Punchline & the Pitch.
Highlights: Hornitos Rd • Ben Hur Rd • Raymond Rd • O'Neal Rd • Auberry Rd • Sample Rd • Tollhouse Rd • Pittman Hill Rd • Highway 245 • Highway 178 • Old Stage Rd • Granite Woody Rd • Round Mountain Rd • Kern River Canyon • Caliente-Bodfish Rd • Breckenridge Rd
Here's the punchline before we get to the pitch...
When we first planned this route, we thought we'd hit the jackpot. The tour concept seemed simple at the time. Non-stop twisties through sparely populated rolling ranch land. Grassy hills that heave and sigh. Where road crews cut around hilltops instead of through them. Where roads cling to the contours of the land.
Then we realized we'd plotted out a 200-mile stretch of backroad riding with nary a gas station in sight for the length of the ride. That may seem an insignificant detail, yet it's a juicy clue to what's in store when we ride the...
But not so fast....
Every pitch has a problematic issue it must solve. In this case, it's the conundrum of Fresno & Tulare County. See... we've ridden this region before, but we keep missing roads. Point A to Point B just isn't cutting it. That one over there is awesome. That other one is great too. And that sweet ribbon of blacktop over there also - you have to ride that! Can't be missed. But why pick and choose?
Why can't we have it all? Right here. Right now.
Well kids, so glad we had this talk. It's settled then. We'll do that.
We'll ride them ALL.
Our tour begins in Chowchilla - centrally located in the Central Valley and possibly considered the middle of nowhere.
But not so to the hungry motorcyclist... over yonder in the distance the foothills lie in wait.
California has an elevation band stretching 400 miles long from north to south.
This narrow elevation band spans generally from sea level on the valley floor up to 4000 feet where the forests begin melding into the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range.
What makes this narrowband of elevation unique is the type of roads it produces. Creek bed roads that aptly follow the contours of the Fresno River in a gently swaying motion. Each river feeds into a cache of water - Hensley & Millerton Lakes, plus several others. Our tour begins here and weaves south.
There's a quiet roar of excitement when we plan out a new tour.
What surprises our riders the most is how remote these regions are. Name a place, in California, where you can ride a 60-mile stretch of twisty road and see almost no one.
A smugness of satisfaction. We use multiple platforms to carefully plan out a sequence of roads, the result is a tempo of fast slow, energetic speed, then a stretch of blacktop that demands all your senses. And once the sequencing is complete, we can feel it's something special.
There are only a few places in California where you can plan that sort of intensity. We have come to that place. This region of California that is a place to be immersed in excitement, relief and joy. They are all different emotions. Yet, for the rider, they can all be combined into one.
Auberry is not really a town. Well sort of. It's tiny. No gas. Just a small general store. Think ice cream stop. What makes it a motorcycle destination is what's around it, and more importantly, what's behind it. A low range, and then rapid elevation climbs upon switchbacks that fold in on themselves.
It's this folding that makes the ride. We ride into the foothills, and then back out. Climbing into the sky and then dropping back down towards the valley to the west.
We'll do this multiple times. There is no straight-line ride here. No quick way to get there. We're going to find the longest way possible. Cover as many roads we can with the short time we have.
But the one thing you won't say is I wish we would have hit that one. Won't happen on this ride.
We'll curl around Green Mountain, then Keys Mountain and drop out of the foothills and double back to Elwood Rd below the shadow of Dalton Mountain. One of our all-time favorites. And the crown jewel of our afternoon, this region around Miramonte and Dunlop. Ode to joy.
It's, it's... well enough. Let's just say this specific region is why we came all this way. And to cap it off, Highway 245 with that smooth sinuous pavement. You had me at hello. Isn't that how the line goes?
Here's the juice on Kern County.
But, answer this one question first... Why is it worth noting that it's possible to ride 200 miles of twisty road, but not come in contact with a single gas station? Is this Nevada, Montana, the western desert?
No, not at all. It's worth mentioning because in a state that has 38 million people, that's the very last thing that should be possible. Where are all those millions?
Not here. There are no people. There are no towns of significance, it's just plain remote. It means little other traffic, people. This is a unique corner of California that few motorcyclists know exist. It's a playground. And oh, how we like our playgrounds.
And stop fretting you with the tiny 100-mile range tank. We're not going to ride that distance. We can't.
We're going to drop the tour group out of the foothills, head for the closest happy-juice we can find, then turn right around and skedaddle back to our playground. Furthermore, we never do that.
And there's a reason why is there's always gas somewhere. Because there's people to support that station. But not here. And that's why we are here.
So now that we've wet your whistle, teased you and made you chew wistfully on your bottom lip, here's the pitch since we incensed you with the punch-line long ago in the author’s diatribe.
Regions of northern Kern County are unlike any other region of the state. The terrain is largely rolling hills, ranch land. With real life cowboys, the sort with wide-brim hats, astride a horse named Chuckles and clinking spurs too. Maybe even a swagger and a set of bow-legs here and there. A muddy pickup is certain.
The farmland stops at the All-American City Hwy, as if magically. A line in the sand, but in this case, it's where the motorcycle playground begins.
Line in the Sand...
Fountain Springs, Posey, Woody, and Glennville, they are all tiny alcoves of homes. But no gas stations. All the while, the Sierra Nevada loom in the background, and our day would not be complete without a quick romp along Highway 178 through the Kern River Canyon. Which route is the best?
Road on the left = No tour guide.
Road on the Right = You hired a tour guide. Smart move.
But... the first chance we get, we're headed back to our twisty backroads for one last foray onto Bodfish-Caliente Rd. It holds one last hurrah for the ride into the Walker Basin and circling Harper Peak. Hand-on-hip or canyon ride, this ride has got both.
Tour: March 22, 2024
Meet: 2012 E Canal Dr, Turlock, CA
Arrive: 7:00 AM, Safety Brief 7:30, Depart 8:00 AM
Cost: $460 per rider, $119 Passenger
This tour includes narrow single lane paved mountain roads. The ride includes steep grades and negotiating tight hair-pin corners. All roads on this tour are paved.
EXPERIENCED RIDERS ONLY:
This tour is not recommended for beginner riders or Very Large Motorcycles. Riders are expected to have at least several years of enthusiastic experience on their motorcycle riding remote challenging paved mountain backroads along with at least 5000+ miles of concurrent recent experience.
This tour is limited by the amount of rooms at our host lodging. We have booked rooms months in advance and our tours sell out by the end of January. Get on our mailing list to be the first to know about new rides. Tours are planned & announced in the late fall of each year.
Book early to ensure a spot on this new ride. Check with us to see if any available spots are open. Some of our rides may have waiting lists to be able to join the group.