Plumas National Forest Fire Lookout

Cliff area ahead! They aren’t kidding! 

If one was to rip-up this road at night you could easily fly right off the mountain. Maybe during daylight also?

Had hoped to take a twisty mountain ride on two of my favorite Sierra Nevada highways. However, fire mop-up operations were still underway and the roads were closed. Needed to punt, so did a little looking around in another part of the Plumas National Forest that was open, and stumbled upon this fire lookout.

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James Langan

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Sierra BMW & Beta Motorcycles


Oroville-Quincy Hwy/Bucks Lake Rd.

Bidwell Bar Bridge Lake Oroville

This time of year the high temperature in the valley could have easily been in the nineties, but on this day it was only climbing to eighty-four. But the temperature in the valley was of little concern as I was heading back into the foothills, then up and over the much cooler Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Just a few miles east of Oroville I was following a third-generation Chevy K30 crew-cab with a monster lift and 40-inch tires. There was an International Harvester Farmall sticker in the back window and a big dog riding-shotgun. It looked like a clean mid-eighties example except for the noticeable angle at which it was traveling down the highway, the front of the truck a couple inches left of the rear.

There was a 20-foot flatbed utility trailer for-sale along the highway and I stopped for a quick look. It would make someone a nice car-hauler, $1,800.00 or-best-offer, but not today, I rode on. I caught up to the K30 quickly, both of us stopped for a flagger, my third road construction break of the day.

East side of the Bald Rock Road detour.

A few miles past Lake Oroville there was detour forcing me onto Bald Rock Road. Although a nice twisty road, Bald Rock is mostly rural-residential so extra caution and reduced speeds are appropriate. Back on Bucks Lake Road after the detour, I drove through the community of Brush Creek and was ready to roll.

If I count the Bald Rock Rd. detour, this was the fifth construction delay of the day, but as with all things, a little perspective is helpful. I’d rather sit for a few minutes on a rural highway in the middle of a forest than be rolling fast down a multi-lane freeway.

This nice flagger girl walked back to warn me about the dirt ahead and a little bump in the road that she said they had smoothed as best they could. I thanked her and said it would have to be a pretty big bump to cause me concern, and asked if I could move to the front, which she allowed.

There was no pilot car and when it was time to go she simply said to stay on the left. Proceeding forward there were lots of big construction equipment moving about and the proper path was not obvious. I’m not easily confused or disturbed by road construction, though it became apparent that I was on the left side of the left lane and on the wrong side of a several inch high berm. When I came upon the rear of a water truck in what I would have considered the left side of the road, I stopped at the driver’s window and tried to ask if I was proceeding correctly. This is not easy with a full-face helmet next to an idling ten-wheeler with construction equipment in the background. He nodded a friendly yes to my shouting and I proceeded, stopping briefly to turn the front tire at a sharp angle to get on the right side of the berm. It was nice not to be on a sport-bike with a small front tire and limited ground clearance. After 100-yards, I was back to pavement and road travelin’.

Big Bird the Mascot & Fearless Traveler

Now I was able to let the bird fly, about one hour of non-stop sport-touring. Up on top there were wildflowers, volcanic rocks and appealing distant views that would have been nice for a picture or two. But my afternoon progress had been slow and dinner was to be at to be at home with my family. Darn, I guess I’ll have to ride.

There was one last short, clean dirt section, no flagger or delay other than me pulling my camera out of my tank bag. I rode past Bucks Lake, then slowly through Meadow Valley and Quincy. After several miles on State Route 70 I turned right on Highway 89, then stopped for a small snack, water, and the last photos of the day.

Copyright © 2011 James Langan

La Porte Road, Plumas County, California


I should have called this trip a day of road construction as before I was able to reach La Porte Rd. near Quincy, California, I had already waited about thirty minutes in two construction zones on State Route 70. Once through the construction and on La Porte Rd., traffic was light until I reached the foothills west of this small town.

Traveling solo has advantages, and one of them is how quick and easy it is to stop for photos. The only person you’re delaying is yourself, no need to communicate the desire to stop, just stop. Ready to go, GO, so simple.


Slowly I rolled through La Porte, population twenty-six, and continued west, twisting downward into the great Central Valley of California. In the small community of Challenge, California, I got behind a small funeral procession of three cars, a hearse and two other vehicles. Though I don’t usually like to follow cars, particularly on twisty roads, I was not in a hurry to pass. I just slowed my pace to that of the procession and several miles later we all reached a small, rural cemetery beside the highway.

The two cars pulled off the road to park, while the old hearse stopped and waited to turn left into the cemetery gates. I was stopped directly behind the hearse, a flag-draped coffin lay inside, and on the right shoulder an elderly foreign war veteran exited his car, putting on his VFW hat. I was amongst a couple of our greatest generation; I was thankful.

Continuing southwest I came to the four-way intersection of La Porte Rd. and Oroville Bangor Highway, and almost met my third road construction delay of the day. As I was rolling up to the stop sign the construction flagger had just let his stopped cars proceed and he let me go too, pointing to my right and left as my only options. I turned right, north on the Oroville Bangor Highway, heading for Oroville, California.

Just a couple blocks into the east side of Oroville looking for a place to eat I stumbled upon a Dutch Bros. Coffee. Dutch Bros. is big in the northwest and my wife and I usually get our Dutch Bros fix when we are in Oregon, but there are more Northern California locations all the time. A double iced americano would help energize the motorcycle bunny that is Redline, while I asked for a local lunch spot recommendation. Nothing special was suggested so I grabbed a cheap, quick foot-long sub sandwich, filled Big Bird with premium and headed east on Hwy 162, also knows as the Oroville-Quincy Highway.

Copyright © 2011 James Langan

Back On Two Wheels


Plumas National Forest

After a few years of very sporadic use, and exactly zero miles over the past twelve months after changing the oils last July, it was time for Big Bird to fly again. Big Bird is my 2001 R1150GS, which I also sometimes refer to as the No BS GS. This bike has covered about 38,000 miles since new, but far too few have been logged recently. With all the high mountain backroad passes open after a long, wet winter, there was no valid excuse to not go for a day trip.

In a rush to get going, I almost left without checking my tire pressures, a cardinal sin in my book. Once underway I was a bit cool traveling seventy miles-per-hour in 65-degree weather with only a T-shirt and a textile moto jacket, forgoing my liner, as soon it would be warm.

As much as I have been modifying, using, and writing about 4×4 trucks in recent years, travel powered by two wheels is really my first love. Typically all on-road, but my preferred terrain and style is not what many street motorcyclists would find pleasurable. The narrow, tight, twisty, and sometimes rough back roads are my favorites, and often the pavement is in less than perfect condition, making an adventure-touring bike a good choice.

Compared to early riding-season trips in prior years, La Porte Road was very clean. However, the sandy debris in the right wheel-track in the photo above is a nice reminder that surface appraisal is critical. Even if you ride briskly it’s very important to stay below your personal maximum speed and skill level so you can artfully avoid hazards.

Fun stuff. Anyone can ride straight, turning and stopping is where the fun and challenge is.

Copyright © 2011 James Langan