Ride Report: A Tale of Two 36’s

It has become somewhat of a tradition that I spend my birthday on two wheels, and this year was no exception. Considering I would be turning 50, I wanted it to have a mix of new roads as well as trusted twisties. The routes I chose did not disappoint—except for one. Learn more about my unpaved adventure below.

I just got back from a 5-day motorcycle trip down to northern California, spending all four nights in a tent. That’s a first for me. I’ve bike-camped many times before but only spent one night out of doors. This trip was memorable for other reasons because it included a nice mix of success and hassle, lots of nearly perfect riding weather coupled with a bit of late spring rain, and a lot of fantastic roads. To top it all off, I got to see some good friends, too.

Click on the section titles to see my riding routes in Google Maps.

Day 1: Home to Central Oregon Coast

It was cloudy and there was a chance of showers the day I departed from my home in Sandy, Oregon. I traveled south through Estacada up the Clackamas River on highway 224 to Ripplebrook, then south on NF-46 to Detroit. I topped off my gas tank at the small store there, then continued south on highway 22 about 18 miles where I got off the highway and headed up into the hills on NF-11, Quartzville Road.

This was a new path for me. The road is paved but narrow, and I had to dodge around a lot of tree and rock debris. The upper reaches of this road, topping off at around 4,000 feet, didn’t get clear of snow until just recently. Not long after heading west on NF-11, the rain started. It was fairly intense and constant until I was on the downhill side and approaching Green Peter Reservoir.

Taking a break from the rain

I took a break at the Dogwood wayside, glad to be under a patch of blue sky (Spring weather in Oregon is fickle). After resting for 10, I continued west. The road condition improved and the route around the northern shore of the reservoir did not disappoint. I used to ride with a group of sport bike riders that loved to take that route, and I could see why. The pavement was in good shape and the curves were delightful.

After riding through Sweet Home and veering southwest through the communities of Crawfordsville and Brownsville, I passed over I-5 into the small town of Halsey. A few miles south found me in Junction City where I stopped for lunch at the local Dairy Queen.

The rain had paused and I had sunshine to suit up and continue west, this time on Oregon’s highway 36. For the second time in the day, I got to ride a road that was new to me. I’ve been a huge fan of California’s highway 36, so I had to see what my home state had to offer.

It was a mixed bag. The road was nice, with predictable curves and bucolic farm houses, although there was a fair number of homes and pickup trucks decorated with right-wing propaganda. Declaring oneself as a hater of others because of their skin color, country of origin, political affiliation, or sexual orientation isn’t a way to win points in my book.

The rain returned soon after leaving Junction City, although with a milder intensity this time around. It stopped by the time I got to Mapleton and highway 126. I followed it west to Florence. The rest of the ride south on highway 101 into North Bend was uneventful and pleasant.

Waiting for my campsite at Sunset Bay, Oregon

Once in North Bend, I let my GPS guide me out to Charleston and then to Sunset Bay State Park. The sun was shining and only a few clouds off on the horizon, out over the Pacific Ocean, were visible. I had a reservation for a tent site at the campground, but they wouldn’t let me occupy it until 4 PM, so I killed about an hour of time at their day use area overlooking the small yet idyllic bay.

Day 1: Campsite, Sunset Bay State Park, Oregon

I got my camp set up and was reading when my neighbors pulled into the spot next to me. They had a difficult time backing their rig into their slot at a 90-degree angle, so I helped guide them. They were so grateful they offered to share their spaghetti dinner with me. I had already set my dehydrated meal to cooking and didn’t want to waste it, so I thanked them and gave a pass.

While we were chatting, however, a trio of crows snuck onto my picnic table and pecked a hole in my as-yet unopened dehydrated meal pouch. The hole was below the water-fill line, so that pouch was ruined. The crows continued to push the issue, quite vocally, until I asserted my dominance enough that they gave up and resorted to mere verbal abuse from the safety of the trees.

After taking a pleasant shower and reading a bit, I settled in for bed. I fell asleep fairly quickly, thanks to my ThermaRest Mondo King air mattress. That beast is expensive and thick, but it sure works well at providing a good night’s rest in a tent. I’m very happy with that investment.

I woke up just before 1 AM to break for nature. Within 60 seconds of getting back into my tent and crawling into my sleeping bag, the rain started. It rained hard for about 15 minutes, then repeated the process again a bit later. It stopped before I got up at 5:45 AM. Although I had blue skies when I woke up, I had a wet tent to pack.

My morning snack was a Clif Bar while I broke camp. I rode into Coos Bay and had breakfast at the Stock Pot restaurant on the south side of town. One of the locals at the table next to me chatted me up about riding. He was a logger that had lived there his whole life and collected Harley-Davidsons, although no longer rode any of them.

Day 2: Down the Coast and Over the Mountains

A light rain began to fall just as I was leaving the restaurant. It kept up with me as I headed south on 101, turning into a dense mist as I ascended into low-lying clouds just north of Bandon. By the time I got to that town, the moisture stopped and never bothered me again for the rest of the entire trip.

My next rest and fuel stop was in Brookings, where I ate a snack and enjoyed the bright sunshine. Soon I was across the California border, and soon after that I headed inland on highway 197 and then 199 toward Cave Junction. Highway 199 is great for motorcycles but it’s very narrow and windy in places and makes for an uncomfortable drive if you’re pushing a motor home or towing a trailer.

In Cave Junction, it was warm but not unpleasantly hot. I got gas, then ate lunch at Dairy Queen. Suited back up, I took the back roads through pot-growing country to Indian Creek Road up and over the pass and back into California. Last year there was a very large wildfire just west of that road, but I never saw any glimpses of its destruction.

From Happy Camp, I took highway 96 south to Willow Creek. Highway 96 is both challenging and rewarding. The curves are fantastic and the scenery above the majestic and rugged Klamath River is spectacular, but the road itself has a lot of undulations and different surfaces along with plenty of rocky debris to contend with. It’s a road that likes to be ridden fast but the rider must be focused and never slack on their attention or it could easily be fatal.

It was fairly warm by the time I got to Willow Creek and the junction with highway 299. Westward on this much busier route had me up and over a pair of 2,000+ foot passes and their pleasant, cool air. I met back with highway 101 in Arcata, then down to the southern side of Eureka where I filled up my gas tank.

Riverwalk RV Park, Fortuna, CA

I got into Fortuna and checked into my tent spot at the Riverwalk RV Park at 4:30. I was 15 minutes into setting up my camp when my friend, Roger, showed up. He rode up from his home in the Bay area on his Honda ST1300 to help me spend my birthday riding the loop (more below). We planned to stay two nights in our tents at the RV park.

After we got our tents set up and our showers out of the way, we walked the 1/4 mile over to the Eel River Brewery for dinner. Traditionally, I’ve stayed at the Super 8 which is adjacent to the brewery, so the tent experience there was new to me. It worked out well and saves a ton of money.

Dinner and brews at the Eel River Brewery are always a delight at this busy establishment. We were told it would be 15-30 minutes before a table would be ready, so we headed outside to enjoy some adult beverages and catch up.

I had met Roger at a V-Strom rally a few years back (see my blog for details) and we’d maintained a friendship ever since. He even rode up to meet me back in 2016 when I headed to Fortuna on my 2012 Suzuki GSX-R750. We rode the loop back then, him on his V-Strom and me on my Gixxer. This was the first time I’d seen Roger since then.

We enjoyed our food and conversation, then wandered back to camp. We were in bed a little bit after 9 PM, eager for the loop ride the next day.

Day 3: The Loop

I slept well, even better than the night before. After eating a Clif bar and suiting up, Roger and I rode up 101 to the north end of Eureka where we ate breakfast at The Chalet restaurant. We had clear skies and pleasantly cool air for our ride.

We headed north on 101, then caught 299 inland (east). We made a quick stop in Willow Creek so I could plug my phone into a cigarette power adapter on my bike. Continuing on, the weather got warmer but was still very pleasant. We only had to stop for construction once before getting into Weaverville.

At the Chevron, we saw a dozen Porsches get gas as part of an organized rally. Roger and I filled our own tanks, then parked in the shade and ate some snacks under the market’s overhang. While I was filling up my gas tank, the rubber shroud leaked gas over my finger and down the side of my tank. This is dangerous as the fuel may touch the hot engine and ignite. I quickly finished the job and closed the gas tank before anything happened.

As we sat in the shade, we talked with an older gentleman shuffling by with his little black dog. Between repeated ‘sniffs’ from the oxygen tank strapped to his back, we chatted about his dog, our bikes, and the weather. After he left, a couple on a BMW GS came in to get fuel. We chatted with the lady while her husband finished fueling his bike. In our conversation, we discovered she and her husband and Roger went to the same high school, graduating just a year apart.

Roger and I on The Loop

Roger and I rode south on highway 3, where the road climbs and winds its way up and over a pass, then down the other side into the community of Hayfork. This section of highway 3 is both the most challenging and rewarding road of the area, and one of my all-time favorite roads to ride.

Like highway 96 to the north, this section of highway 3 is both rewarding and challenging. There are no guard rails and it’s a long way down if you leave the pavement. Most corners are blind and are posted between 20-25 mph. You are either climbing or descending, so your throttle and brakes get a workout. The rider must be alert and in the zone or else fatal danger lurks. There can often be rocks in the center of the lane, too, so choosing and sticking to a track around a corner is helpful.

We survived the curves with a smile and stood up on our pegs to rest our legs and glutes as we rode through Hayfork. Soon after, in the community of Peanut, highway 3 ends and we caught highway 36 westbound.

The true highway 36 experience should include its full route from Red Bluff at I-5 all the way west to Fortuna. The best is to ride it one direction, eat lunch, then back track and ride it the other way. It’s tiring but very rewarding. That famous “144 miles of curves” sign is at the Red Bluff end.

Highway 36 includes every kind of curve and corner and straight imaginable. There are mountain passes and their cool air and low-lying valleys and their heat. There are fir trees and pine trees and low scrub oaks and grasslands. There are even giant redwoods toward the western end. It has it all.

I highly recommend anyone serious about riding check out highway 36 in California. Just don’t tell anyone. Let it be our secret.

We sat outside at the Brewery to enjoy our dinner and conversation. Roger and I get along really well, so the company was a great way to celebrate my birthday.

Day 4: Heading North

There was a heavy dew during the night so once again I had to pack a wet tent. After breaking camp, Roger headed south toward home while I headed into old town Fortuna for breakfast at the Redwood Cafe. I had sunshine and blue skies again, although it was a bit chilly to start the day.

I headed inland, backtracking on highway 36 in the other direction. I stopped in Weaverville for gas and a snack, noticeably warmer than the day before. I saw the same shuffling old man as the day before and chatted with him about the climate.

My route took me north on highway 3 past Trinity Lake, then up and over Scott Mountain pass. This section of road is incredible, with great asphalt conditions and good sight lines. The northern side of the pass is grassy ranch land before you descend into hot Yreka.

I got lunch at McDonalds (don’t judge me, it was convenient) and got in out of the heat. After I ate, I stripped down a few layers and converted my jacket into hot-weather mode. I got onto I-5 northbound, then exited at the wayside town of Hornbrook. I gassed up, drank a bunch of water, then headed northeast on Copco Lake Road.

This is where things got kind of weird. I had planned my route using both a Gazetteer and Google Maps. Both indicated my route from Hornbrook across the California-Oregon border and into Keno, Oregon was feasible and paved. It wasn’t.

I rode up and down rolling hills and fast sweepers for several miles before the pavement lost its painted lines. That was the first clue things weren’t what I hoped. I reached Copco Lake, an impoundment of the Klamath River, and on the eastern reach the pavement ended. There was a sign that said, “Unimproved road 5 miles, campers and passenger cars not recommended” or something to that effect. I assumed it meant that the gravel only lasted 5 miles and therefore would turn back to pavement. I might be a moron for misinterpreting the sign, but it also wasn’t overtly clear, either.

So I rode onward, gravel be damned. I’ve ridden on gravel before and my bike is made for that, so it wasn’t an issue. The road began to narrow and eventually the conditions worsened. By this point I had ridden nearly 15 miles and there was no pavement in sight.

It was getting quite warm, too, with temps in the upper 80s. The road narrowed even further, barely wide enough for a small car to pass through without scraping brush on either side.

Finally I came to a fork in the road. On the right was a gate to a ranch house and on the left was a gnarly gravel track with rough rock. A hand-carved metal sign was stapled to a tree in between that said, “Adams Ranch” to the right and “Topsy Grade” to the left. I knew from my notes that the road would change names to “Topsy Grade” once it crossed into Oregon, so I knew I was on the planned route.

Except the planned route wasn’t paved, and looked like it would just keep getting rougher. It did.

By this point I had to stand up on my pegs because the road condition was so rough I couldn’t steer confidently while sitting in the saddle. It was also too narrow for a standard vehicle to pass through. Within a mile the gravel disappeared and the road turned into a steep, dusty, rock-strewn path barely wide enough for an ATV to pass through.

I had to go back

I climbed a dozen yards of this crazy road just enough to find a spot barely wide enough for me to maneuver the bike around. I backtracked to a flat spot and parked it. Getting off the bike, I was breathing hard and sweating profusely. My throat was raspy and my lips were dry. I chugged some water, then took a minute to take a short video and a snapshot with my phone.

Realizing going forward was not an option—both because I knew there were dozens of miles of gnarly track to contend with, and that my skill level off-pavement wasn’t up to the challenge—I decided to go back to Hornbrook.

It had taken me a little over an hour to ride 37 miles, so doubling back would cost me a lot of time. But, safety is what matters. After drinking some more water, I headed southwest again to Hornbrook.

There, I caught I-5 for the fast run north into Oregon. I got off I-5 onto a severely twisty highway 273 (it’s so twisty that at one point it actually twists around and passes under itself). That caught highway 66, the famous Green Springs Highway, and I was climbing up out of the valley on a twisty, amazing road. There were guard rails, which is a good thing because going off the road would be a long way down. The pavement is in perfect condition, too.

It was getting into early evening and once I was up into the timber, I became concerned about deer jumping out into the road in front of me. They are a very real risk to motorcyclists, and that time of the evening increased the risk even more.

I got into Klamath Falls around 5:50 PM to gas up and send a text to my wife letting her know where I was and why I was delayed. Fueled, I continued north around the lake and through the town of Chiloquin on highway 97 before pulling off into Collier State Park and my night’s stop.

Collier State Park, OR

It was good to park the bike after a long and tiring ride. I got to the park at 6:20, about two hours later than expected. It was fairly warm and the air was dead calm. The mosquitos buzzed in unison, “Fresh meat,” and attacked me as I quickly set up camp.

It was also good to take a shower. I wasn’t hungry because of the heat and fatigue but I ate a dehydrated meal of beef stew anyway. The mosquitos ate as well, biting me in dozens of places on each leg, my arms and hands, and my neck and head. I’m still itchy several days later.

I turned in around 9 PM and was soon asleep.

Day 5: The Last Leg

As is usual for me, I was awake at 5 am. It was cold out, and according to a thermometer on my bike, it was in the upper 30s. I slept in a bit more, then efficiently broke camp and got my bike packed up. Fortunately the humidity was low and my tent was dry when I rolled it up.

I rode 110 miles into Bend where I stopped at a Shari’s and had breakfast. I contacted my buddy, Mike, and let him know I would be in Detroit at approximately 11:30 am, according to my GPS.

Gas was obtained in the themed town of Sisters, Oregon, as I continued my journey north under brilliant blue skies and perfect temperatures. I arrived at the Korner Post restaurant in Detroit at 11:25 to see Mike greet me outside the front door.

We ate lunch and laughed a lot, which is what Mike and I have been doing since we met in grade school. Our humor is particularly childish, a skill we have honed over these many decades of dedicated practice.

Fed and happy, we went our separate ways. Mike headed back to Albany where he lives and I headed north on NF-46, now retracing my steps back to Ripplebrook, Estacada, and finally Sandy.

Summary

This trip was especially enjoyable to me for many reasons. It was a delight to have packed all the gear and supplies I needed and nothing I didn’t need (that is a skill that takes a surprising amount of trial-and-error). I only had one very mild pucker moment on the bike, and I was able to analyze what I’d done wrong, decide on corrective action, and get past it without it getting me out of the zone. My riding was efficient and fast enough to feel fun and gratifying yet not so fast that I was unsafe, unlawful, or needing to feel guilty or regret. My bike performed wonderfully after the nearly 74,000 miles that have passed under its wheels. The V-Strom is truly an amazingly competent machine.

I was able to spend some quality time with good friends, and that is something I value highly.

On a rather personal note, my experiences taking trips on my motorcycle have changed a lot in recent years. My trips prior to 2014 were taken while I was in an unhealthy marriage to a very dysfunctional person. I used to think the reason why I enjoyed going on multi-week trips was for its own enjoyment, but I now realize that was only half the picture.

A great deal of my desire to be alone on the open road was to be away from her.

I am now in a very healthy and happy relationship with a woman that I miss very much when I’m gone. Although I still enjoy going on two-wheeled adventures as much as ever, I now feel a reluctance to be away from home that didn’t exist in my previous marriage. I now look forward to returning home.

Now that I got that personal note out of the way, we can return to this trip in particular.

The places I visited and the roads I traveled are some of the finest for motorcycling anywhere on the west coast, in my personal opinion. The section of highway 3 between Hayfork and Weaverville is worth riding two days in the rain to reach. Seriously.

What makes trips like this special, though, is the sense of adventure that carrying everything you need on the back of your bike can convey. It’s a pain to put up a tent every night and pack it all up the next morning. The elements are a hassle and eating dehydrated food and protein bars gets unappetizing after a while. The toll on your body wears you down a lot faster than staying in motels and traveling by car.

But, you also experience the environment in which you travel at a much more intimate level. The smells are far more immediate and vibrant, and the temperature changes also add a more dynamic and impactful element to the experience. You also meet some of the nicest and most interesting people when traveling on two wheels. The bike strikes up a lot more conversations than I’d ever have otherwise if they were to rely solely on my rather shy, natural personality.

Traveling by motorcycle grants you something priceless and unique every time you head out: memories. And I will have them long after the machine itself has turned to rust.

Fast and hot ride in northern California

I just got back from a six-day, 1,500 mile trip to northwestern California. This trip included a rather vigorous and hot run on the black-diamond route of highways 36, 3, and 299, with temperatures reaching 100 degrees at the mid-way point of Weaverville, California.

To start, I rode south through the eastern side of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, then cut across from Lebanon to Philomath for my first bio and gas break of the day. Highway 34 from Philomath through Alsea to Waldport was in fantastic shape and I practically had the road to myself. When I reached the coast in Waldport, it was time to add a layer under my Aerostich Roadcrafter to fend off the increased chill.

2012 Suzuki GSX-R 750

Shortly after, a rider on a Yamaha FJR1300 whizzed by me, then another. Because of numerous members of the Anti-Destination League restricting their forward progress, I caught up with them. Then the race was on. The lead rider was rather assertive and stayed ahead, while the second FJR pilot and I maintained a brisk but safer pace a few hundred yards behind. One by one, we passed slow cars when possible. I was impressed by how quick and nimble the FJR can be.

We eventually stopped at a gas station in Florence and chatted. Bruce and Dwayne were out on a day ride from Eugene and were still getting acquainted with their new-to-them FJRs. Bruce was a bit high-strung and ranted rather colorfully about slow cagers, especially those driving the Toyota Prius. We mutually wondered why people who drive them insist on going so slow.

I needed to keep moving on, so I said my goodbyes and continued southward. Soon I was in Coos Bay, checking into the Best Western and unloading my gear. Dinner was Hungarian goulash at the Blue Heron a few blocks away.

The next day was a sedate run down highway 101 into Fortuna. Dinner was great conversation, food and beer at the Eel River Brewing Company next door to my motel. After the carb-only breakfast provided by the motel and a protein bar, I left the next morning heading east on highway 36. My pace was moderate and the ride started out with mist on my face shield and damp roads. After 20 miles of riding inland away from the coastal weather, the pavement dried out and my pace quickened.

Rider and GSX-R750 on Highway 36

I got into Weaverville by 10:30, and after getting gas, I ate breakfast at The Nugget. After parking in front of the restaurant, I didn’t even have my helmet off before a gray-haired gentleman emerged and started chatting me up about my bike. Then he began to tell me all about the numerous fast bikes he’s ridden and owned over the years. He seemed rather proud of the fact that a BMW S1000RR seemed a bit slow for his tastes.

After a nice breakfast, I backtracked on highways 3 and 36 toward Fortuna. I stopped at Grizzly Creek Redwoods campground and got chatted up by a mechanical engineer named Marvin, who was visiting the area from Arizona, doing some soul searching about his career and where he wanted to call home.

Back in Fortuna, I gassed up, then headed north on highway 101 through Eureka before heading inland once again, this time to my friend Mark’s house in Kneeland. Mark and I had met by chance at The Nugget in Weaverville back in 2009, and have been friends ever since. He had just purchased a brand new 2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 so we spent a bit of time checking it out and talking about bikes in general.

On Wednesday, we met Mark’s friend, Jim, in Eureka. Jim was riding a Moto Guzzi Griso, Mark was on his new Strom, and I was on my GSX-R750. We rode into town and had coffee at the very cool Black Lightning Motorcycle Cafe. It was neat to see a write-up and pictures of the trip to Steens Mountain Mark, his wife Janice and I took back in 2010.

We then headed south on 101 to Fortuna before heading inland on highway 36. I was in the lead. Going past Grizzly Creek state park, three guys on BMW sport-touring bikes pulled out in front of us. One by one they pulled off and let us go past. Apparently our pace was a bit too fast for them.

By the time we reached Hayfork, the temperature was into the 90’s. We stopped for beverages and snacks, then began the really fun — and challenging — part of the trip, the section of highway 3 between Hayfork and Weaverville.

Mark led on his V-Strom, and although he was still breaking in his bike and didn’t want to get above 5,000 rpm, it took a fair bit of effort for me to keep up with him on the numerous 25 mph curves of highway 3. In the straights and faster curves, my Gixxer excelled and both the Strom and Griso had a hard time keeping up. But in the slower, tighter curves, the V-Strom excelled. I recall a few times when I was on my 2007 Suzuki V-Strom 650, riding up the tail pipes of sport bikes in the tight twisties, and was reminded just how nimble the Strom really is.

We made it to Weaverville safe and happy, but knackered. The temperature had reached 100 degrees by the time we stopped for lunch at Trinideli. We went up to the Chevron after eating to get gas, and saw two guys on BMW GS’s hanging out. One of them came up to talk with us. They were on a big trip from Colorado and had gone through several break-downs. One bike’s fuel system had died and the throttle cable of the other had broken. They were waiting for a new part to get shipped overnight to a local repair shop.

We headed west on highway 299 and, although quick, we ran a more moderate pace due to the notoriously high law enforcement presence. We also got held up by slow cagers. California drivers tend to pull over and let you pass, even log truck drivers, but drivers from other states don’t seem to have a clue about this courtesy. We got stuck behind an ADL life member with North Carolina plates that refused to pull over and let the string of impatient cars stacked up behind him go past.

We stopped in Willow Creek and got some provisions from the local grocery store. I bet our sweaty and road-weary presence was quite a sight to the other customers. Our final stop for the night was Jim’s camp spot in a private RV park 25 minutes further down the road.

When we got up the next morning, we found fresh bear scat in two spots within 50 yards of our camp site. After breakfast, Mark and I took off on 299 west while Jim hung back to get some chores done on his camp site. At highway 101, I headed north while Mark headed south back toward his home in Kneeland.

My ride north was uneventful. Once I crossed the border into Oregon, I noticed a huge law enforcement presence along the highway. There were radar traps seemingly every five miles. Prior to that, however, my low fuel light began flashing and by the time I got into Crescent City, my reserve meter said I had only 5.2 miles to go before hitting empty. It took 3.48 gallons to fill my tank, making me wonder if my Gixxer has a 3.5 gallon tank; I had always thought it was 4.5 gallons.

I stopped in Bandon for lunch, then got into Coos Bay around 3 PM. The temperature there was 87 degrees, courtesy of hot east winds blowing down the coast range. Dinner was at Shark Bites in downtown Coos Bay, dungeness crab cakes and halibut fish tacos, with a nice Eola Hills chardonnay.

Friday, the last day of my trip, was intended to get home as efficiently as possible. That meant cutting inland on highway 38 from Reedsport to I-5, then boogying up the freeway to home. I was tired and was suffering from some kind of sinus infection or allergies or cold that developed the night before. But, I got home safely and with a big smile on my face. It was quite a ride.

Ride Report: Taking the GSX-R750 to Northern California

After returning home from a 2,800 mile ride up through British Columbia to Hyder, Alaska on my V-Strom, I stayed home a full day and two nights to regroup. Then I left Monday morning on my 2012 Suzuki GSX-R750 and headed south. The intent was to work my way to Fortuna on the northern California coast, then spend a day riding the loop inland on highways 299, 3 and 36, then backtrack my way home. It’s a five-day ride.
The ride to Coos Bay was pleasant and I had excellent weather for it. I went south through Estacada, Molalla, and Scio, and confusing Lebanon before heading west on highway 34 to Philomath. I gassed up and ate a snack at McDonalds under wonderful sunny skies.
The stretch of highway 34 from Philomath through Alsea and into Waldport was like butter. There is very little traffic, the pavement is in excellent shape, and the blend of curves is like butter. The Gixxer barely broke a sweat, nor did I.
I stopped along the sea wall in Waldport to give my ass and back a rest. It was foggy and there was the faintest bit of salty mist in the air.
It was much cooler heading down the coast on famous Highway 101 than it would have been if I’d stayed in the Willamette Valley. The temperatures there were forecasted to get into heat-wave territory.
The Gixxer ran great. That bike makes me think a Swiss watchmaker and an Olympic athlete hooked up and had a kid. It’s not comfortable like Lay-Z-Boy, though. By the time I reached Fortuna, my butt hurt and my left knee ached a bit, but depending on how I time my rest breaks, I can almost go the same distance in a day on the GSX-R as I can on the V-Strom.
Almost.

 

Dinner that evening was a Paulaner Oktoberfest beer, salad, and beef rolls at the Blue Heron German restaurant a few blocks away from my motel. Thinly sliced beef roast wrapped around thick-slicked bacon, stone ground mustard, and a pickle in the center, covered with rich gravy. Yummy!

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.

Car trip to the redwoods

Visiting the redwoods of northwestern California seems to becoming an annual trip for me. This year I’ll do it twice. I just returned from a car trip to visit relatives near Mt. Lassen in northeast California. My wife and I stayed two days there, then drove west to Crescent City on the coast and visited the Prairie Creek Redwoods state park near there.

We saw elk up close, including a young bull in the velvet that passed within 10 feet of our vehicle. We also parked at the base of Cal-Barrel road and walked up to the Remembrance Grove. That truly is a holy place.

We stayed overnight at the Northwoods Inn Best Western in Crescent City. If I had paid $49 for the room I would have thought, “This makes sense.” We could hear every sound from adjacent rooms and when the people above us took a shower it was as loud as our own. To further frustrate matters, a half dozen Harley-Davidson riders were staying there as well. That’s all well and good, but they decided to fire up their un-muffled bikes early the next morning and rev them so loud car alarms went off in the parking lot.

We left the next morning and headed northeast on highway 199 back toward Oregon. This road follows the rugged Smith River and is a real nail-biter if you’re behind the wheel of a large vehicle. I was driving our Ford F-350 crew cab and several sections have tight turns with zero margin. It would be a blast on a motorcycle but in a large vehicle like ours it was a little tense at times. The scenery is absolutely fantastic, however. I have an upcoming bike trip to the same area and have altered my intended route to include that particular road.