Triumph Bonneville Tour 2017 – Part I Seattle to Los Gatos to Seattle
Quick summary: 2025 miles – all smiles, no pain. No mechanical issues, no unforced rider errors, no intervention by official types.
Overall mpg = 55 plus, on regular. Bike: 2016 Triumph Bonneville T 120
For my first lengthy trip for 2017 I was off to Los Gatos, California, for another visit to my wonderful in-laws home. On this occasion they’d be out of town for a few days, so Susan and I agreed to house sit for a few days. Very little arm twisting was required. I would leave on the Bonneville on Thursday, June 29th, and Susan would fly down on Friday the 30th. I would start back on July 4th, and Susan would fly home on the 5th.
For reasons I’ve forgotten (but it must have seemed sensible at the time) I decided to ride down in two days rather than three. Since my chosen route was almost 1000 miles and the first day’s ride a tad under400 miles, this meant the second day would be… long.
This time I chose to sacrifice part of the first day with a 200 mile freeway slog to Portland, where the good roads would begin. Actually, it was not bad at all, as I left early enough (6am) and in the proper direction to not be held up by traffic. Before I got bored I was veering off on 205 to run East of Portland on US 26 to a town called Sandy, and then a turn to the right on 211 to Eagle Creek. I stopped for fuel and a snack, and a guy who worked there told me of a great short cut to 211. This involved a few turns, so I was a little surprised when I managed it without error.
211 runs into 224, where you turn left and head for Estacada, and then on to Detroit. Along in here you get to deal with the yin and yang of touring alone. It’s a perfect day, and the road wends and winds past one fantastic view of a river or bluff to a forest to a bunch or corners up a hill, over and over. It is just you and the motorcycle, enjoying the experience, and it is sublime.
But in the back of your head needs lurks the caution that you really cannot afford to make a mistake. In addition, a mechanical issue would ruin your day, or at least bring a long delay. I love riding alone, but I also enjoy a trip with friends (like the one next week), so it’s an endless internal debate that has no need of resolution.
At Detroit there’s a T intersection, with a handy little store and gas station fronting a marina – with a bench outside that pretty much demands you sit for a spell and watch the marina action below you.
Back on the bike for another couple of hours of bliss, into and past Sisters to US 97 and South to LaPine to The Highlander – my favorite motel ever.
The Highlander in a 1950’s era 12 unit motel like the ones of my youth. The current owner has worked there since he was 12 years old, and has maintainer or added a service station, a mini-mart, an RV park and rental facility, and a couple of larger outdoor areas for dinners for youth teams in town for tournaments, etc. It is quite a success story, and the rooms are always spotless. Each one has a small container for “Oopsy towels,” so people with motorcycles or off-road vehicles or whatever can cleanse their steed with other than the bath towels. Such a clever idea. Bizarrely, the Triumph really did not need to be cleaned, at all. I wiped down some dew in the morning, and that was it. Dinner at a Chinese restaurant across the street and a couple of cold beers from the mini-mart and I was done for the day.
Mileage for the day – a very pleasant 390.
The morning of the 2nd day offered a 100 mile blast to Klamath Falls, and I put on all the layers I had with me, as I knew from prior experience that it would be cold. I left at 6:30am, which gave me a good start on a long day, but also put me in peril with deer in the morning hours. I did see one or two, but neither of them chose to play chicken with an 80mph motorcycle. From Klamath Falls I intended to follow a meandering path that would come close to Lassen Park but not enter it. The road through the park is fantastic, and should be experienced, but I had ridden it previously and did not wish to deal with long lines of RVs and camper trailers and trucks and people who are not paying any attention.
Along the way I stopped for a rest in a little town called Aidan, and availed myself of the rest rooms at the county offices and park and library and whatever else they needed. I noted ruefully that the library was open one day a week. For four hours.
Of course, I then failed to pay attention myself, and found myself in the small burg of Shingletown. I think I could guess how it got its name. A look at the map showed that I was adding about 100 freeway miles to my day if I kept going, but the map also showed a road called “A6” that looked promising and would take me further South. I asked the lady who sold me a sandwich where I could find A6 and she pointed across the street! Of course the road was not labeled A6, and in fact it looked more like a driveway. It was labeled Manton Road. This should be interesting.
It started out slow and narrow with some curves, and in about ½ a mile there was a sign that said “end 45mph limit.” But there was no indication of the new limit. Then came a sign stating “15% grade.” 15%! Most of the signs you see in mountain areas warn truckers to use a lower gear – for a 6% grade. I had never seen a 15% grade sign before. And it was bumpy. Then it headed downhill at a steep angle, as advertised, and at the bottom was a hairpin with a “10mph sign” that was accurate! On the brakes, over the bumps, and the voice in my head saying “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” The most technically challenging road I have ridden in 50 years of looking. Especially because a mistake and an off-road adventure would leave me all alone in the middle of almost nowhere. This went on for a gut check 8 miles or so, and then came the gathering of buildings called Manton. The road opened up from there, and eventually turned at a T into 36, and then West to I-5.
At the next rest area I took out my maps and began calculating how I could put together a route for next year to experience that road again – slowly.
Once on I-5 it was a long and hot slog for the rest of the afternoon at 75-80mph – which is the norm for California freeways. I did notice that most of the drivers to have a concept of discipline, and stay out of the left lane unless to pass – what a concept! I spent most of the time in the right lane to be out of the way of those romping along at 90mph or more.
I reached Las Gatos in the late afternoon, primed for a couple of days or rest and relaxation with Susan. I timed it perfectly, as my steak dinner was literally being taken off the grill as I rode in! Excellent!
A 565 mile day, which is a lot in high heat on a motorcycle with no real wind protection, but surprisingly pleasant.
On July 4th I headed back. Note: July 4th is an EXCELLENT day to travel on a motorcycle. Because nobody else is. First up and over on 17 to Santa Cruz, and up the coast on Highway 1 – a favorite ride. The fog was in, so the views were not that spectacular, but I have seen them many times before, plus a day at the beach the previous day. Highway 1 cuts through San Francisco, and I really appreciated the lack of traffic. I crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge while pondering why that is always such a moving experience, and paused as the scenic vista on the North end of the bridge, as I always to.
This year I chose to stay on 101 past the Golden Gate, instead of the curvier but slower Highway 1, which I have done many times. The rest of the day passed without meaningful event until I reached my motel in Garberville. Garberville is just the place if you want to be alone and revel in quiet. First time in my life on July 4th to hear not a single firecracker, or have anyone even mention the 4th of July. My entry for the most boring town ever. What a pity I reached it on a low mileage day of only 297 miles.
Wednesday I was up and ate early, as Garberville’s charms had worn off. The morning ride up to Eureka was spectacular, as in previous years. I stopped in Eureka for fuel at the most filthy gas station ever! Do not use “Patriot” stations again.
North of Eureka I turned to the East on 299, and what a fine choice. Winding roads, tumbling streams, blue sky, and little traffic. Alas, 299 was also the main hit for repaving this year, and I should have checked the state DOL web site before I left. No matter, as I had several miles of excellent riding punctuated by waits for construction. The only bad one was the last one, where I was too far back to ask how long a wait it would be. The other ones were short, so I was not too concerned. Until 30 minutes went by in the high heat.
Once past that I turned on Highway 3 and headed for Yreka. Another long stretch of perfect roads and great riding with some alarming 15mph corners thrown in to keep you alert.
As I neared the small town of Callahan, about 40 miles from Yreka I became aware that I really needed some food and water. A motorcycle is the only place I ever forget to eat!
In Callahan I came across the Callahan Emporium, which boasts a small store, some lunch goodies, and a bar. To my shock, the sole employee replied to my question about a sandwich by whipping out an order form and proceeding to make a sandwich to my order on the spot. Seated outside on the porch facing the road I took in all the sights – which was pretty easy. Across the street was the “Callahan Ranch Hotel” with a Studebaker Avanti parked in front of it. When I asked who owned it my host and waitress replied “Roger.”
Armed with that useless bit of knowledge, I smile and replied “I’m probably the only person coming through today who has driven an Avanti.”
She replied “You’d be surprised.” Evidently Avanti people are seriously addicted and have been known to stop in the middle of the street to inspect Roger’s ride. They probably all have a higher opinion of it than I did. The one I drove impressed me as a Camaro with lesser build quality and higher weight, less handling, less power, and you could not see out of it very well. But cool!
Down the street was the competitor to the Emporium, the Callahan General Store, now almost entirely defunct. A long building with a second floor that looked to be waiting for an excuse to collapse, all of the retail areas were closed except for – the US Post Office! A plaque on the end unit proclaimed it had housed a blacksmith shop from 1975 to 1927, and the plaque had been put on in 1972!
About that time the waitress asked if my intent was to ride to Yreka on 3, and when I affirmed that she told me the road was closed due to a forest fire! No worries, she also gave me excellent instructions for the detour. The second right out of town put me on “South Callahan Road” which paralleled 3 on the other side of whatever river. Riding down this small strip of aged asphalt I was thrilled to watch large planes making “bombing runs” with fire suppressant chemicals. The suppressant is dyed neon red so the next plane can see where to drop. A few helicopters were making return trips to a pond where they filled huge water buckets. I stopped by a guy with a truck and pair of binoculars, and he gave me excellent directions of where to turn to get back on 3. A great addition to the ride, and it looked like the fire was almost out.
Coming into Yreka I was set to search for the Motel 6 but no worries – it was right there on 3. And a block from the ramp to I-5 and the next day’s long slog home.
Only a 270 mile day, but filled with adventure and fun.
On the last day I “layered” up, as the first 50 miles was up and up and over the summit of Siskiyou Pass. Actually, it was just fine. On the other side, past Ashland, the clouds came in and it got colder. I soldiered on up the spine of western Oregon. A Bonneville makes a fine freeway cruiser, actually, and the upright seating position makes rubber necking to scan the scenery a pleasure.
I got through the expected traffic snarls of Portland, Olympia, Tacoma and Bellevue with less agony than I expected, and was home in the early evening. A 500 plus mile day, which was a sacrifice I made on purpose for the joys of the previous two days.
Next week – a tour of ghost towns of eastern Oregon with four friends.
Copyright 2017 David Preston