Fred and Wendy’s trip home to Vancouver Island, BC.
Wendy picked up her 06 Fatboy from Bobby’s Territorial HD in Yuma, all tweaked and ready to ride the day after we arrived from Laughlin. As she hadn’t ridden it for a month, for the next week, we would spend an hour each day doing disciplined exercises of low speed tight turns, down shifting on a descending grade, starting on hills, choosing an appropriate parking position on sloped ground in order to exit safely with ease and then we would head out into the rurals for a joy ride of at least a hundred miles each day.
On May6 we loaded our Nelson Riggs bags to the max, locked up the RV for the summer and by 0730 we were on our way West. I prefer to avoid the major Border Patrol intercept stations due to the lineups and the possibility of overheating the engines and clutches at long periods of idle, so we chose to take Ogilby Rd to 78, West to 115 to Calipatria for a fuel and comfort break, then up to Mecca on 111 for more fuel and a break before getting on to I-10 to LA.
The transition from the dry heat of the interior to the cool moist air of the Pacific was gradual but noticeable as we climbed through the mountains to the West. It wasn’t apparent that we had climbed in elevation to any great degree until we started our descent towards LA. I had programmed the Garmin Zumo for the Good Night Inn in Calabasas as their rates and reputation were favorable. It’s been a long time since I have driven or ridden in LA traffic, but I have to admit, it is totally insane on a bike even in early afternoon. Thank goodness I had a nav device or I wouldn’t know where I was headed. Absolutely crazy!! I’ve been riding for a few years now, so I wasn’t too bothered by it, but it really shook up Wendy. By the time we arrived at our Motel, she was a wreck! In fact, I had a hard time convincing her that our ride would improve and that it wasn’t appropriate for her to call up a freight company and have her bike shipped home and to fly back. Wow! As she doesn’t imbibe, I couldn’t mellow her out with a stiff drink so after a bite to eat and a fitful nights rest, she reluctantly considered going on to the next day’s adventure.
We had hoped to run the Pacific Coastal Hwy all the way up the coast, however, the winter slide damage at Gorda prevented a run to Big Sur and up to Monterey. We had pulled into the Harley dealership in Santa Barbara and got talking with a local who suggested that the country road 154 that ran up through the wine country was a delightful ride, so we took his suggestion and thoroughly enjoyed the countryside. We rejoined 101 and continued on to Salinas where we found good accommodation at Inns of California. Another rider staying there came over to chat; he had ridden in from El Centro and often stays here on business, and he assured us that the surrounding Latino community was one not to be nervous about. No probs there. A good place to stay.
The next morning, Mother’s Day, I had thought about taking in the John Steinbeck Center as I had read most of his stuff but as we are in the habit of getting up when the sun gets up, we didn’t want to kill time to 1000 when it opened, so we chose to swing down to Carmel, take a break at the beach then go back to Monterey and the wharf for lunch. What a zoo that was! Too many people, no parking but we snuck our two bikes into a spot and enjoyed fresh cod lightly battered and served with a crisp garden salad. One can‘t help but watch people when you are at a table on the wharf and we were treated to some interesting sights for sure. Not only that, but the sea lions were barking and putting on a show in the harbor and that drew a crowd.
We really didn’t want to get caught up in the San Francisco hype as we have Chinatowns and seafood markets at home, and as the Streetcars were probably filled with the Mother’s day crowd, parking a non entity and streets jammed, we chose to take a toodle along Hwy 1 to join the flow crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. Windy like heck as usual I guess, but once across, we pulled into the Vista, took in the scene and then rumbled off to the San Rafael Motel 6, dinner and a good rest. As we wanted to follow the coastline North on the Oceanside Highway, the easiest way to get there was to go West on 4th St in San Rafael until it joined the Sir Francis Drake Blvd which took us to CA1. Around 0930 we stopped at Tomales Bay to stretch our legs and take in the eclectic waterfront and at that time I noticed that one of the mounting bolts for Wendy’s saddle bags had sheared due to metal fatigue. This prompted me to meet shipyard owners and mechanics along the waterfront in order to find an appropriate bolt for a repair. In the process, I got into conversation with the owner of the oyster bar who was just getting his place up and running for the day, so we BS’d a bit about clam chowder and oyster recipes and we had a great time. After I had fixed the saddlebag, we walked back to the oyster bar for a bowl of his clam chowder. One of the better chowders that I have had that was bursting with fresh herbs and lots of clams.
We continued up the scenic CA1, taking in the surf, sandy beaches and rocky outcroppings from which spumes of frothing white shot into the wind and sprayed us with salt water as we rode by. The profusion of wild flowers presented a kaleidoscope of color as we thundered along this narrow highway which has to be one of the twistiest and hilliest ones in the West. However, sometimes there is just too much of a good thing and it wasn’t very long before the ride became tedious and totally ridiculous. Too many miles of extremely tight curves, hills and construction zones are very tiring. Those of us whose scooters have floorboards, soon get tired of scraping left and right on the tight turns. Crazy! The road surface was in good repair, it just appeared that the surveyor was drunk when he laid out the route!
On one particularly nasty downhill technical curve that was sprinkled with pea gravel, Wendy lost it. It was hard for me to keep searching for her in my mirrors as well as choose my line for the tight corners, so I was a few curves along when I didn’t see her headlight. A quick 180 and a roar up the hill and around the tight bends only to find her sitting on a guard rail in total shock with her Fatboy in a heap at her feet. Wendy was hurt, in shock and totally pissed off. Her injuries didn’t require medical attention beyond what we could take care of ourselves, but the bike needed help. I flagged down a couple drivers and we managed to get the bike on the pavement and on two wheels and jiffy stand and straightened up enough to ride, so I flashed it up and parked it at a turnout that was close by. Then I moved my bike there as well to clear the roadway for traffic. Wendy and I took the time to work out the shock, fear and to overcome her determination to once again ship the bike and fly home! Eventually the tears and shaking eased, the bike made rideable, and Wendy in a good enough state to go to the next level. So we carefully wound our way to Eureka and found comfort at the Rodeway Inn. What a day!
I have to mention though, that we slowed to the posted caution speed signs on every turn, whether they indicated 30 mph or 15 mph, but with the reverse camber built into some of the turns, it was very tricky getting around some of the sections safely.
The last time I rode the Coastal Highway from Port Angeles around the Olympia Peninsula, down the Washington, Oregon and California Coasts to Carmel was in ‘94 on my Beemer. I don’t recall having any difficulty with the technical curves that we are experiencing with the Harleys. I guess the European engineering allows for a more extreme bank angle than does the American engineering on the Harleys. Too bad, as one doesn’t want to only ride straight up and down on freeways, but one also doesn’t want to be placed at risk on technical roads due to design limitations.
So far, we had great weather with sunny skies, warm temps, but by mid day to afternoon the sea breezes picked up to make riding quite challenging. One tires quickly under these conditions. There few straight stretches in which to relax so you are in a constant state of awareness, relying on quick reflexes due to road conditions and sudden changes of direction and all this, combined with the resulting adrenalin surges, fatigue soon sets in. We found time outs at least every hour, fuel stops every two hours and nourishment and hydrating breaks as needed. But we seemed to be putting in some pretty full days. What would appear at the planning session to be a 4-5 hour ride would end up becoming a 7-8 hour one and some turning into 10-11 hours what with the required rest stops and unplanned surprises and no accommodations available to call it quits for the day.
Weather is always the major consideration in any trip and we would go over our itinerary, as casual as it was, and decide where to ride that would afford reasonable riding conditions. We agreed that we had seen enough surf and sand and twisty, hilly windies so there was no further appeal for us to continue riding up the Oregon coast on the Ocean Side Route. Also, the weekly forecast for Oregon and Washington and into British Columbia was for showers, rain and cool temps later on in the week. We also had to consider our window of opportunity for importing the Fatboy into Canada.
The technicality was not one with Canada Customs importing it, but with US Customs allowing the export of it. Wendy had all the necessary documentation and clearances in hand as well as forwarded to the exporting and importing agencies, but we had to clear US Customs before 1600 Friday.
Our decision was to shortcut our trip and head inland from Crescent City via 199 to Grants Pass Or. This turned out to be a delightful ride through the Redwood forests, beside cascading rivers and up and over the pass in the Siskiyou Forest. At the fuel stop in Grants Pass, I phoned Doyles Harley Davidson in Eugene Or. to see if they had an engine guard to fit Wendy’s bike. Yes they did, so I said we would be there before closing time and pick it up. We arrived, they lent me the tools needed to R&R the guard then we started out for our planned overnight at Eugene Or. As I left the dealership, my bike didn’t feel right, so I parked on the side of the road, just before the freeway on ramp and checked the tires and sure enough, the front one was going soft. A quick 180 back to the dealership, rolled into the abandoned service bay at 1735, rustled up a tech and had them put a in a tube and get me rolling again. It was a steel torx screw that might have been used as a body fastener. As Wendy says, “the Universe must be looking after us” because it could have gone flat on any stretch of the 65-70 MPH freeway before or after our stop and this was the only Harley dealership for at least a hundred miles North or South. Lucky Us!
We found our Econolodge in Eugene and checked into our suite for two days to give us a break, check over our bikes with a critical eye, try to get the salt, road grime and gobby bugs off the front stuff and in my case, replace a burned out headlamp bulb (or were the filaments shaken off from road vibration). Wendy found a Bikram Yoga studio within walking distance from the Motel, so she was able to rejuvenate her battered bod while I took a time out with a snooze. After the rains let up somewhat, we walked a few blocks to the amazing Fisherman’s Market where we had a late lunch of fresh seafood. Mahi Mahi taco and chowder for Wendy and grilled fresh Halibut with salad for me… perfect. So now it’s time for a good book and to let the weather system work it’s way Eastward thereby giving us reasonable weather into Washington State, around Seattle and into B.C. before the Friday Customs deadline.
I have to say that at each of the Motels at which we stayed, they were very considerate of providing appropriate parking for our machines and handing us old towels for cleaning purposes. This was very much appreciated. The ride from Crescent City to Eugene has reinstated Wendy’s love of the ride and although she aches and has funny colors, she continues to be a tough little lady with great spirit who is a joy to ride with.
After yesterdays showers, the region was blanketed in morning fog but the roads were drying, so we geared up for an early morning departure on Thursday and after a wholesome breakfast at GJ’s down the street we joined I-5 northbound for Latus Motors HD on the 205 to the East of Portland. Wendy needed a part that they had in stock and were holding for us and I needed to replace my headlamp mounting rubbers. The weather window was as forecast, overcast but dry, and Bellingham was our destination. It’s all good.
Friday morning’s walk around found my hi beam and side lights not operating, burned out or filaments shaken loose, and the shifter pawl splined shaft worn badly, so I made a call to Barnes HD in Langley BC for emergency tranny repairs. The process of clearing customs and importing Wendy’s bike went smoothly so we headed to Langley to see if repairs could be made to Brutus. Turns out there wasn’t any shifter pawl shafts anywhere in the Northwest, only in Toronto, ON, so emergency repairs were made to get me home. I have had problems with the splined shaft ever since I got the bike as the Motor Cop hammered the Hell out of it with heavy boots and attitude and had pretty well stripped it when I got it. I had emergency repairs done down in Cabo San Lucas on a previous trip and that lasted to here. I guess I’ll have to order the part and find a dealer to do the job before the next long haul trip.
It was a rush to get through the Frazer Valley and onto the Tswaassen Causeway to catch the Ferry to Vancouver Island, but we made it just in time. Our ride up to Campbell River was easy with dry roads and light traffic and we made it home at dark. The next day I loaded up, said fond farewells to Wendy and headed north to my Island, once again enjoyed the winding roads through the forests on the last leg of this 6700 km adventure.
It’s nice to be home, the wood furnace warming the place up with fragrances of Cedar and Alder smoke detectable from the chimney and once again it’s back to the non-routine of retirement in the coastal rain forest of British Columbia. Fun stuff… now it’s time to clean up the Harley, make repairs and get out the roadmaps once again!