There I was, sitting at the Pacific Coast Highway sign in Pismo beach ready to ride the road I’d read so much about. Only one small problem, my shoulder and neck were the sorest they had been since my crash. Ugh. But, the ride must go on!
I rolled along the coast taking in the views and smells and dodging as much of the Sunday traffic as I could. What an incredible road, no wonder people flock to it in their tour buses and rental cars. The best sections begin after Big Sur, or maybe that was my opinion because that’s where I found some pain killers and icy hot for my aches and pains.
Waves crashing, trees towering, and road winding it was an amazing ride into San Francisco. I rolled up to the Golden Gate Bridge around 5:30 for a photo op and then took a side street tour to my hotel downtown. Talk about an incredible city, wow! I settled on a little Proposition Chicken for dinner and nestled into bed with my icy hot for a phone call to Travis.
As luck would have it, the icy hot worked some magic on my sore spasm-filled muscles and I felt comfortable for the first time in a week! Now, if only the Excedrin wasn’t full of caffeine. Ooops! So, there I lay staring at the TV until the wee hours of the morning engrossed in the stench of Bengay rolling off my body. Oh, what a night. However, on the brighter side, I had goal #1 of this trip in progress and would soon accomplish goal #2.
#1 = ride the PCH
#2 = ride across the GGB
I was unaware of goal #3 until my conversation with Travis about “must-have” things in San Fran. The mornings’ events would now include a hunt for the perfect Irish coffee and a bread bowl of clam chowder. On a “when in Rome” whim I rolled my bike down the famous Lombard st. Then found The Buena Vista.
Who knew that this little corner bar by the bay was the first place in America to serve an Irish coffee?! I soon found out that little tidbit and many more, they also sell 30% of the world’s Tullamore Dew and make approximately 2000 coffees a day. Jackpot! Needless to say, I made a few friends, had more than my fill of coffees, and of course, they also serve bread bowls of chowder. I don’t want to ruin any surprises here but, delicious doesn’t even describe the food and drinks at The Buena Vista. Well, this day was off to a grand start.
Before I knew it, I was rolling across the Golden Gate enjoying every inch. Some say it’s old, some say it’s rusty, I say it’s magnificent and undescribably gigantic! From there, I strolled through giant tree forests and tiny coastal towns until I found my way to Fort Bragg.
Being dirt cheap, I booked a room at the local Motel 6. There was an onsite restaurant, I treated myself to a barstool dinner next to some town folk who told me about the lost coast road. I filed that info away for a future trip, enjoyed my margarita, and headed for my room. After my nightly call to Travis, I realized my neck and shoulder were feeling much better tonight and soon fell asleep at the oh so late hour of 8 PM.
Morning came and I was up and rolling around 9 to go explore Glass Beach. This little gem is a place where the ocean currents flow just right to dump all of the sea glass onshore in between some fantastic rock formations. The “sand” here is actually well-weathered shards of broken glass that’s been tossed around at sea and scattered about by the tides. Super neat find!
The rest of day 13 included some of my favorite riding on the PCH. The road wound away from the coast a bit but kept me rolling through curvy backcountry and beautiful pine forests. It mostly reminded me of movie scenes and storybook tales, and then I found myself in Oregon.
Somewhere around the stateline I found a “restaurant”, gift shop, music venue, and used to be gas station, The Peg House Never Don’t Stop. I ordered my food and microbrew beer at the window of the shack out back and proceeded to the nearest picnic table in the shade. The food was quite good and the beer tasted great after a long day’s ride.
I rolled into Grants Pass about dark time and got a room at a little roadside motel with a restaurant sharing its parking lot. I didn’t look at the weather but noticed before I went in for the night that it was cooling off quite a bit.
I needed an early start for day 14 because I was cruising up to Bend OR to meet my childhood BFF for lunch. So, 6:30 AM I moseyed on outside to be welcomed by 37-degree air and a frosty motorcycle. The show must go on so away I rolled. I found snow on a mountain pass and ice in the road on a shady stretch and decided to slow my roll a touch.
I reached my first gas stop after what seemed like eons but was probably around 90 minutes in. Much to my dismay, the temperature in that little town was also 36. I have never had heated grips on a motorcycle before but, I’m here to tell you, I may never ride without them again!
I made it to Bend right on time and found Katie at her office. We were so excited to see each other we had no plan on where to eat or what to do with our hour. Lunch ended up being fast food and lots of chatter and both of us wishing we had more time to spend. It is hard to catch up on 23 years in 60 minutes but we did our best.
As per usual, I had no idea where I was staying that night and just continued to roll north. I had never ridden my bike in Oregon or Washington so I was knocking them both off the list. I needed an Oregon sticker for my bike and noticed a tiny general store in a four corners type town. I walked in and found they had every inch of the place filled with a little of this and a little of that. Not knowing where to begin to look, I went to the counter and asked the women if she had Oregon stickers.
After I spoke a woman appeared from behind some shelves and said, “First you need to learn how to pronounce it before you can buy the sticker.” I replied with, “Well I’m from Oregon IL and we say it differently.” That’s when we became friends. After a few more exchanges we discovered that her grandparents are from Pardeeville Wisconsin and at that time I was working at a dental office there. Such a small world.
I rode up the highway a bit and discovered that Hooker Creek was smack dab at the bottom of Bachelor Mountain. Tell me our pioneers didn’t have a sense of humor!? or, maybe there’s a story in that neck of the woods better left untold…
I made it to Washington and found that the road along the Columbia River gorge is excellent for exceeding speed limits. Next time I’ll stay longer and explore, this trip it was getting late in the fall to be that far north on a bike comfortably.
La Grande OR was my stopping point for the day after a ride down the highway behind an onion truck. Ever have baseball sized veggies fly off a truck and onto the highway in front of you multiple times? I felt like I was in an intense a live-action version of dodgeball out there.
Lucky for me, my swift maneuvering came to my rescue and I made it to the motel unscathed. Bud Jacksons sports bar was next door and the flashing sign out front read “$1.00 Tacos all night”. They must have known I was coming. I ventured over and helped myself to a few tap beers and 3 tacos, against the bartenders’ advisements. But, no worries, I finished every bite after my days’ ride.
My neck and shoulder decided to keep me up most of the night so I decided to use that to my advantage and hit the road earlier than normal. Today, day 15, I headed into Idaho for some hot springing. I was more than excited to hop into some hot water for a good soak after the chilly temps I’d been riding in. Not to mention, the muscle aches and pains I needed to work out from that pesky crash of mine.
Idaho was beyond impressive, the twisty mountain highways and rivers had me turning my head side to side like a caffeinated squirrel. One curve after another I leaned and rolled and admired views of the tall pine forests and mountain tops. The rivers there run blue and clear as day over multicolored rocks along the side of the roads. The air was cool but I kept all my gear on and made use of my heated grips.
Originally, I planned to enter Idaho around Lewiston and ride down to Yellow Pine for the first night. The weather disagreed with that plan and decided to snow a bit in that part of the state. I rerouted and entered by Boise then found my way up towards Stanley, Banks-Lowman Rd. and Highway 21 are worth a tour if you ever end up in Idaho. The hot springs are plentiful and peaceful, and everywhere.
I accidentally found myself a little cabin to stay in a few miles off the main road on a dirt stretch along a fork of the Payette River. The hot spring pools along the banks were exactly what my body needed! Hours of soaking and book reading filled days 15 and 16 along with a little beer drinking and fire building in the cabins woodstove.
My plan of a one night stay was thwarted by Mother Nature’s “suggestion” that I not ride a motorcycle. Shortly before checkout time on day 16 the skies opened up with a semi-frozen mix of rain. That added to the 30 degree temps made my mind up to stay put another day/night. Down at the river, I was soaking the gloomy day away watching the raindrops decorate the steaming pool and listening to the river run by. After a while, I was joined by a man who I’d seen crawling out of a tent earlier that day.
This man was also a two-wheel traveler but his bike was missing the motor. He had been traveling the world on his bicycle for many years and had been to 65 countries thus far. An hour or so into our conversations we were joined by a few people who were celebrating a 65th birthday by taking an Idaho hot springs tour. My company lasted about 2-3 hours of the afternoon and then I was back to the solitude of the Sawtooth mountains. I had no desire to leave despite my wrinkled skin but human needs took over and after about 5-6 hours it was time to eat something. Oh, what an amazing way to spend a day.
Now, day 17 arrived with a bit of a roar. I stepped outside to find an ice sickle formerly known as my motorcycle and 23-degree temperatures. Well, I really could just stay put one more day…but it was also time to move on. I had climbed a waterfall, soaked my days away, drank some local beers, and enjoyed my fireplace. The weather would not be improving at this time of year so I might as well move along before I get snowed in.
The ice was completely covering my ignition and mirrors as well as everything else. I had my handy little jet-boil stove along and put it to use defrosting my bike. I stoked my woodstove up nice and hot and laid my gear out in front of it, it had been packed up in the panniers and wasn’t exactly inviting to put on at this point. I was ready as a rider can be in these conditions and rolling up the hill by 10:30ish.
Somewhere around noon, I found myself in Stanley where it was a balmy 34 degrees and cloudy. I called Travis to tell him about my days in the mountains since I had been out of service range for a few days. He was finished up with flight school and headed back to Wisconsin.
From Stanley, I rode over Galena pass to Ketchum and stopped at a coffee shop to warm myself up and use some internet to map my route home. At this point, I was aware that the weather was not going to be my friend over the next 1700 miles. I made an executive decision to skip the Craters of the Moon NP visit and just roll east.
The wind picked up as I entered Wyoming but I caught one hell of a sunset in my rearview. The temperature never did get above 46 for the day and I fell into bed at a Hampton Inn in Laramie WY around 11:30 PM after a 760-mile day on the interstate. (Have I ever mentioned that I’m riding a BMW Scrambler on this journey?!? )It was too late for any kind of dinner so I pulled the last cup-o-noodles from my camping stash and settled in for the night.
Oh day 18, what can I say here…? I woke up around 8 AM, checked the weather only to find that it was 32 degrees outside and only going to climb to 44 by noon. The google machine informed me I was 960 miles from home and it was going to be a very windy day all across the plains. I consumed a few cups of coffee and some hotel breakfast, packed up the bike, and managed to hit the road around 11ish AM MTN time.
I had it in mind that I would be putting my head down in my own bed that night, knowing full well that was a crazy notion. The farther I rode the colder I got and the harder the wind blew. Every semi I passed would block the gusts just long enough to be swept to the side of the road as soon as I cleared their front bumper. After a few hundred miles the heated grips didn’t even seem to be working anymore and my toes were not feeling the heat off my boxer motor.
I wasn’t helping my warmth or wind situation by traveling well above the recommended speed limits but I was making excellent time. I found a pace car across Nebraska that averaged a steady 95 MPH and decided to hang back and let them clear the highway of any lurking police cars. Once I got closer I noticed that my pace car was actually one of those previously mentioned cars! The weird-looking bumper sticker I had been trying to make out turned out to be big yellow lettering saying, “Scottsbluff Sheriff.” I took full advantage of my unknowing escort for a full tank of fuel and managed record time across the state!
By the time I hit Iowa, it was fully dark and of course much colder. I debated with myself for a few hours on pulling over or pushing through for the night. I was definitely done riding for the day and honestly can’t remember being so cold ever even though I know I had because I’ve lived in the midwest my whole life and let’s face facts, winters are brutal! But, I managed to keep rolling and soon reached the Wisconsin state line.
At this point, there is no turning back or turning off for the day, its a 2.5-hour ride to my nice hot shower and a warm bed. I struggled to keep myself awake and warm for that stretch and of course passed a few deer on the way. I pulled up to my house at 1:53 AM central time on day 19 with 960 miles on my trip meter and 12 hours and 40 minutes on the road. The odometer was somewhere around 11 states and 6300 miles and my shower was soon on fully hot! And once again…..man what a ride!!!
Thanks for following along, and sorry it took a full year to get this whole trip out in print!