July 23, 2013
As Hal and I had promised ourselves, we got started early today before the rain could come in and shorten our riding day. We were on Hwy. 191 by 8:30, traveling toward FR37. Remember, that was the road I named the “funnest” dirt road ever, and we wanted to ride it yet again. This time, I had the GoPro camera on my head and made sure the window in front of the lens was clean! Last time the dust ruined all the footage I shot.
Today we flew along on the moist surface, slowing down only for a couple of flooded areas and to go through the slick mud of a small landslide.
We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful morning, with the air clean and clear, scrubbed by yesterday’s rainstorm. I stayed in the moment, not thinking of anything else but riding, and it was a wonderful free feeling, riding fast and light, not caring about anything or anybody else, not thinking about what happened yesterday, or what might happen tomorrow. It was the best.
Happy as can be:
Soon we got to the intersection with FR405, and we chose to take 405 rather than continue on FR37 since we’d been on 37 several times. 405 had a fast surface as well, and then we got to 24, which would take us to the 267 again. We had wanted since our last trip to ride that stretch of 267 again because it paralleled the Black River. While riding, we would literally be right next to the running river, and we knew from yesterday’s ride that it was running quickly. We rode a brief detour onto 24A and found it dead-ended into a campground. We turned around and rejoined 24 main. Soon we got to FR267, which we took along the river for a few miles, stopping a couple of times to get photos of the river sparkling in the sun.
At Black River, on the 267:
But, surprisingly, we ran into a gate that had a “road closed” sign on it. That was totally unexpected, but we duly turned around, earning brownie points from the forest service guy that had pulled into a small parking area behind us. There might have been a washout from the recent storms, or maybe they were logging up there; at any rate, we’d been on that part of the road on the last trip. So, what to do now?
We rode back to the intersection with 24, then took it a short distance. Then we found FR68, which we enjoyed last year. This time, the road was almost deserted, and we got to ride super fast again. There were lots of twists and turns, and we only saw one person near the top that was gathering wood in the burned area. This road was open last year this time for people to get wood as well.
Soon we came out at the Big Lake recreation area, and stopped there for a break. Coincidentally, one of my co-workers was there, too (one of my favorites, Jenny N.), and we talked for a while. She and her family are staying at one of the campgrounds right around the corner; many of us are on our “last fling” of the summer before we have to go back to work! But we only talked briefly about work because we didn’t want to spoil our vacations by thinking about it!
Jenny left to go meet up with her family members who were kayaking on the lake, and Hal and I cast wary eyes at the sky. Dark clouds were building, and during the time we hadn’t been paying attention, they’d built up enormously.
“We’d better get going,” I warned Hal. Sometimes he acts like I am being a spoilsport, but I was worried we’d get caught out in a tremendous storm as we almost did two days ago. I have that extra sense about storms, and I’m usually correct. So, we circled part of the lake on the main road, which was paved through the recreation area, and turned once again onto FR249, which would take us back to Alpine.
At first we were able to travel fast again, but then we had to cool it down when we got into a ”road work” section. The grader had just been through there, the gravel was deep, and there was a huge berm made of very deep gravel in the middle of the road. We still were able to travel quickly, though, which was fortunate because I kept glancing over my shoulder and seeing the dark clouds. We seemed to be moving away from them, though, skirting them as we traveled northeast, trying to outrun the coming storms. It didn’t take long, and we were back at the 191. It had been 14 miles from Big Lake.
We rode the short distance into Alpine, and saw evidence of even more flooding, probably from yesterday afternoon’s rain. Sometimes these storms can yield big rainfall, and these two in a row were starting to cause problems for some areas of Alpine. We went to The Tackle Shop to gas up. It’s one of those things that long distance travelers know: never pass up an opportunity to fuel up, or to go to the bathroom!
The clouds were still looming off to the west, and I put my rain jacket on. I thought we would for sure run into a storm on the way back to the lodge, and I wanted to at least be halfway ready. I also told myself if we ran into a big storm again, I’d put my rain pants on first, then be sure to turn on the Go Pro camera! Sometimes I don’t think people believe me when I tell them about the strength and fury of some of the storms I’ve ridden through.
After we left Alpine, we again saw evidence of big rain the day before. Streams were running along the side of the road, and in places, were flooding over the road. We rode in sun and clouds, and sometimes it grew very dark. I thought it was going to start pouring at any moment. Amazingly, even though the clouds ballooned up to the right of us as we rode, we made it back to home base without a drop. It wasn’t until later in the afternoon that it rained, and all the time I was riding I was sure the sky was going to open up any second.
Eventually, after we were safely in for the day, the rains began, but it was nice for me because then it was reading and writing time. Later, Hal and I went for a walk in the quiet forest, the clouds and moisture hanging in the air making everything heather gray. The only sound we heard was the sound of our own footsteps, and the lovely sound of rainwater dripping off leaves.
Tomorrow looks like another dirt motorcycle riding day, with maybe some mountain biking thrown in there as well. But, we’ll be sure to get going early again!