Spring comes slowly in Central Oregon and sometimes an extra dose of ingenuity is needed to get out and ride in the sun and for those of us lucky to call PNW home, heading South during spring is like heading to a different country all together. A spontaneous road trip to the center of California. Not the figurative, but the literal center of California: Latitude: 37º 9’ 58.2” N, Longitude 119º 26’ 58.29”. A minivan, some cold Modelos, and a loose plan lend themselves well to adventure. After a year staying close to home, it felt good to strike out and follow the sun. The foothills outside of Fresno in April promised miles of rolling hills, desolate roads, lakes and laughs.
In a world of GPS data, online maps, Strava, and a trove of mapping apps easily accessible from your pocket computer, it sometimes leaves little to the imagination or exploration, a core element of bike riding that reminds our inner child of the freedom and simplicity the bicycle affords us. We chose to play it a little loose.
With the temps rising to a magical 75º F (24º C), spirits were high. We smiled, ignoring roads inconveniently labeled “no outlet”, which didn’t deter our pursuit of the road less traveled. The secondary road systems of California are mind blowing, and it’s hard to imagine that at some point, statewide decisions were made to pave unimaginable miles across most of the state. And while these mandates have fallen by the wayside, the amount of decaying secondary roads in the Sierra foothills is the bicyclists gold strike, especially when a good portion of these decaying sectors are on their way back to their original state of dirt or what’s commonly referred to in modern bike nomenclature, “gravel”. Lucky for us, we packed the 32’s and felt right at home on the mixed media; new pavement, old pavement, and dirt.
As we made our way East of the Central Valley, the Sierras began to really lay down their charm and a great feeling of nostalgia filled our lungs. We ascended the small winding roads that few Yosemite goers ever travel. The walls of granite, full reservoirs, screaming descents, running rivers, and pure warmth, reminded us how brutal April can be for the Northern cyclist and consequently how lucky we were to find ourselves, spinning effortlessly under the warmth of the California sun.