Sunday, October 9, 2011

Of Volcanoes, Lakes, Rain and a Custom Suspension.

I was planning a trip to the Southwest this October. Southern Utah, Northern Arizona and maybe even Southwestern Colorado. Best laid plans and stuff. A routine tire change drew my attention to what would throw the wrench of fate in those plans. A leaky fork. 
Now, I could have just had them disassembled to put new seals and fork oil in, but at 44K miles the front suspension was getting long in the tooth, made even more so evident by the upgraded rear shock. It was time to bite the bullet and make the pilgrimage to GP Suspension in the Pacific North Wet for a custom tuned suspension to my weight and riding style. :)

A leaky front fork didn't mean I still couldn't have some fun on my way North. I had originally planned to visit a couple of National Parks in the Southwest, as it happened there were also a couple of National Parks beckoning me on my journey North. Here I am presenting some selected shots, as usual I took many, but I am only sharing those few which tell the story I want to tell, the gloomy bad weather shots - well I won't bore you with those. Let's look on the bright side shall we? :)

Day 1: Beautiful Sisters.

I rode out Saturday morning and headed towards the scenic Feather River Canyon also known as Hwy 70. I hadn't ridden this road all year and whenever I do - it always makes me grin from ear to ear. Such tempting curves and such smooth silky pavement - the FJR just loves to ride this road..

One of several tunnels bored through the canyon.. 

I wasn't actually riding West. I turned around to photograph this sign and the curvy road disappearing into the distance..

Bridges crisscrossing the Feather River.
I skirted Lake Almanor but didn't stop to take pictures, if you hadn't guessed already - I was heading towards Lassen National Park. One can actually see Mt. Lassen surrounded by clouds all the way from Hwy 89 even before it passes by Lake Almanor. Although, I wasn't stopping for pictures here and it was far enough in the distance to pick up with my point and shoot.

I started shooting again once inside the Park. Lassen is the southernmost volcano in the Cascade Range. It is an active volcanic area with boiling mud pots, stinking thermal vents etc. Lassen had last erupted in 1914 - activity continuing till 1921 which devastated the area - but life finds a way to grow back and thrive and today it is a beautiful area to ride through.

Just after entering Lassen National Park.
Stinking thermal vents at the Sulfur Works area.
Boiling mud pots.
Beautiful roads to ride also..
Great scenery all around you! Looking back the way I had come..
..and yonder..
Really not much to say to sell the scenery to the viewer(reader)..the scenery speaks for itself..
More fun switchbacks..Lassen seems to have everything..
... including some beautiful lakes. Look at the clarity of that water..
What are you doing down there, she says!
I usually don't include the bike in a lot of ride report pictures, but I attempted to do so this time..I have to pay my dues, at the moment she is the only girlfriend I know! Hahaha! :)

Towards the north entrance of the Park before the devastated area, there is this beautiful meadow with a creek running through it. It is a pretty area with a good view of Lassen Peak as well.
The best view of Lassen Peak (from the road) is from the Devastated area. There had been a storm chasing me through Lassen and at the Devastated area it caught me. I still took some pictures with my waterproof camera but it was not a surprise they came out dark and gloomy, so I am not including it here. :)

From Lassen I headed towards her sister Shasta. Some dear friends of mine live in Shasta, I wasn't going to be able to see all of them since some of them were traveling as well, but first I was going to make a stop at one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Northern California. RenoJohn has told me about this about an year ago, I was finally going to pay a visit.. :)
There is an almost inconspicuous sign which informs you of the location of Burney Falls, blink and you miss it, most people see it even, but never visit. Their loss and it has been mine too for all these years, but now that I know of it, I will be stopping here every year on my way to Shasta. Also of note is that the falls aren't the only attraction at this State Park. There is 910 acres of wilderness to hike and explore, as well as camping and fishing!

You can hear the falls long before you ever see them. The first look at Burney Falls from the overlook.
Then you descend this switchback path of stairs and walking ramps to near the base of the falls. You can feel the mist from the falls while you are still some distance away. 
Look at that pristine blue water!
At the base of the falls, the teeny boppers near the water should give you an idea of the height of the falls (129 feet).
The sun was dropping fast, but there was still some time to take some bumpy back roads to go get a picture for this photo tag game I am playing with some IBA friends and then I headed for Lake Shastina - my stop for the night. 
Here is a view of Black Butte from a back road heading towards I-5.
My favorite and in my biased opinion the best view of Mt. Shasta is from my friend's place in Lake Shastina..
Since my friends Corinne and Rick were out, I stayed with Russ and Becky. Thank you for your hospitality Russ, too bad you had to work the event all evening, but it was good to see you, if briefly. :)

The sun sets over Lake Shastina...the day is done..

Day 2: Don't blow your top.

I left early the next morning. The sun hadn't come up yet from behind the mountains, but the early morning light was still spreading some warmth into the day. My hosts were still sleeping so I tried to be as quiet as possible as I left that morning. Even the pups didn't stir from their sleep, so I think I did well. :)

Riding away from Shasta I took one last view at the mountain as the sun had started to come up..
Jumped on I-5 and blazed towards Crater Lake. Northern California is the Jefferson State. It seems they do not like the state of the People's Republic of Kalifornia. I can't stay I blame them..
The plan was to ride to Crater Lake and have breakfast at the Lodge at Crater Lake. I browsed the gift shop for a bit before riding out to ride along Rim Drive for a bit. I wanted to make this quick. Dennis and Karen were waiting for me in Vancouver, WA, they had very generously offered me a place to stay for the night and I wasn't planning on making them wait too late in the evening. :)

The weather was overcast and foggy, with the sun only peeking out now and then. Usually the lake is so blue it puts the bluest sky to shame, although not today. 
If you want to see what the lake looks like on a clear sunny day. Maybe you would like to take a peek at this slideshow from a couple years ago..I used to have a point and shoot back then, but on a clear day at Crater Lake it is hard to go wrong..

This time I had to make do with the sub-optimal light so I tried some new things to see how they would turn out..but first I got some European tourists to "make my picture" at Crater Lake. :)

Cap'n Morgan at Crater Lake.
Riding around the lake on Rim Drive, I would pull up to the overlooks and hope for the sun to peek out from among the clouds. Sometimes it did, but others times it didn't. The lake truly is surreal no matter how you look at it..

Wizard Island. 
The sun peeked out for a little while..
Sunny where I am at, but not where I want it to be..the sunshine really brings out the blue in this very deep lake!
Took some close-ups of the crater's walls near me.
I still didn't have a decent shot of the Ghost Ship at Crater Lake. The fog and lack of clarity was making it difficult to zoom in from this side of the crater so I rode further along the rim to where I can at least get to take some decent shots..

Here you can see the fog/clouds moving in - trying to obfuscate the view of the Ghost Ship.
Here you can see part of the Rim Drive. I wish I had the time to circumnavigate the time and hopefully with better weather. :)
If you are wondering what this day had to do with blowing your top - Crater Lake wasn't really formed by an impact crater. The lake used to be a volcano - part of the Volcanoes in the Cascade Range. Thousands of years ago Mt. Mazama erupted with explosive force, it literally blew it's top off and as we can see in the present - with spectacular results. Maybe blowing your top isn't so bad after all, although I would still strongly advice against it! :)

A parting look at Mt. Thielsen as I exited from Crater Lake National Park. It was a Sunday and I found a couple of rabbits to run behind and I was on my way quickly towards Portland.
Hwy 26 heading into Portland. Hit some slight rain, but none too bad.
Found this sign on my way into Portland and I just had to take a picture.. :)
The stop for the night was at Dennis and Karen's beautiful home! It was great to see them again, they had a great guest room waiting for me and had also made some delicious Pot Roast for dinner! I really enjoyed their company and conversation. I appreciated and enjoyed your hospitality very much Dennis and Karen and I look forward to seeing you again soon! :)

Day 3 & 4: When it rains, well you still ride..

Monday morning. Dennis had left for his shoot for the new TV show Grimm and Karen to commute to work, I wasn't expected at GP Suspension till about 9AM, so at Dennis' suggestion I went to local favorite Elmer's for breakfast. 
The service was great you rang this bell and they would come on by to see how you were doing...Haha!
The food was great as well! Fresh Salmon Benedict and fresh fruit! Yumm!
After breakfast it was an short ride in the rain to Oregon City and GP Suspension. Here is Dave getting ready to get the forks off.
Torch it I say!
Dave was putting in new springs, fork oil and new compression and rebound kits. I can't begin to tell you how much better the front end feels now! He also taught me to do some fork maintenance in between fork rebuilds. Great guy and has a great business despite the county and the state's best efforts.

I also spied this beauty in his shop, a customer had dropped it off for some suspension work. It's a 1986 I believe..
Dave's the only one working at the shop these days. I heard he used to have an assistant, and some incredible     CNC machines, but since that job wasn't really shovel ready and the county property taxes had been raised on his equipment, he could no longer afford to keep on his employee and those machines in this slow economy. It's tough to see small businesses struggling like this. :(

When we were done with the fork upgrade I rode to Hillsboro to see my boss and put in some face time. Getting in and out of Hillsboro was a royal pain and it was getting a little too late to start riding back to California, so I found a good deal on a hotel near Downtown Portland and explored there late into the night. It was raining constantly through the evening, so I didn't take any pictures, but if you are in Downtown Portland check out Santeria for some amazing Tacos! The best I have had to date! Also, Kell's Irish pub if you are in a drinking mood. (Disclaimer: I was walking around Downtown Portland - there was no drinking and riding involved).

The next morning I had a quick breakfast in my room. The weather forecasts were calling for more rain along the I-5 corridor, but there was a chance it was going to be drier further east, so that's where I headed..
Riding east on I-84 chasing the glimmer in the distance, hoping for some sun!
It wasn't raining out east, but it wasn't sunny either, dark gloomy and overcast all the way to La Pine, OR. From La Pine I headed further out east on Hwy 31 and finally found some sun! :)

Hwy 31 is such a great road with beautiful vistas!
Heading towards Summer Lake. 
There is a hot springs in Summer lake and piles of hippies in the summer time. This time of the year there were no hippies in sight, but it seemed like the whole lake was steaming!

You see it rising from a distance..
Then up closer you see it rising towards the was surreal!
My luck however was diving just as fast as the water vapors were rising from the lake. My brief interlude with the sun was going to come to a rude and abrupt halt as I got on Hwy 395 before Lakeview. So much for seeking rain shadow in the east. This is where I caught the worst rain of my 4 days of riding. All the way from Lakeview into Reno and then home through the Sierra's it poured and it poured. My waterproof gear was keeping me dry but the rain and the cold wears you down slowly, the worst being on I-80 heading home in the dark with pouring rain and 18 wheelers insisting on passing you at 75mph, leaving you in their wash.. Payback it seemed for all the times we blow past them when it is dry.. :)

It was finally good to be back home, sweet (and warm) home! Thank you for reading! :)

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