(2003) Seattle-SF

Newbie Riding Down the Coast

I had one “long trip” under my belt and felt that I was ready for another. My then-boyfriend Joe and I packed up our bikes and headed south. We were to visit my sister who lived in Walnut Creek, just outside of San Francisco. We took a week to get there and back, and here is one of my early attempts to document my travels.

July 23-29th, 2003
Total Miles: 2,420, 7 days
Seattle, WA to San Francisco, CA and back

Joe and I left Tuesday morning (the 22nd) and headed south on I-5, starting out our 7 day bike trip to San Francisco and back. We hadn’t been on the road for more than two hours when Joe told me that he’s bored. So I alter our route (which in no way was carved in stone) and decide to follow 14 east along the Columbia River for a little while. The road itself is very cool, with just enough twists and turns to keep me from completely enjoying the beauty of the river below. We followed this along to Stevenson where we then paid the worthwhile toll of 50c/bike to cross over the Bridge of the Gods. I have no idea why it’s called this, but it was pretty cool to look down through the open grating beneath my tires and stare at the river running far below. Once we crossed the bridge we headed east on 84 to 35. This road doesn’t follow the Hood River, but it does follow some nice little streams and has great views of Mt Hood. The road itself was fun, not terribly challenging, and in fairly good condition. Eventually 35 joined up with 26, which we took southward. The weather immediately changed, and with the heat I felt as though we were riding through the forest fires that had occurred some years previously. The thermometer at Madras said 103. Ugh. Shortly after our stop in Madras we hit 97 and continued south. This road is straight, dull, hot and was obscured by the haze of some distant fires. We took it as quickly as possible. Once we reached the Crater Lake turn off (138) it was a little more interesting, if not cooler. Glen (Faceman) recommended riding the long way around the lake, but by now we were running late for our only time-essential appointment at our friend’s house in Medford. We stopped at Crater Lake, took some pictures, marveled at the lake itself, and then had an enjoyable ride over 62 into Medford. I think that 62 made up for 97!

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Mt Hood, Oregon

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Crater Lake, Oregon

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Crater Lake, Oregon

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Wizard Island, Crater Lake

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Crater Lake, Oregon

After we left Medford Wednesday morning we slipped up I-5 to Grant’s Pass and then headed towards Oregon on 199. Just before O’Brien is a poorly marked road to “Happy Camp”. But it’s a very happy road, and worth taking. Once we reached Happy Camp we took 96 south. The road conditions were excellent! A little bit of gravel in the corners before Happy Camp, but then there was nothing but high-speed sweepers from Happy Camp to Orleans! After Orleans the road tightens up a bit. Oh, and there’s a really nice store in Weitchpec – worth stopping by for a tasty treat and an air-conditioned room. We hit Willow Creek and took off on 299 for the coast. Ahhh – the air got cooler and the roads got faster. Once at the coast it was really cool, and a neat experience for me, having never been to the Pacific Coast south of Washington. I have decided however, that California has a new motto: “Road Construction Ahead – Be Prepared To Stop”. Yes, I think that all but two of the roads we were on in California had some sort of flagger there to torment us. 101 was no exception. The conditions of the road were not that good, and the patchwork that they were putting down did not help. We eventually made it to Eureka, where I left a message for Dr. Gil that we were in town for lunch if he’d like to meet us. I was surprised when he did show up – sporting a nifty ST.N patch for easy identification. Dr. Gil recommended a couple of roads and a campground before we parted ways.

Joe and I headed to the Avenue of the Giants, a fun little road the parallels 101. It was an interesting ride, although after a I could only look at so many big trees! Joe and I met up with a Kawasaki cruiser type at one of the little “drive-thru” tree places. “Jim” asked if he could camp with us, as he didn’t know of any good place to go for the night. He seemed nice enough, so we wandered through the rest of the Avenue and down 101 to Benbow where there’s a small state campground. We split the cost of a campsite and sat up for a while talking about his trip (he’s from Louisiana and had been on the road since July 4th) and what we were up to.

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California/Oregon border

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The Kalamath River

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299 along the Kalamath

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Hot weather along the Kalamath

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Avenue of the Giants

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Joe next to a Giant

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Our first drive-thru tree

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Drive-thru tree

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Chandalier Tree

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Me inside a tree

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Tree houses

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Inside the tree house

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Heading for the campground

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The next morning Jim joined us for breakfast in Legget (thanks to the Cats’ recommendation – damn good food, too!) and then Joe and I headed back to the coast on 1 while Jim headed down 101. We followed the coastline – which was foggy and cold – to 128, which Dr. Gil recommended to us (and a good recommendation it was). Seeing as we wanted to end up near Hollister by the end of the day, we gathered a little more speed by heading south on 101 and over the Golden Gate Bridge. By now it was rush hour, so Joe and I found a place to park in San Francisco and hung out for an hour. After we thought that the roads had cleared up we wormed our way down various roads until we got to Gilroy. It was dusk and close enough to Corbin for me! Oddly enough, it was also the Garlic Festival, so we had the wonderful aroma of roasting garlic wafting through the town as well. Yum!

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Coastal views from Highway 1

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Coastal flowers

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More flowers

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Heavenly roads

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Heading inland on 128

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Golden Gate bridge, San Francisco

It didn’t take too long to find Corbin in Hollister. Unfortunately, things did not work out there. First of all, there was no one in the show room when we got there, and after waiting around for a few minutes, I had to had to search for someone to help me. They had told me (a year ago, I know…) that it would be $175 to recover my seat, but when the guy started to fill out the paperwork and I asked how much it would be, he informed me that it would be $267. When I told him about my (year old) quote, he merely stated that they had a pricing structure change, and it was now 75% of the cost of a new seat. He did not seem interested in whatsoever in salvaging my business and I can get a local guy to do my seat for $175, so I thanked the Corbin guy and we left.

Since we now had a few extra hours on our hands, Joe and I proceeded to get lost. Well, not really. We stopped by Honda of Milpitas to say hi and then were told about some canyon roads that weren’t to be missed. Apparently they were, as Joe and I couldn’t find them. We road around Mission San Jose, Fremont, Niles Canyon Creek and then back to 680 to Mt Diablo and Walnut Creek, eventually finding my sister’s house. We stayed there and visited the next day, getting no riding in, but enjoying the time with my family.

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Marin Headlands near San Francisco

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Flowers at the headlands

Joe remembered that he has relatives in Santa Rosa, so when we left Walnut Creek we headed north to 12 and road through the Napa Valley. There was too much traffic for me, but pleasant enough countryside. After visiting his cousin and having lunch in Santa Rosa, Joe and I continued west on 12 to Bodega Bay and Hwy 1. We headed north on Hwy 1 until we hit Stewart’s Pt/Skagg Creek road. I’d read a lot about this road and I have to say it was, well, interesting. Starting out on the west end has it’s advantages, such as getting the “paved dirt road” out of the way and ending up on an incredible high note of the east end. Actually, the first three miles I considered “amusing”: all second gear, 1.5 lanes, no markers, blind corners, blind crests with turns on the other side… I was beginning to wonder what all the hoopla was about. But the road conditions got better and the turns got more predictable and it turned out to be Joe’s favorite road, although I think I prefer 96. Anyway, we joined up on 101 and then flew north to get to Eureka where Dr. Gil was waiting for us. Because of the relative visit and the “detour” of hitting that special road, we didn’t make it in time for dinner, but we did have a nice evening of chatting before we all trundled off to bed.

Joe and I left Eureka, not sure if we wanted to go all the way to Seattle in one day. We didn’t know how far or long it would take. The coast was cold and foggy that morning, and I almost stopped to buy a sweater (I had brought gear for HOT weather). But soon enough we turned off Hwy 1 to 199 and back up to Grant’s Pass, where the temperatures soared back up to what I had been expecting. From Grant’s Pass we slabbed it all the way home on I-5, which was incredibly boring. We took an hour’s break in Myrtle Creek, OR, in exchange for riding later into the cooler night. And later it was – we rolled into our driveway at quarter to midnight.

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Dr Gil’s house in Eureka

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Self-portrait on the road

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Joe takes a nap

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Locals swimming in the river

Tell me what you think! I want to know!