Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

The Edge of the Earth

There was heavy fog this morning in Coos Bay when I woke up at 7am – I couldn’t see the bike out in the parking lot.  When I posted a Facebook update stating that I was waiting for the fog to lift, Tony posted a comment that “Fog is code for waiting until the Highway 101 Harley Dealership opens up so you can buy a shirt.  I can read you like yesterday’s newspaper mister!”  Well, he was partially right.  It really was foggy, but it did allow me to stop by the shop and look for a shirt for the collection.  It’s a nice shop – all Harley dealers are it seems.  They had donuts and the shop guys were happy to see a fellow biker and to sit and talk for a while.  So while I lollygagged around and had a donut, the sun burned off more fog and I got a bit of a later start than I wanted to, but it was sunny and warm as I roared south on Highway 101 with the Alman Brothers “Ramblin’ Man” blaring in my headphones.
Heading out of town I saw a couple of election signs for a “Benetti” for Airport Commissioner – wonder if it’s the same guy from the restaurant last night.  If it is he gets my vote based on his wonderful food!  I just love riding with my feet up on the highway pegs in 5th or 6th gear, leaning into the curves – it feels almost like flying.

Heading down the coast I realized that the beaches on the West Coast are stark, steep, jagged and angry looking – the continent literally falls apart and ends while the sea rolls out to infinity. It’s almost like it’s the end of the earth.  It’s unlike east coast beaches where the continent just kind of slopes away like a swimming pool shallow end gets deep.   Rolling through the small town Port Orford, Oregon on 101 I was intrigued by a very large sign painted on a side road as 101 curved to the left:  “Ocean View” with an arrow pointing up the road.  Being on the bike and with no itinerary or schedule, I checked it out.  Sure enough!  A spectacular vista at the top of the hill that I otherwise would have missed.  I thank the mysterious highway painter – who I suspect did not work for Oregon DOT.The road continued to wind along the coast, with every turn bringing up yet another postcard view until it angled east a bit and I crossed the California state line.  Just like Tom Joad in “Grapes of Wrath” I had to queue up for an “Agricultural Inspection”.  I remember that from my younger days going to Southern California, but in this day and age?  Having no fruit to declare, I was allowed into the Golden State.

Highway 101 becomes the Redwood Highway in California, as it cuts through the Redwood National Park and Redwood State Parks, and I was looking forward to seeing some big wood.  First I had to stop for gas and a quick snack.  Once again the biker mystique invited conversation from total strangers.  This time it was an elderly lady waiting in an SUV with her little Pomeranian.  She leaned out the window as I was munching on a cookie and drinking Gatorade from an adult sippy cup (best thing invented for bikers – you can unscrew it with your teeth while riding and drink some and screw it back up and put it away without taking your throttle hand off, but I digress).  She observed “you are traveling alone”.  “Yes ma’am I am.”  “Are you going far?”  “Yes – to Nogales, Arizona and then back to Seattle.”  “Oh my, you must really like the freedom of being able to ride like that.”  “Yes ma’am I do, its one of the reasons I ride”.  “We travel a lot too”  “Where are you from?” I asked.  “”Here – we’ve been to Canada a couple of times – ever been to Niagara Falls?”  “No.”  “You have to go – it’s beautiful – I tell my sister she has to go.  I’d travel more, but I’ve got to fix up my house first – the roof is going to fall in….”  And on she went, telling me about her roof as I sat on the bike and ate my cookie.  Her husband finally came out and they drove off, she waved goodbye as did I.  You’d think little old ladies would be intimidated by leather clad bikers, but no.  And I’m glad she wasn’t.

After I filled my tummy I filled the tank.  Getting gas in California is almost as freaking complicated as getting it in Oregon.  In Oregon we are too stupid to pump it ourselves, so the state makes gas stations have someone do it for you.  In California they have complex nozzles that allegedly reduce pollution but mean you can’t fill up your tank on a bike.  It cuts off about a gallon, and on a 4 gallon tank, that means filling up more often. You can try to get more in by holding up the rubber doo-hickey with your hand, but it rarely works.  It’s frustrating to say the least – and I’ll be dealing with it for the next few days as I’m in California.   So with a partially full tank I headed off into the redwoods.  These huge trees are absolutely amazing.   I took about every side road I could in the park, just looking and marveling at the big trees.  I parked the bike next to one along side of the road just to compare the size.  It almost puts the “Big Logs” in each Washington town to shame.   Along with all the redwoods, comes lots of redwood roadside kitsch too.  Houses made out of one log, stumps with historic dates noted on them, trees you can drive through, giant Paul Bunyan’s, and more roadside chainsaw carvers than there are in Washington (only here they carve Sasquatches not bears and fishermen.)  All the same, it was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon, winding through the groves of these ancient giants.About 5pm I made it as far as Garberville, CA where I stopped for yet another partial tank of gas, I debated how far to go today. (Fortunately Harley makes a part to allow you to get a full tank – I got one at a dealer down the road a ways.) The sun was warm and it was gorgeous weather, but I worried about how far down the road I could get.  I talked with the waitress at the Subway shop inside the gas station and she said I should go to Ft. Bragg.  She said the road  and scenery were wonderful and I could make it there in 2 hours.  I looked at the map – it was only 58 miles.  I said that can’t be right.  She said “its very curvy, but I’m an old lady and drive like one, you could do it quicker.”   I was a bit apprehensive – Garberville looked like a cute town and there was a nice Best Western there.  But it was only 5:45pm – so I figured what the hell.

I have to say, this was the BEST part of the trip so far.  I’ve never been on such a fun and beautiful road as CA-1 into Mendocino County.  As I exited off Highway 101, the first thing I see is a sign indicating curves – with another sign saying “next 38 miles.  Those 38 miles had NO straight sections. Not a single one.  This was motorcycle heaven, and it took every ounce of concentration and muscle to get the bike down that road which looked like a can full of worms – and I loved every minute of it.  Unfortunately I was too busy to take any pictures!

Once over the mountains and back down to the coast, the landscape turned into Scotland.  I was amazed at how much the terrain and setting reminded me of Scotland and the bike trip Tony and I took back in 2005.  I rolled into Ft. Bragg and up to the Quality Inn at 8pm – just over two hours as she said.   I guess I ride like a little old lady too. 


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