Day 20 Tuesday 23rd July 2013 – Fortuna, CA to Grants Pass, OR
When I ventured outside in the morning, it was foggy again. I expected this now, it was north Cali after all. But it is a shame because this really is a striking and beautiful part of the country, and the fog and the cold meant that I couldn’t really appreciate it fully. I am just thankful that I had visited here in 2011 and that the weather was better on that occasion. Although I distinctly remember riding over the state line from Oregon in 2011, and hitting a cold, fog then. I had to stop to pull out a fleece from my dry bags, if I recall collectively. Fortunately for me, the fog only lasted a day on that occasion and I was able to see the coast road and the redwoods in all their glory, and they were magnificent. That is why I had wanted to come back here on this trip.
The paradoxical thing is that without the fog, the redwoods wouldn’t be giant. The redwoods are adapted to get a big proportion of their water requirements from the fog, and those redwoods that grow above the fog line don’t grow anywhere near as big as their misty brothers.
Despite the fog dampening my enjoyment of the Californian coast on this trip, I really do recommend riding here. The roads are twisty and the scenery, when you can see it, is stunning. However, I’d recommend doing a modicum more research on the weather than I did, because apparently some months in the summer are notoriously bad for fog. It is much better at other times. If you manage to get here when there isn’t fog, you are in for a real treat.
I must confess to feeling a little down-heartened today, and not just because of the fog. My hip was still feeling really tender, and I just knew that those gear changes weren’t going to be fun. My original plan for this leg of the trip had been really ambitious – with a few miles under my belt in the last few weeks to remind me, way too ambitious.
I had planned on riding inland for a while from Fortuna, along Californian Route 36, then taking Route 3 north and looping back along Route 299. It’s meant to be a really good ride along a tight twisty road through the forest, and it had been recommended to me by a fellow blogger, Pat. With my hip feeling the way it did, I really thought I would struggle with a road that so many bikers would relish. The other problem was that the route I had planned was 370 miles. 370 miles of freeway riding in a day is relatively easy, but along a twister, where you’re braking for every corner, your average speed plummets, and 370 miles becomes a major undertaking.
If I planned this route again, I would split the ride into 2, with a day to do the 36/3/299 loop, before continuing north into Oregon. But I just didn’t feel capable of riding it right now, at least not with any enjoyment. I decided I would just cut my loses and continue north by the easiest route possible. Darn hip, but I guess you can’t always get what you want.
I wasn’t even sure what I had done to my hip. I wondered if rest would fix it. The problem was that all my route plans had been made in an effort to see as much as possible, so there were no rest days planned, at least no rest ’til Sturgis, where I was planning on spending 8 nights and could easily take a few days to just rest up. I hoped that just cutting back on the more challenging roads for now, might be enough. If I didn’t have the constant gear changes then hopefully my hip would get the rest it needed.
I would just have to live the 36 vicariously through the writing of others. The person that had recommended those roads to me is fellow motorcycle blogger Pat who has been doing a coast to coast trip across America for the last 5 years. He’s just got back on the road with his Bonnie for his 6th year. His blog, My Bonnie, is well worth checking out. I’m really hoping he makes it out to Sturgis this year, it would be great to meet him in person. Another motorcycle blogger I’ve been following before setting off for this trip is Jesse, his blog, TwoWheelin, is also worth taking a look at. Now, he is coming out to Sturgis and has said he will look me up at the Buffalo Chip when he arrives around the 5th August 2013. In fact, Sturgis this year could be a bit of a blogger’s fest as the BEANTOWN BIKERS are also heading in. They invited me to ride with them through Yellowstone and Beartooth Pass, but they are going to be riding through there several days later than me, and since I’ve already paid my $380 for my pass to the Chip, I wanted to make the most of the bands there. Still, they’ve said they’ll look out for the big yellow British licence plate and the kilt, and we’ll have a few beers. And not forgetting Ed, the Canadian I rode with for a few days in Oklamhoma and Texas, there should be plenty of people to ride and have a few beers with this year in Sturgis.
Much as I’m really looking forward to the 73rd Sturgis motorcycle rally, I had more immediate concerns. The cold and fog stayed with me all the way up the 101 to Crescent City. Unlike last time, on this occasion I really wasn’t sorry to leave the coast and California behind me.
At Crescent City, I took the 199 inland heading toward Oregon and Grants Pass. Within a mile at most, the fog had gone and the temperature was steadily increasing.
US 199 turned out to be a great road – twisty in places, running through forest and along a river. I really enjoyed the ride, despite the occasional twinge in my hip.
The only bad thing about riding this road was the grooved pavement. I don’t think we have this evil thing at home, at least I haven’t seen it. So for my readers back home, grooved pavement is pretty much what it says, some bright spark has cut grooves in the road (not the foot path).
Apparently this improves traction and helps when dealing with heavy rain. They have statistics to prove that it reduces accidents, and it’s also meant to cut road noise. But on a bike it is a pain, the grooves generate a wobble which is unsettling even when going straight, but on this road they have put the grooved pavement only on sharp bends, when you least want a wobble. I wonder if their statistics are broken down by vehicle type, and whether it really reduces accidents for motorcycles.
So again I was slowing down and pulling over to let speeding cars through. And on this stretch they all seemed in a mighty hurry to get somewhere. I think it may be a Californian thing – driving very fast and very close to each other. As soon as I approached Los Angeles I began noticing it. And it was actually very noticeable when I crossed the state line into Oregon that the traffic seemed to be going at more moderate speeds, only 5 or 10 mph over the speed limit, and definitely leaving bigger gaps between cars. Oregon has the better, or at least safer drivers in my book.
The day’s ride may not have been everything that I originally planned, but I enjoyed it and it was more than enough for me for that day.
When I arrived in Grants Pass I went about scoping out a suitable watering hole and I found Cody’s Tavern, a good old fashioned dive bar – just my kind of place.
The bar was kind of quiet when I arrived, but it was only a Tuesday night. Still the jukebox was playing loudly. The girl working the bar was friendly, and kept singing along to nearly every track playing. It was really quite amusing hearing her belting out at top volume Puddle of Mudd’s “She (fucking) Hates Me”.
After I’d been there about an hour, I heard the familiar sound of a big V-twin parking up outside, and its rider came in and sat at the bar. I can’t remember his name now, it is one of my shortcomings. Unless I write it down, names have a habit of going into one ear and straight out the other. With groups of people there is a nearly zero percent chance of me remembering all the names. Anyway, I’m going to call him Jake, whether that was his name or not. Jake seemed quite envious of my trip to Sturgis. His boss was also a rider in the same club as Jake, but he’d taken dibs on Sturgis week, so Jake had to stay behind and mind the fort. His only consolation was he’d been allowed to take time off to go down to a bike rally in Reno, Nevada later in the year.
The jukebox had gone quiet, so I coughed up a few bucks, and amongst other things, I played a couple of Lynyrd Skynyrd tracks – Freebird and Simple Man. I hadn’t listened to them for a while and it was odd hearing them playing as I sat in a dive bar in the US, because these two songs – along with Metallica’s Wherever I May Roam – had inspired me at a low point in my life to do something different, to stop worrying about work and money, and to get out and live life right here, right now. They are in part responsible for the adventure I was now having. It seemed very appropriate that I would be seeing Lynyrd Skynyrd in Sturgis in just a few weeks time.
I just hope they turn up this time.