We started our trip at 10:10am on this Friday morning. Before leaving town, we stopped by an ATM to get cash, then headed north on I-680. We would spend pretty much the whole day on interstate highways. We stopped in Alamo (south of Walnut Creek) to stretch our legs at 11:05. We then continued north to I-80, then to I-505.
>We stopped next at a convenience store in Winters for a snack and to stretch at 12:30. After that, we rode north on I-505 to I-5, stopping for lunch at a Jack-in-the-Box in Dunnigan, CA. As we approached the Dunnigan exit, we saw smoke billowing up from a couple miles northwest of Dunnigan. While we ate our tasty sandwiches, we saw fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars getting off the interstate and heading in the direction of the fire. After lunch, we rode out towards it. A sherrif's deputy stopped us before we could get within sight of the fire. We asked him what was burning, and he said "Just some grass and a couple of cars."
Unable to go further, we turned around and headed back to the highway. Before we got back on it, though, we pulled into a gas station and filled up the tank. Another BMW motorcycle was filling up next to us. We told him where we were going, and he said he had just come down from that way. He had ridden across Hwy 299 from Eureka, and said it was in great shape.
With the tank topped off, we continued north on I-5 to a rest stop north of Willows. We walked around to relieve the tightness in our legs from sitting on the bike, and we re-filled our water bottles. Then it was back on the road, heading for our last stop of the day. We got off the interstate at Orland and headed east on Hwy 32, a two-lane road that took us the rest of the way to Chico. The Best Western where we had reservations was right off of Hwy 99, and we missed it the first time by. We saw in on the second pass, though, and we checked in around 4:00.
Chris took a nap, while I plugged in the laptop and checked for new e-mail. When we were both rested, we got cleaned up and walked up the street to a sushi restaurant named Gen Kai. I got an assortment of nigiri sushi (mackerel, octopus, squid, shrimp, eel, and several kinds of tuna and salmon) and Chris had a bowl of teriyaki vegetables and rice. The food was quite good, but I'll probably skip the octopus from now on -- too chewy.
We took a detour on the way back to the hotel just to get more kinks of our legs. We bought some Chico postcards, but the store didn't have any stamps. Neither did our hotel, but the desk clerk told us how to get to the post office. We planned to stop there the next morning on our way out of town.
Back at the room, we watched TV for a little while, and then called it a day.
Distance: 230 miles
We had breakfast at Brunch House, a restaurant in the same plaza as Gen Kai. I had a hearty breakfast of eggs, sausage, and potatoes, while Chris had an egg and an apple-walnut pancake that was so big it had its own plate. She shared the pancake with me. It was delicious.
We walked back to the hotel, checked out around 9:30, and rode to the post office, where Chris bought postcard stamps and mailed our cards. Then we headed up Hwy 99 to get back on I-5. At 10:30, just before the interstate, we stopped to stretch at a gas station. We finally left the interstate highways behind us when we got to Redding at 11:15. There we stopped to fill our gas tank again, then headed west on Hwy 299. This highway is a very curvy, scenic road through the Whiskeytown- Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area and Trinity National Forest. We were finally on a road that justified being on a bike!
>We stopped at Whiskeytown Lake, where we found a "virtual" geocache in an unusual cemetery. What made it unusual? The grave markers ranged from traditional marble, to concrete, to wood, to etched mirrors. The graves themselves were decorated with a wide variety of memorial items: stuffed animals, photographs, beer bottles, wind chimes, and at least one baseball bat. We noticed that a number of the graves were for young people -- from almost- teens to early 20's.
We found the answers to the clues for the virtual cache and walked around the cemetery, touched by the affection and sense of loss conveyed by all of the markers and decorations.
We left Whiskeytown Lake at 1:00. We continued west on Hwy 299, getting into the really twisty part. The road was clean, dry, and in excellent condition. The curves were well-designed, offering no surprises once we got into them. The ride was exhilarating! We didn't stop again until 1:45, after we had ridden almost 40 miles and arrived in Weaverville. We parked in the old part of town and found the La Grange Cafe, a nice place where we had lunch. Chris had a big salad with raspberry dressing, and I had a turkey club sandwich.
Rested and full, we headed west again. The road continued to be excellent, providing wonderful views of the Trinity River valley. We passed by forest, river and meadow. However, we were really starting to get hot in our riding gear. The air temperature was in the 80's, and the sun was strong. About 3:30, we stopped at a rest area about a mile past the tiny town of Hawkins Bar. There we took off our jackets, I took off my overpants, we wet our hair, then soaked our bandanas and tied them around our necks. We quickly cooled off.
While we were at the rest stop, a man and woman rode in on a new Indian motorcycle. These bikes are being manufactured again, but have kept the classic look of a 50's cruiser bike. However, the seats are narrow, and I wouldn't want to ride very far or very long on one. The owner of this one had towed it on a trailer behind an RV, and was just out for a quick ride on a great road.
>Cooler, we headed west again. The wet bandanas around our necks helped keep us from overheating. Just after 4:00, we crested a hill and were greeted with a spectacular view. We were getting closer to the coast, and we could see a bank of clouds spilling over the next ridgeline, like heavy cream over the edge of a bowl. We stopped at a convenient overlook and took some pictures, then headed onward.
Twenty minutes later, we were entering the cloudbank as we drove over the next ridgeline. Suddenly we didn't have to worry about overheating! We were riding through fog, sometimes thick, that blocked the hot sunshine. We were also approaching the coast, with its 60-degree weather. After just a few minutes, I had to pull to the side of the road so we could zip shut all of the vents in our riding gear, get rid of the damp bandanas, and close the vents in our helmets. Chris put on a sweater under her jacket, and I turned on the grip heaters on the bike. Quite a change from five miles back.
Warm and cozy, we continued on to the end of Hwy 299. That section of the highway was much straighter, and we made good time. By 5:00, we were turning south on US 101 towards Eureka. Twenty minutes later, we pulled into the parking lot of another Best Western Hotel. As we checked in, the desk clerk told us that our room had a DVD player, and we could select a DVD to watch for free. We picked "K-PAX" from the not-very-extensive list of choices, got directions to the Lost Coast Brewery, and then settled into our room. We showered, put on fresh clothes, then walked the nine blocks to the restaurant.
We both ordered a beer, which tasted terrific after our long ride. Chris ordered a turkey burger and I had a very good roast beef sandwich. We had more beer, and then bought some bottled beer to take with us to Gualala the next day. I also bought a tee shirt with the logo for the Lost Coast Brewery's "8-Ball Stout". It would be the perfect shirt to wear when I played in my pool league. After dinner, we walked back to the hotel.
We watched our movie, and, even though we're fans of Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges, we can't recommend K-PAX. But it was free. When it was over, we fell right to sleep, quite tired from our second day.
Distance: 238 miles
We got up around 7:30, got packed and dressed, then had breakfast at the complimentary buffet provided by the hotel. As we ate, we had to listen to a very vocal pre-teen girl playing in the heated pool next to the breakfast patio. Why - we wondered - do children have to scream when they play in a pool. We're sure we did it at that age, but we can't remember why.
After breakfast we went back to the room, put on our riding gear, and checked out. We were on the road around 9:00. After a quick stop for gas, we headed south out of Eureka on Hwy 101. The scenery was beautiful: tree-covered hills on both sides of the highway. We made good time on the four-lane freeway. An hour after we left Eureka, we got off of Hwy 101 and onto CA 254, also known as Avenue of the Giants, as it runs through the tall trees of Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
We rode along the gently winding road in the shade of the giant trees, but soon stopped at a roadside store that advertised "The Immortal Tree." Apparently, this lucky redwood survived an attempt to fell it many years ago. It has also survived fire, flood, and lightening strikes. On second thought, maybe it's not so lucky.
While Chris shopped in the gift shop near the base of the tree, I talked to a man who appeared to be in his late 60's or early 70's who had ridden into the parking lot on his Honda Goldwing with his wife on the back. I asked him where he was from, and he told me San Antonio, Texas. That's a long way from northern California, and I asked if he had ridden the whole way. He surprised me by saying "We're on our way back south now. We've ridden up in Alaska, Canada's Yukon Territory, and even as far north as the Arctic Circle." He told me of riding his trusty Goldwing along mud logging roads, allowing it to fall only once. He had to think hard when I asked him how long he had been on the road. He thought they must have left Texas in March. He didn't know when they would get back. They had no planned itinerary, and just went where they wanted to.
We talked more about his riding. He had been riding for 56 year, and had over 1.3 million miles on motorcycles. 800,000 of those miles were on Honda Goldwings, like the one he was on then. Up to that point, I had thought of our four-day, 900-mile trip as a real adventure. Now it seemed kinda puny.
Everything in the shop was made of redwood, and an artist made most of the pieces for sale in a workshop inside the store. Chris bought some redwood ornaments and a pair of redwood earrings. She also bought a pair of redwood salad tongs for our friends who would be our hosts that evening, and then we hit the road again. The trees and the Eel River valley made for a beautiful ride. A couple of miles farther south, we got back onto Hwy 101.
Our next stop was at a combination motel/RV park just north of Garberville. We stretched our legs and bought a snack. The folks who worked there were very friendly and accommodating. The place was rustic, but looked comfortable, so we checked out room prices. At less than $70 per night, we decided we might stay there on our next trip through the area.
We got back onto Hwy 101 and continued south, still marveling at the tree-covered hills on either side of the highway. Around 11:30, we got to Hwy 1 and stopped for lunch at a diner in the tiny town of Leggett. The service was pretty slow, and the décor was just awful, but the food was pretty good. After we ate, we headed a little farther down Hwy 101 to hunt for a geocache. The route that I had planned for the hunt turned out to use a rather steep dirt road. We decided it wasn't worth it, so we skipped it. We rode back up Hwy 101 to Leggett again, but, this time, we simply turned onto Hwy 1 and headed for the coast.
That extreme northern end of Hwy 1 turned out to be a tightly twisting route through the coastal mountains. We could not make much speed, but the curves were mostly fun. We found ourselves behind a couple of slower vehicles, but they politely pulled to the side and let us pass. Until we got within about five miles of the coast. At that point, we joined a long queue behind an RV, the driver of which seemed never to check his or her rear-view mirrors. At any rate, the RV did not pull to the side.
When we finally got to the coast around 1:45, we pulled off onto an overlook to stretch, enjoy the scenery, and let the RV get as far down the road as it could. After about 10 minutes, we moved on.
We did not get stuck behind the RV again. We made good time all the way to Mendocino, where we left the highway and drove through the town. It appears to be composed exclusively of bed- and- breakfasts, shops, and one very busy gas station. >We stopped at the gas station, just to stretch and use their facilities. I realized that we had missed a geocache just back up the road. We decided to go back for it, since it was only 3:00, and we were not due in Gualala until 5:00 or later.
We rode north from Mendocino to Russian Gulch State Park. We told the ranger at the entry kiosk that we just wanted to stretch our legs, and she let us in without paying the $3.00 day-use fee. We parked near the geocache location, pulled our cache toys out from under the seat, and walked the short distance to the cache. >Chris found it easily. Since there were other people around, we pulled it from its hiding place and took it about 20 yards away to dig through it, sign the log book, and make our trades. Chris found a pen from the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and I found an M&M candy container made to look like one of the M&M characters from their commercials. We left a wooden toy top and a Yosemite Park key ring/bottle opener. Then we put the cache back in its hiding place, hoping none of the other park- goers saw us.
We got back on the bike and headed out of the park, passing the kiosk again only twenty-five minutes after we came in. The ranger smiled and waved as we went by. We returned to Hwy 1 and headed south again. About 4:15, we both needed to stretch, and the bike was getting low on fuel. We had been 207 miles since filling it that morning. We probably had another seventy or eighty miles in the tank, but I don't like to press my luck. We stopped at an RV park, and I asked where a gas station was. The proprietress told me there was one two miles south, in Point Arena. We used the pay phone there to call Sus and Harmony to give them our status and tell them we would see them around 5:00.
Exactly two miles south, we pulled into a full-service gas station and paid an outrageous price for super unleaded gas. But we needed only a little more than five gallons, so it didn't hurt too much. Since the tank holds eight gallons, I guess we had at least a hundred miles left in the tank before we filled it. Shortly after 4:30, we left Point Arena, next stop Gualala. At almost 5:00, we turned off of Hwy 1 on the way to Sus and Harmony's house. We had been there once before, and Harmony had sent directions, which I had programmed into the GPS. Unfortunately, we did not know their house number, and we didn't recognize it when we drove by it. We didn't recognize it the next two times we drove by it, either.
We rode back out to the highway and found a pay phone. Sus and Harmony would come out to the end of their driveway and guide us in. That plan worked. We were finally at our destination for the day. We unpacked the bike, settled into their guest room and cleaned off some of the road grime. Then we headed upstairs to catch up with our friends.
>Chris and Harmony drank wine, while Sus and I enjoyed the Lost Coast Brewery beer we had brought. We let it settle a bit from the ride before we opened it. While Sus prepared a terrific meal of risotto, salad, and corn, we talked about our trip, their work, and everything else. After dinner, Sus "whipped up" a >banana/mango flambé, which we ate a la mode. Delicious. We continued to chat until 11:00, when we all decided we were tired. Sus had to get up and work the next day, after all.
Distance: 244 miles
Chris and I awoke about 7:30, showered, then headed upstairs to be sociable. Sus and Harmony aren't really coffee drinkers, but when Chris asked for coffee, they were willing to provide it. Unfortunately, they were out of regular coffee, so Chris made decaf. I made a cup of tea, choosing cinnamon tea from the vast assortment of flavors Harmony offered. Sus headed off to work at the Gualala Arts Center as Chris and I ate our breakfast.
When we were done, we packed up all our things, loaded up the bike, and followed Harmony up the driveway. This time, it wasn't because we couldn't find the house; it was because she was going to join us at the arts center, where Sus would give us the grand tour. Harmony was in her car, and we followed on our bike. As we got to the end of the driveway, there was a construction barricade off to the right, with a hand printed sign that said "Wait for pilot truck." The road in front of their house was in the process of a resurfacing job, but no machinery was in sight, and both lanes looked clear. Harmony got out of her car and asked if we thought that was for us. I didn't think it was, and said so. I figured the crew had set out the barricades for use later in the day. We looked as far down the road as we could see, then turned right and headed on.
At the next driveway, Harmony slowed down and pointed to her right. There was another barricade with a hand-printed sign in that one, too. Maybe the sign was for us. About three tenths of a mile down the road, we saw the pilot truck approaching, with four or five cars behind it. Both lanes were still open and clear, but Harmony stopped and asked the driver of the pilot truck if there we would have any problems. He said "No," and we kept going. We waved as we passed the construction workers and the flagman a short ways down the road.
The Gualala Arts Center is in a new building that is only three miles or so from Harmony and Sus's house. We followed Harmony there, then spent about an hour looking around the place. It has exhibition space, a large auditorium/meeting room, several class rooms, a library, a kitchen (where Sus had made coffee for us!), and lots more. The building is so new that parts are not finished yet. There is an outdoor amphitheatre that is under construction. There are also ceramics and photography rooms nearing completion in the basement. It's a very neat place!
After our tour, we rode the short distance back to Hwy 1 and headed south once again. Our last day was off to a bit of a late start at 10:30. We rode through fog next to the Pacific Ocean, enjoying the almost surreal look the world took on in that soft- focus environment. >Our first stop was Fort Ross, originally a Russian colony from the early 19th century. It is now a state historic site, and the location of a virtual geocache. We paid the $2 park fee and found a spot for the bike in the nearly empty parking lot.
>The park is right on the coast, and the foggy view of the rocky shoreline was wonderful. >We walked under tall eucalyptus trees draped with Spanish moss. Eventually, we made out the outline of the fort through the fog. We found our way in and started finding the answers to the questions posed on the cache page. We would not be allowed to claim the find unless we had those answers.
>The primary reason for stopping at Fort Ross had been the virtual cache. However, as we have so often found when geocaching, the hunt had led us to a wonderful, interesting place. We found our answers quickly, then spent over an hour walking through >the buildings inside the fort, soaking up the history. We finally made our way to the visitor's center for one last answer. We spent a little additional time there, and Chris bought some note cards. It wasn't until after noon that we finally got back on the bike and pointed it south.
>Forty minutes later, we were getting chilled by the fog and needed to stop. We pulled off onto an overlook where we once again marveled at the beauty of the Pacific coast in the fog. While we were there, another car pulled in and a man and two women got out to admire the same view we were looking at. One of the women asked where we were from and we told her. She had just moved to the San Francisco area from Tucson, Arizona, and the couple with her was visiting from there. As we suited up to get back on the road, the threesome got back in their car and made it out onto the road just ahead of us.
The folks from Arizona were in no hurry. Neither were we, really, but we did want to go faster than twenty-five miles per hour in a fifty-five zone. They passed a turn out. They sped up to thirty-five miles per hour. At the next one, I flashed my lights. They passed it. I began flashing my lights a couple times every thirty seconds or so. They passed another turnout. There was nowhere to pass. I beeped my horn. They passed another turnout. Finally, we got to a turnout that was a tenth of a mile long. I beeped and flashed my lights. Nothing. I considered passing in the turnout, but figured they would choose that moment to pull over. I held down my horn for about five seconds, and then started motioning for them to pull over with my left hand. They finally pulled into the turnout just before it ended. We had gone less than miles in five minutes. I passed them, waved (with all five fingers), and we didn't ever see them again. Maybe they thought I was just flashing and honking to be friendly.
Ten minutes later (with an average speed twenty miles per hour higher), we missed a turn where Hwy 1 goes south, but appears to continue on east. We realized it almost at once, and turned around in a handy driveway. We were soon back on course.
We stopped for lunch at 1:45 in Point Reyes Station. We had the misfortune of choosing a restaurant that was also hosting a wedding reception. Because of the crowd at the reception, the service was slow. The seats were comfortable, though, and the food was quite good. Only a little more than an hour later, we were back on our way. We wound our way through the tight curves of Hwy 1 through Stinson Beach, past Mount Tamalpais and into Mill Valley (home of the B. J. Hunnicut character on M*A*S*H). There we stopped and filled the gas tank, got a candy bar, and steadied ourselves for the rest of the ride home.
We needed to steady ourselves. In Mill Valley, we got on Hwy 101 again. We were immediately blasted by gusts of wind that threatened to blow the bike off course. I geared down, gripped the bike with my legs, hoped Chris was holding on, and tried to keep the bike out of heavy traffic. The wind didn't actually blow us out of our lane, but it came close a couple of times. I was really dreading the Golden Gate Bridge, where the lanes were narrow, and the wind would likely be stronger.
We approached the north end of the bridge just before 4:00. I noted that, because there was a flashing sign that said carpools didn't have to pay the toll between 4:00 and 7:00. Surely a motorcycle carrying two would count as a carpool. The wind on the bridge was high, but not gusty. Once I settled the bike into its line, I had no problem keeping it there. When we got to the toll booths, the attendant waved us through. We were a carpool.
The trip through San Francisco held no surprises. We got back on Hwy 1 on the south side of the Golden Gate Bridge and stayed on it through the city. Hwy 1 through San Francisco is also known as 19th Avenue. It is six lanes wide, and moves, on average, well below its posted thirty-five mile- per-hour speed limit. We were lucky. It took us less than twenty minutes to get from the bridge to Interstate 280. From there, it was a straight shot home, and we pulled into our driveway right at 5:00.
Distance: 179 miles
Total Distance: 891 miles
Average gas mileage: 39mpg
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