Nature’s Beauty – Maybe
Carrizo Plains. I had never heard of the place before I went to Mexico in 2004. I had to wait for part of the group to arrive because they were “busy riding around Carrizo Plains” when they should have been heading for Mexico. Then I forgot about it for the most part until some random internet picture showed up in my inbox. It was beautiful and it was now close to where I lived. I made it a point to go there this spring, during the massive wildflower bloom that I was sure would be taking place during this wetter-than-usual spring. This is the reality of that trip.
March 21, 2009
Total Miles: 461 miles
Mountain View, CA to Carrizo Plains, CA
The plans started out in grand fashion: Dan had Friday the 21st off so I would take a vacation day, as would our friends Carolyn and Peter, and the four of us would make a three day weekend out of it. One day to casually ride down, one day to explore the Carrizo Plains by bike or foot and then a nice relaxing ride home. It is under 300 miles each way – a cake ride for us. We’d camp, hanging out under the stars and enjoying ghost stories around a fire.
But then Carolyn got sick. Peter soon followed. They decided not to go. Dan and I cut the three day weekend down to two, with me going in to work on Friday. Saturday morning we decided not to camp that night but just find a motel that night and we packed the bikes lightly. Just over an hour out of town Dan pulls off the road: his back is killing him. He has two bad discs and he knew that he’d never be able to complete the ride. He figured that he’d be lucky to make it back home at this point. We stood there for a while, quietly in our own thoughts. Then Dan looked at me. “Do you want the maps?” It was his way of saying “Go ahead: do the ride. I know that you’ve been wanting to and I don’t want to keep you from it.” What a sweetheart. I said yes to the maps but told him I’d be home that night. What was the point of staying over if I had to do it by myself?
Dan went back to the apartment and I went south. This is my weekend.
Early views along Highway 25 south of Hollister
Cool and overcast – surprise!
Vague blue skies teasing me as I enjoy good roads
The San Andreas Fault
Indian Valley Road – full of surprises!
Now just to give you an idea of what I was hoping for, here’s the fabled “internet photo” that had been haunting my imagination for over a year:
Amazing. So I kept running south along some nice roads that were worth the ride in their own respect. Then the curves died off and I was on the plain – and in the wind. I didn’t see much from where I was, but I figured that maybe the colors were hiding in a valley somewhere out of sight. I eventually made it to California Valley and then on to Soda Lake. I found a Visitor’s Center and stopped at it. I felt terribly guilty of my “drive-by” visit to the park, but I asked the ranger bluntly: “Where’s the best place to see the colors?” She replied bluntly: “They’re not that good this year.”
Sigh. She pointed out the best locations and I did my best to be diligent in taking many pictures. And here they are, in all of their “not so good” glory:
Visitors at Soda Lake
Flowers lining Soda Lake
The dirt road I took in a desperate attempt to get a good photo
Flowers shade the distant Tremblor Range
Yellow brick road
Looking for the way back home
Field of dreams
The road home
View of California Valley from the air (Soda Lake at bottom right)
It should be noted that California Valley looks great from GoogleMaps. It, like Salton Sea City, has a massive and unrealized road map planned laid out, but no one’s built on it. I took the long straight roads to the Visitor’s Center and then a random dirt road back. I didn’t really know if the dirt road would take me anywhere that I wanted to go, but I figured that it would be fun to find out. It was somewhat soft but easy and I eventually found myself on one of the packed “development” roads that cuts straight through the valley. That lead to pavement which then lead back to 101.
On the way back to 101 I felt slightly cheated, so any time I saw anything that looked vaguely colorful, I stopped to take a picture. This wasn’t that often.
Light purple flowers cover the hillside
Last of the fun roads before 101
From 101 there wasn’t much to stop for. The winds had kicked up along the coast and the clouds had moved in with a vengeance. By the time I reached the turn off near Santa Cruz for 17, it was raining. I ran the last 40 miles or so dodging cars on the sketchy curves of 17 and then to home. It was a 10 hour day, but at least my curiosity has been satisfied.