Categories: Features
September 16, 2015
| On 3 years ago

Whatever: A Nice Week at the Office

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.