Friday, June 15, 2012
Vision Quest: Synopsis and key info.
Now that the tour and narrative are complete, I wanted to put together a basic day-by-day data sheet in one place for people who want to repeat this tour. It's one of the best that I've done, and if you're up for a pleasant two week challenge in the western USA, you can't do much better!
Here's an overview of the route (Click to be taken to interactive map with profiles, zoom features, etc.) :
The riding is all between 4,000 and 6,000 ft. Much of it can be extremely hot in the summer, but water is generally available, so it's not like riding pure desert. We did the ride from mid to late-May, which is an ideal time. Fall, perhaps, would be even better, think mid-Sept. to mid-Oct. No chance of bugs at that time of year, although some surface water at wild camps might not be available in the fall. Plan accordingly.
Logistics for Susanville: As noted, we left our car at Big Sky Discount Self Storage, which was perfect. Nice people, and I'm sure the rates for leaving a car there for a couple of weeks would be quite reasonable. We got a free pass as support for our raising funds for wounded warriors. Just west of the storage place is an RV park, well located next to full service groceries, pizza joint, Starbucks! Your final miles will be on Johnstonville Rd (A27)., which will take you right to Big Sky Discount Self Storage.
Day one: 53.5 miles/3330 ft. of climbing. Great day--two passes. The best camping is at Willow Creek, a National Forest Service spot. If you can't make that or don't want to go so far, the north end of Eagle Lake also has a campgound not far off Rt. 139. Willow Creek is MUCH nicer. We found the water turned off in mid-May, so bring a filter for very early and late in the season.
Day two: 45.8 miles/1065 ft. of climbing. A moderate day unless you hit headwinds or heat. More classic riding. Good supplies can be had in Adin at a nice country store. Rumor has it you can camp in town somewhere, too, but Adin comes very early in the day on the schedule in laying out here. Get water in Lookout or one of the ranches shortly thereafter because you are unlikely to find any in the National Forest. We tanked up at the post office in Lookout where we had lunch. We made it as far as Forest Service Rd. 84/Sand Flat--Pitt River Rd. A short ride east landed us in a good--if mosquitoliscious--camp. The bug level will vary from year to year. We suspect that the light winter and early spring led to the bugs getting us at this time of year--but ya never know.
Day three: 20.4 miles/190 ft. of climbing. This amounts to a virtual rest day, and riders can easily make it to the very nice campground in the Lava Beds National Monument. HOWEVER, the Eagle's Nest RV Park offers showers, laundry and really friendly hosts. There are no supplies available between Adin and Tulelake. The owners of the RV park offered to pick up supplies for us! Call ahead and give them some time, and I'm sure they'll help other riders. These are great folks. Shaded camping area for warm days.
Day four: 15 miles/805 ft. of climbing. This is the short and beautiful run into the monument with a couple of good, solid climbs. The visitor center has some basic snacks--mostly energy bars. Campground is wonderful. Stay there. Cool caves to explore and great views.
Day five: 53.3 miles/1380 ft. of climbing. Lots of flat riding across the Tule Lake basin on this day. Buy supplied in Tulelake, or you can wait until Bonanza if you don't need or want fresh produce. Although there are some ranches before the camping area, we watered up at the store in Bonanza. Do the climb out of this little town and start the drop from the summit. Keep your eyes peeled for a Forest Service road taking off to the right. Push through some sandy sections to flat areas in the trees--nice! NO water at camp.
Day six: 75.5 miles/3100 ft. of climbing. This was one of our mega days, although not extreme by most touring standards. In retrospect, it would have been nice to break it up. Our long day took us all the way to Lakeview and camp/showers/etc. at the fairgrounds. To break this run in two, you can resupply in Bly and dig into the big climb up Quartz Mtn. Pass. On the way up, you begin to get close to a creek, which should be flowing every spring but looks like it might dry up in fall. Keep this in mind and get some local intel if you go late season or plan on carrying water up from Bly. About a mile or so from the summit, I spotted a dirt road that drops down and crosses back to the creek. Looks like a fine camping area. Staying somewhere in this region makes the run into Lakeview a pleasant jaunt.
Day seven: 57.7 miles/2365 ft. of climbing. This was the day that took us to Adel. A super fantastic day of bike touring! But, as the narrative describes, the RV "park" in Adel blows. My suggestion is to break the run to Lakeview into two days from Bonanza and make the run from Lakeview a bigger day, heading south about 8 or 9 miles beyond Adel to camp by the creek a little way beyond where the pavement turns to dirt. So you'll have about a 67 mile day. The road south of Adel is basically flat, so it's not a big deal, and you can pick up adult beverages for you fabulous camp by the creek. Bring a filter for the creek water or pack from Adel. There are some ranches along the road, too, including one right where the pavement ends, so you could get potable water there, too, I suppose.
Day eight: 60 miles/2560 ft. of climbing. As noted in day seven, if you do the long run beyond Adel, this day will be only 51 miles. Cedarville is the obvious objective for the day, although you can find alternate campsites along the way, especially along the dirt road. We did cross a creek some miles in, so wild water is available. Also, near the end, we passed some homes near the road. This day is the dirt day, twenty miles of it on Twenty Mile Rd.--but super high quality dirt. I wouldn't want very narrow tires, but conventional touring skins are fine. I rode on Marathon Supreme 1.6" wide with virtually no tread. I simply lowered the pressure a bit for extra bite and traction. Camping in Cedarville is in the fairgrounds--showers, too! Call ahead if you are going to get in late so people know what's up, although our late arrival didn't cause any problems. Good groceries, hardware store, cafe, and library in Cedarville. Limited days at the library. Cafe has wifi. A great place for a rest day.
Day nine: 71.4 miles/3575 ft. of climbing: See the narrative for the problems we encountered, but I would have rather broken this section up. My original plan, which still seems preferable, was to turn east at Likely and head about 4 to 5 miles into the National Forest, making a 45--50 mile day. The Pit River flows through the area for water, or you can haul from the store in Likely. It looks like a flat to downhill run to the Pit. Alturas, the town to the north that you will pass through, is a full-service town. No bike shop, but the True Value does have some bike parts. I think there's an RV park in/near Alturas for camping there, if you prefer. Note: There are no supplies to be had after Likely until you get to Litchfield, which has a small country store, although it was for sale. Business opportunity, anyone?
Day ten: 54.7 miles/793 ft. of climbing. As I explain in the narrative, this day did not go as planned. My preferred itinerary would be to camp outside Likely then, for this day, ride to a National Forest Service road and/or campground a short distance down from the last summit. Keep your eyes open, and you'll see it on the left as you descend. Clearly marked. Lots of trees. Get water in Ravendale from residents. We ended up camping in Termo and pushing all the way to Susanville on this day. Using my preferred itinerary, the final day would be in the 30 mile range and virtually no climbing--nice! This would have given us more time to get some of the driving done as we had come from eight hours south. Ugh.
So, given my ideal schedule, this tour involves 12 days of riding, maybe 11 if you skip the RV park outside the monument. Get out there and ride. This loop is begging for some more action.