Saturday, April 30, 2011
A few years ago about this time I did this same trip with my friend Pat Bianchi and the Southern California BMW club I had a wonderful time then and being that Spring is always the perfect time of year to see Kern County and the old town of Kernville I did it again.
The ride is really not all that many miles (if one is used to three to five hundred miles a day) but as always the members of the BMW club who map out the route make the most scenic and non-direct way of getting there and it ends up being over 160 miles. This years route skipped the ride through the Angeles National Forest and took a more direct but obscure way of getting to Kernville
Meeting up early Saturday morning at a Denny's off the 5 freeway I pulled up right as the group was about to take off and not needing breakfast besides a fistful of vitamins and a healthy dose of caffeine my timing was perfect
The weather this April morning was quite nice as everyone was eager to explore some back roads and highways.
Taking a few of the local LA canyons to start we ended up having a nice scenic route untill the terrain opened up and we came into Leona Valley
From Leona Valley we headed up over the mountain and down into the
Palmdale/Lancaster basin. This area is rather flat and pretty much uninteresting till you start climbing in elevation
Approaching the Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm on the Willow Springs Road always gives me a good feeling when I see energy produced without a large carbon footprint
and there were hundreds maybe a few thousand of them rotating from the wind in that area
The Southern California Edison company who has built and operated the wind farm since the 1980's plans on developing another fifty square miles of wind farm power for the future
We all stopped to fuel up just outside of the town of Tehachapi, and at the fuel stop Pat and I learned that everyone would be having lunch in town, not being hungry quite yet we decided to move on and have our lunch further along the route where we ate a few years back
So as the group stopped at one of the restaurants Pat and I passed through the city of Tehachapi,
It's a city that was incorporated in 1909 and is located in its namesake the Tehachapi Mountains between the cities of Bakersfield and Mojave in Kern County California.
The area is known for its Tehachapi train Loop, Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm, and it's proximity to Edwards Air Force Base where the Space Shuttle lands
Nice little town if your ever around that area
Riding by the Tehachapi train loop we headed onto hwy 58 for a short distance and got off on the Bealville road which takes you through the mountains to the small ranching town of Caliente
There are always some interesting old structures along the various
back roads of California and so as I rode I would snap a photo of one of them if it caught my eye.
Like this old stone home built probably somewhere in the 1800's
Or this nice old barn
And sometime it's just a ramshackle old shack with a lot of character
As we arrived at the Twin Oaks General store we were now in the civic center of town....... Post office, general store and cafe all in one old school house and that's it for the town, all the rest is cattle ranches where the cattle are free range which means for you dear traveler at any moment on the road you can encounter any number of cattle so you really have to ride with that in mind
I liked the old Mail Pouch sign on the front of the building
So after decent enough lunch, but nothing to write home about it was time to hit the road again, as you take the Caliente/Bodfish road north It's a real nice ride by the local ranches and forest then a gradual ride up and over the mountains till you reach the top and the view opens up as you see the large valley below and Lake Isabella
Now before you come to Lake Isabella you go through the small town of Bodfish and in Bodfish you will find the Silver City Ghost Town
And every time I've gone through these parts the ghost town has been closed because it was too early in the morning and now that it was mid-afternoon finally it was a good time to check it out so Pat and I made a stop.
The place is what they call a composite ghost town, opened in the late 1960's by Dave & Arvilla Mills and the town is comprised of old original buildings that were all found in and around Kern county many of which were slated for demolition and saved by the Mills.
Operated for several years the place closed and fell into disrepair for quite awhile until the Corlew family purchased the property in 1990 and have run a great antique business and film location site for the ghost town since then.
As they say this place is off the beaten path but if your ever in the area stop on in and check out some of the great collectibles they have for sale and for a small five dollar fee you can go inside the ghost town and view all the wonderful old western structures and dioramas that are there.
Here's the old church
And the Marshals office
Here's some great old glass bottles
And a diorama inside the mercantile
A lot of faded old texture can be found on the buildings which are rumored to be haunted......... and that seems to go with any old western town or city I've ever visited.
From Bodfish it's a short ride to the town of Lake Isabella
If your someone who likes boating or fishing this is the place, my sister and her family have a vacation home here and the weekend we passed through there happened to be a huge fishing tournament with several tagged fish that if you caught one would net you a nice $10,000 payday.
But all I had time for passing through Isabella was a few pic's of some of the local vintage motel signage.
Heading into the last bit of the day's trip it's about fifteen miles or so to Kernville once you pass through Lake Isabella.
Kernville, and the Kern Valley were named after artist and topographer Edward M. Kern, who was part of a group of settlers in 1845.
The settlers camped at a fork of two rivers which is now in the middle of Lake Isabella. These two rivers are now the South Fork and North Fork of the Kern.
The 1848 gold rush led to the formation of a town called Rogersville which was later renamed Whiskey Flat after the introduction of saloons and after that finally renamed Kernville in 1861.
So many things one can do here, fishing, white water rafting, hiking, bicycling, Kayaking or just riding through the local mountains and forest like we do.
Pat and I landed at the same motel that we stayed at a few years back called the Kern Lodge
This is an old school ranch style motel that is impeccably kept and I always enjoyed staying here.
One thing they do have is a friendly dog who likes to come into your room hopeful for some kind of hand out or snack, this version was different than the one we encountered a few years ago but he was just as friendly.
After we unpacked Pat suggested we go check out the river which seemed like a good idea to me and this time of the year the Kern rivers flow is at it's peak with the winters snow melt
The other thing you see are the wild California poppies that are seemingly blooming all over the countryside
And being spring all kinds of other plants are flowering to attract the yearly interplay they have with the honey bee
We rode back to the motel for a little rest and relaxation, now the other cool thing about the Kern motel is that a micro-brewery and restaurant is right next door and the local market is across the street.
So while I got cleaned up Pat went over to the market for some beer (because a long day on the road makes a guy kinda thirsty) and wouldn't you know sitting on the porch not doing a dang thing with a cold one while taking in the late afternoon sun seemed to truly be one of life's simple pleasures.
Well after about a half hour of that kind of porch sitting Pat and I went back to the center of town to see what old whiskey flat (Kernville) was all about.
So we landed at this saloon called the Sportsman Inn and wouldn't you know it all of our BMW club friends were there getting well oiled and having a good head start on us.
So we hung out there for quite awhile talking about the days ride and motorcycling, one thing I've found is that you always meet a quite diverse group of individuals that ride motorcycles and although we all come from different backgrounds, careers or beliefs one common thread runs through all of us and that is the love of the road and the adventure one can find traveling along the highway.........It's why you ride,
and you know that whatever it is you do during the day or week, what comes to mind many times in those contemplative moments is the simple whisper of the thought of just getting on your bike and hitting the road again........ everything in between sometimes just feels like passing time till you can get back on your motorcycle and ride.
So the scheduled restaurant for the groups nights evening meal was at this local Italian restaurant and since we were a large group and there were other hungry travelers most of the seats were taken so Pat, Michael, Rick and myself decided to check out the local Mexican restaurant up the street.
One thing I always order at any Mexican restaurant is the Chili Verde and this place didn't disappoint.
And so while we were waiting for our dinner I decided to take a short walk to the river before the sun set and take a picture of the Kern as it passed through town.
A great meal, good conversation with friends all under an ascending full moon
what a real nice way to end the day.........
Over dinner one of the topics we discussed was what route to take back home the following morning and Michael suggested taking Hwy 155 which he said was quite scenic and being that neither Pat or I had ever been on that road it sounded like a great way to take the long way home.
I got up early and packed my gear and headed to the local liquor store and gas station to fill up the Harley
Always on the lookout for cool vintage neon signs I caught this one of the Whispering Pines Lodge
I met Pat, Michael and Rick for breakfast at one of the local cafes early the next morning and while the guys had breakfast I went for a little walk and took a few pictures of Kernville.
Here's a Kayaker going through a course on the river
So that pretty much was it as the four of us headed out on the road again towards highway 155...... as we passed lake Isabella it looked quite calm and perfect weather for the fishermen and their tournament
Hwy 155 takes you up through the southern part of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and it's a really scenic mountain road with lots of twists and turns as you ride by the wonderful topography and forest along this mountain road, I can highly recommend this very cool highway
As we climbed up in elevation the weather started to change from bright and sunny to dark and overcast
I quite liked this change in the weather and as we neared the top of the grade there was this beautiful old oak tree with a view of the great expanse below so the four of us stopped for a bit to take some pictures
Pat and I
As we rode down the mountain the clouds started to break up and again it was a nice transition in weather as the bits of sunlight made the lush green mountainside even more beautiful.
Stopping in the small ranching community of Glenville which is another of those little towns with no stoplights just a general store/gas station, saloon and a cafe
While we took a break I walked around and took a few pic's
There was this great old mechanic's shop with a lot of funky odds and ends
From Glenville it was a short ride to the small town of Woody that was founded by the first pioneer in these parts Dr. Sparrell W. Woody in 1862, and in 1894 gold and copper was discovered here so Woody went from a ranching community to mining........
Now it's come full circle and it's back to ranching
Here's one of the old original wood structures from the 1800's
The surrounding countryside of Woody was quite nice with rolling hills and giant oak trees dotting the landscape
The further you travel south the flatter the terrain becomes as you pass large open cattle ranches
Besides cattle there was a nice small group of paint horses that I spotted along the road, they were quite curious as horses many times are and they obliged me for a few photos
Rick was nice enough to take this one of me with the horses
As we came closer to Bakersfield the landscape was less cattle ranches and more oil fields
As we arrived in Bakersfield Pat and I decided to really extend the day and take Hwy 33 to the old desert Oil town of Taft while Michael and Rick decided to go a different route.
Taft was a bustling community in the 1930's and 40's when vast amounts of oil was extracted here in one of the largest oil fields ever discovered in the US.
Now the town is slowly fading away as nary a soul was to be seen on Main Street
Found this cool sign for Mr. Burger but of course that place was closed too
If you ever do find yourself in Taft the one place that is worth a stop is the Taft Oil museum, the museum has all the history of the area along with several artifacts, exhibits and the last remaining wooden oil derrick of the sort that used to dot the landscape by the hundreds
As you take Hwy 33 west towards the Los Padres National forest the area is comprised of rolling hills and alfalfa fields. The other crop that is grown out this way are pistachios....... I didn't stop for any but if I find myself on this road I usually do.
A funny thing happened along this route because just outside of Maricopa Pat and I ran into Michael and Rick again so the four of us rode together till we made a stop at this junction
Michael and Rick wanted to go through Frasier Park and Pat and I were trying to get to Ojai to see the final minuets of the Laker basketball playoff game
As we sat there for a few moments some other riders pulled up
to the stop sign and It was one of those days when most everything
you would see on the back roads were motorcyclists
We said our goodbyes and headed up the mountain
This was the time that the whole mood of our trip changed
Riding motorcycles has an inherent danger and here is a good reason why it's important to stay in your lane...........Pat and I happened upon this horrific scene involving four motorcycles
I don't know for certain who was at fault but either the three sport bikes or the cruiser were on the wrong side of the road, I think by looking at the wreckage it was more than likely the cruiser rider that was on the wrong side and a head on collision occurred resulting in the death of the cruiser rider and two of the sport bike riders being air-lifted out of the mountains and another one taken away in an ambulance ........... real bad scene on what was a beautiful Spring afternoon
A scene like that always shakes you up and riding just isn't quite the same even though the scenery is beautiful all you think about is who's coming around the next corner.......are they in their lane? it's a very disconcerting way to try and enjoy your afternoon.
With those thoughts in mind Pat and I pulled over right at the spot where some car had crashed over the side the day before
Below was this beautiful creek and pool
So we took a bit of time there reflecting on what we had just witnessed
But after awhile it's just time to get back on your bike and ride so that's what we did as we headed to the Deer Creek Lodge in Ojai
The Deer Creek Lodge has been a biker stop for decades and the food is quite good there so we parked ourselves inside and ordered an amazing bowl of mac n cheese and proceeded to watch the last few minuets of the Laker game.
The only thing that sucked was the terrible acoustic guitar player/singer that was croaking some god awful music of his own making........ it was so bad I stuck my ear plugs back in just to cut the edge of his off key screech
The Lakers lost ..... seemed fitting the way the afternoon had progressed so far
So we paid our bill and continued on to Ojai.
The city of Ojai and the Ojai valley is a wonderful place to visit with a rich history of the Chumash Indians who first settled there and then the area became part of the Rancho Ojai Mexican land grant made to Fernando Tico in 1837 and he established a cattle ranch there. Tico then sold it in 1853 to prospectors searching for oil, without much success and By 1864 the area became settled.
Now the city is full of bed and breakfast establishments, golf courses, restaurants, shops and a host of other business catering to the vacationing traveler
So after passing through Ojai the rest of the trip was just another sixty five miles to home where a nice shower and some dinner would be a good way to call it a day.
All in all a great weekend with the So Cal BMW club, lot's of beautiful California countryside and another trip put in the book ......... now I'm just looking forward to the next one ;-)