Day 7 - Manton to Black Butte Lake

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April 21, 2002 ( ~ 77 miles)

All the pain we had endured on the way up from Manton was briefly rewarded as we booked down the mountain towards the Central Valley. We scared many herds of cattle and made it down to Red Bluff in about one-fifth the time it took us to get up.

Now, for those of you who have been following the famous San Francisco Dog Mauling Case [yawn], you will know that the dog owning lawyers took refuge in the town of Red Bluff after their dogs killed Diane Whipple but before they were arrested. Red Bluff is a gross town and I could see how they would fit in there. Maybe we just got a bad vibe because it was Sunday and the rodeo was in town, but it just seemed like an icky place. We ate a big waffle breakfast there. But we weren't used to so many people being around. And also across the street from the restaurant there was a Winnabago parked that had written on it, "Show me your happy bags," and, "Show me your tits." I have never heard the expression "happy bags" before. And if someone seriously thinks that they are going to see live nudity while driving a Winnabago I have to say that I think they are so, so sadly delusional.

Unfortunately, Red Bluff was the only town that we'd be going through that we were sure would have groceries for 3 or 4 days. So we went to the Food for Less. There they advertise that they use only plastic bags to save the customer money. Hmm. I bought all kinds of groceries and we left quickly.

We were headed for the western side of the Central Valley, on what appeared to be descent-sized roads. I guess I would add here that we were using only AAA maps and an outdated camping book to navigate our trip, and it was around this time that AAA started letting us down. We came to a road that said it was closed ahead, but we kept going because we didn't want to backtrack. We had to ford a stream, but that was no big deal. And after that the road was gravel and that became irritating. Dirt is OK, but gravel is not. So we decided to head toward a more central road, but something was wrong with this road too so we ended up crossing the I-5 and riding back through Corning. I was convinced that we were on the same road where the dogs had attacked us, but Ryan said no, and we did not see them.

I thought we should get some more groceries while we were there. When I paid for my stuff, the checker started asking where I'd riding from and about my trip. She was very excited. The bag boy straight up did not believe me. He sensibly asked how much money we had to bring. I said, "A lot, because we eat so much." The checker told him that it could definitely be done, that she rides her bike to Red Bluff all the time, and that she and her friends and her dad were planning to ride to Fort Bragg. I thought that sounded like a good trip.

We rode for the rest of the afternoon on nice rolling roads to our campground at Black Butte Lake. We saw another cyclist out for a day ride, and I found a water bottle on the side of the road, so there must have been more where he came from.

We got to our campsite late in the afternoon, as usual. I made us instant mashed potatoes for dinner while Ryan took a shower (free showers again!). The potatoes surprised me and boiled over, soaking Ryan's brand new stove. Luckily I was done cooking because the stove would not relight. I did not tell Ryan because he freaks out easily and I knew the stove probably just needed to dry out. The potatoes were delicious so I decided to make some more, and this is when Ryan figured out that I had soaked his stove. He predictably freaked out and I believe I took a picture of him sulking in the tent. The stove was totally fine of course [after I fixed it] and in a little while Ryan came out to have more spuds.

Black Butte Lake is a weird place. The campground is run by the Army Corps of Engineers, which I think means they built a dam somewhere and this lake resulted, so they made a campground for boat and fishing and off-road-vehicle people. It was fine though. Free showers. A lot of interesting water fowl.