Our ride on Tuesday began with the riders’ meeting in the parking lot of the Flamingo.
Bill Huth once again did a great job of briefing the riders on the day’s route and
things to watch out for. The routes were long and involved a lot of navigation, so
it was impossible to cover, or remember, it all. Basically our route was a big figure
8 that took us North and East through Calistoga, around Clear Lake (the upper loop
in the 8) and out through the Middle of Nowhere on our way back to Calistoga and
We hit the road at about 9:30 and headed east on Highway 12 for a few miles to the
Calistoga Road, where we headed generally north toward, uh, Calistoga.
The Napa Valley these days is well known for vineyards and wineries, and tourists
flock to the area to visit them. But in the old days, before being a wine connoisseur
was so stylish, the Napa Valley looked to other means to attract visitors. The primary
natural phenomenon was geothermal activity (hot underground water), left over from
much earlier volcanic activity. The day’s ride would eventually bring us to the base
of Mt. Konocti, an “extinct” volcano, for lunch. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The hot underground water springs from the ground in a lot of places in this part
of California, and many resorts appeared in and about Calistoga in the ‘30s (maybe
earlier) to offer the healing and rejuvenating properties of the mineral water to
the paying public. You will still see a number of them as you travel along the main
street of Calistoga, offering mineral baths and mud baths and stuff like that. Others
tried to capitalize on the tourist traffic these spas brought to the area with various
attractions. My favorite was always “Old Faithful Geyser (of California).” It was
located on Tubbs Lane, which was on our route this day, but the novelty of it apparently
wore off long ago as there was no sign of its presence when we rode through the area.
They used to charge a fee to come in and watch this thing spew steam and water into
the air. We always figured there was a valve someone turned to set it off on schedule.
I actually saw it erupting once as my family drove by on our way home from Clear
Lake. Another attraction was the “Petrified Forest.” There’s a theme developing
here! “Let’s name local phenomena after famous attractions.” Old Faithful is in
Yellowstone National Park and the Petrified Forest is a National Park in Arizona.
So, finally to the point, we turned off Calistoga Rd. onto Petrified Forest Rd.,
which brought us to Calistoga. Phew. By the way, Calistoga is also known for the
Napa County Fairgrounds, which has a race track. There were flat track races there
the following weekend. We hear it was a great event.
We bypassed a trip through Calistoga proper on this leg of the journey, heading west
for a mile or so, then generally north on the previously mentioned Tubbs Lane. Tubbs
Lane dead ends at Highway 29, the Lake County Highway, and we turned left for a great
ride over Mt. St. Helena. The peak of Mt. St. Helena is a little over 4,000 ft.,
but our route took us through countless turns on the way up to a little over 2,000
ft. The ride down the backside of Mt. St. Helena was interrupted many times by construction
and single lane traffic, something we encountered a couple of times on Monday, too.
Once we got past all the construction, we had clear sailing. That is until we encountered
more construction. It was one of the themes of the day (that, and increasingly hot
weather). We gassed up in Middletown, where Highway 29 makes a left and heads off
to Lakeport at the western end of Clear Lake. We would revisit Highway 29 several
times that day. We continued straight onto Highway 53 past Hidden Valley Lake, through
Lower Lake, and the town of Clear Lake at the southeast end of Clear Lake. This is
where we got reacquainted with road construction. If we were in a hurry all the construction
might have been annoying, but when you’re on a motorcycle with a bunch of friends,
even the annoyances are better than real life.
Highway 53 dead ends at Highway 20. If you turn right on Highway 20 and stick to
it, you will eventually end up in the Sierras near Lake Tahoe. We headed the other
way and ended up at Clear Lake in just a few miles.
Clear Lake is shaped like a two-legged octopus (click on the map link, above, to
see what I mean). The main body is called Upper Lake and is roughly circular in
shape. Lakeport lies at the western end of Upper Lake. Two fingers, the “legs” of
this deformed octopus, branch off at the eastern end of Upper Lake. The southern
finger, known as Lower Lake, runs for several miles to the east and the town of Clearlake
lies at its eastern tip. The other finger, known as East Lake, also runs for several
miles to the east and the town of Clearlake Oaks lies at its eastern tip. There is
an island in the middle of East Lake called Rattlesnake Island. We were always afraid
to step foot on Rattlesnake Island when I was young because we figured it was full
of rattlesnakes. Years later I found out there are NO rattlesnakes on the island,
but if you were to view it from above it looks like a rattlesnake. Highway 20 runs
along the north shore of East Lake and Upper lake.
We rode through numerous lakeside towns as we traveled along the north shore. Clear
Lake Oaks, Glenhaven, Lucerne, and Nice (pronounced niece) to be exact. I doubt the
Lucerne and Nice of France look much like these two little towns. The route sheet
told us to take the Nice-Lucerne cutoff and then turn left onto Highway 29 (yes the
same road we were on earlier), but I decided to lead my little group through the
town of Lakeport just to be different. It’s been about 15 years since I took this
route, but at the time I was very familiar with Lakeport and could find my way around
without any problems. This day I was amazed to discover my memory had faded and very
little looked familiar. I really hoped I was going to find my way and successfully
lead my little group to our lunch destination in Kelseyville. As we were riding through
Lakeport I noticed some vintage looking motorcycles parked at the curb outside a
club up ahead. As we rode by I realized they were fellow Yerba Buena chapter members
who had stopped off the route for a cold beverage. We waved as we rode by and I thought
it was funny that while riding off route we encountered more of our group doing the
same. It turns out this group had not yet been on any part of the day’s route. See
“Bonehead Award” discussion at the end of this writeup.
We actually managed to find our lunch destination shortly thereafter. A very nice
little lakeside park with a launch ramp for boats and a huge parking lot. We didn’t
fill the lot to capacity, but we did pretty good! The pictures in the picture gallery
were taken before the full crowd showed up. At least 30 more bikes arrived after
those pictures were taken.
Lunch was again catered by Everyone Eats and it was great.
After lunch we headed into the town of Kelseyville where most of us got gas. Yes,
that was a town. We hit Highway 29 (again) and headed east for a few miles to Highway
175 which took us on a great ride through the Cobb Mountain area and Hobergs. This
was another area that was very popular with tourists back in the ‘30s and ‘40s. You
don’t necessarily realize the elevation gain as you’re riding because the slope is
very gentle, but by the time you reach Cobb Mountain you’ve climbed to just over
3,000 feet. The main clue is the type of vegetation you see. Around Clear Lake you
mainly see Oak trees, Manzanita and dead grass. As you travel along Highway 175 you
start seeing mostly evergreens and you definitely get that feeling of being in the
mountains. I can see why tourists would have enjoyed this area back in the day. It’s
got a very peaceful feeling about it and you feel like you’re a million miles from
We eventually ended up in Middletown again, where we turned left onto Highway 53.
Deja vous again. But only for a mile or so as we soon turned off onto Butts Canyon
Rd. Butts Canyon Rd. is the direct route to the Middle of Nowhere which, by the way,
is a great place to be. Did I mention most of us got gas in Middletown? The Middle
of Nowhere is a great place to be as long as you have gas in your tank, otherwise
not so much so. Surprisingly, out there in the Middle of Nowhere we came across the
Pope Valley Service auto repair shop at the junction with Howell Mountain Road. I
was still leading my group and mistakenly thought this was the road we were supposed
to turn right on. For all the people who came from far away to join us on this National
Road Run and thought the routes were tough to follow, please note that us locals
had problems, too. By turning here I cut off probably 15 miles of what looks like
it should have been a great ride through Las Posadas State Forest and the Lake Hennessey
City Recreation Area. Howell Mountain Rd. was a great ride, though, and it eventually
brought us through the town of Angwin and down to the Silverado Trail. The Silverado
Trail runs from Napa to Calistoga up the east side of the Napa Valley, forming the
lower part of the day’s figure 8. It offers great vineyard and winery views, uninterrupted
by the various small towns which are located along Highway 29 on the west side of
the valley. When we reached Calistoga we turned left on Highway 29 (how many times
were we on that road?) and took the scenic route through downtown Calistoga. If you
were alert, you noticed the sign on the other side of the road where Silverado Trail
meets 29 announcing the upcoming Flat Track Races at the fairgrounds.
We then headed back to Santa Rosa via the Petrified Forest Road and Calistoga Road.
What a great ride! If you followed the route exactly, I’m told it was close to 180
miles and every bit of it was vintage motorcycle perfect.
Former Yerba Buena AMCA Merchandise Officer, Mark Addis, encountered a rear tire
blowout on his 1957 Panhead, while riding on the wrong side of Clear Lake, with a
group of people who are very talented in doing the Curly Shuffle. An incident that
captured Mark the top honors "Bone Head Award" during Wednesday night's Banquet at
the Flamingo hotel. Mark could be heard saying to himself, " I have been doing bone
head crap all my life, it's about time my efforts were recognized".
It was later discovered that the blowout was caused by a large nail that ripped a
one inch hole in the tube.