Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lost in Bakersfield - Day 8

I purposely got a relatively late start on day eight because I wanted to avoid commuter traffic from Lake Isabella to Bakersfield. By the time I left my motel room and stopped for some sun screen and some Vaseline (I was a little raw from my bike seat), I didn't leave Lake Isabella till after 8:00. I went to Bodfish and caught Kern Canyon Road for the first 13 1/2 miles of the canyon. There was not even one car on Kern Canyon Road and the slopes were green. There were bunches of wildflowers including these "Grass Nuts" pictured, a type of Brodiaea.(What is it about brodiaeas - the one on the coast is "Blue Dicks"?) Bird song included Lazuli Buntings, Phainopeplas and MacGillivray's Warblers. I had not realized that there would be a good number of uphills as well as the predominate downhill slopes; it took me till about 9:30 to reach the end of the old road and the return to Highway 178 .

So many people had warned me about this part of Highway 178 through the narrow canyon, that even though I had come up it, I still was a little fearful and had not slept well the night before. This stretch was consistently downhill and I kept my speed down and used turnouts (there were many) whenever I heard traffic behind me. Just before the end of the canyon, a truck with a wide load came up to me from behind and followed right behind me until I got to a place where I could get off the road and it could safely pass (barely). After less than 15 miles of the narrow canyon portion of 178, I emerged at the end of the canyon and stopped to look at a waterfall created by piped water from the river. A Caltrans worker stopped nearby told me that I was braver than he was to ride the canyon. I thought to myself, "or stupider".

But I was out of the canyon and there was now a paved shoulder for bikes to safely ride. I could relax a little and make my way to Lake Ming and the start of a thirty mile bike path. I stopped near Lake Ming, at a gas station market (my usual gourmet lunch stop), and got a sandwich and orange juice for lunch and a carton of Chocolate milk for immediate consumption. The bike path start was not well signed, but I found it since friends had told me where to pick it up. I looked for Common Moorhen reported from the east side of the lake, but instead found Green Heron at the edge of the reeds on floating vegetation. Yellow-breasted Chat sang it's varied song of whistles, chucks, and other sounds from the undergrowth along the Kern River Channel on the north side of the lake, as the bike path ran along the northern shore of the lake.
I had lunch at a picnic table, in the shade of trees, in Hart Park (just west of Lake Ming), but lost the bike path before I left the park. I could not find the path no matter how hard I tried. It had apparently joined the street in the park, but where it became a path again or where I was suppose to go to rejoin it was totally unclear. After searching for awhile I gave up. The path did not seem to have been worth the trouble - it was not well maintained and did not have many good views of the river for seeing birds when I was on it.

So, I checked the map I kept in my handlebar bag and determined how to get to the shortest way to Wasco, the ultimate destination for the day. I took the "scenic" route through Oildale, which took me through the Kern River Oil Field. This was appropriate for my green birding trip as it showed what happened to areas where oil is produced. It was a wasteland - like the surface of the moon with the addition oil wells, pipes, utility wires and trucks. And the smell! My photo does not adequately portray the devastation!

After heading west from Oildale I turned north and looked for "Seventh Standard", a main road which goes west from Bakersfield. I could not find it and I kept coming back to "Merle Haggard Road" no matter what I tried and no matter how much I checked the map. I finally found someone working at the side of the road, in this undeveloped area, to ask. They told me that this portion of Seventh Standard had been renamed Merle Haggard. The map I had just purchased at Lake Isabella did not reflect the change. He told me that it messes up a lot of people driving through the area. Since I am not a fan of most Country and Western music, perhaps it it was poetic justice that Merle Haggard caused me to pedal an extra four or five miles.

Ongoing construction on this road obliterated the bike lane so I had to find an alternate road. I took a back road through almond and pistachio orchards which had no traffic. It was a real improvement and eventually I turned off on Highway 46 to Wasco. I checked into the slightly run down, but mostly clean "Cinderella Motel" (where was Cinderella when we needed her?), showered, ate and shopped nearby, and washed some clothes before sleeping off my frustrating but not too physically challenging 75 mile day. Tomorrow's ride would be much more challenging.

No comments:

Post a Comment