July 27, 2009
We wake early and leave the camp ground to go across the highway to eat a breakfast burrito at Rip’s Café. It is a combination of café, souvenir shop, head shop and small venue for live music on weekends. We talk to some local boys who have a brindle colored lab/pit bull mix with an overactive bladder. The yellow and black stripes on his fur is the reason they call him Tiger. We ask about someone in the area to change Jim’s rear tire. They recommend a dude named J.P. at a custom bike shop in Fort Bragg on the coast.
We head out of the parking lot just as a tour bus stops at Rip’s for souvenirs and food. Some of the tourists admire our bikes and ask about all the Alaska and Canadian stickers. We proudly tell them we had just returned from a ride to Prudhoe Bay and places north.
The ride on Highway 1 from Leggett to Fort Bragg is without a doubt the best combination of winding motorcycle roads and scenery to be found anywhere in America. There may be better twisties (doubtful) or possibly more beautiful scenic rides, but not the combination
. The road is over 45 miles of linked chicanes, hairpin turns, and undulating hills that go through the coastal redwoods and end on the Pacific Coast in wide sweepers with wide expansive views of the ocean and cliffs abutting the beaches. Hawks, buzzards and ravens soar overhead as you ride through patches of fog rolling in off the cold ocean water. The road in the redwoods blocks out the sunlight with a canopy so heavy you think you are riding in a tunnel that can sometimes stretch over 200-300 yards long. I have ridden all over mountain roads in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina. Yes, I have even ridden the Dragon in western North Carolina. This part of Highway 1 beats them all for tight turns and beauty, plus you do not have the crowds of riders found on the Dragon- all the knuckle-head motorcycle racer wannabees who clog up the road with their poor skills. The only obstruction you will find here is the occasional logging truck chugging up the mountain. They are easily passed on a motorcycle.
We arrive in Fort Bragg but J.P.’s bike shop was closed. We found an independent motorcycle shop specializing in dirt bikes and ATVs. We asked Jason, the owner of Street, Track and Trail if he could change Jim’s tire. He worked like a dog using tire irons, not a pneumatic tire changing machine, trying to make a recalcitrant tire go on his rim. Finally he got it fitted. He also checked the bolts holding our shifter pegs on so we would not have it fall apart like Jim’s had the evening before. We had to force hi mto take money to change the tire! We told him to take his wife out to dinner tonight for his troubles. What a guy.
We gassed up in Fort Bragg as we knew the fuel would be about a dollar per gallon cheaper here than 10 miles down the road at the über-trendy coastal town of Mendocino. I always like to stop at Mendocino to see what all the hippies are doing who escaped from the sixties. It is a fun place to take in the zoo and poke fun at people who take themselves way too seriously.
We stop at Moody’s Organic Coffee Bar. It sells fair trade, organically grown coffee that is certified to be bird friendly, and grown only in third world countries full of peasants who hate Americans. I grab a blueberry muffin and head outside to watch the show.
There are two young people on the side walk who are playing music for the tourists while they enjoy their beverages and muffins. I sit on my bike and write in my journal while Jim wanders around town. The two young people appear to be either two girls or a girl and an effeminate young man who are playing a guitar and violin. The violin case is open for “donations”. They are on their bicycles and are traveling up from the Bay area. The kindhearted tourists leave a modest amount of bills in the violin case. When they are finished playing and scooping up the cash, I casually remind the musicians to be sure to report their tips for “tax purposes” because it was the “American thing to do”. The violinist with ambiguous sexual features said, “yeah, so I can finally get my health care.”
A flood of smart ass comments came to mind but I just grinned like the Cheshire cat with that all knowing look. Actually some of my thoughts were quite good but I did not feel like body slamming the poor thing. Perhaps he/she really did have medical problems or perhaps his/her sex change had to be postponed due to lack of money and these street concerts were the only way he/she could raise money until actual tax payers would be forced to pay for his/her operation. At any rate, I imagined he/she had been raised in a millionaire family’s home in Marin County while daddy paid for him/her to take private violin lessons and go to immensely expensive private schools after which he/she would eventually leave home in search of meaning in his/her life while living the brutal existence of a poor artist who left daddy’s millions behind to pursue his/her dream.
I am glad I live in a country where hard working people will pay for this person's health care and other social services so he/she can continue to live the carefree life of a hippie at their expense.
The endless parade of tourists and freaks begins to tire me and we must put miles on the bikes. We leave Mendocino behind in the sixties and travel back to the present. After 120 more miles of tight coastal turns and curves south of Mendocino, I am ready to call it a day. We are trying to make the US Coast Guard Training Facility near Petaluma in time for evening chow. The facility trains several enlisted ratings in the USCG, but most importantly they train messmen and women (cooks). They have a first class dinning facility on base. I stop there every time I roll though the area and have always got a fine meal for less than $4. I am able to get on military bases since I am a Navy reservist and have a base decal on my bike. Every time Jim comes this way with me he fails to get on base for some reason. Once, the guard would not let him in because he did not have a motorcycle endorsement on his driver’s license. If he had been stopped by CHP he would have had his bike towed and impounded. This time he did not have his proof of insurance. I left him at the front gate to get dinner as they would stop serving in a few minutes. He found a current copy of his insurance and joined me 15 minutes later.
After dinner we decided to camp at the campground on base. It is a wide open field on the end of the base. We were there with only a few other campers. We struck up a conversation with a mom who was pulling a large travel trailer from Georgia to California with her 4 boys. Her husband was a Navy reservist and she would pull the trailer with the boys to California to escape the summer heat and humidity of Georgia. They would camp at military bases up and down the California coast. It turned out that her brother was a friend of mind who was in my reserve unit in San Diego. Again, what a small world. We enjoyed talking to her and her boys before turning in for the night.
July 28, 2009
Our friend in the travel trailer made breakfast for Jim and me before we pulled up stakes. We had decided to drive east to Interstate 5 and blast south to get home as soon as possible. It was a long, boring, very hot drive south. We stopped at every rest stop to soak our tee shirts to try to stay cool. I lost track of Jim at one of the many stops. I had told Jim I was going to stop at my daughter’s apartment in Los Angeles to spend the night with her. She is a senior at USC and will graduate May 14 with a BS degree in dental hygiene. I ride through the LA traffic on the way to her place near Hollywood. I feel really out of place here. I reflect on the change from the wilds of Alaska and Canada to the wilds of Hollywood with all the hustle and bustle and fakery. I wonder what some of these people must think of my dirty, dusty bike loaded down with gear and aluminum side cases decorate with stickers from Prudhoe Bay, Kenai Peninsula, Yukon Territory, Hyder, Alaska and all the other places we went and things we saw. I had only another 100 miles until I would arrive home in San Diego. That night I enjoyed being with my daughter.
After a trip of this magnitude you feel like you have actually accomplished something. You realize it has defined you and become a large part of who you are as a motorcycle tourer. I am planning another month long trip in the summer of 2010 to Yellowstone, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota. I will probably continue south through Kansas (ugh!) and Missouri to Tennessee to visit family and friends. My dad will be in western North Carolina and I will stop in to say hello and make another appearance at the Dragon (yawn). Fortunately I know better and less popular roads than the Dragon that are near-by.
So what did I learn after this ride? Here are a few disjointed ideas.
1) Plan an epic ride and just do it before you get too old, disabled, or some other issue comes up to give you an excuse for not doing it.
2) Camp to save money and get close to nature. If you complain about not liking to camp, be prepared to spend a lot of money. Perhaps you may already making excuses for why you cannot do a trip like this.
3) Don’t worry about bears. Bring lots of bug spray.
4) Carry an extra rear axle nut.
5) Never leave a tire with good tread behind.
6) Never pass up a free meal, a hot shower or a chance to sleep in a friend’s house.
7) Don’t do a long trip with someone you do not know very well. Even your closest friend can bug you on a long trip, but especially someone you have just met.
Get dirt bike riding experience to feel comfortable on dirt and gravel.
9) Always be on the lookout for the Mandeep. He is your friend.
10) No matter what you do, keep riding until you die.