Over the weekend I got to finally complete a Tour of Honor ride. I had signed up in 2018, but never got the chance to participate that year.
After looking at the California bonuses I figured I could do a SaddleSore 1000 Extreme and hit all 7 bonuses. I would head generally north and if I included my return home, could net a BunBurner Extreme as well.
My planned route took me east out of Santa Barbara to Mojave where I’d turn north to head up US-395. Just before South Lake Tahoe I turn west again until San Francisco, where I turn northeasterly back over to Susanville. Then I’d beeline it back to Santa Barbara to close out the ride.
Santa Barbara to Mojave
6:50am, let’s get this show on the road. WIth a full tank of gas I’m outta here. South on 101 to eastbound 126 went super smooth with hardly any traffic. Next was supposed to be south on I-5 to 14 West, but the offramp to I-5 south was closed. A quick glance at the map made these seem like a straightforward detour, just stay on 126 and then take a side street to the 14. However the GPS had a totally different idea, and wanted me to head through the Newhall Ranch neighborhood and then onto San Francisquito Road. I decided to see what the GPS had in mind, and it turned out to be a fantastic road. A moderatly twisty canyon road with hardly any traffic, score! This road took me through Green Valley and eventually through Lancaster where I joined the 14 and headed north into Mojave.
Mojave to Big Pine
Leaving Mojave I got a great close up view of the Mojave Airplane Graveyard. It would be so cool to go walk through that someday, though I’m prety sure it is restricted. After leaving Mojave I continue on to Indian Sptings to catch US-395. An hour or so of 395 brings me to Big Pine where I snagged my first Tour of Honor Memorial, which happened to be CA1.
Big Pine to Bishop
I left Big Pine and continued north on US-395. This part of the ride was uneventful, but pretty. Mammoth Mountain was in view for a long time as the road slowly gained some elevation. US-395 makes a left turn in Bishop, so I stopped there for fuel before continuing on. Along the way, the scenery kept getting more and more interesting. Soon I was catching glimspes of a lake, and eventualy I stopped to take a pic (click it to see it full size):
It turned out to be Crowley Lake. After a few more minutes of admiration (and leg stretching) I motored on. My target destination is fueling up in Markleeville, but I have to pass Mono Lake first.
Mono Lake - Detour
Mono Lake is just gorgeous. You start to see it in glimpses and eventually you kind of descend into it. Its truly stunning. It is so stunning, that I took a detour to the visitor center (which is really only about 1/4 mile off the main road) to catch some other views. Little did I know that the best views were yet to come. As you continue north on US-395, you continue to descend util you are at the water line next to the lake. the view from here is just incredible (excuse my crappy cell phone pics, I promise it was much better in person):
Mono Lake to Sutter Hill
After admiring Mono Lake for a bit, I continued north until I got to CA-89 (Alpine State Highway), which will take me over the pass on towards Markleeville. This portion of the ride is why CA-89 is now my favorite road I’ve ridden so far. The road is twisty, it has amazing elevation changes (from 1,700 feet to 8,300 feet),and the view is terrific.
This continued on until Markleeville, where I stopped for fuel (and to prove I didn’t continue on into Nevada). An uneventful fuel stop and I was back on the road, where on the way out of town I spotted what appears to be a private carnival collection:
After snapping the above pic, I continued on until I made a left onto CA-88 (Carson Pass Highway) and had another incredible hour of vista, twists and decents. Eventually, I found myself in Sutter Hill at my second memorial, CA7.
Sutter Hill to Stockton
After snapping my proof (and downing a cookie and some water), I checked in with an old high school friend that lives in Stockton. We had made plans before I lieft to meet up for coffee, but I was running quite behind. Luckily, her schedule was open so I agreed to come down, with a quick detour into Lodi to grab the bonus there since it wasn’t far away. 45 minutes later, I arrived in Lodi and found an Ice Cream Social happening right next to the memorial location. Unfortunatley, they had staged one of their support vehicles right in front of the memorial, so this was the best pic I could snap of CA4:
From here it was only 20 minutes or so until I reached our agreed upon Starbucks in Stockton to take a much needed break from sitting in the saddle and catch up with an old friend.
Stockton to San Rafael
45 minutes of coffee and catch-up and I was out on the road again, heading west towards San Rafael. My route took my along CA-4 and was realtiviely unremarkable. 100 minutes after I left Stockton, I reached CA5. Daylight was only a remnant, but the pic came out decent enough.
After a good stretch and then a quick jaunt to the gas station a few blocks away, I was ready to head out towards my next planned bonus, CA2.
San Rafael to Williams
There is a lot to report on this section, so feel free to grab a warm or frosty beverage.
I left San Rafael under cover of darkness and headed out north on the 101. About 40 miles later, I reached Fulton, where I left the 101 and onto CA-29 north.
The road is quite small, but it makes up for that with its beauty. Even in the dark the views and vistas were stunning. Additionally, the road got wonderfully twisted up, with terrific banks into the turns. It is mostly one lane in each direction, but due to the ascent there are a generous amount of passing lanes sprinkled throughout as well. As it was an unfamilar road I kept my speeds pretty low, generally only doing 5mph or so over the speed limit, with the occasional burst in a straight. The road was so tight, even in the straights I would only gain 5-10 more miles per hour before it was time to hit the brakes and turn again.
Coincidentally, it was only a few hours early that I had seen fellow IBA Member Eric James had posted about doing some nighttime canyon carving and describing it as quite fun. I legitmately read his comment as sarcasm, until this road. As I continued to climb up this mountain, I was beginning to think he meant it really had meant it exceitedly. This really was pretty fun.
It was just after thinking this thought that an extremely bright glare started appearing in my rear view mirrors. It was pretty dark out here, so I figured he would cut them as he neared, but he did not. Soon he was close enough that even with the bright light emitting from his front end, I could clearly see it was a late model Tacoma. In this section the road was only one lane, but it couldn’t be that much further to a passing lane, they had been every few miles as it was. His high beams were directly at my mirrors, and being this was causing me to have a hard time seeing, I slowed slightly. The road was too narrow to pull off and I had to just deal with it until I reached a passing zone or lane.
A few minutes later, he backed off for a moment and then rapidly sped up at me, suddenly mashing and holding his horn. The sudden action admittedly startled me and I responded with a middle finger (hey, I’m human). He kept blinking his high beams at me as he rode my ass. I focused on riding the bike and looking for an out, but there was literally no safe place to pull over. Another minute or two of this and then he suddenly accellerated around me, driving in the wrong lane of traffic around a blind curve to get around me.
I slowed down, not only to make sure I had time to react should he meet another oncoming car, but also to ensure I would be able to see it if he managed to taco his Tacoma. He kept accelerating and sped off down the highway. I could see another vehicle ahead and a turn or two later I could see he was doing the same kind of thing to him as well. As you can guess, 2 more turns and a passing lane appeared. Had he waited 2 more minutes, at most, he would have been able to just pass me, safely.
Now that he was gone, I went back to enjoying the ride. So many turns, such a great ascent with a mild descent. That small descent was leading me into Calistoga, the location for my next bonus, CA2.
I think the shot came out decently well for just having headlights and a single flashlight to illuminate the scene.
A check of the map showed CA3 in Chico, CA would be next. Some quick mental math predicted 2.5 to 3 hours to get there, given that the road ahead looked far more twisty the one I had just came from. I started the bike and pulled back onto CA-29.
The rest of CA-29 was just more of the same. This was the coldest part of the trip though, and I had to stop twice on the side of the road to add more gear. Also, it was dark out here. The canopy of trees was doign a good job blocking the light, and for the next 75 miles I saw only four other vehicles, all heading in the opposite direction I was.
Eventually I reached Williams, CA. At this point boht the bike and I were thristy and I was ready to walk around and confirm my legs were still with me. As I rested for a few minutes and drank some more water, I made many a mental note that I must return to CA-29 in the daylight to ride it again.
Williams to Chico
I reached Chico just after 1am. It was a cemetery, but the gates were locked. I double-checked in the mobile app, and it said 24/7. I looked around the entrence and spotted the sign “Cemetery Gates Locked at 7pm”. Luckily I could still see the memorial, so I took a pic of both the memorial (from the wrong side) and the locked gate. I hoped it would be enough.
Chico to Susanville - TOH Memorial CA6
There’s no stopping me yet, so onward I must go. I updated the nav destination to CA6 in Susanville and got a move on. The nav showed about 3 hours of riding to go, and this is tradionally the hardest time to stay awake, so I opened up Audible and started a new book.After a surprisingly quick 3 hours, I arrived at the Susanville bonus. Snapping this one felt expecially good, as this was the 7th and final California bonus. Now I just needed to continue on to my 1,000 mile proof and I could claim the Saddlesore Extreme Tour of Honor. I got back on the freeway and continued on … towards what would end up being a slight miscalculation.
Susanville to Reno, NV - SS1K Complete!!
See, I wasn’t intending to end up in Reno. At least, not yet. My original plan had me stopping just short of Reno in Dalton, CA to get my receipt so I could claim the In-State Saddlesore bonus. However, be it the darkness or fatigure, when I stopped at what I thought was a gas station in Dalton, it turned out I had ended up on the very outskirts of Reno. So much for staying in-state, but whoohoo on finishing another SS1k (and my first themed one)!!
I grabbed the recipt, and took a much needed rest break here. Actually, it was mostly a break to warm up because the temp had suddenly dropped rather extremly, and I was freezing. So I hid inside the gas station foodmart and nursed two hot chocolates, My road to warmth and recovery took about an hour before I decided it was time to continue on.
The plan now was to head back towards home, just a hair over 500 miles away from here. I had right around 11 hours to make it if I wanted to claim the BunBurner Extreme. From here on out, it would be straight interstate, straight to my bed.
Reno, NV to Colfax, CA
I boogied on back southwest towards home, but I was feeling the effects of having stayed up all night riding. I made the decision to find somewhere I could take a nap and regain some much needed energy. Along the way, I kept noticing a ton a classic cars around me on the freeway. This was not only cool as hell, but it was helping me stay alert since I kept gawking at the next classic car I came across. Eventually, I was too hungry and too tired to continue on, so I pulled into a McDonald’s in Colfax, CA for a quick breakfask and a much needed nap.
Colfax to Buellton - BB1500 Complete!
Just about 90 minutes later I woke up feeling surprisingly refreshed for having just napped in the seated position with my jacket as a pillow at an outdoor table. The place was still crawling with cars, so as I was getting on my Wing I asked the late 60s GTO parked next to me why there were so many cars. Turns out that Hot August Nights was this past week in Reno and had just ended. No wonder I was seeing so many awesome cars. Had I known I would have called this a Saddlesore and planned on staying in Reno for a day. Doh!
Mysterty solved about the classic cars, I grabbed some fuel to document my ending rest time and headed back out onto the road.
From here on to home, it was just interstate flatlands. I alternated between my audiobook and phone calls with friends and before I knew it I found myself back at the Shell station by my house. I filled the tank and collected my final receipt. I had attained my goal and completed a Tour of Honor BunBurner 1500 Extreme. One mile later I was in the comfort of my bed and off to dreamland.
In the end, I had covered 1,548 miles in 33 hours, 42 minutes while collecting all seven Tour of Honor bonuses in California. More importantly, I had ridden what is probably the most beautiful road I’ve ridden yet (US-395), pushed myself a bit futher than I had before, and had a terrific time.
Now to look at Arizona and Nevada and see if there’s a route there I might be able to tackle before the season is over.