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The long way north

When I left Mark’s house Thursday morning, my goal was to reach Coos Bay. I could go straight up Highway 101 for about 220 miles or I can take the long way getting there. You’ve got two guesses which way I went, and the first doesn’t count.

Once in Arcata, I turned inland on Highway 299 and rode to Willow Creek where I gassed up. I then turned north on Highway 96 through Hoopa. There is a section of 96 that was carved out of the cliffside that is very dangerous. The road is narrow, the turns are tight, sightlines are abrupt or absent, and it would be a long way down if you went off the road. Although I gave those curves a run for their money, I remained within my abilities and the conditions and made it through without incident.

Highway 96 follows the very scenic and rugged Klamath River, usually from high up the canyon walls. The sun was shining, slow traffic was practically non-existent, my bike was running well, and I enjoyed the ride very much. Eventually I was in the small town of Happy Camp, a place I have visited many times before, and stopped for a much needed snack. I then rode north on Indian Creek Road.

Soon after crossing the unmarked border back into Oregon, I stopped at a construction zone and chatted with the flagger for several minutes before heading back down the hill. At the junction with Highway 199 I turned northeast and rode into the busy town of Cave Junction for fuel and lunch. The Dairy Queen was busy and as I ate my lunch I saw numerous bikes, mostly large cruisers, rumbling through town.

I mounted back up and headed southwest on 199. I waved two people on sport bikes past me, but was soon parked behind them at a construction zone. I had my iPod running and couldn’t hear anything they said but somehow we managed to communicate with each other that they would lead and I would attempt to follow them. It was a man and a woman, and I noticed she had a sticker on the back of her helmet that said, “You were just passed by a girl.” Although I couldn’t determine the brand and model, their bikes looked to be in the 600 cc supersport category. Both riders were dressed in black leathers and appeared to know what they were doing.

Once we were allowed forward, they soon began to pull away in the straights. I don’t like to ride more than 10 mph over the speed limit, so I assumed I wouldn’t see them again. After three or four corners, however, I was riding up the tailpipe of the woman — the man was riding in front of her. They both stuck their knees out and leaned into their turns, which looked impressive, but their cornering speed was at least 5 mph slower than mine. I began to get frustrated because the road surface was pristine, sight lines provided excellent through-the-corner visibility, and all conditions allowed fast cornering.

She noticed that I was really pushing for faster speed, so she waved me forward. I waved thanks as I rode past and was soon tailgating the lead rider. He had more impressive form and was slightly faster in the corners, but again my surprisingly flickable V-Strom was exceeding his ability or willingness to corner faster. After a half dozen corners he waved me past as well, shaking his head as I rode by. He gave a friendly wave, however, so I waved back, gave a short beep-beep on the horn, and zoomed ahead through the rest of the route to the coast.

I reached Highway 101 just north of Crescent City and began the long slog north to Coos Bay. There was a head wind and a fair amount of slow traffic, which combined to make it a tiring leg of the day. I stopped at a rest area overlooking the wind-chopped ocean below and took a quick break. Soon I was back on the road and made it into Coos Bay at 5:30 pm. I had been riding since 8:00 that morning and clocked 370 miles for the day. I was exhausted but happy.

Dinner was again at the Blue Heron, with a different entree of course. I slept well. The next morning I took the shortest route home: North to Reedsport, east to I-5, then follow the freeway all the way home. Riding the superslab at 70 mph was just as tiring as the zigzagged 370 miles I clocked the day before (“My butt never hurts unless I’m riding in a straight line.”) I got home safely, however.

The total trip included 3,400 miles over 11 riding days, crossed into British Columbia, Canada, and touched Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and California. The northernmost point was Lillooet, BC and the southernmost was Mad River, California. The farthest east was Lewiston, Idaho, and of course the westernmost point was the Pacific Ocean.

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