2014 California – Week 1

Part 1 of 3.

A 7,763 km trip from Rocky Mountain House to San Diego following the Pacific Coast Highway and returning via Lake Tahoe, Lake Payette, and Waterton/Glacier National Park.

June 2014 – Our motels were booked and we were packed and ready to leave Rocky Mountain House early on 19th. The odometer reading on my bike was 22,812 kms.


Our bike trip was planned for 21 days and we would be heading south-west through British Columbia, Idaho, Washington and Oregon to the Pacific coast, then following the Pacific Coast Highway south through California all the way to San Diego and the Mexican border, then returning back to Alberta north-east through California, Nevada, Idaho and Montana.

Day 1 – 19th June.

We left Rocky Mountain House in torrential rain heading south through Sundre and Cochrane to Canmore where we stopped at the Shell gas station.


Then we had hot soup for lunch in Tim Horton’s as we tried to dry out.  We had an unusually long break there waiting for the rain to abate and for our gear to dry a little.

Outside, I chatted to some other riders.  Two on KLR’s and one on a Nighthawk who were riding together from Calgary to Tofino.  A 1200 GS pulled up and we chatted as I prepared to leave.  He was riding from home in Banff to Calgary for tires.  I had a few splits in the rubber of my rear K60, so I expected to have to replace it sometime on the trip.

After lunch we rode over the pass into a hot and sunny Radium Hot Springs, BC.  We spread our gear out on the patio of a coffee shop and everything quickly dried out in the 30c heat.  Some of the locals who were wearing shorts and flip-flops gave us quizzical looks.


As soon as we were warm and dry we rode on to Cranbrook to stay the night at the Super 8 motel. It was quite windy south of Radium and in Cranbrook.

On day one we had covered 597 kms.

Day 2 – 20th June.

The day’s ride started in the green forest of the BC mountains as we left Cranbrook and soon we crossed the border into Idaho.  It was sunny and warm when we stopped for a break at the border.


As we descended into a broad fertile valley the scenery changed quickly from forested rolling hills to farmland and we stopped for a break at a very nice cafe and general store in Amish country on the outskirts of Bonner’s Ferry.

Riding down into the town of Bonners Ferry we crossed the Kootenay river. No ferry that I could see but a nice modern bridge over the river.  About half an hour later we drove through Sandpoint on I-95 and crossed the long causeway and bridge across the Pend Oreille River.  The bridge was first opened in 1910 and was then the longest wooden bridge in the world at nearly two miles long.  The modern bridge was opened in 1981 and runs alongside the original span.

The wind picked up through the day as we enjoyed the beautiful countryside before stopping for lunch in the suburbs of Spokane. West of Spokane we rode on toward Sprague as the countryside became desolate, barren and covered with sage brush.  Surprisingly, we didn’t see any wildlife.


They had a spectacular stagecoach sculpture outside the Cow Creek Mercantile cafe and gift shop, near Ritzville, Washington where we stopped for a break.


It was 28c and dry as  I chatted to an Idaho rider on a KLR.  We were feeling the heat as we pressed on.  Then as we neared our destination for the day, we left Washington and entered the state of Oregon.


We’d missed the State sign as we entered Washington, so took a picture of the sign at the Oregon border before riding on south.


In the scorching sun in Pasco at the southern end of Franklin County, we stopped for an ice cream and were surprised to find there were a lot of Mexican looking people speaking Spanish.  I read later that according to the 2010 census the County was nearly 56% Hispanic.

Soon we were in Hermiston and stopped for gas with my low fuel warning flashing.  Minutes later we arrived at the Oxford Suites motel to find out we’d been nominated as their “Guests of the day” because our home address was the furthest away. We thought that would earn us something really worthwhile, but it was only a free bottle of water and a motel chocolate each! But as it was Friday we benefited from the weekly free buffet dinner and two free drinks at the bar.  There’s no doubt we had more than two free drinks but the very friendly barman insisted we didn’t need to pay.  As we left, I donated $20 to his tip jar even though he protested.

We slept well after a long day.

On day two we had covered 612 kms.

Day 3 – 21st June.

It wasn’t a very early start that day and after a good nights sleep we went to the restaurant for a full breakfast.

It was warm and sunny as we rode out of the motel parking lot and headed west on I-85.  We would be following the Columbia river through The Dalles to Portland and we stopped on the way in the tiny village of Rufus for gas and coffee. The gas station owner had an unusual rattlesnake ball cap and when I asked him about it he told me he had made it himself and hunted rattlesnakes for their skins. He pointed out his rattlesnake skin bumper on his pickup.


The scenery was beautiful as we continued west  along the magnificent Columbia river valley past the numerous dams to The Dalles.  After The Dalles we left the sage brush behind us as we entered the woodlands of Memaloose State Park and the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. We were in Oregon and across the river in Washington we could see the Lewis and Clark Highway snaking along parallel to us.

A brief stop at Cascade Locks gave us the opportunity to add some layers of clothing as it had clouded over and there was now a cool wind.  Our lunch stop was at McDonalds in Sherwood, west of Portland.

The sun came out and warmed us up again as we rode on through McMinnville to Lincoln City on the coast and stopped to take pictures at the Desert Storm Memorial.



We had ice cream on the promenade.



I also set up my bike camera for the first time to get pictures of the coast road and we followed a group of bikers out of town and on through a mixture of cool dark forest, breathtaking coastal panoramas, spectacular bridges and bustling tourist towns.







Cape Perpetua viewpoint was our next stop and here we purchased an Oregon Pacific Coast Passport; basically a five day parking pass.




We took pictures of the Heceta lighthouse and beach …



… before riding up and over the bridge, through the tunnel to the viewpoint …



… where we had a great view back toward the lighthouse.


From there we rode on to Florence where we had a reservation at the Old Town Inn.


After a quick change of clothes and as we were at the seaside, we headed out in search of fish chips for dinner, which we found at the Spice restaurant.


I had a very welcome Oregon beer – Deschute River Ale as we waited for our meals.  Service was slow but the cafe was very busy.  The chips were disappointing – more like spicy hash browns if that’s possible.  They tasted okay – they just weren’t authentic chips – but the small pieces of cod were quite good.  A woman at the table next to us wasn’t very happy at all and sent two meals back before finally being satisfied.

We walked back to the motel in a very chilly sea breeze.  Jen warmed up in the room while I walked three blocks to the liquor store and bought a bottle of Oregon Pinot Gris. After all the vineyards we had seen earlier in the day, I was determined to taste an Oregon wine!


On day three we had covered 585 kms.

Day 4 – 22nd June.

Florence – Bandon – Trinidad – Miranda Garden Resort among the Giant Redwood trees.

We started the day with a walk around the old town area of Florence, down to the harbour and took a few pictures of the town and harbour, the river and bridge as well as the dunes across the river.

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Back at the Old Town Inn, we went for breakfast, which was coffee or tea and pastries.  There we got talking to an Australian motorcyclist who had rented a Harley in Seattle and was on his way back north. He had already been through many of the places on our itinerary, such as Susanville and Lake Tahoe.  He admired my bike and said he would love an adventure bike but it was out of the question due to his stature and short legs.

After our leisurely start we bought gas and bread, etc. for sandwiches at the Safeway supermarket turned south on the 101.

We had a tourism morning, taking in the sand dunes south of Florence.


Further south, we stopped at a viewpoint overlooking Arch Rock in the Samuel H. Boarman State Park, where we had lunch at a picnic bench.



We stopped later for coffee in Bandon and again north of Brookings for gas.

After Brookings we blasted on down the coast stopping again in the little village of Trinidad.  It has a pretty lighthouse with a wonderful view.


Finally we arrived about 6:00 p.m. at the Miranda Gardens Resort and checked in.

After parking my bike at our cabin, we bought some food at the general store across the road.


Then we unloaded everything and dumped it all in our room before enjoying our meal sat outside underneath the rustling giant redwoods.

On day four we had covered 543 kms.

Day 5 – 23rd June.

We had a day off at the Miranda Gardens and explored the Giant Redwoods.

First job of the day was a thorough check of my bike.  I added some air to both tires but everything else was perfect, just a little dusty.

At 7:50 a.m. we headed off to the reception area for breakfast.  While we ate at the breakfast buffet the receptionist, Sue, chatted to us.  Then we tidied up our room before filling up at the gas station by the resort and heading out to see the Giant Redwoods.

We visited the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree at Myers Flat on the Redwood Highway.


And explored the wonderful trees in the forest.

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Obviously the redwoods are spectacular!


We stopped at the Humboldt Redwoods State Park visitor centre.


There were were numerous bikes parked up outside and  one lady was traveling on her Harley with a cute passenger!


The visitor centre was very interesting and informative about the Redwoods, the preservation of the forest and the history of the area.



One of the people who campaigned in 1917 to save the forest was Charles ‘Birdman’ Kellogg.  Born on a ranch near Susanville, he was an avid outdoors man and a member of the Save the Redwoods League.  He was also the owner of a motor home made from a single piece of a giant redwood, which was used to publicize his cause and is now preserved at the visitor centre.



Our afternoon plan was to take it easy and relax. We had bread and cheese for lunch at our cabin and washed it down with some Busch beers. I swam a few lengths of the pool, which was cold but relaxing and as I did that Jen wrote postcards she had bought earlier.

At 5:00 p.m. or so we went across the road to the ‘Avenue’ restaurant in Miranda, where I had ravioli and Jen had the manicotti. The service was quick and the food was very good. We purchased a bottle of California white wine and back in the cabin we sipped wine while packing all our gear. The wine was Friends white from the Pedroncelli Winery in Geyserville Sonoma County. It was a relaxing evening and we were in bed fairly early as we planned an early start the next day.

On day five we had covered a modest 60 kms and were 2,406 kms into our trip.

Day 6 – 24th June.

Miranda Gardens – Leggett drive through tree – Fort Bragg – Gualala – Diversion – Jenner

We left Miranda after an early breakfast and headed south out of the forest and through farmland and mixed woodland with numerous Redwood groves.

Our first stop was at the Chandelier drive through tree in Leggett.


The tree is estimated to be 2,400 years old and a popular tourist destination. Of course we spend a few minutes in the tourist shop but only bought a cedar wood Christmas tree decoration.

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From Leggett we left the 101 and followed the Shoreline Highway, State Route 1, stopping for an early lunch in Ft. Bragg. This route clings to the coast and winds its way along open shorelines and through twisty turns. It was really quite windy in places especially along the shoreline.

Although it clouded over and was dull and cool for a while it brightened up shortly before we stopped for a break in Gualala.  Jen had a Kit-Kat and I had an ice-cream. We were 49 miles north of Jenna and on schedule to arrive about 3:00 p.m.


As we rode south there was mile after mile of spectacular coastline.





Not long after we were back on the road, we came to a road block and diversion that turned us inland through winery country and along twisty, narrow, poorly maintained roads. There was no signage to help us along and my GPS didn’t have the road we were traveling on, but the diverted traffic traveling in the opposite direction gave us confidence that we were following the correct route.

I think we meandered our way through to the Cazedero Highway and eventually turned right at a major intersection on to Highway 116 and my GPS confirmed we would soon be back on Route 1. We followed the Russian River valley along until we reached the coast again and found ourselves south of Jenner. We turned right and headed north in to the little seaside town and pulled up in front of the Jenner Inn & Cottages.

We had arrived in Jenna just before 4:00 p.m. – about an hour later than planned after our very interesting detour. In Jenna we found out that a fuel tanker had overturned blocking both lanes on Route 1.



After settling in to our room on the ground floor of one of the cottages, we had our dinner in the Cafe Aquatica across the road on the Russian River estuary.


I enjoyed a very good crab sandwich and Jen had chicken. We were sat at a picnic table at the back of the restaurant enjoying the salt air and the view.


We would have sat there longer if it hadn’t been for the ‘New Age’ hippies who turned up and sat at the next table.  They deemed it fit to entertain the clientele with their drum and annoying hippy singing, so we went for a walk along the river and eventually  wandered back to our cottage …


… where we enjoyed a glass of wine as we soaked in the view of the very beautiful estuary.


Jenna is a beautiful spot!


On day six we had covered 331 very scenic kilometres

Day 7 – 25th June.

Jenna – Tomales – Stinson – San Francisco – Golden Gate Bridge – Daly City – Pacifica – Monterey.

The day started with a wonderful breakfast at the Cafe Aquatica.  We both had the poached eggs on toasted foccia bread with a side order of bacon.  A pretty good start!

We sat outside in the sunshine but we could see the mist blowing off the sea and over the headland across the estuary and that was where we would shortly be riding.

There was nobody to be found at the motel reception and no key drop off to be seen, so when we had packed and were ready to leave we just left our key in the cottage.  I’m sure they had a duplicate but I left the door unlocked just in case.


So we set off and crossed the river. Sure enough we were soon riding in and out of the rolling mist. It was interesting to see how the coastal trees gathered the moisture out of the rising mist, dripping the excess onto the road and us.

Ranches, vineyards and artistically designed houses were passed along the route as we wound in and out of cover and up and over headlands.  There were many hairpin bends requiring second and even first gear as we negotiated our way south all the time keeping a wary eye on the 200 foot or so drop down to the sea on our right.

There were no barriers on most of the corners. For the fainthearted the route would best be done south to north so you’d be on the inside lane!

We almost missed the right turn needed to stay on Route 1 as it came up unexpectedly just after Valley Ford, but I had been monitoring my GPS so we stayed on track and we proceeded on through Tomales and rode along the shoreline alongside Tomales Bay, where we saw Harbor Seals, Egrets, Canada Geese, and many seagulls.

Continuing on through Point Reyes and passed Bolinas Lagoon, we arrived in the seaside village of Stinson Beach.


Stinson Beach is a nice tourist village at the end of the lagoon and we soon found a cafe.


While having coffee another client asked about our trip and wished us good luck on our travels. I gave him an Alberta Dualsport sticker. He seemed to be a nice guy but we had seen him earlier dumpster diving in the trash cans across the road, so I’ll reserve judgement.

We pressed on south along the coast.


Just north of Marin City and San Francisco we merged back onto the 101. Stinson Beach had been in glorious sunshine but as soon as we climbed up to the ridge we were enveloped in fog and drizzling rain, which accompanied us across the Golden Gate bridge. We had planned on stopping for photo’s but we didn’t bother as we could barely see the bridge never mind any of the view.

We were looking for a turn south on Veterans Boulevard toward Daly City but somehow missed the turn and didn’t realize we had until we were in San Francisco – way off track. So I had lots of practice doing hill starts with a fully loaded bike on the famous hills of San Francisco (made famous by the movie Bullit) as we made our way back on course for Daly City.  We soon cleared the mayhem of the city and stopped for gas and lunch in Pacifica. By then it was heavy drizzle – bordering on rain but by the time we finished our quick lunch the rain had stopped.

We rode on south passed numerous beautiful beaches such as Half Moon Bay and Pescadero and through Santa Cruz although it was overcast and quite windy at times.


We had a minor navigation issue as we entered Monterey that cost us a few minutes but we soon found the motel where we had a reservation, checked in and unloaded.

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We walked to Fisherman’s Wharf not to far from the motel.


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We had dinner at Pappa’s at the end of the wharf.


We watched sea otters swimming in the bay as we ate.

After dinner, I bought a t-shirt and a bottle of wine on the way back to the motel and we chatted about our plans for the next day.

It would be an early start and 6:00 a.m. departure heading to Carmel to see the Carmel Mission.

(Our guide book said if you only visit one mission, make it that one.)

On day seven we had covered 335 kms.


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