Randy posted an event on our group’s web site for the late September ride. Dean, Marv, and I all signed up to go. Dan, a riding friend of Marv’s, was invited, and joined us for the first three days of the ride too. Dean’s plan was to ride with us for the first four days, and split off from the group at the end of the fourth day to visit friends. He would then meet the group on the way north for the ride home. Dan had a limited amount of time available to ride, and so split-off on the morning of the fourth day for Lake Tahoe and some time at the casino. He would then find his own way home.
Randy had posted the ride to begin in Fort Bragg on Sunday, September 23rd. His plan was to ride the freeway to Grants Pass, OR on Friday night. He would then take mountain roads over to Fort Bragg on the California coast on Saturday, and meet the rest of the riders there on Saturday night. Marv, Dean, and I had not really discussed what we would like to do to find our way to the “start” of the ride.
A week before the start, I sent a message to Marv and Dean to see if they wanted to start early, and take three days to find our way to Fort Bragg, and bypass the freeway route. They were both interested. Later, when Dan decided to join in, it worked for his schedule too. All of us except Randy had made up our minds to take two days to go to Grants Pass, enjoy some great two-lane roads through Oregon, and meet up with Randy for the ride-to-the-ride, from Grants Pass to Fort Bragg.
I was tasked with finding a good two-day route to Grants Pass. Western Oregon is blessed with plenty of twisty, scenic, uncluttered two-lane roads. Marv and Dean both had concerns about whether they’d be able to tolerate long rides, due to each of them having nagging back problems. I tossed out a couple of route proposals of different lengths. Of course the best route was also the longest and, surprisingly, they both wanted that one.
I planned a first night in Monmouth, OR, and a second night in Grants Pass. From there, Randy had routes already planned for the rest of the ride. The only open-ended part was the tail-end of the ride through Oregon to come home.
Once I had the routes ready, I planned to stay at Marv and Mary Lou’s house Wednesday night after work. Dean was going to come meet us at Marv’s the next morning, and we three would leave from there. Dan would fall in with us as we rode south on WA-167 at the south end of the Seattle metro area. Thursday morning we got a text message from Randy that he might be there to meet us too. And so he was. We collected Dan and Randy on the fly in the same spot on the freeway. We exited the freeway and rode a nice selection of two-lane back roads to have lunch at the 49’er cafe in Castle Rock.
We took a couple more back roads after lunch. One road was being rebuilt, and we had to ride a quarter mile through deep, wallowing gravel before regaining our footing. We took a quick section of freeway to get into Kelso, and crossed the Columbia River into Oregon. We took a nice selection of back roads south to our first night’s stop in Monmouth.
Friday morning we woke to a glorious set of roads meandering west of I-5, south to Grants Pass.
We stopped for breakfast in Junction City. Around the breakfast table we discovered that that orange marmalade was to be the coin of the realm for our trip. Marv and Randy are both connoisseurs of the tangy preserve. The roads and weather were very good.
The morning had started out with a thin marine overcast, but by noon we had found warm weather and new roads for everyone along my route.
Saturday morning we set out for Fort Bragg.
We took US-199, the redwood Highway, west out of Grants Pass. Randy led the way, the rest of us following along in anticipation of the great sweeping CA-96 ride that would be the better part of the day’s journey. Everyone, except Dean, had ridden most of Saturday’s route before, and we were all anticipating miles and miles of twisting highways.
After an hour or-so riding west from Grants Pass on the Redwood Highway we finally turned south onto Holland Loop Road, turning into Happy Camp Road. The road soon morphed into a snaking, two-lane mountain pass road with many tight corners. We stopped near the top, shortly after we crossed the Oregon/California border and took in the panorama.
Before us lay a fantastic redwood and fir forest, and some of the best motorcycling roads in the world. I aimed my video cameras, and brought up the tail-end of the group for the descent to the junction with CA-96 in Happy camp.
Marv and I were at the back of the group for the downhill run. As we came near the small town a small deer decided to test Marv’s reaction times.
Fortunately, they were both delivered through their chance meeting unscathed.
We made a pit-stop for gas in Garberville, deep in the untamed jungle of Humboldt County. We mounted-up and rode like bandits down US-101 to the junction with the mind-blowing CA-1. The stretch of CA-1, running from that junction in Legett at US-101 to where it meets the pounding surf north of Fort Bragg, is built like a roller coaster for motorcycles. Dan took off down that road as though he’d looked forward to it all day long. I struggled trying to keep up with him, but only for a bit. He and his bike seemed to be made to ride that road. When we got to a pull-off at the end of that stretch, we waited for the others to catch up.
They were soon pulling in, and we all concurred that it may be one of the greatest stretches of motorcycle road we know. Dan took off for the short run down to Fort Bragg before the rest of us. He didn’t have reservations, so he needed to get to the hotel and get a room. Randy, Dean, Marv, and I trailed along behind. We stopped and topped off our tanks before getting to the hotel.
When we walked into the lobby of the Motel 6 in Fort Bragg, we were tired and satisfied with a full day of fantastic roads. We all had reservations. Dan, who had arrived earlier and secured himself a room, had talked the clerks at the check-in desk into putting one over on us. They apparently had no reservations for the rest of us. The conversation went on for several minutes. The young man and woman behind the desk were very good at playing their parts.
“What is the point of securing a room with a credit card if you don’t hold it for us?”
“I’m sorry. A guy named Dan just came in and got the last room.”
After a couple of minutes of the clerk’s Academy Award performance, staring into his monitor, and trying to find our reservations, I started heating up. The stone wall I keep around my temper crumbled and, just as I was about to blow-up, the clerk, with a perfectly straight face, looking deep into the computer screen said, “I’m sorry, but Dan told me to tell you I didn’t have your reservations.” We had been had! It took me a minute or two to creep back from the precipice of tirade I was teetering on, but I just shook my head and proceeded to get checked-in.
Our Sunday route would be a mix of CA-1 on the coast, and nice back roads, meandering south towards our next night in half Moon Bay.
Dan left Sunday morning for his trip over to Tahoe on the east side of California. Dean planned to go visit friends in the Bay area. Randy, Marv, and I would meet the legendary Teresa and her Valkyrie on Sunday night, and ride with her on Monday.
It was my second trip across the Golden Gate Bridge. I had gone to sea passing under the bridge several times, but crossing it into San Francisco is a completely different prospect. After paying the toll on the south side of the bridge, I missed the CA-1 exit, and made the mistake of leading us down US-101 into the heart of the city. At first we laughed about it, and were a bit taken with the idea of an unexpected adventure, but that soon wore off. We spent an hour trying to make our way out of city traffic that was jammed due to some downtown blocks being closed off. There was a stage set up, and hoards of pedestrians which seemed to be some sort of convention of people who wear black leather harnesses. We ended up circling around in grid-locked traffic until finally finding the on-ramp to a freeway south. I think at that point we’d have taken any freeway to get us out of that mess. It was a near brush with freakish weirdness, and a little goes a long way.
When we got to the Harborview Inn at Half Moon Bay, Teresa was there. It was nice to finally make her acquaintance. She had come up from San Jose to spend the next day riding with us in the Skyline area. I had heard many stories about the pretty lady who rides a Valkyrie one-handed like a bat-out-of-hell, and I now met her in person.
Randy, Marv, Teresa, and I spent Monday riding together.
I had never ridden with her, but had heard she’s a very good rider. She was that, and a really nice companion to spend the day zipping through the twisties in the redwoods.
After a full day of left and right curves, we said farewell to Teresa, and the three of us rode through the vegetable farms down to Monterey.
We checked into our hotel in Monterey which was just a block off Cannery Row. Marv and I got cleaned up, while Randy went out to snoop the fabled Cannery Row for a good place for dinner. It was an interesting visit to an historic area.
Tuesday’s ride down CA-1 was nothing short of beautiful.
We stopped for a few photos before we left Monterey.
There was a marine overcast for most of the day, but that highway is a national treasure. The California coast through Big Sur is stunning.
There was a small construction stop where the construction crew was alternating one lane for travel in both directions. Randy had arrived at the stop first after having passed an SUV. Marv and I didn’t get around the SUV, so when we arrived at the construction stop, we decided to paddle our bikes around the SUV and re-group with Randy. Marv went around them on the right shoulder. I went around them over the double-yellow centerline. I mention the double-yellow aspect because, little did I know, there was a CHP sitting at the front of the line. I saw him pull around through the construction site and circle behind us. He crossed the same double-yellow line, pulled along-side us for a closer look, and then parked on the left shoulder. I knew what was coming next.
After my water-boarding, during which I confessed to everything from the Zodiac murders to kidnapping and brainwashing Patty Hearst, we proceeded south to Cambria. The sky was still overcast with marine air, but we could catch intermittent glimpses of blue sky inland. Our destination that night was Bakersfield. We turned east on a goat path named Santa Rosa Creek Road, but we were soon on CA-46 with good pavement, headed for Bakersfield.
If you’ve never been to Bakersfield, my recommendation is…don’t. It’s not that bad, but there’s not much good. California’s central valley is hot, polluted, and saturated with agri-industry. The roads are busy with truck traffic, and the scenery is ugly. Bakersfield did, however, turn out to be the right spot for us to break for the day.