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Crossing California: Mendocino to Reno

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Crossing California: Mendocino to Reno

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Old 08-11-12, 07:31 PM
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woodysroad
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Crossing California: Mendocino to Reno

I'm planning to come down the California coast and turn east around Mendocino, next year around the first of July. I've been looking at Hwy. 20 across the state to Nevada City, then Hwy. 49 to Vinton to pick up Hwy. 70 into Nevada, which appears to turn into #395 down to Carson City where I would like to get on US 50 to cross Nevada.

Any thoughts on that route, or suggestions on others? I prefer to avoid the Sacramento and the Lake Tahoe area. Thanks.
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Old 08-11-12, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by woodysroad View Post
I'm planning to come down the California coast and turn east around Mendocino, next year around the first of July. I've been looking at Hwy. 20 across the state to Nevada City, then Hwy. 49 to Vinton to pick up Hwy. 70 into Nevada, which appears to turn into #395 down to Carson City where I would like to get on US 50 to cross Nevada.

Any thoughts on that route, or suggestions on others? I prefer to avoid the Sacramento and the Lake Tahoe area. Thanks.
I hope you're an experienced cyclist! Hwy 20 will be a tough road with little to no shoulders, lots of hills and curves, fast traffic and quite a few RV's and trucks. If you're set on seeing the Mendocino headlands, that's about your only choice. Me--I'd take off out of Fortuna on Hwy. 36. Much quieter road with not as much traffic.

Don't know about Hwy 70, but once you come into Hwy 395 and head south, that's a pretty good road. Decent shoulder in most places, but it will be a pretty hot and dry ride into Reno. From Reno to Carson is another tough ride as there's no bike lane, and not much of a shoulder in most places. Hwy. 580 is a new bypass hwy into Reno from Carson and should be open by then. Hopefully, that will divert much of the current traffic out of Pleasant Valley and make it a much safer ride. As for Carson City, don't plan on finding a campground as there isn't one. I'd suggest the Quality Inn, which is downtown and close to both the Bike Smith, and Grocery Outlet. Resupply and refit because Hwy 50 is going to be a long dry slog!
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Old 08-11-12, 10:14 PM
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Hi, Woody. It sounds like the Viking has a beter grip on the western part of that route than I do, but I remember the "middle" section of 20 across the valley as being straight and hot (not curvy like it is from Nevada City to I-80) with narrow two-lane and no shoulder. Maybe the other guy is thinking of that section, or maybe my memory is wonky. I don`t know the area well, but I would THINK most of it could be bypassed by using little farm roads?

From Nevada City to Reno, I`m more familiar with. 49 from Nevada City to Sierraville is that same skinny two-lane with bad visibility and slow climbs. It`s been done though, and by next year they should be done resurfacing it so it should have a nice uniform edge at least. 70 all the way from Oroville to 395 is also a reasonable option. Compared to 49, 70 has slightly more traffic, better shoulders, better sight distance, and not as steep, so you won`t feel like a sitting duck for long stretches of time while you inch your way up the grades. Both have beautiful scenery. If you`re up for for a 20 mile stretch of dirt connector road, I`ll give you the details to cross via the old Henness Pass route. No traffic that way, but it`s definitely fat tire country.

The route you proposed from Sierraville to Reno (49-70-395) is a piece of cake. You have to hop on the freeway for 1.5 miles between the Cold Springs exit and the Redrock Rd exit, but it`s legal and safe with a humongous shoulder. Through Reno isn`t too awfully bad, and like Viking says, the road from Reno to Carson is supposed to get way better when the new freeway extension (hopefully) cuts half the traffic from the old highway, which should be any time now. Even like it is, the southbound Reno-Carson ride is okay. If you come down 395 from 70, shoot me a PM when you get close. My wife and I are Warmshowers hosts and only a few miles off 395, just north of Reno.

Ride report from a short trip on Highway 70:
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/featherriver

EDIT: Is it because of traffic that you want to avoid Tahoe? That`s certainly understandable, and the traffic situation up there isn`t good in July, but it IS possible. Since a lot of people ride there, at least people are on the lookout for bikes. I won`t try very hard to talk you into it, but please do consider a Tahoe detour if you haven`t been there before. IMO, it`s a worthwhile hassle. Especially the west shore.

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Old 08-11-12, 10:58 PM
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Originally Posted by rodar y rodar View Post
Hi, Woody. It sounds like the Viking has a beter grip on the western part of that route than I do, but I remember the "middle" section of 20 across the valley as being straight and hot (not curvy like it is from Nevada City to I-80) with narrow two-lane and no shoulder. Maybe the other guy is thinking of that section, or maybe my memory is wonky. I don`t know the area well, but I would THINK most of it could be bypassed by using little farm roads?

Yeah, the middle part of 20 is straight and hot---and then you have to start climibing up to Clearlake and go through the Coast Range. That's where it gets curvy and very hilly. Plan on stopping in Clearlake as the lake is beautiful. The road follows along the shore for several miles, and there are places to eat and stay overnight in town.

Ride report from a short trip on Highway 70:
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/featherriver

EDIT: Is it because of traffic that you want to avoid Tahoe? That`s certainly understandable, and the traffic situation up there isn`t good in July, but it IS possible. Since a lot of people ride there, at least people are on the lookout for bikes. I won`t try very hard to talk you into it, but please do consider a Tahoe detour if you haven`t been there before. IMO, it`s a worthwhile hassle. Especially the west shore.


Yeah, the west shore is a beautiful ride. If you could come in from Truckee, you could follow the hwy down to Squaw Valley and pick up the Truckee River trail into Tahoe city. And then, at the Rump bridge, you could take the bike trail down the west side to Sugar Pine Point. What's tough is the next 10 miles or so going around Vikingsholm and Emerald Bay as the road is narrow, curvy and very steep in spots. Once you get beyond that, you can pick up another bike trail that goes into South Lake Tahoe. From there, you could come out over Spooner (Hwy 50) which has good shoulders and two lanes on both sides. Hwy 50 'T's' into Hwy 395 at the south end of Carson City.
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Old 08-11-12, 11:09 PM
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I think I might be inclined to take Comptche-Ukiah Rd/Orr 'Springs Rd rather than hwy 20 off the coast, and I sure wouldn't get on hwy 20 between hwy 101 and Clear Lake, that's home to far too many bike-hating drunks for my tastes.

LoneViking's comment about hwy36 sure took me back in time. Does anyone else remember the Pacific Lumber/Maxxam fiasco? I happened to ride westbound on hwy 36 back when that was going on. As I got to the western end, an older person at a small store told me I was lucky to be coming through on a Sunday. Monday through Saturday the road was wall to wall logging trucks taking out every redwood tree that existed. I watched them head up the following morning and it was a frightening/tragic/maddening sight.
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Old 08-11-12, 11:19 PM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
I think I might be inclined to take Comptche-Ukiah Rd/Orr 'Springs Rd rather than hwy 20 off the coast, and I sure wouldn't get on hwy 20 between hwy 101 and Clear Lake, that's home to far too many bike-hating drunks for my tastes.

LoneViking's comment about hwy36 sure took me back in time. Does anyone else remember the Pacific Lumber/Maxxam fiasco? I happened to ride westbound on hwy 36 back when that was going on. As I got to the western end, an older person at a small store told me I was lucky to be coming through on a Sunday. Monday through Saturday the road was wall to wall logging trucks taking out every redwood tree that existed. I watched them head up the following morning and it was a frightening/tragic/maddening sight.
I'm drawing a blank on that event. What year was that?
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Old 08-12-12, 09:48 AM
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Thanks Viking, that's the kind of information I'm looking for. I'm from Alabama, so I'm used to drunks and no shoulders; but I'd still prefer some shoulder if possible, and as few drunks yelling at me as I can get. I haven't been thru Mendocino for almost 30 years and there's an old Gordon Lightfoot song playing in my head about a guy hitchhiking thru there, so I kind of want to camp there before heading back across country to home. I like the looks of Rte. 36 that you propose, I may go as far south as Mendocino and then back up to Fortuna and turn east on 36. Any special considerations/warnings, etc. about 36? Thanks again.
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Old 08-12-12, 09:56 AM
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Thanks Rodar, good info, I'm not adverse to traffic if there is a shoulder to ride on. I would like to see the Tahoe region and I'm not committed to any particular route. I just want to get to US 50 to cross Nevada and reach US 89 to go south in Utah. Any particularly nice routes from the area between Mendocino and San Francisco you would recommend that would get me over to US 50 in Nevada? Again, I don't mind traffic if I have at least a small shoulder. It's been 30 years since I've been to California, so I'm not familiar with the road construction there. Here in Alabama, we have in very rare places a small shoulder, while over in Florida, most roads have 3-4 feet. I can handle the small one in traffic, so any suggestions are welcome. Thanks again.
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Old 08-12-12, 04:07 PM
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I wouldn't miss Tahoe for anything--are you camping or motelling? There are several very nice hike 'n' bike campsites in the area.

The north shore of Tahoe also has bike paths or lightly traveled side streets for most of the way, while the west shore is flat and has a shoulder until you start climbing past Sand Harbor. If you are traveling south, you will be on the wrong side of the highway to see a lot of the view on the west (california) side, while you will have a nice view of the intricately bouldery Nevada lakeshore on the east side. You'll just miss the great scenery/big hill/narrow road/traffic/ of the Emerald Bay section in California.

Past Sand Harbor (awesome swimming and snorkling if you can stand the cool water), the road narrows with traffic, and climbs 800 feet up to Hwy 50 at Spooner Summit, where you can descend into the desert.

I've done Hwy 49 across the Sierra a few times, and it's one of the easiest passes. I would recommend staying out of the Grass Valley-Nevada City area, and instead take Browns Valley Road out of Yuba City/Marysville, and then Marysville Road up past Bullards' Bar reservoir to join 49. That avoids traffic and crossing two major canyons, though it's a fairly good climb up to the lake anyway. The traffic is fairly light on 49 on up through the North Yuba canyon up to Yuba Pass, but picks up on Hwy 89 as you leave Sierra Valley and climb south toward Truckee.

If I had my druthers, I'd leave the coast a bit before entering California and intersect the ACA Sierra-Cascades route at Grant's Pass and take it south to Tahoe, but then you would be missing the coast redwoods section in CA....choices, choices.

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Old 08-12-12, 08:21 PM
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Originally Posted by woodysroad View Post
Thanks Viking, that's the kind of information I'm looking for. I'm from Alabama, so I'm used to drunks and no shoulders; but I'd still prefer some shoulder if possible, and as few drunks yelling at me as I can get. I haven't been thru Mendocino for almost 30 years and there's an old Gordon Lightfoot song playing in my head about a guy hitchhiking thru there, so I kind of want to camp there before heading back across country to home. I like the looks of Rte. 36 that you propose, I may go as far south as Mendocino and then back up to Fortuna and turn east on 36. Any special considerations/warnings, etc. about 36? Thanks again.
Well, it's narrow and twisty, but a lot less traffic than the other roads. Just after Grizzly Creek Redwoods the road is so narrow that trailers and trucks are prohibited! Grizzly Creek Redwoods is a beautiful grove and a great spot to camp. Here's some info on Grizzly Creek:

http://www.redwoodhikes.com/Grizzly/Grizzly.html

and, from the site crazyguyonabike.com comes more references to Hwy 36 and commentary on other roads---all of it spot on for my 2 cents worth:

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/forum...1&nested=0&v=2

Good info on Northern Calif. biking:

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/p..._id=90771&v=66

Hope that helps!
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Old 08-12-12, 08:25 PM
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The north shore of Tahoe also has bike paths or lightly traveled side streets for most of the way, while the west shore is flat and has a shoulder until you start climbing past Sand Harbor. If you are traveling south, you will be on the wrong side of the highway to see a lot of the view on the west (california) side, while you will have a nice view of the intricately bouldery Nevada lakeshore on the east side. You'll just miss the great scenery/big hill/narrow road/traffic/ of the Emerald Bay section in California
.

But you run right into the narrow roads, lots of construction and no bike trail as you head around towards Incline Village. In fact, there is no bike trail from the North Shore on, so you are on a often narrow road for a whole lot farther than you would be going around Emerald Bay. The bike trail going south on the west side runs right along the shore for quite a ways.
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Old 08-12-12, 08:36 PM
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Finally found the Hwy 36 site, this is a motorcycle page that has lots of pictures of Hwy 36 along with good info on the watering holes:

http://www.pashnit.com/roads/cal/Highway36.htm
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Old 08-12-12, 08:41 PM
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Originally Posted by loneviking61 View Post
I'm drawing a blank on that event. What year was that?
I believe that occurred in '87. That's also consistent with the Wikipedia entry for Pacific Lumber. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Lumber_Company

If the OP enjoys a bit of hill-climbing, and considering he already said he would consider backtracking along the coast, He might consider venturing out to the Lost Coast. Just ride west from Fortuna to Ferndale, then go through Petrolia and either head south at Honeydew if you want more or go back to the Avenue of the Giants by going east out of Honeydew. You can get off the Lost Coast on Briceland/Thorn Rd or take it to Usal Rd. (Usal is a dirt road that connects to Hwy 1). This detour may add a bit of time to the trip, but you will think the roads over the Sierra are flat after climbing Wildcat and Wilder Ridges.
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Old 08-12-12, 09:19 PM
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I have ridden from south lake all the way to Tahoe city this year and it's a reasonable ride...there are sections with little to no shoulder bit reasonable....from Tahoe city to Truckee there is a shoulder...the path is full of walkers...I find it hard to ride.
Done from Truckee to sierraville this year too...no shoulder and lots of traffic.

Been up and down different stretches of 70 and I found it ok...

Worst ride I had was just this weekend. On 89 over Luther...I was buzzed so many times I won't need to shave for a week....did have some justice...a truck hauling a utility building on a trailer buzzed me terribly going up Luther from the lake...when I got down the other side where 89 joins 88, he was broken downI the side of the road....when I rode back two hours later...he was still there....I smiled.

The ride from south Reno to Carson is ok on 395. There are side roads for much of the way. Pretty congested through Carson to 50

Of course you could go up to va city and over to 50 that way....little more climbing but a ton less traffic.
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Old 08-13-12, 12:18 AM
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Originally Posted by loneviking61 View Post
.

But you run right into the narrow roads, lots of construction and no bike trail as you head around towards Incline Village. In fact, there is no bike trail from the North Shore on, so you are on a often narrow road for a whole lot farther than you would be going around Emerald Bay. The bike trail going south on the west side runs right along the shore for quite a ways.
I didn't find either side of the lake worse than the other, the Nevada side was relaxing to me. I did not like the way the beaches were all fenced off, though. However, I remember the CA bike paths only being on the lake shore for a short distance--the majority of the time they either had homes, resorts, or lots of trees blocking the lake views, exept for one brief part near William Kent campground.The bike trails on the CA side also stop and force you to cross the highway at times to pick them up on the other, and you have to trust you'll find a break in traffic...plus they are really pretty badly designed at times, as they cross lots of driveways, so create car-bike conflicts that would not exist with a bike lane on the main highway. Putting a stop sign for the bikes at every driveway crossing just means every cyclist rides through them...

The flat part of the road on the Nevada side does have a shoulder for part of the time, with uninterrupted lake views; I ran off the road into sand and almost crashed when the wide shoulder ended there because I was too busy looking at the views the first time I went that way.

On the plus side, the CA side has quite a few campgrounds with hike and bike sites, or at least the last time I was there, they did. The USFS had the William Kent H&B, and from north to south there were Donner in Truckee, Sugar Pine Point, DL Bliss, and Emerald Bay State Parks. I've camped at them all on various trips, and they were great deals. Who knows what they have now due to the state shorting the parks budget, and the parks dept. scandal with them hiding $50 million while crying broke...

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Old 08-13-12, 04:50 AM
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Another vote for Ukiah Comptche road. I did it numerous times.
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Old 08-18-12, 12:21 PM
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Viking, thanks for the info on 36, it looks great.
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Old 08-19-12, 09:15 AM
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Boy, there sure are a lot of conflicting views here- the traffic situation obviously depends on what time and what day you hit each section, as well as personal opinion. For what its worth, I just got back from a minitour from Reno down to Carson more or less via 395 (following local parallels where possible), then up 88 to Woodfords, 89 all the way around the west shore of Tahoe and on to Sierraville, and back into Reno by the way you asked about in the first post- 49-70-395.

395 to Carson I`ve ridden several times and as always, it was decent though not ideal. Getting through Carson I got lost (as usual) when the bike path dumped me off in a landocked development, had to figue it out, then just deal with stop and go from all the traffic lights on Carson Street. The little highway through Jacks Valley and Genoa was lovely (first time riding that part for me), lots of traffic up 88 Friday evening, which is not how it was the last time I rode it. Almost no traffic at all up Luther Pass and into Meyers. From South Tahoe around the lake to Tahoe City was as its been in the past- tons of cars driven by very patient (almost saintly) drivers. That bike path has to be among the dumbest in North America though for the way it keeps switching from one side of the highway to the other. Usually I take the bike path when it happens to be on my side of the road, ride the very skinny shoulder when it crosses over. The one and only time I rode the Nevada side I got honked at more times in two hours than I generally get around home all year! I plan to ride it again though, will see if I just hit it during Grouch Day or something.

The bike path from Tahoe City to Squaw Valley I`ve ridden many times and I do like that part. Yes, it`s crowded, but not hectic. Beautful views of the Truckee River. Through Truckee is okay- one road leads all the way from one end of town to the other, so navigation is a cinch. The traffic going over to Sierraville was the same as its always been. Its heavy, and could really use more shoulder, but there aren`t any better options there, so you have to take what you can get. On the bright side, they resurfaced since the last time I was there, so I had a silk ribbon to ride on. 49 across Sierra Valley is great- very few cars. 70 and 395 are both okay too- a lot of noise from the constant stream of cars, but at least they`re safe because of nice shoulders.
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Old 08-30-12, 11:23 PM
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Can you travel on dirt roads? If so, there's a very quiet way to get from Chico to highway 70. Much quieter than highway 49. Getting to Chico along quiet dirt roads from anywhere in the Central valley should also be easy.

The following is excerpted from my guide to touring the Lassen/Plumas national forest (http://frankrevelo.com/hiking/dest_us_lassen.htm):

From downtown Chico, take Park avenue, then East Park, then Skyway to the Honey run road exit. Decent shoulder on Skyway to this point. Alternatively, there might be a bike path which runs from downtown Chico to the Honey Run road, thus making it possible to avoid Skyway entirely. Honey Run road is quiet. Fork left at the Honey Run covered bridge onto Centerville road, which is very quiet. About a mile past the Centerville museum/school, Centerville road turns to gravel and has little or no traffic until it reaches the Nimshew development, where it becomes paved again. Fork left onto Humbug road, which eventually merges with Skyway. A PG&E campground at this point makes a good location for a rest stop. Skyway is fairly quiet up here, whereas it was a multi-lane expressway back near Chico. Follow Skyway about a mile north, then fork left onto Powellton road (25N16), which is gravel. Powellton road parallels and eventually merges with Skyway about 5 miles to the north. At this point, Skyway is very quiet. Follow Skyway north for another few miles, then fork right onto the Humbug Summit road, aka route 915/13, which soon turns to gravel. Shortly after passing Humbug summit, there is an intersection of gravel roads, which is incorrectly signed, so pay careful attention to the map rather than the road signs. Either continue on the Humbug road (route 307), or take the Yellow Creek road (27N65, 27N04, route 308). Yellow Creek road is almost straight downhill, whereas Humbug road descends into Humbug valley then ascends before descending again, but both routes are scenic. The two roads merge as they approach highway 89.


Total distance between Chico and highwayy 89 will be about 70 miles, with over 7000 feet of ascent and 3000 feet of descent, and maximum elevation near 7000 feet. It took me about 11 hours to cover this distance, pedalling the whole way. Most cyclists will want to split this trip into two days and camp somewhere along the way. I camped at a saddle near Gold Hill, after about 36 miles and 5000 feet of ascent, but there are plenty of other places to camp after this point.

Once you get to highway 89, use the Lake Almanor bikeTrail to get to the south end of Lake Almanor, then a 2 mile and not dangerous stretch of highway 89 to get from there to Canyondam, then route 201 (Old Haun Road) to get to Greenville, then north valley road to get across Indian valley, then Indian Creek road, and finally Beckwourth-Genesee road to get to highway 70.

All this will be very clear from the landscape pages of the Benchmark Road Atlas for California, which is far better than the DeLorme road atlas. My user's guide gives information about where there will be open forests for camping on this route (versus where everythign is fenced grazing land or steep canyons with no flat spots) and also motel information in Greenville, if you are interested in a motel.
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Old 08-30-12, 11:46 PM
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Originally Posted by vesteroid View Post
Of course you could go up to va city and over to 50 that way....little more climbing but a ton less traffic.
Are you talking about Geiger Grade? Horribly dangerous in my opinion. Here's a little-known rugged dirt road alternative for Reno to Virginia City. From downtown Reno, take Mill Street east. Turn right at South Rock Boulevard, right again at Longley Lane, left at Mira Loma Drive, right at West Hidden Valley Road, and right again at the southernmost part of Hidden Valley subdivision onto a dirt road, which may be labelled Short Lane, Alexander Lake Road or Desert Way, depending on the map. Since there is only one dirt road heading south from Hidden Valley subdivision, there is no possibility of missing this road. All of the roads listed above are either very quiet or have designated bike lanes, and thus are safe for bikes. Follow the dirt road south about two miles to an electrical substation, which will be plainly visible on the left, between the road and the hills to the east. (If you reach the Sage Hill Clay Sports shooting facility, then you went about a mile too far.) Take the dirt road leading uphill towards the electrical substation, pass unauthorized (but free and hence widely used) outdoor shooting ranges, then head uphill, steeply at times, sticking to the main road. This road leads through the mountains for several miles until it reaches the old Lousetown site, where it merges with the Lousetown road (shown on the road atlas map and also my smartphone maps). Follow the Lousetown road south through the Virginia Highlands subdivision until it intersects with the Geiger Grade road (highway 341), a mile or so north of Virginia City. Like all of Geiger Grade, this short stretch between Lousetown road and Virginia City is very dangerous, due to heavy and fast-moving traffic, blind curves and narrow or non-existant shoulders, but at least the stretch is all downhill and won't last long.
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Old 09-02-12, 01:26 PM
  #21  
blauger
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I was on 36 last week and although it is a challenging ride, the scenery is great.

Another even more challenging ride is Hwy 162/Forest Route 7 through the Mendocino Natl Forest. I did that in June from east to west. It starts just N of Willitts. The ride to Covelo is nice and then again to Eel River Station which will be the last services before Elk Creek. From ERS it's 15 miles up to the top which is at 7000 ft. There's a campground just past the highest point. 40 miles are hard packed gravel with almost no traffic.going down the east side you will have a long, long and mostly gradual descent, similar to 36. This route would mean you wouldn't have to backtrack as much.
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Old 09-09-12, 09:54 PM
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jamawani 
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Hey - I went back to your original post.
If you really want to hit Mendocino - then you should generally use Hwy 20.
It's been rebuilt and there are usually microshoulders - i.e. 2 ft with guardrail next to you.
It's enought to preserve your whiskers - most of the time.
Hwys 128 & 253 take you from just south of Mendocino to Ukiah.
A couple of back roads - esp. south of Clear Lake.
Hwy 20 follows the north shore - then you have to get on Hwy 20 to Colusa.
There's nice camping (or was - park may be closed because of Calif budget) at Colusa.
Couple of nice back road choices to Yuba City - then Marysville Road to Hwy 49.
If you do Hwy 49 - you should consider Gold Lake Rd and Sardine Lakes.
You can loop down to Lake Tahoe and US 50 into Carson City - - very busy - -
Or you can zig via Beckwourth Pass and North Reno to Pyramid Lake.

Like I said, if you have your heart set on Mendocino -
(Wait a minute, I think that song was "San Francisco")
Then the Hwy 20 corridor is your best bet.
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Old 09-10-12, 07:27 PM
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thanks, I like this, will look closely at it. The song by Gordon Lightfoot is "Cabaret", has a line in it "From the coast of California, up to the Oregon border, I've thumbed a thousand miles I guess. If you're drivin' east to Reno, or north to Mendocino, I hope you find your rainbow's end."
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Old 09-11-12, 07:07 PM
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Clear Lake looks nice, and the SP on the south shore has hike & bike sites for $5 and hot showers: http://www.clearlakestatepark.org/map.htm

Colusa is still open and being run by a volunteer organization, but info on the web is iffy as to if they still have HB sites. Best to call ahead and see.
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