I really wanted to take a long ride today, but got a late start and decided to explore an area about 75 miles from home that I'd never visited, Tassajara Road in Monterey County (California). Tassajara is about 16 miles long, and as far as I could tell from pre-ride research, it goes through the Los Padres National Forest and ends at the Tassajara Zen Center, a spiritual retreat. The first two miles are paved, then turned to nice hard pack dirt, with a few tight turns, but mostly wide and with good sight lines. Despite heavy rains so far this season, the road was mostly dry, and where it was damp it had great grip. I am just getting back into dirt/dual sport after a 25 year break riding almost exclusively on pavement, so this road seemed like a great place to get a better feel for my DR650 and the new D606 tires I had recently mounted. After a few miles, I was surprised to start seeing snow. I knew it had snowed at higher elevations a few days ago, but didn't realize I had climbed that much. A post-ride map check (no GPS) showed I was above 4000 feet.
About a mile further up, the snow started covering the road, and the tire tracks were packed and frozen hard and the DR decided to take a brief nap. At this point, since I was alone and hadn't seen any signs of life for about an hour, I turned around.
Below the snow line, I picked up the pace a bit, then got surprised by two deer bounding across the road, so I notched it back and cruised.
I paused for another picture at the Forest Boundary ... "Land of Many Uses".
Back on pavement at the Tassajara-Cachagua Road junction, I took a left and enjoyed almost zero traffic on this 10 mile road that bypasses the main Carmel Valley Road. At Cachagua, I stopped to have a snack near the community park. An older man on a mountain bike, whom I had passed a few miles earlier, pulled over and asked if I needed any help. He introduced himself as Steve, and told me about his years riding dirt bikes, including at least one BSA Victor, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. His last ten bikes have all been street bikes, and he still has several Moto Guzzis. After Cachagua, the road opened up a bit crossing a ridge, with some really nice turns and good pavement.
From Carmel Valley, I crossed over to Highway 68 on Laureles Grade. This road is far more built up than it was in the '70's, when I drove or rode it a lot, but still is one of the nicest sets of curves in the area. Down on 68, I decided to stop at Laguna Seca for a photo, and rode into the track infield and checked out the gift shop. It's open 5 days a week, even in this dead season!
From there, it was a simple grind home on increasingly rush-hour crowded roads. Coming up Hwy 1 near Castroville, I was passed by an older Camry bearing a bumper sticker that read "Never Forget Kari Prager". Kari was the owner of a local BMW dealership who died suddenly, and way too young, a few years ago (not bike related).
All in all, a pretty mundane ride, but it re-affirmed how much variety we have in Central California. 150 miles round trip from my house, and I had spectacular coastal views, great twisties, dirt and snow, and even a chance to see if there was anything exciting or exotic being tested at Laguna Seca. Oh, and it was nice and warm also.