Bike Trip XI: The Second Decade

Bike Trip XI was successfully completed last week, amid the realization that our backs are not as strong as they were 20 years ago. The trip, with the usual small cast of characters (Carl Jones and me), was the first with the majority of the mileage outside California.

Base camp was Redding California, at the extreme northern end of the central valley, well within sight of Mount Shasta, snow-covered year-‘round. Dinner at Jack’s Grill, northern mecca for beef. The first full day we biked past Shasta Lake, the modern-day source of the Sacramento River, through the town of Weed (seen on billboard near visitor’s information: Weed like to welcome you) to Klamath Falls, Oregon. Three years ago there we were introduced against our wills to "midgies." At night at a stoplight, the bike headlight would be surrounded by a snowstorm of light green thingies, with about a 1-inch wingspan. Upon leaving the stoplight, they would crash wetly into the bikes, our legs, and faces. Nasty. This year they were much smaller and fewer. It appears that they were introduced to the area to combat mosquitoes, and they’re doing a very good job. They natives don’t mind them at all. Now if someone could find some bird…

The highlight of day two was the visit to Crater Lake, a deep volcanic crater now filled with 1900 feet of extremely clear blue water. One volcanic cone is an island, the other is submerged. The current configuration of last was formed either 6800 years ago, or last week; I forget the story. As national parks go, this one is a one-trick pony. Unlike Yosemite (falls, valley, granite, snow) or Yellowstone (geysers, bears, paint-pots), Crater Lake has, um, Crater Lake. One view and you’ve done the course. We were, however, very impressed with American ingenuity in building cafeterias at important sights. That night was spent in Roseburg, not named for my great-aunt Rose Berg, another logging town among many. We had the opportunity to stay in the Shamrock Motel, just across the street from the lumber mill and behind the adult film and novelty shop. We declined, already feeling sufficiently lucky.

The next day we tooled around small towns with huge lumber mills and through the back roads to Grant’s Pass via Medford and Jacksonville. Jacksonville is the major gold-rush (1861) town in southern Oregon. Excellent restored houses and a historical museum in the courthouse. Then to Oregon Caves near the California border. The caves are a national monument (why?) about 20 winding miles off the main highway. They’re marble, as opposed to the usual limestone, the result being that the formations are much less spectacular. I asked our guide to explain why they couldn’t have been built closer to the road. A nervous titter went through our group. There was no answer. Typical federal inefficiency.

Heading back into California, we passed through some of the most sparsely-settled country on the trip. One town was large enough to support our need for iced-tea (yes, fans, our daytime beer drinking has been waning in recent years). It was Happy Camp, California, inhabited, one presumes, by Happy Campers. We didn’t ask. As we sat and sipped, we could see major T-storms along our direction of travel, complete with requisite lightning and sound effects. But we prepared (first time, eh?) for this trip with Gore-Tex overpants, rubberized jacket, boots, face-shield. And so we went up the Klamath River valley in the wind and rain to Yreka, an Indian word for either ‘Mt. Shasta’, ‘northern mountain’, or ‘this will confuse everyone’. We had a short period of rain the next day as well traveling down the Scott Valley back towards Redding.

An altogether satisfying trip, complete with 4 movies. Here are the bike-trip ratings (remember: bike-trip ratings are unlike those in your local paper; artistic values are not relevant):

Air Force One: Action fantasy for aging males; the First Lady even looks like young Anne Bancroft.
Face Off: While the acting is quite interesting, suspension of disbelief is required every 90 seconds by actual measurement. This can get tiring.
Con-Air: Quite a relief by contrast, as massive suspension of disbelief is only required once at the beginning of the film. No redeeming social value.
My Best Friend's Wedding: A chick-flick. See it as a couple, then you can argue about feminist values

Notes on the condition of mankind:

Oregonians seem to have a major problem with the apostrophe. Seen on breakfast menu: "Pancake’s and waffles." There was no problem with "sandwiches" across the page. Lucky, I guess.

Question for foreign readers: Are Americans the only English speakers who use constructions like: Farm fresh eggs 4 sale?

Signs seen enroute:

On an Exxon gas station banner: Now serving Espresso.
On the wall of a tiny grocery store in an even tinier town: Now serving Espresso.
On a sign in a gift shop: A balloon bokay will make her day.
On an automobile bumper-sticker: I brake for cleavage.

I mention in passing my father’s words to me: Never buy espresso at a gas station, and never where the espresso machine is within sight of a deep-fryer.

And I leave you with Mike’s road poetry (disclaimer: composed at high speed):

All paved roads smooth and beautiful,
All cycles great and small.
All steaks and local breweries,
The biker loves them all.