California 2016

Day 06

June 23

  I fetch up my 'early' breakfast that I spirited away yesterday and then get SweetTreat ready to roll. I figure the sooner I'm on the road the less heat I'll have to deal with during the ride.  
  As I pull out of the parking lot, there's nobody out and about besides me, SweetTreat and Mr. Moon.  
  Since I am really concerned about wildlife, I decide I'll head down I5 a good ways until I come to a crossroad that will take me over to Highway 149 then to Highway 70 and eventually to Highway 49 where I will be spending most of the day. About good daylight I leave I5 behind.  
  It's a pretty interesting run as it takes me through Corning, California, the 'Olive City'.  
  There are orchards both sides of the road and I take a good look as I don't know that I've ever been in 'olive country' before.  
  When I hit Highway 99, there is this beautiful lake which looks inviting.  
  Further down the road there are other orchards of a different sort ...  
  and some serious fruit handling areas every where I look.  
  But pretty soon I'm out of 'orchard town' and into 'hay town' where it's a lot drier and a lot more brown.  
  After coming through the cities of Chico, Yuba City and Auburn, I finally get to Highway 49. It's a delightful piece of tarmac for the most part with lots of ups and down and lefts and rights.  
  It twists and turns and often parallels the path of the rivers it runs alongside.  
  My first gas stop is at Cool, California as in the 'town of' not the 'state of'. There is some debate as to how it got its name but I'll leave that for the historians to sort out.  
  This is really a beautiful run along Highway 49 and I am enjoying the scenery and the lack of traffic.  
  In several places there are sections where you can see the 'lay of the road' as it twists and turns following the topography of the area.  
  It's great ride until I come to Coulterville where there is a backup of traffic.  

This just happens to be the resting place for 'Whistling Billy' which has quite an interesting story along with him -

Whistling Billy and the Hanging Tree

Whistling Billy is one of the most noticeable relics from Coulterville’s mining days. The eight-ton Porter Locomotive’s final stop was beneath the branches of the town’s old hanging tree. This little steam engine was shipped around the Horn and came to Coulterville in 1897 by mule team. Purchased by the Merced Gold Mining Company for $3,500, Billy ran on thirty-inch gauge track and was capable of hauling fifteen ore cars, each weighing five tons when full. Its four-mile route ran from the Mary Harrison Mine to the “Forty-Stamper” located at Black Creek. It was a steep and twisting climb, for which it earned the title, “Crookedest Railway in the World.” At one point where the track crossed Maxwells Creek, the train was fifty feet high on a wooden trestle.
The Hanging Tree which now shades Whistling Billy rather than the dangling corpse of some badman swinging in the breeze, is a giant gnarly oak which the old-timers insist was once the town’s official hanging tree. Of the many hangings this noble tree has supported, one of the most dramatic occurred at daybreak on March 16 of 1856, when Leon Ruiz was hanged for the vicious robbery and murder of two Chinese miners at Bear Valley, from whose sluice he had stolen more than $600 in gold.

  As I admire the old engine they finally let us get going again.  
  Then I see what the hold up is - the highway department is spraying fresh tar on the cracks on the road creating a train wreck of tar snakes. As I move along, I discover that they have done this pretty much along the rest of the highway. With the temperatures where they are, these snakes are slicker than snot on a doorknob. I have no choice but to just dial way back on the throttle as they seem to have spent extra time being sure they put lots of them right in the curves. I do have to give them credit - they sure know how to wreck a really good road and make it a hazard to ride.  
  I finally get out of all that mess and for that I am extremely thankful. This lovely stand of wildflowers catches my eye as I move on down the road. It reminds of the purple thrift that my grandmother grew on the old farm as it was one of her favorite flowering plants.  
  Finally I turn on to highway 41 and arrive at Don's place. I remember his driveway and his warning to go past it then come back. So I head down to the turnaround and come at it the easy way.  

He's out at the head of his driveway when I get turned around to greet me. I've made pretty good time as I left the motel at 4 AM and now it's about lunch time. I unload SweetTreat and get settled in the room that they have for me. It's a great time to catch up with Don and Miss Joyce as I haven't seen them since 2009 and then it was only for a short time. And thanks to their graciousness, I'll have a day off the road before I start the long run for the Holler on Friday. After Don and I have solved all the world's problems sitting out on their lovely deck, I decide I'd better turn in for the evening before I fall asleep sitting up. As I tell Don -

"Company and fish both begin to stink after a few days"

so I'll be headed out day after tomorrow. As I pillow my head, I am very thankful to have such great friends that are willing to put up with this traveling hillbilly.