I’ve had the absolute pleasure for over one month (late July thru August) to explore several thousand miles of Northern Californian roads. I’ve got to say this has been some of the most pleasurable & challenging two-handed driving I’ve been blessed to experience in America so far.
This has been my second summer in a row here. The natural beauty of this area has captivated me. And, if you love switch-back driving through ever-changing driving conditions…This is the place.
In one day, a driver can haul through a multitude of geographical & temperate zones (desert, flat farmland, foothill, vineyard, river valley, lake, mountain, various types of forest & coastline) on decent to most-excellent roadways. Throughout any given day, temperatures range from 55 F – 105 F (13 C – 41 C) under mostly always picture perfect sunny skies…although partly cloudy & foggy conditions have also been occasionally encountered.
My center of operations is near the wine-growing region of Napa & Sonoma, containing vineyards as far as the eye can see which produce some of the best wines in the world. I always prefer traveling on back roads if given the chance. Highways, although purposeful, are boring as hell, often under construction or are often traffic-jammed during the summer out here for one reason or another (especially anywhere near San Francisco…no one except me was smiling at Stinson Beach…those poor bast*rds!) & are thereby avoided unless necessary.
My driving region has run west to the Pacific Ocean, East to Sacramento, North to Albion & South to San Francisco.
For those of you in the know, you’ll recognize these following routes which have received a thoroughly heavy pounding on my behalf.
Most of these roads require a commitment by the driver to stay focused on the road with two hands on the wheel. Take along a copilot that you trust with your life so you can then also fully admire the abundant natural beauty you are immersed within.
The adrenaline buzz from driving these roads is heightened by the fact that you can easily DIE if you don’t pay attention. Road shoulders are mostly non-existent. Drop-off cliffs & gulches along highly switch-backed roads are prevalent. Wildlife, bicyclists, a lumber truck, motorhome, gorgeous Mercedes or a choke & puke hippy microbus can materialize behind any corner. Many of these roads traverse wild, lonely, scantly populated areas providing sketchy to nil cell-phone coverage. Make sure you have what you need for traveling & that it is in good order.
My driving sorties have often run ten hours long; stopping along the way to enjoy local fare or take a better look at whatever interests me (of which there is a lot up here)…or mostly just to see where the hell some road goes to.
P.S. I’ll add some pics later, but a mixed case of Alexander Valley vino is currently blocking my way…and some of those pesky Cali vino-vamps!