Little did I realize that “Independence Weekend” would mean “free from any pre-made plans”.
July 4, 2009
Total Miles: about 350
To the Sierras and back
Things started out with the plan of enjoying the three-day weekend by motorcycling into the Sierra Nevadas, camping a couple of nights and hiking some majestic trails. Or something along those lines. But then the option of sailing on Friday morning snuck in and we delayed our Bay Area departure by a few hours. Then Dan felt that leaving in the early afternoon on a Friday would be a recipe for disaster, what with traffic and the heat. He proposed that we kick back Friday afternoon and leave Saturday morning. I wasn’t too sure about this, but since the main focus of the weekend for me was to ride, the fact that he was cutting into his own hiking time didn’t phase me much. Saturday morning rolled around and we headed east, through the traffic and into the heat. Apparently it doesn’t matter when you ride around here: there’s always traffic and it’s always hot. Four hours were needed to get to a likely camping spot and at hour three I stopped for a break. We were in Angles Camp in the early mountain landscape, out of the thick of traffic and about to hit cooler temperatures as we gained elevation.
Unfortunately, Dan didn’t know any of this. What he did know was that he was hot, digusted with traffic, his clothes were soaked with perspiration and he was annoyed that his GPS had failed him thus far on the ride. So when he took of his helmet the first thing he said to me was “I’m going home.” What? To say that he threw me for a loop would be an understatement. We didn’t talk much about it. I knew that it would be pointless (and detrimental) to try to convince him otherwise and he knew that he would be miserable if he stayed. I told him I’d be home later and watched him take off through the center of town.
Heavy traffic all the way to Sonora
Once he was out of sight and I had recovered a bit, I studied my map to see what my options were. I didn’t want to go too far, but I wasn’t ready to go back. I figured I’d explore some of the roads that meander along the western shoulder of the Sierras. I got back on the bike and almost immediately felt the air cool as I entered the mountains.
I had no real destination and my map was rather vague. It was still hot (especially as the road dropped back out of the mountains just as I was beginning to cool off) and I didn’t want to deal with back tracking, so I stuck with what I could follow on the paper before me. I followed Sheep Ranch Rd, which then branched to Railrad Flat Rd. The pavement on Sheep Ranch was aweful, with narrow lanes, ruts and potholes. I loved it.
Sheep Ranch Rd
Flowers and views along Sheep Ranch
Dropping back down into the heat on Sheep Ranch Rd
The town name of “Railroad Flat” intrigued me and I made it a point to stop there for a break. There were half a dozen locals standing around in the shade, shooting the breeze and enjoying the holiday. Although I sensed that this day wouldn’t appear to be much different than any other day in this town of 400+ souls. The main industries were logging and mining, and apparently mining was prohibitively expensive to get permits for. Grumblings about the government were shuffled around the group and they switched topics, preferring to ask me about my bike and where I was headed. They offered me suggestions of beautiful roads east of Railroad Flat, even though I told them twice I had no intentions of going any further east. I finally just gave them a big smile, thanked them and took my leave.
Fresh pavement on Railroad Flat Rd
Snaking along towards Railroad Flat
Very typical scenery in Central California
I left Railroad Flat and took the smaller of two lines on my map back to Hwy 49. A co-worker had told me that she had been on this road and thought of me and how much I’d enjoy it. While I will say that it is pretty to look at, the road itself leaves something to be desired (at least north of Hwy 4). By now I was feeling as though I was running out of options. Everything on the map before me was either a huge time commitment to the east, or straight and hot roads to the west. I compromised and just went home. Dan was waiting for me and in a much better mood. The next trip shall be smoother.