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Intense trip to Northern California

I just returned from a quick trip to the twisty roads of northern California. I rode 1,700 miles in just a little over 5 days. There were numerous weather conditions and road conditions to contend with, and I had several eventful moments along the way. I also met some wonderful people and saw some amazing sights.

Day one I rode down the Willamette Valley and over to Coos Bay on the central Oregon coast. I had fantastic weather and took some roads I’d never been on before, specifically the highway from Monmouth to Philomath. I pulled over on Highway 101 for a photo of the Haceta Head lighthouse, south of Waldport. I stayed at the Best Western in Coos Bay for the first time as well. It was adequate, equivalent to the Red Lion up the road.

I managed to get packed up and on the road before the rain started, which kicked in by the time I got to Coquille. It never let up until early afternoon when I got to Happy Camp. I stopped for a late breakfast in Brookings and my gear was completely soaked. The wind was blowing in off the ocean fairly hard and visibility was terrible. I was waved across the border into California and stopped at a gas station on the north side of Crescent City to fuel up. Then I turned northeast on highway 199 and after passing some slow tourists meandering through the redwoods I was able to enjoy that wonderfully twisty road for the second time in two weeks.

The weather dried out slightly in the tiny Oregon community of Takilma so I stopped for a bio break and to let my gloves dry in the brief sunlight. Some rain drops started falling again so I suited back up and headed up into the hills. The rain returned in earnest and the higher I climbed the worse visibility became. At the pass, nearly 5,200 feet, there was quite a bit of snow on the roadside and heavy rain coming down. By the time I got to Happy Camp back in California — the third border crossing that day — the sun was out and the temperature had climbed enough to make it sticky-uncomfortable in my gear. I stopped at the grocery store for a quick break, then headed down Highway 96 to my next overnight stop in Yreka.

I stayed at the Best Western instead of the Super 8. It was a nice motel and worth the price. Being a Sunday night nothing was open so I ate at Grandma’s House Restaurant on the advice of a local. The bric-a-brac atmosphere was nauseous and the food was one notch above cafeteria-grade.

I began to get congested while in Yreka and was glad to head south the next morning. My route took me on highway 3 through Etna and Callahan before climbing up and over beautiful Scotts Pass with clear blue skies. The day’s ride was fantastic and I was able to stop and pose for a self-portrait (camera timers and mini-tripods are great) on a bridge over a rushing mountain river.

My overnight stay was at the Super 8 in Fortuna, a great place with friendly staff. Dinner was at the Eel River Brewery next door, a greek salad and pint of pale ale. While there I caught up on some laundry to reset my clothing situation back to zero. The next morning I had some mist to contend with as I headed back inland on highway 36 through Dinsmore and Hayfork. I had a close call with a Toyota that crossed the center line in a narrow section of road but was able to chirp my bike hard-right and avoid a collision. It would have been a non-injury event even if I had hit them as both our speeds were below 15 mph. While having lunch at The Nugget in Weaverville I met another V-Strom rider, Mark, from Eureka. After a great conversation we hit the road.

I rode highway 299 west until reaching Willow Creek where I headed north on Highway 96. The weather was fantastic for the second day in a row, helping to make up for the deluge I endured on Sunday. I gassed up in Hoopa in anticipation of a long, slow ride up the Salmon River through the mountains. Once I reached Somes Bar I cut east and followed the rugged river valley back into the hills. After about 8 miles of very slow, narrow riding, I stopped for a bio break and noticed my GPS said I’d reach Yreka at 7:50 pm. It was already after 3pm and after taking inventory of my food and water situation, I decided the wise thing to do would be to backtrack to Highway 96 and beat feet to Happy Camp where I could get a snack and bottle of water, then head on to Yreka that way. It was the smart thing to do, and I arrived at my motel just before 6pm. Tired, but safe.

Dinner was at Lalos Mexican Restaurant in Yreka, with beers and conversation at The Rex Club next door to my motel. I had the bartender and several customers convinced I was a retired adult film star (I eventually confessed that I am the computer guy for a fisheries consulting firm, an admittedly less glamorous vocation). Again, being in Yreka got my sinuses in a bunch.

Wednesday morning was beautiful, with blue skies dotted by a few white puffy clouds. I headed north on Interstate 5 back into Oregon where I saw two state troopers nab speeding California drivers right in front of me. In Ashland I left the freeway and headed east on Highway 66, the Green Springs Highway, toward Klamath Falls. I stopped at the memorial park and visited the niche where my Mom’s ashes are located, then ate breakfast at the Black Bear diner on South 6th. The breeze was kicking up and my bike got knocked sideways as I rode more times than I could count.

I figured I had enough gas to get me to Lakeview but I wanted to be on the safe side so I stopped at the Chevron in Bly to fuel up. The attendant asked if I had just come through a week before, saying he saw a guy stop with a bike and luggage exactly like mine. I said it must be my ‘good twin’ … stroking my beard I reminded him, “The evil twins always have goatees.” I’m not sure he got the joke.

In Lakeview I stopped for a snack and chatted with a BMW rider heading south from Burns toward Chico, California. Back on the bike, I headed north on 395, then northwest on 31 toward Summer Lake. The scenery, geology, and weather conspired to bring tears to my eyes. Sometimes that happens when you ride through certain areas. The wind was a real wooly-booger, though. When I approached Summer Lake I could see a large dust storm being kicked up by the wind. I was concerned that I’d have to ride through it, but fortunately the road skirted around behind and upwind of it so I could see it safely without having to endure it’s brutality. After riding through Oregon’s Outback and wrestling with an ever-present wind, I finally met Highway 97 and cut north toward my destination for the night, Bend. I had to stop and switch to wet-weather gear, though, as rain returned briefly to my experience.

My destination was The Riverhouse Resort, the nicest motel of the trip. After unpacking and showering, I went into the Crossings Lounge for a beverage and dinner. I met some nice people and struck up a great conversation with Arne, a district rep for a regional restaurant chain. The sinus issues I experienced in Yreka, exacerbated by climbing and descending numerous mountain ranges over the duration of my trip so far, all conspired to completely destroy my voice. By the time I went to bed that night I couldn’t talk at all and my sinuses were packed solid.

It rained that night and when I began packing my bike I noticed the Volkswagen parked next to it spent the night with its passenger window rolled down. Breakfast was at the restaurant across the street, and I could barely speak loud enough to place my order with the waitress. I was soon suited up and heading north. Because I didn’t feel good and simply wanted to get home after what had turned out to be a very tiring (yet rewarding and enjoyable) trip, I decided to take 97 and then 26 the fast way home rather than ride over to Detroit and up past Breitenbush and Ripplebrook “the back way.”

Thursday, this last day of my trip, was also my 41st birthday. Once I was north of Madras the rain entered the equation once again and I got dumped on the rest of the way home, with the rain especially heavy going over the pass at Government Camp. By the time I rolled into my garage late that morning my gear was soaked and I was exhausted.

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