Saturday August 14 Day 1 - 527 miles. Eau Claire WI to Bismark ND
Julie and I have taken plenty of great motorcycle trips, but it has always been in the back of my mind to make a California trip. When I was a little kid I used to stand outside and watch motorcycles roaring out of our little Illinois town to destinations unknown. That sound always meant freedom and adventure to me. Well, I'm not getting any younger and the bike has a fresh motor, tires, and battery, so the timing seemed right. Julie spent lots of time over the winter planning our California trip. We were going to take interstate highways to save time getting out west, then go off of the beaten track and see some National Parks. We had a National Parks sticker on the windshield. I changed the oil and cleaned and packed most of the bike the night before we left. I put in Red Line oil which is the champagne of motor oils. I broke the oil temp sensor wire and had to solder on a new one. My hands were all scuzzed up from a little wipeout I had last Wednesday jumping around on rocks down by the Chippewa River. I packed a lot of sanitary gauze to wrap them. The odometer showed 28166 miles on the new Harley factory remanufactured motor which had been swapped in at 100,000 miles.
We ate breakfast at home and took along cold bacon and chocolate covered coffee beans for snacks. We rode I-94 past Minneapolis-St. Paul, encountering some road work delays along the way. The delays were totally due to the fact that a lot of drivers are painted ass monkeys who can't get the "merge" concept.
Traffic was light as we stayed on I-94 thru St. Cloud, Minnesota. Gassed up in Valley City. We got caught in a downpour outside Fargo and had to pull off the highway for about ten minutes. A young woman in military fatigues pulled her pickup truck over to the side and asked if we needed help, but I said "No, but thanks for stopping". We had our rain gear on, and it was a good time for a break anyway. When the rain and fog lifted, we got back on the road. It was cool out, just under 70 degrees. Stopped for a gas break in Steele.
I like driving in North Dakota. There are a lot of shallow lakes filled with water fowl, and the landscape is a broad uninterrupted vista. It is very relaxing to watch the scenery go by. The state is lightly populated, and the towns are friendly and unhurried. We arrived in Bismark, North Dakota around 7:00 PM, pulled in to the Ramada and went to eat at the Oasis across the street. It was nice to have a room reserved so we didn't have to hunt around for one. The bike was a filthy mess from the rain. We were excited to see what lay ahead!
Incredibly, that was the last rain and the last traffic jam on the whole trip!
Sunday August 15 Day 2 - 539 miles. Bismark ND to Bozeman MT
After crossing the Missouri River in Bismark, the landscape starts to have that western look of scrubby vegetation and wide open spaces with weird rock formations. Going through landscape that looked like the Badlands, it was windy as hell. We were barely getting 32 miles per gallon at highway speeds into a head wind. We saw a lot of bikes heading the other direction, probably returning from Sturgis.
Highway I-94 runs along the Yellowstone River almost all of the way from Glendive on the eastern border of Montana to Bozeman. There were deer, antelope, and flocks of cranes along the Yellowstone River. By the time we got to Miles City we could see mountains ahead. We stopped for a gas break in Ballatine around 4:30. Our gas mileage had increased to about 42 miles per gallon. It was getting warmer and the wind was not as strong. In Billings, I-94 west becomes I-90 west. We stayed in the Holiday Inn Express in Belgrad, just past Bozeman, and had a good dinner at the Family Restaurant next door. There was a beautiful purple sunset coloring the hills. I could swear we stayed at this motel before.
Monday August 16 Day 3 - 450 miles Bozeman MT to Ritzville WA
We left Belgrad, stopped for gas in Butte, and headed on to Missoula. We were getting nearly 44 miles per gallon. There is a nice curvy stretch of I-90 on the way west heading for Idaho. Couer d'Alene Idaho is a beautiful area that looks like a playground for the wealthy, with fantastic homes in the hills overlooking the lake. It reminded me of Hudson Wisconsin. The weather was hot and sunny, in the 80's. We took a long break and got food at a Wendy's, and did some people watching. Every now and then a nice custom chopper would roar by.
Traffic was heavy all the way to Spokane, and it was hot out. The sun was beating down. We packed all our leathers. There are no trees in this part of Washington State. We arrived in Ritzville at 6:00 PM. I got out some tools and adjusted the clutch, and cleaned the bike. There were some other bikers in the motel parking lot, so we traded stories for a while. Then I went on a little walkabout. There were cops everywhere. This town is one of the few stops on this stretch of I-90, so it attracts all kinds of travellers, and the cops who eye them all with suspicion.
Tuesday August 17 Day 4 - 602 miles Ritzville WA to Tillamook ORDue to the time change, it was 9:30 in the morning when we headed out, but my body still thought it was 7:30. We stopped for gas in Ellensburg and decided to change our route a little bit, heading south on highway 12 instead of continuing on I-90 to Seattle-Tacoma. It turned out to be a good choice. The Yakima River gorge is a beautiful and fertile area. We saw apple orchards and hops planted on trellises. I wouldn't have recognized the hops plants, but a flag woman at a road construction stop filled us in on the local crops. We could see Mount Ranier in the distance. We stopped at Ranier View and looked at the mountains. It was strange to see the flat spot where Mt. St. Helen used to be. It makes you feel old to be around after a mountain is gone!
We took highway 401 south, and it ended at a ferry boat dock. We could see that the ferry had just departed. Too bad, because they only charged $3.00 for a motorcycle. We didn't want to wait an hour for the next one, so we headed back to highway 4. We went across a giant bridge to Oregon. The bridge was under construction and partially covered in canvas. Approaching the bridge, it looked like it was opened for a large boat to pass underneath, but really it the bridge just has a high arch. We got on hiway 101, we were on the west coast at last!
The sun was setting and it was very misty and foggy on 101 along the ocean. Visibility was poor, although I did see some elk along the road, I really need to come up with some kind of windshield wipers. Finally we arrived at the Shilo Inn at Tillamook. The last part had been a difficult and treacherous ride. My voltage gauge was reading high, around 14 volts. I guess I'm excessively paranoid about those kind of things.
Wednesday August 18 Day 5 - 68 miles. Tillamook OR to North Bend OR (Sunset Bay)
Visibility was better this morning, but still cloudy. There was a bad semi wreck on highway 101 with a car crushed underneath the semi. We setup camp at Sunset Bay State Park in Coos Bay and hiked around for a while. That evening, we ate at the Fisherman's Restaurant near the water. There was a dead hobo nearby, surrounded now by police cars. Julie had seen him earlier and thought he was sleeping. There were a lot of old homeless-looking fisherman around the area.
Thursday August 19 Day 6 - 220 miles. North Bend OR to Klamath CA
We packed up camp and looked forward to a ride down the coast. The temperature was 46 degrees F. The Humbug Mountain area was beautiful, and the sun finally came out. We stopped at Gold Beach for lunch, then a stop at Klamath Lookout, which was obscured by fog. We talked to two women travelling on Harleys that we had seen earlier at Gold Beach. One of them now had a dead battery, so they were hanging around waiting for a new one.
We set up camp at Patrick's Point State Park in California, then went into Trinidad for groceries. A young man named Tobias and his dog Booz setup camp near us, We had the whole place to ourselves, right next to the ocean, so we enjoyed a campfire with whiskey and California cigarettes, My hands were healing well, and it had been a beautiful day. There is nothing better than listening to the ocean as you fall asleep.
Friday August 20 Day 7 - 62 miles. Klamath CA
When we woke up it was cold and foggy. To warm up, we took a hike down to Agate Beach. I found a small agate. There were a lot of skeletons of sea creatures washed up there. We got gas in Trinidad and headed back up north to hike in the Giant Redwoods. On the way there was a guy in his bedroom slippers walking out of his cabin to get the mail. He had to step around all the elk that were sitting in his yard. A big bull had the best spot in soft grass under the shade of a big tree. You don't see that in Eau Claire, We parked under huge trees and walked to the trail. The hiking was great, it is indescribable to be among those huge ancient trees. I felt like a hobbit. We were laughing and clowning around a lot. Many of the trees, although alive, were hollowed out near the ground by ancient lightening strikes. There were also big bushes heavy with blackberries, so it was a perfect day. When the sun was going down, we headed back to Trinidad and had a great dinner at the Seascape Restaurant.
Back at the campsite for our second night, the place was full of rabbits and a busy gopher. Sadly, Tobias and Booz had moved on. The new campers were a very proper middle aged couple. They had impeccable clothes, a tablecloth, real silverware, and even long-stemmed champagne glasses! We had a chuckle over that.
Saturday August 21 Day 8 - 269 miles Klamath CA to Chester CAWe packed up our camp at Patrick's Point and headed east on hiway 299. Stopped in Willow River for breakfast. A beautiful crisp sunny day. Looking thru my trip notes, I had marked "Gas - $3.64 per gallon!!!". That was the highest I'd seen. Now of course it is much higher here in Eau Claire, nearly $4.00 per gallon. Back on the road, we were constantly changing elevations up and down by thousands of feet. Hiway 299 is a nice ride with lots of curves. We had the river on one side, and hills on the other. Heading inland approached Redding, the weather was getting hot and dry. With lower speeds we were getting over 50 miles per gallon.
Later in the afternoon we went to Lassen Volcanic National Park. There was a hiking trail up to the peak of Lassen Mountain. By the time the sun set, it would forever be called "Fucking Lassen Mountain". That was our little joke as we kept climbing and climbing. It seemed that we would never reach the top. We were about twenty minutes from the peak when the sun started to dip below the high mountain horizon. We were nearly the last people on the trail. One woman came hustling down and said that some officials were towing cars from the parking lot after 8:00 PM because they were going to use the lot as a helicopter landing pad.
So we hustled back down Fucking Lassen Mountain, which isn't easy in dark and windy conditions. We saw lots of mule deer on the way down. They were kind of shy, and would hide behind the big boulders. We got back to the parking lot in time. There were a couple officers hanging out by their squad cars, but no tow trucks or helicopters.
It was after dark when we got to the Best Western in Chester. There was some kind of snafu with the credit card. Once that was settled, we walked to the 50's diner next door. The burgers were good and the waitress filled us in on local news and history. This town gets incredible amounts of snow in the winter. Once they got seven feet of snow in four days. They had to dig tunnels to get outside, and they marked them with spraypaint to find the right door. Large chunks of ice would fall from roofs and break lines between propane tanks and the houses, causing fires and explosions. But it sure is nice this time of year!
Sunday August 22 Day 9 Chester CA to Tahoe CAWe walked down the street in Chester to a laundromat to wash a load of clothes. We talked to some of the locals, they were pretty colorful. It seemed like a fun little town. After loading up again, we headed down the road to Truckee for a qucik break, then on to Tahoe City. It was a beautiful day to walk up and down the main drag. We had a good lunch at Rosie's, then headed to the beach where a modern fusion jazz band was playing. Our motel was America's Best Value Inn. It was a good deal, and it even had a veranda!
Monday August 23 Day 10 Tahoe CA to Yosemite National Park CA
I could have spent more time in Tahoe, but we were hoping to get to Yosemite. First we had to stop and look at the Vikingsholm historical house. I guess it was pretty cool. Then we took a twisty nerve-wracking drive through Ebbet's Pass, with stops at the top and in Bear Valley. When we arrived at Yosemite, it was definitely worth it. Its a huge rugged area of spectacular natural beauty. We setup camp in Hogden Meadow campground. There was a large tour group from overseas, (maybe the Netherlands?). They were pretty loud but we had a nice campfire and some wine so no worries. Big sticky pinecones were falling from great heights and squirrels would be on them in a flash, It was cool at night and we both got a good night's sleep.
Tuesday August 24 Day 11 Yosemite National Park CA
We ate breakfast at Yosemite Lodge. This place was designed to handle a big crowd, but the population was light today. We watched climbers on the famous El Capitan rock face. We were told that Yosemite gets over 4 million visitors per year, including 300,000 climbers. Its huge! We hiked around some trails in the park. The temperature reached 102 degrees during the day. At night, we took a tram tour, The climber's lamps could be seen all over El Capitan at night. It was awesome. We saw deer and a grey fox on the ride back to camp, I slowed to a crawl to look at the fox but he bared his teeth and started moving towards us, so we kept on moving. I woke up in the middle of the night and went for a quiet walkabout while everyone was snoring, I heard a banging noise a couple of times from different places in the campground. The next morning I found out that the noise was from bears thumping the bear-proof metal food boxes. If not completely closed and latched, the boxes would pop open! Those bears are pretty smart.
Wednesday August 25 Day 12 Yosemite National Park CA
Thursday August 26 Day 13 Yosemite National Park CA to Kings Canyon National Park CA
Friday August 27 Day 14 Kings Canyon National Park CA to Sequoia National Park CA
Saturday August 28 Day 15 Sequoia National Park CA
Sunday August 29 Day 16 Sequoia National Park CA to Las Vegas NV
Monday August 30 Day 17 Las Vegas NV to Moab UT
Tuesday August 31 Day 18 Moab UT to Black Canyon National Park CO
Wednesday September 1 Day 19 Black Canyon National Park CO
Thursday September 2 Day 20 Black Canyon National Park CO Rocky Mountain National Park Estes CO
Friday September 3 Day 21 Rocky Mountain National Park Estes CO
Saturday September 4 Day 22 Rocky Mountain National Park Estes CO to Omaha NE
Sunday September 5 Day 23 Omaha NE to Eau Claire WI