in Wolz bike-packing style (or at least my style) we improvise as we head along, catching the intra-mountain shuttle to Quincy (to avoid a particularly bad section of riding) and find a warm welcome to bike campers at the Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds, right beside the Goat pavilion (no goats around this week).

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Day 7-8-9: Old Lake Beds and Lava Tubes… into California

On Sunday July 8, we said goodbye to amazing hosts Cynthia and Stuart in Ashland and climbed east out of the valley, to get away from the wildfires continuing to the south on the CA/OR border. We were deviating from our ACA route, so a little uncertain about the quality of the roads and the topography, but eager to visit Lava Bed National Monument.

Up away from Ashland on Hwy 66, we rose steadily up brown grassed hillsides with scrub oaks, bypassing the growing fire smoke haze south of us, climbing from 1900′ to 4500′ over about 18 miles… finding the right gear that matches your oxygen intake and just cranking away… stopping for a drink and to stretch every 20 min or so….

We topped out after about 2 hours and it became cool and shady in a thickening pine forest. We passed a crossing of the Pacific Crest Trail (see the movie Wild), which was marked with a CLOSED due to wildfires beyond sign.

Marian says she’s offering to do that trail sometime with Anna – that would be a power duo!

We shortly arrived at Green Springs Inn, a cool, refreshing place for a stop – too late for just afternoon pie, so we have soup and salads and THEN cherry pie. There was a big sign on the porch “We love our Monument!” Meaning the Cascades-Siskyou Monument, some 24k acres so designated by Prez Clinton, monument creation being a unilateral executive action, and we later saw other signs calling for a “vote” about the Monument.

We rode on, in total from about 1pm-8pm, the second half rolling hills through thick pine forests, and arrived at the recommended PacificCorp Keno campsite. Wonderful and cheap campsite on banks of Klamath river, lots of birds about on the water. PacificCorp is a major power company – mostly coal but about 10% hydro- and the campsite had free heated showers, electric heaters in the restroom, and electric hand dryers 😉

Quiet camping without many others around, a zillion stars and the Milky Way overhead with a moon-less night, and pleasantly cool to about 50 degrees by dawn.

Monday we rode south away from Klamath Falls and into the Tule Lake valley. Broad flat valley, green crops between the hills to the east and west and as far south as we could see – and tall, white, Mt Shasta looking over it all from the northeast. Out of thick pine forests suddenly into a big agriculture area – huge tractors, irrigation canals going this way and that, grain elevators miles off.

I was thinking – huh – this must have been ancient lake bed. Well, yes, and not so ancient. It was a huge set of lakes and wetlands, home of the Modoc tribe and others. After conflicts with white settlers, the Modoc were forced to a reservation (and resisted, their Captain Jack leading a band of 150 that fought from the lava caves….) and the wetlands largely diked and dried out for agricultural usage (thanks Teddy Roosevelt) and some given to WWI vets by lottery. The vast wetlands that were filled with migrating and resident birds and a fraction of what they were, and the salmon downstream are today still in bad shape. The area was also home of “Tule Lake Segregation Center” one of the worst of the camps for Japanese Americans, specifying those who had resisted loyalty oaths or other such tests. Such a beautiful landscape, and mixed history.

And then we ride into the farm town of Merrill and find a Mexican restaurant run by two sweet women, place is immaculate, pictures of John Paul II – Our Lady of Guadalupe – and a young Mexican crooner on the wall, and have a delicious lunch of tacos al pastor (with a lime wedge), burritos, tamarind soda, and horchatta.

We ride another hour south, it’s getting hot, past the (remains of the) wildlife refuge, and the landscape starts rising – and we see acres and acres of lava rocks in bands, and then scrub grasses and junipers, and then more bands of black pockmarked rocks the size of coolers. It’s a hot climb and we’re racing to get to the Lava Beds National Monument visitors center by 2pm to join the ranger led cave tour. Eugenie and I hitch a ride from a friendly couple with a pickup truck from Sonoma, and arrive about the same time as Marian who had raced a mile ahead – but the ranger tour was filled…. we do head down on our own into some of the lava tubes, which are fascinating!

We camp beside an old juniper which gives us delicious shade from the setting sun.

We plan to rise early to ride ahead of the heat of midday…. and again the stars and Milky Way are brilliant when I get up sometime in the middle of the night. I see a pair of shooting stars in little time looking up through the mosquito netting.

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Day 3-4-5-6: Crater Lake to Ashland

The safest items on the jumbled counter at the Whispering Pines Motel for the continental breakfast were the bananas and individually wrapped moon pies. Grabbed a few and a cup of coffee and bid adieu to Sheila and we hit the road. (Sweet lady – she has been trying to grow fruits and veggies in the high desert there – and planted 8′ tall apple trees to avoid the deer, but then they had 8′ of snow and the rabbits destroyed the trees.)

Long ascent to Crater Lake tested our lung capacities, but gorgeous on top.

From Crater we headed deeper into the thick Douglas Fir forests- raging Rogue River at times glimpsed through the woods.

On to Ashland for a night with Cynthia and Stuart,  warm visit and good food – and a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Fedtival outdoor Elizabethan theater,  the funny “Book of Will”.

Today- Sunday- detouring from Ashland to avoid fires and smoke from the Hornbrook fire on the OR/CA border- so swinging east towards Klamath Falls, then to Lava Beds National Park (lava tube caves?!?!) and down to Burney Falls (waterfalls!) where we’ll meet Alex on Thursday.

Good riding, good spirits, good eating, good cheer!

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Day 2- Approaching Crater Lake

7,700 years ago Mount Manama erupted and blew this part of Oregon for a whammy, creating massive lava flows which are still piles of massive blocks of rock hundreds of feet high, and creating Crater Lake, which we’ll get to tomorrow. Today we ride about 8 hours to get 68 miles, with 2,179 feet of climbing (according to Marian’s Strava), past more gorgeous lakes amidst the Lodgepole forests. We stopped for the night in a motel that’s very forgettable but for it’s strategic location as the last place to stay (or camp) for about the last 30 miles to Crater Lake National Park. I would not bring a small child into the motel lobby, lest they touch something and a pile of miscellaneous dusty junk tumble down on them, or they open the cooler for a soda and inhale some decades old toxic mold… but the guest rooms are passable 😉 one endearing aspect is the VCR machines in each room and the large video tape collection in that scary lobby. We watch Apollo 13, giving us some feel good spirit for our climb up to the rim of Crater Lake tomorrow!

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Day 1- Bend to Cultus Lake

After coffee and “ocean rolls” in Bend with Carrie and Marian, we load everything onto our bikes, on a sunny 70 degree morning. We are pleased to see to everything fits, about 25-30 pounds a bike, and when we jump on and ride a block up and down for a photo opp, we find that nothing falls off and the bikes still work. Good.

We ride west out of Bend, gradually climbing up a long ascent towards and around the backside of Mt Bachelor, and down the backside, along a string of gorgeous lakes amidst majestic Ponderosa pines.

While enjoying the scenery we climb about 3686′ over 49 miles — a good first day warmup (we felt it.)

We camp beside Cultus Lake, eating dinner while the sun sets slowly over the lake, eating a freeze dried Thai noodle dish, and reading out loud a chapter of Undaunted Courage about the Lewis and Clark expedition.

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