The Lost Coast will have to wait- when life gives you lemons....
We planned this trip for two months. Well, at least as much as we usually plan anyway. It goes like this; pick a destination, plan a route, pack up the night before and head out in the general direction of the route, see what happens. What happened was this:
Barfed on on I-5
GoPro user error
Usal bites back
ATGATT rock climbing
Those are just the highlights.
To entice you further, how about a little elk butt?
Our planned route looked like this.
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My husband, Hans, and I had stumbled upon hwy 162 off of hwy 101 one day about four years ago. We had made it to Covelo, but the ranger there said the pass was snowed in so we had to turn back. We marked that road in out minds for later exploration. Maybe a way to the coast when we finally do Usal?
Fast forward to this July. We just finished a week of Boy Scout Summer Camp and my wonderful husband says, "Ok, now for us. We need 'we' time. Where are we going for a week?" Easy answer- Lost Coast! I spent some time gleaning ADVRider and hatched a plan. Get across the valley, take 162 through Covelo, ands take Branscomb/Usal/Kings Peak/Wilder Ridge/Mattole/Bear River Ridge. Wind our way up the highways to Oregon and Bear Camp Road. See some Shakespeare in Ashland and time dependent, work our way home from there.
We were packed and ready to head out from Nevada City at 8am, but some last minute duties left us in Sacramento at around noon. Not the best start, but who cares? We have learned to keep an open schedule on our "vacations." Keeps the stress and heartache down to a minimum. We topped off with Chipotle burritos and headed up the great I-5 super slab for Willows.
About 30 south of Willows we were in mild traffic when someone threw something out the passenger window of a pickup that was ahead of me in the right lane. I thought they were dumping out a drink. It didn't get on me, but I thought they were pretty stupid to do that with motorcyclists around. Then it happened again and I felt a little something damp through the vent in my jacket. I looked closer at the passenger and realized that he was purging himself of last nights over indulgence. Horrified, I watched the truck pull in in front of me.Hans had passed the truck already and had pulled into the right hand lane for me to catch up. Now the truck was passing him and I was watching out for further expulsions while trying to maneuver to get around him cleanly. We have intercoms on our helmets and I tried to warn Hans, "This guy in the truck is puking!" for now the truck was even with him and he was in the firing line. The truck sped up further and we dropped back, letting him go. The driver wasn't very straight on the road, so he was probably still inebriated. When we pulled off the highway, I didn't seem to have any on me or the bike, but it was a pretty gross thing to have happen.
We headed up into the Mendocino Forest on 162. We were amazed at how fast we gained altitude off the valley floor and how BIG it all seemed. We are used to going through this range on hwy 20 at Clearlake. It was nothing like this. What an absolute OHV heaven out there!
Now, normally I would insert a photo or something here, but this is where the GoPro user error comes in. The camera is new, and due to lack of preparation all my videos are of my bike and the road right below me and not much else. Bummer. I did bring my point and shoot though, so I will give you what I've got.
We pulled into Covelo and it was getting late. I had wanted to make it to the campground on Usal but our late start put us at a disadvantage. Time to stealth camp! Hmmm... this road looks promising, Dos Rios. It cuts out to Laytonville and has some small dirt offshoots. We headed out 162 (amazing curvy goodness) and turned on Dos Rios. All the offshoots seemed to be driveways and it would be dark soon. Oh! Here we go! A flat spot where they seemed to be a high commodity. Not very stealth, as it was just off the side of the road, but it was a gravel road with hardly any traffic. 230 miles today, lots of slab.
Home away from home! The road is about 10 feet behind me here.
I like the Hwy 162 idea, opens up a completely different way to the coast. I'm so used to taking Hwy 20 I never considered Hwy 162. I think next time I'll leave town on Hwy 49 and take the back roads in Oroville and take 162 across the valley
Yes, we really enjoyed it. It was a bit dusty, but once past the M3 turnoff traffic quieted down. 162 between Covelo and 101 is pretty amazing. No traffic, beautiful scenery, and great twisties. If you don't need to get there in a hurry, it is a nice route.
We woke the next morning with the sun. It had been a rough night, as the first night camping often is. As we packed up, a bewildered woman in a Prius drove by. We live in a rural area too, and I imagined what I would think of seeing someone camping in a tent along the main road into town.
We had both been charging some electronics after parking for the night and there was a little apprehension as we pushed our start buttons. I never quite know where to set my choke, and fiddled with it a bit, but the starter pulled strong and with a little throttle it came to life. The BMW sounded a little more tired but it fired right up too. When Hans tried to pull out of our spot it stalled. It was slight hill, and a little soft but the bike seemed to not want to pull out of it. A couple more stalls and then a determined effort got the bike moving, but that was not typical behavior. Hmmm...
As we rode into Laytonville, we were glad that we stopped where we did. It seems that we found the only accessible flat spot on the whole road. The previous night as our Mountain House chicken teriyaki was steaming in its bag, I had thought of the fresh coffee and pancake breakfast I was gong to have in the morning. Yum! As we pulled into town I realized I wasn't going to get it. It seems that "Pour Girls Coffee" is the only game in town. Oh well, a sweet roll and a mocha will have to do! The pastries were a bit lacking, but the coffee was pretty good.
We gassed up and jumped onto Branscomb Road. I had never been on this road before, but had read about it on Pashnit. It did not disappoint. It started out mellow enough, got a little more twisty as we started to see redwoods and then narrowed and climbed. What a fabulous road! It winded its way up to a view of the ocean where we stopped to take it all in. It was a great morning. The road twisted down and rode the crest of a ridge with more views through the trees. At one point there was a 180 degree turn and on the inside of the curve up on the hill was a large geodesic dome house on stilts, with another smaller dome room on the side. How very Mendocino! (not to mention the occasional skunky aroma that we rode through from time to time)
Here come the lemons-
While passing a car and pulling hard in third gear, Hans had felt his clutch slipping. That plus the difficulties in the morning did not bode well. The problem was that if we got into trouble, would his bike have the pull to get out? Maybe if we baby it we will be ok. We decided to keep going and see how it went.
We got to Usal Road and made the turn. Yay! We are here! We were headed up the first hill and about a quarter mile in this happened.
Hans hugged that inside ditch a little too close and when dirt turned soft it sucked him in. When Beemers motorboat on their jugs it means a whole other thing. They sure like to spin around on those babys! His nap was excusable. Mine? I claim invisible KTM vortex. Going slow uphill like I was I wouldn't think the front brake would have been a problem, but next thing I knew I was getting pulled into the side of the hill. I pretty much faceplanted into the weeds. I got up, and Hans was looking at me saying, "What happened to you?" I don't know, but that divot in the dirt tells the story.
We pushed the beasts up, but were leery about the BMWs clutch. It seemed to be ok, but would it hold out? We kept going. We dropped into the campground, then started to continue back up and out. Looking at the road ahead we stopped to discuss our options. If we loose a clutch on a 600 pound machine out there it will be a bad day. We decided to bag it. We would probably have made it just fine, but it wasn't worth it. We wanted this to be a fun trip, and constantly worrying about a slip into a ditch, or the next steep hill would not be fun. We live close by. Usal can wait. The plan was to find out where the closest BMW shop on our route was, find out what they could or couldn't do for us, and go from there. We headed back out to hwy 1 and turned north in search of a phone signal and wifi.
The Lost Coast will have to wait- when life gives you lemons....
We motored on up to the first sizable town we could find- Garberville. Our goal was to find the nearest BMW dealer on our route and see what could be done. Last minute clutchectomy on a Sunday, fat chance. After some searching we got found Hansens in Medford, OR. Well, at least they didn't laugh at us. There wasn't much they could do as far as a quick clutch replacement. We figured we would head up there anyway. We had planned on seeing a play at the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, so we would do that and stop by the BMW shop too. Maybe we could pick their brains and see what we could figure out. Best case, it is a non-problem and we can take the route home backwards and hit Usal on the way home. Worst case, we limp home on I-5. For now we would stay on clutch friendly roads and make the best of it. No Mattole, no Bear River Ridge, no Bald Hills, definitely not Kings Peak. After a lunch of gas station Subway we took off on 101, destination: Gold Bluffs Beach Campground.
We arrived around 5:30. Plenty of time to find a spot and then go see Fern Canyon and hopefully some Roosevelt Elk. The campground was about half full. The bathrooms were amazingly clean and they had showers! We were surprised at the $35 fee though. Between us we only had $30 cash and no checks available. We put in what we had and apology note saying we would send in the rest of the fee and hoped for the best. We hoped that they wouldn't tack on the $8 extra vehicle fee. When only have four wheels, right? We tagged our site as occupied and took off on the bikes down 2 miles to the end of the road.
The trailhead sign showed Fern Canyon less than a half mile away. Heading down the trail in full ATGATT sans helmets seemed kind of silly. "We are ADVRiders, we are prepared for ANYTHING!" :pynd The canyon appeared with a small shallow stream flowing down the middle. The park service had provided bridges made from a couple 2x8s nailed together in several places but with my big boots, I didn't need them. Yay ATGATT! The canyon was pretty amazing. The walls were vertical and covered in ferns. It seemed very primeval. There were several trees that had fallen off of the top ledge and tumbled down. Man, to be here when the creek is rockin' and trees are coming down would be quite a show!
Continuing down the trail it eventually opened up to a meadow with shoulder high grass. Right on the path were three big elk. They all appeared to be young. Two were obviously younger than the thrid and they moved off the trail as we came towards them. The third held his ground. He was eating his dinner and two brightly clad tourists were not going to disturb him. I got as close as I felt was prudent and took a few photos. Then we turned and headed back to the bikes and camp.
More Mountain House for dinner and a moonlight stroll on the beach. Clutch issues aside, this doesn't suck.
I proposed to my wife in Fern Canyon just over 5 years ago. Need to go back up there sometime. Are you guys home yet or is this a real time report?
We are home now.
I was up there before about 15 years ago. There were a lot more trees in the canyon now then when I was there before. There was one really big one that I remember because we climbed up on it and took a picture. It was still there and you could see where hundreds of others climbed on it too.
Great location for a proposal! :clap
You poor thing. A stranger's barf. I can't imagine.
While packing up in the morning the ranger came around. Uh, oh. How is this going to go? She was pretty nice, but was not very pleased with us. She said this had not happened before. The look on her face was pretty funny. She obviously thought we were a couple of idiots. She was pretty much correct there. She gave us the address to mail in a check and went on her way. I hope her day went better.
We didn't get a very early start to begin with and had to wait for a pilot car for construction on the road out of the campground, so by the time we hit the highway it was 9:30. That's ok were only going as far as Medford. We stopped in Crescent City for breakfast at Good Harvest Cafe. We had just missed the breakfast cutoff, so we had lunch instead. Hans had fish and chips and I had the fish tacos. Pretty good food reasonably priced. My tacos came with soup and salad. I had clam chowder and it was really yummy. We checked the map and decided to tak 199 to 238 and on to Medford.
There was a little traffic on 199, but just as we were getting the good part there was a passing lane. Just when we thought we were home free, a guy pulled out and got the hole shot. What a jerk! Hans got up behind the guy and I could tell he was raring to go. I told him to just let the guy go. He seemed to be getting on the gas and we weren't in any big hurry. It turned out the guy really cooked along. He was going at a nice spirited pace. I bet he drives that road every day and hates getting stuck behind the "baggers" like us. :lol3
The cutoff for 238 came up and we found that it was a nice country road traveling through a beautiful valley. Usually we have our iPods on and we use the intercom for navigation and random comments, but the whole way down the valley we chatted away about random stuff. For about 45 minutes, the whole world melted away and it was just me and Hans and the view out of our helmets. This doesn't suck!
Pulling into any motorcycle shop when you're on the road is always interesting. Generally the bikes are dirty, we are dirty, and there are weird things hanging off your bike (in my case a pair of socks and bike shorts were hanging out to dry). Hansens was no different. Two pristine 1200GS's parked out front and another pulled in behind us. My KTM was looking a bit out of place. I love it! We went in and chatted a bit with Craig, the owner. He was really nice and as helpful as he could be. He told us that maybe the starter could be pulled and they could measure how much clutch was left, that may not indicate how long we could go though. We were really resigned at this point to just taking some back roads and getting home. We thanked him for his time and headed down the road to Ashland.
We got a hotel and inquired about tickets for Shakespeare. Henry V at 8:00. Time to get cleaned up and grab some dinner. We went to the Black Sheep Pub. Hans had a salad and a pasty. I had the steak. MUCH better than Mountain House! New York Steak with garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed kale and mushrooms, and fried leeks. The steak was a bit over done, but it was amazing. Who knew fried leeks were so good? I cleaned my plate and washed it down with a lemon drop that was wonderfully heavy on the vodka. Off to see pillaging and romance!
The play was quite entertaining. I am not a Shakespeare fan. I have nothing against it, I just don't go out of my way for it. I do like plays, but don't usually make any efforts to go to them either. We should go more often. I had a really good time. I do not know why live people on a stage seems so much better than a movie, but there seems to be a better sense of satisfaction with a play. ...but i digress. The play was good, nothing spectacular but a real nice production. One of the actors is Howie Seago, who is deaf. He had an "interpreter" on stage who spoke his parts. It was a somewhat distracting, but interesting part of the play. I didn't really understand it until I looked it up just now.
We had a nightcap at the pub on the way back to the hotel and settled in for a nice comfy sleep on a nice soft bed.
Our next destination was just outside of Montague, Ca north of Mt. Shasta. Hans had spent some time going to college in Weed, Ca. His good friends family has a ranch up there. We were going to revisit one of the haunts of his youth. He had not been there in 30 years.
He didn't know if there would be anyone there or not, and when we pulled up we were greeted by the caretakers. There is a creek on the property, Bogus Creek. This creek comes off of the Klamath River just before the Iron Gate dam. At this point spawning Chinook salmon can no longer follow the Klamath past the dam, and they continue up the Bogus. We walked down to see if there were any to be seen. In a pool between two rapids we were able to count about four. It was strange to see such a big fish in a small creek.
Hans wanted to show me another spot on the property. There is a smaller creek that is dry this time of year, but has a waterfall when it is running. We hiked back to it once again in our riding pants and boots. It was a beautiful spot. A 40 foot lava rock cliff drops into a shallow pool. It was wonderfully cool down there. I would love to see it when the water is running. There were two ways out, back the way we came down the creek bed, or climb up the side and shortcut across the field. Up we went. Side note, these-
are not climbing boots. The climb wasn't hard, and hardly treacherous. I am not sure what the bigger threat was, the loose rock and consequential fall, or the poison oak. Those boots! I know one day I will love 'em, but not this day. We walked across the field of star thistle (yay kevlar pants!), bid our farewell, and rode to Montague.
Checking the map we chose to take Ball Mountain Road over to 97 and on over to Lava Beds National Monument. How is Ball Mountain Road? I was dubious. Hans said he remembered taking this route in a pickup truck, it's no problem. As we turned onto the road there was a warning about trailers and passenger vehicles. Passenger vehicles, really? Is this going to be ok for the Beemers clutch? About four miles in I remembered a route that I had been looking at during the planning stages of this trip. Allycatdad had a route posted that he made a change to because of the sand. This is pretty close to that area. Please.... no sand.
I've had a few things thrown at me, thankfully no barf!
Waiting for more.
Of coarse there was sand. You knew that there had to be sand right? Actually it was silt. With ruts. It started out to not be so bad, small sections, not too deep. I thought I could practice my sand technique, weight back, don't fear the throttle. The silt was a bit different than the sand I had been in before, and the ruts were a whole different game. Before I knew it I was down. Hans had to get to a clutch friendly spot to stop and then walk back to help me pick up the bike. Not wanting to fall or get stuck with his bad clutch Hans was just tractoring along, and foot paddling through the ruts. This method seemed to work better. Each section of silt got longer and deeper. I fell one more time, Hans went down once too. It is funny with the intercoms, listening to heavy breathing and engine noise right in your ear, then a grunt and, "I'm down!" We made it to the top of the pass and on the way down the sections got easier and easier.
Our GPS tried to get us lost a couple times but we are smarter than it and pretty soon we made it to the highway. You have to always remember to be smarter than your GPS. Ours constantly leads us in strange directions, then tells us to turn around. On Usal Road it wasn't happy until we got about 3 miles in, apparently we were floating in space for a while until we found the road. :lol3
I had been watching my oil level and the light had flickered on idle a couple times, so at the first gas station we stopped for oil. I had forgotten to pack a funnel so I got a paper one from the attendant. That was a mistake. I ended up with oil all over the bike and an unknown amount in the engine. What a mess! I had put way too much oil in. Great! I remember reading that too much oil could blow seals in the engine. Luckily, I had installed CJ's oil drain hose kit.
This made it super easy to drain the excess oil. I didn't think that I would use it for this reason when I installed it, but it came in really handy. There is another selling point for you. Thanks CJ!
I had also installed an oil pressure gauge, and though the level was still a little high, it was within specs. Again, not really the intended use, but really helpful and it put my mind at ease.
By now it was getting late and we still had 75 miles to go. We were going to stop and eat in Dorris, but we hate setting up camp in the dark, so it was going to be Mountain House for us again.
The campground at Lava Beds was really nice and only $10, what a deal! Some one had left some firewood behind so we scored a campfire too.
While sitting by the fire I heard something scurrying around. It was a brave little kangaroo rat. He was so cute, with quite the impressive tail. He was a fast little bugger, and we spent some time trying to get pictures of him.
The only decent video I got wasn't with the GoPro, it was my camera, and there are no motorcycles, just a rodent.
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