Saturday, August 02, 2008


Friday presented a conundrum; our planned route was block due to the fires, so how best to get home? This was a sad, as the Forks of Salmon road is one of my favorite rural rides, with a quick rise and descent over the Marble Mountain pass, then a winding 35 miles beside the Salmon River, at some points on a cliff 60' above the river itself, with no guardrails and only a granite wall as a consolation - exciting stuff. As any other route change would involve me drawing a new map and set of directions and firing off 80 copies before dawn, it seemed prudent to retrace our steps back along Hwy 3 to 36, and follow the Avenue of the Giants home. This proved to be an excellent choice, as the 'easy' stretches of the ride would be at the beginning and end (along Trinity Reservoir - looking more like a mud puddle this year - and the Avenue a day's end), with lots of action in the middle (from Weaverville to Hwy 101 the motorcycles are hardly vertical at all).

I picked up a passenger for Friday's ride; Mavis' MSS was hors de combat (the only bike on the rally to totally pack it in), and she looked like a wet puppy without a bike, resigned to sit shotgun in the chase truck. I hardly noticed her - the highest praise from a rider - and she thanked me for a thrilling ride, although she did mention to someone later that her boots were scraping the road around corners, on the passenger pegs. I guess that Featherbed frame does handle well, and by Friday I had come to intuitively ride within the bike's sweet spots, and had an extremely smooth running engine (which Mavis commented on as well).

Smoke filled several of the valleys on our way, although it seemed less intense than on Wed. A new area of intense billowing grey haze met us at the junction of Hwys 3 and 36, which continued to worsen over the next 15 miles, getting so bad at some points I had to really slow down; the far ends of several curves faded into amber-grey. Miraculously, the smoke simply vanished as we approached Mad River, and lunch was spent under a clear blue sky, thanks to coastal breezes.

Our meander through the Avenue of the Giants was under sunny skies, rewarding a very relaxed pace for the end of the week; the dappled sunlight under the forest canopy was on the perfect side of warm/cool, and the rest of the day was spent picking blackberries by the river and stopping to check out a team of draft horses hauling a cartful of people through the trees.

Friday night we had an excellent catered dinner at our campground - Benbow Lake State Park - provided by Calico's in Garberville. The food was simply excellent, and some commented that it was better than our Sunday evening buffet at the Benbow. Owner Peter, when I related this feedback, replied 'Of course it's better; I was head chef at the Benbow for 14 years!'. There are always a few people who show up just for the final weekend, and we were graced with the presence of Charlie Taylor, or more importantly, his '34 Matchless Model X! I hadn't ridden it since he's changed the cam for an ohv Morgan item, and made a few other minor tweaks. The bike really goes now, and is very well laid-out and comfortable, with decent brakes and very good handling. Quite a few of the Veloists were envious! One of our club members discovered a lost secret of prewar machines - they have a very low saddle height, and thus are ideally suited for women riders. I'm not sure why this isn't better advertised; perhaps the next big market for older machines will be women looking for a stylish alternative to ridiculously tall modern bikes.

On Saturday our bikes were lined up under the trees for the annual Concours d'Oiligance, and a picnic on a lovely sunny day. This always seems to be a good time for bike testing and swapping, sometimes selling, and recounting the high points on the rally. Saturday night at our AGM/banquet at the Benbow saw me hand over the reigns of power to Corey Padula, who'll host the even in BC next summer, possibly at the South Thompson Inn in Kamloops, which hosted us several years ago (a perfect location, as one can order margaritas by poolside).

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