October 15, 2003

Sunday morning dawned cold and sore and grumpy. No one was moving very quickly, least of all poor Ed, who’d pulled a neck muscle and couldn’t turn his head. Someone made a drugstore run for sports cream, but came back with the sad news that it didn’t open until 9am. Rather than risk 400 miles of twisties with limited mobility, Ed chose to stay in Weaverville until the drugstore opened, and then take Highway 5 back home to the Bay Area. It had never occurred to me to pack sports cream in my motorcycle travel kit, but it sure makes sense. I have a bunch from my chiropractor that I use on my arms; you can better believe that I’ll bring some along on my next ride.

Unfortunately, the motel had no continental breakfast, and the neighboring gas station had Ass Coffee ™, so we were forced to rely on snackies until lunchtime. Add to this the balmy 40ish degree temperature, and I was pretty miserable. It was bad enough that I almost don’t remember the actual roads. At one point, Steph and I met up and she said, “you know, usually I’m sitting at home on the couch, curled up in a blanket with my husband and the cat, and I’m daydreaming about being out motorcycling. Now, I’m out riding and I’m daydreaming about sitting at home on the couch, curled up in a blanket with my husband and the cat!”. I could definitely relate. It was so cold that it was actually painful. I wanted to strangle myself for not bringing my windbreaker.

We retraced the previous day’s route on Hwy 3 south out of Weaverville and past Hayfork. I stopped in the latter to stand up and jump up and down and up and down and around and around. Bill was also stopped, and he showed me how he was shoving his gloves into the FJR1300’s fairing so that the fingertips were near the engine block to warm up. This was excellent advice — my heated grips were on full blast (and had been all weekend), but I couldn’t even feel the heat anymore. For the next 50 miles until Bridgeville, I stopped every 20 miles or so to get off the bike, stretch, hang the gloves on the radiator hose, and snuggle up to the exhaust pipe. My hands were so cold that I could literally grab the header pipes and not even feel it.

Life improved significantly once we arrived in Bridgeville. It was finally below 1000′ elevation, and I’d guess that it was at least 10 degrees warmer. Bill had stopped for photos, so I pulled up next to him for the same; Steph appeared a few minutes later. Bill had given her the latex gloves out of his first aid kit at an earlier stop, and she was wearing them under her normal riding gloves as a type of hand windbreaker (she has frostbite on her fingers). Anyway, Bridgeville cracked me up (perhaps due to the cold) because the main feature of the town was a huge bridge. It made me wonder about the towns of Mad River and Peanut.

From Bridgeville, the ride along 36 to Hydesville was warm(er) and pleasant and fun. If I remember correctly, I saw seven deer total along Hwy 36 — none of them seemed too terribly interested in me, and only one was on the road when I rounded a curve, but it was still a reminder to stay alert and keep the speeds down.

We ran into the main group again at the Hydesville gas station, including Dr. Gil from ST.N, who’d met up with the faster guys at some earlier point. The highlight of the Hydesville gas station was their selection of hunting and fishing licenses, 40-ouncers, and bullets. It was also at this point that Steph pointed out the feathers in her radiator. I’ll have to get the full story from her, but if I remember correctly, it involved some birds that just didn’t really want to get out of her way in time. Oops.

I made up a very funny joke about Hydesville at the time, involving Dr. Jeckyl and his living arrangements, but in retrospect, it isn’t really all that amusing. Go sit in a meat locker for four hours until you can’t think from cold, and then the joke’ll be really hilarious, I promise.

Anyhoo, after filling up, we got onto Highway 101, which was our only “real” freeway of the trip (not counting the ones I took to Merced). It was pretty amazing to be going 80mph in a straight line, and it seemed like only an instant before we were taking the exit to Avenue of the Giants.

On my previous trip through the Avenue, I’d visited the southern half; this time, we stuck to the northern part. The Avenue of the Giants is peppered with bizarre tourist attractions (“The Eternal Tree House!”, not to be confused with the “World Famous Tree House!”), but I have to admit that the Immortal Tree was pretty neat. Almost 1000 years old, it has little fish and axes nailed to it to illustrate its victory over adversity. I wonder when it’ll have a little nail nailed to it to show its victory over having things nailed to it. They also had a large section of some other tree sitting around for tourists like me to stand in. It always makes me very happy when I can stand in a tree.

Naturally, we stopped again for the obligatory My Bike With A Big Tall Tree photos. The only problem with the Humboldt Redwoods State Park is that it’s hard to really get across how huge these trees are. “Towering” is the only word that comes close, as well as “that there’s one huge fucking tree.”

After a while, looking at huge trees becomes a little bit like the ninth European Cathedral of the day (“yup, another church, ok, next…”) and we got back onto Hwy 101 to meet our compatriots in Leggett for lunch. Naturally, we were an hour behind the leaders, but Steve, Mark, and Carl had also stopped at Avenue of the Giants and were only a few minutes ahead of us. We invited ourselves to sit at their table.

Robert, aka “USA Medic”, from ST.N appeared partway through lunch. He brought a friend with, but apparently, we scared him off early, as I never saw the friend again post-introduction. Robert good-naturedly agreed to ride to the Chandelier Tree with us, for approximately his eighteen millionth time.

I love the Chandelier Tree. You pay money to ride on a truly shitty road for a mile, ride through a tree, smile for your friends’ photos, and then go into a gift shop. It’s tacky and overpriced and the road sends you right back to Motorcyclist Therapy but you love every second. You’re in a tree! With your motorcycle! Boy howdy. Damn, I love the Chandelier Tree. Though I wouldn’t really complain if my $3 started going towards fixing up that road. The highlight of the Tree this time was the schadenfreude of watching yuppies with campers/SUVs/RVs trying to fit through the tree. It ain’t gonna happen, people. Buy your damn selves a smaller car if you want to be driving through the foliage.

The ride down Hwy 101 from Leggett was entirely uninteresting, just as you want highway riding to be. I stuck with Carl, Mark, Steve, Robert, Bill, and Steph — our largest caravan of the weekend. We stopped in uninteresting Willits for uninteresting gas, and then continued down to Healdsburg, home of Robert. We said our goodbyes, and the remaining six of us got back on uninteresting 101. Mark and Steve pulled off at their exit, so we were down to four. Steph headed towards the East Bay as we neared the Golden Gate Bridge, leaving myself, Bill, and Carl to rough the bridge traffic.

Carl took this a little too literally, and started roughing up the bridge traffic. While lanesplitting, one of his Givi sidebags caught a pickup truck’s bumper and popped open. Carl didn’t notice, and I was too far behind to catch up and say anything, so I just lanesplit behind him and winced every time the bag lid bounced against someone’s Lexus. I began to wonder about lanesplitting behind someone with a sticker on their top case that says “Follow Me To Certain Death!”.

I was finally able to lanesplit up to Carl halfway across the bridge and tell him about the bag. For the first time in forever, I was happy that traffic was stopped, so he could reach back and snap the lid back in place. We pulled over into a bus stop lane after paying the toll (well, I used my FasTrak) so that he could mess with it. Bill caught up to us while Carl was duct taping the bag shut, and the three of us wound our way down 19th street together. Traffic through San Francisco was actually tolerable, and we made it onto southbound 280 in record time. We toodled along together until I peeled off at my exit.

And that was that. Peter was waiting for me at my apartment; we went and got yummy Thai food for dinner, and life was really very good.

Thanks, Steph, the LA contingency, and all the ST.Ners for a really fantabulous weekend. 3 days, 1316 miles, 20ish bikes, one gorgeous state of California.

Sunday’s GPS Track Log: Weaverville – Palo Alto
GPS track log of the entire trip


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