WCRM (2005)

West Coast Regional Meet II

Here’s a short four day journey to Fortuna, CA where STN’s Regional Meet was to take place. About 70 bikes showed up for the festivities – a pretty impressive number considering this was only the second year in existence.

May 20-23, 2005
Total Miles: 1,500
Seattle – Fortuna – Seattle
Map Link

This was the Second Annual West Coast Regional Meet for STN and I was excited to go. Zarly came down Thursday night from Victoria so that we could get an early start on Friday morning. It may only be a (long) day’s ride down to Fortuna, but we both wanted to get there early enough to enjoy the dinner, festivities and fun that comes when you throw a bunch of hard-core motorcyclist together in a brewery.

Friday morning came early, but at least I wasn’t getting up for work. Instead, the BMW was packed and waiting for me in the garage. Zarly showed up on his BMW, we had a quick bit of breakfast and soon we were heading south. I had anticipated a lot of commuter traffic but either our timing was good or everyone else was on vacation. We sauntered down I-5 through the urban cores of Puget Sound, passing through Federal Way, Tacoma, Olympia, and Centralia… all meccas of fun and excitement. I spent most of Friday looking at the clouds, and there were lots of clouds to look at. In fact, it rained on us through most of the state of Washington and halfway into Oregon. I had thought that we had lucked out when we stopped for a bite to eat near Portland, but as soon as we crossed over the Columbia River the clouds moved in again, threatening to dump on us at any minute. It was interesting to note that quite often then rain appeared to be pouring both to the east and west of us, but with every turn of the highway (all three of them) we found ourselves nestled into a valley of relative dryness.

On a whim before we left Seattle I said that I wanted to hit a motorcycle shop on the way, perhaps something in Oregon. I knew of one shop there, but during my Google search for the address I found something even better: a BMW shop in Eugene! What’s better than window-shopping at a BMW shop? So I printed out the crude map and stuffed it into my tank bag. When we finally reached Eugene we found construction and traffic. By the time we pulled off at the gas station I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to bother to find the BMW shop. But Zarly did. What I didn’t realize was that ever since he purchased his bike he had been having problems starting it, and it was beginning to get worse. We asked the gas station attendant how much further and headed off towards the land of Virtuous Motorcycles. It wasn’t far and we were soon dismounting from our bikes in the parking lot of the dealership. Zarly explained to me that he wanted the techs to check out his bike and attempted to demonstrate how weakly his bike started – except that it didn’t start. How fortunate is it to have your BMW break down in the parking lot of a BMW dealership and Authorized Service Center? It didn’t take long for the techs to wheel in Zarly’s bike and start the diagnostics. Meanwhile, Zarly and I were in heaven. The dealership is less than a year old and has all of the needs of a stranded biker in mind. Besides the new motorcycles to drool over, there was luggage, clothing, gear, trinkets and gadgets. It would be quite dangerous and expensive to leave us in there for long. For our comfort the dealership had two couches, coffee and cold beverages, Speed TV, free internet access, magazines, maps, local vendor cards, and an Aerostitch-size coat rack and helmet shelf. My own house couldn’t have been set up much better. The 3 hours passed fairly quickly as we awaited the diagnostic (bad starter) and the repair. Yes, they even happened to have one (1) starter on the shelf to put in Zarly’s bike. But that’s not the end of it: it was all done under warranty. The only dimes we spent there were the ones that we voluntarily gave up on “stuff” that we just had to have.

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Ready to go!

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Unscheduled stop

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Zarly checking out the “goods”

We didn’t get back on the road until 4pm. A serious storm cell had blown through Eugene while we were in the dealership (thank goodness!) but the clouds hadn’t gone away yet. We decided that at this point our best bet would be to continue down I-5 to Grant’s Pass and then the follow 199 to 101 and down the coast to Fortuna. We made a brief stop in Grant’s Pass for a bite to eat and enjoyed the appearance of the sun. The weather continued to improve as we neared the coast, with some damp areas in the tighter sections of 199. Eventually we hit the coast and were just in time to see the sun set into the Pacific. Not that it was a grand sunset as we were still plagued by a few clouds that marred the view. As the sun set and twilight descended I discovered the joy that is the lighting system on the GS. Not only are the high beams themselves very effective, but the PIAA lights added a depth of vision that I am not used to at night. The combination of these lights gave me great comfort while hugging the coastline of northern California in the dark.

Zarly and I pulled into Fortuna at 10:30 that night, after 14 ½ hours on the road (granted, some were spent in a dealership). Regardless we were both tired and hungry, but we were also too late: the party at the Eel River Brewery was over and the kitchen was closed. We went to Denny’s for a quick bite to eat before calling it a night. I had discussed with Dr. Gil about staying with him but also at this hour not only did I not want to get back on the bike and retrace the last 15 miles to his house, but also I didn’t even know if he’d be awake to let me in. All the motel rooms looked dark and quiet, so Zarly said I could have one of the three bunks in his cabin which was very thoughtful of him – but that’s just the kind of guy Zarly is.

The next morning I packed up my gear and returned to Denny’s, that American shrine to gastrointestinal glory. The weather was perfect, with temperatures just cool enough to make the gear comfortable and plenty of sunshine and blue skies. Most of the STN crowd had planned to meet at 7 or 8 at Denny’s and leave from there for various rides in the area. I hadn’t made any commitments to a group because I was interested in checking out a forest service road that Dr. Gil and Beck-zuki explored last spring. When Thatman, Aplejax, kurtw, Dave, bluepoof and Peter said that they wanted to check out that road as well I figured that I’d join them. Zarly showed up for breakfast and soon the eight of us headed east towards Hwy 36. Our group got split up because of traffic, but we eventually met up at Mad River, a dinky little place that managed to serve gas, burgers and beer – what more could you need? We fueled up and looked for the turn to FS1, which wasn’t more than a mile down the road. The road didn’t take very long to narrow down to merely one lane and soon that was covered in pine needles, rocks, melt water, sticks and branches. The road climbed and twisted through the mountains and we soon found ourselves riding between snowdrifts a couple of feet high. We stopped a few times for pictures, marveling at the ocean to the west and the snow-covered Trinity Alps to the east.

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A view towards the Pacific Ocean

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Same view, without the bike

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Pausing to decide our route

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The Trinity Alps

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Kneeland Road

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Looking forward to more

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Kneeland Road

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Kneeland Road

Zarly was quick to discover that the snow covering the road at this point was impassable as soon as his bike started to fishtail through it and landed on its side. He was very quick to pick the bike up (too quick for pictures at least) and the rest of the group gathered around to speculate and take in the view. It was determined that the snow covering the road would not to be easily subdued and we reluctantly turned around to go back the way we came. However, about a third of the way back to Hwy 36 we came upon an intersection of a road that would take us to 36 but via a different route. Different is good! The road remained narrow and covered in debris, but it was beautiful and rugged and a lot of fun to tool along surrounded by fellow bikers. Upon reaching Hwy 36 we turned back to Mad River for a burger and to break out the maps. From here the group split up, each with their own goals in mind. Zarly, Thatman, Aplejax and I chose the road less traveled. Actually, we didn’t even know what kind of road it would be. It was merely a gray squiggle on the map that looked interesting and led us in a casual manner back to Dr Gil’s house for the BBQ that evening.

The four of us headed west back along Hwy 36 to Bridgerville before striking off into the unknown. I learned later that this stretch of road was called Kneeland Road and in less than a mile the pavement ended and we were left with a hard packed dirt and gravel road. Zarly was leading and pulled off the side to confirm that we were all up for these riding conditions. Thatman was on his RT with Aplejax on the back but he was game for whatever the road had to throw at us. We took off, winding through the hilly countryside dotted with small farms, large cows and green fields. The road was well maintained and we kept up a comfortable pace, stopping periodically to regroup and take in the sights or to let the cows cross the road in front of us. There really were a lot of cows on the road here. At Kneeland the road was paved in short spurts, often with gravel in the corners, but as we continued towards Eureka the road surface became better and more uniform; we had finally emerged back into civilization. It was a brief ride into Eureka where I got completely turned around and couldn’t find Dr Gil’s house. I asked Thatman to put his GPS to use and get us to dinner – I was hungry!

The BBQ was a success. It was estimated that 70-80 STN members were there, filling the streets with their bikes and their banter. The kabobs were tasty and there was plenty to drink. People milled around and discussed their rides and their bikes, re-acquainting themselves with old friends and making new ones. Eventually the crowds started to diminish as riders took off singly or in pairs. They took off usually without notice so before I knew it, I was standing on an almost deserted street with nary a bike in sight. This night I was to stay at Dr Gil’s house and I went inside to help them clean up from the picnic. Jeff_N and fj_mahn were also staying there and Zarly, who had neglected to bring a towel to California, hung around to take a shower. Bit by bit the house slipped back to normal and we soon found ourselves relaxing comfortably in the living room chatting up a storm and talking about the people we had just met and our recent experiences. Dr Gil brought out a lovely bottle of 18 year old rye whiskey so good it was rumored to knock your socks off, which was passed around together with a bottle of the Macallen 12 year old, and before we knew it, it was midnight. After a few drinks (too many for any wise man to get on the bike and ride) Zarly decided not to return to his cabin back in Fortuna and instead spent the night in Dr. Gil and Beck-zuki’s lovely home, if only to get his picture on the STN Wall of Fame. Breakfast was planned early the next morning so it would be a short night’s rest before getting back on the bikes to head home. I arranged my sleeping bag and Thermarest on the rug and fell asleep quickly.

Oddly enough, I was wide awake early the next morning and eager to pack up the bike. With the BMW’s cases it’s an easy process to load everything back onto the bike and I was ready to go within 30 minutes of getting up. Everyone else was also quick about gathering up their belongings and we left the house right on time to meet up with some other riders at the Samoa Cookhouse. Breakfast was tasty as usual and afterwards we moved our group out to the parking lot to say our goodbyes. Once again Zarly and I didn’t know which way we were going to take home so we spent some time studying the map while those around us rolled out of the parking lot. We eventually decided on a route, thanked Dr Gil and Beck-zuki for their fine hospitality and were soon on our way.

From Eureka we headed north to 299 where the road quickly climbed into the hills above the coast. The sun had peeked out at breakfast but now it was again being obscured by clouds. It sprinkled just enough to wet the pavement but soon we had climbed high enough that we were in the clouds themselves. The fog was thick and I had difficulty seeing the cars around me so I reduced my speed until we started to descend on the other side of the ridge and came back to blue skies and sunshine. We fueled up at Willow Creek and then headed north on 96, an excellent motorcycle road that hugs the sides of the mountains and twists more than a snake in a mongoose’s grasp. The sky was clear, trees were green, rivers were high and the pavement was perfect. Our GS’s took corner after corner in perfect unison, the bikes falling into the corners with a rhythm that was almost mesmerizing. We paused at a unique bridge over the Klamath River to take in the beauty that was around us and then mounted the bikes again to head for Happy Camp. Once there we continued on 96, heading east towards I-5 and continued our ride under the sunshine and blue sky.

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A view of the Klamath River

At the parking lot after breakfast we had noticed another squiggly gray line, this one running north from 96 at Klamath Falls to Mt Ashland, and presumably, Ashland itself. With our daring route -finding skills when we reached Klamath Falls we headed north onto Beaver Creek Rd to explore whatever it had to offer. At first it offered up a rather narrow paved road that quickly turned to a one lane paved road that then became a one lane narrow road with rock debris scattered across it. We crossed a small bridge and found the end of the pavement. It was a good dirt road so we continued on our merry way, with Zarly flying on ahead of me showing off his dirt-riding skills. I struggled to keep up but had a great time learning how the GS handles on rocks, gravel, and dirt and through puddles. As we continued on this road (now FS 11) we came to intersections and roads branching off into the unknown, we ourselves often not knowing which direction “the road” went. We guessed a lot and the road got narrower and bumpier and soon had grass growing down the center. Zarly pulled over and we consulted the map that told us nothing. After a bit of disappointment we conceded that we did not know the proper way to Mt Ashland and we were more than likely not on the correct road. We turned the GS’s around and headed back through the woods, climbing over ridges and rolling through pine needle-covered tracks. When we reached a known intersection we went east towards Hilt, CA, where we could hook up with I-5. This road was no different than the previous stretch of dirt and gravel but at least we knew where we were going this time. We took a small detour to climb a hill and take in some magnificent views and after a couple of pictures we returned to the “main” road and looked for I-5. It didn’t take long for us to reach the valley floor and I could see the trucks moving along the distant ribbon of the highway. We joined them soon enough and headed north to Medford where we stopped for dinner before continuing north to Eugene for the night. Eugene was far enough north to give us an easy ride home the next day into Seattle and give Zarly plenty of time to reach Victoria.

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Fun forest roads in Northern California

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Look at the view!!

The next morning we got a late start as the motel screwed up Zarly’s wake up call, but we eventually got back onto I-5 for the incredibly straight ride north to Seattle. The weather was great and traffic wasn’t too bad, even through the more congested areas in southern Puget Sound. We pulled into my driveway around 2:30, much to my kitties’ relief. Zarly and I moved stuff from one bike to the other and downloaded some pictures before he had to leave to catch his ferry to Victoria. After he left I started to unpack my bike when the phone rang 45 minutes later. It was Zarly and he was in Arlington, 50 miles north of Seattle. He forgot his backpack at my house that contained his work ID and other vital things. He asked if I could mail it to him but knowing that he really needed this stuff for tomorrow’s return to work I offered instead to deliver it to where he was. For a change of pace I hopped onto the KLR and played hooligan in Seattle/Everett traffic for the 50 miles to Arlington, enjoying every minute of it. The pack was handed off to Zarly who then continued north to catch the next available ferry while I tooled back down the highway to home, returning from my trip for the second time that day.

Tell me what you think! I want to know!