Monday, May 27, 2024

~ Lockwood Creek Washout ~


“The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.”J.R.R. Tolkien



Lake Kaweah near Three Rivers, CA.

There is a beginning, middle, and ending to every story. Everyone knows that—this one, however, is different.

Lockwood Valley Road.

Recent rains washed out the road.

Decision time, cross or backtrack?


The Lockwood Creek reversed everything—ROAD CLOSED DUE TO FLOODING—the sign stopped us in our tracks. Disappointed, the road closure barriers were a powerful message on the last leg of our 1,100-mile ride. Then, a utility worker in a four-wheel vehicle approached us from the west, where we hoped to go. “The entire road is washed out, and passage is risky, especially on those motorcycles. There is heavy flooding. I don’t recommend it,” he said matter-of-factually.




We stood there in silence not wanting to backtrack. We decided to ride towards the road damage to see for ourselves, then determine whether the crossing was possible. Officially, it’s called the Lockwood Valley Road and is a shortcut to Frazier Park and Interstate 5.


While our ride may have ended here, it began earlier when my brother, Gilbert traveled from Apple Valley to our Three Rivers home several days earlier. Our destination was a bike ride along Hwy 1 or the Pacific Coast Highway, something we’ve done many times before.


“Gilbert, here are advanced copies of the June ’24 RoadRUNNER Magazine for you and Melissa. It’s full of adventure.” He carefully tucked the magazines in his saddle bags, which were packed to the brim. His stay is long enough for a hearty breakfast — huevos rancheros, coffee, and watermelon. Denise takes a final picture as two bandits leave Three Rivers.


Leaving Three Rivers


Barely five miles down the road, we stopped by Kaweah Lake. “Gilbert, I call this my “zen spot. The views of the lake are amazing.” We parked our bikes overlooking Kaweah Lake. The incredible winter snowmelt has the lake filled. The ducks below are in heaven. However, an occasional osprey soaring above has them on high alert. The view towards Sequoia National Park, draped in snow-covered peaks, is a photo op. The view never gets old.

Gilbert enjoys the scenery.

The ride west along Hwy 198 is easygoing. Back at the lake, I noticed that Gilbert was approaching 100,000 miles on his H-D Street Glide. Many of those miles have been together on rides out to New Mexico. Arizona, Wyoming, and Montana. As we passed Hanford and saw him in my rear mirror, we easily traveled 25,000 miles together.

Native American carvings along Hwy 198.

Timeless - old gas station near Lemon Cove, CA.

My favorite trip was a ride out to New Mexico and documented “In Search of POP 25.” Gilbert was instrumental in finding an important part of our family history. Then, without warning, a crazy driver crosses the highway in front of me reminding me to stay alert. All bikers experience such close calls and safety is number one.


The calm wind returned along Hwy 198 as we approached Coalinga, and Gilbert assumed the lead as I followed. We regularly switch leading assuring that we both stay alert.


On To Pinnacles National Park

Resting along Hwy 198.

As we approached Hwy 25, we pulled over for a break to hydrate and make phone calls. Gilbert talked with his daughter, Melissa for important family news. All is well at his home and we continued to Pinnacles National Park. This ride is awesome, with curves and scenic landscapes. Cows in the rich tall green grass appear, happy and healthy. There are huge basins of water from the recent rains. Turkey Vultures circled above us, but we were unsure of the dead prey that they seemed focused upon.


Time to ride on as those vultures appeared too close.  Einstein once said, “Nothing happens unless it moves.”

We explore along Old Hernadez Rd. and Willow Creek Rd.

This Valley Oak was impressive, but we had to stop.

Pinnacles National Park

This is perhaps one of the best little national parks in America. I worked here early in my career with the National Park Service. At the time, it was Pinnacles National Monument. It became a National Park on January 10, 2013. I did a fun piece for RoadRUNNER Magzine called "In Pursuit of Wildness: Pinnacles National Park" on April 24, 2017.

Our favorite National Park.

Campsite #53 was perfect.

Our gourmet dinner.

As we settled into our campsite, another camper arrived at the site next to ours. He seemed a bit lonely so Gilbert introduced us and welcomed him. "My name is Carl with a K," he said. It took me 7 hours to get here as I took some back roads. I'm from Dana Point." Carl with a K as we called him was a big guy who recently retired and was determined to reconnect with camping, something that he missed. We liked him immediately and soon he joined us for dinner at our camp. As he was unloading his gear, a raccoon stole his tortillas right in front of us.

We swapped stories as each of us cooked our steaks to perfection. Carl with a K had brought a steak as well and some much-needed firewood. It turned out that he retired as an IT professional for Kawasaki Motorcycles, so the conversation about motorcycles was easy.

I encouraged him to hike the High Peaks trails as he hoped to see a California Condor. The park ranger told us earlier there were four nesting California Condors in the park.

On to San Simeon, Morro Bay, and Pismo Beach

The ocean near San Simeon was soothing.

JBJ Round Up in Cambria served the best pizza.

We eat well on our trips.

Cambria Minosas served the best breakfast. 

Riding The Pacific Coast Highway

Morro Bay is seen in the distance.

Time seemed to slow down with each mile.

Morro Bay was a perfect spot for two bandits.

Seeing nesting Peregrine Falcons was a highlight.

Pismo Beach was peaceful.

We played tourists and had fun.

Chili Relleno and Enchilada dinner.

Welcome to Casitas Springs
Home of Johnny Cash

The ride continued south along Hwy 1 and passed Oceano, Guadalupe, Vandenberg Force Space Base, Lompoc, Gaviota, and Refugio and El Capitan State Beaches. The calmness soon disappeared as we approached Santa Barbara and our motel for the night in Carpenteria.

However, in the morning we were off towards the peaceful mountains on Hwy 150 toward Lake Casitas and Ojai, places where Gilbert had not been to. Years ago I had traveled on Hwy 33 from Ventura to Casitas Springs and discovered a billboard honoring the late, Johnny Cash. We both loved Johnny Cash and getting a picture in front of the sign would be priceless. Unbeknown to us, there was considerable road construction between Ojai and Casitas Springs, and getting to the site was a challenge. We couldn't get a picture of our motorcycles in front of the sign due to the construction, but a helpful worker offered to take our picture if we hurried. As I looked at the billboard, another fun article came to mind, "Exploring the Badlands of New Mexico, Johnny Cash style."

This picture is priceless.

On To The Lockwood Valley Road

Seeing the Johnny Cash sign was a highlight for us but it's time to head home.

"Gilbert, I know a shortcut to Interstate 5 that we can take. The road climbs high into the mountains and is scenic." He agreed and we followed the lines on the mapOija to Wheeler Springs on Hwy 33 and at the Lockwood Valley Road, we will head east towards Frazier Park and then Interstate 5. He agreed as getting home soon was a priority for him.

Umpteen curves danced along the road.

The fog lifted offering panoramic views.

This couple passed us off and on up the mountain.

"The greatest adventure is what lies ahead."  J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Lockwood Creek Washout

The entire trip had been a biker's dream ride. The country roads to Pinnacles National Park were easy going while the riding along Hwy 1 from San Simeon to Santa Barbara was full of curves and sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. It seemed fitting the most memorable moment of the entire trip was the ending. Perhaps, to those motorcycle enthusiasts on adventure bikes, the Lockwood Creek Washout would be a piece of cake. On our heavy cruisers, it was different. Our bikes are much heavier and loaded with camping gear so we proceeded with caution.

Ninety percent of the road was gone and only a small dirt shoulder offered passage. We decided to walk across the flooded road and then make a decision.

His words of warning rang in my ear: “The entire road is washed out, and passage is risky, especially on those motorcycles. There is heavy flooding. I don’t recommend it.”

We walked across the flooded section and we agreed to go for it—we made it! 

We continued leisurely towards Frazier Park and came across numerous places where flooding had occurred but nothing like the Lockwood Creek Washout. Once we connected with Interstate 5, we descended the Gravevine towards Bakersfield. The air is hot and the traffic is frantic. At the bottom of the Grapevine, Gilbert peels off to the east off Hwy 223 towards Arvin and Hwy 58. The shortcut saved considerable time as he continued home to Apple Valley. I’m not in any hurry so I stop by Bakersfield Harley-Davidson Dearlership on Merel Haggard Drive to rest. I stop by here frequently on my road trips out east before returning to Three Rivers. 

Inside the dealership, I talk with the sales manager and share bits of this story beginning with the Lockwood Creek Washout. He listens intently. Refreshed, I continued the final leg of this trip and arrived home after nearly 1,100 miles.