Tour de California 2001

2001 Tour de California

by MYF16

This article is long because I just didn’t have the time to make it shorter.
(Apologies to Blaise Pascal, who is far too dead to care anyway.) I’ll send a
condensed version of this article to NSX Driver eventually, so if you are not
interested in specifics of the various roads or my other meanderings, just
delete this post and read the article in print later.

If you’re reading on, try to get a map of northern California first, since I
will make frequent reference to obscure roads and places, and it will drive you
crazy not to have a map to look at.


Half the fun of a long drive is selecting the roads and planning the route. I
started planning this drive last August, at the Concorso Italiano in Monterey.
There I picked up a reprint of a newspaper article on the California Mille, a
1000-mile multi-day driving event for pre-1958 sports cars. The illustration for
the article showed a route map. Although the roads were not labeled in the
illustration, I easily identified them by shape and location. The Mille route
ran north from Marin to Eureka, crisscrossing the coastal range. Having just
completed my 2000 Tour de California through central and southern California, I
decided then and there at the Concorso to give the northern half of our fair
state a try in 2001.

My objective was to be able to compare these northern California roads to
those in central California. These comparisons can be tricky: I recently had a
completely different perception of California Highway 16 when I drove it in my
minivan than I had had driving it in the NSX.

In the fall and spring months, I drove most of the secondary roads between
San Francisco and Point Arena in the NSX, having a good time but finding very
few great drives. Separately, I drove some central Sierra and foothill roads. I
reserved the northern third of the state for my summer drive, since those roads
are farther from home for me.

I bought maps from the US Forest Service, which generally has the most
accurate depiction of road surface type (paved, gravel, or dirt), both within
and outside their boundaries. Where I still was unsure, I phoned the ranger
stations nearest to the road in question.

I finally settled on a plan for a 3-day drive covering nearly every rural
secondary road west of I-5 and north of Red Bluff, except for dead ends. I
blocked out 4 summer days to allow time for more fun or for schedule delays.

So that I could safely compile a more complete report, I took along a
microcassette recorder to dictate trip progress notes. As for my 2000 Tour, I
installed a videocamera between the seats under my Larry Long custom rear shelf
and against the rear padding. This limits vibration, although it does not allow
me to re-point the camera. I use a lighter-powered AC inverter for camera power
and a small wireless remote control to start and stop recording. This particular
Sharp camera has a reversible view screen, which allows me to see what I am
taping. In fact, I can flip the car’s day/night mirror down to see the screen
and up to see the road behind, without readjusting it. The only difficult part
is changing the 2-hour videotape, which I did at the end of each day. That
requires taking off the black plastic box (fake brake light) and my Valentine 1
from the top of the shelf, and removing the 1/4-inch screw that holds the camera

One other point: you need a fully functioning air conditioner to do a long
summer drive in California: temperatures in many of the coastal range and inland
areas routinely exceed 100 degrees.

Day One

The afternoon before my drive, I put my family on the plane for France, where
they will be staying at my in-laws’ home through August. When I got home, I
finished checking the car and loading my gear for the trip. The next morning
(Thursday) I had to complete one phone call before my departure. One thing led
to another, and my 7:30 AM call wasn’t finished until after 10:00AM. No problem,
because I had an extra day to work with. I got on the road at 10:30AM. An ant
crawled out from the center air vent. He was a hardy little fellow, until I
crushed him. He had been in the car for at least two weeks, which is when I last
left the car cover touching the tires and the ants attacked the dead bugs in my

About an hour into my trip, another problem struck. On I-505 just south of
I-5, I heard and felt a loud rumble from the rear of the car, and saw light
smoke in the rear view mirror. Uh-oh. I pulled over immediately and got out to
check the damage: a partly melted and smoking right tire! This tire was history,
despite the fact that I had checked it 3 hours earlier and added the same few
PSI of air that the other tires got. Maybe it was my swerve onto the shoulder on
the I-5 exit to I-505. From the damage, I surmised that the tire had lost its
air and had been running flat at about 80 mph for long enough that parts of the
sidewall rubber reached melting temperature. Had there been some curves on the
freeway, I probably would have noticed the loss of pressure.

A check of my trip odometer confirmed that I was only 74 miles from home, so
I called AAA and asked for a flatbed to take me back. I called a few tire shops
in Red Bluff and Redding, but nobody had a replacement Yoko in stock, and I had
two new rear tires in my garage. A friendly CHP guy (is there any other kind?)
stopped by and I told him that AAA was on the way. I thanked him for stopping, a
first for me and probably close to that for him. Thirty minutes later he came by
from the other direction and asked if he could call AAA for me, but just then
the truck arrived.

At home I quickly removed the wheel and took it and the replacement tire to
America’s Tire in Walnut Creek. They took care of me immediately, ahead of their
other waiting customers, and had me out in 15 minutes. These guys are really
great, and they deserve your business if you live in the area.

There has been a discussion of tire patching on the Tech List lately. This
failed tire had been patched near the center of the tread, so I checked the
remains. The patch appeared to be *completely intact*, which is encouraging for
those of you running patched tires. This tire had gotten about as hot as any
tire can possibly get, up to melting temperature. The guy at America’s Tire said
that my failure was almost certainly not related to the patch. I couldn’t find a
nail or hole anywhere; but then again the entire inner sidewall had detached
itself when I drove the car up my driveway. The OEM 16" wheel was undamaged.

After putting the new tire and wheel back on the NSX, I got back on the road
in time to hit the afternoon rush hour traffic to the Benicia bridge and then
again at the I-80 merge. Glancing at my map for possible escape routes, I
learned of a danger in this practice other than the obvious one of not seeing
the car in front of you brake suddenly. I looked up in plenty of time to see and
react to slowing traffic, but when I hit the brakes, NOTHING HAPPENED! About 1.5
seconds of sheer panic later, I discovered that I had been pressing the clutch
pedal. If you rotate your body to look at a map or in any other direction, KEEP
YOUR FEET ON THE PEDALS! No damage this time, but what a horrible feeling…

It was still daylight when I made it to Red Bluff, where I stopped at a motel
and washed and covered the car before retiring. My Day One of driving had become
Day Zero. Sort of like the renumbering they did after an escalating nuclear
exchange in that B-minus movie "Panic in the Year Zero".

Day Zero miles: 185, not counting the 75 that I drove before the flat.

Day One (for real this time)

My original plan for Day One included the run to Red Bluff, so my reasonably
early start from there gave me some extra time to work with. I began as planned
with California Highway 36 west.

The first set of turns climbing the foothills out of Red Bluff was an
absolute blast: top-notch driving territory. With a road this good, I don’t
think I’ll ever get around to checking out little A16 (Platina Road) which feeds
in farther west.

Suddenly I came upon two other red cars going my way: a 1965-ish Plymouth
Valiant and a very early (pre-1956) Corvette. I passed the Plymouth and slotted
in between them for a minute, admiring these museum-quality cars. Then I blew on
by and we waved to each other. Several miles later I turned off to check out
Wildwood Road (nothing to write home about) and returned to 36. There I saw both
classic cars stopped for gas, so I did the same. They told me they were on the
way to a car show in Fortuna, which was within spitting distance of my planned
overnight stop in Arcata. Their front license plate of both cars says Friday
Knight’s (maybe a car club?). I mentally added a Fortuna stop to my plan for the

At the intersection with California Highway 3 I turned north to Hayfork.
Highway 3 is fantastic, with smooth, smooth pavement. After descending the first
hill, it follows the scenic Salt Creek Valley all the way to Hayfork. There, I
realized that I had enough time to check out the road to Hyampom. The run west
to Hyampom and back took a bit less than an hour. It’s reasonably scenic, but
the driving is not particularly exceptional. Besides, it’s hard to dodge the
squirrels: One of them found my right side Dali squirrel deflector.

Back at Hayfork, I stopped for gas. A fellow driving a pickup truck asked me
what kind of car it was, and was surprised that it was not brand new, let alone
10 years old. This was one of several such gas station encounters on my trip.

A few miles north of Hayfork, Highway 3 turned into magic again, with a
sensational series of high-speed uphill S-curves. On the downhill side I saw a
4-point buck, the first of several deer I would see. Another good reason for
confining my driving to daylight hours.

At Weaverville, I turned west on California 299. Highway 299 follows the
Trinity River. It reminds me of California 70, which follows the Feather River.
The scenery is excellent, but the traffic is brutal, and this was on a weekday
morning. In an NSX, you can pass 3 or 4 cars at a time, but you are soon stuck
behind more traffic. Another hazard is inattentive drivers: a guy doing 70 mph
up the hill with a U-haul trailer went straight instead of turning, crossing a
foot over the line into my lane before correcting. Fortunately, he didn’t spin
the trailer, or it would have wound up in my lap. In sum, Highway 299 should not
be your route of choice if you can take Highway 36.

But on this particular day, the advent of the Fortuna event turned the road
into a traveling car show. Some chopped sedans were stopped at a turnout, and I
stopped to photograph them: a 1951 Mercury, a 1953 Lincoln, and two other
similar sedans. I thought, "These poor guys will need to re-detail everything
when they arrive."

At the summit a few miles west of Willow Creek, I turned left (south) on
Titlow Hill Road, which is Siskiyou Forest Road 1. This is a smooth one-lane
road which follows one ridgeline and then switches to a second ridge line for
its southern half. This road was probably built for logging access, because
there are no houses along it. Since most of the land appears to be have been
clear-cut and replanted within the past 20 years, the trees were not so high
that they blocked out the views. In several places you can simultaneously see
the neighboring ridgelines miles away to the right and left. These are among the
most impressive roadside forest vistas I know, short of Forest Road 81 in the

Forest Road 1 is the quintessence of NSXploring: the freedom to drive remote
and deserted roads solo, without fear of breakdown. Yeah, I know: I forgot to
mention those occasional large sharp rocks in road… FR1 reminds me somewhat of
the narrow and desolate Saddle Road across the Big Island. You know, the one
that they prohibit you from driving in your rental car. πŸ™‚ I find it hard to
believe, but the 2000 California Mille did include all 55 miles of Forest Road
1, which took me an hour and a half to drive.

The road itself is a good medium-speed drive, with a reasonably good road
surface, but you need to consider safety. You are really in the middle of
nowhere, and traffic is almost nonexistent. In my hour and a half of driving, I
saw exactly one oncoming car, one fellow camping, and one logging truck. If you
drive this road, have a buddy in another car or drive it early in day so you
don’t have to wait all night for help.

The southern end of FR1 has a series of switchbacks as it descends from the
ridge into a pretty valley that holds California 36. It joins Highway 36 about
0.5 mile west of the turnoff to the town of Ruth.

I turned east on Highway 36 to check out the 25 miles that I had missed with
my Highway 299 loop. This middle section of 36 was just as good as the rest.
Feeling a bit tired, I pulled over for a nap as the engine and air conditioner
continued to run. I awoke 20 minutes later fully refreshed and ready to
continue. (If you listen to your body when it wants to sleep, you’ll find that
your sleep is very time-efficient, and you’ll be a safer driver as well. I was
sensitized to this fact after listening to an interview with Stanford sleep
expert Dr. William Dement on KCBS’s In Depth radio show the previous Sunday

Highway 36 is probably the best high-speed road I have ever driven. It has
everything: great scenery, sweeping curves galore, perfect pavement, no traffic,
and it goes on and on and on: more than 100 miles of NSXtasy. You owe it to
yourself to drive the whole length of this road west of Red Bluff. (The section
east of Red Bluff is good, too, and it connects to the excellent California 32
down to Chico.) A few miles west of Mad River, Highway 36 changes into a
single-lane road, but that only lasts about 7 miles. Just be alert here and
you’ll be fine. Highway 36 crosses and re-crosses the Van Duzen River in a
pretty section just before it ends.

At Highway 101, I turned south. I had expected to find gas stations, but
there were none. I took the Avenue of the Redwoods turnoff, and it was as scenic
as advertised. Those old redwood trees are *huge*. The road ends at a Highway
101 underpass where the sign directs you straight toward the town of Honeydew.
(Actually, it was more like Honey Don’t, since my wife had asked me to delete
this loop from a very long Day One plan. But with my Day Zero pre-start, I had
plenty of time for it.)

Crossing under Highway 101, I entered a deep, dark grove of huge redwoods.
The narrow, one-lane road appeared to have been constructed without disturbing a
single tree. As a result, it was hard to see which direction the road went after
the next couple of trees. I felt like one of those metal balls in a Pachinko
machine. I suppose that’s fitting, given the Japanese origins of the car. This
road is like the world’s tightest and longest (about 4 miles) autocross course,
with 300-foot redwood pylons. What a workout!

The road to Honeydew is relatively poor for driving, but the scenery is
wonderful, especially the view down into the valley where Honeydew is nestled.
The pine trees thin out and give out to hills covered with dry grass. A river
meanders through the bottom of the valley.

Honeydew has one store where, wonder of wonders, I found a gas pump. Whew!
And premium gas, no less. With 295 miles on the trip odometer and 50 miles to
the next town, things had been looking dicey. I added a couple gallons to ensure
a trouble-free continuation to Fortuna. A fellow with a British accent was
curious about the car, and we spent a few minutes talking about it.

There was about a half-mile long gravel section in the road northwest of
Honeydew, as it follows the Mattole River. I passed a great-looking campground
here, because overnighting would have put me behind schedule for the rest of the

I took a side trip over to Mattole Beach, but the road turned to gravel about
a mile before the beach. Now my car was *really* dirty. The beach has a camping
area, but it’s very windy. On the way back, I saw a large egret frozen like a
statue in the river (Mattole River) waiting for his dinner to swim by. He flew
off before I could photograph him.

Rejoining Mattole Road, I topped a hill with a spectacular vista of a long
beach. The road descended to parallel the water, similar to Highway 1 near the
Hearst Castle. Except that this road is practically *on* the beach. It’s a great
high-speed straight section, ending with a terrific steep straight right up the
hill. Time for full throttle in second gear. The rest of Mattole Road is scenic,
but this road really beats you up and makes you pay the price for getting into
this remote area.

I drive these roads so you don’t have to. πŸ™‚ But I can understand if you
choose to go anyway. In fact, the 2000 California Mille included this Mattole
Road loop, and some of those folks were driving some very valuable cars. It
takes all kinds, I suppose…

Fortuna was crawling (get it?) with old American cars. Everything from
T-buckets to ’50s sedans to 60s muscle cars. The NSX was so incredibly dirty
that I headed straight for the self-service car wash. Then I took photos of a
pristine parallel parked purple Packard (a little alliteration). The NSX got its
share of approving looks, waves, and hollers, too. In fact, as I was consulting
the AAA tour book to find a motel in Arcata a teenage girl had to yell several
times to get my attention and tell me that she liked the NSX.

The Fortuna Redwood Autorama, as it is called, takes place on Friday,
Saturday and Sunday on the last (or perhaps the fourth) weekend in July every
year. Next year I may attend by design, rather than by accident. Perhaps a few
of you want to drive Highway 36 with me on the way there…

The sun set into an offshore cloud bank as I continued north to Arcata, where
I stayed in a rare one-diamond motel. I probably should have camped, but I was
tired and I didn’t want to go 2 days without a shower.

Day One miles: 522

Day Two

I started out Saturday by searching for a grocery store, passing a Farmer’s
Market in the town’s central square. Then I realized that the only thing on my
shopping list was fruit. Duh! I turned around and parked, then strolled over to
one of the prettiest grassy town squares that I have ever seen, surrounded by
sidewalks lined with fruit and vegetable stands under a sunny sky. I picked up
some peaches and a bag of about 10 Asian pear-apples. But my best find was a
mixed basket of strawberries and raspberries. If you see a guy on the west side
of the square selling too-small strawberries, buy them! I got the only basket,
and these were the sweetest strawberries I have ever eaten. Ever. They
practically crunched with sugar. I should have saved some to clone. Each one was
like a flavor explosion in your mouth. Just amazing. The pear-apples were a
relatively neat snack food that carried me through the rest of the trip between

Highway 299 ascends out of Arcata in a series of high-speed sweeping turns
that can be taken at 60 to 80 mph. There are two uphill lanes, and the early
morning traffic was much lighter than I had expected. This was a real blast to
drive at high rpms with my right foot on the floor.

Highway 96 begins with a winding run down the Trinity River Valley, which
would have been wonderful had I not been stuck behind local traffic. Past Hoopa
things improved as I entered Indian Reservation area. Where the Trinity River
meets the Klamath River, the road turns upstream along the Klamath. A Toyota
packed with teenagers turned onto the road here and waved and yelled their
approval of the NSX. I waved back.

I considered and rejected an exploration of Highway 169, which is a dead-end
road downstream. I took one of the best NSX photos ever along Highway 96 here,
with the Klamath river and rocky outcroppings in the background and of course
the car in the foreground. Five miles later, I could no longer resist the urge
to turn back and check out Highway 169. Damn! I should know myself better than
this by now…

Highway 169 turned out to be little more than a narrow shared driveway, so I
turned around after only half a mile. Heading back up the Klamath River, the
road was once again terrific, all the way to the junction at Somes Bar, where I
turned east on Salmon River Road. This is a slow one-lane road. At one point the
road is so narrow and hugs a rocky cliff so tightly that you feel like you are
riding the mule trail down the Grand Canyon. There is no rail of any kind, just
a post here and there to mark the limits of where you can put your tires without
falling off. I swear there was not even one foot of pavement width to spare for
the NSX. Thanks goodness no cars approached from the other direction, because
backing up would have been a nightmare.

This is when I decided to revise my original plan, which had me looping back
and returning to Highway 96 on this same road. Shortly after the ultra-narrow
cliffside section, I stopped for a beautiful picture of the Salmon River. A
bicycling couple was stopped there, too. (As a road, Salmon River Road makes an
excellent bike path.) A sign at the beginning of the road warns: "Trailers and
campers not advisable". No kidding. I love those understated warnings that
assume reasonable intelligence in the reader. I plead innocent: the warning
didn’t say anything about sports cars. πŸ™‚

At Forks of Salmon, I had a choice between following the North Fork or South
Fork upstream. Both valleys had roads that looked similar on the map, and more
disturbingly both looked the same as the road I had just driven. It was a
tossup, but I vaguely remembered that the local ranger station people had told
me by phone something about Cecilville Road. (That was several weeks earlier
when I was planning the route.) So I took the South Fork, even though it was a
little bit longer.

The road to Cecilville was one-lane, a bit rough, and narrow enough that I
figured someone (probably me) would go over the edge and down the multi-hundred
foot dropoff if I encountered a speeding oncoming car. Then there were some
sections of messy fresh asphalt. This was not the fun drive I had planned, but
then "I drive them so you don’t have to."

Then, at Cecilville, the road suddenly improved in a quantum jump. It was now
two wide and smooth lanes, at least twice as fast as the section west of
Cecilville. I felt as if I been just made a jailbreak! This section was a great
drive, almost totally empty and fast, fast, fast. The only negative aspect was
the squealing of my rear brake wear indicators. The squealing had begun the day
before but now became much more frequent. I hoped that the rear pads would last
the rest of the trip, but I was willing to wreck a set of rotors if necessary to
finish my Tour.

The road conditions east of Cecilville remind me of Forest Road 81 in the
Sierras, but of course the scenery here is no match for the snow-capped Sierra
peaks. My driving time was 30 minutes to Forks of Salmon, then 70 minutes to
Callahan, where Cecilville Road ends with a stop sign that appears out of

After testing the anti-lock brakes at this stop sign πŸ™‚ I turned south on
California Highway 3 briefly, then turned left on Gazelle-Callahan Road. This
road is a keeper. Scenic, fast, and mostly empty. But the best part happens when
you reach the bottom of descent into Gazelle: suddenly Mount Shasta appears from
behind a ridge. It’s a real "Oh My God" moment. You suddenly see the whole
mountain from the bottom slopes to the glorious snow-capped volcanic peak. What
a photo! I took two to be sure.

I turned left on old Highway 99 and continued north on the I-5 frontage road
to Yreka. It was fun to outpace the freeway traffic on this empty road. At Yreka
I turned south on Highway 3 to Fort Jones, then doubled back and got gas at
Yreka. This was my only chance to check out this section of Highway 3. I found
it good but not great, with moderate traffic.

Next on the menu was Highway 263 north of Yreka. This is another keeper.
Light traffic and excellent driving. It reminds me of Big Tujunga Road north of
Santa Clarita. There is a beautiful bridge over the Shasta River, then all too
soon the road ends at the Klamath River and Highway 96.

Highway 96 was probably the biggest surprise of this trip. I expected plenty
of traffic, but there was practically none. You can see the river from
practically every point along the road. Rafters cruised the rapids here and
there, while I proceeded even more rapidly in the NSX. The pavement is nearly
perfect, and the same is true of the scenery.

I followed Highway 96 all the way to Willow Creek and Highway 299. There were
no patrol vehicles on the road except for the two hiding behind obstacles just
inside two small towns. You really want to observe the in-town speed limits,
which are very reasonably set at 35 or 40 mph. And in town is where the major
safety hazard exists, since that’s where the people are. I got no radar hits on
these two encounters, but it didn’t matter because my speed was low enough.

After passing Hoopa, I saw a striking young woman on a palomino horse at the
other side of the road. She did a full 180 as I passed, and I did the same and
waved. I didn’t stop because: a) I’m married, b) She looked almost young enough
to be my daughter, and c) I’m married.

For the second day in a row, I found myself cruising the coast near sunset.
This time, there was very little traffic going my way (north) on 101, I suddenly
wondered whether the recent fatal NSX crash in British Columbia could have been
caused by a flat tire. My experience Friday proves that you may not notice the
flat on a straight highway, but the car will certainly behave very badly in the
first hard turn you attempt.

Just north of Stone Lagoon on 101, the pavement is brand new. Then there is a
beachside camping zone with dozens of campers and some tents lined up all along
about a half-mile of highway. A few miles later there is a turnoff for the Drury
Scenic Parkway. Take the detour if it’s daytime; the redwoods are big and the
undergrowth is lush. But don’t bother with Coastal Drive, because it turns to

On a downslope about 16 miles past the bridge over the Klamath River, I found
the entrance to Mill Creek campground, just as the fellow at the Mad River
ranger station had told me the day before. The only problem was that the sign
said "Campground Full". But I went ahead and drove the 2 miles or so down the
side road to the campground. At the entrance booth, I put my frequent flier
begging experience to work: "Do you folks have a tiny space somewhere for my
dome tent?" The gal said no, but her co-worker said yes, there was a too-small
site that I could look at. It was plenty big enough for my tent, so I set up and
went back to booth and paid them the $12 for the site. You wouldn’t believe the
looks of amazement that you get when you drive an NSX through a campground. I
washed the car and covered it, put my stuff in the tent, and went straight to
sleep. One nice thing about camping with an NSX is that your sleeping bag is
preheated when you take it out of the trunk. πŸ™‚

Day Two Miles: 532

Day Three

Another nice thing about camping is that you pretty much have to go to sleep
when it gets dark and wake up when the sun comes up. I woke up at 6AM, and was
packed up and on my way by 7AM. I once again forgot to photograph the tent,
because I was not awake enough to remember to do so before packing everything

Some coastal fog greeted me on Highway 101, but visibility was still OK for
safety. After refueling myself and the car in Crescent City, I cruised through
the ultra-scenic Smith River area, which has plenty of old redwood trees and
rocky river valley. Then I started up California Highway 199. There was a
construction area with alternating traffic at Patrick Creek. I had planned to
stop there and check out a campground that the ranger station folks had
recommended to me, but it was our direction’s turn to go and I went ahead rather
than incur a 20-minute delay. I was behind a large line of cars and campers, and
5 cars in front of a CHP car, so I never got to exercise the NSX on Highway 199.
Under better conditions it might have been a good drive.

Shortly after crossing into Oregon, I turned right on Waldo Road, which
becomes Klamath Forest Road 48. This is an empty road that is reasonably wide
and only slightly bumpy. At the summit just inside the California border there
is a Sno-Park where you can go sledding in the winter. I have been to the one on
Highway 50 west of South Lake Tahoe twice, and it seems that every day they have
one injury that requires an ambulance. It’s just plain dangerous, especially for
brittle adults like us and especially when the hill gets crowded. I recommend an
inflatable tube for a soft ride, but watch out for the big moguls!

There’s an agricultural inspection station entering California on 199, but
not on FR48. So if, like me, you are smuggling fruit back into California, this
is the route to take.

Approaching Happy Camp, the road reminded me of some of the Canyon Roads near
Malibu. I got stuck behind a small pickup for the last few miles, but it was
time to relax anyhow.

Rejoining California 96 eastbound at Happy Camp, I rediscovered this
fantastic road. Maybe Highway 96 is why the camp is so happy. πŸ™‚ The river is
so beautiful that it’s really hard to keep your eyes on the road sufficiently.

By this time the car’s rear brake wear indicators were singing almost
continuously. I had checked the rotors in the morning when they were cold, and
so far there was no indication of damage. At this point, I figured that I had
only about 200 miles of twisties left in my Tour.

I had planned to turn south on Scott River Road at Hamburg. Having reached
there at 10:30 AM, I couldn’t resist the chance to re-run the eastern section of
California 96. I was feeling more alert than at any time during the previous
days of the Tour. It must be that camping makes you sleep better. So I continued
on 96 to I-5, imagining Mr. Uehara with a big grin on his face as he thought of
another NSX driver enjoying his car in its natural element.

The Klamath River is the same one that has been in the news recently, with
farmers upstream being denied access to water. I must say that the river did not
appear to have much extra water in it. In fact it was not navigable except with
an inflatable of some sort. The Klamath did, however, have more water than any
of the other rivers I saw: Salmon, Van Duzen, Smith, Eel, or Trinity.

At the rest stop at the junction with I-5, I phoned my family in France to
report that my Tour was nearing completion. Then I returned west on Highway 96,
getting stuck for about 10 miles behind an enforcement 4×4 that insisted on
driving 45 mph and not pulling over for me. When he stopped at a store, I was
back in business. Scott River Road turned out to be a slow one-laner. It reminds
me of the narrow part of Calaveras Road in the Bay Area. Another in the category
of "I drive them so you don’t have to". I saw two quail near the north end, and
a llama farm near the south end.

At Fort Jones, I turned south on Highway 3 to Etna. There, Main Street turns
into Sawyers Bar Road, which heads west toward Forks of Salmon. I discovered
that this was another one-lane road, almost two lanes wide but with little to
recommend it, especially considering the availability of Cecilville Road.
Satisfied with this finding, I returned to Route 3.

If you drive Highway 3, I recommend that you take Gazelle-Callahan Road
rather than Highway 3 north of Callahan. South of Callahan, Highway 3 is the way
to go. I did not check out East Callahan Road, so you could try that, but
Gazelle-Callahan is really good.

Highway 3 is a fairly ordinary 2-lane in the flats as far south as Callahan,
but then the magic begins. About 4 miles of high-speed winding sweepers lead
uphill to Scott Mountain summit. On the south side (downhill for me) the turns
are much tighter, mostly switchbacks. There are no guardrails between you and a
multi-hundred foot drop on the right, and there are bits of gravel here and
there on the road, so traveling this route southbound may not be for acrophobes.
It’s not a good place to have a flat tire and spin out.

An oncoming patrol 4×4 passed me on my way down. No worries, because it’s
impossible to exceed 55 mph on the way down and stay on the road. Good thing he
didn’t see me on my way up, though.

In the Trinity River Valley, a pickup truck pulled out into the oncoming
lane. He was towing a trailer with two Jet Skis. Each Jet Ski had a teenager on
top, and they stood up and waved and hollered at me. The NSX has that effect on

A few minutes later, I encountered a parked white enforcement 4×4 apparently
waiting for northbound speeders. It was a strange location, because speeding
seemed to be impossible there: I had topped the rise at only 58 mph and I was
trying hard. πŸ™‚ It was then that I realized that I turned off my radar detector
up at the I-5 rest stop, some 150 miles back. Oops…

I noticed a white truck far behind heading my direction and suddenly decided
that I really needed to check out the Hayward Campground off to the left. Purely
coincidence, you understand. One bio break and a few minutes later I was back on
Highway 3 southbound toward Weaverville. I never did see that enforcement truck

Still having some extra time, I turned left on Trinity Dam Blvd. to check it
out. It had some bits of gravel from shoulder repair, but was otherwise OK. Then
when I got to the dam and the road turned downstream, the pavement was
glass-smooth. The Trinity River becomes the narrow, emerald-green Lewiston Lake
here, and it is beautiful. Tame deer were everywhere, including one eating the
grass right next to someone’s house trailer.

I turned west on Rush Creek Road, which is OK but not great, similar to the
first section of Trinity Dam Blvd.

Highway 299 east from Weaverville had traffic, as before, but the downhill
section into Redding was a surprise. There were lots of hairpin turns, and the
few cars present let me past promptly. If you got out of Redding early enough,
you just might be able to have a very fun uphill run west on 299. Too bad I ran
out of videotape before this descent.

As I was winding down the hill, my 2001 Tour was winding down, and I
reflected on the superb driving roads I had experienced, along with the couple
of real stinkers. Three solid days of driving NSXtasy. Picture postcard weather,
no tickets, no mishaps, and no blowouts, at least since Friday. πŸ™‚

Driving the NSX in everyday traffic is like watching Michael Jordan play
baseball. Sure, he looks good but you know it’s not where he belongs. Taking a
long back roads trip in the NSX is like watching Michael Jordan in the NBA
playoffs: all the right moves combine for a thrilling experience.

The rest of the drive home was mostly freeway. I-5 was packed with rolling
72-mph roadblocks, which persisted until the I-505 split. Then I had clear
sailing to Vacaville, where the real traffic jam started. It was bad enough that
I got off and found an alternate route through Fairfield: Pennsylvania Avenue
south to Cordelia Blvd west. Cordelia Blvd. was empty and fast, a great
alternate route to I-80.

I re-explored Lopes Road, which fronts I-680 between Gold Hill Road and Lake
Herman Road. I discovered that Lake Herman Road is a nice, empty 2-lane driving
road. Take it to Columbus Parkway and make a U-turn. Coming back over the hill
you get a great view of Mt. Diablo first, then Suisun Bay and the merchant
marine fleet. I turned south for home, this time with no more stops.

I completed my third consecutive successful Tour de California just after
sunset, on the same day when Lance Armstrong completed his third consecutive
successful Tour de France. Vive le NSX!

Day Three total: 611 miles

Tour Summary

Miles: 1862, not counting the 75 miles I drove twice due to the flat

Road kill: one squirrel plus two possibles and one sideswiped bird

Radar traps encountered: zero (possible exception for the 150 miles I ran
without a detector)

Number of waves, smiles, "nice car!" exclamations, and other enthusiastic
gestures: countless

Tour de California
Great NSX Drives!