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whitham_wannabe 05-04-2009 06:42 PM

Twisted Melon Racing Tours the West Coast
The original plan for my first long trip on my F800GS was to ride to Yosemite to meet some friends for a weekend, then cruise back to Seattle along the coast, but the night before departure they decided to cancel instead. Arse. I needed a new plan.

A quick phone call to my old mate Chris in Detroit (a fellow ADV newbie and off road incompetent) - "Want to come out and ride the west coast for a week?". "Yeah okay, find me a bike." Vacation is pushed back by a week and the following Friday I'm picking up Chris at the airport.

How's that for a slice of fried gold?!

GB 05-04-2009 06:43 PM


whitham_wannabe 05-04-2009 06:49 PM

Day Zero - There be Vampyres ...

Saturday morning and we leave my place in Mukilteo two up to pick up a shiny used 1150GS for Chris. Chris' wife only agreed to the trip if we visited Forks, WA, the setting for some vampire story that she is obsessed with. No problem, a small price to pay, being only 50 miles from Port Angeles where the bike was located.

Mandatory picture of the two bikes by Crescent Lake. Just as a warning, there are a LOT of pictures of bikes in the ride report, as neither Chris nor I are remotely photogenic.

And on for the mandatory photo outside of Forks.

And returned home via the excellent 113 / 112 route along the coast, to do some last minute purchasing / packing / drinking.

whitham_wannabe 05-04-2009 07:06 PM

Day One - Of geese and bunny rabbits ...

As I do most of my motorcycling in Washington, the plan for the first day was to clear the state down to Oregon as fast as possible, and then enjoy some new roads from there on out. 8am we were packed, the fish was fed and I even remembered to lock the front door.

First order of business was to go and see Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose at the Evergreen Museum in McMinnville. The Spruce Goose was Hughes' answer to the aluminium and steel shortage during the early years of the war, and is a very impressive work of carpentry indeed. Unfortunately, it was a rather less impressive airplane, soaking up 17 million government dollars and 7 million of Hughes' own funds for a total time airborne of 90 seconds. It is a fascinating thing to see in person, though - I work for Boeing and we make some big airplanes here, but they are nothing compared to the bulk and elephantile proportions of the Goose.

The museum has many excellent aero exhibits, and is a TMR Top Recommendation, if you are into that sort of thing.

I managed to find a vehicle with a more prominent proboscis than the 800 ....

... while Chris was more interested in schemes to improve the performance of the 1150 ...

Back on the road and we are heading for an overnight in Bend, OR. Relying on the GPS to navigate is not always the best plan, the fastest route rarely being the most interesting, but in this case we need not have worried. Soon we were climbing through the woods on Highway 22, through Detroit (a little different to the Detroit we are used to!). What a great road, just cruise up in 5th and 6th, wind on wind off through sweeping turns, hardly any traffic and no rozzers, constantly climbing until we are above the snow line and into the sunshine. Brilliant!

We stop in Bend, grab some beer and find our first State Park campground. The beauty of travelling off season is that we never had any problems finding a site, and had this whole campground to ourselves.

Well almost. This little fellow turned up and seemed very interested in my tent. If he'd been 20 minutes earlier, he'd have been in time for dinner ... :evil

First of many evenings sat around staring into the flames, enjoying a refreshing cocktail and telling tall tales that we both know aren't true.

bondbmw 05-04-2009 07:07 PM

The wife liked the pics and is already checking out F650's .....

whitham_wannabe 05-04-2009 07:25 PM

Day Two - We have wind.

I awake this morning to a curious scuffing sound and the profile of a rabbit trying to get into my tent. I push him away and he comes right back. Cheeky rabbit.

We also woke up to bone chilling cold. Chris hardly slept in his draughty tent, and all the frozen water in our bottles explained why. Then we went off road!

Well, Chris did a couple of laps around the camp site to warm up a bit.

After Chris was done playing, we hit the road, and half an hour later I made up an excuse to stop again ... even with heated grips on full, by jingo, it was cold. Eventually we head off again onto Highway 31 south east, grab lunch at Summer Lake amid swirling dust devils, then continue on to pick up 396 south.

Both Chris and I hail from the crowded little island that is England (and Wales and Scotland, of course), so it was quite exciting to be in the little travelled wide open spaces of Oregon, long straight roads stretching to the horizon. We took the opportunity to be at one with the road ...

The excitement wore off after about 15 minutes, though, and the constant battering of the wind began to push our patience. It wasn't that it was dangerously strong wind, it was just a constant gusty annoyance, like walking along and having someone constantly shove you off course. Always from the right too, so after a few hours it felt like your head wasn't on straight anymore.

Chris has never visited the west coast before and, influenced by years of watching Bay Watch, could not wait to cross the Californian border to the fabled land of bikini clad silicone and peroxide blond hair. His body language betrays his disappointment as we record the moment that he realised California was not all like that.

It didn't improve any as we were soon pelted by freezing rain, and the waterproofs were donned, not for the last time. Soon enough we were bypassing the horror of Reno, and had set up camp in the Tahoe National Forest, the trees finally shielding us from the wind.

It is said that an army marches on its stomach. Our dehydrated food ensures that though we can march forth, the Captain prevents us from doing it in a straight line ...

Told you we weren't photogenic ...

whitham_wannabe 05-04-2009 07:54 PM

Day Three - Lakes and deserts

What a wonderful world it is, when you crawl out of a tent with the sun shining through the pines and a steaming mug of tea in your hand! I took a celebratory self portrait - this is me smiling.

Packed and away, over the final ridge and we descend not very far to Lake Tahoe. We were excited to be there ...

What an amazing place this is, crystal clear blue lake, surrounded and contrasted completely by snow bound peaks. The lake itself is over six thousand feet above sea level, and as a monument on the north end of the lake states, contains enough water to cover the whole of California to a depth of 1 foot. Who works these statistics out? And don't they realise that's not nearly enough? :wink:

The drive around the Lake was not the best from a motorcycling point of view (too much traffic, too many speed zones), but was insanely picturesque. Scenery to make your elbows pop, as they say. The little ridge road south from Emerald Bay State Park was tremendous, the road is literally the whole top of the ridge, with steep drop offs on either side before it hairpins its way back down to the Lake.

After a three quarter lap around the lake, we hopped over the border to Nevada and over the mountains to rejoin 395. The border could not be any more obvious when you cross from picturesque Stateline ... they built a Harrah's casino right on the border, so the poor under privileged Californians need only stumble a few steps to the nearest slot machine.

Piling on the miles down 395, to the surprise view of Mono Lake ...

Neither Chris nor I are really the sight seeing sort, so we elected to hit northern Death Valley and avoid the National Park service trail of scenic vistas and points of interest further south. We turned off the 395 at Big Pine, then took the Death Valley Road over the hills and descending down into the valley itself. It proved to be the right choice, we hardly saw another soul the whole time we were in. The original plan was to push through on the dirt to hook up with the National Park roads, but a quick fuel calculation and a healthy dose of circumspection (it's not called Happy Valley, after all) led us to just spend the remaining daylight exploring the desert and playing around on our first real dirt. Ever.

Cue pictures of Chris and I pretending to be proper ADVers ...

It was the first time in the trip we had experienced any temperatures above 60 degrees, so it was a pleasant change to ride around in the 75 degree heat for a while ...

I always close my eyes when riding on gravel, and pass out completely when I see mud.

Chris got tired and had a little lie down.

"Where this GS falls, so we shall camp" Rather than head back to civilisation, we elected to pull the beached whale out of the sand and pitch camp in the bush. This seemed like a good idea at first, but then we started noticing the tarantula / scorpion / snake holes that were everywhere we looked. Images filled our impressionable english minds of waking up in a tarantula covered tent the following morning, but as absolute silence descended over the desert, the bats came out to catch their dinner and the moon and stars came out to keep us company, we both relaxed into the absolute peace of the desert.

whitham_wannabe 05-04-2009 09:25 PM

Day Four - From the desert to the deep blue sea

As much as I waxed lyrical about the joy of waking up in the woods earlier, NOTHING beats waking up before dawn in the desert. Especially when you open up a bleary eye to find that there are not the expected eight eyes of a tarantula staring back at you. Slowly the sunshine crept down the mountains as two Brits enjoyed their first cuppa of the day in the middle of Death Valley. How did we end up here?

The sunshine bursts forth and so do we, on the road before 7am.

A hundred miles of 365 and it is time to head west instead of the prevailing south that we have travelled for the last 3 days. We hit Highway 178 and are pleasantly surprised by the big sweeping curves climbing up over the hills, pleasingly chuffed by the picturesque Isabella Reservoir and absolutely delighted by the canyon road down to Bakersfield. This bit of road is fantastic, like riding a motorbike down a slalom course, bang bang bang, hard rock on your left a brief but painful drop to the river on your right. This road should be more famous and officially became Twisted Melon Racing's favourite road in the whole world. And Californian drivers, bless 'em, use the turnouts immediately to minimise impediments to our progress. Unfortunately, it is such a tight road that safe photo opportunities were few and far between. This is the best we could manage ...

Into Bakersfield, the biggest town that we had seen in what now seemed like a long, long time, and out again as fast we could go. The sight of fields of nodding donkeys was a new one to us, pumping out the rich life blood of our hobby. This one wasn't working, don't they know we have a petrolium addiction to feed?

Next stop, the coast, via 166, though not without incident. My 800 has a roughly 175 mile range, and by the wonders of the Zumo I had planned our next stop in Cuyama, which had a gas station. Sure enough it did, but sadly it had been out of action for some time, and I didn't have the range to make it to the next station. Arse. I have a quick conversation with a guy on the street ... "Excuse me, is there any gas available in town?" "¿qué?" "Can I get gasoline anywhere? (doing the internationally recognised sign of pointing to the airbox on the GS (if I pointed to the actual location of the gas tank, the meaning could have been entirely misconstrued))" "Si, allá por Maricopa" We retrace our steps 20 miles, fill up and return for another crack at it. Hell, at least we didn't end up pushing ...

Finally we get our first sight of the Pacific Ocean, shimmering blue in the afternoon sun and stage our run up the coast for tomorrow by stopping in San Simeon State Park.

Chris then stepped up to the plate and cooked us a slap up meal, accompanied by a fresh bottle of Captain, a big warming fire and the most extraordinarily fine sunset I have ever seen.

kluts 05-04-2009 10:25 PM

Super report. Nicely shot and all that. Always wanted to take a trip somewhere by just buying a bike, getting on and GOING.

Good to see that people do that now and then.

whitham_wannabe 05-05-2009 09:01 AM

<o:smarttagtype namespaceuri="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" name="place"></o:smarttagtype><o:smarttagtype namespaceuri="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" name="City"></o:smarttagtype><o:smarttagtype namespaceuri="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" name="State"></o:smarttagtype><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning/> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas/> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables/> <w:SnapToGridInCell/> <w:WrapTextWithPunct/> <w:UseAsianBreakRules/> <w:DontGrowAutofit/> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if !mso]><object classid="clsid:38481807-CA0E-42D2-BF39-B33AF135CC4D" id=ieooui></object> <style> st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } </style> <![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} </style> <![endif]--> Day Five – Can you have too many curves?
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San Simeon State campground provided us with an opportunity for a first on this trip … the chance to take a shower in the morning! Fantastic how good a luke warm shower can feel after 4 days on the road.
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And so on to scenic Highway 1. I am quite sure everyone is aware of this sinewy ribbon of tarmac that hugs the west coast, providing constant curves, dips and climbs and beautiful views over the Pacific crashing angrily onto the rocks below your wheels. I first rode this route back in 1993, at the end of a cross country mountain bike ride, and I was pleased to recognize a lot of the road from back then. I was also pleased to have 800cc of teutonic technology pushing my lard arse along it … I’m not as fit as I used to be.
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I’m sure we have all seen enough pictures of this highway, right? No? Okay, here’s a few more …
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Careful on the turns, you never know when a sightseer is going to be on the other side of the turn taking a picture.
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The Stealth Ninja GS creeps into the corner of the photo.
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Chris! You’re going the wrong way!!
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Waiting for the road works to let us through. There are worse places to loiter …
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There’s just special views wherever you look.
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Through Monterey and Carmel (where I spent a week sitting outside intensive care on my last visit, after my mate took a header off his bike in Big Sur), a brief freeway stint and back onto Highway 1 for lunch. For two Britons on German bikes, the flags on the front of the building were a good omen. And so was the steak and eggs …
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<st1:city w:st="on">San Francisco</st1:city> was the end of my journey last time, so as we crossed the <st1:place w:st="on">Golden Gate</st1:place>, I was on to fresh pastures once more. We paused at the bridge overlook, and got the news that Chrysler, our former employer, had gone bankrupt. Chris got on the phone to find out the scoop from friends who still work there, and we both breathed a sigh of relief that we were not still there.
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Taking pictures on the road is always a difficult balancing act, between the desire to record all the fantastic sights and experiences on the road and the drive to keep rolling down the road. Stopping every 10 minutes to snap a picture breaks the mood and the rhythm, and that is why I have a very few pictures of the next section, Highway 1 north of <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">San Francisco</st1:place></st1:city>. My poor attempt at a description will have to suffice, or better yet, get on your bike and go ride it.
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This road is an insanely twisted route, the first part over the hill from SF was beyond belief, all 2<sup>nd</sup> and 3<sup>rd</sup> gear switchbacks on perfect clean smooth asphalt. Once more all the car drivers were jumping out of the way, and we bombed away from the city grinning like the motorcycling fools that we are. For a while the road curves inland and straightens out, and looks remarkably like Herefordshire, before returning to its twisty glory along the sea. As the traffic thinned, our speeds increased as we played follow my leader down the corkscrew coast, Chris eventually had the front end step out on him, running wide onto the gravel. No harm no foul, and we continue heading north.
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As the evening came so did the rain and we pulled into Van Damme State Park, named not for the kung fu star, but for Charles Van Damme, a local ferry operator. Apparently this area was a hive of wooden ship building activity in the mid to late 19<sup>th</sup> century, but you would never guess now as it has all reverted to its natural state 150 years later.
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A quick fire to warm up, and early to bed in the peace of the forest, dreaming of endless curves down the <st1:state w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">California</st1:place></st1:state> coast …
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whitham_wannabe 05-05-2009 06:42 PM

Day Six - DENIED again

Peaceful, that is until our neighbours showed up and set up their camp to the sound of running engines , whoops and howls in the night and a total lack of consideration for those around them. Luckily we were up nice and early, so made sure to repay the compliment with some cheery horn tooting as we rolled past their still slumbering campsite!

I was missing my rabbit from the first day, but this guy was a poor substitute.

The GS all packed up ... from left to right - tent poles strapped to lid, personal effects in the lid (books, cables and so on), clothes and net book in the left pannier, the rest of the tent in the waterproof bag on the back, along with waterproofs, spare gloves and umbrella in another dry bag within, cooler with food, stove and gas and sleeping bag in the right pannier, spares, tools and chain lube in the right lid, sleep mat on the top. Cameras, lenses and personal stuff in the tank bag. It all worked out great, the Jesse luggage is robust, secure and watertight.

After a day of riding the Californian coast curves, there was still more to do, but last night's rain had left the road damp, and curiously covered in moss in places. There's a recipe for disaster, so we relaxed and took things easy on our continued route north. We even picked up some hitchhikers along the route.

Again, our intention was to push through off road on the unmade Usal Road to the 'Lost Coast' of northern california. The first section of the road was pretty well made, with a decently graded surface that wound its way up up up and down down down to the Usal beach, complete with beach bum surfers living in the woods down there.

Crossing a cool little bridge down at sea level.

As we started back up the hill, a big sign declared "Road closed - no through route", but we are adventure riders, right? Forge on! Now bearing in mind we are off road incompetents, we were doing pretty good for quite a while, usually resorting to a surfeit of throttle when things got tough (or just at random) and the track was still in good shape, sometimes graded smooth, sometimes loosely rocky, a few washed out sections, a few muddy sections. We made good progress.

Finally we came upon a long downhill section, slickly muddy and well torn up by 4x4s. Arse. We figured we could probably get down, but not knowing what lay beyond, we doubted our ability to come back up if we needed to retrace our steps later. We sat and stared, debated how much time we had, and then finally the rain started falling and sealed the deal. We didn't have the time for this to turn into an epic, and with the stock Deathwings, I think that could've been our fate. For the second time, we are denied, and with our tails between our legs, head back out. Better tyres, more time, more skill, and bigger gonads and we'll be back.

Back on Highway 1 and we twist our way over to finally join Highway 101.

But not before visiting Legget's biggest draw, a drive through tree! When you have the opportunity, you have to drive through a tree, right? We pay our $3 to the scary lady at the gate, take the pic and move on.

Any vacation unfortunately has to come to an end, and time was running short for us. And as Chris succinctly put it, we also ran out of weather. If you have ever wondered where the Pacific NorthWest starts, I propose it is just north of Legget, because from then on for the rest of our journey it rained in a biblical fashion, as only the Pacific NorthWet knows how to do.

We wait too long to put on the waterproofs and run the 101 to Eureka. Even in the rain this road is good fun, and the magnificent Redwoods that are literally at the edge of the road. If you run off the road here, you are in a LOT of trouble. Brief late lunch stop and attempt to dry out, check the weather, then north. By now it's cold, dark and miserable. We look at the map and decide to cut back over to I5, which we had originally tried to avoid, and head for home. Highway 199 over to Grant's Pass (another great road - are there any bad roads round here?) and hit I5 at 80mph in the growing gloom. Not being able to face camping in this deluge, we check into a motel, order out for pizza and Chris makes a noble run to get beer.

Not the way we wanted to spend our final night on the road, but sometimes you have to know when to fold 'em.

whitham_wannabe 05-05-2009 06:54 PM

Day Seven - Home. Boo.

Final day started as the previous ended, damp clothes, rain and I5.

We pack up for the last time and head north. By 2 o'clock we are home, Chris cleans and services the big GS, gets on a plane back to Detroit and we're done!


All in all a successful week just riding motorbikes around and hanging out with my mate Chris.

Total of just over three thousand miles (including the trip to Port Angeles to pick up the 1150). Average speed 54mph, top speed ... ooh, lets not mention that. No mechanical issues with either bike, we didn't even forget to take anything with us.

Now I just want to go out and do it all again ... in fact I still have an 1150GS in my lockup, anyone want to go for a ride? :wink:

bondbmw 05-05-2009 07:42 PM

Excellent report there buddy..... but no pimping out my GS!!

whitham_wannabe 05-05-2009 08:13 PM


Originally Posted by bondbmw
Excellent report there buddy..... but no pimping out my GS!!

Of course not, Chris.

Anyone know how to disconnect the mileometer on an 1150GS? :lol3

longwaytim 05-05-2009 08:54 PM


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