April 10, 2009

San Francisco Dash: Day Three

San Francisco, California, to Medford, Oregon (830km)
March 23, 2009

The third day of riding had the most unknowns and uncertainty. I knew I would head east, but I really didn't know what type of country it was, how many fuel stops there would be, or what weather I would encounter. By mid-day Sunday, the day before, I could feel myself starting to slip from the here-and-now of our weekend shared with friends and start to mentally prepare for the next day's ride. There was a plan and contingencies, but I really didn't know what to expect.

A good spot for an oil fix? It will have to do when you're in downtown San Francisco.

A. and I had moved from R.H. and T.T.'s hospitality to the San Francisco Hilton on Sunday night. They wanted $55 to park the motorbike so it was left at the house for me to pick up Monday morning. I was up at 05:30 and after a quick shower was in a taxi. I'm not sure what happened but there was a bizarre incident where the cab driver refused to take both my U.S. cash (the denominations where 'too small'?) or Visa (too 'large') as payment, I found a chastising note on the bike for parking without strata approval, I had to top up the bike with oil, and somehow during my wash the night before my helmet had become soaked with water and was nowhere near dry (i.e. now cold and clammy). Not in the right state of mind to begin a trip on the vicious Hwy 80 I found refuge at Philz coffee T. had showed me to two days before with their super good custom roasted blends and hand poured drip process (try the Treasure blend). As time goes it was 45 min before I knew what happened and time to get on the road. I activated the GPS and was off!!

R.H. snaps a picture from the car as I awkwardly ride past in the morning.

Left, left, left, left the GPS instructed and I was headed in an odd direction to get on the highway. It was telling me how to get back to the house I just left from, taking all left turns so as to remain legal in the labyrinthian San Francisco one way streets. Fifteen minutes of this before I knew what was going on and I rolled past the house just as R.H. and T.T. were leaving for work. Peering out the car mouthed through the window "didn't you leave two hours ago?" I just smiled, waved, and quickly corrected my route in the opposite direction. This wasn't my first epic trip with an embarrassing start and I fled with practiced precision.

Most of the big riding today was going to happen north of Redding, which itself is 350km north of San Francisco. I had to get north as fast as I could. The route was the same as the trip south 3 days earlier so it was a predictable ride. The skies were clear, but it was noticeably colder at 9℃ with a strong headwind. I stopped in Willows for gas and had a great burrito. I also tried some fluorescent mexican soda pop. Other stops were uneventful.

Rest stop outside Red Bluff, California.

Stopped for a Burrito at La Cabãna in Red Bluff, California.

I was at Redding by 1pm. A decision had to be made: Do I go for the long route and head far east to Bieber, or do I stay close to the I5 in case the weather turns? Rather than make a decision I decided to procrastinate and ride on to Burney, the first place my GPS suggested would have a gas stop. The ride to Burney was great. Very different from the southerly trip through Shasta-Trinity Forest, this was more arid with a lot of industrial agriculture and ranching. There was also a slow steady gain in elevation, though no clear mountains on the horizon. It was a fast road and the locals drove appropriately.

Just off the I5 on the way to Burney, California.

The temperature dropped as the elevation rose, but skies where still clear when I arrived at Burney. With a full tank I contemplated my options. The line east was long and terrain uncertain, but the GPS promised I could make it to the next major town, Klamath Falls, Oregon, on a single tank at 260km. What's an adventure without adventure? Off I went, the long way.

Hwy 299 between Burney and Canby, California.

By Lookout, California.

Burney, McArthur, Nubieber, Adin, and Canby where all small towns that took less than 5 blinks to pass through. Mountains were now at the forefront of scenery and I was quickly ascending. Wide open expanses with large mature forests made this feel like North country. The 'low' ranch lands were an impressive 3,000ft. elevation and the pass summits crossed 4,200ft. Snow was pretty much everywhere by now. Traffic was light and usually farm equipment putting along the shoulder. Temperatures were a steady 4℃ for most of the way, dipping to 2℃ at the various summits and raising to 6℃ in the valleys.

The high country of north-eastern California.

Past Canby, en route Klamath falls was interesting land. It's mostly flat, but the elevation is so high it has a very different feel. Skies were still clear and the crispness opened miles of visibility. Lakes are common in the flat areas, and Lava Beds National Monument looked like it would have be a great place to stop if I'd had more time.

Don't blink! Passing through Perez, California.

I pulled in to Klamath Falls at 17:30. It was six hours since I'd eaten so pulled out a power bar and bought a coffee with my fuel. I figured I could always stay in Klamath Falls if the weather was bad, or it was too late. Looking at the map it looked like the mountains got higher and part of the same range than provided the Siskiyou pass that frightened I5 travelers. Clouds were starting to collect and daylight was about 1.5 hrs. remaining. I figured this should be okay to get to Medford and kicked off on the final segment of riding for the day.

Gas stop in Klamath Falls.

Traffic was heavier leaving Klamath Falls and Hwy 140 actually felt like a highway unlike most of the roads i'd been on for the past 5 hours. With 2 hours of riding and 1.5hrs of available light I kept my speed up. The scenery was nice, but I must admit my mind wasn't on it as I was focused on the road. The final hours of the day can be the most dangerous and judgement and endurance are at their weakest. The clouds were also getting thicker and I was hoping it didn't start to rain. The hills ahead were full of snow and not rivers.

Hwy 66/Green Springs Highway.

Entering Winema National Forest things changed. Elevation rose quickly and the road signs warned 'all vehicles must carry chains'. Dog sledding to the left, snowmobiling to the right: It was clear I was in a nordic recreational area. The temperature had dipped to -2℃ and the thick fog was turning to snow. The roads were heavily sanded. I can't say this was my favourite part of the trip as I kept my head down and tried to dash through as quick as possible before the snow started to stick to the ground, which wouldn't be long if the air temperature continued to drop below zero. The Lake of the Woods summit was an impressive 5,200 ft. and it was all downhill from there, literally and metaphorically.

Just before the snowstorm hit riding from Klamath Falls to Medford, Oregon.

I made it out of the worst of the mountains before the rains started, but when they did it was a heavy downpour. The final 75km were cold, wet, and dark. I was a happy rider when I finally rolled in to Medford and looked for the nearest hotel that was within walking distance to an eatery that would also serve beer. The first motel was full. The second one I tried had one room left. It turns out that you can order beer at Pizza Hut, and they even have mini pitchers perfect for the thirsty traveler. I don't remember anything else from that night.

Next up: the final day's ride back to Vancouver.

Check out the series
Prelude: Trip preparation
Part 1: Vancouver to Medford
Part 2: Medford to San Francisco via Shasta-Trinity Forest
Part 3: San Francisco to Medford via Klamath Falls
Part 4: Medford to Vancouver
Coda: Conclusions to a great spring trip

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