Sunday, June 19, 2011

Motorcycles Do Not Work Well in the Snow, Even on Father's Day

It was shortly after 9 AM and the temperature began falling as we climbed higher up what seemed to be a deserted mountain highway between Macdeol, California, and Highway 89. Suddenly, as we came around a bend in the road, the snow lay in our path as if strewn there on purpose. There had been no signs to indicate the road was closed despite the fact that the snow had obviously drifted across the roadway some time ago. It had not been cleared, perhaps because of some slashed budget, nor yet melted in the mid-June sunshine, a clear indication of the lateness of summer this year. Despite considering it for a few moments, getting through even the first drift would prove extraordinarily difficult. Hiking up the road further it became obvious that any attempt to go further would be foolhardy as the drifts increased in-depth to well over 2 feet. Touring motorcycles do not work well in the snow so we would just have to turn around and retrace our steps by 30 miles to the main highway and head further south. This seemed to be the opposite of the Father's Day present we had wanted. Jim quickly reminded us that we had nothing to complain about. We all agreed.

But before we could turn around and leave two cars drove up behind us. Several Mexican men and women got out to survey what we knew to be an impassable barrier. However, due to a barrier of a different kind, (they spoke very little English) Jim (who spoke even less Spanish) was unable to convince them that attempting to get through would be ill fated. They got back in their vehicles and one of them took a run at getting through the first snowdrift. The inevitable result was captured on video. He just managed to get his front wheel drive tires buried up to the axles. No chains or rope were available to tow the stuck car out of the snow, but the driver pulled out a set of jumper cables. We watched with astonishment and recognized that this fellow had obviously never before been stuck in the snow. After considerable effort we were able to get the car out of the snow, whereupon the vehicles turned around and headed back the way we knew we would have to go as well.

Our day had started sunny and warm, which was only appropriate given that we had crossed the Oregon border into California earlier this morning. But twice today our intentions to enjoy several of the windy mountain roads near Mount Shasta were thwarted. Alas, motorcycle journeys, like life, rarely turn out exactly as planned. We have to be able to adapt, to accept disappointment and move on. There is a reason. My experience with Parkinson's disease assures me of that.

We ended up getting a panoramic view of Mount Shasta and a spectacular shot of our bikes in the foreground. We also saw a lot more of Northern California countryside than we had expected.

If things had not exactly turned out as we had planned in the beginning of the day, the last portion of the ride from Greenville to Oroville along the Feather River Canyon was extraordinary. This particular stretch of highway is rated the third best motorcycle road in northern California. It definitely lives up to its billing. The road swooped down along the cool river’s edge for long stretches, the asphalt endlessly punctuated by 35 and 40 mph corners and numerous narrow bridges before scaling the canyon wall into the blazing sun and nearly hundred degree temperatures. The highway seemed like more of a roller coaster than a Route 70. It was magical.

It was almost 6 PM when we arrived Oroville, about 375 miles or 600 kms (with some backtracking) further along on our journey. The day had been a kaleidoscope of experiences; from deflating to accelerating, intense to exhausting, but in the final analysis it was a great Father's Day.


  1. Do you or did you plan to ride between mt shasta and mt lassen? the intra-mountain area...fabulous. I have a great friend in Burnie, Buck Buchannan. Was on our staff at Fullerton for years. A bike rider of the pedal type. Burnie Falls, there, is impressive as well. If you get by there look him up. Nothing but hospitality. His wife is Yvonne. Buck was youth pastor at Fullerton when Chuck first arrived.

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