By The Numbers–California Ride

1 Motorcycle
2 Riders
7 National Forests#
27 Counties*
~1,560 miles

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#Siskiyou, Six Rivers, Eldorado, Tahoe, Plumas, Lassen, and Shasta National Forests
*Benton, Linn, Lane, Douglas, Josephine, and Jackson counties Oregon; Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Sonoma, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, Napa, Yolo, Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer, Nevada, Sierra, Plumas, Tehama, Shasta, Siskiyou counties California)

California Adventure-Day 1, Philomath to Capetown

Forrest and I left Philomath on Sunday, August 16th for points south. We headed south on I-5 bound for Grants Pass. It was a gorgeous morning–perfect for starting an adventure! We stopped briefly in Oakland, Oregon–a very cute town a mile or so off the freeway, a little touristy but cute all the same.

At Grants Pass we gassed up and headed down US 199, also known as “Redwood Highway.” At O’Brien we decided to take a dirt “shortcut” and headed down Lone Mountain Rd. through Rouge River-Siskiyou National Forest. It was a welcome change of pace after pounding our way down the freeway in the morning. At Patrick Creek we rejoined 199 and rode down along the Middle Fork of the Smith River. The water was such a beautiful emerald green–we found ourselves climbing down an embankment to check it out more closely…it was much more difficult climbing back up than it was heading down! Not long after this pitstop we came to Howland Hill Road, a nice dirt road through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. The drive itself was really nice even if all the vegetation next to the road was coated in a thick coat of dust. We stopped for a quick hike through the Stout Grove and found ourselves experiencing a little blasé about the big trees. We had to quell the Northwesterner pride in our trees to admit that it was impressive that there were so many big trees so close together…

We continued down Howland Hill to Crescent City where we headed south on US 101. It was great to see the ocean and driving through the Redwoods was beautiful although it wasn’t long before we were reminded that 101 isn’t a beautiful scenic drive–it’s a freeway. We took the scenic Newton B. Drury Parkway through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park as a distraction. A stop at the National Park visitors center near Orick confirmed that there really aren’t any roads through Redwoods National Park so we continued south past some glimpses of scenery on our way to Eureka (should of stopped for beers at Lost Coast Brewery although Forrest did indulge me in driving by the Carson Mansion).

After Eureka we headed for the Lost Coast–we left 101 to head for Ferndale. Ferndale was a really cute town that I’d love to have a chance to poke around sometime. From Ferndale we headed out on Mattole Road. As it climbed up the hill outside of town the pavement got worse and worse but our spirits soared. The landscape started to open up into ranch land palpably close to the ocean.

We expected to find some public land to camp on along this road but we were unpleasantly surprised to find that there was none. The wind was whipping and we knew that it would be a pretty miserable and cold night if we waited to reach the ocean before camping so when we arrived in Capetown it wasn’t long before we found ourselves under a bridge over the Bear River setting up our tent after kicking dried cowpies aside. As we ate a granola bar before going to bed I heard a rustling behind me which I found kind of unnerving until I realized it was a cow (a “moo-cow” as I foolishly told Forrest…I’ll never hear the end of it).

And little did I know how much of a moo-cow it was. We’d gotten between it and the rest of herd and it was too scared of us to walk on its normal path and get to them so every couple of hours it would bellow to let us know that it was upset. Ohhh silly cow.

Day 1: ~387 miles

Day 2-Capetown to Mendocino

I woke up on Day 2 feeling pretty stiff from a long day on the bike the day before. Things weren’t about to get much better in terms of pure hours sitting on the bike although I was really excited for the day on the Lost Coast. We set out from Capetown into what must have been a high pressure pocket sitting on top of the ridge because there was fog to the east and definitely fog over the ocean. We were hoping to be able to access Cape Mendocino which is the westernmost point in California but, again, we were thwarted by private land.

The stretch of the road that ran along the coast was beautiful and I really enjoyed seeing cows on the sand. It was just such a funny thing to see. From there we headed inland to Petrolia, where the first oil drilling in California took place. After a short detour out to Mattole Beach we cruised on to Honeydew and headed south onto Kings Mountain Road. I have to admit that the initial decent onto Kings Mountain Road had me gripping the boxes and desperately wanting to close my eyes until it was over…those were some tight switchbacks!

At the end of Kings Mountain Road we headed down into Shelter Cove to get something for brunch. We were figuring that with such a resort community there would certainly be somewhere to get food but that didn’t seem to be the case. We ended up in a little coffee shop that specialized in microwaving food with a talkative barista from Maui who is doing the coffee shop thing to wait out the real estate market so he can sell all his properties in Shelter Cove. After getting nice and warm we headed up the hill again bound for Chemise Mountain Road. It was a really nice pretty road that was paved once we reached the Mendocino County line (which started “Mendocino County Line” by Lee Anne Womack and Willie Nelson running through both of our heads except neither of us could remember the words).

At Four Corners we decided to take a sidetrip down Briceland Road to see some more of the coast. We were still being thwarted by fog but it was a pretty drive anyway. I fell in love with the ranger station near Needle Rock–the grey weathered siding with smoke coming from the chimney all in view of the ocean accessible by a long winding dirt road. We stashed the tank bag and helmets at the end of the road for the quarter mile ramble to Bear Harbor. What a neat place to camp! Beautiful beach, cute little stream, close to the car for comfortable camping but really remote…awesome!

After retracing our path back to Four Corners we set out on Usal Road. It deserves its reputation as pretty gnarly–there were ruts everywhere and twenty miles has never felt so long! I felt bad for Forrest as he fought the addition of my weight on the really rutted road but I think he had a damn good time anyway. We ran into a guy with an Explorer at the southern end of the wilderness state park headed north who was concerned about how bad had been to that point and wanted our opinion about continuing. We told him it was probably not a good idea and when we saw how NOT bad the rest of the road (it was steep but actually pretty well graded) was we decided that was definitely the right decision.

Going 55mph on Highway 1 felt so fast after spending all day on dirt! Twisty and beautiful. Forrest was loving the 20 mph corners and I was glued to the view of the coast. Before we knew it we’d found ourselves as far south as Fort Bragg and needed to start looking for a place to spend the night. We postponed the looking long enough to walk around downtown and have a small beer sampler at North Coast Brewing.

After a frustrating search for a camping spot in a variety of California State Parks (full signs and $35/night fees!) that lead us through the cute town of Mendocino (again, going to have to go back someday!) we found a place to camp near the airport in Little River where we got to relax and have a campfire.

Day 2: 155 miles

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.

Day 3-Mendocino to Menlo Park

We woke up and broke camp without eating breakfast. It was chilly and we were anxious to get on the road. We cruised down to Point Arena where we ate breakfast in a cute cafe before riding out to take a look at the lighthouse. It was pretty sitting way out by itself (it was only 8am but the lighthouse wouldn’t open for tours until 10…story of our mornings!) but I was more taken by the kelp forests visible below us.

We didn’t make too many stops on the way. I wish we’d have stopped at Fort Ross State Park to check it out but I haven’t quite perfected the art of looking around Forrest on the bike to see good places to stop before they’re going by. We did make a stop in Marshall at Hog Island Oysters where I tried one raw. I was unimpressed with their “Sweetwaters” that supposedly are “slightly salty” with a “smokey-sweet flavor”…I got “bitter” from them.

We made a pit stop at Muir Woods National Monument. The parking situation was intense! Good thing we were on the motorcycle (greatly simplifies parking) and had a National Parks Pass (hurray for not having to pay the admission fee!). I’ve never seen so many people stop to look at trees at one time. I’ll admit they were some of the most beautiful woods I’d ever seen–lots of light reaching the forest floor–but there were just SO MANY PEOPLE! I’m glad we checked it out but I was also ready to move on.

The next stop was the Golden Gate viewpoint. It couldn’t have been more perfect–I liked that there was a little fog but not enough to obscure the view of the bridge. After a quick photo op we crossed the bridge and because we had some time to kill before going down to Lucy’s so we drove through Golden Gate Park and a little bit into the Russian Hill neighborhood where we got some killer ice cream at Swenson’s. We decided to check out the Castro and Haight-Ashbury as they’re a bit far from downtown for the one day walking tour we were planning for the next day. Just like Golden Gate Park we were pretty sad that we had all of our stuff on the bike so we couldn’t get off an explore both areas. For all the pluses of the bike not being able to lock it up is a major downside…

After devouring a couple slices of pizza we headed for Lucy’s house in Menlo Park. We got a little turned around and missed the turn onto highway 1 so we took a little detour through Daly City. Our timing in getting to Menlo Park was perfect, we only beat Lucy to her house by about fifteen minutes or so. After a well deserved beer (for all three of us!), she and her roommates had to go to a meeting with their landlord so Forrest and I took advantage of the time to take some much needed showers.

After Lucy got home we headed to the “Oasis” for burgers, beer, and baseball. I was in heaven! Back at Lucy’s house we were all crashing…Forrest and I were pretty happy to have the air mattress and not be in our sleeping bags until it deflated on us midway through the night…but such is life!

Day 3: 207 miles plus a motorcycle tour of the Castro and Haight-Ashbury

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.

Day 4-San Francisco, Menlo Park, Palo Alto

On what was supposed to be our relaxing day off we walked the entire city of San Francisco. Okay, so not the ENTIRE city but we did cover a fair amount of ground. Once making our way from the CalTrain station downtown we headed for the Ferry Building (not “Fairy” Forrest!) and poked around some.

On our way to China town we walked by a Universal Studios movie filming…oh the costume truck! Once in China town we walked around looking for somewhere not too touristy to have lunch. We found a nice little restaurant a block up from the main tourist street and were entirely too fascinated by the menu with pictures and 270-some different food choices. After lunch, bellies stuffed, we started exploring some of the butcher shops. And boy did we find some interesting things: poultry (live) in back rooms, snails, sharks heads, turtles (no joke…we saw one being butchered), frogs (live), frogs (skinned), and about a million and one kinds of fish.

Next we found ourselves in North Beach (the San Francisco version of “Little Italy”) and really wanted to get dessert (okay, we really wanted to eat all over again) but I was so stuffed that food sounded awful. (Next time!) Then we walked up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower (chose not to pay the $8 each to go to the top). I did convince Forrest that I needed to check out the Pier 39/Fisherman’s Wharf scene–as expected it was a tourist madhouse. The smell from the sea lions? Unexpectedly AWFUL. No trip to Alcatraz this time…next time for sure.

Next we wondered up Russian Hill following the cable car line. We stood at the intersection of two lines for awhile so we could hear the “distinct San Francisco sound”…I wasn’t that impressed. The cable car museum though was awesome! It’s actually in the cable house so you can see the giant wheels spinning so so so fast. It’s crazy!

From there we started to make our way to City Hall but after passing through Gucci-Prada-Armani land we found ourselves in the Tenderloin district and abandoned our quest to head for the train station. Then we continued through some classy classy area (ha ha ha…I think I saw a more than a couple drug deals go down) on our way. This is what I get for deciding to take a different way to “see different stuff” (typical Beth) and was very glad to have Forrest with me.

The train ride back was uneventful as we were both pretty tired (Interesting note…if you sit on the second level of CalTrain there’s seats at each end that face each other but there’s not enough leg room for two tallish people’s legs to NOT interlock. I don’t recommend it unless you like the person you’re sitting with.) We got off the train in Menlo Park and had a pleasant walk back to Lucy’s house poking fun at the Californians.

After our showers and a yummy dinner (thanks Lucy!) we headed to NOLA, a cajun themed bar in Palo Alto. I put in a call to James, a friend from high school, who lives in San Jose and he joined us there. We had a fabulous time–the moron bowl definitely got things off to a good start–it was great to catch up with old friends.

Forrest managed to fix the air mattress so we got a much better nights sleep…which we well deserved after our long day in the city.

Day 4: 0 miles (on the motorcycle)!, 5? 8? 10? miles (walking in San Fran)

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.

Day 5- Menlo Park to Fairfield

Thursday morning we said goodbye to Lucy, loaded our stuff back on the V-Strom and headed for Fairfield. It was a nice short 80 mile ride but plenty California-ness to last me a long time.

We toured the Budweiser brewing facility (at 10 AM!) complete with two (fairly) healthy samples. I was a little disappointed in how much we were shown on the tour but it was interesting anyway. (Can’t wait to compare it to the Coors factory when we pass through Golden, CO someday.) Forrest also indulged me in a tour of the Jelly Belly factory–it’s kind of cool but be prepared for lots and lots of kids and a nice sickly sweet smell everywhere, I’d recommend skipping the tour and just buying Belly Flops (cheap messed up beans).

From there we got some lunch–my first In-And-Out burger!–and then rode to the Hospitality House. Forrest’s friends Sandy and Sue were very welcoming and I was quite impressed with the dinner Sue whipped up for her family, us, and the assorted Air Force guys who seem to consider their house a home-away-from-home (Forrest said he certainly felt this way when he was stationed there). We played some volleyball (so much fun!), got showers, socialized for awhile and crashed.

Day 5: ~80 miles

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.

Day 6-Fairfield to Tahoe and north

We got a late start out of Fairfield after a yummy breakfast and headed east for Placerville. Placerville was kind of a cute town in a kitschy tourist miner way. We didn’t stay long, just stopped at the historical society for a quick leg stretch, got some gas and picked up some bagels.

From there we wound up towards Lake Tahoe. The woods there reminded me a lot of the Nachez Pass area of Washington: lots of pine, very open, pretty river, etc. The granite was something else though–that reminded me of Maine!

Tahoe was pretty but oh wow were there lots of people and giant ugly vacation homes (to be fair there were some cool old ones sprinkled here and there).

We kept heading north on highway 89 and by the time we got to Sierraville I was STARVING. There wasn’t much in the way of food choices and the Mexican food we had wasn’t amazing, was kind of expensive, but definitely hit the spot! We poured over the map at lunch trying to decide where to spend the night and settled on “Snake Lake.” Thankfully Forrest stopped at a motorcycle shop in Quincy to ask about it, turns out it’s a swamp. Oops.

From Quincy we headed north with a six pack of Bud’s American Ale (we’d tasted it in Fairfield…good for the price) and drank it along a creek at a State Park I can’t seem to find online (near the Keddie Wye…crazy railroad grade). We made friends with some people camping there who shared their hamburgers and hot dogs with us (kinda reminded me of camping with Uncle Morgan, Aunt Denise, Ev, and Tay when I was little). Just before dark we excused ourselves from our new friends and headed up a dirt road to camp for the night and enjoyed a bag of Jelly Bellys, identifying each flavor with our handy dandy flavor guide and a head lamp.

Day 6- ~265 miles

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.

Day 7-Lassen National Park

We got up bright and early and explored around our campsite a little more…we both managed to get stung by yellow jackets on a bridge…so we hit the road.

After a nice coffee break in Greenville we were headed for Lassen Volcanic National Park. After a perhaps misguided summit of Mt. Lassen we abandoned plans to hike Bumpass Hell (something I kind of regret) and headed north out of the park.

After a yummy hamburger in Old Station we made a pit stop at Subway Cave, a lava tube. I wasn’t as impressed with it as I was with the Ape Caves but it was fun all the same. A bit down the road we stopped and stretched at Bridge campground at Hat Creek. Hat Creek was deep and GORGEOUS–I almost went swimming.

We pushed on a little further, trying to see the falls at McArthur-Burney State Park but deciding that the $9 day use fee was a little steep passed by and made a stop at Lake Britton. We headed north a bit more and camped southeast of Bartle.

Day 6: ~153 miles

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.

Day 8-McCloud, Millitary Pass, and home

We’d decided to head into McCloud for breakfast. My great-uncle, Burt Lakin, is a minor historical celebrity there, he’d been the mill supervisor and died fighting a fire there. We had breakfast at the VFW where they were minorly impressed that I was related to Burt and tried to describe where the memorial was. We weren’t able to find it but had some fun poking around the railyard before getting back on the bike.

Trying to get to Military Pass Road was a bit eventful as we managed to find ourselves pretty deep in silt…we did see some cool old rail stuff though: a wooden snowplow attachment for an engine, some old Pullman cars, and some sweet graffiti of Sasquatch. Military Pass was pretty and definitely a better choice than a stretch of I-5 I’d already traveled.

The drive on the freeway home was really monotonous. We stopped at a Walmart in Yreka to get some Bendryl for my hand that was still swollen from the yellow jacket sting. This turned out to be kind of a bad choice as I was a little drowsy on the back of the bike on the freeway…yikes! We stopped for lunch in Canyonville and then headed for home.

Day 8: ~370 miles(!)

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.