Up to Chico (247 miles)



For a number of years, I’ve wanted to go to Chico. I’ve only been through it twice but just jetting to the freeway from the mountains doesn’t really count. The problem, I thought, was that the ride to an from would suck. Chico is near the north end of the Sacramento Valley. I had figured that the ride there would be freeway out of the Bay Area to some yet to be named straight road for the long slog up to town. After a post on SBR, I was told the very opposite. There would be a great ride there and back. I was getting jazzed about going. The only real problem was that the sunshine forecast went to rain two nights before I was ready to go.

My bike had been leaking coolant for a while now. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to notice both in the reservoir dropping as well as the sweet smell as the bike would run. It got me down actually quite a bit as I just had this sinking feeling that one day one of those hoses was going to burst spraying coolant all over me and the bike. After a number of sessions trying to find the leak, I let Mike take a look at it and we did a tighten on all the bolts in the system. We also got the rear lights working as well! Friday the bike got new shoes. I was finally ready to hit the road (almost)!

For some reason it always takes me longer to get on the road than I think it does. Friday was a late day at the office so I just came home and chilled out. I delayed a lot of the stuff I needed to get done (packing, chain, and bike maintenance). Unfortunately that ate into the map and route planning time. I settled on just taking 29 through the wine country. It’s really been a long time since I’ve ventured out into Marin, Napa, and Sonoma counties so I was sort of just taking the “default” route that was not the freeway. CA-29 north of I-80 took a very long time to get interesting. Lots of busy roads then small roads filled with lots of traffic. It didn’t help that it was starting to rain. After sitting in traffic and going no where I had the GPS reroute me. Something had to be better. The reroute took me to the Silverado Trail. The ironic thing is that the Silverado Trail was a better road to ride and had less traffic to boot! After a few miles on Silverado trail, the throttle started to creep up a little bit. Every so often there with law-enforcement officer to keep things in check. Once a Silverado trail merged back into highway 29, it was time to roll over Mount Helena. This was probably the most scenic part of the ride because it’s a technical climb up and down. Passing lanes appear every so often. Thus it was never too long to wait to pass a car. Once over Mount Helena the red straightens out in heads into Lower Lake, a town just south of Clear Lake.

Arnaud from SBR invited me up to the winery he works at since I was going to be in the area. SBR is an online motorcycle forum. Because of that I know more folks virtually than I do in person. That being said however, it’s always nice to meet the person behind the keyboard. Arnaud works at Gregory Graham Wines which is just outside of Lower Lake. He had me taste a few of their wines: Grenache, Syrah, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay. The Grenache was the clear winner for me. He gave me a bottle to take with and said it was on the house! Wow!

Heading north the weather quickly deteriorated. What sliver of sun was around heading into town was now gone. CA-53 makes its way uneventfully north to highway 20. I’ve ridden CA-20 between US-101 and CA-1 and it’s a really fun ride. Given that we were pretty close to the Central Valley, I was less optimistic. That being said however, there were some fun spots to be had. The highway goes through some patches of mountains and the pavement was super clean. As we got closer to the valley the fog got really thick. It was near whiteout in some spots crossing over the tops of hills. CA-20 gave way to I-5 which then gave way to CA-32. All of which were high speed, straight line rides in the fog.


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