Every so often, I get the itch to be on the road. Spring and fall in northern California are my favorite times to ride. Spring brings out the greens of meadows and trees, and all the colors and fragrance of wildflowers, and everything is clean and fresh. The beauty of riding is that every new smell in the air immediately fills the olfactories and makes me an integral part of my surroundings. Fall displays another sensory feast, this time for the eyes. Reds, yellows, and oranges abound and seem to swallow me up so that I feel like Iím part of a huge painting that belongs over someoneís livingroom sofa.
In October, 2003 I took three days, got on my bike and headed north. No particular plan, except that I wanted to see the little town of Happy Camp on Hwy 96. I had seen the name while exploring my maps, and thought, "Ösounds like a happy place." Other than that one goal, I just rode where I wanted, and found motel rooms where I ended up each evening. I love life on the road.
Itís great sharing these rides with other riders who feel the same way, but often I just go solo, either by choice or by necessity. The beauty of being alone is that there is only one person whose opinion I need to worry aboutÖ that would be me. I go where I want, when I want.
The following pictures were all taken on this trip. I hope you enjoy them as I do. It is always a trade-off for me between enjoying the flow of the road, and stopping to document my adventures. Also, I tend to take fewer pictures as I get closer to the end of a trip. The thought of kicking back in my easy chair just sort of sucks me in.
Day 1 - Rolling out of Dixon
All decked out in front of my house in Dixon.
Breakfast at Williams, just off of Hwy 5. This was a little fruit stand, out in the middle of nowhere.
Stopped for a photo at Clear Lake on Hwy 20. This road around the lake is quite twisty, good pavement, and fun to ride, unless following a string of cars. Places to pass here are few and far between.
Along Hwy 101 I took a detour do do some exploring and found myself behind a locked gate when I was ready to get back on 101. A passing trucker must have seen that before, because he gave me a loud blast on his horn and waved as he went by. I had to do some backtracking, but didn't mind. There was no schedule to keep!
Back on Hwy 101, headed north to the redwoods.
The view from Hwy 101 of part of the detour I took. It was as fun as it looks.
Entering the Avenue of the Giants
It got much cooler as I entered the shade of these big trees. At this point, I didn't worry about making time. I just cruised along, enjoying the trees towering over me and the cool breeze moving past.
It got so dark in these trees that I had to lift my smoked face shield to see the road.
A side road that led to a camp ground. Those trees sure make you feel small.
Just off Hwy 101 is the little town of Scotia. They had a wonderful old train museum, with some very well-preserved old steam engines and other relics.
I spent the night in Willow Creek. There wasn't much to do in town after dark, so I visited the local pool hall and practiced up. I knew I was in Bigfoot country because everywhere I turned I saw evidence of his presence.
Day 2 - Bigfoot Country
The next morning, I headed north from Willow Creek on Hwy 96. I had never seen this highway before, and was glad I waited until morning to ride it. First off, there were no decent places to stay for the next 100 miles. Secondly, this country is just gorgeous in the morning light. I found myself wanting to stop around every turn for more pictures.
Just outside the Hoopa Indian Reservation.
Hwy 96 was a dream to ride. Great pavement along the Klamath River with wide sweeping turns. As I remember, the speed limit was 55, but it was all I could do to keep it under 70. I didn't really want to mar the ride with a ticket, although I didn't see a single trooper all the time I was on 96.
Goal reached - Happy Camp
I had lunch here. Happy Camp is a rustic little logging town with lots of character. As an added bonus, I got to meet Bigfoot in person. Really quite a nice guy when you get to know him.
Back on the the road headed NW on 96 from Happy Camp, the colors in the leaves were really starting to show themselves. The entire ride on 96 flowed from turn to turn, with great pavement and plenty of visibility. I became one with the road (not literally). I would love to do it again in the spring, and from the opposite direction, just for a change.
You can see the end of Hwy 96 in the background. I have just turned south onto Hwy 263 to link up with Hwy 3 at Yreka.
Hwy 3 south of Yreka. Now the colors are quite distracting. I have to force myself to keep my eyes on the road.
Into the Scott Mountains
On Hwy 3 toward Lewiston there were a number of hairpin turns over the mountain. I did not see a single other vehicle the entire time I was riding this pass. I rode a little more carefully than usual, because I didn't think I would have been found for a while if I ran into problems.
The smell of pine was thick in the air here. It was just me, the trees, and the road.
Crossing the Trinity River on my way into Lewiston. I took Rush Creek Road from Hwy 3 north of Lewiston to get here. Notice that this is a one-lane bridge.
Lewiston was a cool little place. Since this was not their normal season for tourists, I think I was their only tenant for the night. That night at the local bar they had some kind of town get-together with karaoke. I don't drink, but really enjoyed listening to the music and mingling with the local characters.
The bed sure felt good after a long dayís ride.
Day 3 - A Feast of Fall Foliage
The next morning I back-tracked on Rush Creek Road and continued south on Hwy 3 into Weaverville. I have stayed in Weaverville on a couple of previous trips and really enjoyed the accomodations there. This time I was just passing through, and didn't stop for too many pictures.
I couldnít resist this picture of these logs ready for the sawmill.
Just when I thought the colors in the landscape couldnít get any more spectacular, I left Weaverville behind and started climbing in altitude toward the Hwy 36 junction. The fantastic colors all around me seemed to swallow me up. God must have been especially inspired that day to use his most brilliant palate of colors.
What a treat to ride through.
Still on Hwy 3, headed into Hayfork, on to Peanut, then to the junction at Hwy 36 where I turned west.
A stop at Dinsmore on Hwy 36 west for some refreshment. Once I got back down out of the mountains, the temperature got quite warm.
I took Alderpoint Road off of 36 since I had not been here before. The road was very rough, slow-going, and long. Iím glad to be able to say that I have ridden this road. I would not ride it again. By the time I got to Garberville I was hot, tired, and worn out. I would have been lost, too, except for a couple of kind riders on sport bikes that came along and pointed me in the right direction at a critical crossroads.
Back on Hwy 101 south, headed home. I made one last stop for something to drink and to rest my legs. No more pictures from here. I just wanted to be home.
This was a fantastic trip. As I mentioned before, Autumn is a great time to ride. This trip, all together, was just under 1000 miles and, with the possible exception of Alderpoint Road, every mile was a pleasure. I'm glad I rode Alderpoint, but will avoid it in the future. It's just too rough and too long a detour for my taste.
I met my goal of seeing Happy Camp and discovered Bigfoot in the process. I met some wonderful people and rode through some absolutely breathtaking scenery. Two wheels is the only way to really experience something like this. It immerses you in your surroundings so that you are not just viewing the beauties of nature, you are caught up in them, and are never the same again.
My thanks to the Pashnit staff for their assistance in putting this article together and for providing the map below. Where in the world would we be without motorcycles???