OMG!!

Project 2012: Day 260

Day Seven

The original itinerary was to head down to Fort Bragg from Eureka. But as that was only about 60 miles away, and Al & I’d spent a day playing in the Shasta’s we decided to try and push as far as San Francisco.

Will the Real World Famous Drive Through Tree Please Stand

First though, the obligatory, gratuitous tourist attraction of riding through trees. I know. But how often do you come across a tree you can ride through?

(Not the “Real”) World Famous Drive Through Tree

We saw a sign to the “World Famous Drive Through Tree” at Shrine, just south of the campground. They only opened at 9, and we didn’t have small enough change for the $4(!!!) per motorbike fee. So we waited.

This tree wasn’t exactly what we expected, neither did it look like any of the pictures we’d seen. Still we’d paid our money and got the video, photo (but not the t-shirt)

Next another ADVRider suggestion to head through Leggett onto Route 1. And you’ll never guess what’s at the little town of Leggett (pop 307). The Real World Famous Drive Through Tree. This one only costs $3 per motorbike, and you get a $1 rebate in the gift shop. Doh!

So set up the tripod again for the videos and photos. Only this time we were interrupted by about 8 Harley riders and three car loads of tourists. We didn’t get away until about 11am. So much for an early start.

To the Coast.

Time to start putting the C into the PCH, as we headed towards the coast from Leggett. Can I say that I’d rate this as the best bike road I’ve ridden if I hadn’t ridden the 99 to Spirit Lake in Mt St Helens, or the 299 to Weaverville, or the Newington B Drury Scenic Drive. Ok, ok, but this is a seriously good biking road.

It twists and turns through the forests. The only thing is the lack of shoulder, or guard. So you take a tight right hand turn, look down over your shoulder for hundreds of feet to the forest floor below. Scary. You definitely want to keep your line.

This is also the very first time on the trip I’ve come across an inconsiderate driver. We were stuck behind a Chevrolet Pickup for over half the ride, constantly creeping around corners, and braking at every opportunity. But would they pull over into the turn out? Not on your life. It got bad enough for us to stop for 10 minutes and allow them to head on so we could finish the ride at a decent speed.

We still caught up to them before the end. Eventually, we overtook on a relatively straight stretch of road.

You climb this crazy, twisty, scary mountain road through the forest, and suddenly you burst onto the coast. OMG!!

This is how I’d always imagined the PCH. High bluffs, amazing vista’s, twisty road. Here the Route 1 delivers. In spades.

My Kingdom for WiFi (and Power)

Although deciding to push on from Fort Bragg, it was time to stop for lunch. As I hadn’t charged my Bluetooth Headset in Astoria, it had died in the morning, leaving me music-less. Travesty, I know!

Also, the helmet cam batteries were flat. So we needed a place with WiFi to figure out accommodation in SF, and power for all the gadgets. I’ll save the long version. When you’re in Fort Bragg, get yourself to the Boatyard. Now this isn’t actually a boat yard. There are no boats, nor is it a yard, and it’s not anywhere near water. But it is a shopping centre, and the location of Dave’s Deli.

This establishment does have free WiFi. And power. And awesome food. So despite it being 12pm it was time for breakfast. In fact when the food came out OMG! (Again)

By the time I reach San Francisco

We left at about 2pm which meant we were constricting our available travel time to San Francisco. But the ride was just too awesome. The tar goes literally right to the edge of the bluff. I mean right to the edge. There is no shoulder. From the tar you drop hundreds of feet onto rocky surf or into forest.

This makes the ride very demanding, but the road is mostly smooth, and the limit 55mph.

Between the road, the traffic, and the delays, we were running very late. Eventually at Stinson Beach I called a stop. It was now gone 8pm, and dark. It turned out we were only 23 miles from SF, so we decided to push on.

2 miles later, in the pitch black, in fog, with virtually no road markers, and no guardrails, we turned back. It is just way too dangerous to ride this road at night. Time to find accommodation and a meal.

The meal was easy. The Sand Dollar Cocktail Bar and Restaurant sated out hunger admirably. Is it really a sin to have Gruyere Cheese, Bacon, and Avocado on a Burger? If so, forgive me Lord.

Accommodation was harder. But only slightly.

Google identified the Pontall Trail Campground in the Mount Tamalpais State Park, just 3.8 miles away. Awesome.

So we hightailed it up the mountain. Now about 10pm. To find this is a “walk in” campsite. i.e. you have to carry all your luggage from your vehicle, up the mountain. And it was about 87F up here too. Insane.

Then we discovered (after I’d found a small campsite) that all the campsites were full. By now we’d popped the $25 through the self registration window. Doh!

Still I wasn’t going anywhere else. Turns out the campsite I’d found was a “hike and bike” group site. Usually just $5 per person. As it was late, there was space, no one else was going to come, and we’d paid 2.5 times the rate, we pitched our tents and fell into a deep slumber. Well, judging by the snoring, Al did anyway.

He claims I speak in my sleep, and snore.

… I have no idea what he’s talking about.

 

 

Play Day

Project 2012: Day 259

Day Six

When preparing for the trip, I queried the collective wisdom of riders on the ADVRider Forum. One of the local US riders, who has done this stretch of the coast many times, recommended turning off of 101 before Eureka and riding a loop in the Shasta Mountains. So we decided today, that rather than pushing South, we’d take a “day off” for some fun on the bikes.

Rider’s Paradise

Just north of Arcata you join the 299 going East towards Redding. There is a little commuting traffic on a 6 lane freeway for a while, but gradually the road narrows, the freeway ends, and before you know it you’re on one of the best biking roads in the world.

The corners have constant radii, and are fast. Rated at about 45mph, you can confidently ride these at 70. The speed limit is 55, and enforced via radar. But with little or no shoulder, there are very few places for police to sit with a radar.

The view is spectacular. The road follows the Trinity River from Willow Creek to Weaverville. This river meanders its way through the valley, seemingly at a constant elevation, tumbling over rocks into large pools. The road follows the left bank and just winds and winds and winds it’s way for about 100 miles.

There is a fair amount of traffic, even on a weekday, but there are plenty of “turn outs” for cars to pull over and let faster traffic pass. To be honest, you’re pleased when you come up to slower traffic, as it gives you a little time to rest.

I have absolutely no photo’s of this section of road. We simply were having too much fun to stop. Which is a shame, because as I said, the Trinity River is gorgeous.

Willow Creek & Weaverville

Before you head out to the riding section of the 299, you come across the little settlement of Willow Creek. Time for a fuel & drink stop. There I saw the extrapolation of the graph that is “large cruiser” motorbike. The Boss Hoss.

This all American machine at 502 cubic inches (8,000cc) is a V8 beast. Entirely impractical at 11 miles per gallon (~4.5km per litre). It makes a noise loud enough for some dear old ladies entering the store to comment “what a hooligan, I hope the Highway Patrol picks him up” and the irony was the air-brushed scripture verse on the side of the bike. A country of contradictions.

After the ride we lunched in the little town of Weaverville. Cutesy main street, with ye old fashioned shops and taverns, and quiet. By now we’d shed thermal liners as the temperature had risen from 58F (16C) to about 84F (32.5C)

The 3

The next leg was heading south on route 3. This road leads you along the back of the mountains. It’s demanding, fun to ride, but pretty unforgiving. Only a centre line, and sometimes none. The road needs a bit of repair. Whilst there are fewer turnouts, there is much much less traffic. We saw 2 pickups in our direction.

There’s also no guardrail. The previous evening, Amy, who’s boyfriend recovers totalled cars, was speaking about a totalled motorcycle he’d picked up on this road in the last week. Apparently a car coming the opposite direction had crossed the centre line. So to say I was alert is somewhat of an understatement.

The views here were of mountains and meadows, and the temperature HOT! It was up to 94F (37.5C) So all liners were off now. I’m pleased to say the Motoport Jacket performed exactly as advertised. Being a mesh, airflow was like wearing a t-shirt.

Westward bound

The final leg was heading back to Fortuna on the 36. Why of why are we always riding west at sunset. This road joins up with the Mad River (no joke). Lovely, but not a patch on the Trinity. Still we stopped at the Mad River Burger Bar for a milkshake.

They have 27 flavours. 27!! What’s that about. I mean, Mad River has a population of about 7, 2 of whom run the Post Office, and the 36 can’t have THAT much traffic. Can it. Perhaps extreme boredom inspires eccentric expression. Still, if you go, have a Peach milkshake (nom!)

Avenue of the Giants

We finished the day rejoining the 101 at Fortuna, then heading down the “Avenue of the Giants”, i.e. a road through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. This is a relaxed ride through these awe inspiring trees. The ride became more relaxed as the sun set, because it gets very dark, very quickly in the woods. With very few cats eyes to mark the way, well, you know how it goes.

Now camping in the HRSP is both awesome, and hugely expensive. There’s no power, and it’s $35 for a site. Admittedly, you are camping amongst the Redwoods, which is fantastic.

The last straw for Al was discovering first that we had to pay for a shower (coin operated) and then that we had no quarters. Priceless.

All in all we rode about 290 miles to gain about 50 miles south. But those roads, corners, the ride…

…Awesome.

 

 

Fog Bound

Project 2012: Day 258

Day Five

Coos Bay? Well, my travel recommendation would be to avoid. Unless you drive a Pantechnicon sized RV, towing the obligatory 4WD or dune buggy. Or you work there I guess. It seems the attraction is the dunes on the beach. But only certain folk seem to drive ATV’s or dune buggy’s, and they all stay in RV’s.

You may ask why I picked this as a stopover in the first place? Well, halfway to Eureka which is where I did want to stay is one reason. Another, was a fellow ADVRider offering “tent space.” Unfortunately he was out of town, so no go there.

Dinner was at the Blue Heron, a German Restaurant. Of course. Why else would you come to Coos Bay? ATV or Schnitzel baby.

Can I say, that I’ve yet to be served a bigger meal, anywhere in the world.

Food to Die For (From)

Our motel keeper recommended the Stockpot for breakfast. “It’s not much of a place, but they have good food.” Of course in America “good” generally means “lots.” And lots it was. I ordered the “Short Stack” of pancakes, which was indeed, just two pancakes…

The size of VW Beetle hubcaps.

The meant my bacon and eggs had to come on another plate. Ah America, home of the brave, and land of the carbo-loaded.

Can I say that I’ve now been served the biggest meal, of anywhere in the world

It was good though 🙂

Ever South

Oregon, the lure of the Pacific Coast, with vistas to die for, bordered by an emerald forest of firs. Or more accurately, a lunar landscape created by billowing fog. We stopped for the obligatory shots, but there was nothing to see.

Now friends (I’m looking at you Archie) had highlighted that in this particular corner of the world, the heat exchange from the land and the cold Pacific, caused morning fog. So better to see local sights in the morning before setting off.

Unfortunately, today was not one of those days. Rather the fog stayed. The whole way down the coast.

We stopped at Nehalem for lunch. (I know, right) At a place called Wanda’s. No kidding. And no, I didn’t have the fish.

Last stop in Oregon, was Brookings, that boasts a Pawn Broker to die for. They have everything, guns (of course), jewellery, an Ovation Adamas guitar (which at $576 was tempting), bike boots, amps, clothes, you name it, they have it.

Even, a mini-USB cable that I needed to charge my helmet cam. Which, because of my “Ohstralian Accent” they kindly gave to me gratis. I didn’t have the heart to point out my South African heritage. Especially when it turns out a major part of their revenue comes from all the Ohzzies who cycle the PCH.

Mad Ozzies.

California.

You pull out of Brookings, expecting there to be an hour or so until the border, but no. It’s upon you so quickly you overshoot the sign, then have to back up for the welcome shot. Not very much sun shining in this sunshine state today.

Our run was much better than yesterday in terms of traffic. Not much happening here. But once we hit Crescent City, the PCH became more like the PFH. Forests, forests everywhere.

Big Ass Trees.

Of course we’re here for the Redwoods, and fortunately for me, Greg, my erstwhile host in Port Angeles on Night One, was following our progress. He SMS’d me at one of our stops encouraging us to take Exit 765 onto the Newton B Drury Scenic Drive.

I love technology…

…and trees.

The scenic drive, is first and foremost, an excellent biking road. By excellent I mean gorgeous fast curves all the way down the mountain, beautiful smooth tar, little traffic (on a Thursday at least) and absolutely intimidating trees.

We stopped for a shot of the bikes in front of one of the Redwoods, and met a mad Ozzie on a Kawasaki KLR650 that he’d bought in Dead Horse, Alaska. He’s taking the better part of 18 months to ride it to Cape Horn.

Like I said, nuts.

I’m jealous, and my 10 day sojourn from border to border pales in comparison. But hey, I bet he doesn’t have to go to the office and change the world in October.

Bastard.

Anyway, he was looking for the “Big Tree” and we joined him in the search. Big Tree turns out to be only the 3rd largest Redwood, er, tree, in the world. It’s 1500 years old, and with a circumference of 92m makes me look like twiggy.

It’s hard to explain the experience of coming across something so naturally huge. Like the first sighting of a whale, or vista from a mountain. Yes, yes, there’s the usual “man is so insignificant in comparison” thoughts, but then there’s something more nuanced. Something more majestic. That you’re connected to.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have eaten those mushrooms.

Talking of mushrooms, we passed a tree with an interesting appendage. Now given the lack of further rude dangly bits, combined with the swarthy eyebrow above said appendage, I thought this looked like a witches face – but apparently I’m the only person that sees this. What do you see?

Dirt Baby

Brendan, I think that was his name, it may’ve been something else, anyway, the mad Ozzie recommended we head up the Cal Barren Drive. 3 miles of dirt on a GS, which was fun. Not so much for Al on the ST. More on that later.

Halfway up the hill is another Redwood, this time that has created an entirely natural shelter. Complete with doors, windows and everything. Go inside? Try and keep me out.

Eureka

Ok, way too much fun in the forests, back to the coast. Well, at least the 4 lane motorway, increasing inaccurately named the Pacific Coast Highway. The speed limit increases here to 65mph, which puts our average speed closer to the law at any rate. The actual speed of the traffic is nowhere near as slow as that.

Now remember way back in Mount Rainier I mentioned I’d shot a video diary. Well, I’d also shot a drive by of the bike on the same, Flip, camera. And said camera managed to delete all of the video whilst I was taking it out of my pocket.

So with a flat helmet cam, and an empty Flip, I screwed it to the bike mount I’d fitted to see if it could redeem itself for the ride into Eureka.

It did. More of that later.

Couch Surfing Take Two

Our host for the evening is a great guy, Travis, who after 5 years in the Navy is studying chemistry. Serious brains on this dude. And really curious about pretty much every topic. My kinda guy.

He also, as a poor student, doesn’t have much. His two room apartment has little in the way of furnishings, no Internet even, but like all Couch Surfing hosts I’ve met, is the most generous of people. What little he had, he shared willingly with us. We may’ve been on inflated mats on the floor, but we were inside, not out in a tent somewhere on the surface of Mars somewhere.

Nothing was too much trouble. He even graciously mentioned that he’d slept well, which considering my snoring and sleep talking, I think was generous with the truth.

Travis did point us in the direction of the laundromat, which was a great, gritty, American experience. I’ve not been in a laundromat since I was a kid back in South Africa. The clientele were interesting, the TV blaring, and the attendant super friendly. Nothing was too much hassle, even giving me detergent when I didn’t have small enough change for the detergent machine.

And the dryers were free.

Amazing.

The Lost Coast

Another recommendation from the ADVRider crowd was “The Lost Coast” Brewery, which of course is where we had to go for dinner. And we walked, thereby not invoking my “don’t drink and ride” rule, allowing me to imbibe. And imbibe I did.

Well, I had a Tangerine Wheat Beer (nom), then poured an Apricot Wheat Beer over myself (on my freshly laundered shirt), which the pub graciously replaced. Yep, I’m a “Two beer date,” cheap as they come, you just can’t take me anywhere 😎

Also in the Lost Coast we met up with Amy, another Couch Surfing Host(ess I guess). She wasn’t able to put us up for the night, but wanted to meet up and swap stories.

I love this couch surfing thing.

We’ve decided not to push on too far tomorrow, but rather to take a day off from Southing, and spend it riding the twisties that were recommended to me by another ADVRider.

Ride on.

 

 

School Traffic

Project 2012: Day 257

Day Four

What a great night last night, Couch Surfing. This is definitely the way to travel. Brian my gracious host lives about 12 miles out of Astoria in a great little house in rural America. Rural enough to leave the bike loaded and my camera point at the stars in another attempt to get a starry night timelapse.

Meet Gus

I’m sure there are plenty of bars in this little port city, but we hit the Fort George (named for the king) which has its own brewery, and is allegedly the best. Also it turns out Astoria has the most dangerous bar in the world. Not sure it was the Ft George though…

…it might be sandbar.

A home, a bed, Wi-Fi, a hot shower, coffee and bagel for breakfast, and good company with even the obligatory St Bernard. What more could a man ask for….

…apart from taking a 1200cc BMW down the Pacific Coast Highway. But first Astoria.

and charged devices…

The Column

Astoria has a Column. No seriously. Built in 1926, by the grandson of John Astor, after whom the town was named. Apart from impressing upon me the need to see said column, Brian also owns a sweet little Ducati Monster, and offered to ride me into town for the attraction..

The Column itself is a tall, cylindrical structure, with metal stairs that head up the centre, and positioned on the highest hill in town. Needless to say, the view is rather grand.

Here’s one I prepared earlier.

This morning in fact, which turned out to be another shitty day in the Pacific Northwet. Or is that perfect day. It’s hard to tell with all the great weather I’ve been having on the ride.

Still, better than riding through the rain.

Actually the road up to the column is just about a better feature than the column. At least for motorbike riders. Great twisty smooth tar. I could just ride up and down that all day. But that won’t get me to the Southern border, will it?

Southbound

We rejoin Highway 101, that I left at Olympia to do my Washington Mountain Jaunt, better know in this neck of the woods as the PCH. Highway 1 officially takes over the mantel in California. But we’re not there yet, we’re still in Oregon. What a study of contrasts.

Temperatures ranged from 58F (that’s 17.5C in French money) to 87F (30.5C) and it would do this on the other side of the hill. Speeds ranged from 20mph (32kph) to 75mph (120kph) that last not really legal tender. And the road changed in the blink of an eye from sweeping vista’s, to strip mall grunge.

Pretty much from Astoria down to about Waldport is urban sprawl. Or rather quaint little seaside towns, all with school kids (hence school zones), the last of the college holiday makers, and retiree tourists. Lovely, just, well, slow.

There was the inter-connective tissue of said PCH, but until about 5:30pm, even this was full of traffic. Not quite the idyllic PCH I’d dreamt about really. More just a long, slightly salty smelling strip mall.

But then the road would twist it’s way up a hill, and explode onto a vista the likes you couldn’t imagine. Then you’d be in the middle of a pine forest again. On the bike this is visceral in a way you just cannot experience in a car. Between the pine and the sea, it’s like riding through an air freshener factory.

Only cleaner, and somehow, purer.

There was one section after Waldport where the road went from 55mph highway to screaming twisties. Just without the usual prophylactic US warning I’ve gotten used to. One minute we’re bombing along at 70, the next we’re leaning into a tight corner. To the point that I hit a pothole and scraped the footpeg.

Surprised? A little bit of wee may’ve come out…

..That is before I whooped into my helmet.

Life on Mars

Now I’m currently riding with Al, whom I met yesterday. Chap is doing 37 states in 30 days. Insane doesn’t quite explain the motivation to do something like that. Especially as I can relate to him, and a little bit of me wishes I was joining for the next 17. Let’s face it, there’s not many people in the world who’ll have motorcycled through all 48 of the lower states of the US. In fact, not many who’ve ridden through all the Aussie states and territories. Although the distance is the same, there’s less of them.

In fact, I reckon more people have walked on the moon, or circumnavigated solo, than have motorcycled all the states in the US. I could be wrong. Perhaps a PhD student can do the research, based on “Insanity of Adventure Tourers” or some such.

Anyway, back to Al. He has been staying at KOA campsites on his trek. Allegedly they all have all the facilities one needs as a camper, WiFi to upload stuff, washer/dryer to keep the amount of clothes you need for 30 days on the road to a minimum, and, er, other stuff.

So knowing we were aiming for Coos Bay today, Al booked a site at a local KOA. Only this one is strictly for RV’s. Think a parking lot. Now remove the tar, and replace with cinder gravel. Fill half the slots in with large RV’s and you get the picture.

No you don’t. But here’s an actual picture. But to fully appreciate it, whack your bum with a ball peen hammer until it’s sore, walk around in a wetsuit on a sunny day for a couple of hours, do 100 pushups, and don’t sleep for three days.

Now look at the picture again. It may help your empathy with my response.

The tent sites were a bit of dusty gravel at the end of the overflow camping area. The “deluxe” camping sites were the same, only with beach sand as a base instead of cinder. Taking a look around at the residents, and scenes from “8 Mile” sprang to mind.

No, not those scenes. Well maybe those scenes too.

In short. I. was. not. going. to. stay.

Happy for Al to pitch his tent there, but I was going to push onto Coos Bay proper to see what I could rustle up in a BnB or motel room. Al managed to get a refund. First we gave the local County Park a guernsey, but they too were all about RV’s man.

So onwards we pushed.

And here we are in the South Side Inn. Which at $75 for a 2 bedroom motel room, thingy, is more than camping, or even the KOA. But then again, it’s got WiFi, a shower, 2 bedrooms with double beds, & we don’t have to pitch tents.

It’s not couch surfing though.