Gary B. was a very dear friend to all us Oldfarts and many more people in many places. Better known as “Bubba”, he was a native-born Texan and had a smile as wide as the state. He also had the grace and talent of many that come from the South -- "The art of telling a story" -- along with a booming voice like Conway Twitty and a line of bull so smooth and thick you couldn’t cut it with a chainsaw. This dog could hunt and he was way ahead of the big dogs.
"Hello Darlin’ you sweet thing, how you doing?" The girls would just melt. He was a very attentive admirer and would shower the gals with attention such as ironed sheets with baby powder sprinkled lightly on them, a single rose, and a special chocolate mint placed on their pillow. Well, let me tell you people, it worked.
Once you heard him speak you would recognize his voice again, even if you had only heard and not seen him. One of our bunch, Griff, and his wife Ellen, were visiting a daughter in the hospital a few years back. When Ellen met Bubba some time later and he greeted her with Hello Darlin’ she was intrigued and asked him if he had been in the hospital at such and such a date and he replied, "Yes I was, why?" She told him about hearing his voice there while visiting her daughter, never expecting to hear it again. As it turned out she would not only hear it much more, but also come to know him and love him as Griff’s riding partner.
Gary died last winter, but not before he defied the prediction by his doctor: "You have cancer of the urinary tract and there isn’t anything we can do. Go home and get your affairs in order as you have a short time to live.” That was over 11 years ago.
As he left the doctor’s office, he stopped, turned around and asked, "Isn’t there anything you can do for me?" The doctor said, "No. Well, maybe, I’m not sure. There is this new experimental drug, not approved, but you might give it a try." This drug was made from a female hormone and it helped Gary fight his cancer for 11 more years. The drug, along with strong pain relief medications, made it possible for him to continue to ride his many motorcycles, travel, and camp out with his friends and family.
During the final months of his battle, he was self-administering morphine to control the pain, but it was a fine line: over medicating would put you in a stupor that ruled out riding; not quite enough would leave you in intense pain. Bubba seldom complained but you knew he was in pain when you watched him shift his body in all kinds of contortions to try and find a comfortable position in which to ride.
Gary had many hats he wore and activities he pursued: active participation in the Polka Dots Racing motorcycle club, private investigator, veteran of more than one military service, spelunker (or caver), and a novice historian that would give us blow-by-blow descriptions of our surroundings over his CB radio as he led us on some of the best rides in the state. Charlie and Tricky Dick have a great knowledge of the roads like Bubba, but not the history he could recite.
He was born in Texas, traveled all over in the military and found paradise in California. It is hard for people that haven’t been exposed to what we take for granted here in northern California to understand why we love this place so much. But Bubba knew. He said before he died that his place in the town of Fair Oaks was all the home he ever wanted.
It has just been a few months since he left us and his birthday just passed so a few of us Oldfarts had a gathering to remember Bubba and share our favorite stories about him. It was a good time, reminiscing about our old friend.
We miss you buddy and this story is in memory of you.
On the last quality ride with Bubba, we made a loop that covered a wide swath, starting from Citrus Heights, taking the back roads to Auburn, then dropping down to the American river and traveling through Foresthill where we caught Sugar Pine/Iowa Hill Road and made a few stops along the way for pictures.
Auburn is about 30 miles east of Sacramento on Interstate 80. Drive about 2 miles further north-east of Auburn on I-80 and turn off on the Auburn Ravine/Forest Hill Road and you will cross this bridge.
We didn’t cross this bridge this day, but have crossed it many times before and after this trip. It is a unique bridge in design and structure. From a certain angle here it is possible to take a picture of three different bridges spanning the American river.
We stopped at “the mall” in downtown Iowa Hill. Wal-Mart doesn’t have a thing on this super store.
Crossing the American river on the new bridge at Iowa Hill.
Bubba, on the old bridge, where I first crossed in 1949 hauling logs to Crawford’s Sawmill in Colfax.
From Colfax we headed to Grass Valley via Hwy 174 through Chicago Park, Peardale, Cedar Ridge, and Union Hill. We picked up Hwy 20 to Nevada City, stopping for a few pictures before heading north on 49 towards Downieville.
We stopped at the south fork of the Yuba River for some pictures. Years ago I rode my 1952 Matchless 500 single, rigid frame, cow-trailing special down to this spot daily for a dip in the river to bathe and refresh myself after a 12-hour shift of hauling lumber from 4:00am to 4:00pm. I would switch from truck to motorcycle at the Yuba River Lumber Co. yard below Ridge Rd. on Hwy 20 between Grass Valley and Nevada City.
The location is now a state park and has a fine new bridge crossing the very low water flow in the river on this day.
Back in the 60s and 70s, the Flower Children and Hippies from the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco inundated this area and made it into their little piece of real estate. Up and down the Yuba River the hippies had run-ins with the local rednecks and usually came up on the short end of the stick.
Next we travelled through North San Juan and Camptonville to Downieville. My brother Neal drove trucks for Cal-Ida Lumber back in the mid 50s. Cal-Ida owned a sawmill on the outskirts of town where their trucks hauled load after load from Downieville to Auburn to their main yard. J.R. Simplot owned this large operation, but had made his money in potatoes in Idaho -- hence the name, Cal-Ida.
After a long break in Downieville, we rode up Hwy 49 through Sierra City and Bassetts to intersect Hwy 89 close to Sattley. From here we continued on Hwy 89 through Sierraville, Randolph and Hobart Mills into Truckee, where we got gas and kicked the tires.
Next we headed up Old Hwy 40 (now called Donner Pass Road) and stopped for some photos at the scenic overlook with a spectacular view of Donner Lake in the distance.
Bubba came up to me here and directed my view up towards the summit at a group of trees. "Not long from now,” Bubba confided, “when I have passed on, Richard U. has my directions to take my ashes and spread half of them at that point up there, and the other half at Mendocino on Hwy 1, two of my favorite places on earth.”
Next stop was for lunch at Serene Lake where Richard U. has a nice cabin/home that gets tons of snow every winter (which keeps him in shape from shoveling this white pain in the butt). My memories of snow center around hanging the jewelry -- snow chains -- on both truck and trailer. No thanks.
We ate by the lake and then went to Richard’s house for a little break before hi-balling back home on I-80.
It was a long day, but we made one more stop on Donner Pass Road to view the Emigrant Trail/Truckee River Route -- where the first crossing of the South Yuba River happened in 1844 -- then we cut a chogie home.
So ends another ride in paradise for the good guys. What, you don't think we are the good guys? Check out our advertisement:
I will close this story with a couple of my favorite pictures of Bubba...........Ken