Saturday, 12 September 2009

Day 7: Grants Pass, OR – San Rafael, CA

A beautiful run through the coastal ranges of Oregon and into California, mostly heavily wooded.  And much better weather, at least to start with, than the Zen riders had – they’d started quite late from Grants Pass and encountered cold and rain.  Mind you, as soon as US-199 reached US-101 at Crescent City, the temperature dropped about fifteen degrees as the sea fog rolled in, and remained thus for the duration.  The road had only to climb a few hundred feet, or head a short distance inland and there was bright sunshine once more.  This, sadly, did not lend itself to photography, which is why there’s not much from today over on flickr.

I didn’t bother looking for the duck pond in Leggett, and now rather wish I had.  Shortly after turning off US-101 onto CA-1 I espied at the roadside a lime green Dodge Viper, a metallic orange Porsche Boxster S and an electric blue Chevrolet Corvette.  So, when held up a few minutes later by a Toyota Pious being driven with even more piety than usual, the Viper’s snout appeared in the mirror, I pulled over and let all three of them past, as obviously my crappy Mustang would only be in their collective way once the Pious driver let us all past.

Wrong.

They bimbled down the eighteen miles to Rockport at no more than forty miles per hour max.  The Viper’s brake lights didn’t come on once, whereas I had to keep hitting the anchors to avoid torpedoing the ‘vette rudely from astern.  Now I’m no latent Schumacher, as an Oregon native proved to me in Colorado four years ago when his poxy Pontiac Sunfire – basically a Vauxhall Astra – proved easily capable of keeping up with my 340 bhp 4WD Audi S4, so clearly these gits weren’t trying.  All the gear and no idea, as the saying goes.

From Mark Richardson’s book and various resources on teh Intarwebs, the location of the final scene between Chris and Bob (or was it Phaedrus?) seems to be on South Caspar Drive, confusingly a couple of miles south of Caspar itself.  The gap between the fancy houses described by Richardson has not yet been built on, so a quick photo and then onwards towards San Francisco.

Although the above is the last piece of exposition in Zen, the travelogue continues a while.  It mentions passing through Ukiah, Hopland and Cloverdale, Asti, Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Novato before San Francisco Bay is finally visible, but doesn’t address how they got from Mendocino, on the coast, to Ukiah, which lies some forty miles inland.  Either they backtracked north of Caspar and took route 20 to US-101 at Willits, or went on Comptche-Ukiah Road and Orr Springs Road, which leads directly to Ukiah.

I favoured the latter from the map and Google Street View.  There’s no mention of retracing the route – The Narrator having previously told Chris that to go back would add too many more miles – in the book, it’s a direct route, it’s satisfyingly wiggly and the overhanging trees are in places low enough to deliver a biff to the nut of an eleven year old standing up on the footpegs.  But, some of the gradients are steep enough that they would surely have taxed Pirsig’s heavily laden 305 cc machine and, perhaps crucially, it may well have been unpaved in 1968.  Indeed, my road atlas shows the thirty miles between Comptche and Ukiah as being unpaved in 2009, but M. Michelin is not always accurate about such things, as I discovered to my discomfort in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming last year.  So I probably went the wrong way.  Bugger.

But I eventually got back onto 101, with the temperature climbing steadily as I drove away from the coast.  At Ukiah it had broken through 100 degrees (the car’s temperature thingy only does Fahrenheit, I’m afraid), finally peaking at 107.  It is a curious thing to drive a convertible with the top down and the air-con on full blast.

So that pretty much concludes the following of the Zen route, and I take my hat off to those who did it back in July 1968, on a not-large motorcycle, in twelve days, including a couple of short ones and four nights camping.  There is, however, a postscript, which I’ll add tomorrow…

Though for the day: How can anyone leave a huge sign at the roadside opposite their farm, advertising for sale “SWEET CRON”?

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