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Old 05-07-2012, 01:06 PM   #1
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Kegan's Motocamping Adventure to Highway 36

Friday started off pretty much as with any other day, except for the whole “wake up at 4AM to take wifey and in-laws to SFO” thing. Other than that, it was off to work, do enginerd-type stuff, look at clock, drum fingertips, do more stuff... until I couldn’t sit around any longer. 4PM on a Friday afternoon? Good enough. Lucky there’s already a tent strapped to the pillion and a topbox full of everything else I’ll need. Work, I’ll see you on Monday. It’s time to ride.



Not much to say about the ride north, other than that there was a lot of traffic. I crossed the Benicia Bridge at around 5, then treated myself to a bit of Berryessa fun on Wooden Valley-121-128, reaching the Silverado Trail at Rutherford at about 6. I was surprised at how few cars there were on the Berryessa roads for a Friday afternoon. Also, why can’t the paving crews down here in Southbay figure out how to pave a road like the ones up north? Mile after mile of glassy smooth, perfect asphalt. Yum.

Made a quick stop in Calistoga for a pic, before heading north on 29.



On 29, I found all that traffic that was missing earlier. Managed to have some fun in the double-lane passing zones, but for the most part it was a steady train of cars heading over the hill. I eventually made it to Middletown and split off on 175, heading northwest for Cobb.



Along 175 was occurence #1 of my life flashing before my eyes. I was just coming into a blind left-hand bend when all of a sudden I was faced with a police Crown Vic, in my lane, lights on, coming straight at me. I was doing around 60, he was probably doing a bit more then that, and there wasn’t even time to think. I just instinctively edged to the right (I was already towards the right to set up for the turn, this probably saved my bacon), and he swerved back over partially in to his lane, and we blew by each other with a couple feet of clearance. Were I in a cage it would have been a head-on. I’m still kind of freaked out just recalling it. Just behind the cop was a black civic that had no shoulder to pull on to to let the cop by, so he just decided to use the oncoming lane in a blind corner. Nice, right?

I continued north as I attempted to unclench every muscle in my body (some clenched more than others), turning back onto 29 and pausing in Lakeport to grab a sandwich from Subway. Then on past Upper Lake and into the Mendocino National Forest to Middlecreek campground. I arrived around 8, just as dusk was falling, and quickly set up camp and chowed down my dinner. The moon (biggest one in 200 years, I hear) was just rising over the ridge above camp.



I made an early night of it and was asleep by a bit past 9; it had been a long day (remember that early wake-up this morning?) and I wanted to get another early start tomorrow. I’d done around 180 miles in four hours since leaving work, and tomorrow I’d be able to jump straight into the fun stuff.

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Old 05-07-2012, 01:09 PM   #2
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I was awake very early on Saturday morning, and was packed up and on the road by sunrise. In retrospect, maybe I should have stayed in bed a bit longer, since I lost a lot of time stopping for breaks to try and warm myself up.

Steam rising into the ~35*F air from a pond along the road to Middlecreek:


I took Highway 20 west, making for the coast at Fort Bragg. It warmed up a little after I crossed 101, and some more as I descended towards CA-1. By the time I reached Fort Bragg, the sun was high and it was a balmy 50*F.





I swung northwards onto Highway 1, tracing the zigs and zags up the coast. There was one great section just before it turns inland, where I could see the road stretching out along the cliff faces into the distance, and past that, the Lost Coast stretching west out into the sea.



There was a great deal of fun to be had on the final stretch of 1 as it climbed up to Leggett.



Eventually CA-1 dead-ends into US-101, and it’s back on to the major highway for the next 70 miles.



At about 11:45, just north of Rio Dell, I broke off of 101 to the east, ready to enjoy the highlight of the trip: 140 miles of Highway 36, all the way to I-5 at Red Bluff.



36 has some of just about everything along its length... tight twisties, open sweepers, cliffside esses, whoops, steep climbs, sharp descents, and quite a bit of flat-and-straight riding. The only thing it doesn’t have is dirt, and a goat-trail section. There is one bit with no center divider, but the pavement is perfectly smooth and road is nice and wide... throw in the elevation changes through that bit, and that was one of my favorite parts.



There are some pretty nice views of the Trinity Alps off to the north, as well.



I reached I-5 at Red Bluff a bit before 3, and found a nice little deli to have some lunch.



Plan A was to head back along 36 and camp in one of the national forest campgrounds I had scouted out on my way over, the finish the ride back to the coast on Sunday morning. However, I was making pretty good time, and started thinking about Plan B... ride all the way back over today, crash on my cousin’s couch in Eureka, and then to 36 *again* tomorrow before taking the inland route back south. Riding 36 three times in 12 hours would be pretty epic. Sadly, cousin dearest doesn’t answer her phone, and since I’m not even sure if she’s home, I decide to stick to Plan A.

Of course, I had to stop at The Sign just outside of Red Bluff for a picture.



Much of the eastern portion of 36 is just gentle curves and nice whoops through the low hills and pastureland.



Soon after getting back into the mountains, I turned off onto White Rock Rd, which took me to Basin Gulch campground. I had stopped in to check it out on my first pass on 36, and it looked like a nice enough place to spend the night.



It was only about 5:30, meaning I had a few hours of daylight left to kick around the campground and relax in the beautiful evening.






Hah, I’m just fucking with you. Let’s go riding!

A few miles west of the campground, Wildwood road splits off to the north. It’s not a full-on goat trail, but getting there. There were a few items on the road surface that called for additional care while riding, like dust, gravel, and bottles of piss.



I saw a sign for “Natural Bridge, 1 mile” and decided to go check it out. The rough dirt road dead-ended at a deserted campsite with no signage. I figured it was some kind of local practical joke and the “natural bridge” was the water crossing I had just come through. Apparently the bridge was a short walk from the dead-end, and I completely missed it.



Then it was back to the Wildwood Road, then left on Highway 3 to Hayfork and back south to 36 again.







Got back to camp at around 7, and this time I did just kick around and relax for a while.



A bunch of dirt riders from Red Bluff were camped out near me on their 28th annual “Good Friday” ride. They were very hospitable and insisted that I join them for dinner and drinks. Steak, potatoes, green beans with bacon, gorgonzola-garlic bread, and whisky. Damn, these guys know how to camp. I need to figure out where next year’s ride is going to be and show up to that one too!



I hit the sack at around 11, thinking I would sleep in a bit tomorrow to let the day warm up a bit before heading out. I had done about 450 fun, twisty miles today, and was looking forward to another full day tomorrow.

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Old 05-07-2012, 01:11 PM   #3
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I was packed up and ready to go by shortly past 7 on Sunday morning. It was still chilly, but not nearly as cold as Middlecreek yesterday.



The most intimidating road name ever?



Cliffside esses along 36.



The Lassic Peaks as seen from a vista point.



I stopped in Mad River for a bite of breakfast and coffee. The breakfast sandwich was pretty good, the coffee was like lightly-flavored water. It warmed my hands decently enough, but it wasn’t even worth drinking and most of it ended up in the trash.



I reached US-101 again at about 11 and turned south for home. Adios, 36!



I decided to split off onto Highway 1 again and take that all the way back to the Bay.



In the twisties north of Fort Bragg, I noticed my rear tire acting a bit squirrely sometimes. I stopped to check the pressure (which was fine) and noticed that I was severely lacking in tread depth. This tire had tons of rubber when I left... shoot. I figure it’s probably better to play it safe and get back to 101, rather than stay on the coast all the way south. At 128, I cut back inland towards the main highway.



Along 128, I encounter occurrence #2 of my life flashing before my eyes. I was coming around a tight lefthander in one of the very hilly sections, positioned at about the halfway point of my lane, when a giant pick up towing a gooseneck camper comes tearing down the hill, well into my lane. I had barely enough room to clear the truck, and I definitely didn’t want to stand up and run wide, since there was nothing but cliff to the outside of the turn, so I just held my line as best I could. Then came the trailer... pretty sure I ducked my head right *under* the forward corner. Fuck, that was close.

I reach 101 at Cloverdale and turn south for home. It’s pretty hot inland, and I take a quick *$ break for an iced coffee and to shed some layers. I’ve been being very good with the throttle, and my rear tire looks like it should get me home OK. Down across the Golden Gate, through the city, a quick zip along 280, and I’m home. About 400 miles on the day, 1030 total for the trip, including both directions along 36 and the northern stretch of CA-1. What a great way to waste some gas and kill some tires!



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Old 05-07-2012, 01:11 PM   #4
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For those wondering about gas, I did some research along the way. There is 24-hour fuel available in Dinsmores (87 only) and Hayfork (all grades, 10 mile detour north from 36). Fuel is also available at the Wildwood Store (intersection of Wildwood Rd and 36, all grades, open “Oh, 9 to 6...ish... sometimes later on weekends”) and Platina Store (87 only, open 6-6).
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Old 05-07-2012, 04:30 PM   #5
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Great report, thanks for sharing! We'll have to do another BARF camping weekend up that way soon.
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Old 05-07-2012, 05:33 PM   #6
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Old 05-07-2012, 05:44 PM   #7
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Good report.
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Old 05-07-2012, 07:50 PM   #8
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Great trip report / pics and that your close encounters turned out on the positive side!
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Old 05-07-2012, 08:30 PM   #9
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Nice ride report! Looks like a great trip. You sure do manage to travel light. When I camp I have the Givi box full, side panniers and a full on external frame Kelty backpack sitting in the passenger seat. Plus who knows what else stuffed into all the nooks and crannies.
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Old 05-08-2012, 10:53 AM   #10
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Old 05-08-2012, 01:45 PM   #11
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Awesome ride report, Kegan!
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Old 05-08-2012, 08:15 PM   #12
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Very cool report Kegan! I gots to go ride that 36.
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Old 05-08-2012, 09:53 PM   #13
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Fuck yeah - good for you! Great choices in roads.
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Old 05-09-2012, 07:47 AM   #14
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Nifty! Next time I'm in that area I'll have to try some of the smaller roads you sampled--I've only ever stuck to 36.
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Old 05-10-2012, 04:56 AM   #15
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Great write up Kegan, wish I could stop and take mor pics, but the brake on my bike don't werk too well.
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Nifty! Next time I'm in that area I'll have to try some of the smaller roads you sampled--I've only ever stuck to 36.
Herez one I wanta do...

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