April 7, 2009

San Francisco Dash: Day Two

Medford, Oregon, to San Francisco, California (740km)
March 20, 2009

The Travel Lodge earned it's (cheap) price when the fire alarm started sounding about 05:30. Not a full-alert, but that kind of nondescript dead battery beep you get every 5 minutes and wonder what the hell it is. This was enough to get me moving early and I was packed and on the road by 07:00. It was a clear sky and crisp 4℃ leaving the Medford flatlands and into the hills of Ashland. There was lots of highway construction but the morning traffic wasn't bad. The Medford area has agriculture, wineries, ranches, and is a bustling area. Looks like it would be a nice spot to call home for the right person.

Typical motel stop off the U.S. interstate. Very friendly staff.

This was an exciting morning for more than just the weather. I was heading to the best breakfast spot that A.S. and I found when making our December '08 trip through this area. Morning Glory in Ashland OR had everything going for it with all fresh ingredients, a charactered building, and friendly hosts. Every dish we had there had us going, "this is the best ____ I've ever had!" With a skip in my throttle I was there by 08:30am (after a few detours to enjoy the sunrise in the valley).

Sunrise (with dew on the bike) riding into Ashland from Medford for breakfast at Morning Glory.


Siskiyou Pass, 30km beyond Ashland, is the highest point of the I5 at 1,314 m (4,310ft.) and the point that I received the most cautionary tales of snow and bad weather. I had been watching the interstate webcams for the previous week and there was a lot of rain, but no snow as of yet. In fact, it turned out to be a fantastic ride as the air was cold and crisp, but the clear skies provided miles of visibility to the surrounding mountains. It's a quick up-and-down and I was shortly in California at the lookout to the big and beautiful Mount Shasta, the second highest in the Cascade mountain range at 4,322 m (14,179 ft).

Two views of the Klamath Mountains, Northern California, from Interstate 5.

There's a stark contrast in weather and geography crossing the border between Oregon and California. From green hills to red dirt, trees to shrubs, and cold to warm. I was now cruising the I5 at 12℃ and clear skies and decided to adjust my itinerary to take advantage. I had initially planned to go directly to San Francisco to make sure I was there in time to meet A.S. at the airport, at 21:30. On the way back I was going to detour to the east or west of the I5. I got to thinking that if I made one of those detours now then I could to both on this trip. Twice the fun and scenery? Can't say "no!"

Heading into Shasta-Trinity forest.

One of the spectacular views around Hayfork, California.

Internet research had suggested that the road from Gazelle to Callahan was one of the best in the state so I headed that way. I mapped out a 350km route that would take me through Shasta-Trinity National Forest and along Clair Eagle Lake. The map was green here, which could mean mountains. I expected around 5hrs before I would re-emerge on the I5 at Red Bluff.

A new adventure around every bend.

The ride through Gazelle, Callahan, Weaverville, and Hayfork could not have been more perfect. There was snow on the side of the road but the temperature was a not all-bad 7-9℃. The best part about traveling off-season is other vehicular traffic is almost non-existant. There are certainly no RVs, which can cause no end of frustration on twisting mountain roads. I had the roads pretty much to myself and could relax to take in the country.

There were abrupt elevation changes, tight curves, and other motorcycle riding goodness. I was very conservative riding as I was alone but still had a lot of fun. In the bike community there is often talk of canyon riding in the mid to south-west states. I truly got a taste for that here as ravines and cliffs punctuated the rolling main event. Red dirt on all sides and stubby trees do little to hide the mountain views. Descending onto the Clair Eagle Lake shoreline was a beautiful 30 min of casual rolling hills and my feet out on the cylinders for a relaxed cruise.

Gas stop in Weaverville, California.

Only a few bugs at this elevation, through Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

Being off-season there were few towns or gas stops with life. I did see about 5 other motorbikes--almost the same number as cars--so it's obviously a popular route for the two-wheel set. After Weaverville and onto Hayfork the mountains got bigger and the hills longer. The tight turns of up and down became switchback as the road lifted to higher and higher elevations. Through the mountains, and thankful to have the heated jacket, the path flattened and ranchland opened up for the final 100km into Red Bluff. These were perhaps, technically speaking, the best biking roads of the trip as the curves offered flickable corners and gentle elevation changes with no cross streets. In fact, I did see one sportbike pass me twice in each direction as he pushed his Ducati like it was a track day. The bright red leather suit also made him easy to spot.

The perfect ride from Rosewood to Red Bluff, CA.

A gas stop in Red Bluff and moment to reflect on the fantastic ride I just enjoyed. It did take about 5 hours and was far better than I dared expect. Time to join the interstate masses again and make time for San Francisco. It was also time to unplug the jacket as temperatures rose to 24℃. Red Bluff to Dunnigan is an unremarkable stretch of road with farmland in every direction. Lots of speed traps and traffic so it is best to settle into a comfortable rhythm and do your taxes in your head. Or, better yet, think of how to describe that ride you just had to your friends.

The perfect weather on the perfect hills heading into San Francisco via Hwy 505.

The final 150km into San Francisco is off the I5. The first diversion is only Hwy 505 to meet up with Hwy 80, the main route into the city. The sun was getting low when I made if to the 505 and the view was spectacular with long rolling hills, and eventually the signs of city life dotting byways. The most surprising shock of the day was the speed of traffic heading into the city. After a steady 120-130kph I was now piqued at 130-150kph to keep up with the flow of traffic. Fumbling to pay a toll and I was on the Bay Bridge into town. The GPS shouted instructions as I commandeered lane after lane and made it to R.H. and T.T.'s house with surprisingly little confusion.

San Francisco Bay Bridge, not the most fun to ride.

In his wonderfully inimitable style R.H. strolled out in his housecoat--at 8:30pm--to let me in to the building parkade and we put the bike to rest for the weekend. A. would be flying in a few hours later and a weekend of food, friends, and tomfoolery would begin.

Next up, the return trip north and eastern California!

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

1 comment:

websterize.com said...

The Hwy 505 is amazing. Great reporting.