I set off from Tahoe to ride around the lake. It is Saturday morning and the road is busy with slow drivers taking in the sight, which are amazing. It has the feel of a Norwegian Fjord, so much so that there is a mansion here built in 1929 called Vikingsholm.
I leave the lakeshore on route 89 north heading for Lassen Peak, and ride some 200 miles through rural Northern California. It is wild and beautiful, much less populated than further south.
I’m heading for Lassen Peak, which is an active volcano, and a spectacular section of the 89 runs through the national park. On the way there are more ‘road ahead closed’ signs, which is concerning but I obviously ignore. There is a toll booth which marks the entrance to the Park but they tell me you can only go a short way up as the road is under a tonne of snow. It looks like a beautiful place, perhaps even more so in the snow, but I’m not going to pay the entrance charge just to ride up and down again. So I stop and take pictures, and chat to a guy with a great T Shirt, and a good motto for life. “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt”.
So I head back down the road and turn onto the 36 heading down into the valley. As I descend into Californias Central valley towards the Sacramento river, for the first time this trip temperature starts to soar. I’d come prepared with Summer trousers and and mesh jacket, which obviously hadn’t been much use up till now, but soon even they were too hot. I was riding in just a T’shirt, and it was glorious heat. The landscape reflected the temperatures, and instead of the lush springlike conditions in the mountains, the place already had a sunburned and parched feel. The temperature rose and rose, eventually hitting to 97.5°f
I was intrigued by this odd shape hill and went to investigate. It turned out to be a cinder cone – a volcanic vent made up of loose pyroclastic fragments. And in the fields all around it were there basalt boulders which must have been pyroclastic bombs fired out from it. It would have been fun to be around when this was going off.
Next to catch my attention was a dramatic white peak of Mount Shasta which dominates the landscape of the central valley visible from 140 miles away. I check and there is a good campsite there, next to the railway tracks, and so I ride up highway 5, past the dammed Shasta Lake and pull into the Mount Shasta City KOA.
Amazing location, with fabulous views of the peak. On the reviews there were a few complaints about noise from the railroad, but the proprietor reassures me it is fine. I put up up tent in between the trees, and then a train rolls past. It is ridiculously loud, and for the full effect it blows its horn. There is no chance of sleeping here, even with earplugs. I pack up and storm back to the office for a refund. The owner hands it over without complaint.
But now I have to find somewhere to stay on a saturday night, and there are not many options. I end up at the A-1 Choice motel. I should have walked away when I met the unshaven owner with stains on his shirt.
The A-1 choice it most certainly was not. The room was grim, ill smelling, broken TV, thin scratchy sheets with serious doubts about their cleanliness. At least the shower worked, but I didn’t trust the towels. I changed, and went out for dinner at the Black Bear Diner, which was great. And the beer was carefully labeled in case you forgot where you were.
Then back to the crappy motel and ended up sleeping in my sleeping bag because the bed made my skin crawl.