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Living in the wild, wild west

The purpose of yesterday’s ride was to get as much of Highway 36 under my wheels as possible. I rode east from Fortuna inland all the way to Red Bluff, then backtracked halfway and cut north on Highway 3 to Weaverville where I stayed the night.

On the way back, about 10 miles east of the junction with Highways 3 and 36, the road is high elevation, narrow, and very curvy with lots of nearly shear drop-offs on one side and solid rock cliffs on the other. During one hairpin turn I scraped my foot peg, which isn’t necessarily a dangerous situation by itself — it was probably the sixth time on this trip — but it jolted my brain out of the zone and distracted me for several minutes.

Less than a half-mile later, the road curved to the left. It was a decreasing-radius turn, where it actually gets tighter as you get into it, and I hadn’t burned off enough speed beforehand. Normally you want to brake before the turn and not during. As the turn’s radius decreased I found myself drifting to the outside of the turn toward the narrow 6″ gravel shoulder and the drop off to my potential doom many hundreds of feet down beyond that.

I did my best to brake, which stands my bike upright slightly, and the front tire went into the gravel. Insert cliche about my life flashing before my eyes here. I had a brief second of tank-slapping (it’s a motorcycle phrase, look it up; it’s not good) and miraculously got back off the 6″ of gravel and back onto the pavement. I was literally inches away from falling to my probable death.

Needless to say I had to pull over soon after to clear my head.

I could have easily died or suffered severe injury, and my bike (and I) would have fallen for quite a while before hitting the bottom of the canyon below.

Motorcycling is an inherently dangerous activity, but so is driving a car. [Statistically, I’m twice as likely to die as a pedestrian than I am as a motorcyclist.] I survived the incident and learned several things from the experience.

If I scrape a peg or something else happens that breaks my concentration, I need to slow down or pull over until I can regain my focus. My bike is very capable of taking some seriously tight turns and when I found the turn’s radius decreasing I should have been more assertive and attacked into the turn, but because I was fearing another peg scraping, I slacked up and that is what sent me wide.

Normally riding near long drop offs and other hazards doesn’t phase me at all. I’m aware of the scenery around me as I ride but I don’t focus on it. I focus on the road. I’m also normally aware of my state of mind; when I’m in the zone I’m not afraid to push my bike’s limits a bit more than normal, and when I’m not in the zone I back off and ease up on the throttle.

It was a growth experience, and as the latin saying ‘Ad astra per aspera’ goes, (“to the stars through difficulties“) through adversity we grow.

I made it to Weaverville safely and checked into the Weaverville Hotel.

Weaverville Hotel
Weaverville Hotel

It was built in the late 1800’s and looks like something you’d see in a western movie. The hosts are super nice and really made sure I was comfortable. Shortly after getting unpacked I went next door to the New York Saloon for a cold beer. When I asked the bar lady what she had on tap, she said, “Coors Light and Bud.”

(Anyone that knows me is well aware of my views on those brands of libations. “People that drink Coors Light don’t really like the taste of beer, they just like to pee a lot.”)

I asked if she had any micro-brews, and she pointed behind me at a Sierra Nevada sign hanging on the rough-cut wall. “I can’t pronounce it, but we have that.” She couldn’t pronounce ‘Sierra Nevada’? WTF? The beer was cold and she even asked if I wanted a glass, however, so she gets points for effort.

Dinner was at the La Grange Cafe across the street. I had a glass of local gevurtztraminer that was a bit too sweet so I switched to a reisling from the same winery — much better. It went very well with my hazelnut-encrusted halibut. Mesha was a great waitress, too. She gets her name from the biblical character, Meshak. Her brother is named Shadrak. Her father was apparently disappointed she wasn’t a boy and made her name more feminine by taking off the trailing “K”. It was a fantastic meal in a very quaint and wonderful little town.

I slept well and had an early breakfast at the Nugget, where I dined the previous Sunday on my way south, then headed west on 299 before cutting north on Highway 96.

96 follows the Klamath River and is very scenic; I highly recommend the route. When I got to Happy Camp I located the only gas station in town, a card-lock self-service station that offered a single pump available to the general public. There was a half-dozen guys on sport bikes filling up when I pulled in. One guy asked, “Where ya headed?”

“Grants Pass, the twisty way,” I said.

“Us, too!” he said.

I let them zoom ahead of me after we were all fueled up, knowing they’d just have to pass me as soon as we got out of town.

Cave Junction came along soon enough and I pulled over at the Dairy Queen for a chicken sandwich for lunch. It was noon and I knew I’d be arriving at my motel in Grants Pass way too early. That happens to me a lot on my trips because I get started too early in the morning.

As predicted, my room wasn’t ready when I got to the Super 8 in Grants Pass so I asked my GPS to tell me where the nearest park was so I could find a shady spot and take a nap. An hour later I was checked into my room.

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