UberNoob 1st Big Ride North West Coast USA, 3200 miles, 12 days, 1 broken ankle
To ride an adventure bike down the coast from Whidbey Island through Washington and Oregon onward to California and eventually inland to Yosemite area, meet my Dad for some local riding and sight seeing there and then ride home via central Oregon and Washington routes while mostly avoiding all major highways.
This was my first big multi day trip and since I am a total noob to motorcycling, I figured some folks may find it interesting to read my ride report and maybe relive their own first trips or help inspire other noobs for the big ride. I covered over 3200 miles over 12 days and only broke one ankle...more on that later.
1st thing to do was to get a bike. The goal was to get a bike that could handle anything I was capable of throwing at it within my ability and interest level. I bought the book “Adventure Motorcycling” by Robert Wicks back in early 2010 to study and figure out what is what about adventure biking. Spent a lot of time reading and researching on the internet.
Fast forward to spring of 2011 and I was ready to get into it. I signed up for the MSF basic riders course to basically learn how to ride a motorcycle. I got through it without too much difficulty riding a Hyosung 250 provided by the course and was awarded my motorcycle endorsement. I think not having any bad habits is a good way to learn a new skill. The course was exactly what was needed for me to learn enough to be extremely dangerous.
In May of 2011 I searched in earnest for a motorbike. I had a work mate who was selling a KLR that was decked out and he let me try it out on a test ride. It was a nice bike but I was not sure that was what I was looking for. Certainly would do well off road but not too comfortable on road. Kept looking and found a DL650 Vstrom locally for a reasonable price on Craigslist. My dad used to have one of these and everybody who owns one says they are the best bike ever. Called the guy and made an appointment to take a look. Rode the bike and instantly fell in love with it. Big, powerful and comfortable for long touring. Was a no brainer and I bought it on the spot.
Bringing it home was fun since I never rode anywhere other than the neighborhood and the MSF course. Had to ride through urban city streets and then on the ferry to the island to get home via highway. Very scary but got used to it pretty quick. Made it home with a big grin.
1st ride on the new Vstrom, getting on and off the ferry was scary.
I then got several rides in on many day trips during the summer. Rode to work almost daily to get in as much practice as possible. Nice thing is that the MSF course is laid out on a parking lot close to my house so I could practice those elements anytime I wanted getting more and more confident on the big beast. Did one big ride with some work mates that took us over 450 miles in one day over the mountains and back. Found out what body parts get stiff and how to attempt to stretch out. The big ride was a great way to sort out gear and figure out what would be nice to have. Last thing I did which helped my technique a lot was to take an MSF Sport Riders course. It was a great confidence builder for flopping the big Strom around.
Shakedown ride, North Cascades
About this same time our plan started coming together. My dad would ride from San Bernardino up through Bishop and then over the Sierras. I would ride from my house at Whidbey and meet up with him in the gold rush country town of Columbia near Sonora for a few days. I had a considerably longer way to go so my side of the planning was a bit more involved. Planned the route basically down the coast to the Jenner area and then across the Sacramento Valley to El Dorado county area and then down to Columbia. I added some other objectives of doing some bouldering along the way and had gotten the guidebook “Northern California Bouldering” from Falcon press. Great book with all the info needed to climb and camp, was very useful. The planned route home major objectives were Crater Lake in Oregon and Mt. St. Helens on the way home in Washington. Targeted trip dates from 2SEP through 15SEP.
Started bike prep in earnest in July/Aug. I updated stuff that I thought was necessary for the trip mainly through thinking things through and researching here and Stromtrooper.
Bike stuff/farkles in order applied:
SW Motech crash bars w/highway pegs
SW Motech centerstand
Garmin GPS62csx ebay special
Eastern Beaver 3CS 3 circuit fuse panel
Auxillary 12V socket installed front left dash panel
GPS Ram mount front left handlebar
Hardwired GPS 12V connector
Happy Trails Denali 7” pannier set w/rack
Richland Rick forkbrace
New front Michelin Anakee2 tire
Wolfman Rainier tankbag
Bike 25000 mile tune up
Nothing too extreme, it is a Vstrom afterall.
Packing and installing fuse panel mess.
I am active in other activities where the gear required easily dovetails into motorcycle touring so my gear is basically what I would take backpacking and kayaking. I didn’t have to get anything new thank goodne$$.
Kitchen: MSR mess kit, Primus isobutane stove (fits inside mess kit), MSR dromedary bag 4L, hatchet, folding saw, Outdoor Research insulated food pod, drip filter cup thingy (must have coffee - lots)
Sleep: North Face Tadpole tent, North Face Blue Kazoo 30deg down bag, REI Lite-Core 1.5 pad
Electronics: Canon IXY 55 (Japanese version, old reliable), Olympus Stylus Tough 3000 (weatherproof and hard to get good photos with), old HP PDA for documenting stuff, MP3 player
Ride Gear: Nolan N90 helmet, First Gear Kilimanjaro jacket and pants (found used), Joe Rocket gloves, Alpinestars Goretex Web boots
Misc: Rock shoes, Ukulele, Folding stool, stunt kite (what the hell, I had the space), North Face large 60L basecamp duffle for clothes and tent
All this stuff fit easily within my setup. The duffle was a bit big and probably not necessary for the small amount of stuff I put in it. But no big deal and it didn’t weigh anything. I probably had less than 60lbs of gear so not too bad.
Day 1 110902 ready to roll out
Day 1 Whidbey to Cape Lookout
Day 1 110902
Departed on moto road trip from house in Oak Harbor, WA. Caught the 1200 ferry to Port Townsend. Rode out via 101 to McCleary and down to Astoria, was mostly in a hurry and didn't pay much attention to the scenery since I'd been this way before. Traffic not too bad but probably more than usual due to Labor Day weekend.
Oregon coast along HWY 101
Side trip through Canon Beach. Very tourist oriented would be nice vacation spot. Got dinner fixins at Tillamook and camped at Cape Lookout State Park on the coast. Camp sign said full but ranger had site available at the gate. Oregon is free camping for active duty military which should be the standard for the entire country. Got spot near beach and watched the sunset.
Sunset at Cape Lookout
Camp spot at Cape Lookout State Park
Ate dinner then watched the moonset at night over the ocean. Was cold enough for a fire so I paid the 5 bucks for a bundle of wood and got to justify bringing my axe. Nice to settle in with a warm fire and some ukulele tunes. Trip starting out pretty good.
Avg mph 44.1
Right on! Looking forward to the next installment.
Dad has subscribed. Looking forward to the next installment:D
He maybe a noob but one fast noob, had to bring my A game to keep up with him, must be all that mountain bike racing:wink:
Excellent, Great to see someone doing it right, research courses planning right gear for the job and so forth, now all you need to do is get out there and ride the wheels off her, oh and keep the RR comin :thumb.
Day 2 Cape Lookout OR to Crescent City CA
Day 2 110903
Got up about 0630. Had oatmeal and banana. Everything lots of dew and wet. Put tent away wet. Made a fire to warm up. Took a while to pack and get going. On road by about 0800. Stopped at Cape Lookout trail and decided to jog it for a a bit for photos. Secured gear and put tankbag in pod. Ran for about half hour out, got some photos at a nice viewing area and returned. Trail was nice and scenic over the ocean about 300 feet above sea level. There were many planked sections to run over which avoided large muddy areas. Nice trail.
Looking south from Cape Lookout
Back on the road by 1000. Rode out to 101 on less traveled road from Cape Lookout on twisty bumpy pavement. Back on 101 was good until Lincoln City which was very congested with lots of traffic and stop lights. Very slow going. Once past was nice going next to dunes and mostly flat out. Several interesting mini coves were seen.
Stopped in Yacholt for gas. Next section had fun twisties corkscrewing up a large bluff system gaining a lot of altitude above the ocean. Wide views to ocean and rock formations. Got stuck behind a motorhome and had to pull off to get a gap. Mostly fun when road ahead clear, spent a lot of time waiting for traffic gaps to hit the next series of corners. Nicest section of 101 through Oregon so far.
Continuing out through Coos Bay with no drama to speak of. Big industrial town that still serves a lot of wood product industries. Kept moving and stopped for food break at Bandon. Small tourist town with beach access. Ate at medium sized diner that had lame food and lame service. Was kind of hungry so didn’t matter.
Flying Pig Saloon and actual Flying Pig - blue with wheels
After break, motored south towards Brookings. Stopped somewhere around Samuel Boardman park and hiked a little towards the coastal trail for some photos above scenic sandy bluffs.
Continuing southe the weather changed at this point from nice and sunny to colder and super foggy. At Brookings could barely see 100 feet in front. Pretty thick fog. Stopped at Fred Meyer and got some dinner stuff. Motored on towards Crescent City and was concerned about getting to camp and setting up in damp conditions with the fog and all. However that concern was short lived because as soon as I got into California the sun came back out and all was good. Hit the 197 to Redwoods State Park but they were full. I got to the ticket window as they were closing. The ranger gave me a map and some other county park suggestions and then promptly stated “I’m closing now” and closed the window as I was sitting there on my moto. Gee thanks. So double backed and found the Ruby Van Deventner county park next to the Smith River had one spot left. A couple ex-flower child folks run the place. 15 bucks for a spot, not bad for California. They thought I was interesting on the bike with all my camp stuff, found it hard to believe I could fit all that “stuff” on the bike. Big redwoods all around and next to the river in a nice setting. Tent was still wet so had to lay everything out to dry for a while. Had soup and brocolli salad for dinner. Sacked out early.
Avg mph 47.3
Day 3 Crescent City CA to Fort Bragg CA
Day 3 110904
Up about 0600 to foggy morn. Oatmeal and banana again for breakfast. Packed a bit smarter and saved space in pod. Used port pannier for kitchen. Sleeping bag and pad fit in stbd pannier. On road by 0830. Rode up 197 to State Park again to get maps. Headed to Crescent City via 199. Had fantastic section of road twisting through redwoods. Short but fun.
Along HWY 199 near Crescent City
In Crescent City stopped at ranger station and looked at gazette map of California. Need to get one of those for trip planning. Headed out on 101 to coastal road near Klamath and Eel River.
Somewhere near Klamath
Rode rough road through alder and redwood grove towards ocean. North section was closed so had to turn around and head back to 101. Rolling on was nice and scenic through forest groves and open praries. Had section of road up and over a small pass was foggy and slow going. Saw spiritlike beams of sunlight streaming through the trees as I gained elevation, was a wow moment. Then shortly thereafter saw a car flipped upside down with state patrol on the scene. Buzzkill. Quickly forgot about it once I hit side road to Prairie Creek State Park area through huge redwood groves and lots of cornering. Good fun.
Babe and Paul at the Trees of Mystery Park
Met back on 101 at town of Orick. On the way saw huge herd of elk lounging on the beach side of the road near Humbolt Lagoons area. Don't see this everyday so stopped for photos.
Continued to Patricks Point State Park turnoff and coastal road. Road then followed contour of terrain above ocean cliffs. Very tight and rough sections. Great views though to rocky and sandy coastline.
Went to check out the park at Patricks Point but it required a fee for day use so I bailed out. Hit the town of Trinidad for lunch stop. Small touristy spot next to beautiful rocky cove. Met other moto couple waitng to be seated. We sat together and shared stories and talked about local rides. He rode a KLR and she rode an SV650. Nice folks and they even paid for lunch which was very generous. Figured since I’m travelling I needed a break.
After lunch headed down the coastal road again towards Houda Point. Found very rough conditions with several gravel sections and a lot of elevation changes. Strom did fine and stopped at Houda Point for some bouldering. Nice rocky beach area with many surfers enjoying the conditions in the light fog. Access to beach was via a small point and a long set of stairs that were actually poles lashed together with cable. Bouldering was good on generally sharp stone with limited access due to tides. Tide was low so was able to play on several problems until physically spent. Great area to hang out and blast your arms.
Poser bouldering Houda
Back to bike by about 1430. Continued to ride the 101 and generally hauled ass past the Arcata/Eureka area. Got gas in Fortuna. Then rode most of the Ave of the Giants hwy 254 which was fast and very scenic amongst the trees. Generally good pavement and several nice cornering sections through the trees.
101 from there was fast and wide open interstate with big sweepers. Turned off at Leggett to connect to the 1. Took a short pee break and then to the 1. From the get go, the 1 is a twisty banked delight of hundreds of corners canvassing beautify forest and high banked cliffs. Many slow to super slow corners to test the limits. Never rubbed anything but probably came as close as I ever have. Not much traffic so good fun. Several nervous parts and generally scary blind corners added to the intensity. Good for skills.
After endless corners borke out into open area next to ocean cliffs. Spectacular views through the fog. Road then pitched up again offering more hard cornering through the contours of the coastal terrain.
Up towards Fort Bragg, saw many tree lined sections like going through a tunnel. Amazing but having too much fun to stop and take any photos. Got to Fort Bragg about 1800. Got hotel at Ocean Side Inn. Lame place but had a shower which was sorely needed and a bed (slept on top of blanket inside sleeping bag, no tellin what's in those sheets). Ate in town at a Japanese restaurant which was pretty good but hot inside. Fantastic day.
Avg mph 45.7
Thanks for looking.
Day 4 Fort Bragg CA to Napa CA
Day 4 110905
Woke up to foggy wet morning. Roads were damp from drizzle. got coffee and pastries at the hotel lobby. Packed and got moving by 0830. Stopped and explored the Caspar area a bit looking for familiar areas from the Caspar, South Fork and Eastern railroad as described in the book "Mallets on the Mendocino Coast" by Ted Wurm. Found the site of the old sawmill and the “dog hole” bay that they loaded lumber on ships from. Very interesting industrial history in this area.
The "Dog Hole" where lumber was once hoisted across to sailing ships via cable
Little River area
Turned south and decided to explore some more. Hit the 128 east into another treat of redwood twisties. Had to pass several cars though so not as fun as could have been. Last day of Labor Day weekend so a lot of folks heading home and I was with the grain. Once things opened up a bit was nice and easy for a while just enjoying the scenery and the nice pavement. Eventually broke out into open plains and vineyards. Took road all the way to Booneville and then turned west bound on Mountain View Road. Very tight, steep and rough. Much fun and absolutely no traffic. Had many good turns and also many bumpy moments in the turns. Good training and great settings. Lot of situations where road dives down grade with turns in the middle. Not much room for error and excellent for training and concentration. Had to stop a few times to mentally calm down.
Mt View road
Mt View road
Road eventually dumped back towards the coastline and open bluffs to the 1 again near Point Arena. Heading south on 1 was scenic but very slow going with lots of slower traffic and not many passing areas.
HWY 1 near Point Arena
Stopped in Anchor Bay for a sandwich break at the general store. Nice little hippy-now-senior-citizen mart with expensive everything.
Continuing on 1 was a slow process with a lot of traffic heading towards bay area. Didn’t get to open it up too much on way down to Jenner. There was a big delay about 10 miles from Jenner on a spectacular section of road high in the cliffs. Would be a lot of fun with no traffic but I bet that is a rare day.
Cliff section of hwy 1 before Jenner
The road dropped down long switchbacks to the town of Jenner that looked really exciting. Had to hang with the tourists though so not so fun.
Stopped at Goat Rocks in the Sonoma Coast State Park for some bouldering. The boulders were nestled together in a single area along a long bluff high above the sea.
Could see for a long distance out to the coastline and the adjacent bluffs and cliffs. Not many trees around, just wide open expanses broken up by rock formations and gentle hillsides. Some other climbers were at the boulders but there was plenty for everyone. Tried a few problems and generally wore myself out. Fun moves on schist rock which was sometimes pretty sharp. Many polished sections for feet hard to stay on.
Spent a bit also just walking around, nice area to hang out and watch the birds and the sea. Watching the many vultures hovering around and slowly gliding through the breezes was mesmerizing. Was a very serene spot and definitely a place to return to.
Condor floating above the sea
Headed out via hwy 116 to Guerneville following the Russian River basin. Then side trip via Westside Road through several vineyards and a few curvy sections. Road was typical tight and not very well maintained - the way I like it. Nice views into grape fields with mountains beyond.
Popped out on the 101 and south to Winsor and took the Redwood Highway to Mark West Springs Road. Not bad but there was a fair amount of traffic to slow things down. Hit Calistoga and then back on hwy 128 east. Still plagued by traffic so just took it easy and enjoyed the views along the many vineyards, popped out my highway pegs and rode Harley Style. Sidestepped over to Silverado Trail road on the other side of the Napa River. Followed this all the way to town of Napa. Found camping area as described in bouldering book at Skyline Wilderness Park. 15 bucks and an open tent site no problem. Not many people there so easy camping. Camp area among foothills on outskirts of town. Had a cipher lock gate and fenced in all around so pretty secure considering the location. Met a guy camped with a guitar named Doug. Played some tunes and drank beer. Good way to end the day.
Avg mph 38.9
Nice pictures & report, keep it up!
I was thinking of doing a similar trip this winter, so its nice to have such a thorough report.
Now you see why I wanted you to write the RR:D:thumb:thumb
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