The day started with dark and starry skies as 16 bikes and 18 riders made their way to the infamous Shari’s parking lot in Rohnert Park, where an over-view was given for the upcoming well planned and timed itinerary. The weather for the next four days looked favorable with PERHAPS a drop or two of rain-and the temperature forecast was perfect. As the sun rose the bikes began the roar of anticipation as kick-stands went up at 7:30 to follow Co-Captain Mike, North on Hwy 101 to Laytonville, where the group had a fuel stop and leg stretching.
Following the beautiful weather and smooth roads to Eureka, we were able to combine the biker hospitality at the Harley dealership with the benefits of a gas station next door.
Within a short time, we were back on the road, as the familiar sights of Hwy 101 were soon behind us as we headed East towards 299.
Great food and service met us for lunch at the McIntosh Farm Country Store in Arcata. And within a short time, the deep blue skies and forested mountain roads beckoned us to come and play.
As scheduled, another 45 miles were soon on the odometers, as 18 people, 16 bikes topped off the fuel tanks at the Willow Creek Chevron in preparation for the long trek through the mountains, as there would be only one chance for services available for a very long time.
Happy faces came out from under the helmets while the unfamiliar surroundings were becoming normal. One rider chose to stay behind.
With schedules and maps still in hand, the group of 17 riders and 15 bikes turned toward Hwy 96 East, following the Trinity and Klamath Rivers, also known as THE BIGFOOT HIGHWAY.
The curvaceous roads, high temperatures and elevations allowed the riders to be pushed, tuned or stretched-mentally and or physically along its path. The band eventually reunited and tuned back into a cohesive bunch at the bottom of the canyon, to overtake the ONLY fuel and available restroom for miles.
With the sun at our backs and the temperatures slowly dropping, we arrived under the watchful eye of a snowy Mt. Shasta at the Best Western Miners Inn of Yreka.
Fun times were found at the picnic table under the trees, where all the good stuff flowed, like wine, beer and great stories of a life behind bars…handlebars.
Dinner for most was an impromptu visit to an unprepared and very newly opened, POOR GEORGE’S SMALL TOWN DINER. The lone waitress and cook did the best they could to accommodate our broad spectrum of palates. Others retreated to a pizza parlor or the gas station mini-mart.
STUNNING!! If you’ve never been around the foothills of Shasta on a brisk cloudless morning, it’s an experience for the senses as well as the eyes. The volcanic beauty stands alone and nurtures everything below it, …including the 17 souls on 15 bikes who were just passing through.
When Shasta became a fixture in the mirror, Road Captains Dan and Jen continued to lead through the extremely rural countryside of Northern California as the meadows released a thick and mystical fog to usher us to the Oregon border. Minimal traffic, happy cows and clear skies found us at a fuel stop in Chiliquin, Oregon, where we drank a few pots of hot coffee to warm up, purchased fuel and prepared for the climb to the rim of the Volcanic splendor known as Crater Lake, to enjoy lunch at the lodge.
Entry to the park was smooth as we maneuvered through the “tourists” easily and found parking in the over-stuffed lot. Due to Jen’s impeccable timing, they were able to take the large group immediately and served up memories and photo ops.
Group pictures and goodbyes were said to one rider who was off to visit family and two more who saw the looming forecast and headed for drier pastures. (We would meet up with all of them again in Gold Beach).
Leaving the park and back down the mountain toward Hwy 97, good timing had become an apparent sidekick, as it had been the theme of the trip so far…PERFECTION! The stuffed parking lots, closed roads and massive line of cars, bikes, trucks, RV’s and bicyclists were waiting to enter what we just breezed through and enjoyed to our hearts content.
With 14 riders and 12 bikes, we stuck to the itinerary and pulled into the little Hamlet of Chemult, Oregon for fuel. It was there we learned of a road closure due to an accident and had a decision to make. Wait for possibly hours, or, turn around and take another route-adding at LEAST two hours to the schedule? One rider turned toward plan B, not wanting to wrestle with the clock later. The group calculated the options/risks and dedication to the itinerary and opted to send several riders ahead to possibly scout a way past. However, rural areas are just that… rural and all side roads were dirt and essentially useless to us. Forty-five minutes later it was apparent there was no other way but to surrender to plan B.
So, 13 riders and 11 bikes backtracked toward Roseburg.
Hwy 138 follows the Rogue-Umpqua Rivers and is also known as: THE HIGHWAY OF WATERFALLS. The thick forest offered a two lane freshly paved road to slice through its steep river gorges and take on the fall colors beginning to make their appearance. SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE was the buzzword that best described it.
Fueling up in Roseburg, it was apparent the hotel was further than the clock of comfort wanted to allow, so Jen quickly took action and got reservations at the Best Western in Sutherlin, where we treated ourselves to an excellent patio party under the trees before walking across the road to overtake a tiny local eatery.
PEDOTTI’S ITALIAN served handmade excellence and was an incredible find in the middle of an unscheduled detour. The staff welcomed us in, took pictures, mixed drinks, played along with our laughing and catered to our every need.
It was the perfect ending to an unplanned day. As we were beginning to realize – it’s about the moments…not so much the plans.
The overcast skies provided a backdrop to the full rainbow arched over the road the 13 hopefuls with 11 dry bikes had decided to take.
After enjoying a chef prepared custom breakfast at the hotel, we geared up and headed straight for Gold Beach, to meet up with 5 of our club brothers and sisters.
On the scenic Hwy 42 the clouds opened up allowing the first-time rain riders some long-term experience and the seasoned riders more… seasoning. The coastline was beautiful…we think.
Making quick reservations in Gold Beach at the Port Hole Café, we were able to finish the 3-½ hour ride and pour ourselves into several booths, meet up with 4 of the riders awaiting our arrival and gladly overwhelm the place.
Later at the hotel, we sat on the old deck by the Rogue River and watched people fish in the evening sun, while we enjoyed a glass of our favorite drink or two, waiting for our shuttle to the Rogue Landing, where the food was second only to company we were sharing it with. The owner, Shawn and hotel manager, Sammy provided the front, back and bed of their pickup trucks for a starry night cruise back to the hotel.
Clear, bright and sunny skies greeted 18 riders and 16 bikes for the straight drive south on Hwy 101.
The Pacific Coast Highway did not disappoint or hide any of her secrets along the sandy beaches, rocky cliffs and Giant Redwoods…we were home.
The group roared into Crescent City for breakfast at The Good Harvest Cafe, for a belly bursting meal. Goodbyes began in the parking lot before making the trek back to the world of grownups who don’t understand us, responsibly, schedules and appointments.
…until the road calls again.
Dan & Jen Shilling and Mike & Julee Sherman