OMG you guys! California has it all, beaches, mountains, breweries, wineries the list goes on. Beyond a couple of work trips to Lake Tahoe I haven’t really been to California for quite a while and I didn’t know what I was missing. Check it out…
The drive through L.A. was one of my biggest concerns on this trip because the traffic is world-famous for being absolutely awful and the drivers have a reputation of being rude. I planned my departure midday to avoid the major traffic jams and it worked great aside from a few backups but it could have been faster if I was willing to split lanes like every other motorcyclist in the state. My destination was San Luis Obispo or SLO if you’re cool. SLO is a really cool college town with lots of small bars and restaurants and a great main street. I stayed at the Hostel Obispo and I would highly recommend it, the staff was very nice and it was cozy and clean. The SLO brewing company is so nice that it was established twice, something about the first owners running it into the ground then some company investing a bunch to bring it back to glory, anyway It’s a cool spot and they had 35 cent wings for happy hour. I only had one night in SLO so I didn’t experience much but from what I saw it had a fantastic vibe.
The drive I was most looking forward to on my entire road trip was on the Pacific Coast Highway 1 from SLO to Monterey. About 5 miles out of town the oil light comes on, the engine dies and I find myself parked just beyond the gate to the California Mens Colony which is a fancy term for prison. The bike started right back up but with a new horrible knocking sound. After a few calls my best option was to go to the local honda dealership where they agreed to take a look at my bike but they didn’t have any time to service it. The tech looked at it and gave me a diagnosis of something out of alignment but he was confident that I could make it to Portland where I intend to sell my motorcycle, crisis averted and back on the road. The 135 mile drive from SLO to Monterey is one of the best drives on the earth, I’ve determined it must be the sight of every oceanside car commercial ever. Highway 1 snakes along the coast with a little elevation gain along the way and on the relatively short drive there are lots of sights to see just off the road including the Elephant Seal Beach, Julia Peiffer Burns State Park and the Bixby Canyon Bridge. The views on the drive were transcendent, the road was curvy and and fun all the way and I stopped about 20 times to see the views. The photos speak for the beauty of this drive better than I could put it into words.
After my great drive on the Pacific Coast Highway I arrived in my next stop, Monterey. The town of Monterey is great… in theory. It’s oceanside, they have a brewery and the weather is nice but I thought most everything sucked except for the aquarium. Cannery Row was just down the street from the hostel and it had a super touristy vibe, some expensive dining options and a bunch of souvenir shops. The local brewery had the best menu/beer selection but it was really expensive, I would have been better off cooking in the hostel kitchen, lesson learned. The Monterey Bay Aquarium on the far end of Cannery Row was the saving grace of Monterey, they had a great facility and super friendly staff and I felt like a kid when I got to see them feed the 20,000 sardines in the open sea exhibit. That’s it for Monterey, I had a schedule to stick to and I was happy to leave this boring town.
My tagline of “Flip out and see where things lead you” is something I try to follow and my small detour to Capitola Beach showed me how important it is. With some short notice I went a little out of my way to meet up with my friend Jessi from my days working in the corporate office, we chatted on the beach and caught up, it was great to connect with a friend that I was not expecting to see on my travels and relax on the beach. After the beach it was on to Oakland in Friday evening traffic, YIKES! Just as I was getting into the Bay Area traffic jammed up to a stop and I finally had enough, I was ready to split lanes. With complete focus I was off, splitting cars, trucks, SUVs, busses and semis for what seemed like miles, it was a little scary but actually kinda fun. I even started a small traffic jam of my own because I was so slow at lane splitting that motorcycles were queuing up behind me, oops. The next thing I knew I was in Oakland, my destination for the weekend.
Oakland/SF/Bay Area has tons to offer. San Fransisco has all of the tourist trappings you could ever want and a hefty 14% lodging tax on rates above $30. If you would like to visit on the really cheap I would recommend booking at one of the hostels that offers $29.99 dorm lodging, that is about as cheap as it can get unless you couchsurf. My weekend took a shotgun approach at seeing the area, Haight & Ashbury has some historical significance but I’m not sure what that is, it does have some funky shops and lots of interesting characters/hobos. Golden Gate park is not near the Golden Gate Bridge like one would expect but it is home to the California Academy of Sciences Museum and it’s bad ass. Jay and I wondered around the Museum for hours and he even had the foresight to bring some road beers, drinking in a museum, yes please. They sell beer museum cafeteria but we didn’t know that and our beers tasted much better because they were clandestine beer, the best kind. When you leave the city that is where the fun begins, the Bay Bridge is a ticking time bomb and you just hope that there is not an earthquake while crossing it like 1989 when part of the upper deck fell. Oaktown as some people like to call it is pretty rad, at least the area where I stayed in the Jack London district.It’s a fairly quiet area with a bunch of bars and restaurants, my favorite of which is Heinolds First and Last Chance, a bar that was opened in 1883 and it now has a very noticeable slant after surviving the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, also they are dog friendly. We visited some other bars in the area but I was so engulfed in conversation and beers that I failed to take notice of their names, rest assured they were good and cheaper than SF.
Getting even further out of town Jay, Sarah and I traveled north up the coast to the Sunset Boulders and Goat Rock for some rock climbing. Having never climbed outside of a rock gym I settled into my role as the photographer for the day while Jay and Sarah climbed the rock face, Jay offered me the chance to climb and I thought, “see where things lead you” so I slapped on the harness threw on the climbing booties and started up the face. After a few rest breaks and lots of coaching from Jay I summited the 30 foot peak like a boss. Sitting on top I took in the views and the moment, thinking “How did I end up here? This is awesome!”, it was a walk-off, I was done climbing and I went back to being the photog. I never would have thought that hanging out in a pile of boulders would be so fun. On the way back to Oakland we treated ourselves to a mexican seafood fiesta over some cold beer. Another great day down and the Bay Area has thoroughly impressed me with the variety of options around.
From Oakland to Portland I don’t have any friends so I turned to Couchsurfing.com to help me along my way and so I could make some new friends. I had no idea that I was in for another beautiful drive from Oakland to Ft. Bragg. Driving over the Richmand/San Rafiel Bridge, amazing, driving past San Quention, Johnny Cash amazing, Sonoma, hot as balls amazing, the windy road to the coast, redwood amazing. After all of that amazingness, I was not impressed by Ft. Bragg, it was kinda bla. I couchsurfed with Liam who is in woodworking college there and we had a chill evening of a few beers at North Coast Brewing Co and we watched the sunset at Glass Beach. On from Ft Bragg to Crescent City where I had to get a hotel because there were no couchsurfing hosts near, more fantastic winding roads through enormous redwood trees. I said a heartfelt farewell to California and made my way to Eugene, OR.
After a boring drive along Interstate 5 in Oregon I was pulling into Eugene about 4 miles from my destination when my bike stops moving at a stop light so I pushed it out of the street into a nearby apartment complex, a ghetto apartment complex. My phone dead, my bike dead and there was no one around so I waited. After about 15 minutes a nice woman drove up and she agreed to let me charge my phone if I helped her bring her groceries in, she knew how to negotiate and I felt it was a fair trade. My phone was charging inside and I went back out to get my pack and inspect my bike. I noticed that the chain popped off and I had no idea that that was even possible on a motorcycle. I popped the chain back on and thanked my host and I was back on the road. In Eugene I couchsurfed with AJ where he and his girlfriend took me out to dinner at Laughing Planet Cafe, dessert at VooDoo Doughnuts then we hung out back at home over beers and talk of olympic speed walking. Again another short stay in a town I would like to visit again.
From Eugene it was a short ride to my aunt & uncles house in Camas, WA just outside of Portland. My plan here is to clean up my bike and sell it on Craigslist. At first when planning this trip I foolishly thought that I would ride the whole way but I now feel like that the California coast was good enough for my bike route and I don’t fee like driving a pretty boring 2200 miles to Chicago so I’ll just take the train.
Every step on this journey I keep having moments where I realize what I’ve accomplished so far. To date I’ve traveled 2200 miles solo on my 30 year old bike known as the crop duster, I’ve traveled nearly the entire west coast of the U.S., I’ve reconnected with old friends and made new friends and most importantly I’ve been uncontrollably smiling the entire time. If you’re reading this and wishing to get out and travel, it’s all out there waiting for you and there is no better time than now to start your escape plan be it for a long weekend or an undermined amount of time.