West Coast V-Strom Rider’s Rally

Over the past weekend, I attended the V-Strom Rider’s West Coast Rally in Fortuna, California. It was organized by two members of the Stromtrooper.com forum, Hans and Jeff, and included three rides, Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively. I participated in the Saturday ride.

There were 15 riders in our group, on V-Stroms that ranged from the older set like mine up to brand new models with less than 5,000 miles on them. Rider skill was fairly well matched, but we tended to blend into two groups, with the faster team up front and the more cautious team in the rear.

There was a presentation by Jay of Sasquatch Suspension of Eagle, Idaho on Friday night and another Saturday evening by Richard of RAK Luggage. The presentations were very informative, with the suspension talk especially pertinent to me. I learned that my bike, with 62,000 on the original stock suspension, is way overdue for work. It explains why my bike is so unsettled on bumpy roads.

Our ride on Saturday was over one-lane paved and sometimes gravel roads that probably couldn’t be any bumpier. As a local put it, “when you run off the road and it gets smoother, you know you are in California.” Grades both up and down were pushing 15%, and there were more hairpins than at a hairdresser convention. I kept up with the group and stayed proud despite my bike’s serious lack of proper suspension and the fact that I was only bike with knobbie tires (Heidenau K60s).

We rode east from Fortuna on highway 36, south on Van Duzen Road just past Dinsmore, to the misty community of Zenia. Then we headed west to Redway where we stopped for lunch. Next was the crossroads of Honeydew, and a stop on the Lost Coast Road by Cape Mendocino. That location reminded me a lot of the pictures and video I’ve seen of Scotland. It was absolutely gorgeous.

We then looped northeast to the Victorian and quaint town of Ferndale before returning to Fortuna.

Dinners both nights were at the Eel River Brewery, and there were a lot of laughs and great conversation. I made several new friends, and came away from the experience realizing we need to steal Honda’s old slogan:

“You meet the nicest people on a V-Strom.”

[Photo: One of the riders skipped his step-mother’s 80’s birthday party to attend the rally, so the group did what they could to make up for it. As he reported: “My stepmother wants me to be sure to thank all of you for the birthday greetings. She went on for several minutes about how wonderful the photo was. Sounded like our pic was the talk of the day. It certainly did the job of keeping me out of trouble for being with y’all rather than at her 80th birthday celebration.”]

Ride Report: Day 2, Coos Bay, OR to Fortuna, CA

I slept well. The complimentary Best Western breakfast wasn’t too bad, especially compared to many others, with plenty of protein options and surprisingly good coffee.
It misted during the night so I had to wipe the dew off my bike before loading up. While watching a rerun of M.A.S.H. in my motel room last night, I heard Colonel Potter say something profound:
“The only guy I have to beat is the man I am right now.”
The ride continued south on Highway 101 and was pleasant with mostly cool air and occasional fog for dramatic effect. I stopped frequently because I had a short distance to travel and a long time to get there (unlike my previous trip to B.C.) Lunch was at the Subway in Crescent City.
Along the way I detoured through Prairie Creek Redwoods park and took a photo of a large bull elk, still in the velvet, having a lay-down snack in the brush.
Other than some slow drivers and a smattering of construction delays, it was an uneventful ride.
Dinner was piping hot fajitas and organic ale while chatting up the locals at the Eel River Brewery next door to the Super 8 in Fortuna.

 

Quote of the day: “I’m not one-dimensional but sometimes I make a good point.”

Ride Report: Day 4, Fortuna, CA to Coos Bay, OR

Happy Birthday, America! July 4th.
I saw a lot of flags on the side of the road and especially waving in the strong northern wind as I rode through small towns. Other than the wind, however, the ride north was pleasant.
I stopped in Brookings for a photo of the beautiful coast, then continued north. There were many people walking around Port Orford, apparently getting ready for some kind of parade or other celebratory activity that was about to start — I never could determine what, exactly — and then I got stuck behind a string of cars led by two nimrods that thought the speed limit was 35 mph. WTF? It took a long time to get past them.
After checking into the hotel in Coos Bay, I showered and napped. Dinner was at the Shark Bites restaurant a half dozen blocks away in downtown Coos Bay. I ate Dungeness crab cakes with a thai pepper sauce for an appetizer, and halibut tacos for the main course. Both were outstanding. They went wonderfully with an Eola Hills chardonnay.
I had a great conversation with the gal working the bar, a student dietician named Charlotte. We talked about food and discovered a mutual love of the Food Network show, “Chopped.” For my second cocktail of the evening, I challenged her to come up with something original using mint as the main ingredient. She made a drink with mint and lemon juice muddled together, then added cucumber soda, lime juice, and Tanqueray gin, served over ice in a Mason jar. It tasted like a fresh rain in Spring time so I dubbed her creation, “Spring Rain.” Soon everyone wanted one, and the owner, Charlotte’s brother, said it needed to be put on the menu after tasting it. It was a huge hit.

 

Shortly after 10 PM fireworks began exploding in the sky over the Coos River 100 yards outside my hotel room window. I had an excellent view of the whole show. The loud fireworks kept setting off the alarm of a car in the hotel parking lot.

Ride report June 2012: Day 3

Loop day, Fortuna, CA

The day was spent riding a 270 mile loop in the area. These are my favorite roads and are worth riding a long ways to experience if you’re not from the area. I headed inland, eastbound, on highway 36, then veered northeast on highway 3 from Hayfork to Weaverville. This section is gnarly and wicked and amazing on a motorcycle. It demands attention and offers a great reward to those who conquer it. In Weaverville I stopped at Trinideli for lunch. My friend, Mark, stopped by as he was driving home from Trinity Lake. After lunch, he drove on while I continued the loop by turning westbound on highway 299. Back on the coast, I turned inland and rode the narrow, winding road up to Mark’s home in the rural community of Kneeland. Mark and I had dinner and a lot of laughs, then I rode back down the hill to my motel in Fortuna.

Ride report June 2012: Day 4

Fortuna, CA to Sparks, NV

When I left Fortuna at 8 am it was drizzling and cool as is typical of the Eureka/Arcata/Fortuna area. I headed inland once again on highway 36 and by the time I went up and over the first pass I had sunshine and blue skies.

Nearing Red Bluff the temperature was climbing so I pulled over and switched to my warm weather gear configuration … Aerostich Darien jacket with vents open and minus the liner, and I opened the thigh vents on my Firstgear Kathmandu pants. As I rode the amazing roller coaster curves of 36 just west of Red Bluff, I kept feeling something hit my boots. Later I realized I was riding through crickets.

I fueled up in Red Bluff, then got lunch at a busy Subway before continuing east across I-5 on highway 36. From this point on, except for the last two days of the trip, I would be riding roads new to me. East of I-5, 36 is a lot of grass and scrub oak and heat. Eventually the elevation climbed enough to moderate the temperature. The road before and after Lake Almador was amazing as was the timber, tall and uniform.

Once I got to Susanville I fueled up my bike and continued on, now in hot, arid country. The border into Nevada was unmarked. Once I got into Sparks I used my Garmin Zumo 450 GPS to find the Super 8. It was a hotel, rather than my preferred motel, so I had to load all my gear on a cart and wheel it inside to my room. Once I got a quick nap and shower out of the way, I went to the casino/truck stop/restaurant next door for dinner. There were some shady people in there and it reminded me of the cantina scene in Star Wars IV, “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” (I am sure those truck drivers are salt of the earth good people, but they can present a rather gruff, scary first impression.) The chicken parmesan was pretty good.

Before I went to dinner I washed my ExOfficio t-shirts and underwear in the bath tub and hung them up to dry. My wool socks were the only thing I didn’t attempt to wash by hand; I saved them for later when I could wash them in a motel with a laundry room.