Thursday, May 28, 2015

Shelter Cove, The Avenue of the Giants, and coming home

Sunday morning, we woke to the trickling sound of the creek in our campsite.  Nathan fixed us some huevos ranchero's, and we talked about what we wanted to do today.  We had a travel map from our first campground that showed us as far south as Shelter Cove.  We also wanted to see Avenue of the Giant's this year, which we skipped last year.  So, that made our travel plans for the morning.  We packed up camp and hit the road.  We stopped at the General Store for a coke, Popsicle and gas before heading out.

The store was so small; but I suppose for a town of 300 people, that's all you need.  And you can see the above ground gasoline in the distance beyond the bikes.  I also love the quad parked by the propane; seems like a legit way to get to and from work.

Coming out of the lost coast, we were in a valley formed by rolling hills.  The air was warm around us, and the scenery varied between twisty roads winding between trees and twisty roads winding between warm farmland.

The riding was incredible.  Suddenly, the pavement disappeared, but the curves did not. Have I mentioned yet that for whatever reason, I've been unsure whether I could turn the GS in the dirt?  I don't know where these irrational thoughts come from, but they are my companions as I ride.  However, when the pavement ends, and the curves do not, you are left without a choice.  As it turns out, the GS can turn on the dirt. *phew* We turned and turned and turned on this gravel part of the road, until suddenly, the pavement started again.  The pavement restarted and the curves continued.  It was the most amazing riding ever.  We came to the top of these hills, and as we did, the air suddenly changed.  It became cooler and brisker, with the smell of salt in the air.  We wound our way down, down, down, left and right and left, until we again saw ocean in the distance.  We parked our bikes and decided to explore.

We found a restored lighthouse, staffed with a volunteer for the day, open so we could go inside.  He was so friendly, and asked us all kinds of questions about our trip.  He was full of information about the area, fun facts about how they get gas and food there (no trucks on the windy roads!) as well as information about the light house.  We got to climb the itty bitty curvy stairs.

They may not look itty bitty, but the inside curve on top was only a couple inches!  Once on top, we enjoyed looking around, though it's a small room and there isn't a lot to see.

We climbed back down, pet the volunteers very scruffy puppy, and headed to lunch.  On the way, we stopped by the restroom, where I met Dianna, another adventure rider from California!  They had lunch where we did, so we sat and talked a while.  They had recently come back from the Grand Canyon, and just didn't want the trip to be over, so they did a weekend trip up the coast from where they live.  We told them to check out Motostays!  We enjoyed outdoor bbq at the only resturaunt in Shelter Cove, and then headed on our way.  

We got to go back up the curves, up and around and up and around.  So much fun.  Then Nathan used his spider senses to get us to the Avenue of the Giants.  As we entered the redwoods, I teared up.  We had already seen so much beauty, it was almost challenging to take in the overwhelming beauty and majesty of these tall trees.  We rode the Avenue of the Giants, a road that wound itself between the redwoods.  It was beautiful, though I think last years road was equally beautiful, without all the tourists.  We stopped in a beautiful grove to capture a couple pictures, and then continued on our way.

We had decided this was the end of the touring; that we would make good time heading back the rest of this afternoon (we had ridden about 100 miles, and it was 3:30) and tomorrow.  As we headed north on the coast the air got cooler, and we pulled over for heat.  We stopped at a run down abandoned house, with a rusty old truck buried behind grasses and plants.  It was too fun not to get a few pics.

We rode and rode, until we got to Crescent City.  I was getting tired and hungry.  We had passed one scenic byway, which I was bummed about, but at least we were far enough North we could come back another weekend.  We had also passed a number of campgrounds that looked glorious, as I was really starting to feel tired.  We pulled off into a parking lot to check in.  

I shared my tiredness and hunger. Nathan was feeling great; he said he was "in the zone" and felt like he could ride all night.  I said I needed food, and then I could decide if I could ride longer.  Yay for technology; I opened up Yelp, and the Mexican Restaurant in the next Parking Lot got excellent reviews.  This trip, we had agreed to cook breakfast and dinner, and eat lunch out, but this seemed like a great time to break this pact.  

We ate at Perlitas, which if you happen to be in Crescent City, is a FABULOUS Mexican Restaurant and worth trying.  After some tea and dinner, I was again ready to ride!  We set our sites on Gold Beach; closer than Bandon, further than Brookings, a seemingly great compromise for finding someplace to camp.

When we got to Gold Beach, we first checked out the ranger station for campsites.  There wasn't actually much there, so we went back to Yelp to look for campgrounds.  The Secret Spot looked promising; it was an RV Park and Campground that was off of highway 101, a bit away from the wind of the beach, and on a river.  We called, and yes, they had space.  Off we went.  The sun was setting, and we like to get the tent set up before it's pitch black outside.  We found our campspot, and it was lovely.  Lots of trees and bushes between campsites, plus there were some friends of the owner having a bonfire.  With warmth in our near future, we set up camp, and then headed over to the bonfire.

We walked up, and everyone introduced themselves. One gentleman said "want some homemade apple hootch?" while holding out a canning jar.  The older gentleman to our right joked "it's my urine sample."  I could only stop laughing long enough to try the hootch.  Yum.  Then, a woman passed out strawberry shortcake.  I had just been wanting something sweet after our scrumptious dinner.  This place was great.  There were kids riding bikes and dogs running around.  The conversation was entertaining as the older gentleman kept trying to sell us his motorized bicycles and we heard all the stores about how the people in the campground had met.  Unable to keep our eyes open any longer, we said goodnight, and turned in to our cozy little tent for the evening.

The morning sun woke us, bathing us in warmth.  We could hear the stream in the distance.  Life was good.  We explored the path by our campsite (doesn't it look like a great dirtbike path?) down to the stream.

 Then we lizarded by the palm trees.

It was time to pack up and head out.  Today was going to be a travel day; we were due back in Hillsboro by 7, and of course, Kris wanted nothing to do with taking I5 or any other direct route.  We headed north to Bandon, and had to stop for Fish and Chips again.  Being a holiday, it was a 25 minute wait, but worth every minute! We used this time to choose our route.  Google Maps: How do we get home without taking any highways?  Google Maps says take 101 north to Florence, turn right onto126, then follow a number of streets over to highway 99, but don't stop there.  Take more streets all west of 219 until you get to Bald Peak Road, and then you know where you are.

What a beautiful drive.  Farms, farms, and more farms.  My exciting moment came when I realized a spider had somehow, at 60mph, landed on my helmet, and decided to climb INSIDE my windscreen.  Now, if you don't already know this about me, I have quite the spider phobia.  Much opening and closing of the windscreen ensued, as the spider tried to hang on for dear life and I tried not to jump up and down screaming on my bike. We rode and road until we got to the top of Bald Peak Road.  I'll leave it up to Nathan whether he wants to tell you the story of the red car and the accidental wheelie, as it is his story to tell.  The roads were familiar now, and we made our way home, warm and tired. 

It was a wonderful journey.  We rode 1100 miles in five days (Nathan completed an additional 400 due to a work trip on Thursday).  It felt like it passed in the blink of an eye, yet was so completely different from our normal routine that it felt like it was forever since being at home.

I have carried that feeling with me this week.  I'm longing to be on the road again; these short 30 minute to 1 hour commuting trips do little more than whet my whistle for the adventures of the past weekend.  And, as the week goes on, I feel the weekend slipping into memory; blogging helps me hold on to pieces of it, riding lets me keep a little, but overall, it feels like sliding into a comfortable pair of shoes; it's good and familiar, but doesn't feed my wanderlust and inner adrenaline junkie.  For now, I will reminisce and plan for our next adventure.  This weekend, dirt biking is already planned.  At the end of summer, I am hoping to be at Rally in the Gorge all four days.  And I know Nathan and I will have many adventures in between.  Meanwhile, I'm going to reread all my blog posts and daydream about the beauty and the adventures and the near mishaps, and lizarding and snuggling, and I'm going to try to keep my motorcycle skills from backsliding after experiencing so much progress.  

Cheers!  Here's to the next adventure!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The lost coast....

The lost coast.

We've talked about it, dreamed about it, fantasized about it, and today was the day.  Would it be all we remember?  It was almost surreal, driving down the long road to Ferndale; I didn't remember it being so long.  Driving through Ferndale was a delight... A tiny city hall, a large butcher shop, and a huge hotel, and many Victorian buildings in between. No time for pictures, we were on a quest, and this year, we knew what we were looking for. 
This is the sign that marks our way. No road sign, and even google maps can't get us to the lost coast.  But here is the obscure path.

The road was as terrible as we remembered, but another year of riding and a G650GS as my companion, I tackled it with confidence and ease.  I didn't worry about picking the smoothest line at 10 mph, as I had started on my Ninja...  This year was swift and solid.  I can't say smooth, the road does not permit that.  Built on a fault line, the road is a hodgepodge of asphalt repairs, cracks, sunken edges, and gravel patches.  The BMW loved it.

We got to a road, and Nathan said "Do you want to see where it goes?"  I said sure, and realized how much I've changed in the past year.  A year ago, I would have told Nathan to check it out first, and come back and let me know if I could do it, or I would have hopped on the back of his bike. But I have new confidence in my ability to get myself both into and out of challenging situations.  So off we went.  Up a farm road, that eventually led us to a field full of cows.

They glared at us accusingly, moaning and swaying, some meandering toward our bikes looking both curious and menacing.  I catch up to Nathan and whisper "Did you see the Private Property sign?"  He did not.  It was rather small, but as menacing as the cows were, I was more worried about an angry rancher chasing us down. We turned around and left the cows in peace, to quickly forget the invasion of our two wheeled beasts.
Back on Wildcat Road, we continued our ride. Up, down, right, left. There was a white truck that waved us by, only to catch up to us as we snapped photos of the scenery. We couldn't help but stop; the farmland around the lost coast is breathtaking.




And then, a long stretch of gravel uphill. As I stood up to stabilize myself, I saw the coast. Every bit as pristine and remote as I remembered.


We journyed down, and this year, I followed Nathan to the gravel pull off rather than staying on pavement. We didn't stop for pictures there, because we were hoping if we kept going, we could ride on the actual beach.  We looked, but no dice. So we stopped, and climbed down to the black sand beach, enjoying the small tide pools, the smell of the ocean, and the sound of the crashing waves.



Our tummies began to rumble, and we decided it was time to venture on to The Yellow Rose, our oasis from last year.


We met some awesome folks with an adorable baby, who told us that the town was having a Cabaret tonight, and we should come! More on that later. They also told us about A.W.Way campground, which was a gem. More on that later too.

A funny moment came when I caught a glimpse of this.... "Nathan, hold still."  *snap picture* *burst out laughing*


We finished our lunch, and knew we wanted to spend the night nearby. Our two options were Mattole State Park on the beach (which we knew had limited space) or A.W.Way Campground. We decided to check out A.W.Way first. A beautiful, peaceful little spot, there were plenty of open sites, so we decided to go up to the beach campground and see what it was like.   

To get there, you have to travel 3 miles of a dirt road, with a small water crossing. (Water crossing makes it sound like more than it was...  It was a runoff area, I think, where they had laid some larger rocks to avoid mud.)  So far, all of my off roading has gone off without a hitch. But this was a genuine obstacle. (All you dual sport riders with experience are dying laughing about now. But I let things like this overwhelm me at times.) So I stopped and looked. Ok. It's just water and rocks. And if I get going before I hit it, I won't even feel the rocks move. And there are no bad lines. (This is my eternal trouble; searching for the best line when momentum makes that issue dissappear.) So I clicked it into gear, stood up, and rode over it like it wasn't there. Nathan fist bumped the air for me, and we went on.

We arrived at the beach, and realized that every one of the 300 people who live in this town must be parked here. No worries, we can park in the weeds. We also found out every campsite was full, which helped us decide where we were camping that night. We set off, opting out of the 3.5 mile hike to the light house, in favor of running barefoot through warm sand on Mattole Beach.

We started to get hungry again, and decided it was time to go back to A.W.Way and set up camp. I crossed back over our little water crossing without hesitation, wondering why that looked so challenging an hour ago. And when we picked our spot at A.W.Away, I hopped back on my bike and took grassy fields and dirt paths as much as I could back to the registration area. 

We discovered a new hobby here. Lizarding.

 Highly regarded as the best of vacationing hobbies, we laid down in the sun and napped for an hour. Then it was time for dinner prep. I want to plug backpackers country Pad Thai. The chili Mac from mountain house was amazing too, but I'm craving more pad thai as I write this. And it was enough for two people. 

While we were waiting, we went down to sit by the river, who's babbling would be our companion while we slept. We enjoyed the warmth, and reflected on how windy and cold, though amazing, beach camping would have been. Nathan skipped rocks in the river, and I counted skips.

The timer rings, dinner is done.  Now it's time to try to figure out this cabaret! We took off down the road, and find all the cars parked across the street from the school at the community center. We didn't know they were serving dinner, but we bought drinks and dessert (it was for the children. Gotta eat lots of dessert for the children.) There's a really cool program called Lost Coast Camp that serves primarily inner city youth, and the cabaret was part of a series of fundraisers that raise money for scholarships for this awesome program. We enjoyed listening to the local band, the kids, the choir who gets together just to experience the joy of making music together, a musical tribute to a local tragedy, a story, string tricks, an auction, and Londee, playing her ukulele singing a musical tribute to marijuana. Evidently, we were in the marijuana capital of California, but we are pretty oblivious to such things when there are motorcycles and scenery and interesting people to talk to. 


When we left, it was dark. There are no streetlights in Petrolia. And the roads are, as previously described, bumpy and curvy. And you never know when you might come upon a helmetless lightless dirt biker in the road, or a cow, or deer, or chicken. But the trusty bikes saw us safely back to our campsite, where we settled in for a lovely sleep..