Do you have a problem with RTS (Runaway Throttle Syndrome)? You know, the tendency of that little right-hand grip to accelerate “all on its own” leaving you smiling past the scenery at triple digit speeds. I hate that! (I particularly hate it when it’s called to my attention by well-meaning peace officers).
If you have this problem, and/or are only recently graduated from RTS Rehab, you should avoid California Highway 166. Especially, the 80-mile run from Route 101, near Santa Maria, to Maricopa. It’s a piece of rural roadway in Central California that has some inexplicable throttle-winding properties that continue to bewitch that right handgrip into the high-amusement zone regardless of the rider’s best intentions.
It’s one of those roads that I’ve ridden so many times I’m sometimes afraid I’ll kill the thrill. Regardless, I keep trying to bear enough discipline on that throttle to keep it from getting too independent. Alas, it only seems to get more difficult with greater road familiarity.
Fortunately, the route is periodically patrolled by the good guys who give out hand-written prescriptions to RTS, although I’ve found their intended remedy is mostly short lived. More significantly, a side effect of such a prescription is the requirement of a deduction from your bank account.
So why is RTS so pervasive on this road?
I don’t know for sure. Perhaps some kind of space alien influence? I can only conjecture that there is something very funny about this valley that so victimizes otherwise responsible motorcyclists. Sure, it could be argued that it looks pretty innocent. The roadway meanders enchantingly by way of a number of long sweepers and a series of equally fine twisties that keep the smile factor mode in full application.
In fact, not surprisingly, most of this route has earned the California Scenic Highway badge represented by the colorful “poppy” signage. No doubt due to the Los Padres Padres National Forest and its Sierra Madres Mountains along the south that watch over Route 166. As well, the Caliente Range, Carrizo Plain National Monument, and the San Adreas Fault all hang out north of Highway 166, adding their own bit of magic to the mix.
Route 166 is also known as the Cuyama Highway: rightfully so, as it winds along the Cuyama River through the Cuyama Valley. And if that’s not enough “Cuyama” for you, there are also the towns of Cuyama and New Cuyama, the latter existing as the primary source of food and gas in this area. New Cuyama could just as well be called Instant Cuyama, since even with the throttle under severe disciplinary restraint, you will fly by that fast.
And by the way, what the heck does “Cuyama” mean?
Would you believe it’s a Chumash Indian word for “clam”?
Hard to imagine a clam could ever find its way into this serene valley surrounded by mountain crests, rolling hills, and dry grasses. It seems the Cuyama namesake is derived from millions of petrified prehistoric clamshells spread out in the surrounding areas. Hmmmm, perhaps now we are getting at something important. Could it be that these are some kind of space-alien-transported-shells that account for the unique source of magnetic agitation to Runaway Throttle Syndrome? Alert the media!
Regardless, if you are prone to RTS, Highway 166 is definitely a road to avoid (at least until all these shells are located and removed).