2016 California Motorcycle Ride – Part I

My 2016 California Motorcycle Ride – Part I

A broken helmet, a car break-in, and a murder = not your usual.

Friday, July 15th                     Beginning Odometer read.  1590 miles

I started with breakfast with friends, leaving Bothell at about 8:30am. Because I have not put on the free pass stickie for the new HOV lanes, I chose to meander the back roads, joining I-90 East at the appropriately named town of Preston.  When I did this trip last year, I chose a back roads route down to Mt. Rainier and East to Yakima. That turned out to be sort of a drone, so this year I chose to just suck it up and simply ride the freeways East to Ellensburg, and then South past Yakima to Goldendale and into Oregon.

I paused at Shaniko at the never completed revision of a ghost town, and spend time chatting with people who passed by.  Very few people can stroll by a Triumph Bonneville without stopping to chat.  Virtually everyone has a memory of the original Bonneville, or owned one, or are simple captivated by the look. Many of them think mine is a restored original, and are quite surprised to find it is a brand new 2016 version. Then I usually give them a tour of all the modern gizmos that are hidden.

Then it was a short side detour down to Antelope, and then back to the main road and south to the small town of LaPine, Oregon, and my stop for the night at the Highlander motel, my favorite motel.

All went well until just south of Bend, where a horrendous traffic snarl due to construction took me about an hour in high heat to reach my destination for the day. This became the theme of the trip – every morning was fantastic, and every afternoon was – challenging.

I love the Highlander motel.  It has only 12 rooms,  adjoined by a gas station and a small market, with two restaurants across the street. The owner has been running the place since he was 12, and does an amazing job.  The rooms are small, clean, and inexpensive.   In each room there is a small container of “Oopsy Rags” meant for people like me who want to clean up a motorcycle or other begrimed vehicle.  I purchased dinner of sorts at the market, and spent an enjoyable evening sitting outside my room and chatting with people who were curious about my bike, or other motorcyclists. There was a father and son duo on Honda cruisers, and I felt the strong emotion of the 40-plus year old son enjoying a trip with his much older father.

End of day odometer: 1996    Mileage for the day:  406

Saturday, July 16th

I got up early and filled the tank as the gas station opened at 6am. Out of town I turned East on Highway 131, which goes up and up and then South. This may have been a mistake, because the time was essentially o-deer-thirty, and it was pretty cold.  On the other hand, there was virtually no traffic and I saw no deer. I was aiming for a small town for breakfast, but had no luck.  I did find a gorgeous little park in Summer Lake where I paused to take in the beauty of the morn and let the rising sun warm me up a bit.

This is one of the advantages of smoking a pipe.  I stop frequently, and smoking my pipe forces me to slow down and pay attention to the beauty and solitude.  When you ride alone there is a danger of riding too far and not stopping often enough or for long enough. If you are not careful you can end your ride not really having experienced it.

Somewhere in here my right visor attachment pod broke for no apparent reason.  I taped the visor to the helmet with some mediocre painter’s tape I had, but I  had to have enough room to open the visor to put on my glasses. 

Finally found a fine spot for breakfast at the Homesteader Café in Paisley, 120 miles down the road from LaPine.

On to California and the great roads leading to Quincy – some of the best riding ever. The original plan was to stop for the day at Quincy, but problems arose. First of all, it was only 3pm, which is a little early to stop for the day. Secondly, I knew the national Norton convention was wrapping up in Quincy and that might mean a dearth of motel rooms.

I had been to Quincy for the Norton convention about 20 years ago, and it was a pretty big deal.  Not so this time. I saw virtually no evidence of Norton activity at all.  At a gas stop there were two of them, with a third in the back of a truck, which is about the right ratio for 40 and more year old Nortons.  Later I saw two of them on a trailer being towed by a gorgeous white Cadillac hearse!  This struck me as a great tow vehicle, and you could sleep inside it.  After all, hundreds before you had slept there, but the odds are high that your experience would be different because you would wake up.

I chose to keep going. The roads from Quincy to Nevada City are about 100 miles of fantastic. I was mad at myself over this stretch last year, because I had been careless. I was hot, dehydrated, and very hungry, to the extent that it hampered my ability to enjoy the ride and progress with verve. Not this time – marvelous.

Alas, Nevada City had not motels I could find.  Nor did Grass Valley, or Auburn! Now it was getting late in the day.  I did not want to take off the dark tinted visor, lest I do more damage to the crippled attachment. I chose to ride toward Sacramento in hopes of finding a motel.  Did you know that modern motels often do not have a “No Vacancy” sign?  How irritating!  After stopping three times in 90 degree heat, removing my helmet and going inside to be denied, I was getting worried.   I called Susan, who was in Las Gatos, and asked her to use her smart phone to find me a motel room in Sacramento. I think is was the death knell for my flip phone.  It seems everyone uses a smart phone these days, and with one I could have solved the problem easily.   With some effort she got me a room at a Days Inn in Sacramento.  I called and got directions from the manager, and I was off into a setting sun.

Alas, the manager misunderstood where I was riding from, and gave me incorrect directions!  Now I was riding North and West on I-5 toward Woodland, directly into a setting sun, looking for a “Richards Blvd.” exit. As I neared Woodland and darkness set in, the low fuel light came on.  I would not have enough to get back to Sacramento, so I made a hurried stop for fuel and headed back toward Sacramento. Two more phone calls and a conversation at a freeway exit with a helpful woman in a car and I finally figured out the manager’s error. The motel was two miles South of I-80!

I pulled in to the motel at 9pm, exhausted physically and emotionally. I did not care that the room cost $120.  I unpacked and took a walk to calm down and enjoy my pipe. When I came back there was a couple in the parking lot allowing their dog some exercise, smoking cigarettes, and (of course), looking over my Triumph. We had a nice chat, and I explained my day of challenges.  At this, the gentleman said, “Well, you know why your wife was able to book a room here?”

“Um – no. Why?”

“Because there was a murder here last night!”


“Yeah, up there on the 2nd floor. When we got up this morning the parking lot was full of cops, and they would not let anyone check out or in for several hours.”

I have come up with the plot for 5 novels, and now reality was bringing one to me!

I slept well.

Odometer reading:      2570           Mileage for the day:    576

576 is not much for people fond of Iron Butt or similar high mileage events, but on back roads with no bodywork or windshield, it is a long day.


Sunday, July 17th

I chose to ride South from Sacramento on I-5, as I had not gone this way before.  Another gorgeous morning.  My visor was getting more and more loose as the tape began to fail. Finally a combination of a gust of wind and a turn of my head to the left tore the visor completely off – at 75 mph!  That got my attention.  I pulled to the side and donned my sun glasses and resumed.  At speed my eyes were watering so much I could barely see straight ahead. Looking down at the instruments was impossible. I resolved to stop at the next Rest Area and tape on the clear visor.  That turned out to be 50 miles away.

At the Rest Area I hooked my boot on the top bag as I was dismounting and I fell, quite hard, on my left hip. The one with bursitis.  Ouch. Added to my “trick” right knee, which always hurts more or less. I limped to a bench and took out the clear visor and set about taping it into place with the crummy tape.  As I sat there I noticed a Mercedes in the parking lot. The driver’s door glass was all over the ground, and people were finishing cleaning it out and beginning to tape clear plastic over the window area. With duct tape.

Hmmm.  I strolled over and asked what had happened.   The woman had locked her purse in the car, having shoved it up under the pedals so it was not visible, and then gone to the rest room. Some miscreant, who had clearly been scouting cars as they came into this very busy area, broke out the window, stole the purse, and fled. Evidently nobody saw this.  I thought ruefully about the key to my bike, sitting in the ignition, and my wallet, in the tank bag.

I expressed my sympathies and asked if I could have about 6 inches worth of the duct tape. With the clear visor held more firmly in place, I headed South again on I-5, down to where it intersects 152, which would take me West to Gilroy and then Watsonville.

As I left I-5 I noticed an “In ‘N Out Burger” restaurant, and did not miss the chance to take in this famed chain, sort of a Mecca for car and motorcycle people. It lived up to the hype.

Replenished in belly and spirit, I headed West on 152.   I had one more mistake to make this day. Instead of continuing to Highway 1 and then onto 17 over the hill to Las Gatos, I had a brain spasm and turned North on 101.  This would take me to San Jose, but I had been in San Jose and Las Gatos often enough that I figured I could “hot rod” the way from San Jose to Los Gatos, and I did, with some difficulty.

Now it got even more interesting from a family point of view. Susan was in Santa Barbara with her sister Meghan, who also lives in Las Gatos.  They had gone down to visit Meghan and Richard’s son Sam, a freshman at UCSB. Meanwhile, the ostensible goal of the trip was to visit daughter Dorine and husband Dorje and grandson Arthur, but they were finishing up a visit with Dorje’s brother, and would not be home until the evening.  It was decided I should just go to Meghan’s house, where Rich and son Quinn might or might not be home, and just hang out for the afternoon.

Good plan.  As it turned out, Richard was home. Shortly thereafter Quinn showed up with Sammi and her two daughters.  Sammi is Meghan’s best friend from forever, and is a former student of mine. Sammi lives a mile from our house. How’s that for odd?  Quinn had taken them for a day of surfing, and now Sammi and the girl’s faced a late afternoon drive to Redding for their motel reservation. I did not envy them.  Richard had to go in to the office, and Quinn left for somewhere, so I – napped.

Later in the afternoon I was relaxing on the front porch and an older fellow on a scooter paused to take in the Triumph.   He was new to motorcycles, and the scooter was a first step.  When he heard that I had ridden from Seattle he said “You inspire me!” and tottled off.  That was nice.

It was over 90 degrees, so in the evening when Dorine and family arrived at their apartment, I left my leather pants and boots at Meghan’s and rode a mile through town with helmet, jacket, and gloves, plus shorts and slip on shoes. Sort of ATGATT (all the gear all the time) from the waist up.

First half of the trip done!

Odometer: 2760           Mileage for the day: 190       So far: 1160


Copyright 2016                      David Preston

About david

I am a 69 year old motorsports nut who lives in Bothell, Washington. After a 31 year career as an English teacher, I segued into a self-created job in the motorsports business. Now retired, I was involved in customer relations for Ride West BMW in Seattle, after almost 10 years of similar work for the Cycle Barn MotorSports Group. I have been married forever and have two grown children. I own, at the current time, a Triumph Bonneville T 120 , a Triumph Thruxton, a Fiat 500S and a VW Tiguan. What else would you like to know?
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