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Published: June 16th 2009
I passed through 3 state capitals: Sacramento, Carson City and Boise
One of the great benefits of my new job is to have every second Friday off; last Memorial Day weekend, for me, was a 4-day one and I did my best to make good use of it.
Recently I have not been riding my motorcycle as much as I wanted, so I decided to catch up and drive my "usual" long distance over these 4 days.
In order to buy some time, I left Thursday, May 21st after work.
I describe day by day what happened; if you are only interested about the trip nitty-gritty details and not the story, you can see the map and go to the last sections, which are merely informative. Map (captured with the GPS)
Thursday, May 21st
Maybe because I'm on a budget, maybe because I felt more adventurous than usual, I decided to leave after work and sleep in the Eldorado National Forest. Somebody told me long time ago you are allowed to camp anywhere for free in the National Forest (in California); I double checked with the ranger and can confirm it's true.
Once I finished packing my stuff I just drove a little bit more than 3 hours to get to
Fallon Air Station
One of the few things in Fallon is a military air station...
a beautiful spot where
I spent the night. I pulled out from the desolated (and really dark) road where I was and ended up at a trailhead (Flaming Meadow, FYI) which seemed to me a perfect location.
I must say this has been by far the best trip I planned by myself and that night I was very excited because I knew what was coming up the following days (or at least I thought I knew, hehe).
Unfortunately my eye was bugging me a lot (it was irritated and I still don't know the reason) and the mosquitos were more than annoying that night.
Friday, May 22nd
I woke up really early (5.45am) and packed all my stuff while the mosquitos were not giving me a break.
Lake Tahoe was just one hour away and there I stopped for breakfast. Of course the temperature was not cooperating and even the server at Carrows confirmed it was particularly cold for that time of the year (and this time I didn't have a heated vest, which I am going to buy soon... very soon).
Funny that as soon as you pass the border with Nevada the first casinos appear; I
Far west gas station
In Nevada, of course
know that well, but I always smile when I see it again. In Lake Tahoe, in particular, the first casino is literally one meter away from the border!
Anyway, I kept riding on Hwy 50, "the loneliest road in America" as they advertise it in Nevada, and got to Fallon.
I was there before (when I got stuck with the bike in Stillwater last year...) but this time I found the time to the tourist office to check what kind of information they had for people like me. I got out of there after a a few minutes with a bunch of maps and brochures, but the most important questions I had were not answered; I was inquirying about local road conditions and the fella that was working there (probably volunteer) didn't have a clue what I was talking about, but that's fairly normal considering the remoteness of the roads I was referring to.
In Fallon the temperature increased drastically (typical in Nevada) and for the first time I removed one of the many (at least tree) layers of clothing I was wearing.
From Hwy 50 I took a fantastic detour (NV 722) to Austin.
Connects Austin, NV to Battle Mountain
few years of experience as a motorcycle rider and "adventurer", I started taking notes of everything I could see around me, especially mountain peaks and trailheads. In that area there are a number of remote mountains where I'll certainly go in the future, but that's another story (Desatoya peak, wait for me!).
The weather changed again and I even got some rain on that road literally forgotten by God, but I got to Austin still pretty dry. By the way, the last part of 722 before Austin is a totally straight highway with no people whatsoever; since it is also slightly downhill I decided to try out the maximum speed of my motorcycle, which turns out to be.. less that I thought (117mph according to the GPS).
That was not the first time I went to Austin either; I was there on my way back
from Salt Lake City, when I rode to Colorado and Wyoming.
I will always remember Nevada for its beauty and the greasy food and Austin was no exception... the small diner was really disappointing and I remember having ice-cream despite the cold temperature just to eat something good.
My end destination
I will never understand this passion for fireworks: this is probably the biggest store in Battle Mountain, Nevada
for the day was Battle Mountain, a little town on Hwy 80, a few hours North of Austin.
Astonishing route 305, with some stretches that are some of the flattest I've ever seen, brought me there rather fast. While riding that "highway" I tried recording my notes (I always bring with me a voice recorder now...) without stopping and the result pleased me quite a lot, since the audio quality was better than expected.
This starts a new era! Starting from this trip the amount of information I collect has greatly increased and I'll try to make good use of it.
East of 305 there is one of the biggest wilderness areas I've ever seen and - at one point - I'm planning to reach 305 from Dixie Valley (west of the Stillwater mountains... not the crazy thing I tried last year, when I attemped reaching Dixie Valley from the Stillwater basin, crossing the Stillwater mountain range..).
Battle Mountain is certainly not a highlight of this trip and I briefly stopped for an ice-cream (yes, the second in one day). I wanted to find an isolated place where to spend the night, so I started driving North on
Last Nevada town
before getting to Oregon; of course, the yellow building is a casino
a gravel road that seemed interminable and was supposed to reach some hot springs (damn GPS, I never got to the hot springs, but I suspect they were in a private property).
I crossed only a couple of people in maybe 1 hour, but - as it often happens in the desert - those people were enough to make me change my mind and go back to Battle Mountain in a motel. Knowing there are persons living in trailers in the middle of nowhere makes me kind of umconfortable and the motels are dirt cheap in the silver state.
That night I had a few beers at the nearby casino and continued to study the details for the following day.
In the small casinos outside Vegas, Reno and Carson City they hardly have table games and that's good, because that night I was definitely down for some black jack...
After a cold shower (dictated by the quality of the inn rather than my personal preference) I hit the bed rather early; I vaguely remember watching The Simpsons but being unable to last until the end of the episode...
Saturday, May 23rd
After a quick breakfast that was
On Hwy 95
complimentary with the $40 I paid for the night, I dressed and headed to Winnemucca, a much bigger town than I expected. There was some sort of motorcycle meet-up there, but I didn't have time to check it out and continued on hwy 95 North, towards Oregon.
I originally wanted to detour to Paradise Valley and loop back to US 95, splitting the Santa Rosa mountain
range, but at the intersection between Paradise Valley Road and Hwy 95 I asked one of the locals (who was driving a rough pick-up truck) what the road conditions were and he persuaded me not to try it, stating the road was very rocky and - given I could pass it with my GS - I would have been riding always in first gear.
I normally would have continued anyway if a ranger told me that (I did the same in New Mexico and the road
was more than fine), but locals don't lie. If a born-and-raised-in-Nevada tells you not do drive a road,
my experience tells me don't-even-think-about-it! I had still many miles to go and I was a little upset
for this last-minute change, but I will certainly attempt that
in the future, especially if I can find somebody
to go up there with me. I mean, what's the worst thing that can happen if you drive 10mph? I assume drop the
bike, which is not such a big deal if somebody else is there to help you.
At any rate, at the border with Oregon the little town of Mc Dermitt is the last human installment in miles (I recall the picture "No services next 100 miles" just after crossing the border).
Hwy 95 in South Oregon is likely the most remote road I've ridden outside Death Valley, but being a major highway you are not totally alone there (there is at least a car crossing every 10 minutes).
My only concern was to get to Jordan Valley, Oregon, as soon as possible and I achieved it, since I was there for lunch. The population of Jordan Valley is mainly farmers and I really felt in a safe place when I was having lunch at the small diner; I even left my wallet on the table when I went to the restrooms.
After filling up, I drove a fantastic unpaved but well maintained road to Silver
Not exactly the one I remembered... this one is in Oregon, before Jordan Valley
City, Idaho, a ghost-town that has become a major attraction for the locals, so much that it has a hotel!
On the way up (Silver City is in the mountains) it started raining, but I was able to get inside the saloon before it started... hailing! I was afraid to remain stuck there for the whole day, but fortunately the precipitations ended after little more than one hour, which I proficiently used to eat pie, drink beer and talking to some locals that were there for a family reunion.
The destination for the day was Boise, Idaho's pretty capital. I must confess I was surprised by the
beauty of south-west Idaho and by the almost complete absence of people living there.
Once hit the main (paved) road, the population density keeps increasing until Boise, which I consider
a rather big city (but in fact very small if compared to any other south-western capital).
I parked the motorcycle and went for a walk, enjoying the Saturday-afternoon atmosphere that brought
out a bunch of locals.
I wanted to find a campground, because I didn't feel like spending a lot of money for a motel in the downtown area, and went
Another scary sign, no services for 100 miles in an unpaved road!
to a bike rental shop where I met one of the most kind persons ever, who spent with me at least 20 minutes and even looked it up on the Internet the address and printed directions for me.
He also called the campground host to see if they had any space left because I don't have a cell!
Of course, the campground was empty (but the RV area was full).
After pitching the tent I headed downtown once again and had a pretty good dinner at a local bakery (salmon salad) with some good brew. A lot of young people filled the few clubs the tiny downtown offers and I would have stayed if I didn't have to drive another plethora of miles the next two days...
Once back at the campground it was not hard for me to fall asleep, despite the noise coming from the
nearby baseball stadium where a school game (pretty intense, it seems...) was going on.
Sunday, May 24th
No breakfast in Boise; I just wanted to get out of the city as soon as possible and sooner than I expected I found myself in Oregon again. US 20 to Burns goes
To Silver City
Nice byway to Silver City (ghost town)
through quite a lot of farm-land, but it eventually becomes another remote, lonely, 1-way highway to nowhere.
I was surprised by the fact that driving East I could not find any "Welcome to Oregon" sign (if there was one at all it was certainly not obvious); well.. missed picture I guess.
The take-away from the stretch of highway was a lot of green; I have a picture of a big cultivated field with some mountains in the background that really looks like a postcard.
Burns, where I had lunch, was farther away than I expected and I almost run out of gas, but I found a tiny service station 30 miles before the town where I guess only desperate people like me end up filling up... (at a very inconvenient fare of course).
That Sunday everything was closed in Burns except an asian-fusion restaurant where I was forced to go.
The food turned out not to be that bad, but for some reasons I recall I wanted to eat Mexican and that just didn't happen. I would not define Burns as an interesting place at all... so nothing to be noted there.
By the end of
To Silver City (2)
Another section of the road
the day I had to get to California passing by Hart Mountain, a wildlife refuge that seemed pretty appealing from my research. From Burns I rode through the "Oregon high-desert", a truly beautiful wilderness area.
In Frenchglen, a little town 1 hour away from Burns, I met two motorcycle riders that were coming from the road I meant to ride; when they told me "you'll have no problem" most of my anxiety went away; they also recommended to get to Fort Bidwell, California from Adel via another unpaved road, which was not on my list initially.
Anyway, Hart Mountain is a nice place but I guess I'll not go there any time soon...
maybe because I was too tired to actually spot wildlife. I stopped at the park headquarters where nobody was in charge, but the small visitor center (a wooden cabin) is always open. Inside I spent some time reading the bulletin board (there was a board specifically for wildlife sighting and that day, early in the morning, some people reported seeing some). Apparently there is a campground with some hot springs, but honestly I didn't investigate too much since I figured that you really gotta be motivated
Silver City, Idaho
A fairly big ghost town
to drive up there for some hot springs, which are fairly common in California.
Once in Adel I filled up and drove the nice road the guys recommended; totally worth it!
It's a long gravel road (that Sunday I rode mostly unpaved surfaces) and the views are excellent.
In my mind I was thinking of parking my motorcycle near the border and walk less than one mile to get to the point where the stated of Nevada, Oregon and California meet (the "3" corners). Unfortunately that's private property and a fence stopped me from doing it (but I'll not give up, I bet there cannot be a private land across 3 states!).
After some riding I found a little family riding quads; I was going pretty slowly and I greeted them. Something seemed strange and I had another glance at the mother... she was holding a shotgun! I tell you, very eccentric people live in those places.
They certainly didn't intend to shoot random motorcycle riders, but why in the Earth were they riding a quad with a weapon? Mystery of faith I guess...
Fort Bidwell is a military area and I wasn't particularly impressed by
I felt home when I saw that!
it (I was smiling when I saw two kids playing horseshoes, since only in America you may find people playing that). As far as I could see, Fort Bidwell hosts only one grocery store that was closed (I would have had a beer or a hot chocolate), so I headed to Cedarville, the biggest town around, where I had dinner in a half-way decent restaurant (again, the only one open).
I was able to impress some local kids when they were praising my motorcycle; one of them thought my GS would be much faster and when I told him maximum speed is 120mph he almost laughed at me; then I told him that I rode 400 miles for the past three days (exaggerating a bit...) and the little fellas could not believe it! I will never understand people who seek speed in a motorcycle, really. I love to be able to have a versatile vehicle and get wherever I want, but that's a different story.
In my maps I could see some big lakes but instead of being solid blue they were dashed; after talking to one of the locals in Cedarville I discovered they are seasonal lakes
I ignored Oregon had so much desert!
and in summer they reduce by quite a while. The dashed line indicated that the contour of the lakes varies a lot seasonally and I found this quite interesting.
If I was not so tired I would have driven one of the pullouts to the lakes (there are three of them: upper, middle and low Akali lake). Actually, CA 299 (which would have taken me to Alturas) goes right through the Middle lake (the biggest) and continues East to the Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Vya, a small ghost town in Nevada, is definitely going to be one of my next destinations when I'll ride to Northern California.
The program at this point was completely changed compared to what I had in mind before leaving; originally I had to go west to Alturas (also the motorcycle fellas I met in Oregon told me it was a good idea to sleep there), but I figured it's likely I'll go back to that area, so I decided to go for the most remote area and sleep again in the national forest.
Therefore I drove a few miles south and camped at the Emerson Peak trail-head (that's an interesting mountain and
Oregon's desert (2)
Beautiful wilderness view
I'd love to go back there and hike it). I recall being in my tent, thinking that heavy rain would hit me at any time (the storms in that area are very frequent), but that did not happen. I also encountered an interesting guy horse-back riding who told me works for the government and tries to find wild horses in the national forest... I was astonished when he told me he lives in Virginia City, Nevada: Virginia City is a ghost town made tourist attraction and I really thought there were no people living there... but I was apparently wrong.
There was a little campground at the very trail-head, but I could not reach it because of a rather large creek that I had to cross. The road was icy and fairly deep and I figured it was not the smartest idea to try that alone at night.
Monday, May 25th
Everything went right and there was not a drop of water that night.
From Surprise Valley Road I drove a nice forest road that brought me to Likely (I initially wanted to get to Madeline continuing on a dirt road, but one local discouraged me from doing
Nice wildlife refuge in Oregon; more than 100 miles of dirt to get where I wanted...
that... saying it was a very rough road (the only reason why I didn't do it is that it did look like a rough road indeed..).
It appears that area burned down pretty badly a few years ago and restoration is still going on, but I must say the forest roads were in excellent conditions and I never felt in danger. I also took a nice detour to "blue lake", a pretty lake that seems relatively famous (the road to blue lake from Likely is paved and I suspect that's the reason why the campground was full).
In Likely I filled up and continued a few miles on Hwy 395. I didn't really want to stay on the beaten path too much, so I took a side road (also unpaved) that was going to Horse Lake, another seasonal lake (there was no trace of water when I saw that and the lake looked like a big meadow to me). Interesting road, but nothing much in there (the elevation gain was negligible, but it was a good way to get off the traffic).
Susanville was my gateway to the Lassen region, which I find lovely (the region, not
Susanville!). I tried to have lunch in Susanville but the only diner open was completely full; I tried to stay in line for 5 minutes and they didn't even put my name on the list, so I decided not to give a penny to a restaurant that treats that way its customers.
The choice was tough, because I knew I was not going to have food for the next 5 or 6 hours, but an ice-cream I got at the gas station was more than enough given the abundant dinner I had the night before in Cedarville.
Few miles after the town a graded dirt-and-gravel road (Seneca Road) brought me to Hwy 70, passing by Seneca and Caribou (some "invisible" towns; near the location where Seneca was supposed to be I saw some cabins, but I have no clue if Caribou exists at all). I crossed only one person during the whole thing and that kind of ruined the magic, since I was hoping to ride the entire road without crossing anybody.
Towards the end of Seneca Road I found a dam (property of PG&E) that was not a pretty sight at all and from there a
that prevented me to get to the campground (just behind it). I was too tired to try the crossing the night before.
paved winding road (1 lane) got me to the highway fairly rapidly.
I had another small break where I got something to drink (Seneca road takes a lot of effort, next time I'll do it uphill) and continued on Hwy 70 towards Sacramento.
Unfortunately I could see the pretty Lassen National Forest disappearing and being substituted with traffic and buildings.
Davis was my last stop for gas before I Hwy 80, which concludes the loop, brought me back to the Bay Area.
Splitting traffic on Hwy 80 was probably the most dangerous part of the trip! I always try to avoid the highway before I get home but sometimes it's impossible, unless I want to ride roads that I've done a million times. From Sacramento there is a nice road that goes across the Sacramento river, but it's very slow and it's a popular destination for people living in the capital, so I figured it would not give me much advantage.
Good thing I was home early; the first person I saw was Jonathan, who was doing some gardening. While I went for a shower (well deserved at this point) Jonathan hosed my dirty motorcycle! Every time
Lassen region has tons of fun dirt roads
I take a long trip, Jonathan contributes with something nice and this was really nice of him. That night Lubab invited me over for dinner at their place and I must say that dinner was absolutely great!
Next big trip is going to be in Alaska, but no motorcycle involved there.
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