The journey begins...|
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CALIFORNIA - PART 1
entered California Highway 1 felt like an expressway. We stopped in Crescent
City for information about Redwood National Forest and took time to eat a picnic
lunch while sitting on a park bench overlooking the bay with Battery Lighthouse
just up the road. Locals were out in strong numbers – walking their dogs,
riding bikes and lounging in the park. The sounds of seagulls filled the air.
The weather had finally become warm and we stripped off the outer layers of our
riding gear as the sun beat down upon us.
turned inland again through Del Norte Coast Redwoods National State Park. In
the late afternoon, we stopped at the first touristy drive-thru tree. The booth
collecting the $2 fee was closed, so we took it upon ourselves to continue up
the short driveway to the tree. After quickly snapping a few photos, we carried
on along the freeway. There were only a few other vehicles on the highway as
evening set in and we began to look for a place to camp for the night. After
stopping at 2 overpriced RV parks (over $30 a night!) we purchased fuel in
Trinidad where we began to notice more homeless hippies and people asking for
money. A friendly camp host at another expensive RV park referred us to Clam
Beach, further up the highway. The campground was a small municipal beachside
campground with campsites nestled between short shrubs in the sand for the more
affordable price of $10. Although it was priced right, the other occupants left
a bit to be desired. In the parking lot there was an old beat up van that was
the full-time home of a couple of vagrants. The overwhelming stench of body
odor and smoke drifting from the van was completely disgusting. The other
campers overwhelmingly kept to themselves and the aura of the place was
generally depressing. Unfortunately we must sometimes endure these
circumstances while trying to travel on a budget…
grateful to leave gloomy Clam Beach behind as we carried on along the freeway
that was Highway 1. We stopped to use the Internet at a Best Western before
walking over to Carl Jr. for breakfast. The equivalent franchise on the east
coast is called Hardee’s and has the best fast food breakfast around, so we were
hoping that Carl Jr. would be the same. We were disappointed that the breakfast
menu was quite limited and nothing at all like Hardee’s.
motorcycle had begun to burn oil at a ridiculous rate. We stopped at an auto
parts store in Eureka to purchase more oil where we had a conversation with a
friendly fellow motorcyclist in an SUV. The weather was overcast and we were
back on the expressway for a while – longing for something to break the monotony
of the day.
It came with
the Avenue of the Giants, an alternate route from the expressway of Highway 1
that leads through the redwood forests of northern California. This is a
31-mile world-famous scenic drive along ‘old Highway 101, which parallels the
expressway through the redwood groves. It is widely considered the most
impressive display of these giant trees in the world. The Humboldt Redwoods
State Park surrounds the Avenue of the Giants and contains the largest remaining
stand of the virgin redwoods on earth.
quickly became better as we rode among the massive trees. The tall trees
branched out high over the roadway and put the forest in a dark red shadow. Red
pine needles covered the roadside. There were several touristy attractions
incorporating the trees – including a log home created from one single log.
Hiking and nature trails with interpretive signage lead through the groves at
numerous pull-outs along the roadway.
We stopped at
the Shrine drive-thru tree, which I found exceptionally unique because the hole
through the tree was originally created by an ancient fire. It is told that
American Indians used the tree as a natural shelter when traveling through the
area during annual pilgrimages. We were about to bypass the opportunity to see
this ancient landmark when we were approached by the attendant of the entry pay
station. He was a KLR owner who was collecting photos of KLR travelers and let
us into the tourist attraction for free. As we rode our bikes through the
tree’s passageway, I was reminiscing about the photograph in my memory of my
mother’s childhood trip with her parents at this very spot.
south back to Highway 101, which was still a non-descript freeway of vehicles
until we reached Leggett and took the western fork to continue the coastal route
of Highway 1. The roadway became very curvy and quite challenging. It was a
beautiful scenic ride that would qualify as a classic ride for all motorcyclists
who long for twisties. It was an exceptional 24 miles of switchbacks through
gorgeous forests. The roadway finally opened up to views of the Pacific Ocean
before we camped at the Westport-Union State Beach. Our campsite was perfect
with unbelievable views of the sea. It was the completely opposite to our stay
in Clam Beach the night before – a place of tranquil beauty and relaxation as
the sound of the waves crashed onto the cliffs below us. We spent the evening
drinking wine and listening to music by the sea.
After we had
retired to the ten, lat into the night, Darren crawled out to use the restroom.
As he was urinating he heard a rustling in the bushes in front of him and
thought to himself that we must have left a plastic bag outside. Without his
glasses, he leaned down (still urinating) with the intention of picking up the
garbage and realized he was reaching toward a very unhappy skunk. The animal
was obviously unhappy to be in the line of fire of Darren’s urination. Darren,
realizing he was in the skunk‘s own line of fire, quickly removed himself from
the situation before returning to the tent!
raining when we woke in the morning. We hid inside the tent until the rain
turned into a light mist just long enough for us to pack up to leave. We
stopped briefly in Fort Bragg before continuing our ride south along the Pacific
Coast Highway. The rain had made the roadway quite dangerous. There were more
oil spots along this roadway than any we had ever seen. It must be from all the
years of hippie driving their old beaten Volkswagens along this classic trail.
The tires felt very slippery on the curves – especially Darren’s worn front
tire. The oily, curvy road ducked in and out of the redwoods and eucalyptus
trees – making it very scenic. On a dry day I can imagine this would be another
fantastic motorbike route. We stopped in Point Arena to have lunch at a small
café called El Burrito.
cleared up as we continued south on Highway 1, although portions of the road was
still wet. The small towns of Anchor Bay, Gualala and Stewarts Point were all
tiny, quaint communities small schoolhouses and main streets lined with oak
trees that reached over the highway to create a natural tunnel. In Jenner, we
turned east toward Santa Rosa, letting our GPS guide us along smaller roads over
the tall hills. Most of these roads were less maintained than the major tourist
routes we have been traveling lately and were patched with asphalt, narrow and
very curvy. We passed by small homesteads surrounded by the forests and small
homegrown vegetable gardens. Coming around a wide, long curve, we found
ourselves confronted with the eastbound expressway of Highway 12 leading to
fellow motorcyclist, had contacted us by email who invited us to spend an
evening at his home in Santa Rosa. He had heard about our journey through
chance encounters with other motorcyclists we had met and found our website. He
is also the owner of Bulldog Machine and offered to help us with any maintenance
that needed to be done. It is always amazing how fate can put people together!
the boundaries of Santa Rosa, we stopped to use a payphone at a gas station. As
we dismounted the motorbikes, it appeared that we were interrupting a drug deal
that was being transacted behind the gas station. The hoodlums looked more
disturbed by our appearance there than we were by their dealings. After making
plans to meet up with Pete, we made our way to a motorbike shop to pick up some
supplies for our planned maintenance. Unfortunately the shop we planned to
visit was closed on Mondays, but we were lucky to find a CycleGear open nearby
where we were able to purchase everything we needed. Darren, realizing his
front tire would not make it to Ventura, asked the staff if they had any
‘throw-offs’ – slightly used tires that other customers did not want and the
shop could not sell. Although they had a few that were acceptable, the
attendance went the extra mile for us by calling a friend he knew who had an
almost new tire that he did not want. It was a Metzler Sahara, approximately a
$70 value, with only 500 miles on it – at no cost to us! Once again the
generosity of others had gone far beyond our expectations!
at the CycleGear on his BMW F650 Dakar and escorted us back to his home, where
his wife served us a healthy soup and salad meal, followed by baked apples –
yum! One great thing about traveling through California – the food here is
exceptional! Most Californians value their fresh produce and life to cook
tasty, healthy meals (often organic), which is quite different from the
standards of the southeast where everything is battered and fried! After a
much-needed shower and taking care of our laundry, we enjoyed a good nights
We woke early
to pack up and follow Pete to his machine shop – Bulldog Machine – in Vallejo.
On the way, he led us through the famous Napa Valley – passing vineyard after
vineyard with rows and rows of vines in various shades of brilliant autumn
colors. The smell of the sweet grapes so overwhelmed by senses that my throat
felt choked by them. We passed by many well-known wineries with mansions and
signs pointing to their tasting rooms. There are a few reasons we chose not to
travel more through the wine regions of California. First of all, we couldn’t
enjoy the tastings without concern for our safety while riding the motorbikes.
Second, we both really love the sea. Third, the wineries of this area actually
charge a fee for tasting their wines – a practice that is less common in
Australia and many other places in the world.
Machine is located in an industrial area that was once used to serviced military
marine vessels. In one of the many huge hangers of the industrial park, the
machine shop shared space with a few other tenants, including a manufacturer of
earthquake-proof pilings for bridges and buildings. Darren rode his bike into
the warehouse and went to work - changing the oil, sparkplugs and front tire on
his bike before changing the oil on mine. A talented welder did some more work
on my sidestand – which, because my bike is lowered, has always caused me
problems. Now it works perfectly! What a relief!
slaved over the bike maintenance, I found a quiet space to conduct a bit of
website maintenance. We spent most of the day at he shop and really appreciated
the hospitality and assistance that Pete extended to us. We both wish him well
in his future motorcycle adventures.
not far from San Francisco, where we planned to meet up with Geoff – the
motorcycle traveler we had met and camped with in Fairbanks, Alaska. Immersion
into the big-city traffic near rush hour was quite hectic and stressful, but we
were looking forward to seeing our new friend again. Darren has been to San
Francisco twice before and I have visited here once. We have both always
enjoyed the spirit and culture of the city and were looking forward to being
there again. Passing through the toll of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
was especially nerve-racking as the lanes merge together with little warning.
Views from the bridge over the city of San Francisco, Treasure Island and of the
Golden Gate Bridge were exceptional. It is times like this when I wish we had a
apartment was in an area of San Francisco known as Noe Valley. It was a short
ride navigating very steep hills of the busy streets of the inner city. Geoff
and his wife, Adriana, ushered us into the cute, comfortable home on the top
floor of an old row-house – typical of many San Francisco homes. Adriana is an
excellent cook and after an appetizer of cheese and wine, fed us a hearty meal
of fresh salad, mashed potatoes and baked chicken. Once again, we thoroughly
enjoyed the benefits of eating in California’s organic food culture. After a
late night enjoying the hospitality of Geoff’s cigars and bourbon, we settled
into the most comfortable inflatable bed I have ever experienced.
Geoff had to go to work, but Adriana was free for most of the day and offered to
show us around the city. Each of our previous visits to San Francisco were
unguided, so it was really great to have a local to accompany us! After a
healthy fruit, yogurt and granola breakfast, we loaded into her car and rode
over to Castro – the homosexual-dominated area of the city. We walked along the
rainbow flag lined streets with shops and bars named with clever gay
euphemisms. Darren was careful not to pause on the sidewalk near any of the
many gay-oriented sex shops with their displays of adult toys and scantily-clad
men. This is definitely the most in-your-face display of homosexuality in the
United States, which makes it an interesting and unique place to visit.
then drove us to a local lookout spot called Tank Hill – named after a
now-removed water tank that once dominated the hilltop. Now it is just a great
place to get a fantastic view of the city and surrounding bay from its rocky
summit. We stopped at a Thai restaurant for lunch and then drove down to the
panhandle of Golden Gate Park. Walking through the park, it was easy to see the
appeal of its different areas – hippie hill held a small collection of funky
peace-lovers playing bongo drums, dancing and drugging on the weekends. Further
into the park, we walked along the well-manicured paths toward the conservatory
– an indoor garden that was currently featuring carnivorous plants. We didn’t
pay to enter the exhibit.
able to leave work a bit early to join us, so we returned to their home to meet
him. Adriana spoiled us again by making a Lebanese dish of rice and lamb with
cinnamon – a very tasty and interesting family recipe she had grown up with.
Unfortunately she had to retire early for the evening to prepare for work in the
morning, but Geoff agreed to show us a night on the town. Walking through the
mission district, the Hispanic area of the city, we visited a biker bar that
played lots of heavy metal music over a large patio with rows and rows of picnic
tables. This biker bar was not for motorcyclists – it was for bicyclists and
was a regular hangout for bike messengers – a common job in San Francisco.
After a few drinks, we moved on to a few other bars – mostly playing loud music
that required us to yell at one another and serving a very diverse crowd of
people. It was quite late when we began to walk toward Geoff’s neighborhood.
We were struck by the sounds of a live jazz band behind the doors of a small
pub. Looking through the red-tinted round windows of the doors, we were drawn
inside for one last drink as this band finished their final set of the evening.
While sitting in the pub, we realized it was after midnight and officially
Darren’s birthday! We held a quick toast to celebrate.
the buses stop operating past midnight and the walk was simply too far for us to
imagine, so we hailed a taxi to take us back to the apartment. It was past 2am
when we returned, but it had been a fabulous day and a fun evening exploring one
of our favorite cities. We always enjoy San Francisco and truly appreciate
Geoff and Adriana’s efforts to show us around – especially considering that
Geoff had to get up for work at 7:30am the next morning!
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