West Coast Bike Trip
I had packed the night before and taken the Wolfman beta plus rear bag that resembled a mix between a duffel bag and small saddle bags. It was packed half with clothes, thirty percent camera gear, some food,water and some other things like maps and books. It would be all I have for the next 12 days and 4000 miles.
I left work and headed for the border, grabbing a few extra things along the way including some US currency to have a small amount in case of “cash only” situations or tolls.
The border agent was very inquisitive “no work today?” I refrained from slipping out “nope, sucker! 2 weeks of freedom and adventure ahead!” Instead I replied “no work today or for a few weeks” and explained my plans, or lack thereof before being allowed across the border.
The only plan I had was to get as close to the Oregon Coast as possible for tomorrow. Driving along the I5 was tedious and seemed to take forever, I made it as far as Vancouver….Yes Vancouver BC to Vancouver, WA. It was late, around 10:35pm when I arrived. I found a quality inn that had a bar right cross the parking lot and headed there before bed.
Early in the morning I had the included breakfast and headed for the coast. Once I made it through some heavy traffic by Portland and Salem OR the view and my mood improved. Now it was finally time to start enjoying this road trip.
The first stop along the coast was Lincoln City, I stopped into a Rite aid to get some maps to track my progress along the way. inside in the lineup a few guys asked about my bike and recommended an insanely great burger at Burger101 along the way south in Lincoln city. I had to stop into Jurassic the fossil store before heading to the beach and down the coast.
The Oregon coast deserves its own vacation, it is so incredibly beautiful. I made many stops but the most time I spent was at Bandon beach recommended to me by my friend Pedro back home. If you look at it on map you can see all these rock formations in the water and caves to explore.
After sunset I rode towards California to the Curly redwood lodge. Its made out of one redwood tree and was recommended to me as a nice inexpensive place to stay.
I made it to the lodge at 10:40pm, 20 minutes to spare before the office closed, I thought I was pushing it but a few people arrived later then I did that night.
In the morning I hit Fishermans across the street for a huge breakfast and took some time to figure out some sort of plan for the day.
After breakfast I packed the bike while talking with the neighbors and headed towards the redwoods. The morning started off pretty chilly so i ended up putting my rain gear on to block some of the wind. I got to ride through a tree and had someone take an expensive photo of the ground with my sx70 compliments of Polaroidie, check out her awesome vintage cameras here https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/Polaroidie
I thought the trees in British Columbia were big, but they have nothing in these redwoods. Riding through Redwood National park and the Avenue of giants was just incredible. You could just imagine being with pod racers ripping through the forest. The plan for the rest of the day was to get as close to San Francisco as possible because the next day was going to be a bit tight.
It was getting late so I stopped and had my first In and Out burger. I found this amazing little hotel called The Metro in Petaluma. I arrived late in the evening and was given the tour of the suite Id be staying in. Travelling during the week can have its perks when its not busy. The hotel had a great atmosphere with lots of knickknacks around and airstream trailers out back. I parked my bike in the parking lot and then headed to the fridge for a beer before going bed.
In the morning all the guests started coming downstairs for breakfast. They made crepes at 8am with jam and nutella along with a great cup of coffee. I chatted with the other travelers before packing the bike and taking off for the days adventures.
Ive been to San Francisco before but this is the first time I’ve driven across the Golden gate bridge before heading over to Lucas Film for a short visit. Got my photo taken at the Yoda statue and looked around for a little bit.
In the afternoon I met up with Brad from Motodemic to get a new windscreen installed on the monster. If you haven’t go check out there website, I really like the style and things they are doing to modify and customize motorcycles. This was the point that I tried my hand at splitting lanes. It was hot, I had a lot of ground to cover and there was an insane accident on the highway going east. (Someone had managed to get a Honda civic up and halfway over the center median as if they were trying to grind it on there like a skateboard.) Anyways it was totally fine, I’m now frustrated that I cant do it here in BC, it was safe and allowed me to get out of the heat, my hand is not killing me from holding in the clutch, people moved for me to go slowly by and no one crashed into the back of me while they were on their cellphones!
I made it over to motodemic around lunch time and we installed the short screen and he lubed up my chain to help with the amount of miles id be doing. Brad recommended checking out the roads around Alice’s restaurant South of San Francisco before heading to Monterey and Carmel by the Sea.
I headed back West towards the Coast going over a large toll bridge along the 92 to San Jose and then down to the 84 to Alice’s Restaurant. Along the first part I ran into Gary that ended up having lunch with me and showing me the way through the canyons and small towns. It was incredible, this ride was exactly what i was looking for from Alice’s to Santa Cruz it was nothing but clear windy roads, long sweepers and beautiful scenery. Gary would tell me a bit of history during short stops like how they tested bikes down the mountain in Santa Cruz.
From there it turned into very cold fog, I had to put my rain gear on again to stop shivering and focus on the rest of the ride to Carmel by the sea.
After unloading my stuff at the Carmel River Inn I hit the pool before retiring to bed.
Went to the beach before going to Katy’s for a unique breakfast, if you can tell this is my favorite meal of the day on the road. I had the Kauai Breakfast which had Pineapple eggs, Banana pancakes and Mango sausage.
Monterey was still covered in fog so I headed towards Big Sur, well as far as I could go because of the bridge being demolished and the washout. On the way back I was bummed to find out Motorcycles are not allowed along the 17 mile drive, wtf? So I went back into Monterey because the fog had lifted, got some coffee and checked out the area. I really like both Carmel and Monterey. When Big Sur opens again I’ll be back for sure.
Another fail was seeing Hurst castle because by the time i would actually make it there it would be closed by 4pm. I still went to Cambria and had supper. The goal for the rest of the day is to get as close to LA as possible to be at the Rock Store for breakfast in the morning.
I ended up staying in an overpriced motel in Santa Barbara. Everything was booked 40 miles in all directions, I was just happy to have a place to sleep with my bike parked right outside my door.
Got up around 6:30, packed the bike and headed to Mulholland hyw to get breakfast and ride some twisties. On the way I stopped by and saw some local bikes pulled over checking out the view for sunrise. Chatted for a bit and then met up with them later at the Rock Store. I had the biker breakfast, bought some shirts and hung outside talking to a few guys about bikes and their travels. Frank a retired cop told me to pick up some turtle maps and if I was heading to Joshua tree to check out Julien. A small town know for its orchards and apple pie. Another guy told me to check out the Latigo canyon run and Neptune’s net. Latigo canyon was insane, just check it out on a map, its tight. I didnt get to check out neptunes net though.
After riding the canyon it was time to meet up with Alex and drop off my stuff at his place where id stay for the next 2 nights. Thanks to him I’d escape some potentially expensive hotels around Los Angeles.
Now that the bike was lighter i left with just my camera bag to check out LA. I went to griffith park to see the observatory and the Hollywood sign. It was busy but with the bike I could split all the way up to the parking lot and they had a space for bikes to park for free! Another win for riding the bike in the city. After that I went to to meet my buddy Warren at the Santa Monica pier for sunset. We took some photos and then went for some food by the promenade. Santa Monica is one of the places I enjoyed the most around LA.
We had stayed out pretty late so by the time I got home Alex was ready for bed and I soon followed.
I woke up and went to Egg Slut for breakfast in Venice. This was on the way to Steves camera where I was dropping off a lens to have its focus looked at. After that I headed to Cosa VFX in LA to meet up with some colleagues, check out the LA office and head out for lunch.
I was going to check out the Getty after but its closed on Mondays so that will have to wait till another time so I headed back to Steve’s camera to pick up my repaired lens.
In the evening I went back to Venice to check out the beach and the skate park. I got some great photos of skaters launching themselves out of the bowl with the sunset in the background.
For supper I had to try one of these authentic LA tacos so I asked around and was told to check out El Cholo in Santa Monica. The food was big and delicious, I was going to go check out the observatory at night but my phone was starting to die along with my battery charger. At 1% I wrote down Alex’s number and the directions to get back to his place. I didn’t think this threw, I had a tinted visor on, it was getting dark, my phone died and Im in Santa Monica, on the other side of town from where I’m staying. The directions were not easy to remember and I had to pull over on the side of the highway using my headlight to read the instructions a few times, but I made it alive. I got to chill with Alex for a bit and did some much needed laundry before bed.
I cleaned everything up and packed the bike to continue down the coast. I stopped into the Ducati dealership and met up with Rick who had some great stories from around the area. I asked if they could live my chain and to my surprised they cleaned and detailed the bike for me. The guys out back of the shop told me to check out Angeles crest just off the next exit. There was a rock slide blocking access to the top but I didnt have enough gas in the tank to make it anyways. I got to enjoy the views and the ride for a bit before my gas light came on and I ended up cruising in neutral as far as I could back down pushing my luck all the way to the nearest gas station.
Before leaving the city I drove down to Hollywood Blvd and bought a shot glass to add to the collection. I didn’t even make it down the full drive before exiting for the hyw south. I had really enjoyed my short time in LA but it was enough. I was ready for smaller towns, and open roads.
I made it as far as Oceanside stopped at Denny’s and asked where I should stay or keep going. I’m glad they recommended the Motel 6 just down the street. It was actually really nice inside. They were renovating the main office so it looked really sketchy but they had a pool, the rooms were nice and big, they were close to the beach and it was $70. I got a room I could park close to and then headed to the beach.
The beach at Oceanside was beautiful and it had a long pier that I explored during sunset. I found this area where some rocks were washed up along the beach so I was taking photos of the water washing over them. While I was doing this a guy sitting up on the higher part of the beach asked what I was up to. Damien was from Palm Springs an area I was actually heading to after I reached the border of Mexico. We chatted about what we were doing in Oceanside, he was interested in what I do and I asked a little bit about Palm Springs and Joshua tree as we split a smoke on the beach over-looking the Oceanside pier. He was there to relax and just take in the Ocean view which I thought was an amazing idea. I realized I havnt been in the ocean at all so I went for a swim till it got dark and then checked out the long pier to Ruby’s diner at the end.
At the end of the night I hit the hot tub and pool back at the hotel before ending the night because tomorrow would end up being the longest day on this trip so far.
Breakfast was at the 101 Cafe with lots of coffee. After that I headed right for the border. I wanted to get as close to it without accidentally going over into Mexico. I would expect the border times would be very long and that would add more time then I had to make it to Joshua tree. I went to Border Field State park and was met with a closed gate. Apparently they usually let you ride right up to the Bluff but not on weekdays. I had to walk in I learned after meeting Katie whom just returned from the hike in. She told me “Its about a 15 minute hike in to the bluff, do you have water with you?” That hadn’t been a concern until now for most of my trip. She looked around in her car and found a spare bottle that she gave me. She knew I would need it, and I did. After this I always kept at least a liter of water packed on the bike. I walked to the Bluff and before I got back to the gate I had finished the bottle of water and wanted more.
I was going to go back into San Diego on the way to Joshua tree but decided I didnt have enough time and wanted to get to Joshua tree by sunset. I felt bad about skipping San Diego until I made it off the highway and back on to twisty country roads. The ride around Julien was incredible, I pushed the bike pretty hard having some fun through the mountain passes and tree lined roads. I stopped just before Julien at the Lake Cuyamaca Restaurant for some Apple pie, Ice Cream and Coffee. It was so good even though i had to eat and run.
After coming out of the mountain passes the road turned into long straight desert roads going off into the distance. Something about that makes you want to ride faster so I did. I was riding so fast that I felt the road start to wobble a bit and thought “Was the heat so bad out here it melted and warped the roads?” Nope, my tire had a hole in it and it was losing air fast, in the middle of the desert without much water left. As long as I kept moving fast the tire was being plugged as it pressed against the pavement so I pushed on. I came to a stop and the tire deflated. Just across the street was a border station that I rolled my bike into so I could find some help. They allowed me to roll the bike around back and fill the tire up to see how bad it was. It was bad and he didn’t have anything to patch it with so we called a tow truck that was about an hour away. While I sat waiting for the tow truck another Border guard walked past and introduced himself wondering what was wrong with the bike? After I told him about the tire Ernie said “Let me see what I can do” and disappeared behind the station. A few minutes later he came back with some tools and a tire repair kit. The one thing I didnt pack after a friend mentioned it before my trip, the one thing I needed to get out of the middle of nowhere. We tried to plug it a few times but the hole was just too big. Ernie came back and said to try two patches at once with a lot of liquid cement, this looked like it could work if I could get them to push into the tire. I had my gloves on using both hands to get this thing in and then one of the guys came over and easily pushed it through with one hand. What a way to emasculate a guy, I felt weak but I blame it on the long day Ive had. The patch worked and had sealed the tire so I could continue to Joshua tree and get the tire replaced in the morning. I was suppose to be there by 8pm but now it was already 930pm and i still had over 80 miles left to drive.
I made it to josua tree at just past 11pm but the last road to Hicksville was a dirt road, scratch that a sand road. “Whatever throw it all at me today, lets do this.” I said and pushed on. You know what? It was totally worth it, Joshua tree surprised me and I ended up staying an extra day so I could really take it in. I stayed in this airstream trailer that was themed. The one I stayed in was called The Sweet, and it was just that. Outside the pool was open all night, the jukebox cranking some old rock music. I relaxed in the pool for a bit staring up at the stars, the milky way was so visible it was an incredible way to end the day.
First thing on the agenda was to get my tire replaced, I called the local shop over coffee to make sure I they had a suitable tire and hit the pool before heading into 29 palms.
I took the bike to Desert Cycles and went to get breakfast at Andrea’s just down the street. By the time I finished they called for me to come get the bike. I went to pay and someone had paid my bill. I think they must have known I was about to spend over $300 for a tire that I didnt expect. I walked back to Desert Cycles in the unbearable heat and took cover back at Hicksville with pools and air conditioning, oh and beer.
In the evening I headed to keys view to catch sunset over Joshua tree where you could see all the way into Mexico.
Then it was off to eat supper and check out the music at Pappy and Harriet’s. I was told to try the chili so the waitress said to add it as a side to my order. I should have known the chili would be enough for the entire meal. First they came out with chips and salsa and then after a few songs the main feast arrived. Johnny black on the rocks, half chicken, steamed broccoli, and the chili. I ended up staying later then I wanted to because the music and food was so good.
When I arrived back at Hicksville I turned on the music, cracked a few beers and relaxed for the rest of my last night in Joshua tree.
In the morning I grabbed a coffee and jumped in the pool one last time before packing up the bike. On the way out of town I stopped at the Coyote Corner Gift Shop. When I walked in the door the girl at the counter threw me off by saying “You know you are just throwing salt in the wound right?” I had no idea what she was talking about, I didn’t know what to say until she continued with “I have a monster as well, but its sitting in pieces while I wait for parts to arrive.” After talking bikes and the trip I looked around the store and finally found some interesting things for my family back home.
I was starting to run out of room in my bag so I had to make a stop at the post office and ship the gifts home before continuing towards Mono Lake. I stopped at Cafe 247 along hyw 247 to get out of the heat and grab a shake and sandwich. The landscape changed as I went by death valley, up through lone pine and Mammoth. The View from Lone pine was really unique seeing the desert hills with snow capped mountains right behind them. I ran into another traveler right as I rolled into the gas station running out of gas. Almost running out of gas seemed to be the theme of the day as there were few gas stations along the desert landscape.
I made it an hour before sunset but the last part or the road had to be dirt down to the parking lot. The structures coming out of the water were something Ive never seen before, if you have not been you should definitely go check them out. I was taking some photos when this lady showed up with her 3 boys carrying a raft down to the water. She headed into the water with her camera while her boys tried to figure out their raft. Well within minutes the kids started screaming in pain, they must have stepped on the sharp rocks under the surface of the water. They screamed “I hate this place, I want to go home, I hate this lake.” It didnt seem to faze her at all as she kept wading through the water taking photos.
I moved on and continued to take photos with other local photographers till dusk. Then I went back to the parking lot and decided I better find a place to stay for the night. Nothing was available for quite a few miles in either direction. A few places had one room left but they were expensive and had something strange about them, like its the most expensive room left, or it has shared bathrooms. I ended up finding a place with a trailer for rent and reserved it as I was sitting on the side of the highway in the dark. It was about an hour away in Bridgeport at the Redwood Inn, the gentleman at the counter was an avid motorcycle rider as well and had owned a few Ducati’s in the past.
In the morning I went across the street to 1881 cafe to have breakfast and a coffee. When I went to pay I found some stickers from the Coyote gift shop that had been given to me yesterday. The girl at the gift shop had mentioned a lookout over mono lake that had a bunch of stickers on the guard rail. I promised to put one on there and take a photo but trying to catch sunset and a place to stay left me with no time to do it. Courtney at the coffee shop said she always drove past there everyday and would be happy to do it. So I gave her one of the stickers and asked if she could take a photo of it for me.
I crossed into Nevada and had lunch at a Diner in Reno, it was a shame that I didnt have enough time to check out Reno or Vegas on this trip. In Kalamatha falls I got some gas and I always just say $10 of 92 or 91 and fit in as much gas as the tank will hold then drive off. This time the lady came out with my change for the fuel I didnt pump from $10. So either this was a mistake or Ive been giving tips to all the gas station attendants along my trip.
I arrived on the west side of Crater lake around 7pm just before sunset and talked to a guy taking photos who told me if I went back down I could get around to the east rim. So I jumped on my bike and hightailed it out of there for a better spot to catch sunset. In about 20 minutes I reached a lookout where you could walk down the mountain a bit and get a panorama view of the crater. I heard some laughing and voices in the distance so I walked down to see where they were. When I reached the bottom I found a group of friends playing cards and relaxing with the most amazing view. I said “It looks like you found the best spot here!” and later I hit them up to take a photo of me with my polariod camera.
I watched sunset and took a few more photos until this guy showed up, stood right in front of me looking out at the view with his arms stretched out as he said “This will be perfect!” Then he turned around and introduced himself as Brett the surgeon. Well as I would find out later talking about our trips he had just sold his motorcycle after being so close to the other end of a motorcycle accident and by having to see it first hand I don’t blame him. He was coming down to take photos of the stars later tonight and this was indeed the perfect spot.
After trading info I hoped on my bike and headed for Medford cause everything near Crater Lake was booked for the night. I was racing down the mountain, the roads were amazing and I was flying around a turn when I thought, “this cant be a 45 or 50 zone its too nice” and before I could finish that thought I car that was passing flashed its highbeams. So I checked to make sure mine were off. After I finished the turn the speed limit sign read 25mph and these bright highbeams came up behind me. I was freaked, did I upset someone and now they were going to run me off the road? Then suddenly the police lights came on and I pulled over. The police officer came out of the car saying I clocked you at 24mph over the limit? I proceeded to let him know it was not intentional and I wasn’t out here racing or causing mischief. I saw the sign after the turn which surprised me so I slowed down. After after checking my info and cutting me a break he told me to be careful because there were obviously animals on the road and campers everywhere. Doing the speed I was in that park could have coast me coming back into the US and in short it wasnt the smartest thing I had done the whole trip. I kept my speed as close to the limit as I could the rest of the way.
It took me about an hour and a half in the dark to get to the Red Carpet inn in Medford, OR. I grabbed a room, unpacked the bike and grabbed some quick food before calling it a day.
Woke up to construction earlier then I wanted to in the morning. This ended up being the longest and most uneventful day of the trip. I was done sight seeing and just wanted to get home but it was about a 10 hr drive to get through most of Oregon, all of Washington, across the border and back home to Vancouver. Every time I stopped it just added more time, it went from arriving at 8pm, to 10pm and then after my phone died and I couldn’t find gas stations with attendants at them I started to worry if I could get home tonight at all. You see in the states they require a zip code to authorize the visa card to be used at the pump. This makes it really hard at 10pm and later in the night to get gas, and when i only get 200kms / tank its a big problem. But I found one and continued to the border, had no issues at all the rest of the way and ended up home at 2am. It was a long ride but the experiences I got to have on this trip were totally worth every bit of it.
If you enjoyed this please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. Im trying to build a better formula for these type of posts but I also wouldnt want to take away the raw nature of just going on a trip like this without much of a plan. I think that invites a bit more adventure and opens you up to see the unexpected and meet people you may otherwise not have. Thank you for reading, ride safe, ride long.