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Road Stories

Via Truckee and Sierraville

Most people coming through Sacramento (including the Bay Area) prefer to go through Truckee, via Interstate 80. Go North on SR89 to Sierraville, then turn left. Until Sattley, this is North 89 and South 49. At Sattley, bear left, to stay on South 49, which goes to Sierra City, Downieville, and Sierra City. The highway crosses Yuba Pass before descending to Bassetts, where you turn right on the Gold Lake Road. If you get to Sierra City, you have gone too far. The Truckee route is moderately curvy from Truckee to Sierraville (about 25 miles), then quite curvy from Sattley to Bassetts.

Between Sierraville and Sattley you cross part of Sierra Valley, which is the largest mountain valley in California, the source of the Middle Fork of the Feather River, and a place where in years past millions of migrating birds would stop to rest, feed, and moult; their fallen plumage then floated downstream into the Sacramento Valley where, noticed by Spanish explorers, they inspired the name of the great Rio de las Plumas.

Via Nevada City

The route through Nevada City is shorter in mileage, but longer in hours and, for those who suffer from carsickness, misery. It is, however, very pretty, and passes through the classic Gold Rush towns of Nevada City and Downieville. This route is very curvy, particularly between Nevada City and Camptonville, and for the last 20 miles west of Sierra City.

The Nevada City route crosses all three forks of the Yuba River, running alongside the North Yuba River for about 25 miles, from Indian Valley to Sierra City. Aficionados of the history of power engineering can view the monument to Robert Pelton in Camptonville. The Pelton Wheel, with its twin-cup design, won a competition, sponsored by PG&E in the late 19th Century, that attracted inventors from all over the world. Pelton wheel turbines continue in service in the low-flow, high-fall hydroelectric facilities of the mountain West; they are also featured in modern mechanical engineering textbooks because of their very high efficiency in converting falling water into electricity. /td>

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