Well that did not go as planned, but that’s traveling for you! We had intended to punctuate our crossover toward the coast with a two-night stop in the Klamath National Forest area for a nice bike ride. Everything was going as planned until around dinner time after we got there. We walked in to a restaurant in Etna, noting the sky seemed a little hazy. “Is that smoke?” we wondered aloud. Nah. An hour or so later and, as we came back outside, the smell and orangish tint in the air left no room for wishful thinking. By the next morning, the air quality was such that we really didn’t even want to go outside.
So, that made us do a full about face and just sort of hang around doing laundry and getting things done online. It was not like a disaster or anything, and we got a nice drive in from Lava Beds, catching a cool photo op of Shasta along the way. There were a couple of different bike rides Richard had researched, one going 60 miles around the Etna/Fort Jones valley, and the other going up to the summit of Sawyer’s Bar Road. Some day we’ll have to go back when Oregon is not on fire so he can try those out.
As for Etna, I really liked it. It’s a very cute little town with a plenty of history and just enough amenities to feel like an oasis. In fact, if you’re hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, Etna is the lifeline in a hundred miles of wilderness stretching in either direction. Hikers walk a full ten miles out of their way to make it a provisioning stop. All we had to do was run the air conditioner and stay out of the smoke.
One extremely cool thing that happened came about because Richard has no impulse control whatsoever. After dinner, we went walking around the single street that makes up “downtown.” There was a hand drawn map posted outside, clearly showing there was a bike shop right there. But the building seemed to have all of its windows covered with paper, like it was either out of business, or doing a remodel or something. It did not look like a storefront where the general public could just walk in. There were no signs indicating what it was, but careful peering revealed some kind of bicycle based activity going on inside. It was simply too intriguing, and because there were no signs explicitly saying “DO NOT TRY TO OPEN THIS DOOR,” Richard gave the knob a try. What he found on the other side of that door was one of the most famous bicycle frame builders anywhere in the world.
Steve Potts came and greeted us, mostly to calm down his dog who went berserk when Richard tried the doorknob. Not only was he not annoyed, but cheerfully invited us in to his workshop. It didn’t take long for Richard to realize this was something special. Steve showed us his frames in progress and talked a little about how he builds custom titanium bicycles. These are not the kind of thing we could ever afford. Each frame is literally a work of art. The time spent carefully hand crafting each one is unbelievable. I’m not so much a bicycle person, but even I could appreciate the beauty in the detailed craftsmanship here. And this guy is about the nicest, most friendly person you will ever meet. Kinda cool to just stumble into a bicycle world living legend.
Besides that, we had a lovely dinner at Denny Bar, which is also a distillery. It get’s a 4.8 rating, which is a hard score to maintain, but one can see why. We came both nights we were in town and had the hand tossed pizza both times. We also tried their street tacos and their roasted garlic with Burrata cheese. Plus, an IPA on tap. OMG. We topped that off with a soft serve cone from Dotty’s Diner, right next to the RV park. Different vibe, but no less satisfying.
So, it was not the trip we expected, but fun and eventful, nonetheless. This was all while staying at a private RV place located next to a rodeo that happened to coincide with our visit. We did not really check it out, but did enjoy the regular “Yee haw!” sound effects. Definitely worth a do-over return trip some day.
Total miles from Lava Beds: 134.2, 4 hours 8 min, 16.7 mpg. Full hookup site. Nice place for a private RV park. Laundry, good fast wifi, very nice bathrooms.