Ride to Carrizo Plain with Bill & David - April 2012

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Bill, David and I originally planned a four-day ride this week to explore the high desert and mountains in the Austin, NV area. Unfortunately, late winter storms dropped a lot of rain and snow in the mountains and we changed our plans. We decided to spend the four days riding the back roads south to the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

On Monday, April 16, we met up at the Early Toast restaurant in Folsom, CA, at a little breakfast while discussing our general plan, and headed south. We rode back roads towards Rancho Seco where we headed west toward the Sacramento River delta. We then followed the river road down to Antioch then again took the back roads through Livermore, traveled Mines Road and then visited Mt. Hamilton. From there we dropped down into the San Jose area then headed south on Hwy 101. After a 25 mile run down the freeway (not our favorite type of road, we headed towards the Pinnacles National Monument on Hwy 25. We made an obligatory stop at the Pinnacles, but there really isn't much to see unless you want to do some hiking - which we didn't. When Hwy 25 ended at Hwy 168, we took a couple of goat trails called Peach Tree Rd and Indian Valley Rd all the way to Paso Robles where we spent the night at the local Motel 6.

This was a most pleasant day. With the exception of making our way through the Antioch and San Jose areas (I hate cities) the day was spent traveling well maintained (mostly) country roads - the weather was perfect, traffic was very light (non-existent), and the recent rains had small streams running, all the grasses and vegetation at its greenest. It was about 7:00 PM when we pulled into the motel and by the time we checked in, unloaded our bikes, got settled in our rooms, cleaned up a bit, and got some dinner, it was nearly bed time. We spent a little more time discussing the day, and hit the rack. We covered 357 miles on the day, which isn't bad considering the technical nature of much of the roads.

I set my alarm for 7:00 AM, but David is an early riser, and was poiunding on my door about 6:30 AM. We headed for breakfast about 7:00 AM, got back to our rooms shortly after 8:00 AM, took our consituitonals, packed up our bikes, and headed out a little after 9:00 AM. We made our way on some of the local roads southeast to Hwy 58 and then east to the Carrizo Plain National Monument. We were a little disappointed that there seemed to be no flowers visible. The place is kind of famous for its 'once a year' flower bloom in the spring. Last year we rode down in May, but it was too late and everything had already turned brown. This year we were a little earlier and there had been recent rain in the area followed by some sunshine - we thought we might be in luck. But ......... no flowers and no people. Maybe we were too early this year.

The visitor center was closed - no ranger, doors locked, no explanation. We picked up a brochure that talked about good spot to view the San Andreas Fault, so we headed for the Wallace Creek Overlook. Immediately after turning off the main road, we ran into a 100 yards of extremely torn up road. It looked like some 4x4s had been playing in the mud and left the entire roadway in a mess of deep muddy sand ....... maybe is was sandy mud. It wasn't too wet, but it was very deep and loose, When I pulled over and hesitated about continuing on, David pulled up along side me and noted that just around the bend, conditions looked much better. We made our way through and around the bog, and found the rest of the road to be quite dry - just enough moisture to keep the dust down.

There wasn't a lot to see ............ without the panel explaining things, I would have thought I was seeing nothing more than a crooked gully with a dry creek bed in the bottom. In reality, the creek bed was once straight and the bends are caused by the movement of ground on each side of the San Andreas Fault.

We decided to ride south, out of the Carrizo Plain on Elkhorn Rd rather than return to the main road. That turned out to be a good decision and the 30 miles or so of dirt road was perfect. There were just enough challenging places to keep your attention focused, but overall, the road was in pretty good shape and pretty easy riding. There countryside was rugged enough to provide plenty of curves, climbs, descents, and good views of the surrounding country. At the south end, we climbed a pretty good range of mountains before dropping back down onto Hwy 166. From there it was a pretty routine ride back to civilization near Hwy 101 where we fueled up and ate some lunch. After lunch continued west to Hwy 1 then followed it to Cayucos. At Cayucos we cut back northeast on Old Creek Rd to Hwy 46 - this is a nice little stretch of curvy, mountain road. From there we cruised back into Paso Robles and back to the same Motel 6 about 6:30 PM. Again, after cleaning up a little, getting something to eat, and a little recapping the day. it was time for bed. Another great day in the memory books. We traveled 271 miles on the day - including about 35 miles of dirt road.

David was knocking on my door about 6:15 AM on Wednesday. I had set my alarm for 6:30 AM, 30 minutes earlier than the previous day, but I still couldn't beat David. After going through our morning routine of packing, loading up, eating and miscellaneous activities, we were on the road before 9:00 AM. We headed north on Hwy 101 for about 25 miles then headed west across Fort Hunter Liggett. The ride through the fort is fantastic. The road is in good shape, there's a variety of scenery - meadows, woods, mountains ........ you name it. Dropping down the Pacific Ocean presents many spectacular views. And ................. the weather was GREAT.

It was a little windy on the coast, but that means there is NO FOG, so it is an equitable trade off. We had the usual spectacular ride up the coast, through Big Sur and on to Carmel. We stopped in the Carmel area for lunch then headed southeast on Carmel Valley Rd. This great little road took us about 50 miles to Hwy 101 about 10 miles north of King City. This was another road with almost no traffic - I'll be we didn't see more than five vehicles the entire way and most of them were motorcycles hading the opposite direction.

From here, the rest of the day was very routine - a 20 mile slog down the freeway to Hwy 198 at San Lucas, then another 120 miles of easy two-lane to Visalia. It wasn't all boring, however, there a couple of curvy strectches on Hwy 198 to get some adrenaline up. We stopped in Coalinga for something cold to drink and to take a short break, then cruised into the Motel 6 in Visalia. Today's mileage was 307.

As we were checking into the Motel 6, David realized his cell phone was missing and we surmised he'd left it in Coalinga while we were taking our break. He asked to use my phone to let his wife know we were done riding for the day and found out that some honest citizen had found his phone, and texted the ICE number to see where it should be returned. It's almost enough to restore one's faith in human kind.

After another relaxing evening, I crashed and slept like a log.

On our way home Thursday, we headed north on Hwy 99 then east on Hwy 41. Most of this ride was a freeway slog - something that just has to be endured between enjoyable roads. Once we turned north at Oakhurst, things improved considerable. One of my favorite stretches of road is on Hwy 49, about 15 miles north of Mariposa - it is called "The Little Dragon" - one of the photos shows a view of it looking north down to the Merced River.

We turned off Hwy 49 on Hwy 120 for a little more interesting riding. Hwy 49 is getting a little too crowded in recent years. We rode through Tulloch - every time I ride through here I think about how great a place this would be to live - through Copperopolis and then took Hunt Rd, a scenic little goat trail that heads west. We then turned north on Hogan Dam Rd, a nicely maintained, private, gravel road throudh some nice ranches - it's only 5 or 6 miles long but is a pleasant diversion. There's even a water crossing that has enough rocks and deep water to make it a little more than routing crossing. David and I both splashed enough water to get our face shields wet and Bill reported getting a little sideways as he went through.

On to the little town of Valley Springs where we stopped for a Polish Dog and some home made potato chips at Hawg Dog - I've ridden to Valley Springs a time or two just for the dog and chips.

We cut across to Pardee Reservoir, through Ione, and up to Latrobe. Here we stopped at the fire station to say out "good-byes" - we then split up and headed for our respective homes.

Another great ride. Bill and David are really great riding buddies and these rides have become a big part of my life.