Motorcycle Trip from Cupertino, CA to
August 5-9, 2009.
I starting riding motorcycles again a couple of years ago after a 25 year hiatus. Most of that time has been on my Kawasaki KLR650, which is a large "dual sport" motorcycle designed to ride on asphalt or on dirt roads. A couple of weeks ago I added a 2006 BMW R1200RT to the stable in order to do some more extensive long-distance travel. The trip I cooked up for myself was from Cupertino, CA, about 35 miles south of San Francisco, to Bellingham, WA, about 20 miles south of the Canadian border. My route would take me over 1,200 miles and I planned to make it in four days. And so the adventure began as they all do; put her in gear, let off the clutch, and roll away from the curb.
The first day I rode out of the San Francisco bay area along route I-680 and then route I-505 out of Vacaville. It was already getting hot, 102F, but the bike was running just great and I was having a good time. The hills and pasture along I-505 explain why California is called the Golden State. Has nothing to do with gold, it's all about the golden grasslands.
After being on the "slab" (the freeway) for about five hours I arrived in Redding where I had planned to spend my first night. But it was hot, hot, hot so I decided to get off the freeway and head west up into the hills towards the ocean, 153 miles away on highway 299. I thought I might stay in Whiskeytown, but there were no accommodations there, so I continued up the road a few miles and turned off on Lewiston Road. Four miles later I came to the little mining town of Lewiston. I stayed in a room above the bar at the Lewiston Hotel, I was the only guest at this four room establishment and I paid $52 for a comfortable bed and a bathroom down the hall. I got the feeling that back in the rough and tumble mining days these rooms might have been rented out by the hour for other purposes.
It rained an thundered all night and in the morning I dried off my motorcycle seat, mounted up and headed over the non-traffic controlled one lane bridge out of town. The road from here up to Weaverville and beyond to Willow Creek (home of Bigfoot) was wet and there was some mud run-off in spots. Also, four construction zones with 10-20 minute delays made the trip a bit arduous. For me, the rain, fog, tight turns (hundreds of them), uncertain road surface and logging trucks served to rivet the attention to the task at hand.
After three hours or so of riding I eventually reached the coast around McKinleyville. It was nice to be riding along the coast again because the air was nice and cool, the landscape more open and the salt air very refreshing.
I proceeded north up to Orick and into the Redwood National Park. I got off of Hwy 101 and cut over to the Drury Scenic Parkway for a few miles. This is a beautiful, short loop where you can enjoy the peace and quiet of the less traveled route while you try to get your head around the enormity of these huge trees. The wandering elk seem to take it all for granted.
Popping back out of the park it was back onto HWY 101 and then out to the coast again. The scenery is just one magnificent vista after another as you proceed up the coast, eventually passing into Oregon.
So, on the second night I arrived in Gold Beach, OR where I crossed the Rogue River bridge and proceeded north another ten miles to spend the night with my good friends Mike and Sue. The Rogue River, by the way, is famous for two things: Salmon fishing and jet boat rides up the river to Agness, 42 miles away.
My friends are very involved in the Curry County Anadromous Fish Hatchery. (An anadromous fish is one that hatches in fresh water, lives in salt water, and returns to fresh water to spawn).
After spending a couple of nights in Gold Beach I saddled up again and headed north along the coastal route, destination; Astoria, OR. Almost immediately I was chased by a monster and later treated to some spectacular coastal scenery. Not to mention lots of narrow, cliff-hugging curvy roads and some more rain.
I eventually arrived in Astoria, took one look at this bridge (200 ft high, 2.1 miles long, two lanes wide with no shoulder and low guard rails) and just about froze up. The photo below is a stock photo I pulled off the web (all the others are mine) just to give you some idea of the terror factor. The day I went over was NOT sunny like this, rather, it was blustery. I held on tight, looked straight ahead, and got it over with as quickly as possible. If I never go over this bridge again it will be too soon.
The reward for making it over the bridge over the Columbia river was to arrive where Lewis and Clark arrived long-long ago, and then continue on northward onto the Olympic Peninsula. The Oly Pen is one of the few temperate rain forests in the world, some areas along the west shore (where I was headed) getting over 12 feet of rain per year.
By the time I arrived in South Bend, the county seat for Pacific County, I was pretty well fried after 350 miles of curvy, wet roads. This is a very small town and there were only a couple of motels. I pulled up to one called "Chen's" and parked my motorcycle in the lot of this 17 room, two story strip mall sorta looking building, circa 1960. I was the only guest, once again (like in Lewiston). As I powered down a Chinese fellow came running up to me and started apologizing profusely for the problems with Comcast ! I didn't know what he was talking about but told him that if he knocked a couple of bucks off the room fee we would be square. He seemed delighted to have a guest and told me to stop by the Chinese restaurant and bar across the parking lot to check in. The restaurant was also called Chen's. I introduced myself and said I would be right over. And that was how I came to make the acquaintance of the delightful Paul Chen. Ha.
The other nice things about staying at Chen's joint are cheap drinks in the bar and a free pancake and egg breakfast in the morning.
After breakfast I headed out on the last day of my adventure, eager to see the Olympic rain forests, pristine beaches and eventually reach Port Townsend on the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula where I would catch a ferry boat over to Whidbey Island and then ride the last couple of hours to my destination of Bellingham. Along the way I passed by Crescent Lake, which I am sure would have been spectacular on a (probably rare) sunny day.
I had never ridden a motorcycle onto a ferry boat before, so I was not quite sure of the procedure. When I came to the toll booth I told the attendant that this was my first time, to which he replied, "did you bring a life jacket"? Hahaha. I proceeded to lane #6 where two other motorcyclists were already waiting. They (Bob and Janine) turned out to be a very nice couple form eastern Washington who had just completed a short salmon fishing trip on the Oly Pen. They were riding Honda ST1100 machines. I got Bob to snap my photo once we were underway.
And so after an 11 hour travel day I finally arrived in Bellingham where I enjoyed a big steak dinner, beer and a good night's sleep.