Day 11
June 14th, 2003
Redwood City, California

Fifteen minutes after my watch went off, I hit the button on Dennis' garage door, and pushed the ST out to start the trip home.  It was 5:20am.  The house was still asleep, and I showed myself the way out.  

I topped off the afternoon before, so was able to skip that chore this morning.

It's Saturday morning, traffic is light, and the sun is not yet up.  I take 280 to 101, and swing around near the airport enroute to the Bay Bridge.  The air is cool but not as cool as a few days ago.  I went with the leather gloves again.  This will be my first time on the Bay Bridge.

Only a few cars are out so all I have to do is follow the signs.  

I was on 280, not far from the Bay Bridge, when I saw the rising sun clear the Bay, and the City of Oakland in the distance.
​I've always loved the sunrise from the STs saddle 
I positioned myself perfectly, and executed the turn for I-80 and the Bay Bridge without fault.  Lots of construction is in progress through here, but today the jackhammers are quiet.

I had a inspiring ride over the Bay.  Morning sun has a special light, and it made the water and city look almost dreamlike.

I stayed on I-80 through Oakland and Berkley, and exited at SR 29, the Napa Valley Highway.  I conquered the Bay Area freeway system without 1 construction delay, missed exit, or traffic choking wreck.  It took almost 60 miles of freeway to clear the Bay Area, but I now found myself moving quietly north and approaching Napa Valley.

The city of Napa was still sleeping when I passed through.  
North out of Napa, 29 comes to life.  The pastoral vineyards are still coated in morning dew, and caretakers are making their way to the vines.  I don't drink, so the names of the wineries I passed meant little to me.  All I knew were the names I recognized from TV, but I couldn't tell you the first thing about their product.

Colorful hot air balloons were filling the sky, rising tourists far above the valley floor for a better look.  Napa Valley is the kind of place you take your special someone and spend the day.  I rolled through the valley lost in thought.  I passed wood rail fences, that were only a few feet from the highway.
​Napa Valley balloon ride
Man, it felt good to be on a ride at this time.  The ST floated along the highway, and traffic was sparse.  I felt like I had the Napa Valley to myself.  The green hills in the distance surrounds the vineyards in the middle, as if they are standing guard over the grapes.  

A white SUV is on the shoulder of the road and I see a photographer with lots of fancy cameras and a tripod.  He is posted up facing west with the morning sun at his back.  He sees me coming and I see him bend down in the viewfinder.  Hey! that joker is taking pics of ME!   I double back to him and pull in.  

"hey you took my pic!"

"yes I did, I saw your yellow helmet approaching in the distance, and thought a picture of a solitary rider on a cool, sunny morning in Napa, might be something worth taking."

"I knew I bought this yellow helmet for sumptin.  So want my name when that pic wins ya a Pulitzer?"  I gave him my card.

"well maybe I can sell it to a calendar or something" as he laughed, sticking the card in one of the camera cases.
Nearing Clearlake, the road became even more challenging.  I leaned the ST in the curves, and generally had a big grin on my face.

SR 29 took me to SR 20 and I turned to a more easterly direction now.

I crossed over I-5 and began to pick up traffic around Yuba City.  A local patrol cruiser fell in behind me, but did not cause problems.  He turned off on a side street after a few miles.

Looking on the map pocket stuck on my left arm, I saw it was time to pick up SR 70 north.  I did, and 20 miles later I was in Oroville gassing up.  I'd just put down 250 non stop miles, and I didn't even realize it. 
After the ST was full, I pulled to the far end and sat on a curb under a tree, with a Mountain Dew and candy bar.  While I was sitting there a young lady with short blonde hair came out of the next door office and said, "nice bike, where ya from?"  "Alabama, on my way home."  "Enjoying California?" "Immensely."

Then she took off for the store, with the kind of walk a girl uses when she KNOWS when she is being watched.
On my way north I saw a Little League game in progress in Thermaltio.  I came off the highway and took a few side streets till I found the park entrance.  Rows of cars were in the parking lot, but none were near the backstop.  All the spaces near the field were empty.  I see these are veteran spectators, and know how to avoid foul balls.

Saturday morning in America.  Kids just like these are playing ball all over the country.  From the rocky, stumpy, fields of North Dakota, with bob wire fences and crate box concession stands, where baseball is a side show for the rodeo, to the immaculate, green carpets of Florida, where baseball is serious business, the game is being played.  I watched an inning from the saddle of my bike and thought about games long ago.  It does not feel that long ago my son was one of the millions on a Saturday morning in America.  The kids in the field were making a lot of errors, and the frustration showed on the pitcher.  The coach looked up and down the bench on who to put in next.  Been there myself.  I could feel the stares of the parents in the stands, and figured I better move on.  I feared someone would call the cops and report a suspicious character at the ball park, and soon a black and white would be quizzing me to make sure I'm not a pervert.  

My 23 year old son is now out of school and job searching.  Does not seem possible.

The road was calling me, so I punched the starter and got back on SR 70.  Stopping to watch a Little League game is something a guy can only do riding solo.
​"While I was sitting there a young lady with short blonde hair came out of the next door office"
SR 70 began to climb elevation, and before I know it I'm leaning hard again.  How do I keep finding such awesome roads?  Up in elevation I go, carving my way around the canyons and hills.   I find myself high above the Feather River, trying to watch the road and not the scenery.  I read about this road on the Pashnit site and decided to check it out.  Glad I did, it will go on the list.  SR 70 along the Feather is a great road.  Nice surface, lots and lots of curves to lean, and postcard scenery.
California 70-Magic in the Feather River Valley
I passed a motorcycle hang out called Scooters, but not much was going on, so kept going.

Leaning and twisting, I came into Indian Springs and found a local store made out of logs, with a picnic table out front, and pulled in for a butt break.  I went in the store and bought some beef jerky and a Coke.  This will be an informal lunch.  I have a long way to go today, and I won't have time for anything else if I'm going to make Goose Lake.

Lassen Volcanic Park was not far and my next goal.  I am well over 300 miles so far.  Freed from the confines of group riding, I made my goal of 300 miles before lunch, and brothers they were glorious miles, first Napa, then Feather Valley and now Lassen.

But before I could get to Lassen, I shot by a sign that read, "Prattville 1 Mile."  I checked my mirrors and hit the brakes, and brought the ST around.  The sign pointed right at a narrow paved road.  I took it and found myself a few minutes later at place called Camp Prattville on the shores of Lake Alomanor.  A beautiful place.  I wonder how it got this name?  I went in the small bait shop but no one knew.  They laughed when I said I was from Prattville, Alabama, a city of almost 35,000 and growing.

Happy to have found what was at Prattville, California I got back on the road and a few miles later was at the gate of Lassen.  A young female attendant says-

"The road is not entirely open, but you can ride 20 of the 26 miles, and see everything."

"well damn, what happens then baby? I gotta get to 44."

"you have to double back and pick it up south of here"

"damn, what have those boys been doin all spring they ain't got the road cleared?"

"25 feet of snow up there"

I debated on what to do.  Going in will mean 150 miles extra on what was already a long day.  What the heck, I'll do it.

I paid my money and went in, and was glad I did.  The scenery in Lassen was surreal.  Vast, rugged peaks, with lots of snow.  The higher I went the higher the snow.  My eyes scanned constantly for ice.  What mind blowing scenery.  Marked by volcanoes the area was very jagged.  I have seen so much beauty the last few years, and now I will add Lassen to the list.

Lassen Peak at 10,457 feet is snow covered and bright.  At the nearby vista folks were sitting around the parking lot soaking up rays.  I saw a painter trying to capture the surrounding beauty, but I don't think he will be able to do so.  I got my phone out and called my son and wife.  I tried to detail what I was seeing, but noway could I do it.  If you like El Capitan you'll love Lassen.
​I shot by a sign that read, "Prattville 1 Mile."  
​​It snows a lot at Lassen
I reach the turnaround and have to go back.  Depressing.  I'm only a few miles from 44, so close yet so far.  I ease back down the mountains.  Slicing my way through the snow banks.  I stopped for a few more pics, but basically the fun was over and now its time to break for Goose Lake.  I should just make it before dark.
Down out of the park I ride to SR 36 west.  This is madness I think to myself.  I was so close, now I find I'm riding the opposite direction I needed.  I was in a funk as I went down 36.

My NEW course has me taking a highway called A6.  It will connect me to SR 44, and I can get back going east.  The fates await me just ahead.

A6 is not a good road, bumpy and narrow, it demands full attention.  I rock along till I reach Manton a crossroads speck on the map.  I stop at the only stop sign in the place, and continue.  About a mile later the road forks and I don't know which way to go.  There are NO signs.  As I have so many times at places like this, I guess.  I went left, and by doing so, kept my appointment with destiny.

The road turns very narrow and curvy.  Up I go in the hills, leaning the bumpy road in the U back turns, and right angle twisties.  I slow to 10 mph.  I fear a stray car out of nowhere coming at me.  

I am in a hard right hander, at 10 mph, even at this speed I still have to lean the bike to make the curve. 

Suddenly I hit a frost heave, springing the front tire out of the line, I try to get back on line and another heave belts me before I can correct for the first one, sending the ST off on another tangent.  The road has softball size rocks near the 2 inch, uneven pea gravel strewn shoulder.  Before I know it the ST is OFF the road.

Geezus!!  I fight the ST to keep it up, down my feet go bouncing me off the left, back to the right, then again.  On my right the shoulder drops a few feet down a small grade to the bottom.  I ain't believing this!  Of all the famous, challenging roads and highways this bike and I have been on, WE are going to be taken out on some obscure road without even a name or number!?  The ST bucks and jumps in the rocks and gravel, I try to get back on the pavement but the shoulder lip is to great and the ST is not moving fast enough to overcome it, so it sends the ST back to the gravel for another round.

If I am going to fall over, I need to fall left and avoid rolling down the 5 ft drop on my right.

Brothers, I don't know how, but I managed keep the bike up, and get stopped.  I did a helluva job, someone was looking out for me.  I was never concerned about my safety, because I was going so slow, but I had images of falling to the right, and doing heavy cosmetic damage to my beloved bike.

With the bike stopped I gather myself.  I can't believe I am still upright.  I pause for a minute, and size up the situation.  I can't put my right foot down, the slope is too great, nothing but air, I have to keep it on the footpeg.  I have the bike tilted to the left, steadied by my left foot.  Even with the bike still, I can feel the rear tire slipping downhill.  It was like being on a marble surfaced slope.  By all rights I had no right to being upright.  I can't even pick my foot up to get the bike in first, if my foot leaves the ground the bike has no support. (remember I can't put my right foot down).

Perhaps I can take a slight left angle and ride out?  With the bike in 3rd, and tilted to the left, I try it.  The instant the bike eases forward I feel the rear slide downhill a few inches.  I try it again, same result.  Damn.  I was like a man in quicksand, the more I struggled the deeper I got.

I will need help to get out.  I need someone to keep the bike from going downhill while I gas it out.
I sit still, and resist the urge to keep trying, or bringing the revs up and trying to exit in one great try.  I did too good a job keeping the bike up, only to drop it now. I decided to be patient, saying it will pay dividends, someone is bound to come along.

I sat there for 15 minutes and NOT one car came by.  Then I heard the rumble of a Harley rounding the curve that almost got me!  I stick my hand out and he stops, he has a passenger on back.  Brothers, this guy was tailored made for this situation.  He is big and burly with a beanie helmet on.

We implement my plan.  I gas the bike while he pushes the bike left.  The ST spins gravel and begins to move, his large biceps keep the bike from tilting left, I make it to the shoulder edge but a rock jolts me and knocks me downhill.  Another close call, it almost goes down, but the Harley guy is there to keep it up.  When the dust settles I am further down hill.

"brother, we are going to need more help, know someone?"

"yeah, I'll be right back"

He dropped the Harley into gear and sped off.  He came back about 10 minutes later,  with 3 more mounted Harley riders and 3 guys in a van.  He went back into Manton and found his buddies at the local store.  I was now 30 minutes into this ordeal, and I was glad to see them.

I said, "lets push it back the way it came in, I have a path in the gravel that way"

With 6 tough guys surrounding my bike, I KNEW I was going to make it out of this.  After such a mighty struggle, the 6 of us, easily push the ST straight back and in 3 seconds I am back on solid ground.

I pat everyone on the back and let out a whoop.  I did not know how to thank everyone enough.  We grinned and made a few jokes.  I continued to thank my rescuers.   Through their beards, leather and tatoos, they wished me a safe ride back to Alabama, and to stay on the road, "they work better that way." I hear a guy say. 
On a late afternoon in the Northern California Mountains, a small step was taken in the Honda-Harley cold war.  A Long Rider from far away was in big trouble, and his fellow riders came to his aid.  They did not care I was on a Honda.  I needed help, and they were more then glad to assist.  What a odd sight we must have been, 6 leather guys and a guy in a moon suit.  They saved my ass, and I will never forget it.  I will never bash a Harley rider again.

I fail to get any names.  They are gone now, and most likely I will never see them again.  I gave a long wave as I got back under way, I will have to find a way to thank them, and a few miles later I think of just the thing. (find out what it is few days later in this journal)

Thankfully, I reach SR 44 and pull in for gas at Shingletown.  I wash down some fancy water.  I can't dwell on what just happened.  I'm still a long way from home, and I still have a ways to go to just finish today.

SR brings me to SR 199 north.  It took a long time to get here, but I made it.  Now all I want is to get to Goose Lake.
With the sun sitting behind me, I had a great ride through the green valleys and pastures.  Cattle and horses were still grazing.  I passed small farm ponds and wondered if catfish could be found in them.

A perfect song entered my mind, "I don't have to think about tomorrow, I don't need anything money can buy, I don't have to beg, steal or borrow, I just wanna live until I die."   Brothers, that is ME.  How fortunate I am to be able to sing that song and know what it means.  My future is secured.  I might not have a big fancy house, but in 6 months its paid for.  I never have to worry about a roof over my head, or getting layed off, and next year at this time those lifetime pension checks will be posting every month in my checking account.  Not that I asked for it, but the department reassigned me to a quiet suburban station a few weeks before I left.  I'm too close to retiring to be in a busy station, a smart move I guess, but I will still miss the action.  The assignment is next thing to a desk job.  

With my shadow moving with me across the valley, I said a prayer of thanks to God, for giving me all that I have.  How very lucky I am.

In Alturas I stopped at closed down station to check my map.  Not far now.

The sun was setting on when Goose Lake came into view.  I was tired now, it has been a long and eventful day.  
The scenery along the lake is good.  It kind of reminded me of Cape Breton.  My pace slips in the drought of my fatigue.  Perhaps because I was tired, but I missed the turn off for Goose Lake State Park, and found myself in Lakeview.  I was too tired to double back the 15 miles to the park so began looking for a motel to park my bones.  The missing campground will just be another obstacle to overcome this day.
I was treated to this view of Goose Lake
In Lakeview, Oregon they roll in the sidewalks at dark. It did not matter it was Saturday night.  The place was a Ghost Town.  Why is this town so dead next to a big lake?  I figured the town would be a bustling resort.

I cruised the town then came back to a local motel called the Riverview.  It looked cheap.  I stepped in and told the Hispanic owner I wanted the Alabama rate. 

"what's the Alabama rate?"

"25 cash"



"sold Amigo!"

Since phasing out credit cards a few years ago, (except for gas) I've been impressed by the power of cash.  So few folks use it nowdays.

With all bottom floor units, unloading was a breeze.  For the first time this trip I'm in a motel.  

I took a quick shower and then took a short ride to a Dennys like place called Kennys.  I had a pretty good chicken fried steak.  I called home while I was waiting, and gave the last report. 

I rode 693 miles today.  An event packed day for sure.  I made my goal, and now the rest of the trip is at my leisure. 

Back at the room I tried to watch TV but didn't last long.  I fell asleep watching Fox news, on a color tv that was mostly green.