California road trip day 9

And that was it. Post road trip silence.

After a really relaxed final evening it was time to gear up for the final time on this road trip. Time to head home. The final leg from Olympia to the border was straightforward with just a couple of refueling stops.

The only issue we had was my comms headset failing. A couple of bent connection pins were found, but they couldn’t be straightened without breaking off. My fault entirely for over-enthusiastic fitting every day. We were down to one way comms, Elliot to me for the final few hours. It was now even more apparent the value inter-bike comms  bring to a long road trip. No small talk, no encouragement, no checking in. Just the occasional hand or head signal. It was a strange experience having been able to talk freely for the previous eight days, but we coped, simply just agreed who was lead, what certain signals meant and off we rode.

The big question would be how easy would it be getting back in to Canada? Easy for me, I was on my shiny new Canadian Passport, but what about Elliot? He had a UK passport and cancelled citizenship certificate. As it happened, the crossing was painless. Elliot’s explanation was satisfactory, he was back in the country and I quickly followed. 

One thing was on my mind, maintain concentration. How easy would it be to get within a few miles of home, let the brain switch off and pay for that lapse. Before heading away from Pacific Crossing, I reminded Elliot to keep focused until we arrived home. And so it was.

We pulled up outside the garage having travelled some 2400 miles, 3800 Km over nine days. And that was it. Post road trip silence. Engines off, helmets off, gloves off, brain off.

Both the Ducati and the Suzuki had performed impeccably. This road trip was twice the distance of my 2010 trip and Elliot had never ridden further than Squamish and back. It was a vey special experience that we’d shared. I’m pretty sure a lot of fathers dream of adventures like this. A motorcycle road trip on the west coast of north America with one of my sons. A very special experience, although it won’t be unique in that my other son is talking about where he’d like to ride to in the future. 

So, father and son still talking, bodies and bikes intact. I’d call that a success.

I’ve already indicated that another trip is likely with my other son at some point. Whether there’s another solo roadtrip or maybe another with Elliot before that, well, I wouldn’t bet against it. There’s something about being on the road, just moving on from place to place. Maybe there’s some past nomadic tendency buried deep in the consciousness that surfaces when one tackles these trips. Maybe it’s my way of shedding the 9-5 existence just for a brief moment, to appreciate the freedom that being on the road can offer. Having said that, my nomadic escape still requires a hot shower and decent bed.


California road trip day 7

The ride across the mountains on the Redwood Highway was wonderful.

This would possibly be the final day of riding in the sun. The thought of heading back in to the rain, plus the tiredness that comes from a fairly demanding schedule had started to create the odd moments of tension, be it short of patience or just not caring about the route to be taken. Even so, father and son were still speaking and still determined to get the most from the end of this road trip.

The route for day seven would see us continue up the coast to Crescent City then over the mountains and back on to I5 to Roseburg, a city I’d passed through in 2010 on my first North American road trip. Another full day.

From time to time the coast road wandered in land and over mountains.
At these points the sun disappeared and it was time for the warm gloves as mist closed in around us and temperatures dropped. The permanent sunshine of the Bay area seemed somewhat distant.

Time to cross the final mountain range, to say farewell California, hello Oregon. And what a crossing, more twisty roads including a few interesting lefthanders with sheer drops left unguarded. Even Elliot didn’t push too hard around those curves. The ride across the mountains on the Redwood Highway was wonderful.

Five days previously we’d taken a lunch stop in Grants Pass to watch England slide out of Euro 2012 and Grants Pass would once again provide rest and refueling for two weary riders. It was back to I5. Boring but fast  It was at the tail end of the days ride that Elliot noticed my rear lamp wasn’t working. Once parked up at the next anonymous but comfortable motel a blown bulb was diagnosed, replacement bought and fitted. It was the only bike issue of the trip so far which considering the distances travelled wasnt too shabby.

Elliot dipped in to Urban Spoon and came up with another local eatery. This evening would be a BBQ meat meal at Charley’s with countless sauces. Another success too. We’d not eaten poorly at all, no daily burger for these bikers.

The road trip was drawing to a close. The final stretch was known, Freeway all the way so probably nothing much to write about. However, the thing with road trips is one never knows. Day eight beckoned.

California road trip day 6

The food was delicious and I wasn’t mistaken for an Aussie.

Todays target was literally a town called Eureka. It would be the final stop in California and, the way the weather forecasts were shaping up, possibly a final day of uninterrupted sunshine.

Elliot had mapped out another cross country route that maximized twists, turns and coastline.

The route turned out to be every bit as good as promised. It was another day of vineyards, orchards, forests and the Pacific Ocean, a truly wonderful experience.

What was very noticeable was that fatigue was creeping in. Apart from the short day to Monterey, the pace had been pretty relentless. The gaps between stretch stops were getting shorter which in turns extended the day as time we had to get back to Vancouver on the Sunday. Having said that, fatigue was soon forgotten by Elliot when there was a a stretch of bends ahead. Despite only having the bike for a couple of months, Elliot handled it really well. I was often left to make more sedate progress on the Ducati listening to Elliot calling the bends over the comms.

After another full day in the saddle (I can’t even remember where the lunch stop was) we arrived at Eureka around what passed for rush hour. Fortunately the traffic was heading out of town so we didn’t have to focus on cars, just motel spotting. Once again hotwire turned up trumps and the small private motel was comfortable and included the all implant hot shower. But where to eat?

Elliot once again found a local restaurant, Bless My Soul, true southern US fare on the north west coast. It turned out to be another inspired choice.  The food was delicious and I wasn’t mistaken for an Aussie.  There can still be the tendency for folks on the west coast who haven’t been exposed to too many accents to assume that the English speaking visitor must hail from Australia as its ‘close’.

As with a lot of places stopped at, there was no real time to get to experience the area. Although Eureka gave the impression of experiencing better days there were some interesting buildings and it’s the built environment that I somewhat miss living on this continent. Without much in the way of visible human history, finding the occasional building that makes one stop and take a second glance doesn’t happen too frequently.

Six days down and a big decision was made. The original intent of the trip was to ride back up the Oregon coast. Having ridden two-thirds of that coast in 2010 I knew it would be a great ride, but only if the weather was right. As it happened, the forecasts were not encouraging. So, we decided to maximize the dry and would head back inland over the mountains and back to the I5. That way we would get one extra dry day, and after the dousing on day one, the thought of two days of rain didn’t appeal.

California road trip day 5

I’d become a country bumpkin, my pace of life has slowed down greatly.

Time to head north. Back along highway 1 and 17, back on the Bay area freeways. As soon as  the highways became freeways the speed and frenetic, take no prisoners, pass any side you like pace hit me – almost literally. It was our one and only near miss. A freeway was splitting and not knowing the road we stayed left until knowing we were on the right road. Despite indicating and checking as we moved over, a jerk in a cage decided that waiting noon-seconds for two bikes o move over was too long and the driver swung to the right at the same time as we did and ended up passing us half on the shoulder. Needless to say we were level within a few hundred metres as he traffic slowed down. This little incident was a rude awakening. I’d become a country bumpkin, my pace of life has slowed down greatly. Although reactions were fine and no harm came to either Elliot or myself, it really did shake us up for a while.

The concentration level was upped as we took a detour to Oakland.

Why Oakland? Twelve years ago, we saw our first (and only) MLB game at the A’s stadium and Elliot wanted to revisit the area. So, rather like calling in on Apple, we stopped by the A’s.

We were running late so stopping in San Francisco was now off the agenda. The Bay Bridge line up was painfully long and hot, but once across we slid down on to the Embarcadero and headed for the Golden Gate which really had to be the way out of the city.

As there was a tourist stop off just north of the Golden Gate, we stopped for the obligatory photo shot. Yep, the only way to enter and exit the city.

After an old school diner pit stop we continued north. Despite our motel for the night being just off the 101, Elliot had planned a route to take us back on to highway 1, across more wine country and along the coast before heading back inland.  The roads were wonderful, full of twists and turns and the Ducati performed flawlessly. It’s such a well balanced bike and even though I’m not a hard-core, experienced biker I can appreciate the ease with which the bends were negotiated.

The coastline was very reminiscent of Devon and Cornwall, quite rugged, a reminder of a west coast far away from the road currently travelled. The thought of being on a California road trip wasn’t even a dream for me when living in the UK, however, I didn’t even need to dream, the ride was very much happening.

1375 miles (2200 Km) after leaving home, we arrived in Healdsburg. We were still in wine country and the Tuscan villa style motel reinforced that. Healdsburg was a lovel town and once again mobile apps like urban spoon provided a great choice of places to eat out. Tonight it was the Wurst Sausage bar & grill. Top marks for a tasty bratwurst and the really friendly folks serving. It was a smashing way to round off the day.

The idea of planning but not planning was working well. We’d set a target for the day either the prior evening or on the morning of the ride. We’d book a motel using hotwire and a route would be set.  It was semi-spontaneity. Fixed enough to keep us heading in the right direction. Flexible enough to take in stops and detours if that’s what we decided.

Day five was done and two contented bikers retired, wondering what our last full day in California would serve up.

California road trip day 4

An easier day proved to be the right thing to do.

From San Jose to Monterey, over the hills and far away (with thanks to the well loved and missed Ian Dury for the paraphrased rhyming couplet). Following a chat with Lesley and Ryan the previous evening we decided to keep heading south, Monterey was the target which was an easy ride.

After a lazy breakfast in a local bagel shop we hit the road. Now although I’m not the Apple fan boy I used to be, Cupertino was en-route, and how could I not swing by for a quick photo op. So, Apple HQ was duly snapped and ridden around. We then headed for Santa Cruz on highway 17, a wonderful curvy over the mountain road. Elliot was once again enjoying his bike and I was happy just to cruise along taking in he sights, sounds and smells. Riding is such a multi-sensory experience, one misses so much of the bigger picture when cooped up in a cage.

Around Santa Cruz it was time to shift to highway 1, one of the most spectacular roads on the continent, although not the bit we rode! Having said that I guess my expectations are set high these days as there’s so many beautiful rides to take.

After checking in to the motel for the evening it was time to be a real tourist. Monterey Fishermans’s Wharf beckoned. With shorts underneath the biker jeans, I was prepared to let loose the legs for a couple of hours when we arrived in the wharf area. A very pleasant few hours were spent wandering on the piers, checking out the pelicans and seals and having a wonderful seafood meal.

 The end of the day was approaching and as the motel was close to the beach, a final photo session was held. End of day, Pacific Ocean sundown. Sweet. An easier day proved to be the right thing to do. Tomorrow the journey home would begin.