Dang, we really do need to get out more. Frankly, I had misgivings about six days on the road with eight other MOrons, but by the time we got home I was wondering, why do we all live with these other 11 million morons packed into SoCal anyway? Can’t we just keep riding? Oh well, at least we lucky few have the chance to escape it now and then, to see the other California. The Central Coast, like between Santa Barbara and Monterey, is nice enough. Camping at Big Sur on our first night out was okay, but to me, camping in campgrounds is like staying in a hotel with no walls. It’s not until you make it north of San Francisco, quite a ways north, that the real mental adjustment can begin.

Whatever: A Nice Week at the Office

Big Sur camping was bearable mostly thanks to Brasfield’s portable espresso machine. Something wild broke in during the night and drank my whole bottle of Rebel Yell.

If Bodega Bay were within 200 miles of L.A., it’d be crawling with Tippi Hedrens and Alfred Hitchcocks and guys in bird costumes charging busloads of tourists five bucks for a photo with them out front of the Wax Museum. The fact that BB is 65 miles north of San Francisco, however, means that I only saw one The Birds Cafe as we rolled through town at about 25 mph, and otherwise no attempt to cash in on the fact that this place is where that classic film was shot. (Then again, I may have just missed it? The downside of a MOron tour is we only stop for gas, food, sleep and photography.) Not only is it not crawling with tourists, the whole place doesn’t look that much different than it did in 1963, when Hitchcock filmed most of it here.

I’m too busy right now to do actual research to try and ascertain why many parts of Northern California never experienced the growth and sprawl of the southern half of the state, and that large chunks of it look trapped in the `60s economically and architecturally, but as a visitor I’m truly grateful for it. The whole place is a sparsely populated small-town America perched on a rugged beautiful coastline, on a perpetual crisp Fall day.

Anyway, Bodega Bay was where we gassed up at dusk on Day 2 (lead photo), before hopping back on HIghway 1 along the Pacific for that day’s goal, Gualala. I generally don’t have the patience to sit and watch an entire sunset, but we really couldn’t help watching this one since we were actually immersed in it, our nine bikes seemed to be the main characters as Highway 1 picked that moment to climb over and around a big mountain just south of the Russian River’s mouth. Must’ve been about ten miles of perfect squiggly pavement. There was still plenty of pink and purple and violet green light to let you see the road, but not quite enough to make out all the blemishes and sand patches that normally slow you down a little. What could go wrong? There weren’t any cars, so we let our engines run, our Brembos brake, and our gearboxes shift. Interspersed in the crazy light colors of God’s own 3D IMAX were huge dark spires of rock poking up out in the ocean with big foamy waves crashing into them, and in many right-handers it definitely looked like if you got it wrong it would be a very long way to splashdown. I was on the Aprilia Caponord Rally at the time, and that’s when I fell in love with it. Nine headlights bouncing off rock walls and off into space, we were the only humans around.

Whatever: A Nice Week at the Office

The Eel River looks like another good place to go fishing, but maybe this isn’t it? Too many beautiful streams to keep track of up in there.

Gualala wasn’t much of a town either when we got there in the dark, but the guy at Bones Roadhouse kept the place open late to serve us a caliber of barbecue ribs and brisket and things you don’t usually associate with California. A fox trotted across Highway 1 in front of us while we stood in the parking lot, not worried about cars since there weren’t any. Gualala is, logically enough, where the Gualala River dumps into the ocean, but only in the winter when it rains; that’s what makes it the place to go for steelhead trout. It and a bunch of other creeks and rivers that drain into the ocean.

The next couple of days were really a blur of incredibly good roads as California 1 finally gave up the battle with the rocky shoreline and turned inland to join up with 101 somewhere above Hardy. That stretch of 1, through a huge ancient forest, was probably incredibly scenic if we’d been going slow enough to look at it. Coming back through it the next night was even more amazing: Zero distractions in the pitch black save the reflective road stripes on the smooth asphalt. Passing through Redway the next day, I began feeling especially happy and recognized a distinctive aroma from my youth.  Former local and MO guest tester Ken Hutchison told me it’s “trimming and harvesting time” in Humboldt County, and sampling too, smells like. Gee, I thought that area had suddenly looked a lot more prosperous than the ones further south. Living high on the hog up here takes on new meaning.

Whatever: A Nice Week at the Office

In the winter when it rains hard, the river fills up and spits all the kiddie trout into the Pacific. Write when you find work! Come back and visit in a few years!

You couldn’t get to Eureka any way other than by ship until the Northwestern Pacific RR got there in 1914. The first Europeans didn’t find it until the Gold Rush, mostly because redwood was easier to find than gold, and also in great demand in San Francisco. The entire city is a state historic landmark packed with cool old buildings and museums, the oldest zoo in California, and from the smell of things a sizeable fishery. Its site on Humboldt Bay is the biggest deepwater port between San Francisco and Coos Bay, Oregon. Yeah, ah, we didn’t see any of it except what’s on Highway 1, but we did stop for gas I think.

Whatever: A Nice Week at the Office

The Carson Mansion in Eureka is one of the premier Victorians in the country, William Carson having been one of the original lumber barons of the area. We didn’t see it, either.

At our farthest north campsite, almost to Oregon, in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, we were in the heart of Sasquatch country. Gabe wanted to sleep in the bear locker (where we were supposed to store our food), but didn’t quite fit. I slept under the stars like a baby, drunk on cheap bourbon and fresh air, and didn’t get eaten by anything.

By the time we got back south as far as Marin County and stopped for lunch in Pt. Reyes a couple days later, you could tell we were back under the influence of Bay Area sophistication, more tablecloths and European cars, more grown men walking dogs their wives had picked out. Our last night together as a band of merry men (and by now we almost really were) was a cheap motel (relatively) in Monterey next to the fairgrounds, from which Tower of Power was loud enough there was no need to buy tickets. We grooved in the parking lot and ate great pizza across the street. Our last day was a blast south along that magnificent stretch of 1 to Morro Rock, where we’d meet Jay for the big video wrap-up (which you may see tomorrow but maybe don’t count on it…). And now it’s a week-and-a-half later and I’m writing this on my couch thinking, man, that really was an adventure.

Here’s to modern adventure bikes, adventurous characters, and to six painless, fantastic days on the road. That’s a long time to be with eight MOrons, but I think it was the best motorcycle ride I’ve ever had. Top three anyway. By this time I usually have a point to make, but this time I’m drawing a blank. Wait, here’s something: Adventure bikes are fantastic! If all goes well, you’ll get to read all about it tomorrow.

  • ADB

    Thanks John.

  • Old MOron

    “Adventure bikes are fantastic! If all goes well, you’ll get to read all about it tomorrow.”

    No worries. I’ll be fine re-reading this article for a few more days.

  • JMDonald

    I know many of these places. You are spot on about California north of the bay. Your next adventure starts tomorrow. Enjoy it. I see many more ahead for of all of us.

  • Thanks John, indeed. That made me smile and was almost as nice as the ride itself.

    • john burns

      sniff… thanks for making it happen chief.

    • DickRuble

      You must have missed his antisocial rants and the fact he hates being near co-workers. I personally liked the story, but that’s because I also only like people marginally.

      • john burns

        man i would never have guessed that…

  • John B.

    Great article John.

    Were I more evolved, perhaps life would be more like a motorcycle adventure. Mostly about the journey and the company, with little emphasis on destinations, outcomes, milestones, and so-called bucket list items.

    The next time someone asks me what’s so great about a motorcycle trip, I will send her/him this article. To non-motorcyclists, grooving in a parking lot, pizza, cheap motels, and the smell of fish processing and cut lumber do not sound like ingredients for an once in a lifetime adventure. Yet somehow on a motorcycle these ingredients make magic. Most people live highly scripted lives, and motorcycle trips (especially those with multiple riders) require flexibility and rarely comply with anyone’s script. (Men plan and the Gods laugh.) This uncertainty makes motorcycling exciting.

    It will be difficult for the adventure touring bike comparison article to be better than this one. No one would believe the adventure John described above would be meaningfully better or worse depending on which adventure bike one rides.

    My panniers and top box have been packed for five (5) days. Maybe this article will get me out of the garage! Only 1,468 miles of dry prairie and desert between here and Route 1. Trust me, there’s a reason why 38 million people live in California.

  • Raymond Sullivan

    Always have enjoyed your writing, John. And while I read it, I can hear your voice. It’s like reading a book when you already know which stars have been casted to play in the movie version, so you can picture it in your mind better. Thank you and everyone else at Motorcycle.com. Your advice is always welcome. You always point out both the good and the bad, and then let us viewers decide what is most important to us.

  • Ok. Just one thing… Why in the hell wasn’t I invited on this journey! Dang it… I saw fish in one of those photos. I’m way past fly-fishing withdrawals and motorcycle trips for that matter. Oh ya, great article John. Grumble, Grumble… I’m at my desk again today.

  • It could happen!

    • john burns

      bears would accept you into the tribe after a little preliminary biting and scratching I’m pretty sure.

  • Lloyd Horton

    I’ve always liked reading John’s writings and now that I see he has an appreciation for trout and steelhead…well, he’s right up there with Mark Gardiner.

  • Here’s what chafes my hide: Every time I go cross-country on a bike, the same thing happens. I see beautiful things and nice vistas, but none of it really matches up to home in Northern Cal. Montana. Texas. Colorado. Carolinas. Florida. They are all nice in their own ways. But then we head back, and as soon as we hit the golden state we (the missus and I) always wonder why we ever left. Mount Shasta. Weed, California. Giant redwoods. Bodega Bay. Point Reyes. Tahoe. It is all stunning, and it’s right here, in my back yard.