#139n Kern River Canyon

Fleeter Log #139n
Kern River Canyon

Day 20 - Monday
May 4, 2009
196 miles
Ojai, CA to Kernville, CA
Interactive Spotwalla map

At 12:30 pm, after spending a few very worthwhile hours getting my seat customized at Bill Mayer Saddle in Ojai, I headed north out of town on CA33 toward Maricopa. I was but a few miles down the road when I entered the Los Padres National Forest. About here I might mention that some parts of my rides are as much of a surprise to me as to you, the Fleeter Log readers. I had no idea what kind of roads I'd see leaving Ojai. I love it when the best riding roads come along as complete surprises. Today, CA33 was one of those kind of surprises. Later this afternoon I'd have another one.

Enter through here for some of the best riding in Ventura County, California.

The tunnels give entry to Wheeler Gorge and Sespe Gorge for some nice turns through some rhythmic twists on the way to Maricopa.
The GS and I are reaching a new level of bonding with the new Bill Mayer seat making the ride even more enjoyable! Just look at my fleeter-mobile!
(click on any photo to enlarge)

This is what I'm talking about when I say some roads are pleasant surprises.

I found these R1200RT riders from Mexico also enjoying the view at a pullout. They had just left Sequoia National Forest heading back home to Mexico. Since I was heading to Sequoia, I was very interested in what they had to say about the route. . . especially when they told me the road I intended to take through Kings Canyon National Park was still closed due to snow. Time to rethink my route. Javier got out his map to make some suggestions. They had just found themselves in the same dilemma yesterday when they learned that their proposed route was still covered with snow. They advised me to consider Kernsville, California near Lake Isabella. I consider this option thinking it will give me a chance at some good roads (per Javier) and another chance to check the roads through Sequoia National Forest tonight for tomorrow's route.
The horizon didn't suddenly tilt--that would be me on the lean. While riding CA33, I spent a lot of time seeing the horizon at less than level.
The roads flatten out as I leave the Los Padres National Forest behind. The new terrain stretches out long and loping. The Carrizo Plain National Monument expands to the north on my left.

California Highway 33 video

Eventually, I come into a more populated area, make a needed fuel stop, then scoot right through the Streets of Bakersfield following GPS Jill's directions to the east side of town where I find CA178 and turn north.

This warning greets those who enter into the Kern River Canyon.
CA178 begins to looks like one of those special roads that fortune sometimes treats me to as I fleetering about. It takes me along the southern edge of the Greenhorn Mountains in the lower portion of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

CA 178 flows through the Kern River Canyon following the river north into the mountains providing an excellent fleetering road!

After following the Kern River for several miles, I was intrigued and wanted to get a closer look. I took the next pullout where I could safely park and hike down a trail to the water.
Kern River Canyon video

While I was wandering down near the water taking pictures, a truck showed up in the pullout. Next thing you know I strike up a conversation with Mary & Jimmy and I'm invited to supper with them in Wofford Heights about 40 miles down the road.

We part ways with plans for me to call to get directions to Mary's house when I reach Lake Isabella.

A smaller road (Kern River Canyon Road) off to the right gets my attention. It splits off to the right and stays to the right side of the Kern River when CA178 crosses over to the left. I strike down it for a ways to see what it has to offer. If I weren't expected for supper, putting me with a need to keep to a schedule, I'd explore down this interesting road further. But this is Day 20 of me being on the road and I haven't had a home-cooked meal since Day 12 in Roswell.

Even though I think the smaller road would take me to Bodfish, I decide to backtrack to the larger highway where I know I can make better time to arrive for supper in a timely manner.
Lake Isabella is a man-made earthen reservoir created in 1953 by the construction of Isabella Dam to prevent the flooding of Bakersfield. If this dam breaks, the streets of Bakersfield will be flooded within 2-4 hours. In this photo you can see the low level of the lake. Since 2006 when the dam started seeping, the lake's level has dropped 20 feet below its normal full level.
I reach Wofford Heights and make my phone call for directions to supper. I enjoy a good supper, swap some stories, then head out in search of a place for the night. I pull into Kernsville about 8pm to find that the town apparently closes up at dusk -- which occurs about 8pm this time of year. I find most the Mom & Pop motel offices closed and one that said open, but they didn't respond to my knocking. A few passes through town, I see a motel office with the "closed" light lit, but see someone still inside. I knock and they respond. I get a room for the night at the Kernville Inn right across from town center and next to the river. Nice place and I can't complain much about the $94 rate since they were the only ones willing to open a door to a late arriving customer.

I get settled for the night and pull out the maps to see what options I have for tomorrow. The Internet isn't responding (grumble, grumble) so I can't check for road closures to the north. Instead, I make two routes. First one goes through Sequoia and Inyo National Forests and the other one is a back up route to the west and south, in case I can't make it north to Tonopah.

I go to bed with the sound of the Kern River flowing past my back window.

Copyright 2009 Fleeter Logs


  1. Wow Claye! Is that a BMW under all that gear? LOL!!! Anyway, another great write-up! I can see right now I need to get to the West Coast for some riding!!!

    Gary "Zoom" Davis

  2. Gary, Good to hear that you've been reading along. I'm glad that my logs inspire you to want to get out there and ride some of the great roads that I have had the good fortune to find.

    Happy Trails, Claye

  3. Nice photos! So, was Mary and Jimmy 'cyclists or wannabes? Or, just folks? The Kern River Canyon Road sounds very cool!

  4. Just folks. She is a free spirit -- said she recognized the free spirit in me. She thought riding across the US alone on a motorcycle was a very cool thing. I like it when people express those kind of sentiments.

  5. Clay, Great to hear from you again.... Hope you had a Merry Christmas and wish you lots of safe riding in 2010. Happy New Year !!!! Keep the Fleeter Photos coming they are Great.

    Motor On,

  6. Claye - Glad that you were able to get this posted, I always enjoy trying to keep up with your writing and riding.
    Bob J (BaddBob)