A Long Ride Through Northern California

July 13

I awoke in Gold Beach and was on the road by 7:30.  I had debated what route to take after getting back into California.  I have debated for days on whether to go to the sierras or not.  I like the east side around Mammoth and Devil’s Postpile and I like the west side in Sequoia NP.  I would not dare go near Yosemite at this time of year.  Both of my choices would offer some fly fishing, probably a little better at the Postpile.  The biggest problem with going to the sierras is that I would have to ride through 105 degree heat.

My first inclination was to take the coast to Eureka and then head east on route 299.  I have not ridden this road and I know it to be a great motorcycle route.  The forecast for Redding was 105.  From there it would be at least 200 miles in the heat to get to the Modesto area.  I decided not to go east and instead stay on the 101.  I also decided not to take highway 1 because I know that there would be a lot of timid car drivers and the likelihood of numerous road repairs due to the severe winter would not make the ride enjoyable into San Francisco.

The coast highway south from Gold Beach is really scenic and should not be missed if you have the opportunity.  The lush green forest comes right down to the ocean and in California the coast redwoods come into play.  As you work south you see that the mountains get dryer by the transition to golden brown grass on the slopes were the trees are not dense.  The highway winds through some amazing stands of redwoods between the border and Eureka.  From Eureka the road heads away from the coast and it gets warmer.

I left Gold Beach in 59 degrees and decided to not layer up and enjoy the coolness before it got hot.  After an hour I had to add a layer and switch gloves; it was too cold.  Once I moved inland a hundred miles later I had to switch back to warm attire.

By the time I finished breakfast in Eureka I had decided to go through San Francisco and camp in Big Basin State Park and then head for the Pismo Beach area the next day where my cousin lives.  The ride to Ukiah steadily climbed to 99 degrees and I stopped for fuel and to cool off and wet my base layer for the cooling effect in the wind.

A big factor in my deciding to take the route I chose was that it felt good to just rip along at high speed for miles on end.  There were a number of road work sections that slowed up the 101 along the way and I surmised that taking highway 1 would have had a lot more such delays.

After Ukiah it was just a road warrior run into San Francisco.  By now the coniferous forest had given way to the California oaks and golden grass.  I entered Sonoma County and the wineries were  dime a dozen.  I got to Petaluma and the northbound 101 had bumper to bumper traffic all the way to south of San Rafael.  Whoda thunk.

As I neared San Francisco I could see the marine layer in the distance and the temperature dropped.  When i hit the Golden Gate Bridge it was 59 degrees and I was cold.  You couldn’t see across the bridge because the fog was so thick and the city was obscured in the distance.  If you want to see San Francisco and the Golden Gate come in December or January.  Odds are that it will be 80 degrees and clear as a bell.  Trust me, I have been here numerous times and I have frozen my ass off in the middle of summer and been warmed by the sun in January.

After the bridge it took about 20 minutes to work my way through the city and head down the peninsula toward Boulder Creek.  I got to split lanes in the city traffic and it felt great.  One thing you could sense is that everyone was in there own little world and did not give a shit about those around them.  A marked contrast to what I have experienced in the nether regions of North America.

As I worked my way toward Skyline Blvd. it warmed back up to the mid 70s.  Skyline is one of the storied motorcycle roads in the bay area and worth the trip if you ever get to the area.  It is best on a weekday outside of commuting hours.  After about twenty miles of Skyline I turned on route 9 to Boulder Creek.  This road is amazing in its roller coaster twisties but one thing to keep in mind is that this and Skyline are adjacent to millions of people in the bay and shold not be ridden too vigorously because surprises are almost guaranteed.  Some people commute from Silicon Valley on route 9 to B.C. and you can tell who they are because they know the road and haul ass.  I was still running them down without getting to frisky; great fun.

I had a nice salad and beer at the Boulder Creek Brewery and made my way to Big Basin State Park.  The campgrounds are really nce here so if you get the chance stay here.  There is a huge-ass redwood ten paces from where I write this that has the center blown out from a lightning strike but it still lives and scrapes the sky.

I forgot to mention a few nights ago that it actually gets dark once again.  I spent so many nights where I did not need artificial light that I had remember to get the light out of my bike.  Tonight I actually have to use a lantern to see my little keyboard as I type this.

Today I rode fast and hard for 473 miles and my bucket list journey is nearing the end.  I will have a short day tomorrow and another the next day and be back home again.  I hope I can handle it.  I am already thinking about how long I have to save vacation to do this again.  It has been fantastic and I hope that the memories do not soon fade.  I have met a lot of nice people on the way and ridden with some great new friends that I hope to see again.

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