RR74: Frolicking in the Forest

On the heels of the failed Death Valley trip, I was itching for some dirt adv action on my KTM 990. Adv riding offers a chance of exploring roads and areas that are, literally, off the beaten path. I’ve ridden pretty much all the “motorcycling roads” in California, but I’ve not explored the off-pavement part much. Vijay noticed this thread on AdvRider – Forest Frolicking in Northern California and and that was the impetus for this trip. I know the word “frolic”, but I’m not sure if the present participle froliciking contains a “k”. I won’t Google it though, lol.

Shobhit’s VStrom was broken with a failed clutch from Death Valley. Akshay and I worked on the bike and successfully replaced the clutch. I rode the bike on a 450 mile ride across the Sierras, and everything was good. So with a working bike now, Shobhit decided to join the ride. Akshay could not make it unfortunately, for good reason, his wife was turning xx and he wanted to throw her a surprise birthday bash. Mahesh could not join, his daughter was having surgery, and a few others dropped out, so eventually it was 6 of us – Anil (Kawasaki Versys 650), Ayon (Honda CRF250L Rally), Gokul (KTM 690 Enduro), Shobhit (Suzuki V-Strom 650), Sujit (KTM 990 Adventure) and Vijay (BMW R1200GS)

Friday July 9th 2021

In the second week of July, there was a heat wave in California. Temperatures in Fremont were in the high 90s, while Sacramento and the central valley were up to about 110F. We had a quick video call the night before and discussed whether it makes sense to cancel the ride. With everyone’s tight schedules and limited time, it would be hard to reschedule the ride – so we decided to just go. Shobhit flew in on Friday, went over to his sisters house for some time and came to my house in the late afternoon. He brought with him a pelican case that we bolted to the back of his VStrom. Here was the final outcome, the box came in handy for the trip.

We left the Bay Area with Ayon and Anil at about 4PM. It was incredibly hot along the way and we all wore mesh gear. We stayed away from the freeways for the most part, as Ayon was on his 250. He did fairly well though, keeping up with all of us in the twisty parts.

We stopped briefly at a small town called Buena Vista, CA. Here we bought cold water bottles and poured some of that water down our mesh gear to keep us cool. It was incredibly hot at that point, but we all made it ok that day.

We reached our hotel in Grass Valley (Best Western Gold Country Inn) at about 8PM and met with Vijay for dinner and drinks.  The beers at 1849 Brewing Company were good, and so was the pizza. Gokul trailered his KTM and joined us later at the hotel that night.

Saturday July 10th 2021

This was the planned route for the day, and we did about 75% of it.

We left early that day, gassed up near the hotel and hit Hwy 20 towards Tahoe. We filled up Shobhit’s top box with beer and ice, the smile says it all.

Our first turn off from the highway was on to Washington Road, which took us down to the quaint little town of Washington, CA. Gokul was last in the line of riders and we had to wait a good 10 minutes there for him to catch up. It turns out that he was riding slow because he thought “chunks” could fly off his knobby tires on the pavement 🙂 We picked up some sandwiches from the General Store there and were on our way.

The first dirt section of the day was Gaston Road which goes through the very small town of Gaston. I don’t think we even noticed that place on our way. The road was a mix of hard packed dirt, some loose gravel and some patches of deep sand. It was a good challenge for us all, and we made it down the first 10 miles or so without incident.

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As we continued on to Meadow Lake Road, the road became more rocky and soon we got views of Bowman Lake

As we descended to Bowman Lake the road became very rough and rocky and we were riding this challenging terrain very slowly. Luckily we made it to the Lake without incident, where we took a break and dipped in the lake. It wasn’t very hot here because of the elevation. It was warm but comfortable and the dip in the lake felt really good.

I enjoyed sipping a Sierra Nevada hazy IPA in those waters. Pure bliss. The amazing forest and the beautiful lake were great stress busters.

As we started on our way out, the terrain remained pretty challenging till Jackson Meadows Reservoir. We were now about 40 miles into the dirt, and post lunch we were all getting tired quickly. We took several breaks along the way, hydrating with water, making sure the bikes were ok, and just taking a break in the shade.

On Meadow Lake Road, Ayon and Shobhit were leading, and they decided to make a right turn towards Meadow Lake. Next I saw Anil and Vijay ahead of me ride straight towards French Meadows. For a minute I panicked there, thinking that if the group splits up and someone gets lost, it could get dangerous quickly. Most of these forest roads are unmarked and look pretty similar, it’s easy to get lost. Luckily, Ayon and Shobhit retraced their steps and joined us back a short distance down the road.

Vijay had the heaviest bike of the group and he was definitely struggling. Thankfully he was able to manage it over the rough stuff and we made it to the French Meadows Reservoir. When we hit the tarmac there, we all let out a huge sigh of relief.

As we left French Meadows Vijay noticed a tire pressure warning on his BMW dash. He had a flat rear tire. He was able to ride the bike on the pavement to Hwy 89, where we took a break and fixed the flat. The heat was on at this point and we were all tired, with ~60 odd miles of off road work.

At this point, we were debating whether we should ride more dirt, or simply head back to the hotel. It was only about 3PM, so we had time, and we decided to explore a bit more.

We headed down Dog Valley Road, which turned out to be the best road of the day. Gentle flowing curves in easy hard packed dirt. A few whoops along the way, but easy stuff to handle. We all go comfortable riding this patch at higher speeds and enjoyed the views tremendously. We took another stop here to look at Vijay’s tire. It was slowing losing a bit of air, so we pumped it up again.

From Dog Valley Road we took Smithneck Road back to Hwy 49. Again this was easy stuff, scenic and very relaxing.

We hit pavement a bit before Hwy 49 and took a break.

From here we decide to gas up in Loyalton and make our way to our hotel for the night (Gold Pan Lodge in Quincy). Gokul left the group here. He rode back to the hotel in Grass Valley, where he loaded his bike on to his SUV and headed home.

The huge plume of smoke from the Beckwourth Complex fires was visible. And the road to Frenchman lake was closed. We saw lots of firefighting equipment on the way, including helicopters, airplanes and firetrucks.

We made it to our hotel in good time, like 6PM, so that gave us enough time to wind down from the hot and tiring day. We had a few beers at Quintopia Brewing – they were pretty good.

The garlic fries were 10/10

Sunday July 11th 2021

The last day of our trip we decided to skip any dirt section and take the twisty road home. Vijay’s tire was looking weak and none of us really had the energy to tackle another day in the dirt.

Anil had broken his Versys-650 front fender the day before and his rim was also bent. So it was probably a good idea to skip the tough dirt sections.

Ayon picked up coffee at Morning Thunder Cafe and we were on our way.

I had heard of Quincy La Porte Road for many years, but never ridden it. We came close to riding it in 2020, but the fires blocked us out. So this time when we did get a chance, I was blown away. Superbly laid tarmac, excellent curves, great views and no traffic. We stopped along the way a few times to take some pictures.

Remnants of the Bear Fire of 2020

Along the way, we took a short detour to the Little Grass Valley Reservoir. It was short dirt section of 5 miles, but it took us to this dramatically beautiful lake.

The rest of Quincy La Porte was also excellent and we all had a great time riding down the mountains on that road. Note to self – it’s well worth a trip up there just to ride QLP again!

We had lunch at Punjab Tandoori Grill in Yuba City. The Indian food there was simply amazing (it was highly rated on Yelp) and the owner of the restaurant turned on the TV to the Euro Cup final between England and Italy.

It was 100F+ outside, so after the delicious Indian food and beer we took the freeway back to the Bay Area. We made it, again, in good time, with enough daylight to spare.

Shobhit flew back to Seattle the same night. All our bikes were ok, no major mechanical failures. None of us crashed or hurt ourselves, so it all turned out great. I really liked riding in the Tahoe National Forest and the Plumas National Forest. I would like to go up there again!

 

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