We awakened in Roseburg Sunday morning to broken clouds and a forecast for changeable weather. As the day progressed, we’d get a little of everything. That wasn’t the plan; that’s just the way it worked out. I had resurrected a previously-used route from Roseburg to Redding because it was pretty good, and it was less work for me than creating a new one. There were other routes and variations to the old route I’d considered, but I wanted to save some of those roads as options for our as-yet-unplanned return trip.
Our planned route from Roseburg was a loop east that would reconnect us with the interstate about 90 minutes later. There are very few ways to get through the Siskiyous on paved roads, and the only one within our reach is the interstate. We reconnected with I-5 north of Myrtle Creek, went over the pass, and then exited the interstate in Canyonville. On our previous trip, we had discovered a diner in Canyonville where there was a sassy waitress, so we stopped in there again for breakfast. The sassy waitress wasn’t there, but we had a nice breakfast anyway.
With the best of intentions and great expectations, I led our troupe east from Canyonville on some very nice secondary highways. My plan was to work our way to the Oregon-California border on twisty secondary and forest service roads, connect with the interstate to cross the last pass into California, and then wend our way south to Redding. It was a good route we’d used before. One thing I hadn’t considered when choosing this already-proven route is that we had previously ridden it in July. When I grabbed the GPS file from my archive folder I didn’t throw it on the screen and scope it to make sure it was good, as it was a proven performer. Had I done that, I might have noticed it had a steady elevation gain, and there were two points at which the route might – just might – be snowy on an early spring day with cumulus clouds building on the southwest side of the Siskiyou range.
We spent a couple of hours riding the route, having fun on the twisty pieces of roads, enjoying the wonderful scenery in the greenery of early Spring. As we passed through Butte Falls on our way south, the weather shifted to colder and wetter and, about 10 miles out of Butte Falls, we ran into freezing rain. Motorcycle tires have terrible traction on snow and ice. I kept pushing on, hoping we’d crest a pass and begin dropping in elevation. The freezing rain turned to snow, and soon I couldn’t keep my helmet visor cleared. My solution was to raise my visor and push on. I was determined to make it through, as I’m habitual about completing things I plan, particularly motorcycle routes.
Soon after raising my snow-covered visor because I couldn’t see through it, I found my glasses were now being covered with snow. I tilted my head down so I could continue riding, peering over the top of my glasses. At some point it finally became clear to me that there was no way the five of us were going to be able to safely make it over this mountain pass. I pulled to the side of the road, got off my bike, and was instantly aware of our precarious situation. The road was much slicker than I had realized. I wasted no time in telling the guys we had to turn back and, with a new appreciation of our predicament, got us turned around and headed back down the road. I don’t recall if anyone else got off their bike when we stopped but, had they, they may have been as nervous as I about even being able to get back below the snow-line.
After backtracking a couple of miles, we all pulled over to reconnoiter, and I plotted a new course that would put us back on the interstate in Medford to cross into Northern California.
With the time we had lost backtracking out of the higher elevations, and with the potential of running into a similar problem if we tried to use secondary roads again, I resigned myself to an hour on the interstate. I could live with that, and besides, I was looking forward to some warm California sunshine.
After being waved through the fruit inspection facility at the border, we took the first main exit from I-5 to Highway 96 about twelve miles north of Yreka. We cut south through the canyon on highway 263 and, at the north end of town, took a break.
In the weeks prior to our trip, my friend Kurt brought to our attention a news story about a section of Highway 3 near Trinity Center north of Weaverville that had suffered a landslide. With that road closed, there were no other options through that part of the state. While planning the route, I had tried to determine where the landslide had occurred, and whether there was a detour we could use, but was unable to get a solid answer. I figured when we got closer, we could get some local information. At the gas station at the north end of Yreka, I asked the gal at the cash register if she knew anything about it. She knew nothing, so I guessed we were still too far north for it to be a “local” issue. She was helpful, and offered me a couple of phone numbers I might try to get highway information. One was for the CHP, and the other was a Cal-Trans phone number printed on a note taped to a post adjacent to the cash register.
Not being a person who likes to talk to law enforcement, particularly not liking the idea of actually initiating any sort of contact with them, I disregarded the CHP phone number and called the second number she had suggested. It was supposed to be the Cal-Trans information line. When the automated system answered and I listened to the menu offered, I knew I wasn’t going to get any answers here. The menu was, ‘Press 1 if you want to speak to a man; press 2 if you want to speak to a woman.’ I had reached California’s “hottest” party-line for people looking to hook-up.
I hung up and redialed. Yep! I had dialed correctly. I played it back on speakerphone for the fellas, because I didn’t think anyone would believe me. I had to know if the gal in the station had pranked me, or if she had unknowingly been giving that phone number out to other highway travelers. When I went back in and played it on speakerphone for her, I could tell by the blood flushing her face that she had not known. She slowly turned around and crossed out the phone number posted on the information note.
The group decided to split up. Dan and Dennis wanted to ride the interstate to Redding to get to the motel. John, Marv, and I wanted to ride the rest of the route, if possible. We followed Highway 3 south to the town of Callahan where we needed to make a decision to either detour over to the interstate, or go through the Trinity Alps and connect with Highway 299 at Weaverville.
Callahan is a tiny town with a post office open two hours a day, a small general store, and a couple of old buildings that had been refitted as movie sets. The town is a remnant of the gold rush, and there’s almost nothing left of it.
The store’s owner we had met and talked to on previous visits had sold out, and the store was closed. We took a break anyway, and the gal who now owns the store soon came out and said hello to us. It turns out she is a substitute teacher in the Redding area, and she’s living and working in Callahan while completing some study work. I asked her if we would be able to continue on and get through, and her information was that you could get through only with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. That settled the decision for us. We took the Gazelle-Callahan Road over to the interstate and rode that the rest of the way to Redding.
We checked in at our motel where we reconnected with Dan and Dennis. Our friend Chris Hemer was already there, and we got to say ‘Hello’ to him as he joined our group for the week.