14 Miles For The Wild Cloud Flowers

Nothing at all against sitting around watching the Strade Bianche, but I wanted to ride around some dirt and see if I could find the seasonal bloom of wildflowers that take over the hills and plains of California after good rains. Visual rumors on Instagram were teasing me — it might be going on while we were gathered around the dodgy VPN feed watching other people ride bikes. I was anxious to film and shoot something. More anxious to do that then watch the tube, to be honest.

Intel on where the blooms may be is sketchy at best. For some reason, I gravitated towards Carrizo Plain just west of Bakersfield. I guess having had been there once before was all the reason I needed.

It’s not at all a short drive from Venice Beach, but the jaunt felt full of purpose and anticipation that the bloom might be there and if I let go of that sense of determination I’d miss it all together. It felt like a hunt. A reconnoiter. Vernor was pinging, seeking intel for a possible future trip — in two days? Or two weeks? What was going on, where? Anyone have a guy with a satellite downlink view of the Great State of California? Highway 5 taunted with patches of yellow just leading into the turn eastward into the Carrizo. It just might be there..


The viridian rolling hills that take you up over and down into the plain were like the bloom stretching and cracking its knuckles before a prize fight. The plain itself was rich and saturated with a lively lush green that felt like life coming back. Cars were stopped and small squads of flower hunters were fanning out, pointing iPhones. We were a distributed information system, sharing intel as we pulled up next to each other and rolled down windows, pointing in different directions, squinting into the distance. Assessing the veracity of each other’s statements. Updating each other based on new intel. Cross-checking and contradicting each other. ‘..Yeah, no..it’s not over there. Oh. You mean over there. Possibly..possibly..’


This is the point in the story where either the music swells, or we hear a sad trombone noise. I’ll give you neither. Adventures like these in epic terrain like this find their own reason for being worth the effort. And sometimes you don’t find that reasons until the next day when you look at the film and remember how you decided to turn the Seven Mile Road into a Fourteen Mile out-and-back, riding up completely overgrown roads marked only by a surprisingly new looking street sign. And that’s all that mattered. Not a KOM. Not breaking land-speed records. Not feeling diminished by pedaling “only” 14 miles, stopping regularly to admire a view, talk with a fellow cyclist or learn about the botany of the the Carrizo Plain from a guy with a big camera wearing a vest with a dozen pockets.

Ride More.

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