The anticipation had been building for weeks. I would like to say so had the preparations, but that would be wrong. For some reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to check my kit. Yeah, ok, I am packed year round. However, I would normally spend as much time going through my packs as I would planning the trip. Nope, not this time. In spite of the excitement of my annual trek to Motorcycle Mecca, I found myself procrastinating over the simple tasks.
My plans for this year were large, however. Run up the Pacific Coast Hwy through San Francisco, 101 through the Redwoods into Oregon, and shoot through Crater Lake to Bend, Oregon. From there, I would trek through Idaho into the West Gate of Yellowstone, ride the Beartooth into Montana, and drop down into Sturgis. Five days in Sturgis, I would exfil (leave) down the CanAm Hwy into Denver to see an old buddy, and then ride over the Loveland Pass into Durango, across Arizona to Williams, and then race the devil winds in the desert home. Just about 6,000 miles in two weeks, averaging 430 miles a day. Yeah, for this I was excited.
I was going to get back to the root of my riding. Going solo, I would boondock the trip, staying in the National Forest and BLM lands the whole trip. This would truly allow me to get back in touch with my true love, the Grey Lady, and the wind that surrounds here.
Now granted, I am fully versed in the follies of planning, and the perils of not planning well. That said, I was surprised when my buddy Rob announced over beers that he wanted to come with me. Now don’t get me wrong, Rob is former military, twenty years my junior, and a squared away guy. But he rides an 883 Sportster with no windshield. The bike is fine, it was his ass I questioned!
Rob quickly got just as excited as I about the trip, although he too had trepidation about his Sportster. I found myself defending the proud little ride, but what he should have been doing is listening to his friends. They all fairly warned him, “Don’t make this ride with Coach. He will kill you!”
Oils changed, bolts tightened down and loctited, my big Pearl stood under the awning with full packs, ready to hit the road. I had worked the night before, and would be heading out on my first day with only 4 hours of restless sleep. Turned out Rob was in similar condition, having gone out to party one last time in town before the big ride. Stupid kids!
The air in the southland was warming quickly as we made our way down the 210 freeway towards Ventura. Traffic was light this Sunday, and we sped down the diamond lanes with great anticipation.
And then all of a sudden in Thousand Oaks, Pearl was laboring to get down the highway. I quickly checked my gauges, and found the speedometer was no longer working. Damn it, the speedo sensor must have gone bad.
Now I know what you are thinking. “Yeah, so what, you have a tach, right”? Well, on these fuel injected monsters, the speedometer feeds data into the fuel management system that controls the fuel into the injectors. Now my Pearl is running way to lean, stalling at stops, and generally running way too hot.
We stopped at a couple of Harley dealers along the way checking for the part, but none had one in stock. The run up the coast was beautiful, but laced with anxiety about my Pearl, it was bittersweet.
But the ride. Through Ventura, and out to the coast, it was nice. As much as I love the ocean, I often wonder why I don’t live closer to it. But then again, there is a price to pay for such accommodations, and I am not interested in trading away some of my freedoms for the privilege.
Our first destination would be Big Sur. I knew of an area that would be perfect to start this trip out on the right foot. We raced up the Pacific Coast Highway, marveling at the cliffs and the ocean, and the seeming marriage of the two. Come about 2:00, Rob began the first of traditions that would last throughout the trip.
As we passed through a town on the Pacific coast Highway south of Big Sur, Rob motioned me over into a parking lot along the coast, and motioned that he was thirsty. Yeah, ok, a beer sounds kind of good right now. Turns out this would become our daily routine, as Rob would use this time to rest his ass. But that is ok, as this would turn out to be a tradition with benefits!
After about an hour and a couple beers, rob took a deep breath and saddled up once again. Away we rode to our first destination, Big Sur.
Deep in the cypress and redwood trees of the cliffs of Big Sur, I pulled us into the parking lot of a market/diner/pub that I had been to before. As we pulled in and parked in the back of the lot next to a creek, we noticed that there were some hippies sitting on a knoll by the creek. Hell, they look like they know the lay of the land. “Hey, you guys know of a place where we can roll out a couple of bedrolls for the night?” After carefully checking us out for what seemed a good five minutes, one of them spoke up. “Yeah, man. There is a private strip of land between this parking lot and the neighboring campground. You can park your bikes in the back of this lot and crash there.” Cool!
That done, off to the Irish Pub for some beers and a sandwich! But don’t you know the night didn’t end there.
Bedrolls layed out, we were about crashed when a hippie came strolling down the hill into our makeshift camp with his flashlight and a growling dog. “Hey man, get that light out of my eyes”, I said! “What” was his response?
“I said, get that light out of my eyes!”
As he turned and retraced his steps up the hill, we heard him respond back, “Don’t tell me what to do”. Yeah, call us “Latch” if you must, but that line became our constant banter for the rest of the trip.
Morning came, and the sun found us racing up the coast through Carmel on the coast, on our way to San Francisco. My poor Pearl was still running poorly, and starting harder than ever.
I have heard it said that Mark Twain once said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” He never really said that, but the statement is true just the same.
It wasn’t that it was particularly cold, but the salty sea air seamed to permeate our leathers and bite right to the bone. We couldn’t seem to get enough layers on. Then, just when you seem to go numb, the road turns inland and temps over 100 degrees. Quickly pull over, strip down all our leathers and layers, and get comfortable.
Damn it, wouldn’t you know that this would last less than 20 miles, and the road would once again wind back into the coast. Once again, we had to pull over and don all our gear to keep from freezing. This happened two or three times, until we finally connected with the 101 into San Francisco. And there she was, Dudley Perkins Harley Davidson, my oasis in the desert.
Dudley Perkins has to be the most beautiful Harley dealer I have ever been in. When you first go in the door, there on individual shelves on the wall stands one of each motor ever made by Harley-Davidson. As you proceed up the stairs to the second floor, the showroom and parts are stand on old hardwood floors. Throughout the store are displayed many of the old models of Harley-Davidson’s, filling your senses with nostalgia.
I took my time taking this all in before marching to the parts counter and asking for the speedometer sensor that my Pearl so badly needed. “Hmm, we don’t show any in stock; let me go check the shelves”. My heart sank a little more at the thought of continuing to abuse poor Pearl this way, when the service manager reappeared with the part in his hand. “Eureka! We have found gold!”
Now I know this part has to go on the transmission, but I just couldn’t see where. Back inside to look at the exploded view in the catalog, and then it dawned on me. It is under the starter. Damn it! I will have to remove the starter! Well, I have the tools and the ability, so away I went to my task in the parking lot of Dudley Perkins Harley-Davidson.
It didn’t take too long to pull the starter, change the sensor, and reinstall the starter. 60 miles down the road as the computer reset itself with the new data, Pearl was her old self again. Damn, let’s kick this run in the ass!
Now, I hate to cross political lines in my tales, but this has always bothered me. I don’t care if your persuasion is for the opposite sex, or the same sex. That’s your business. But why do Gays feel it necessary to parade and demonstrate what they privately do to one another in public? Heterosexuals don’t do that! But as we crossed into San Francisco, here they are on nearly ever street corner and marching up and down the main street. Geez, get a room!
We rolled on our throttles through the vineyards and rolling hills towards Willits, and the giant redwoods. The air was warm, and there was a slight breeze as we cruised along the two lane Highway 101. I love the redwoods, ad rob had never seen them before. Our spirits soared as we began to increase in elevation into the hills.
After our new traditional stop, we rolled into the redwood National forest and found ourselves a great little state campground. Now if you ever stay the night in one of these campgrounds, please be aware of the rules. If you come in late, the manager is no loner there for the night. Fill out one of the envelopes, and deposit $35 for the night. Exact change only. If you do not have exact change, you can square away with the manager in the morning. They come on at 9:00.
We had neither exact change, and we left at 6:00. Oh well, catch us on the next one.
The giant redwoods thrive on the summer fog that settles in on these coastal mountains. And they are quite dramatic. We rode through them in awe as we rode the twisty’s on our way to Eureka and Crescent City.
I am sure that it was only because of the recent tsunami’s that have earned such a prominent place in the recent media, that we found the constant signs for long stretches of road alerting us that we were in a tsunami no-man’s land. Climb to safety, hell! In the event of a tsunami, we would quickly become floaters in a sea of shit!!
We rolled through the giant redwoods, and crossed into a long string of twisty’s that were lined with giant redwoods and ferns so thick that they were sculpted along the roadside as we curved through the mountains. Bicyclists were everywhere, mostly looking like they fully enjoyed the riding… right up until they had to peddle up that long 7% grade. Yeah, I will keep the Harley, thanks!
We had already seen so much, and then we witnessed the plight of our neighbors in this terrible economy as we sped by squatter’s camps and numerous transients (in the last depression, referred to as hoboes). My heart goes out to them, while knowing that I could be just one paycheck away from joining them. Rob asked me why we see so many more in Northern California then we do in Southern California. Hell, that’s easy. Because the snobs in Southern Cali run them off! Sad what we do to our brothers and sisters!
But this is not the end of the story, as we rolled on through the redwoods into Oregon. Pick us up in the next article, “Tail Winds to Sturgis 2012”.