Sunday – Eureka to Gualala
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 years, 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 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.
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