"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Karla's day in the (sun?) (clouds?)

Hey. Karla here. We're not sure yet what my--persona--is, exactly. Except that my sentences probably are shorter. Just like Hemingway.

I wasn't too upset about not getting to go on that 4-day ride. The distance sounded fine. But only one hill worth mentioning in 330-something miles, and that means a lotta flat ground. Don't much care for it. Leave it to the prissy roadbikes.

On Sunday, though, the old lady and I went for a ride. She didn't know how far exactly she wanted to go, or where she really wanted to ride to. She should know better than to leave it up to me. She'd been looking at maps and saw that there was this backroad way to get to Chester from Chico (no, we didn't go all the way to Chester. This time.) She couldn't tell if it was paved or not. Which definitely rules out prissy roadbikes. The turnoff for this road was about 30 miles up Highway 32. She didn't know if she was up for riding that far up the mountain. Poor thing all worn out from riding around in pancake land for four days.

We knew for sure we'd get to Forest Ranch, elevation 2415', about 14 miles up the mountain (and this is one of those more gradual 'big rig' climbs, not a wall). There's a store there and when there's a little store in the middle of nowhere, you have to stop. Here I am.

Oh -- and Chico is at 195'. For reference.

So after the store, she felt alright, and thought she'd just keep riding. Seemed like a long way to that turnoff but she was too curious about it to stop. You'd think we were looking for the Northwest Passage.

Now I think of my saddle as comfortable. So I won't take too much blame for this, but she kept standing up, trying to adjust, not sitting so well. And she needed a snack anyway, so we pulled over. Looking back from where we came, we thought, well damn if we're not in the mountains.

The darker clouds seemed to be moving away from us. It rained a little, so she says. I say it misted. On this climb there were a few reprieves, stretches of some downhill, and she said she was cold. Cold?? Temperature never quite suits you, huh? You brought a jacket, put it on.

The odometer got up around 27 - 28 miles and she thought the turnoff was around 29, so we were just about there. And then we were.

The sign was in disrepair. Humboldt is the name of the road to Butte Meadows. A sorry broke-down stretch of Humboldt Road is right at the beginning of the ride, and then it merges with Highway 32 for the next 24 miles until it splits again. 30 more miles and it takes you to Lake Almanor, which is next door to Chester. The later stretch of Humboldt is nice and smooth, like somebody cares about it. This is because the first stretch parallels the highway (it was the original highway, maybe) and the only people who ride on it are cyclists and people who like to drive somewhere to drink their Bud by the 24-pack. That sounds a lot more dangerous than it is. The Bud drinkers are nocturnal, and no cyclist would be dumb enough to ride that road in the dark, unless...well, I could haul a 24-pack, but Bud is a waste of good water. Unless she wants to fall into a pothole as deep as a mineshaft, no cyclist would ride it in the dark.

We got this far, and it wasn't too late, so she thought she'd just keep going to Butte Meadows. Only another 4 - 5 miles. To her dismay and my amusement, that's when the REAL hill started. The first 30 miles were the warmup. But we put it in low and she started picking things to ride to--that tree up there, that pole, that bump in the road, and then another thing, and then another. Had to pull over once because she got too much salt in her eye and had to wipe it off. Some people in a Suburban pulled over and asked if everything was ok and she gave 'em Thumbs Up and said thanks.

Finally we got to the top of that hill, and it looked like the top of the world. From there it was actually downhill to Butte Meadows. Their sign was in better shape.

She was obviously pleased about the elevation thing. I said, honey, that's what I do. Though now that we'd arrived at Butte Meadows (notice there's elevation but no population on the sign...) it was a lot colder, and she was low on fuel. Rode along through "town" for a bit. Looks like it's bunch of vacation cabins and campgrounds. Surely, she thought, there's some place the campers go for provisions. And then we found it.
The "Bambi Inn." Hallelujah. A sign outside said "BIKER FRIENDLY" and we weren't sure if that was supposed to mean us or not, but we didn't care. Well, I take that back. She was a little self- conscious about her lycra shorts and bright neon yellow windbreaker. But as I pointed out, it's not like she was Sir Edmund Hillary on the top of Everest. In fact it seemed like people riding their bikes (bicycles) to the Bambi Inn was a non-event to the inn-habitants.

According to her report (I waited outside) she sat up to the bar and ordered grilled cheese, chips, and a Coke. She said it was the best velveeta sandwich she'd ever had.

The ride home took about half as long as the ride up. She got mad enough to give the finger to a jeep that blasted its airhorn when it came up behind her...at a place with plenty of shoulder and we were well off the road. She was mad until she remembered the people in the Suburban who had been kind and thoughtful. The jeep had grotesquely oversized tires. The driver was probably just excited because he would to stop at a gas station again very soon.

These little wildflowers were growing everywhere by the road up there. Pale, pale yellow. She thought maybe they're some kind of wild iris? No idea.

When we got back to Chico she turned the wrong way in the park, adding another two miles for a total of 71. Good ride. I think she'll feel it for a couple days.


Emily said...

Karla didn't mention what the big deal is about Chester. It's the gateway town to the back door of Lassen Nat'l Volcanic Park and Juniper Lake.

And for the record my roadbike is not prissy. Skinnier tires do not equal prissy.

hmr said...

What a ride. Must have been amazing.

Emily said...

Can anybody tell me what "Turtle Headquarters" and "Biker Friendly" mean when taken together, as the sign implies? (This is not a trivia question.)

I should add that the walls inside of the Bambi Inn were dotted with bumper stickers reading "EARTH FIRST--Log the other planets later." Next time I ride there I'll bring a flannel shirt to wear over my lycra.