WCRM (2008)

WCRM V – The Annual Event Continues

The yearly meeting of Western STN people took place a week later than usual but other than that, things were just as good, if not better than, previous year’s meets.

May 29 – June 1, 2008
Total Miles: 1,598 miles
Seattle, WA to Eureka, CA
Map Link

It was time for the annual pilgrimage to the mossy forests of northern California. Time to meet up with friends, old and new, and ride some roads, also old and new. It was the West Coast Regional Meet for STN.

I slipped out of work a little early on Thursday to try and make it down to Florence, OR before it got terribly late. I was to stay with a Kurt, a fellow STNer and I thought it would be rude to arrive at midnight. So I pointed the GS south on I-5 and rolled on the throttle for the next four hours. It was not an interesting ride, which I suppose could be interpreted as a blessing, as both deer and radar-happy police could be considered “interesting”. Instead it was just me and a few hundred of my fellow travelers burning up expensive gas for various reasons.

Low fuel encouraged me to pull off the highway north of Eugene, and my own pleading soul encouraged me not to get back on. Instead I wended my way west, through farmlands huddled under heavy clouds. I was finally off the interstate and could now enjoy passing through small towns and along roads that reflected the original geography of the land that they covered. I railed through corners on roads unfamiliar to me. A lake was ringed with vacation homes, untouched as of yet by the need to rebuild the original structures into something bigger and most ostentatious. I saw towns with names like “Deadwood” and “Swisshome”, wondering at who came up with them and why. I was following Rt 36 along the Suislaw River, probably the original route to the coast from the inland, and eventually met up with Rt 126 to finish the way to the Florence. By now I had noticed that something was wrong with my bike. The handling was off and the only things that came to mind were either a poorly packed bike or a poorly mounted rear tire. I had just installed a new (used) rear tire and while it appeared to have gone on well, it was the only variable that I could think of.

I limped the bike into Florence and found Kurt’s house with no trouble. No one was home, however, so I called him up and learned that he and a few other STNers were enjoying dinner a few blocks away and I was just in time to join them. Excellent!

It was a short night’s sleep before I was up and on the bike again. Another rider pointed out that my rear tire looked a little low (having completely put yesterday’s ride out of my mind already) and sure enough, there was no air in it. Kurt pulled out his compressor and the tire took the air just fine. It was time to ride!

A typical view during my ride south through Oregon
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Friday morning breakfast in Florence, OR
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Bridge over the Suilaw
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Bridge opens up for a passing boat
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The rest of the group headed inland to explore some fun paved roads and experience the heat that is so common inland. Meanwhile Kurt and I would take our dual sports and explore some new roads through the mountains and then hug the coast south to Eureka. Just a few miles down 101 and then a quick turn off onto Rt 42 took us to the well-marked and highly recommended “Scenic Byway” that goes south through Powers and Agness before spitting us out onto National Forest #23 and to the coast.

The day had started out gray and overcast and so far nothing had changed. It was a good day for riding through the trees, as there were no harsh shadows cast across the road surface. The pavement was fast and anything but straight. It was constantly bending along a narrow valley, passing through towns that were recognizable as such only by the signs introducing them along the side of the road. There were few other vehicles were on the road and Kurt and I had the route to ourselves for most of it.

Not much of a “scenic vista” outside of Florence
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Taking the back roads to Powers, OR
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River that the road followed closely
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Clear water
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We stopped for photos in the lush green of the steep mountains, listening to the babble of the unnamed stream as it rolled along the valley. The pavement – and the smiles – continued while we constantly gained elevation. Forks in the road were haphazardly marked with brilliant orange paint on the road surface, indicating the town to be found at the end of each option. The road was getting narrower, a sure indication that it would be paved for too much longer. Sure enough, a few miles later and the pavement ended, leaving Kurt and I with a well-graded gravel road and expansive view. The clouds had broken and our patience was rewarded with a warm sun and a view that extended for miles.

My GS and Kurt’s KTM
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Kurt takes his time to get his photos right
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Coastal mountains
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Lush vegetation
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The sun finally comes out
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The pavement turns to gravel
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View from the gravel road
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More gravel roads to explore
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Requisite artsy shot
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Thus far we hadn’t stopped for anything to eat and it was already lunchtime. I had a brief hope that the town of Powers would have a place to eat but there wasn’t anything that was easily discernible as a public eating establishment. Therefore when we saw the sign for Agness, advertising both food and lodging, we figured that we had a sure thing. It’s a three-mile in/out to get to Agness and it was wonderful. It was barely a lane and a half wide, sported fresh pavement and was well lined along the edges. The Rogue River rolled heavily to our left and a sheer rock wall to the right had dropped a copious amount of debris onto the surface, making it was an enjoyable dance to the lunch table.

Agness (“Population: small”) apparently sustains itself on guiding fishermen on the Rogue, as there wasn’t much else going on when we got there. The locals were having a lively discussion on the dangers of pulling down an electrical box and what the power company would do about it, if anything. A few tourists showed up and inquired as to the condition of the road over Grants Pass, where they were soundly cautioned that it was not a road to haul an RV of that size through, with or without the snow that might still be there. The lunch menu had quite a selection: hot dog, chicken sandwich or cheeseburger. With or without a cola, just for variety. After our brief meal we hopped back onto the bikes and returned to the main road and our route west to the coast.

Agness Road reminded me Hwy 96 in northern California. It followed the Rogue closely, either low, hugging the shoreline or up high, giving a bird’s eye view of the world. A couple of locals who felt that their pick up trucks were as fast as my GS tried to keep me in check but eventually the road gave me an opening and I was able to dart past them. This was my kind of road with well-marked corners, almost decent pavement and a steady pace as I ate up mile after mile until it dumped us back onto 101 at Gold Beach. From here there was nowhere to go but south. Kurt and I rolled along the Pacific for the next couple of hours, where I enjoyed watching the sun playing hide-n-seek and lighting up the sea stacks and golden sands.

Agness. Population: “small”
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Apparently the fishing industry is good to them
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Kurt enjoying the sunshine
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Heading west towards Brookings
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The Oregon coast near Brookings
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Rocks and sand and water – the Oregon coast
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That night was to be the first night of debauchery at the Eel River Brewery in Fortuna, but our group of riders (now numbering at least 40 or so, even if we weren’t grouped at the time) was turned away from the Brewery. Apparently someone had reserved our traditional patio tables and we were left out in the cold. Literally. Quick thinking led us to walk over to the nearby Denny’s where, even if the food was substandard, at least we could all sit together.

The next day we planned on a short riding day, taking advantage of the versatility of a dual sport bike. Dan, Robert, Trina and I headed north out of Eureka on 101 under foggy skies. Robert and I were on big GS’s and Trina and Dan were on 650s – it was a good mix of skills and bikes and would work out well for everyone. It was a tedious ride on the pavement, mostly straight and not a lot to distract me from looking at the low clouds. Eventually we reached the turn off for Bald Hills Rd and dove east into the mountains – and the clouds. It was a pleasant ride, deep within tall trees and thick ferns. The gravel road was well maintained and the corners were predictable. It didn’t take long to reach the same elevation as the clouds and now the view was limited by more than just the trees along the side of the road. But the fog gave everything a surreal feel to it and I enjoyed the mystique that it lent to the morning.

Starting up Bald Hill Road
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Reaching the clouds on Bald Hill
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Dan and I at the overlook. Nice view
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Continuing along Bald Hill Rd
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A quick stop at an overlook that overlooked nothing today was the beginning of the end of the fog-shrouded trees. We were now heading down, following the drier and tree-less landscape of the east side of the mountain range. But visibility hadn’t changed; in fact, I think that the fog got a little thicker, swirling up and over the road as a slight breeze came in off the coast. I stopped often for photos and shortly after one such stop I felt the rear end feel a little softer than it should have. I pulled off to the side of the road (but not off the road, because there really wasn’t anywhere to go) and checked the tire – yep: flat. The others were still with me and they gathered around to gawk at my bike. Prepared with tools if not knowledge, I pulled out a mushroom-type tire plugger and my air compressor. Then I pulled out the directions. I had only used the plugger once, practicing on an old tire in my garage, but that had been years ago and someone else actually pulled the trigger (literally) and I didn’t know what to do. But the four of us make a gallant effort of reading directions (that would be the girls) and exerting great force (that would be the boys). While we were in the midst of our labors a pick up truck tooled in from the thick mist, slowing to offer his assistance. When we declined his help he took the opportunity to offer us instead some of Humboldt County’s finest alternative agricultural products. Somewhat taken aback, we declined and he pulled away, muttering something about having to check on his cows.

Soon enough I was packing my tools back up and we were once again on our way. The road descended slowly through foggy pastures and thick stands of trees, always headed down towards the Klamath River. Eventually we dropped low enough to escape the clouds and soon found us basking in the warm sunshine of the interior river valley. We had heard about a closed bridge near Weitchpec but figured that there must be some way around it. There probably was, but when we reached the bridge itself we found it to be intact, although full of barrels and construction equipment. No one was around to stop us, so we simply rode across the bridge without any fuss.

Trina helps out by reading the instructions
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Dan points out where the hole is
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I take a peek at the directions myself
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Dan installs the plug
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Pulling out the compressor to pump the tire back up
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After a short break in Weitchpec we enjoyed the twisty pavement of Hwy 96 for a few miles, the pavement easy under our wheels. But near Hoopa I slowed down – there was more dirt to be explored. Blair Rd was somewhere off to the right and after a couple of wrong turns I finally found it. It doesn’t look like much coming out of Hoopa. In fact, one would think that you were on a dead end road to a gravel pit, given the conditions early on. But once you get past the wide open rock-strewn field the road becomes intense in it’s desire to climb up the side of the mountain that we had just come down.

Tight turns led us up the side of a dry canyon as trees provided intermittent shade. Soon we had reached the elevation of the clouds and the cool air temperatures felt good after the valley heat. Blair Rd provides a short cut from Hwy 96 to 299, omitting the intersection at Willow Creek. But it is by no means any faster. The road twists and turns the entire time, taking turns through dense forests and blazing pastures. There was no one else out here but us and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. We stopped at one point and Robert rallied us around to pose for a timed photo and there we stood, like spacemen on a mission from another planet. But shortly after that our mission was over: we had returned to pavement and now it was time for lunch.

Looking back down Bair Rd
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Trina and Dan coming up Bair Rd
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Reaching the clouds (again)
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Coming back down out of the clouds
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Twisty roads
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Robert gets a shot of Dan setting up a shot
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Saturday’s Gang
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We hot-footed it back to Eureka, now with only a short jaunt down 101 before we could to turn off and head through the side streets to Gil’s house. The BBQ there was in full swing and we jumped right in. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent socializing with old and new friends and of course, kicking tires and discussing what oil to use.

Dan & I at the Eel River Brewery in Fortuna, CA
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The STN Gang at the Eel River Brewery
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Sunday morning came early after our late night, carousing into the wee hours at Gil’s house. But it was time to go and slowly the bikes were packed. I would ride alone north to Medford, where I’d stay with an old friend for the night, leaving all day Monday to return home.

I started the day by riding east to greet the sun. Well, I would have greeted the sun if it had come out. But after a few threatening sprinkles the clouds finally gave up and let the warmth through. I was on 299 heading for Weaverville. It had been a long time since I had last been on this road and apparently my skills had grown since then, as the tighter corners no longer made me tighten up my shoulders in nervous anticipation. Instead, it was a leisurely stroll along the Trinity River and I tipped the GS in and out of the corners.

Looking for something new, I planned on riding up the east side of Clair Engle Lake (formed by the Trinity Dam just east of Weaverville). I had been on the west side, now it was time to do the other side. Except that I missed the first turnoff. So I rode on a little while longer and eventually found Trinity Dam Blvd into Lewiston. It was a promising road and it kept its promise.

The pavement was smooth, the views consistent and beautiful and the corners matched the shores of a dammed river. But once again I was thwarted, as the road on my map did not appear on the landscape before me. Instead of continuing north I was shunted west, over to Hwy 3 along the west side of Trinity Dam. This was by no means a bad thing. Hwy 3 takes it’s time in getting anywhere by making you go back and forth through a very tolerable number of corners. Add to that the majestic scenery of the Trinity Alps and the rushing river alongside and you have the makings of one Very Fine Road.

I toyed with the idea of taking a gravel road that ran parallel to Hwy 3, but I wasn’t feeling terribly adventurous at this point and retreated back to the pavement. I was just in time to hit the portion of Hwy 3 that completes a torturous rise and fall over the high pass of the Trinity Alps. The road was tight at this point, the corners literally doubling back upon themselves numerous times. There was no traffic (save one cruiser coming down the south side of the pass) and I had the road to myself. I relished the corners and the scenery; this was a perfect day.

Heading east on 299 near Weaverville
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Abandoned bridge from the original road
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Following the Trinity River
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The road north of Lewiston near Trinity Lake
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Red hills and green trees
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Trinity Lake
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Trinity Lake
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Breathtaking scenery
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Waiting while I take yet another picture
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Views north of Trinity Lake
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More views from Highway 3
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Climbing rapidly up Hwy 3
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Still climbing

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Coming down the north side of the Trinity Lake area
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Eventually I landed at the bottom of the mountains and came upon the charming and almost non-existent town of Callahan. Deciding to explore some more, I shunned Hwy 3 and instead followed East Callahan Rd. It wasn’t much of a diversion other than the slower pace. But the farms that I passed through along here were remarkable in their tidy and prosperous appearance. I was so impressed that I was tempted to stop and express my appreciation for their hard work. But I didn’t. Instead I kept on riding all the way to Fort Jones, where I stopped for a bit of a break at the local food store.

I didn’t have far to go to get to Medford and it was still fairy early in the day. I dallied along Hey 3 until I hit I-5 and then just gave up: I might as well just get into town. I considered many exits as alternative routes, but according to the map I had, none of them would get me anywhere near Medford. So I kept on riding north. Eventually I got into town only to find that my friend wasn’t home. Not even in town, for that matter. So here I was, riding for 8 hours 5:30pm on a Sunday and still 8 hours from home. What to do? I figured that I could make it.

Rough River valley near Callahan
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Eastside road north of Callahan
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Wide views near Callahan
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I popped back out onto I-5 and stared longingly at the rural roads that darted back into the mountains. I eventually had to stop for gas and when I did so, I checked the tire pressure on the rear tire, the one with the plug. It was low. I filled it back up while being kept company by three locals who were vastly impressed with my exotic dual sport bike. One guy in particular took notice of the unusual front shock set up and peppered me with questions. Eventually they were on their way and I soon was as well. It was time to head north and get this tired bike in the garage!

But those roads! Those taunting, teasing side roads. How can I just pass by them yet again? Especially with yet another full day to get home? Oh what the hell – I’m not really in any hurry, right? So I took the next exit and did some vague exploration.

While the roads I was on were near to perfect, I couldn’t fully enjoy them. I always had one eye on my rear tire, wondering how long it would hold the air I had put into it. After almost hitting a vulture and three deer, I decided that I might as well go back to the interstate and just get this ride over with.

I droned north some more. It got later. I got more tired. I finally decided that if I could find a cheap room, I’d just park it for the night and finish up in the morning. After a bit of hunting and bargaining, I found something suitable and crawled into bed. It now seemed much too early to have stopped and I regretted not pressing onward. Eventually I fell asleep, more out of boredom than anything else.

“Wild” cattle – interesting
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Rolling countryside near Yoncalla, OR
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Road destruction near Elkhead, OR
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Soul-quenching backroads near Elkhead, OR
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The next morning my tire was low. It was now Monday and I knew that the motorcycle shops along the way would be closed. I’d just shoot straight home, check the tire frequently and make the best of it.

The tire was good each time I checked, but at one point it was my eyes that were getting low. I was exhausted. I wanted nothing more than to close my eyes. Just. For. A. Little. Bit. These are dangerous thoughts, so I took the next rest area exit, put the bike on the centerstand and while still fully geared up, rested my head on the tankbag and napped for 20 minutes. I don’t “nap” well, so I didn’t wake up fully refreshed. But I did wake up enough to know that I’d be ok for the rest of the way home. The tire held air and I made it back in due time, even missing most of the rush hour traffic. As always, the WCRM was a great time and worth every mile of I-5 to get there.

Tell me what you think! I want to know!