Friday, July 30, 2010

Two Weeks of Riding the Coast

A few months back while discussing our 2010 road schedule with Adam of Twisted Throttle (not to be confused with our own Adam), he had asked me if I would be interested in doing some riding with him between BMW MOA Rally and MotoGP since they are in consecutive weekends.  I was hesitant initially because by doing so, it would mean away from the office for about two weeks while the office is on skeleton crew because of the two events.  As time went by, I started to convince myself that time away from the office will be good for me and this would be a good opportunity to do some good riding instead of my usual fastest route to and back from events because of time restrictions.  Finally in the Spring, after working out the logistics and a general itinerary with Adam, the ride was on!

Day 1: Santa Monica to Sacramento

I left Santa Monica around mid-day after spending a few hours in the office in the morning.  I did take the boring route of I-5 all the way up to Sac.  Nothing too exciting on the ride, except I did haul ass as traffic was light.  Did encounter a few CHP's along the way but no real saves.  I got to Sac in the late afternoon and hung out and spent the night at one of my good buddies from college, who, btw, had just passed his MSF course a week ago and is about to join our two-wheeled fraternity.

Day 2: Sacramento to Bend

After a satisfying and unexpectedly long breakfast at the historic Tower Cafe, I left Sac for Central Oregon.  While getting gas at Red Bluff, CA, I ran into three guys on a motorcycle trip.  The three guys were all from the Sac area and they were going to do some back road riding in the Trinity-Six Rivers-Klamath Forests.  They asked me if I'd like to join them.  It was really tempting, but unfortunately I HAD to be in Bend that night so I turned them down.  The ride to Bend was uneventful on I-5 until I got past Redding, then the scenery started to change for the better as I approached the Shasta region.  I then cut over to US-97 and made it to Bend in the early evening.

Days 3 & 4: Working the BMW MOA Rally

Since my motel was in Bend, about 20 miles away from Redmond where the rally was and my only mode of transportation was the bike, I had to ride to and back from the rally.  The speed limit around town in Oregon is 55 everywhere, even on the highways, so it made it really easy to go faster than you are supposed to.  The first morning on my way to MOA, as I was approaching Redmond where the freeway portion of US-97 was coming to an end, my TPX started going off on K band.  Even though there were a couple of shopping centers right up the road and it could've been a false-positive, I immediately slowed down to 55 and started looking around to see if there are any cops around.  Better safe than sorry.  Sure enough, about half a mile later, I see a cop pulling over someone on the opposite direction.  Not a save, but it's always good to know when cops are around.

On Saturday night, as I was filling up my bike at a gas station, I ran into Tim R. and Marcus L. of Seattle, whom I had a conversation about the TPX, tickets, and bikes in general just the night before at the motel lobby.  We talked about our riding itineraries and found out that we were all heading out to Seattle the next day and they knew some back roads worth checking out and invited Adam and I to come along.  I checked with Adam to make sure he was okay with it over a fantastic dinner dinner at Deschutes Brewery.  The decision was easy; locals showing us the back roads can't go wrong!

Day 5: Bend to Vancouver via Seattle

Pee break in Yakima.
We met up at the crack of dawn and hit the road with Tim and Marcus.  Since I'm the one equipped with the TPX and the Laser Jammer prototype, they decided that I should lead.  Not a problem, that's what a guy with a radar detector should do anyway.  We started on US-97 through Oregon, a relatively scenic highway, desolate at parts.  We opened up at parts and made it to the Oregon-Washington border in pretty good time. After a short breakfast break, we were back on the road.  We got to Yakima and then hit up highway 821 along the river.  Tim was initially concerned with the traffic on 821, but it turned out to be of no concern at all.  The traffic was light, probably because we were there pretty early in the day.  821 is a great road with numerous unobstructed sweeps.  It is also on 821 that I pulled a bone-head move that could've gotten me a pretty fat ticket.  We had gotten stuck behind a RV and I was looking for an opportunity to pass.  Since I'm leading the group, I usually wait until a stretch where I think the entire group could pass.  For some reason, I didn't do that.  Instead, I passed on a double yellow with a blinding turn just ahead.  It was totally safe me to do so, except there happened to be a Washington trooper coming in the opposite direction, which I didn't and couldn't see until I had passed the RV.  Instantly, I thought to myself "shit, I'm going to get pulled over."  I kept on looking at my mirror, expecting the trooper to make an U-turn, but the trooper never did!  I got lucky, real lucky.

After 821 we got on I-90 to head into Seattle.  We did pick up a few state troopers along the way, including unmarked troopers, but no real saves.  There was one almost save, as we picked up an unmarked trooper from about half a mile out, but we weren't really going that fast at the time.

I-90 was an awesome interstate.  It was scenic and had numerous sweeps, and it was an interstate experience unlike anywhere else.  We did get stuck in traffic and it sucked not being able to split lanes, but it was a good stretch nonetheless.  I also opened up during this stretch when I thought it was safe to do so and I think both Marcus and Tim were pretty happy to be able to use the upper-bands of their BMW's.

At Triple XXX Rootbeer.
We finished our ride at the famous Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive In and parted ways.  Tim and Marcus rode home, Adam went to see his aunt in the Seattle area, and since I had the rest of the afternoon to myself, I rode to Vancouver, BC, to see a friend.

On my way up to BC, the TPX registered what I thought was the only true save of the trip.  I don't remember exactly where I was, but it was in Northern Washington, not too far from the border.  I was zipping along pretty good, when the TPX went off with a weak Ka.  Instinctively, I let go of the throttle.  The road was undulating but I could still see pretty far ahead and I didn't really see anything up the road.  The Ka then went away.  A few seconds later, Ka came back on, then went away.  Hmmm, looks to me like either the Ka is coming from far, far away, or a cop using instant-on up the road.  Sure enough, about three-tenth of a mile later, I was approaching a slight uphill and right when I was about to crest the hill, Ka went full blast and I see a motorcycle cop sitting in the median hiding behind some bushes.  The Ka then quickly went away.  Yup, cop was using instant on and the TPX sniffed it out in advance to warn me about it.  I'm glad that there were other vehicles ahead of me, or else I would've never gotten the Ka signals and would've probably ended up with a ticket.

Day 6: Vancouver to Newport, OR via Mt. St. Helens and Portland

St. Helens!
I left Vancouver early in the morning with the intention of meeting up with Adam at 9, but ended up getting stuck in the line at the border for way longer than expected.  After finally made my way down to Seattle, we took I-5 down to Castle Rock, then cut over to 504 to check out Mt. St. Helens.  504 is another fun road with plenty of sweeps and amazing scenery.  We made it to the observatory, watched the movie that everyone said we had to see, and rode back down 504 again.  We stopped at Portland to grab a quick dinner with my friend (who also happened to be our company's lawyer) at Brasserie Montmartre before we cut over to US-101 via Road 18.

Our goal was to get to Coos Bay by the end of the day, but by the time we got to 101 it was already dark.  We ended up spending the night at Newport, OR.

Day 7: Newport to Redding, CA

We got up early again and hit the road.  We rode through the first tank and got gas in Florence, OR.  At the gas station, we asked the station attendant where he would recommend for breakfast.  "The Dunes Cafe", he said, without skipping a beat.  When a local doesn't even have to think to recommend a place to eat, you know it's got to be good.  We got there and weren't disappointed.  The food was delicious and came in large portions, just what we needed to get ready for a long day of riding!

Our next stop was Coos Bay because I wanted to stop by the Steve Prefontain Memorial at the Coos Art Museum.  I was a competitive distance runner through college and even today, I still try to relive my glory days.  There was no way that I was going to go by Coos Bay without checking out the memorial for arguably one of America's greatest athletes.  After passing by the museum without realizing it, we finally found the place, thanks to Adam's Droid phone.

The memorial was just a room upstairs in the museum and it had photos, trophies, medals, and various memorabilia on display.  It was smaller than I expected but very well presented.  I got goose bumps as we strolled through the memorial.

After the short visit, we were on the road again.  We cruised down 101 through the amazing giant redwoods and then cut over to Redding.  Why would we want to go to Redding?  Because we wanted to do Road 36, arguably one of the best roads in California, so we've heard.  We cut over to Redding via Road 299, which was also a fun twisty road.

Day 8: Redding to San Francisco

The next day we got up early again (see the repeated theme here?) and hit up County Road 16 en route to CA-36.  Our original itinerary was to make it to San Francisco by around 2 or 3 in the afternoon.  This would allow Adam to get down to Monterey to help out with his set up at MotoGP.  But we decided to take a detour.  More on this later.

Road 16 was a technical road with a good amount of hairpin turns, and it was fun as hell.  Then we hit up CA-36, which was even more fun with a good mix of everything from hairpin turns to mini-sweeps.  Not to mention being up in the mountains with fresh air and awesome scenery.  From CA-36, we then got back on US101 again and ended up in Legget for a photo op at the redwood tree drive-through tourist trap.  As we were getting ready to get back on the road, I told Adam that we could take the scenic route down to the Bay Area via Highway 1.  Now, my experience of Highway 1 up to this point was between LA and SF, so it's mostly straight with a few sweeps and pockets of twisties.  I knew the stretch of Highway 1 between the Legget and the Bay Area would have a bit more twisties, but what I didn't realize was that it would be ALL TWISTIES!  I thought the detour would set us back an extra hour, hour and a half at most... boy, was I wrong!

Overlooking California coast.
Don't get me wrong, Adam and I had a blast going through the twisties on Highway 1, but it put us way behind our original schedule.  Our plan was to have a late lunch at Hog Island Oyster Company around 4, but we got there at just past 5 and missed having lunch there as they closed at 5.  Bummer!  But luckily, Tamales Bay Oyster Company, which was just a few miles down the road, opens till 6, so we could still have oysters for lunch.

We made it there, and as we were getting off the bike, I dropped the bike in the gravel parking lot.  I was tired and hungry, and got careless as I was about to dismount the bike and failed to pay attention to the gravel footing and lost my balance.  Luckily, my saddlebag took most of the impact and all I ended up was a broken clutch lever and scratches on my engine case, front left turn signal, and left mirror.

After a satisfying lunch, we rode down to San Francisco and parted ways there.  Adam continued down to Monterey and I stayed in the city with my cousin that night.

Day 9: San Francisco to Monterey

After a night of good sleep in the city, I made my way down to Monterey to get ready for MotoGP.  On the way down I saw CHP's and local cops everywhere.  I'm sure they were also getting ready for the big weekend as well!

Days 10, 11, and 12: MotoGP!

I left my bike at our booth since we had a car there and it was easier to carpool.  MotoGP was awesome as always.  Great crowd, great vibe, and great racing!  Even though I didn't get to see most of the races (I was there to work), I was still able to sneak away here and there to check out some of the races.

Day 13: Monterey to LA

Adam had a friend in the area, Nate, that wanted to do part of the ride with us, so he met up with us that morning.  We took the PCH all the way down to San Luis Obispo and had lunch at Fat Cats Cafe.  After putting myself in near food coma, Nate parted ways and we got back on 101.  Shortly after we got on the road, I had a close ticket encounter again.  I was leading and we were zooming pretty good.  I came up on a blind right sweep, probably going around 90.  As I was half way through the turn, I see a CHP hiding around the turn.  I immediately let go of the throttle, didn't hit my brakes because I didn't want the cop to see me jamming on the brakes.  As soon as I let go of the throttle, the TPX went off on a weak Ka for a split second.  Sneaky!  The cop was using instant-on as vehicles pass and had set the range on his radar gun to low.  Good thing I was alert and wasn't doing anything faster or else it would've meant a ticket.  Again, there is nothing much a radar detector can do in a case like this.

We made our way down to So Cal and I purposely pulled into a gas station on Kanan Road in Agoura Hills.  This is now my back yard and I know the roads of  Santa Monica Mountains pretty well.  I wanted to take Adam on my favorite road in So Cal, Latigo Canyon.  I asked Adam if he's interested in taking the scenic route back with an unintentional grin on my face.  Seeing my grin, Adam agreed to take the scenic route.

We headed south on Kanan Road and made a left into Latigo Canyon.  What better way to end the trip than on my favorite road!  Latigo Canyon is filled with bunch of tight twisties, the kind of twisties that I like, where you get to use the upper bands of your second gear while constantly throwing your bike around; just none-stop turns.

We eventually ended up on Highway 1 again, and after another photo op of Adam and his bike with the Santa Monica pier, we ended our journey at my apartment in West Los Angeles.

What a great trip; the two events went extremely well, met some new friends, got to see some old friends, had some great meals, and got some great riding in.  When it's all said and done, over 3,300 miles, over 59 hours of riding time, hundreds of turns, countless memories, and... still no ticket!

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