Days 46 – 48 The Lost Coast

San Francisco, CA – Fort Bragg, CA – Redwood National Forest

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Today, I left San Francisco in great mood with everything coming up Christof. I had a newly repaired bike that purred like a kitten and felt great due to some newly installed bar risers for improved ergonomics. I had some congee in my belly. And I was heading out to experience some of the most anticipated riding of my trip. I was finally entering the Pacific Northwest. I crossed over the Golden Gate and made my way through Stinson Beach and over to the Pacific Coast Highway. The PCH can be very slow going due to the steep switchbacks, or more often, just a slow car ahead of you. But the views of the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean can’t be beat.  I’m also not in a rush.

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It occurred to me that despite having been on the West Coast for almost 2 weeks now – I hadn’t seen much of the Pacific Ocean. I’d seen a glimpse of it as I came down in Ojai and I saw some more in Santa Barbara, but mostly I had been riding inland in Solvang, San Luis Obispo, and San Francisco. Having the ocean on my left side gave me such a strong sense of how far I’d come.

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The riding was gorgeous and every so often a strong scent of clean salt air penetrated my helmet. One of my favorite stops is at the Tomales Bay Oyster Farms about 80 miles north of San Francisco. I stop there just about every time I come through these parts. They sell local beer in a can and sell oysters by the dozen while you sit on a wood bench enjoying the view.

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Later in the day, the skies grew overcast and a light fog was captured by the craggy hills causing traffic to slow cautiously around the hairpin turns. Riding the coast is simply exhilarating, and constantly feels like the final shot of late 70s movie right before the credits role.

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I was pushing miles to meet Ali in Portland in two days, so I made it all the way to Fort Bragg by around 8pm that evening. I was promptly told that my dining options in town were rapidly dwindling.  By the time I got to the great North Coast Brew Pub at 8:30pm, I was informed that they had just stopped serving food. Really? 8:30pm is too late for the chef to flip a burger? Yeesh, I get better service in Philly.

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Back in my hotel room that night, while I contemplated self-cannibalism to assuage my bereft stomach, I looked at the map and was surprised to see the highway veer off from the coastline 20 miles north and not return until Eureka, near the top of the state. The reason, I learned, is that the coastline in that section of California was deemed too wild and untamable to build a proper road. It was dubbed the Lost Coast and is a mecca for intense off road riding, hiking and remote camping. I REALLY wanted to check it out and get lost in what is essentially an untouched preserve. But I have too many miles to make, and I wasn’t too keen on banging up my freshly rebuilt bike. Definitely a spot to revisit through.

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I kept riding north being amazed by the beauty of the Pacific Northwest shore line. There’s an authentic, wild quality to the beaches here that’s absent on the East Coast. The rough sand is nestled in between the natural boundaries of the high cliffs and rock, as opposed to where you can find parking in the Hamptons. I stopped at one of the beaches and simply had to walk up to the surf. A little girl asked her mother why I was wearing a snowsuit on the beach.

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As I got closer to the Oregon Border, a funny thing happened. I pulled into a rest stop off the 101, and I saw two women standing beside their KTM 990 Adventure motorcycles. Now, this is weird for several reasons. First of all, the KTM bike is widely considered the best competitor to the BMW 1200GS Adventure (my bike), but it is very infrequently seen in the States. In fact, it’s damn rare. It’s also rare to see a woman riding a motorcycle by herself (not in a larger group), let alone two women by themselves. That coupled with the fact that both were riding uncommon bikes, I felt like I was supposed to say something, maybe hi, and acknowledge our mutual affinity for enduro motorcycles. From the luggage that they had strapped on, they looked like they were loaded up for adventure, and clearly so was I.  Now frankly, I’m a little shy in these circumstances, and I honestly considered the fact that they might be lesbians in which case the last thing they might want is some fluffy blond guy chatting them up.

But with the spirit of adventure motorcycling coursing between us, I approached them and wanted to find out their story. They were both very friendly and interested to hear where I was going and surprised to hear I was riding all the way from New York. One of the women was German and almost as tall as I was. She wasn’t a fan of the BMW bikes because of the weight and their reputation for being underpowered. She had ridden her bike throughout South America and Eastern Europe and sounded pretty damn accomplished for someone so friendly. I really wanted to ask them both to dinner to talk more about bikes, but I was worried that it might come off the wrong way. I sort of regret not doing it now. Damn shyness. If this trip is supposed to be about anything, it’s learning NOT to hesitate.

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We said our goodbyes, and I soon entered Redwood Country which was one of the few must-see spots I had for my trip. The trees and the thick density of the forest that surrounds them were utterly mesmerizing. I had never seen anything like it before in my life.  I mean, I know Redwoods were big and I knew they were old. But 2,000 years old? 50 stories high? It’s one of those things that needs to be seen to be believed. I felt like I was playing World of Warcraft, the 3D version. I mean, look at the scale below!

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I drove through The Valley of the Giants where the Redwoods lined each side of the small two-lane road. There’s just something about the otherworldly thickness of these mammoth trees that feels reassuring. The entrancing drive was shrouded in near darkness by the massive canopy of the Redwoods transforming the landscape into a lush emerald carpet that I wanted to stay in for weeks.

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But I got my wish met halfway! A few miles before crossing into Oregon, I entered the Redwoods National Park and managed to snag the very last campsite available. Yes, it was right next the restroom facility, but that’s not unlike the seating treatment I receive at most fine restaurants.

The best part was driving into the campgrounds – I saw my first bear!! It was a little black bear and he was hightailing it away from me, but I saw him nonetheless. Hope he doesn’t try to eat my cigars tonight!

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WHAT I LEARNED / DISCOVERED TODAY:

The Redwoods are like, older than Jesus and we should all try to protect them. Also, if I want dinner, I need to start eating earlier. Northern California isn’t exactly South American in its dining habits.

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