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 fee 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.

- Steph

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