California Motorcycle Trip 2016 – Part II
More problems with directions, and more great roads.
Friday, July 22nd Odometer: 2760
I spent most of the four days in Los Gatos doing very little. Idyllic sloth, if you will. I wobbled between attending swim classes with Dorine and Grandson Arthur, picnics after class at the local library, lolling in the pool at their apartment, naps, and other constructive activities. Susan returned from Santa Barbara on Monday to join in the fun, and flew away home on Thursday. I followed her Friday morning.
Swim class was interesting, and another segment of “As the Small World Turns.” Class took place at Los Gatos High School, which looks more like a movie set than a real place. The aquatic center is huge, and features the water polo section, where nephew Quinn competes, the lanes pool, and a large side section for kiddie classes. Arthur had one other student in his class, and the two mothers interacted with their children under the instruction of Tanya. One of the lifeguards was Kate, who is also a client of Dorine’s in her business of helping highly capable high school seniors navigate summer jobs, SATs, college apps, scholarships and the like. Another of the guards was John, who is Kate’s older brother and also nephew Sam’s roomie at UCSB.
For the return trip I proved that my learning curve does have a slight upward slant. I had room reservations before I left. The first night in Willits, and the second at a very basic motel in Reedsport that I used last year. The first cost $120, and the 2nd – $59. There are reasons for this…
Up early and over Highway 17 to Santa Cruz for fuel and breakfast, and then on up the coast on Highway 1 to “the city.” This is a delightful ride I include every year. The sun is up, there is no traffic to speak of, and the ocean winks at you on the left. Alas, as I rolled North the fog bank rolled in and dimmed the view. You end up idling through San Francisco in fairly light traffic for the time of day, and I always stop at the view point just across the Golden Gate Bridge. Crossing the bridge I could not see anything to either side. At the viewpoint you could barely make out the bridge, and Alcatraz was out there – somewhere.
I parked the bike at an open spot right next to the stairs leading to a memorial to sailors, and what a scene! Everyone who walked by had a comment or a question about the Bonneville.
Two tall young men I took to be Japanese came over and indicated with gestures that they liked the bike. One of them indicated he would like to take a picture. I gestured back with a motion that was meant to say “Let me get out of your way.”
He took this to mean “Go ahead and sit on the bike.” I was shocked as he climbed aboard. With the large bags on the back you cannot just throw your leg over, but must raise your leg in a high kick and slide it across the seat. My heart leapt into my mouth as he did this, fearing the worst, but evidently he knew what he was doing. His friend took the pictures, and with a few bows and broad smiles they were off.
I noticed three large sport touring bikes across the lot. Two BMWs and a Ducati. The riders were getting ready to leave, and we nodded to each other, as you do. The one started his BMW and rode it straight ahead to just behind mine. He flipped up his visor and said “You look like the cover of a magazine!”
“Smoking your pipe next to the bike. May I take a picture?”
Well, sure. He took the photo and walked up to shake hands. “My name is Rafi.”
“Where are you from, Rafi?”
“Well, welcome to America, Rafi!”
We chatted for a bit about our respective plans. He was surprised I had ridden all the way from Seattle and was heading back. He asked how many miles I rode in a day, and when I said “about 400, except for one day of 565,” he replied “Wow – you’re hard core!”
That made me think. Since I have friends (ones I think are batcrap nuts) who do Iron Butt Rides of a thousand miles in a day or for several days of that distance, I have never thought of what I do as hard core. I think when people see the (relatively) small size of the Triumph and the utter lack of bodywork or a windshield they assume it is much more difficult than it is.
After they rode off I began to kick myself in my mental butt. Why did I not give him one of my cards with my e-mail address? He would have sent me the picture, and I would have gained a friend in Israel. Still rankles that I did not do so.
I think I could have stood there all day answering questions and accepting compliments about my bike, but even my ego needs can be met, so I was off again.
North a bit and then left as Highway 1 and 101 split, and over to the coast.
Once again I managed to make a wrong turn, and discovered a new route by accident. I had traveled the “usual” one three times by car and motorcycle, and the new one featured and up and over and so many hairpins I actually got tired of all the hairpin turns.
Odd, as I don’t think I have ever made a wrong turn in all of my previous journeys going back 40 years, or at least rarely, and on this trip I seemed to screw up on average more than once a day. More on that in a paragraph or two.
I paused for fuel in Port Reyes Station, and when I asked for the key to the men’s room the woman laughed and asked if I would be putting her in my novel. I was perplexed, and then realized I was wearing a t-shirt that says “Watch out or I will put you in my novel.” I laughed and told her I had already written and published several books. This always impresses people, and they never ask if any of them sell in large numbers.
On the way to Sebastopol, where I planned to turn East to rejoin 101, I stopped at Tomales for lunch at the same deli where I ate last year. After that the troubles began…
The road to Sebastopol becomes Highway 12, but it is not marked as such for several miles. Once I knew I was on the right track I cruised through Sebastopol and headed for Santa Rosa to join 101 North. I did see the exit, but I was on the wrong side of the road in busy traffic. When I exited later and tried to get back I got lost – again. I stopped at a gas station to ask for directions, and the kindly gentleman either did not know what he was talking about or I don’t listen very well. I could not find the furshlugginer 101! I ended up on a lovely road I decided to follow, as I was ahead of schedule, and this took me on a 45 mile “detour” on some lovely roads through the Napa wine country. I eventually returned to a park in the small town of Kendall. Then I headed into Santa Rosa and got lost – again! Now it was 90 degrees or more, and I was getting frustrated. I stopped at a different gas station and cooled down with a bottle of Dr. Pepper, and this time – finally, the provided directions worked.
Of course, if I had a smart phone with GPS, and I can hear my friends cackling with glee as I write this, NONE of these many navigational errors would have occurred. Next year…
All was terrific until I was a mere five miles from Willits. Then another construction zone, this one much worse. All of the freeway traffic was directed to the small road leading into Willits. The crawl slowed to about 1 mile per hour, and boy golly howdy was it hot. I actually managed to miss the sign for the motel (in fairness it was almost invisible) and trolled all the way through town in the boiling heat. A phone call eventually got me to the Best Western, which was both expensive and very unimpressive.
After I checked it, I chose to remove the tank bag and take it to my room before moving the bike. Forgetting that the lid was unzipped. The entire contents promptly strewed themselves all over the sloping and piping hot asphalt of the parking lot. What a way to end the day!
Once I got the bike parked in the correct spot I chose to not succumb to the heat and fatigue, taking the time to lube the drive chain. This is always more effective when done while the chain is still hot.
Changing into shorts and a t-shirt I realized I had been so frustrated by my (many) navigational errors that I had failed to maintain proper hydration. I was not hungry, which was a sure sign. I tromped across the road to a handy shopping center and loaded up on a lot of liquids and a little food. I also purchased their last roll of duct tape to replace what I had borrowed from the unfortunates who had the car break-in, which was starting to peel off. I retired to my room at 5:15pm pretty well defeated. A “Jason Bourne” movie on the TV was a great way to restore my mental state while milk and beer and water replenished the fluids I had lost.
Odometer reading: 3061 Mileage for the day: 301 Total: 1461
Saturday, July 23rd
The continental breakfast was surprisingly complete, partially redeeming the Best Western in my internal review, and soon I was running North on 101 for another fantastic morning. Once again, little traffic, rhythmic winding roads running up and down, and fantastic scenery. I made use of my newest safety technique as well.
One of the most severe safety dangers when riding a motorcycle in remote areas these days comes in the form of deer. Especially in the morning and evening hours. My new technique is to find a car or truck traveling at approximately my own preferred pace, which can be tricky, as most are canoodling slower than I would like. On this occasion I lucked out and found an aggressively driven truck I used as a “deer blocker” for about 40 miles. I was saddened when he eventually turned off.
I spend a lot of quality time at a rest stop somewhere up in the hills, sitting all by myself and just soaking in the peace and quiet and the sun, rapidly ramping up for another warm day.
Eventually 101 rejoined 1, and it was on to the coast. Once there the mist and cold moved back in and the ride to Reedsport was chilly, made a bit worse by incredibly strong winds – almost violent at times.
My reservation was at the Best Budget Inn in Reedsport, a motel so basic that it made me laugh. No A/C. No mini-refrigerator. No in-room coffee maker. A small bathroom with a shower stall so small that when I dropped the soap I had to rotate around to bend over with my butt bowing out the shower curtain. And not even a digital clock. The TV did have two stations, and about 15 retail stations, but Jason Bourne was on again – the other movie. For $59 you don’t get much, which was fine. Relaxing evening.
Odometer: 3437 Mileage for this day: 421 Total: 1882
Sunday, July 24th
The last day started very well, as had all the others. I rode up Highway 1 in very heavy fog and chose to turn East on 126 at Florence to get to I-5 and the slog home. Brilliant move. The fog lifted gradually, and the scenes before me took on a surreal likeness to an impressionist painting. There were lakes as still as death with wisps of fog rising, one of them with a lone person fishing in a small boat that looked more painted that real. Once again I was fortunate to find a “deer blocker,” and followed him for a long way. Eventually, for whatever reason, the driver really ramped it up, and I decided that 85 mph was a little too brisk on a winding highway I did not know that still offered copious for here and there. I was cold but it was so beautiful!
I was ahead of schedule, again, and again, it was too good to last. The first freeway slowdown was due to a complete gutting of about a 1958 Cadillac airport limousine that had succumbed to fire. After that there were repeated blurts of 75mph and then inexplicable pauses of 5 mph for a mile or two. For most of them I could see no reason why the masses had slowed.
I got through Portland with less hassle than I imagined, but in Olympia it all went to heck. Now we had a serious traffic jam. I chose to make use of the new Washington lane splitting law than I THOUGHT had passed last year, and idled past about an hour’s worth of traffic jam. Just today I learned that the bill never made it out of the House, so I broke the law – extensively. Oops.
The rest of the day was a bit of a drag, as I expected, because getting back to Seattle on a Sunday in the summer is going to be challenge from almost any direction.
I arrived home to the garage that my wife had left open so I could just ride in like a MotoGP superstar, and then I relaxed on our deck with the steak Susan had purchased for me.
Good to be home.
Odometer: 3818 Mileage this day: 381 Total: 2263
What I learned on this trip:
- I will need to cave in to reality and purchase a smart phone.
- The borrowed Cortech saddlebags worked very well. I have since ordered and received my own set, with a matching top bag that plugs into the saddlebags.
- A new Triumph Bonneville, parked, is a great way to meet people.
- Although the wind drag on my arms and body was a bit of a problem, I am not sure I want to add a windshield. The bike looks so perfect as is.
- All in all this is the most romantic motorcycle I have ever used for a trip. Not the fastest, and surely not the most practical, but every day was memorable and filled with a sense of occasion. That has great value to me, probably more now than when I was younger.
Next year’s trip – the planning starts now!
Copyright 2016 David Preston