Our first venture into the wilds of California
This trip has been in the planning for a long time. We first thought it up over two years ago in a Seattle airport after Danny, Loretta, Kris and myself drove up the coast in a rented Chevy Blazer. The decision to come back and make this trip came the same day we decided on the name “CanyonChasers.” Our original plan for this trip was to rent a U-haul and trailer the bikes to the coast, then ride them up into Canada, east towards Bonners Ferry and then back into Utah through Idaho. We figured we could do the whole trip without a single straight road. We also had a group of people, as large as 15, going! However, when it all came down to it, only Kris and myself were able to go. So, it goes without saying that, for us, this trip was long awaited.
- California, Sun
- Coastal Cold
- You Can Get Anything You Want
- Welcome to The Rock
- Pacific Coast Highway
- The Trees of Mystery
- Lost in Oregon
238 Miles | Five Hours, Fifteen Minutes
Before we could enjoy California, we had to cross the void of Nevada. It is too bad that Nevada stands in the way of some of the greatest riding in the world. So, just like the trip to Laguna Seca, we loaded the bikes into our trailer and carried them to Placerville, California where we had a friend who was allowing us to park the truck and trailer at his home while wen explored the Pacific Coast. Our original plan included two weeks wandering but had been reduced to a one-week trip before we would have to load the bikes back up and head home.
So, on Thursday September 21st of 2001 at 12:40 in the afternoon we pulled out of the driveway with the bikes in the trailer.
Kris, despite many trips to Wendover, had never stopped long enough to go out and actually touch the world famous Salt Flats. (Isn’t she cute?) Anyway, It took us until 12:40 that night before we completed the 592 miles to Placerville. The little Nissan got all of 8mpg but did it in fine form despite only being able to maintain speeds of 50-55 mph..
We woke up early the next morning and quickly loaded all our gear onto the bikes and were jumping to leave. Heidi had given us some “happy vacation” presents. Two of the most tasty granola bars imaginable. We wolfed them down and got ready to leave. A perfect way to start a ride. The road into Bruce’s house was very steep with lots of sharp corners. Kris was nervous about tackling them on the bike. We had no idea that they were merely a foreshadowing of what was coming.
Here we are, in front of Bruce’s house. Trees are aplenty and the weather was absolutely perfect. It was warm standing in the sun so we jumped onto the bikes and worked our way out of Bruce’s neighborhood. Kris was surprised that a road that looked treacherous in the truck was ‘too easy’ on the bike.
Right out of Placerville we jumped onto Hwy 49 going south. Immediately the road went from congested city streets to extremely twisty roads full of elevation changes. About every 10-15 miles we would hit another small town, slow down for traffic lights, the occasional stop sign then get back to a ‘quicker’ pace. It was very nice. Immediately apparent was the difference between the average Utah driver and the average California driver. In Utah, drivers will never let you pass. They tend to speed up on the straights, then slow way back down when the road starts throwing out curves. In California, the drivers were really quick to utilize the nearest pullout and politely wave as we went around them. The polite wave became very contagious and we began waving every time a driver was polite to us. We waved to a lot of people on this trip.
We rode through Calaveras county again, the home of the famous jumping frog, and got gas in Angels Camp before continuing. The road was great and the polite drivers were making the ride a lot of fun despite the fair amount of traffic. We stopped in Sonora, oddly enough at the bottom of Sonora Pass. We rode Sonora pass on our way to Laguna Seca and we keyed into Sonora again this time because it was familiar to us from our trip out here earlier this summer.
In Sonora we found another oddity to California. Few places were accepting credit cards. We walked into a really cute bakery for lunch and were disappointed when we pulled out our Visa and the girl behind the counter says”sorry, we don’t accept cards.” We scrambled through our cash but didn’t have enough for the bill. That didn’t slow the cashier a bit. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. “There is an ATM down the street. I’ll get your lunch ready and you can pay after you eat.”
We were astonished by this. More than not accepting credit cards, but the cashier trust that we would make good on the bill. I still took off and walked the two blocks the the nearest ATM. Lunch was ready by the time I got back and Kris was already eating lunch. The cashier wouldn’t let me pay until after we ate. This whole scene was amazing to me. In Utah, your average customer service is deplorable and almost always untrusting. Not only did we get great service with a smile, but we were a ssumed to be responsible members of society. A very nice change to the Utah assumption that we were criminals and theifs.
As we pulled out of Sonora I saw a motorcycle shop and stopped. We needed to pick up a couple of things that we had forgotten. I also figured that we could ask advice on some good roads. The shop was very friendly and were quick to start teasing and joking around with us. Again, contrast to the average Utah motorcycle shop. The owner of the shop recommended that we stay on 49 south for longer than we planned. We did, and what great advice. The road was incredible. A group of bikes passed us just as we turned onto the section of road the shop recommended. (Between the towns of Moccasin and Mariposa) A rider on a Cagiva Gran Canyon was right in front of me and I stayed close on his tail until the road started getting bumpy. At that point the Gran Canyon simply walked away from me. I still think those adventure tourers are not given near the credit that is due them.
Here I am checking out how the tires are wearing. The roads were so tight and technical that I felt my lean angles were pretty extreme. However, close examination of the tires showed that the bike was not leaning any more than usual. I was trying some new riding techniques that was allowing me to go through a lot of the corners with more speed and confidence.
When we arrived in Mariposa we turned up towards Yosemite on Hwy 140. Yosemite is a park that we had always wanted to visit but neither of us ever had. Hwy 40 followed the course of a river as it wound its way through the bottom of a canyon. It was pretty neat to follow that course and it was unusual to see the river virtually dry.
When we finally got to Yosemite we noticed something. There was an odd smell and and we didn’t know how to identify it. We hoped that we would be able to find a campsite in the park because it was still pretty early. We wandered around, looking at the world famous peaks and climbs that rock climbers from around the world come to conquer. The smell was really strong and we were having no luck finding a campsite. We figured it may be a lost cause so we headed over to the gift shop. As soon as we took our helmets off we were able to identify the scent. It smelled like urine. We thought maybe it was where we parked (the motorcycle parking) but as we got closer to the gift shop the scent got stronger. As we walked in the front door it was almost overpowering. So we quickly left. The sun was setting and I thought we could snap a quick shot of half-dome with the red light, but the scent was so bad that we just kept going.
We learned real fast that the days are much shorter than they are when we normally go on these trips in August. As we rode out of the park on Hwy 120, we were able to be witness to an marvelous sunset. The gray rocks, thick trees and ginger sun set a very memorable mood and was a great way to start off the first day of riding. As the clock rolled over towards 8pm it was starting to get really dark. So, on unfamiliar roads, very tight roads, we wandered out of the park looking for anyplace to stay. We found a lit up sign promising good food. Empty stomachs and cold temperatures ensured a quick turn into the restaurant. The food was a nappy buffet, but the service was good and the next door hotel looked affordable.
Not in the mood to set up camp we checked in and fell fast asleep in a warm bed and the comfort that only a hotel can provide when you were planning on camping.
278 Miles | Six Hours, Thirty Minutes
When we woke up in the morning we realize that we were in Pine Lake Mountain. We already knew the local restaurants so we continued west on Hwy 120 until we came to Groveland. The first restaurant we found had a striking Moto Guzzi parked in front. Taking this as a good sign we stopped and walked in. A quaint little place with excellent food. A fellow was wandering around talking loud enough for everyone to hear. It had only been two weeks since the attacks on the World Trade Center and this bloke was giving us all of his opinion on the matter telling us to “kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out.” Then asking the waitress if she agreed. When he saw our helmets sitting on the table, he looked out the window and saw our two bikes then he asked Kris; “When are you going to sell that thing and get a real bike. A Harley-Davidson!” Kris was quick to retort; “Uhm. Never.” Undaunted, he immediately jumped into his own personal motorcycle story which we knew, before he started, would contain either death, dismemberment or both.
Apparently he used to work in Florida and he and his buddy had a motorcycle that they would use to get around on. Every Friday after payday they would go to the bar, pound a few beers then go out perusing women. (It’s already getting good) Well, one day after they had left the bar and were riding along the interstate when the back tire went flat. The driver yelled back to him saying “Hang On and don’t move!” First thing our hero does is jump off the motorcycle. The bike went out of control and crashed, I guess, quite violently. His friend was killed and the telling of the story was so emotional that he left us alone long enough to walk across the room and wipe tears from his eyes. We didn’t have the heart to tell him that he probably killed his friend and we resulted to one of our favorite phrases; “Yep, motorcycles aren’t for everybody.”
As we left the restaurant the owner of came up to us and apologized and told us that the guy had no money and so he gave him a free meal and $20 bucks because he felt bad for him. A few miles down the road we saw him hitchhiking. Poor guy.
We had figured that we would go back to Yosemite and cross over the top. Many people told us how stunning it was. We figured that if we did that, we could ride north a few miles then take Sonora pass back west again. However, we just couldn’t bear to encroach upon the stench of urine again and decided to head across the valley towards the coast. We see mountains all the time, but our lives have a shortage of ocean days.
We took 49 South again, the same road the motorcycle shop recommended, and just where it started getting really technical we came upon the carnage of a fresh accident. A fellow on a ZX9R, just like Marks, had failed to negotiate a turn and wadded the bike up against a rock wall and the road. (A rock and a hard place?) We stopped and offered what help we could with a call on the cell phone and helping him push the bike off the road. Kris and I both have the outline of a fish on our bikes and retro-reflective crosses on our helmets. When the fellow started in on his phone conversation he was very excited to tell the person on the other end that the “Christians” were there to help him. We were impressed. We never said anything to him beyond offering help. It goes to show that you never know if people will notice stuff, but this guy was very excited and proud that the Christians were the ones to stop and help him.
After the accident, we were blasting down these empty roads that rambled around golden hills and draws. Every few miles we would pass an unmarked road that would worm its way out of sight. It was too much for me to pass all these great looking roads and not follow any of them. Wanderlust took over and without knowing exactly where I was going I jumped off onto a side road. We blasted along, around, up and down some fantastic secondary (or would they be tertiary?) routes. As luck would have it, after 40 miles of great roads we came out onto the main road that we were looking for. We rode into Turlock then took J17 to Patterson. On the map, there is a small gray line between Patterson and San Jose labeled with the number 130. The road is in the center of large gap between other roads and as we approached it was saw grundles of sport bikes coming and going over the road. We took that as a good sign.
The road was tricky! It would be straight then have several very sharp, decreasing radius turns before getting straight again. Evidence of previous carnage was in every one of these corners. In one, tire marks etched across the painted lines, led towards the edge of the road. They were so clear that I was able to identify the pattern as a D207 Sportmax! Yikes! I took that as warning to respect the road.
We stopped for a quick break to chat and discuss our route. The road was so challenging with its unexpected turns and heaps of gravel in the corners. Good form was required and was exhausting as we had to keep our attention at the peaks of our abilities. Very challenging. As we were parked here a blue 2001 TLS rode by, but didn’t stop. We listened to it as it rode away and a smile forced its way onto my face when I heard the fellow yell to his buddy on a Bandit 12S. “That was a TLS!!”
As we got going again, we came to a long straight-away. A horse pasture was on the left side of the road with a lone horse prancing around. As soon as the horse saw me come around the corner it ran towards me and stopped at the closest corner of the pasture. As I came up alongside the horse, the horse tuned parallel to my path of travel, and just as I got right beside it, it leapt into a full run. I slowed to watch, and the horse would look over at me as he raced me across his pasture and as I neared the end of his realm, he turned and went back to race Kris. What a cool horse!
The road got even tighter with very sharp uphill turns that would turn hard to the left and right as it climbed the steep grades. Our speeds were close to 14 mph and it felt like we were pushing the limits of our tires traction and cornering clearances in the bends. It was very exciting and rewarding. Cornering at high speeds is more exciting but more dangerous. A mishap at 80 mph can be disastrous, but at 14 mph you can almost catch the bike before it hits the ground.
Once we crested the ridge-line Kris and I were astounded by what we saw. Having grown up in Utah, we had never actually seen an observatory. Now were were in the middle of a gaggle of them.
You can see two observatories in the upper left hand corner of the picture. We walked up to one of the larger ones that had signs for visitors. We were excited at the chance to see the inner workings of one of these. Inside there was, actually, very little to look at. It was almost completely closed off for us and there was only a small TV repeating a powerpoint presentation on how the telescope moves around. Oh well.
We took a picture from just outside the door to, more or less, prove that we were there. One thing about motorcycling is that the excitement of the moment can make almost anything really cool. Seeing observatories in a picture is no big deal, but after climbing heinously steep roads, it was a real thrill and reward to get a morsel of “never.” As in; “I’ve never seen one of these before!”
Kris snapped this picture of me looking Northwest. Had it been a clear day, we figured that we would have been able to see San Francisco. However, it being California, it was pretty misty from all the fog clinging to the coast.
The road dropped down towards San Jose and was unlike any road I had ever seen. In South Dakota, they claim the road that takes you through the black hills is the “twistiest road in America.” Well, whoever said that had never been on this road. It would criss and cross and come back onto itself. Kris and I were having fun waving at each other as we were able to see each other from many angles as we wound our way down. It was exhausting however, as it was so steep down that most of our weight was on our wrists and shoulders and all the while still turning, shifting and breaking. Kris said the road was so twisty that it didn’t have bends, it had U-turns. I had to agree with her.
Once into San Jose, I was very anxious to get gas then catch the famous Hwy 9 that would take us to Santa Cruz. We were able to cross town with ease and as we neared the headwaters of 9, again, lots of sport bikes were coming back into San Jose. A good sign! We soon found out why. Hwy 9 was magical! Perfect pavement and strongly banked corners allowed for very high speeds and as much confidence as you can imagine. You could tell we were nearing the coast as the pines were gigantic, surrounding the road and creating a canopy, darkening the road as the day grew to a close. But the road was unreal. The banking was so severe in some corners that it was almost disorienting. Hammer into the corner wide, throw the bike over, roll on the throttle and allow the torque of the V-twin to burp the speeds closer to triple digits than the local law enforcement would appreciate. Watch the radar and scrub off speed on the straights so you can whack the throttle in the next corner. Heaven is roads like this! We stayed on 9 all the way to Santa Cruz. Amazing! A road that must be experienced and one that is definitely on the 10-best list. I am jealous of anybody who lives close to Hwy 9.
It was dark by the time we arrived in Santa Cruz and we followed our KOA book to the nearest Kampground in the dark. We rented a KOA Kamper Kabin because it was so cold after the sun set and the heavy ocean mist kept things cool. But we kept mostly warm in that Kabin despite the chill.
220 Miles | Five Hours, Fourty Minutes
We awoke early and headed out of Santa Cruz looking for a coffee house to get breakfast. It was a classic California morning. The fog was thick and it was very misty. It carried a magic feeling with it. We found a very cute breakfast nook and after we ate, we went outside and struck up a conversation with an old codger on an immaculate 1974 CB750. We sat and chatted for a half an hour about motorcycles, California riding, motorcycles and the weather.
We went up and got onto Hwy 35 towards Los Gatos, the road started great. Classically twisty and full of trees. As the road continued, it got more and more narrow and more and more bumpy.
Hwy 35 was a smaller secondary road that didn’t have curves – it had U-turns. You can see by this sign that we were not kidding. However, the beauty of all these roads was that they were enclosed with trees. We felt like we were riding through the enchanted forest and we were continually expecting to see fairies flying about. Or maybe the humidity made our helmets swell so they were too tight on our heads. 🙂
We eventually gave up on 35 and dropped down Hwy 17 into Santa Cruz again, then we backtracked up Hwy 9, the same road we took the previous evening. We continued along Hwy 9 until we made it where it crossed back onto 35. We turned left and headed north on 35 again. 35 wasn’t as tight or bumpy here, in fact it was quite tame. We were able to make good time and carry a fair amount of speed.
We came around a corner and my eyes were filled with wonderment as I came upon a sight that I had read about for years. I had heard the song and now I was faced with the famous – no – the infamous Alice’s Restaurant. (You can get anything you want there.) Alice’s is a famous motorcycle stop south of San Francisco. It is right on the crossroad between Hwy 35 and Hwy 84. The menu features items with names so appealing that it is hard to not order them. My favorite was the Ducati Special. We stopped for a slice of pie (a la mode) and were happy to have other local motorcyclists stop and give us advice on roads, cops and secret motorcyclists hangouts. The other riders were very warm and happy to give us information to help make our trip better.
From the roads we were traveling we were able to see San Francisco. We were so excited to get to San Francisco that we took the shortest route we could see to get into the city. We dropped down Hwy 93, then onto Hwy 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, and we were able to look out onto the Pacific Ocean and utter the same words that were spoken by the first Spanish explorers to cross the continent and see the same thing,”ahhh. El pacifico.” Meaning “ahhh. It’s peaceful.” It was odd however, Hwy 35 was pretty empty, but as soon as we dropped onto 93 traffic was everywhere. It was a gentle reminder that we were very close to one of the largest cities in the country.
We stayed on the Pacific Coast Highway up towards San Francisco looking for an “affordable” hotel. I got excited and led us too close to the city and got us lost. After wandering around we found a La Quenta hotel near the airport. It was right off the interstate but provided very auspicious parking. We unloaded and quickly headed off to fisherman’s wharf. We encountered evening traffic and got to jump back into lane splitting again. What a great concept. Once we arrived in Fisherman’s wharf we parked and started walking around. We stopped and got dinner on the wharf and watched as a huge thunderstorm rolled in over the Golden Gate Bridge, then we watched as a beautiful and violent lightening storm pounded the city. We finished dinner and, still in our waterproof FirstGear jackets, felt free to walk around in the rain. We watched the sea lions bask in the drizzle on their floating piers, and gazed upon the city as the lights slowly clicked on as the evening light grew dim. It was magical. We rode the cable cars until the heavy rain caused them to break down, then we got to experience the San Francisco bus system as we rode back to the pier to get on our bikes.
We had locked our helmets onto our bikes and knew we were going to have a special treat when we returned to the bikes after the heavy rains. The inner linings of the helmets were soaked and putting the lids on was, literally, painful. But we made it back to the hotel all fine and were able to set the helmets on the heater as we slept. The news that night said the storm that night was one of the worst lightening storms the city had ever seen! I guess they wanted to put on a show for us.
103 Miles | Two Hours, Fifty Minutes
The Next morning we awoke early and rushed back to the wharf. I really really wanted to go to Alcatraz and Kris, always willing, was right beside me ready to go. We got to experience San Francisco morning traffic, and again lane splitting proved its worth to us. One thing I started to notice was the large amount of females on Ducati Monsters splitting lanes. I suppose they could have been boys, but almost all of them had ponytails hanging out of the back of their helmets and they were blasting between lanes faster and with a lot more confidence than we had.
We got our tickets for the boat ride to Alcatraz and got in line to wait for our ferry ride to the renowned island. As we stood in line, I noticed that the young couple next to us had an English accent. So we sparked up a conversation. They were a newly married couple from London, on there honeymoon. He had an R6 and she refused to ever get on a bike. But we were still able to swap stories. It was great! When I told them that many of the western states did NOT have helmet laws the response was “Ooh crykie!” It was fun talking with them as we waited in line, then as we rode out to the island. Europeans are great!
The Rock was a fantastic experience. It’s history is very rich and the National Park system has done a good job at leaving the traces of the past, including the more recent Indian occupation of the island.
To the right of Kris, if you look close, you can still see the fading spray paint of “Indians Welcome” above the sign that announced that you were now at Alcatraz, a federal prison.
Even though some of the information is hard to find, especially information pertaining to the Native Americans, it was part of the fun of exploring the island. One thing about the island that made an impression on me was the proximity to civilization these prisoners had. They were so close they could see the traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge and actually hear conversations from the shore on a quiet night. Would that have been like a beacon of hope or a torture that they could see and hear it but not be a part of the rest of the world?
Camera’s distort distances, but it is clear in this image that the Golden Gate Bridge is very visible, and from the island, so is the traffic crossing the bridge. You could even see motorcycles working their way across the bay.
We rushed back to the hotel and grabbed our things before heading north out of the city. On our way back to the hotel I got turned around and we ended up wandering around downtown through a myriad of confusing streets and fast moving traffic. The amount of cars on the road was massive and lane splitting became a means of survival as cars would just move into the place you were occupying if we tried to hold a conventional position. We made it back to the hotel unscathed and let out a nice sigh of relief Once we had loaded up our gear we wanted to get across the Golden Gate to attack PCH again. Traffic was amazing! It was never going faster than 30 mph and the sea of automobiles was never-ending. I kept thinking why would anybody own a car here? It was simply astonishing!
Once we were north of the city and onto Hwy 1, traffic thinned out a lot and we were able to enjoy some riding again. The road wound up and around some hills then dropped us out right alongside the ocean. Large, craggy rocks sat, as though they were placed there by a child, upright in the water and you could almost hear the surf crashing against them. The sun was easing its way towards sunset and the light was already golden.
Just over Kris’s left shoulder is the city, impossible to see in this image, but definitely there. I love this picture because someone had told us that models say “June” when they take photos so they get those pouty lips. I got Kris to do it, but it was impossible for her not to smile. What a great shot!
We continued to ride up the coast, enjoying the awesome roads. The roads were brilliantly laid out and, after a short time of riding they became predictable, they almost became repetitious. There was one downhill, left hand corner that would start going uphill just as you apexed. It was like deja vu every time we went into over these and it allowed us to perfect it. The corner started out challenging but became more rewarding as we became accustomed to it, all the way to the point where we started looking forward to another one. I was also having fun riding at sea level. Going through the deja vu corner, I would accelerate hard and as I climbed the hill the front wheel would rise and carry all the way to the crest where it would simply, and softly, set down before the road arced hard to the right again.
As the sun dwindled closer to the ocean, temperatures dropped and we gave up on the idea of camping and started looking for another hotel. (We are getting so soft.) We pulled into Bodega Bay just as the sun appeared to slip beneath the cover of the waves. An adorable resort/hotel beckoned and we pulled in. They offered a hot tub (great after a long day of traffic) free cookies, milk and VHS rentals. They even had “The Rock”, perfect after just visiting the worlds most famous island prison. The most perfect way to end one of the most perfect days of riding. Despite the thick traffic, (that, thank to lane splitting, we were able to get through quickly) this was probably one of the very best days of riding I can remember.
As we curled up in bed, watching the evening news (just before we put in The Rock) the reporter announced that a massive steel girder had fallen on a car on the Bay Bridge, resulting in the worst traffic jam in the city since the earthquake. Wow. I guess they wanted to give us a show.
180 Miles | Four Hours, Eight Minutes
The Hotel was so nice that we were very late to wake up and get moving again. We didn’t even get out of Bodega Bay until noon. That’s not to say that we stopped for a big breakfast. We actually only had a quick gas station breakfast.
Kris looked stunning as she got ready to ride away after a quick tire pressure check. So I snapped this photo just before we pulled away and started the days ride.
Immediately after leaving, the road got really tight and challenging and we were taking the left and right turns at about 35 mph with real rewarding lean angles. Great fun. The road got me to totally focus on riding, and the high number of corners that had gravel in them forced the outside line which really helped me keep the bike smooth through the entire corner. The old MSF guideline was never more true. Slow – before entering the corner. Look – turn your head and look where you are going. Lean – press left, lean left or press right, lean right. Roll – Roll on the throttle through the entire corner. I also found that the earlier I did my breaking and the earlier I got onto the throttle the better and more control I had through the entire corner.
The Ocean is so intriguing. I read someplace, that because the first nine months of our lives we live in a water environment. That is why all humans are drawn to the water. It is a innate or primal connection. We stopped just after we started riding to take this picture. We had another photo taken here a few years ago that we really liked, and the moment was just right to stop, take a photo and stare at the water beating on the shore for a while.
We stopped in Mendocino as we started to get a bit hungry and the town looked just like what you would expect a sea-front town would look like. The shops were all really trendy; read expensive, and we left after walking around and continued on to the next town. As soon as we left Mendocino, we left the sun behind and the weather turned misty, foggy and, consequently, much colder. We arrived in Ft. Bragg 15 minutes later and parked in front of a cute seafood lunch joint. The service was exceptional, it felt like mom was serving us lunch on a cold autumn day. It was a very pleasant experience.
But we were excited to get back to riding and we hit the road again towards Rockport. (Don’t they make shoes here?) And, not to be repetitious, the road was great. You could feel the tires come up to temperature and the Metzelers gripped heroically and predictable as we pushed harder than we probably should have. The road then turned towards the east and went inland. The road continued with the perfect theme it had been carrying for the last two days and as we got away from the coast, we were able to come under the warmth of the sun again. The road dried, and our speeds were able to incrementally increase. As we came around into Leggett I saw the sign that captivated us three years ago when we were driving with Danny and Loretta. The sign simply read “Drive Through Tree” and had an arrow pointing to the right. We turned right and entered into the “World Famous Leggett Drive Through Tree.”
We continued on, after the tree, and the road continued north. The sun was dipping really low on the horizon and we started looking for a place to stay. The road was cool along this stretch. We were riding through a lot of giant redwoods and the road evolved into a 4-lane highway. But what was crazy was when we were going along on the big highway and we would see signs warning us that “Lane’s Separate Ahead.” hmmm. Suddenly all the lanes separated into individual lanes, one way lanes that snaked around and through a large grove of redwoods. This lane went to the left, that lane went to the right up and around and back down to where all the lanes joined back together again and went along their merry way. Cool!
We finally stopped in the small town of Garberville and checked into a small “affordable” hotel. We buzzed around town and picked up dinner and stopped at a grocery store for some wine. (Isn’t California Awesome? You can get wine at a grocery store!!) Shopping for a local bottle of wine we found a chardonnay that we had to buy! It was named “Canyon Road!” The Canyon Chasers had to buy a bottle of Canyon Road Chardonnay.
The day was a great day of riding. We got to ride along the ocean, past crashing waves and huge rocks. We rode through the mountains and through huge redwoods. A very fun and very diverse day of riding. Great fun!!
219 Miles | Four Hours, Three Minutes
We awoke early (for a change) and headed up through the Avenue of the Giants. Words cannot describe.
I actually kept looking off to the side of the road for a really big tree that we could pull next to for a photo. But all the big ones were hard to get to. So I gave up and just pulled beside this meager example of a redwood. (Forget that it is bigger than the average car.) The fun part about riding the avenue of the giants on motorcycles is that we felt just like Luke Skywalker and Princess Leah blasting through the forest plant of Endor on our Speeders in the movie Return of the Jedi. Now where did I put my lightsaber?
We had wanted to take 211, a small gray road on the map that wandered back to the coast through Capetown, but we didn’t have enough gas. So we continued on toward Eureka. We stopped and got gas in Fortuna where we met a bunch of hippies begging for money to put gas into their Volvo. I took pity on the group and offered to fill up their tank. They were surprised that I offered gas and not money so they pulled up and started filling up. The odd thing is, despite the $2.00 price of gas, they only took about $6 dollars to fill their tank. Did they really need gas? hmmm. We may never know. We passed through Eureka and continued north along the coast again. We pulled out onto a large open beach and had to stop again. A cute group shot of the two of us playing around the water. Kris had to see how close she could get to the water and got very wet. The nice thing is that her $250 Alpinestars were proven to be waterproof.
We got back up the bikes as the road was calling us again. We wanted to see if we would be able to make Oregon. Kris snapped another quick photo of me and then we got back onto the road.
We didn’t ride for long before we had to stop to check out the Tree’s of Mystery!! We had stopped here with Danny and Loretta before and actually paid to go see the “Trees” so they were no longer a mystery to us. However, that did not stop us from stopping again.
If you miss the sign to the “Trees of Mystery” you probably wont miss Paul Bunyon and Babe the Big Blue Ox. This huge statue is amazing! Not only do they talk to you if you walk up to them but they are accurate in every possible way. Right down to the genitalia. Yikes! Those are some blue balls. After Babe we just continued north towards Oregon. As we crossed over the border, we came to an amazing site that took the better part of a role of film.
You can see who had the camera for the first little while. Ahh the ponderings that take place as one watches the sun finish is route across the sky. Deep concepts drift through the transom of my mind and result in a single utterance escaping from my lips; “cool…”
“Hey Kris, why don’t you see if those $250 dollar boots are still waterproof!?” Kris loved to see how close she could get to the water, but was always late and running away from the surf. A very entertaining thing to watch.
Ahh, how cute are we. The obligatory couple on the beach shot. Notice how the surf has come up and gotten both of our feet wet. Good thing we knew our Alpinestars are waterproof. (Thanks to Kris’s thorough testing.)
I had never seen a jellyfish before. They are really interesting! I didn’t dare touch it because of a certain episode of “Friends” that ended up with Chandler peeing on Monica.
This is how much I love her! Enough to surprise her with a kiss while I held the camera outstretched with my arm. Isn’t she great! Well, we made it into Oregon to check into another hotel for the night. Oregon is a strange place. But more about that tomorrow.
314 Miles | Six Hours, Thirty Minutes
We climbed out of bed and wandered over to the sliding glass door, opened it, then crawled back into bed to listen to the surf crash onto the shore. This sound, we knew, was not going to be drifting into any rooms we were going to occupy for awhile. So we laid there listening to its soothing rhythm. So relaxing. This is what vacations are all about. After a time, we got out of bed, got dressed and rolled out.
Oregon is a strange place. They don’t allow you to pump your own gas. A “certified professional” must do it. In short, the gas station attendant is the one to pump your gas. We did not like this a bit and tried to get back to California before our tanks went dry. I saw another gray line on the map that looked promising and would take us inland, then down into California again. The road was great for about 20 miles then became miserable. Probably one of the worst roads I’d ever been on before. So bad that I saw the front of a brand new truck just off the side of the road. Obviously somebody else had not been able to navigate this terrible stretch of asphalt and lost control. High Danger! We were almost out of gas, turning the bikes off and coasting down hills to try to conserve what fuel we had. We barely made it into the town of Galice before our fuel reserves were depleted.
I snapped a quick photo on the top of the road. (Just past where the truck was.) You probably can’t tell in this image, but Kris was not impressed with my road choice this day. After fueling up, the bikes with gas and us with a soft serve ice cream, we blazed down Hwy 199 back towards Cresent City, California. About halfway there, near Grants Pass, we turned off onto another gray road on the map that leads to Happy Camp, California. The road was fantastic, almost making up for the Oregon road. We gassed up in Happy Camp then continued down Hwy 96 to Willow Creek. From there we headed east on Hwy 299 towards Redding. There was no gas anywhere, and for the second time, we were worried about gas. We made 140 miles on a tank without stopping, before we finally found gas in Weaverville. A miraculous thing for a Honda SuperHawk that normally goes onto reserve at 100 miles.
We found a great hotel, the cheapest of the trip, and went out for a nice dinner and wine. A good night to follow a long hard day of solid riding.
388 Miles | Seven Hours, Eleven Minutes
The last day of riding, we knew, was going to be long and hard. We had lost too much time the previous day to allow us to do any lollygagging. So we awoke as early as we could, 7 am, loaded the bikes and left. We continued down Hwy 299 toward Redding. We stopped in Redding for gas and breakfast. We stopped at a K-mart to grab some last things that we were in need of then got back out on the road. We took off down Hwy 44 heading east towards Viola (my mothers middle name) and turned south into Lassen Volcanic National Park. I was not paying close attention to my map beyond looking for road numbers so the park was a total surprise to me.
The park is an anomaly in that it contains nearly every type of volcanic feature known to man. It contains one of only two active volcanos in the United States. The small park is filled with volcanic domes and the results of some of the more recent eruptions are apparent all around. The fun thing about the park is A; few people were there, and B; the road, in typical National Park style, was very tight and snaked all the way up to the neighbor hood of 10,000 feet above sea level!
You can see in this image some of the volcanically formed domes in the distance, as well as the road in the foreground.
An even better image shows a volcanic lake and, again, the road wandering off in the distance. Lassen Park proved to be a very enjoyable experience. It was funny however, that on both Kris and my maps the mileage number was on a crease. What was actually a ’33’ looks an awful lot like ’83’ on both our maps. Panic concerning gas started to sink in when we finally stopped to ask a Park Ranger how much farther until we are out of the park and he smiled and said; “about a block.” We looked up and saw the park entrance/exit. Immediately we realized our error and felt quite foolish as we said thanks and continued on our way.
We dropped down Hwy 36/89 past Mill Creek and towards Greenville. The road was mountainous, but not very technical. Very gentle sweepers carried us along our route from one small town to another. After the excitement of the coast this road was proving to be almost boring and our speeds gently increased.
In the town of Paxton we wanted to continue down 89 towards Tahoe. We figured that it would be the quickest, not necessarily the shortest, route to Placerville where we needed to be by the end of the day. Again, both Kris and my map had a crease right on the intersection and both of us made the first real navigating error of the trip. We turned right when we should have turned left. This shot us down Hwy 70 towards Chico instead of the direction we wanted to go. The road was beautiful as it followed the course of a river. It was quite a view as a train was laid on one side of the river and the highway was on the other. In one spot two bridges crisscrossed, swapping which side of the river each was on. The train went from the south side of the canyon to the north, while the highway went from the north to the south. It wasn’t until we came to the town of Storrie that we realized our error. Having gone too far to backtrack and the sun already starting to get low in the sky we just forged ahead. The new route would require us to go back through the valley. Something both of us did not want to do because of the higher population density and the much warmer temperatures. However, we did not have a choice.
When we reached the town of Yuba City we had hoped to catch Hwy 65 towards Lincoln and Newcastle, then drop down 49 into Placerville. We could not find 65. After much effort we gave up and took Hwy 20 through Rough And Ready (yes that is the name of the town) and ending up in Alta Hill. Here we turned south on 49 towards Placerville. By now it was already dark, but 49, at this point, was wide and pretty fast stopping only for the occasional stop light when it wandered through the heart of a small town. We figured we would be able to make it back to Bruce’s house is plenty of time. But as soon as we crossed the town of Auburn the road changed into a super tight, super technical road that we had grown to love over the past week. Unfortunately, In the dark and full of traffic it was not as much fun as it would have been if it were empty and the sun was still shining. It took us quite a while to find our way back into Placerville.
But we did make it and Bruce’s wife Kathy was there with dinner in the oven waiting for us. It was super nice! We were able to pull the bikes into the garage, sit down to a great dinner and unwind in the hot tub. An awesome way to end our summer vacation of riding.
388 Miles | Seven Hours, Eleven Minutes
Seven hours is our longest recorded day of riding. Quite impressive. However our total mileage for the trip is not as cool. We only traveled 1924.94 miles from Placerville to Placerville. This is due to the fact that we did not realize that the days would be so much shorter in the end of September then they are in early August.
The next day we loaded the bikes back into the trailer and drove another 12 hours to get back to our humble home in Utah. We got home just after dark, about 9 pm, and unloaded the bikes just in time to head back to work the next day. It is a shame that one cannot build a life and earn a living by Sport Touring motorcycles. But it was a great trip. One that, I’m sure, we will do again is some variation. Only next time we’ll have to drag some of the other CanyonChasers with us.