Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

Road trip: California coast

August 19, 2014
For the first part of the trip, we drove straight up the coast, from San Francisco to Portland (read about how we chose our route). It took us five days to cover 750 miles and we camped every night. A few of the highlights: ribs in Cloverdale, redwood-lined highways, hiking the Oregon Dunes and a beautiful campsite on the ocean.

Day 1: San Francisco to Fort Bragg (165 miles)

We wanted to make our way through northern California fairly quickly, so we headed straight up Route 101 until Cloverdale, where we cut over to the coast. This route had two advantages. First, we stopped for the most delicious ribs in Cloverdale. I was imagining a nice large salad for lunch so I wasn't thrilled when Ben spotted a sign for BBQ and quickly turned in. I got over it, though, because these ribs were amazing. So amazing that we're going back there in October for my birthday. The second advantage was that we finally got to drive Route 128 through Anderson Valley. As we were setting off, some other bikers came over, asked about our route and commented: "Enjoy. It's the best stretch of road in California."

Boonville, in Anderson Valley
Route 128 through Anderson Valley

We took a wine and ice cream break in Boonville, which prompted me to vow to eat ice cream every day on the trip (we ate a lot of ice cream, though not quite every day). We picked a winery at random because we hadn't done any advance research. The wine was only mediocre but the conversation was engaging. We learned that Mendocino County banned the cultivation, production and distribution of genetically modified crops, making it the first jurisdiction in the country with such a policy. We also learned that many of the landowners out there are expecting to replace their grapes with marijuana once marijuana is legalized. The X factor for them is how much the price of marijuana will fall once it's legalized. At the moment, those who are growing marijuana are making many many times more per acre than those growing grapes. And finally, we learned a bit about "dry" wines and residual sugar. According to this particular winemaker, wines that are labeled as "dry" in the United States can have up to 1% residual sugar, whereas in Europe the upper limit is either .3% or .4%. Also according to him, at some point, no one's taste buds can taste the residual sugar, but Europeans pick it up at lower levels than Americans do. (I can't verify any of this on the internet, but it was interesting nonetheless.)

We left Boonville and continued on to Fort Bragg, where we ate at North Coast Brewing Company. When we first moved to California, an employee at Whole Foods recommended a wheat beer named Blue Star. We've been drinking it ever since (it has competition lately though from our favorite Oregon beers). At some point, I discovered the brewery was in Fort Bragg and have been waiting for the chance to go. Fort Bragg is a bit far for a weekend getaway so this trip presented the perfect opportunity. We split a pizza and a beer flight (the first of many on this trip). Our sampler included a Red Seal amber sale, an Old Rasputin Russian imperial ale, a Brother Thelonius Belgian-style abbey ale, a PranQster Belgian-style abbey ale and possibly one other. Then we headed to our campsite at Russian Gulch, coincidentally the second campground we ever stayed at in California.

Day 2: Fort Bragg to Crescent City (217 miles)

At 217 miles, our second day was one of the longest driving days on our trip, but we were pleasantly surprised by how manageable and even enjoyable it was. In the northernmost part of California, Route 1 no longer hugs the coast, instead it meets up with 101 inland, before 101 heads back to the coast at Eureka. But for an inland, highway stretch, this was a pretty great one, with lots of wide open vistas. The best part is that for 31 miles you can escape 101 and follow the Avenue of the Giants through groves of giant redwood trees. We had done this drive in a car and had been eagerly awaiting the chance to do it again on a motorcycle, which made the trees feel even more impressive.

There were also hundreds of other bikes on the road because of a big Harley rally occurring in Piercy. A bunch of people asked us if that's where we were headed, but big biker rallies aren't for us, plus we ride a Triumph, not a Harley. One side effect of having so many bikers on the road, though, was that everyone stopped acknowledging each other. Normally when two bikes pass each other, the drivers wave, left hand down in an open palm or V. It's a cool custom. If you've never noticed it, watch for it next time you see two motorcyclists pass each other coming from opposite directions. But with so many bikes on the road, everyone dropped the wave. We waved as normal for the first part of the day but gave it up because a) no one was waving back and b) it's kind of annoying to wave every two seconds.

On our first California road trip, as newbies to the state, we paid to picnic at a state park, even though we were camping at a different state park that evening. Now we know all the rules, including that your camping fees gets you free entrance to all other state parks the day of and after your reservation. That means that we enjoy stopping at state parks if we want to take a break, because they're usually pretty and have picnic tables and restrooms. This time we stopped at Richardson Grove State Park for a nice lunch of bread, cheese and nuts (we highly recommend this cinnamon swirl bread, it's 100% whole wheat and amazingly fluffy). We followed that up with a coffee and second lunch in Eureka. We almost bought some fresh salmon for dinner but didn't want all our stuff to smell like fish, so we shelved that idea for a later day and continued to a campground at Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, just south of the Oregon border. When we arrived, the ranger warned us that a baby bear was wandering the camgpround. We weren't to touch or approach him because if he didn't learn to stay away from people they'd have to kill him. They believe his mother was killed on the highway not long after he was born so he's been on his own.

Ben washes laundry in our new Scrubba.
For dinner, we made our favorite camping meal: pasta with onion and sausage. And Ben tried to do laundry with our Scrubba. (You can see how that turned out here. Hint: not as well as hoped.) We also made a campfire, which turned into a bit of a tradition on this trip. Our first campfire together dates to our first camping trip on Cape Cod, but we often skip the fire in favor of cooking on our Pocket Rocket because Ben doesn't enjoy the lingering smoke smell on all our belongings. I requested a fire on this night because we weren't carrying effective bug spray. And now that Ben has realized that fire has magical bug-repelling powers, he's 100% on board. I think we made a fire nearly every night we camped. (Mosquitos take an unnatural liking to Ben so keeping them at bay is a herculean task).

Assorted thoughts

Overall, we were both amazed at how well everything worked out on this trip, starting with the fact that we actually fit everything on the bike. I was skeptical that 2.5 weeks worth of stuff would fit on one little motorcycle (by cruiser standards, our bike is small). I would estimate that we have less space than we would if we were each carrying a hiking backpack. So when I packed up everything the night before and had space to spare, I was certain that we'd end up in Oregon with no toothpaste, no underwear and no way to cook anything. Turns out we did have everything. We've just gotten very good at only bringing the essentials, plus every trip we make a few space-saving upgrades. This time, we brought a Scrubba to wash our clothes, which let us cut back on how much we needed to bring. We also bought motorcycle pants, which meant we left our jeans and rain pants at home. And Ben replaced his heavy fleece with a much lighter North Face jacket.

We also benefited from two new gadgets: headsets and a USB charger. Our old headsets had never been great — we couldn't listen to music on them and only Ben could initiate conversations, but at least we could communicate to each other, which was the primary purpose. But a few months before our trip, our headsets started to fizzle out. Even when shouting, the other person could maybe pick up a few words. We replaced them with brand new Sena SMH-10 headsets, with about three times the battery life and the ability to pair with our phones. We also mounted a USB charger and a phone holder on the bike, which meant that we could keep our phones fully charged, while also using them for music and navigation. Ben could even ask Siri for directions when we realized we didn't know where to go. We could also use the USB charger to charge the GoPro remote, which has a terrible battery life. And if we had brought the right cable, we would have been able to charge the GoPro.

Keep reading to follow along as we travel up the Oregon coast. Next post coming soon.

- Steph

The story behind our trip to Oregon

August 18, 2014

Back in June, we spent two and a half weeks touring around Oregon on a motorcycle. It was our first long motorcycle trip in a year and one that we spent more than a year planning. Before I recount our adventures, let me share a bit of the backstory. One of the best parts of living in San Francisco is having the entire West Coast to explore — Tahoe, Bryce Canyon, Zion, San Diego, the redwood forests and on and on. And the list of places we wanted to explore always included the Pacific Northwest, which seemed like a logical destination for a summertime motorcycle adventure. So we started planning this trip nearly two years ago, thinking we'd set off in June 2013.

Originally we dreamed we'd make it to Alaska, all 3,000 miles (and magically ship the motorcycle home, or something). Then we got a little more realistic and envisioned a trip through British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. We even had a map for what that would look like — we'd go up to coast to Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, drive west to Banff and head home via Spokane, just 2,700 miles roundtrip. OK, still a little ambitious if we actually wanted to spend any time in these places. So Washington and British Columbia were out. At some point, we decided to go to southern California last June, pushing this trip back and giving us a whole year to debate our route through Oregon. A month before we left, our route looked like this — a 2,000 mile loop around the state, including often-overlooked eastern Oregon.

One of the highlights of that route would have been Hell's Canyon, an 8,000-foot-deep canyon carved out by the Snake River on the Oregon-Idaho border. Motorcyclists from all over the world come to ride this road, which is the deepest motorcycle road in North America (it's 2,000 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon). But for the day or two we would have spent exploring this beautiful road, we would have had to spend 5 days driving through dessert on straight, boring roads. We hewed and hawed and made about 15 million spreadsheets to figure out whether it was worth it (15 million is only a slight exaggeration, I count at least 5). Eventually, eastern Oregon was out too.

Two factors ultimately swayed us. First, I calculated our average driving distance on a few past trips. On our first-ever California motorcycle trip to Monterey and Big Sur, we covered only 75 miles per day and that remains one of our favorite trips to date, in part because we had plenty of time to get off the bike and enjoy our surroundings. Then I calculated that for our San Diego-Joshua Tree-Los Angeles trip, we rode 130 miles per day. We wouldn't have planned that trip any differently given the existing constraints, but we both agreed that ideally we would have spent a little less time driving. We consulted our spreadsheets and discovered that our eastern Oregon itinerary involved driving 125 miles per day, roughly the same as our LA trip, while sticking to the western part of the state cut that down to 93 miles per day, which seemed a lot more manageable. The second factor was that Ben was starting a new job (he now works at this awesome company, for anyone who likes sustainable, delicious food) and he didn't want to return from vacation exhausted from driving too much.

In the end, we settled on a trip that looked like this: A drive up the California and Oregon coast up to Portland, a few days of urban exploring in Portland, a few days of hiking, sailing, camping and general outdoor adventuring around the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood and a leisurely route home through Bend and Crater Lake. And it turned out to be absolutely perfect.

Now that you know the backstory, our actual triplog starts here. We hope you enjoy following along.

- Steph

On the road in Oregon: day 15

June 27, 2014
It's cold and rainy so we're eating breakfast in our tent at Diamond Lake. We're going to go to Crater Lake soon and then we'll cross back into California — we don't know exactly where we're going to end up tonight. We're sad this wonderful vacation is almost over.

(It may appear from our sporadic blog posts that it rained the whole trip. In fact, the weather was fantastic - we were just much more inclined to write blog posts when hiding in the tent than when out enjoying the sun.)

- Ben

On the road in Oregon: day 11

June 23, 2014
We rented a sailboat to sail on the Columbia River today. It's a Hobiecat catamaran (the first time we've sailed a catamaran). We sailed together for a bit then I got cold, so I'm enjoying the beach while Ben "sees how fast this thing will go." I think he's capsized... 

Watch as Ben heads out from shore:

- Steph

On the road in Oregon: day 7

June 19, 2014
We're sitting in a park in Portland after sharing a pint of ice cream (@ $6.50, it was much more economical than two regulars), capping off two days of eating and drinking, and eating and drinking some more. We've been to one brewery, one distillery, two food trucks, one bar, one cafe and two restaurants (and one museum and one bookstore). Needless to say, Portland has lots of good food. 

Tonight we're listening to some live music at Mcmenamins (a throwback to Ben's 2006 motorcycle trip) then tomorrow we're riding through the Columbia River Gorge.

- Steph

On the road in Oregon: day 4

June 16, 2014
Ben and I are huddled inside our tent at Tillicum Beach campground. He's slicing an onion as we hide from the rain.

Today was the first day we didn't try to cover many miles on the bike. We walked the endless sand dunes near our campground, lunched in the cute town of Florence, then hiked the so-called "Hobbit Trail" to a beautiful empty beach, before ending with some Tillamook ice cream in Yachats. Now we're hoping the rain subsides so we can cook dinner. Tomorrow we head for Portland.

And our running tally of (mostly) Oregon beers we've tried:
Widmer Hefeweizen
Rogue Hefeweizen
Pyramid Hefeweizen
Gilgamesh citrus ale
And a bunch of CA beers at North Coast brewing in Fort Bragg

- Steph

On the road to Oregon: day 3

June 15, 2014
We're eating breakfast at the Good Harvest Cafe in Crescent City, CA, almost at the Oregon border. We camped last night at Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, after 220 miles from Russian Gulch SP where we camped the first night.

Last night we enjoyed warm showers, a campfire, and our signature camping dinner of pasta-sausage-onions. I also did some laundry with our new Scrubba. Steph insisted that nothing would dry, and she was right or course, so it's hanging on the bike in the parking lot now:

- Ben

All packed and off to Oregon

June 10, 2014
We leave soon for our first long motorcycle trip this year: 16 days through Oregon. We had originally planned to do this trip a year ago, but scrapped it in favor of LA/San Diego/Joshua Tree. Our initial plan was a 2,000-mile circle around all of Oregon, but we decided that was too ambitious, so we'll be sticking to the western half of the state.

First, we'll head up the coast, through the redwood forests.

We'll camp at the Oregon dunes and explore the central coast.

Then we'll hop off the bike for a few days in Portland.

We follow that up with a few days of hiking, kayaking, waterfalls, orchards and breweries in the Columbia River Gorge and at Mt. Hood.

In Bend, we plan to float down a river before stopping at Crater Lake on our way back to California.

Milky Way over Crater Lake

- Steph

Photos by Ulrich BurkhalterGregory PrudenChristopher Michel, Ben and Joe Parks.

My mom visits California

June 7, 2014
It could be a series: "My mom visits ________." First Argentina, now California. Next, we'll have to move somewhere crazy. Third installment: "My mom visits Siberia." That's obviously not happening, but my mom did visit us in San Francisco in March. We spent a night in Napa, where she was attending a conference, and then drove down to Carmel together. After the Boston winter, she was pretty excited to see the California sun. All photos taken with my iPhone.

santa cruz coffeeshop bakery lemon tree
Coffee in Santa Cruz, sitting next to a lemon tree.
pebble beach carmel
Pebble Beach

dog friendly beach carmel
We walked down the beach every morning.

Lounging by the pool
pink purple flowers
My mom loves flowers.

17 mile drive cypress tree
17-Mile Drive. I had never done this because motorcycles are prohibited.

seal pupping harbor monterey

lone cypress tree
The lone cypress

- Steph

Hiking Mt. Tam

April 27, 2014
When Ben's sister Miriam visited from Israel, we took the opportunity to correct one of our Bay Area oversights: we had never visited Mount Tamalpais. It's a popular camping and hiking destination just north of the city, but we've always bypassed it on our way to Point Reyes. We hiked the 6.5-mile Steep Ravine-Matt Davis Trail, starting from Stinson Beach. Everytrail says about the hike: "Cutting deep into the landscape over millennia the water rushing through Webb Creek has created a spectacularly steep sided and lush canyon shaded by towering redwood trees and populated with a wide variety of local flora and fauna. ... The coastal section of the Matt Davis Trail promises wide sweeping ocean views."

The previous photos were taken by Miriam. The following are by me and Ben.

- Steph