by Jon Diaz
Trip report anyone? 🙂
We arrived in San Jose on Wednesday night, July 9th. My R1100RS had been there since January 1 after the Reindeer Ride at Christmastime, and Sue had brought her RS out two weeks prior to attend a huge librarian conference in San Francisco. Both bikes were left with my sister, who graciously stored the bikes, willingly transported us wherever we needed to go, and gave Sue a whole bunch of dirt on my childhood that was never supposed to be repeated. I’ll get her.
After a late arrival at the SJ airport on Wednesday, we got up early on Thursday anticipating a big day of sights and twisty roads. We lost a bit of enthusiasm right off the bat as I made last minute tire pressure checks on both bikes……and the rear MEZ on Sue’s bike elicited a tiny mouse-fart as I pressed the gauge on. Shit. A nice finishing nail was neatly pressed into the center of the tread.
No problem. We were five minutes from Cal BMW, so I called Mike Chaplin, our ride partner for the day, to tell him that we wouldn’t be meeting for lunch, but did anticipate an on-time arrival for dinner in Eureka. I was disappointed, especially considering the super route that Mike had come up with, but given a choice, definitely preferred having a flat tire near a dealer instead of out in the wilds later on in the trip.
We rode to Cal and expected to find an empty parking lot. Fortunately, the guys were already there at 8am, and Eli whisked the wheel away as soon as we removed it. The Cal shop is beautiful, and we poked around bins of stuff looking for the latest gotta-haves. I bought a few parts that my bike needed, and we waited for Mike Lowther to come and get us for our personal SF tour.
Mike and Susie have been on Motolist for a long time, yet had never met. He arrived on his XT600 virtually bursting with enthusiasm over showing us his town. Tour guides of the world take note: insist on showing your guests everything YOU think is cool, even if they whine, bitch, and complain. Remember, they don’t know anything. 🙂
After riding up the coastline, thru the Presidio, under the Golden Gate, and thru Sausalito, Mike insisted we ride up Mt. Tam. Hoo boy. The curves got me reacquainted with my bike, got Sue’s new tire scrubbed in nicely, and rewarded us with a view that I haven’t forgotten yet. Thank you Mike for being so enthusiastic about your city and its sights.
We split with Mike at the bottom of the hill, and sprinted up 101 to Cloverdale. The highway was crowded, and a mystery traffic jam in Santa Rosa got us both angry. But finally the traffic cleared, and after a gas and fluid stop in Cloverdale, we picked up Cal 128 for the run to the coast.
128 was relatively clear on this particular day, and we made good time. Which ended when we got to Highway 1……a drone that took forever to get thru. By the time we cleared Fort Bragg, it was after 4pm, and we still had a long way to go before getting to our overnight stop at Eureka. Fortunately, north of Fort Bragg the roads cleared out, and we could let the bikes loose on some great pavement.
After playing cat and mouse on the twisty bits into Leggett, we made the obligatory stop at the hogged-out redwood tree for pictures. It was surprisingly busy for a Thursday, but I guess we should have expected that since the roads were so crowded. After that stop, we headed up 101 to make Eureka for dinner…..sorry we missed the Lost Coast loop, but it gives us something to look forward to next time, right?
We arrived at the Eureka Motel 6 around 6:30. Beth happened to be calling right when we were checking in, so she gave directions to the restaurant which I still screwed up anyway. Mike Chaplin had arrived about 30 minutes earlier and it was fun to finally meet and check out his new VTR1000.
After quick showers, we hopped back on the bikes for a city tour to find the restaurant, and found Beth and John well into the keg of some uberstoppenfuhrerbrau. I cleaned up the rest of their nacho plate, and we spent the rest of the evening eating and discussing the next day’s route into the Gather. Brian Curry also arrived after leaving SF late, so the midwest and east coast contingent was complete. I fell asleep right away after my placid red sewing machine guided us back to the motel. 🙂
Friday am was way too sunny. Sue and I decided to have breakfast right away, and left a note on Mike’s bike instead of waking him. Turns out he was up even earlier than us, but by the time he came over to the restaurant, I was nearly done with my green chile omelette. He handed us color printouts of our route for the day, and after checking out, we hit the highway.
After droning up 101 to Arcata, we took 299 inland to get to Cal 96. 299 is full of fast sweepers, and since I had told Mike that speeding tickets were verboten on our vacation, he got way ahead of us in a hurry. Until the first bit of road maintenance. This bunched us back up for the run into Willow Creek, where we pointed north on Cal 96.
After stopping for an immediate construction zone north of Willow Creek, the road cleared out with almost zero traffic and fast sweepers. Mike had told us to continue on when he stopped for gas (the VTR goes about 100 miles per tank), so when he pulled off in Orleans, we continued on to Happy Camp to gas up, get something to drink, and check out the route ahead. I could get used to life in Happy Camp…..seemed like a pretty relaxed spot.
Mike had chosen Indian Creek Road to pop over to 199, which doesn’t look that developed on my map, but once we cleared Happy Camp, the pavement got nice and there were even shoulders. However, the undergrowth from the forest had not been trimmed recently, and limited the view around some of the corners. Didn’t bother Mike tho…..he was gone and had already lit up a smoke by the time we found him. He asked us to continue on while he finished.
We picked up 199 and poked into Grants Pass. At a stoplight in Cave Junction, Sue shouted to me that she was getting sleepy, whereupon I shouted back that she should take some Tums (I thought she said queasy). So she stopped her bike and began digging for the Tums. When she found them and offered them to me, I looked at her quizzically and said I was fine, but wasn’t she sick? Oh well, it seemed funny at the time…..so naturally I had a little fun with it the rest of the trip. Ever wondered how many words sound like married, engaged, and babies when you’ve earplugs mashed into your skull? 🙂
Mike caught up with us during the Tums debacle and led us into Grants Pass. After passing thru town we picked up I-5 down to Rogue River for gas and a stop. It was here that Sue was introduced to the gas station jo-jo, while I selected a huge ice cream sandwich that I could barely open my mouth wide enough to bite. Mike contributed with that final pillar of gas station eating, the foot-long chicken breast. Ah, now all my childhood memories are complete, and Sue was on a jo-jo quest for the rest of the trip. 🙂
Mike led us down I-5 for a few more miles, and then at the exit for route 234, playfully lofted the VTR front wheel over the overpass for one of the final legs of the day. 234 had very open stretches where one could see for miles, and Sue and I were both able to keep Mike in sight longer than we previously had been. Turning north on 62, we wandered thru the tall trees up to Crater Lake, and after paying the park toll, prepared to follow Mike into the visitor center so he could get some gas.
I left the guard gate with my feet dangling, a by-product of an injury from several years back playing softball which leaves my right knee sore when I ride, and as Mike turned, my right foot caught the pavement and sent a shockwave of pain thru my right knee. I berated myself for being so stupid, and could almost feel the swelling beginning to build. This did not need to happen.
Fortunately, it didn’t start to hurt right away. We traveled around the west rim of the crater, making a few stops to look in, and headed out the northern end of the park to finish our day. 138 east to 97 was very fast, and the short part up 97 was just as quick. I could tell I was anxious to get to the site because we stayed right with Mike up to the turnoff for Crescent Lake, zooming by Frank Ferguson and his passenger with about 15-20 miles per hour in hand. After stopping for the turnoff, Mike and Frank led us into the site, and it was beautiful. Shannon had procured a giant campground, on the shores of a lake, and it was all ours. Needless to say, I couldn’t feel my knee at this point……
We attended a weekend campout in Crescent Lake, OR, called the Gather. Imagine a local rally with gourmet food, a stoppie contest, and drinks manufactured with a gasoline-powered blender and you’d have a good picture of it.
We were two of the last to leave on Sunday. Darryl Richman and Andy Nicholson were going to lead us up FS19 (or is it 25, I get them mixed up) until we peeled off to head to Astoria. My knee was about the size of a large grapefruit at this point, confirming the conventional thinking of physical therapists everywhere that when they say ice and elevate, they aren’t talking about Ed’s frozen shakes. 🙂
Andy did the leading from the campsite, and brought us to Oakridge for gas. We ran into Frank Ferguson again, and headed up the FS road to see what all the hoopla was about. We found out right away….interesting turns, nice pavement, and a smattering of lumber here and there to keep us on our toes. Andy and Darryl were nice enough to slow down at the bridge that had construction, and I marveled at Dan Richardson’s skid marks into the side of the hill. At least he didn’t scratch the Corbin seat I had just sold him. 🙂
We encountered more WL-ites on the road who nicely waved us past, and played around under the morning sun until we arrived at some sort of beatnik convention at Cougar Reservoir. I haven’t seen that many VW buses since Phish visited here last summer. We made a quick stop overlooking the dam and noted that Sue’s once repaired transmission seal once again started weeping. Didn’t look too bad tho, so we wiped it up and kept going.
Andy’s route led us up to 20, and over to 22, which we took into Detroit. Andy and Darryl stopped for gas, and after a quick chat, Sue and I decided we had to start heading west to meet my friends in Astoria. We enraged quite a bit of traffic over to Salem, and then still more going west to Grande Ronde. But before getting to Grande Ronde, we took a little shortcut to 101 called 22, and it was fun. Lots of curves and smooth pavement, with only a little traffic to deal with.
But the traffic reemerged when we got to 101, and continued all the way to Seaside. The Oregon coast is starting to look like the California coast. 🙁 We got to Astoria and got a room, and had a quick dinner since we hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. We had originally planned on camping with my friends at Fort Stevens State Park, but after hurting my knee and camping in the cold for two nights, I needed a little warmth, so we just went out to visit.
My friend Scott was camping with his whole family that week, and we caught up after not having seen them since last summer. Similar to the Gather, they were also well equipped for camping with lots of beer and junk food. Wish we could have stayed longer, but we left around 10pm to get ready for the next day.
This would be Monday. We got up late and had to backtrack to the beach for shells. Sue had promised her five year old neighbor that we would bring some back for her, and we made an hour-long detour to Seaside to get them. Turns out we were about a mile up the beach from where they found those dead bodies. Yeesh!
Back to the road and we take 26 into PDX. The traffic on 26 has increased big time since I lived in Beaverton, and the development at 185th is staggering. Sue wants to ride on the Washington side of the river, so we stop for brunch at Elmer’s on Mill Plain in Vancouver and load up before heading east. Our plans for the day had included a stop at the Pendleton woolen mill, so we made a short stop in Camas and continued on.
We stayed on the Washington side all the way to Biggs. I had never had that much patience before on that road. 🙂 The windsurfers near Hood River were amazing, really hauling ass across the river before bailing off to avoid hitting the beach. Well, I guess the rookies were doing that….the experts probably didn’t need to bail off.
We picked up I-84 and headed east. It was hot, but the wind must have been blowing from the west because we weren’t getting too tired. Luckily, the road started to go up right when we were reaching our temperature limit, and it cooled off for the rest of the ride into LaGrande. We found a nice motel (Mr. Sandman), swam a bit, did our laundry and shopped, and had some dinner, all within walking distance. For a day which started so slowly, it ended on a pretty good note.
We got up early on Tuesday morning and hit the road hard. We were in Enterprise before 9am, and north to Rattlesnake Grade before any traffic was out. It was disappointing to see the latest construction on the Rattlesnake and Asotin Grades tho, because the loose gravel really made travel a little scary. We stopped in Lewiston for gas right across the street from Ray’s Yamaha, where I bought my XT350 once upon a time, and then headed up the river around lunchtime.
US12 wasn’t very busy, and pretty lightly patrolled. Our only scary event happened when we came up on a road construction site traveling pretty fast. The road crew was patching the road with asphalt, and had just laid down an area that was a full lane wide and 100 or so yards long. We zoomed right thru the stuff, and I could feel my bike losing velocity as asphalt bits began spraying up thru the fairing. I think they were supposed to guide us around it, and someone blew the assignment. I know I was wishing them death while washing the bike on Saturday.
Our only mandatory stop of the day was Orofino, for huckleberry milkshakes at Becky’s Burgers (just over the tracks on the way into downtown). I had also wanted to show Sue Dworshak Dam, but the road from Orofino to the dam was completely ripped up and not usable.
We left Orofino after lunch and continued up the pass. The road was clear today, with only a few bikes and cars to share with. The day was hot tho, and Sue pulled off about 30 miles from the top so we could take a swim in the Lochsa River. Well, we tried at least……my first steps into the water led to a loud scream, and no matter how hot I was, I could not dunk my body into the water. Eventually I did, but it did not have the effect I was hoping for. 🙂
The rest of the route to the top was great, and upon entering Montana we saw the magical speed limit sign: reasonable and prudent. I could feel my whole body relax now that we weren’t constantly on guard for cops……although we were only 15-20 over most of the time.
We got to MIssoula and gassed up. It was hot, and Missoula has also gotten much bigger since my last visit. Our next destination was Beartooth Pass, so we pulled out the maps and figured that the interstate was the best way to make time. Actually, I bugged Sue to ride on I-90, because I wanted a taste of ‘reasonable and prudent’ on this trip at least one time. 🙂
We got on the interstate with a nice tailwind at our backs. The RS’s cruise nicely between 85-90mph, and slowing down to 70 once or twice for traffic felt alien. As high as the speeds seemed to be, we were never the fastest vehicles on the road…….there was always someone going faster, usually with an out-of-state license plate.
We passed thru Butte and crossed the Continental Divide, and the skies clouded up. Sue was pointing to things off the road, but I had no idea what, so when she signaled to pull off I nearly ran into her. This was not a good thing, and she took off at mach 2 to get away from me. I watched her become a little speck ahead of me, until she finally pulled off at Three Forks. She got us a room at a renovated hotel called the Sacajawea, and I got a lesson in humility. Anyway, it was a nice hotel and decent evening.
Its now Wednesday and we are in Three Forks, MT. We got up and out the door by 8am, and got back on the interstate to get to Livingston. Using reasonable and prudent we make the 40 mile trip in 30 minutes, and the bikes are running great, delivering a corrected 48mpg even at elevated speeds. Gotta love those tailwinds.
We take 191 down to the park, and encounter the first part of Yellowstone hell …… $15 PER BIKE. Unbelievable. Our only reason to come to this park was to get to Beartooth Pass, and they are going to stroke us for it. Little did we know it was the beginning of a very bad morning.
We poked along in a parade of cars all the way to the intersection for the northeast exit to the park. After stopping for a soda, we take the NE road where we are immediately warned of ‘Rough Road – Next 22 Miles.’ They aren’t kidding….the roads were rougher than those in Chicago. As we got out of the prairie section into the trees, the road got even rougher. I crested a rise in time to see Sue’s bike glide over a pothole, the right saddlebag fall off her bike, and do a perfectly straight tumbling slide for 200 feet. I jump off my bike, laughing hysterically at the sight of a saddlebag sliding, and then groan when I realize that the reason it fell off was that the front mounting hook broke off. Shit.
This failure is unusual for a BMW saddlebag. But that doesn’t help us since we are 300 miles from a dealer (in the opposite direction, no less), and about that time Sue comes flying back up the road, thinking I’d crashed, to see me cradling her saddlebag. She didn’t even realize it had fallen off. Plus, her front wheel got dented. Double shit.
We jury rig the saddlebag to the frame, and wobble out to the park entrance. Sue fills out damage claim paperwork while I take lots of pictures of the pothole. The ranger was very helpful and gave us some good tips on how to proceed with a claim. Apparently this happens very often with motorcyclists. We conclude that Yellowstone simply needs to close for one whole summer to repair their shit roads.
We ride off to Cooke City. The saddlebag doesn’t look very secure, but after pulling over for a bit to figure out a better way, we grab a couple of straps and Fastex buckles, and using the helmet lock, come up with a pretty effective method of holding the bag on. So effective, that it feels more rigid than the undamaged saddlebag mount on my bike. Hmmm…..
We decide to skip lunch in Cooke City and do Beartooth Pass. The road and scenery are glorious and we make lots of stops for pictures. After another 12000-foot pass, its time for another milkshake, so we stop at the Little Red Boxcar in Red Lodge for a late lunch. I recommend their tater tots.
Our intended stop for the night is Thermopolis, WY, so we saddle up again and take the shortcut from Red Lodge to Belfry. The temperatures come up as we come down into the valley around Cody, and we discuss stopping there for the evening instead. But nothing appeals, so we push on into the afternoon and stop in Thermopolis. The Super8 is full, but the desk clerk finds us a room elsewhere at the Best Western. After a dip in the pool and a few beers across the street at One Eyed Jack’s, its another early night.
Oh boy…..Thursday morning and its almost time for the stretch run home. Sue says we can’t leave Wyoming without a stop at Saratoga or Medicine Bow, so we get an early start to make the Medicine Bow pass before the temperatures get too hot. The roads are empty this morning, and even after a stop in Riverton at the Silver Spur Cafe (also a good green chile omelette), we have the road to ourselves all the way to Rawlins. After a quick fuel up, we notice a blue Laverda pulling into the gas station across the street. Er, didn’t we camp with that guy last weekend? We chatted with Stephen? for awhile and then left him to his stretch run into Denver.
Our next stop was Saratoga, home of public hot springs. They have a really nice set-up, with a public pool and changing rooms adjacent to the bubbling hot springs, which on this particular day were a balmy 112F. It took me a few tries to get my whole body into the water, but once I did it, it was no problem. This was the kind of thing I wanted to do on this trip, since we had so much time to explore for a change.
We get back on to the road for the run over Medicine Bow pass. The pavement is clean on the west side, but as we near the summit the use of crack sealer increases exponentially. During one particularly nasty corner we both followed the same line, bikes hopping sideways each time they encountered the goop, drifting in lockstep over the centerline. Uh, the pace got turned down a little from there on out.
Once we came out of the mountains, we encountered a little construction into Laramie. It feels like a good time to stop for lunch, so Katie’s Beanery gets the nod. It looks kind of dumpy from the outside, but the burritos are great and huge and I couldn’t finish mine. The clouds are still rolling while we eat, so we decide to skip the interstate for back roads into Cheyenne (past Curt Gowdy Nat’l Park!), our next stop before heading northeast into Nebraska. The rain manages to hold off for the next hour, before giving us a light five-minute shower as we leave Cheyenne.
But soon enough its back to being hot as hell, with an insistent wind out of the south. We stairstep north and east to Alliance, home of Carhenge and the beginning of our route thru the center of the state. Once again, the Super8 was full, and the clerk let us call around to find a room. I am amazed this entire week at how difficult it has been to find lodging, and how expensive the rooms have been. We paid less to stay on the California coast than in the middle of Wyoming. I missed my budget calculations for rooms by at least $20 per night in most cases, but food by comparison has been really cheap. Oh well.
We get up on Friday and pop out to Carhenge. The sign says this is a faithful reproduction of Stonehenge, done with Pintos, Studebakers, and at least one Cadillac, all painted gray. I love it.
We pick up 2 for the run thru the gut of Nebraska. The skies are heavily overcast, so the temps are moderate until we stop for breakfast in Hyannis at yet another restored hotel. Then it gets hot, and stays hot. 2 follows several rivers along its length, but when it breaks southeast we pick up 91 to keep heading straight east. 91 is lonely, just a town here and there, and we’re struggling to keep pace as the humidity increases.
Finally, we get to Blair (home of all those cereal box sweepstakes), and we’re over the border into Iowa. I remark to Sue that somehow, each time I travel thru Nebraska, I love finally seeing Iowa. She looks at me as if I have a third arm attached to my back. 🙂 We jump down to I-80 and point east.
Des Moines is our stop for the night. With only 300 miles to go, we probably could have pushed on, but that wasn’t the point of this trip. So we holed up in a luxurious Hampton Inn, hit the pool, ordered pizza, and watched BullDurham. It was the perfect last night on the road……
Saturday was fairly anticlimactic. We droned down the interstate in heavy traffic, and made only one stop at Gina’s BMW/Triumph for a quick estimate on the damage to Sue’s bike. Gina and Julius are really nice people…..I only go there once or twice a year, but they always greet me by name and are some of the friendliest folks I know.
Gina also rides a mean K1100RS, and she and Sue chatted for awhile about the Women’s M/C Convention (put on by the AMA during the weekend of the Gather) while I took a spin on the Speed Triple demo. I liked the bike a lot……gimme a set of clip-ons and a single headlamp and I might have to have one.
After Gina wrote the estimate, we hopped on the bikes for home. Iowa City is exactly 200 miles from my door, and it was a struggle. Hot, humid temps, a little leftover mist from a passing rain, and occasionally pokey traffic made the trip go on forever. Or maybe it was the familiarity of the surroundings that made it feel so long. Anyway, we finally rolled into the driveway around 3:30pm, a little more than 4000 miles older after we started in San Jose.
We can travel together. This is a much bigger thing than one might imagine…..just cause two people can ride long and hard by themselves, it doesn’t mean they are instantly compatible on the road. I think we’ve had to work a little harder on this phase of our relationship than most, but now its paid off because now we’re quite in tune with one another.
The bikes performed flawlessly. After the quick inspection/service in the Gather parking lot, both delivered 45+mpg, used virtually zero oil, and were comfortable, comforting mounts to cross the country on. Sue’s bike turned 29,000 miles before rolling into the driveway, and it won’t be a year old till next Monday. She ended up riding 9000 miles in one month between the Minnesota 1000 and the trip to California and back. Hard to imagine that just four years ago she was agonizing over whether or not she should ride her bike to work…… 🙂
This trip was a good break……from the drudgery of everyday life, from the constant hunt for miles, and from that nagging thing called a job. I can’t count the number of times I thought ‘gee, this would be a nice place to live’, but I guess that’s the point right? To expand one’s horizons and constantly question the decisions we’ve made in life? I suppose so.
Ah well, enough philosophy. Let’s get back to making fun of Ducatis. 🙂