back to trips West Coast Regional Meet 2006

Friday, May 19: Cupertino - Fortuna

Diana (MsLusty on STN) rode up on her Moto Guzzi Centauro around 9am Friday morning. To say that I was not yet prepared to leave would be a charitable assessment of the situation, and Diana was very patient about sitting around while I found "just one more cable, hang on, just gotta pack one more thing...."

The ride up through San Francisco was uneventful. Instead of doing 19th street through downtown (the direct -- but heavily trafficked -- route to the Golden Gate Bridge), we got off of Hwy 280 at Hwy 35 in Pacifica and then rode along the coast through San Francisco. We stopped for gas just north of SF, lucking upon the World's Tallest Gas Pumps. It was a little urban preview of the later redwood trees.

Highway 101 north of the city was its usual amazingly boring self. Any reservations I had had about getting a custom seat were left along the shoulder of the freeway when my butt started going numb after about 30 miles. Ugh.

Diana and I stopped at Old Mission Pizza in Willits, the same place that Peter and I stopped last year. Their pepperoni pizza continues to be high-quality, thin-crust happiness.

While pulling into the pizza place parking spot, I made a tight right turn, and POP! off flipped the antenna from my GPS (I guess it knocked against the windscreen). "Huh," I said, and put it back on. I forgot about it -- and you may too, dear reader -- until Sunday afternoon.....but that's still two days away, now, isn't it.

Construction along 101 as we entered the redwoods left Diana and I eager for a break -- all the rain this past winter meant that every single road I was on this weekend, without exception, had at least one partial lane closure for landslide damage repair. This slide was particularly bad and resulted in a full closure, meaning a pilot car and long delays.

Anyway, the closure was at Confusion Hill (a popular place for landslides), which also houses one of the very few remaining tacky touristy tree shit places in the redwoods I'd never been to.

Like the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, and probably a dozen other places around the country, Confusion Hill has a gravity house in which your body "defies the laws of nature". I don't know about that, but after walking around it for a little while, my body was definitely about to defy the law of keeping lunch in my stomach. It felt like being stumbling drunk, only without the marshmallow cushion of -- well, confusion -- that normally keeps your intoxicated brain from thinking that there's anything odd about walking sideways.

Fortuately, there were also the normal touristy attractions to help us recover from our gravity house stupor before getting back on the bikes...

There's even an extensive Chipalope Tale of how these elusive beasts came to be. See, my write-ups are all about learning. You're welcome.

Back on the bikes, Diana and I continued north. We got off of 101 for Avenue of the Giants, which continues to contain very tall trees.

We arrived at the Super 8 in Fortuna just before dinnertime. I was very happy to see that Porter still lives at the Eel River Brewery. He said "merp" to me, which I'm sure means "hey, Carolyn, good to see you again this year; say hi to Peter for me!" Or maybe "you gonna eat that french fry, monkey?"

Dinner was fun and comprised a lot of really good beer and a lot of amazingly huge-portioned food. Thanks again to Gary (twist) for eating at least half of my burrito after it arrived on a forklift.

There was much good conversation, more beer, lots of laughs, some more beer, photos, beer, and then some beer. Diana and I were clearly the life of the party, as we crashed (figuratively) at around 8:30pm and were in bed by 9:15pm. Can't take me anywhere.

Diana and me enjoying the Eel River Brewery wares:

Becky (Beck-zuki) dealing out shirts:

Dr Gil representin' wid his STN hat, yo:

Nathan (MisterSmooth) telling us where it's at:

Saturday, May 20: Fortuna - Anderson and back

Well, there was a good reason why I went to bed at 9pm -- at least, it seemed so when my alarm went off at 5:20am on Saturday morning. I had an appointment at Rick Mayer Cycle at 10 to have a custom seat made, and Rick's shop in Anderson, CA was about 160 miles east of our Super 8.

To get there, I had the option of taking either Hwy 299 or Hwy 36 -- two of the best motorcycling roads around. I chose 299 becuase it's less technical, and at 6am on a foggy, rainy day, I didn't want to worry about hairpins on top of moss, landslides, and deer.

The road was so quiet. I was alone, utterly and completely. The morning was cool and damp but the roads were mostly dry, so I hummed along at a decent clip, up and down through Bigfoot Country. Unfortunately, I rode through Willow Creek too early in the morning to stop at their Bigfoot Museum and see the plaster cast of a giant footprint found near some local logging equipment in the 1950s.

Who knows what creatures lurk in the foggy woods below:

Once past Willow Creek, I was smack dab in the heart of Six Rivers National Forest, which starts at the Oregon border and stretches south for 140 miles. Not terribly surprisingly, it's named for the region's six major rivers: Smith, Klamath, Trinity, Mad, Van Duzen, and Eel. My route along Hwy 299 crossed the Klamath early on and then followed the Trinity for a good portion of its length; I would see the Mad and Van Duzen Rivers later in the afternoon.

A high-up first glimpse of the Trinity River:

And after the descent to river-level:

That last photo was taken during one of the very brief moments of sunshine during the day; the rest of the morning was gray and dank. It didn't bother me, though -- the joys of textile riding gear! I left my rain gloves and heated vest on all morning and just cranked up the vest when the drops started falling.

I really couldn't get over how peaceful 299 was at that hour. Normally it's crawling with cops and slow-going pickups, but from 6:00 to 9:00 am, not so much. I had the road to myself, to twist the throttle when I felt like it, and ease down into second for some slower twisties when appropriate. The road opened before me, and the Z responded. We're getting to know each other, the Z and I, and I think we both are liking what we see. It's a slow courtship -- I really believe that a bike isn't mine until I've put 10,000 miles on it -- but we're almost halfway there now. It's a tantalizing dance, to be sure.

I got to Redding just before 10am, only to find that my turnoff to a secondary highway happened to be the main thoroughfare for the 58th Annual Redding Rodeo Parade. According to a local newspaper, over 10,000 people attended this year's parade. No mention was made of a confused-looking woman on a blue motorcycle who made an incorrect turn and very nearly wound up in the middle of a 4H group.

At any rate, I finally made it to the wonderfully gravelly Heavenly Valley Lane in Anderson, CA, where my new saddle would be born.

First off, if you ever ride to Rick Mayer -- and you should, because his seats rock -- be forewarned that Heavenly Valley Lane and Rick's driveway area is all gravel. It's not difficult, but Heavenly Valley kinda sneaks up on you when you're on Oak St, and if you slam on the brakes and make a hard right onto the gravel road, your life might suck. Best to just do a U-turn on Oak and come back around.

Anyway, when I arrived, I was greeted by Seth and Brandon with the sad news that Rick was running late. He was in Sacramento that morning for his daughter's college graduation and hadn't made it back yet. I can understand the whims of the road, so no biggie. Seth and Brandon set me up in the office with a comfy couch, free drinks, books/maps/magazine, and internet access.

While I waited, four other people arrived: a friend of Rick's who was just swinging by to say hi, another customer on a HUGE BMW K1200LT, and a couple who had trailered the woman's brand-new EX500 up from the Bay Area to have a custom, lowered, seat made for her.

Seth and Brandon started on the pillion seat and backrest of the K1200LT while the rest of us hung around and chatted.

Rick arrived shortly thereafter, his lateness excused by his armfuls of warm fresh cheeseburgers from a local burger stand. Yum! Lunch was distributed as introductions were made and he got right to working on my Z's seat.

Seth started pulling the staples out of the Z's stock cover, which seriously looks like a repetitive stress injury workman's comp claim waiting to happen. One staple went flying, making Seth swear and say "damn, I keep those!" I thought he was kidding, but.....not so much.

Seth had two of these; Brandon was just starting on his first. He must be a staple intern.

Anyway, when Rick went to work trimming my seat, there wasn't much to see (the foam shaving room is closed off from the main workshop so the foam shavings don't get all over everywhere), so Brandon took me over to see PUPPIES! Rick and his wife raise Newfoundland dogs -- I counted six adult dogs when I arrived -- and one of them had recently had widdle oooza snuggle puppies.


By the time I returned, Rick had finished up the new foam and was ready for me to test it out. He sewed up the new cover (basket-weave vinyl with leather side panels) and Seth loosely stapled it onto the seat pan.

The first time I sat on it, it was clearly too sloped down, so Seth removed the cover and Rick trimmed it again. When I sat on it again, I felt like something was off, but couldn't really tell what, so Seth handed me my helmet and told me to take it on a test ride. I headed back to the main road and did about 5 or 6 miles before was still pushing me a bit too far forward. Off came the cover again and back to the foam trimming room it went! The third time was the charm; the seat was perfect. Seth stapled the cover on fully, and I had my new butt hug seat!

The outcome is that the sloped back of the seat is further forward now, and the part where I actually sit is a little thinner and is shaped more like a butt than, say, a wooden plank. I have a very happy tushie.

I exchanged US Dollars for services rendered, and got back on the road.

Since I had ridden to Anderson on Hwy 299, I wanted to take Hwy 36 back. The problem was that my GPS wanted me to get on I-5 back to 299 and retrace my steps for 50 miles until Hwy 3 connects 299 with 36.

I realize that that made absolutely no sense to anyone who hasn't been on these roads. Here's the "direct" route that my GPS wanted me to take:

Fortunately, as I was leaving, Rick and Seth said, "oh dearie us" -- or something like it -- "you need to take the shortcut." And thus I discovered County Road A16 (aka Platina Road).

A16 is about 30 miles long and took me about an hour, which should give you an indication of both the technical nature of the road and how many times I stopped for photos. ;) This road is amazing. The pavement was smooth and consistent; the road itself ribboned around the hillsides. Wildflowers dotted the shoulder and the rock faces; pinecones as big as my head lay in the dusty shoulders.

I can't remember the last time that I could so clearly envision my surroundings prior to the road being built. Instead of the road being constructed by man and bulldozer and dump truck, god simply reached down with a cutlass and slashed out A16, leaving the rusty dirt behind like a wound.

A16 meets up with Hwy 36 at Platina, a small town of about 200 people nestled in the hills.

Once on Hwy 36, the weather took a turn for the worse, so I don't have many pictures of this section. Recent landslides left the insides of turns gravelly, with baseball-sized rocks right at the turn apex. The air was heavy with mist and fog, and I was constantly on the lookout for deer. One jumped into the road early on -- far enough ahead that it wasn't a danger, but it put me on edge for the rest of the ride.

By the time I reached the 4000' summit, the fog was reaching up from the ground in tendrils.

Partway down the hill again, I rounded a corner to see a few familiar bikes at a turnout -- Chris (naked_sv), Frank (xs400), and Eric (Frank's brother -- I don't know if he has an STN name). I had just been thinking how funny it was that I was riding one of the most popular motorcycling roads in the country and I hadn't seen any of my 65 fellow WCRM attendees all afternoon.

It turned out that they were stopped for a quick roadside fix -- one of Eric's front brake pads had fallen out after a recent bumpy section of road! Luckily, they were able to find it when they went back (god knows how), and when I happened upon them, Eric was rigging up a new way for the pad to stay in.

A few turns up, we found Diana (MsLusty), who'd been leading the group of guys and was patiently waiting for them to reappear. A passing motorist had seen her waiting on the side of the road and had told her "your friends are back a little ways doing something to one of the bikes", so she wasn't concerned.

We all rode back together into Fortuna, taking it slowly in case Eric's brake pad escaped again (it didn't). When we arrived back at the Super 8, I was pleased to have found Diana as it turned out I'd left my hotel key in the room that morning. Oops.

We showered and changed and headed back over to the Eel River Brewing Company for more beer, food, gossip, photos, and beer. Diana and I learned our lesson from the previous night and shared a dinner. ;) It was STILL almost too much food.

Me and Colleen (DantesDame):

Group shot (I'm in the upper right, near the big wooden fish head):

Doug (zarly), Colleen (DantesDame), and Brian (n2q) look over the day's photos:

Sunday, May 21: Fortuna - Cupertino

Diana and I got up early on Sunday, but it wasn't 5:30am early, so to me it felt like sleeping in. We packed up the bikes and headed north to the Samoa Cookhouse for breakfast with the gang. Chris (Thatman) and Ariana (aplejax) were the only ones already there when we pulled in, but Kurt (kurtw) and Jeff (JeffN) appeared shortly after us, so we six grabbed a table.

More STNers filtered in as breakfast went on. Soon the parking lot was full of bikes, with riders going in and out of the restaurant and just generally causing an early-morning ruckus. My kind of people.

Eventually, everyone was done eating and was instead mingling out by the bikes. This would be out last stop together; the Oregon and Washington folk would head north, while we Californians turned south. We puttered around for a bit and said our goodbyes. *sniff*

Bobby (USA Medic) and Doug (zarly) are great adventurers.

Girls of STN!

We had a pretty large group heading south out of Samoa: Bobby (USA Medic), his friend Eddie (does he have an STN name?), Jim (TheExplorer), Cynthia (kitkite), Cynthia's daughter Gabi, Diana (MsLusty), Andrew (ZX11Andrew), and Chris (Req) -- Chris lives in Seattle, but he was heading south to San Diego before heading back home. Lucky duck!

101 south from Samoa down to Leggett is really amazingly uneventful. It's gorgeous, of course, but it was raining off and on and it just seemed to take forever to get to the intersection of Highway 1.

Remember that GPS antenna from Friday afternoon? Bet you forgot all about it. I know I did. Well, partway down 101, I see something out of the corner of my eye whip off the bike and go spiralling off behind me. Instantly, I knew it was that damned antenna. For a couple of miles, I tried to convince myself that maybe it hadn't really flown off the bike, that maybe it was wedged behind the tankbag or something...but really, I knew it was gone.

...until a few miles after that, when I look in my mirrors to see Andrew gaining on me. He pulls up next to me and holds out his hand....holding the antenna!

He'd seen it fly off my bike and was far enough back that he was able to stop and pick the damn thing up off the freeway. Amazing. At our next gas stop, Andrew handed it over and we secured it with some neat self-adhesive rubber tape that he also happened to have on him. From now on, Andrew goes everywhere with me. I shouldn't even leave the house without him. The man is a lifesaver.

Highway 1 from Leggett over to the coast is phenomonal. Sadly, Bobby and Eddie peeled off to continue down 101 (some sort of appointment, I gather, not some deep and perverse love for the superslab), but the rest of us continued onto this 25-mile twisty nirvana. It was slow-going on Sunday due to rain/moss in the road, but luckily everyone was in a jovial, laid back mood.

As always, it hardly seemed like 25 miles before I rounded a curve and, bam, there was the ocean. It was a grey and heavy ocean on Sunday, not the brilliant blue sparkle of trips past, but it was still the Pacific, loud and soothing and immense. There are a couple of geographical features that pop up again and again in my planned trips; little themes, I suppose. Water is one. The Pacific is ever-present to Californians, even those of us that live 20 miles inland, and it comforts me to ride alongside it.

We stopped for lunch in Fort Bragg, at a cafe which royally pissed me off by delivering a chicken salad comprising breaded and deep-fried chicken. I try to load up on protein during long rides, and batter isn't exactly my idea of health food. Now I know to request the cooking methods of any food, even salad. And we wonder why Americans have an obesity problem?

Our merry crew: Diana (MsLusty), Gabi, Cynthia (kitkite), Jim (TheExplorer), Andrew (ZX11Andrew), Chris (Req) at lunch in Fort Bragg

We jagged down the coast for a few more miles before turning inland again at Highway 128. Despite the incredulous protests from my companions, I still insist that I'd never been on this section before. I would have remembered it. 128 starts out wooded again, with the amusing juxtaposition of redwoods and pygmy forests. It's all part of the Navarro River Redwoods State Park, which serves as a gateway into Anderson Valley.

Anderson Valley is primo wine country, and soon the redwoods give way to sprawling vineyards. Wood and stone gates mark roadside wineries, most with outdoor tasting patios. The buildings here are small and rustic, unlike the palatial winery buildings I've seen on eastern Hwy 128, closer to Napa Valley.

I don't know why I didn't take many pictures along this stretch; I guess because I was riding with a good sized group and I didn't want to stop everyone. I truly enjoyed this road, though, and I'm sure I'll be back to photograph it soon enough. :)

Unfortunately, all good things must end, and Hwy 128 soon spit us out onto Hwy 101 again for our trek southward to San Francisco. Other than the monotony of the freeway and the on-again, off-again pouring rain, the ride was uneventful. Jim, Cynthia, and Gabi split off before the bridge to head east to Modesto, leaving my mini-group as myself, Andrew, and Chris (who we agreed would spend the night at Peter's and my house).

For once, San Francisco traffic wasn't bad, and we made it down 19th street in one group. We picked up Hwy 280 and, along with a short butt-stretch around Hwy 92, we were soon in the South Bay.

As I led Chris off of the freeway to head to our house, it occurred to me that my turn signals weren't working. Nice. Chris, once more, I apologize for making you try to see my hand signals, in the dark, in the rain. ;)

Fortunately, Peter had been forewarned of our cold, wet, hungry arrival, and he quickly shuttled us off for sushi and sake after Chris and I had changed clothes. We made Chris happy with our local sushi place's "sex on the mountain" roll, which I have to admit, both tasted and looked good.

And that was the WCRM III. It wound up being almost exactly 1000 miles for me. Rain, getting up at 5am, crazy biker scum...may not sound like much to some people, but I can't ask for a better weekend. Thanks, everyone; see you in 2007!