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Old 10-06-2014, 08:51 PM   #1
CaptnSlo OP
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From Big Sur to the Sequoias - a Tiger 800 & a 990 ADV Spend a Few Days in California



Oldtownduc and I spent a few well-earned vacation days in the Bay area at the end of September to see the sights, eat burritos and meet up with some of my east coast peeps who made the exodus to San Francisco a few years ago for the tech jobs. We also decided to rent bikes for three days to ride the PCH and trek to places in California that I've always wanted to visit. Oldtownduc has ridden around quite a bit out west, but I haven't, so he decided to give me a quick and dirty tour of some of the sights in northern/central California. This RR is about the 2-wheeled portion of our trip.


We rented our bikes from Dubbelju in San Francisco. They have an extensive selection of adventure and street motorcycles - the new Multistrada, KTM 1190R, the RNineT, Super Tenere, Triumph Explorer, R1200GS, Ducati Monsters - among others. I just picked a bike I'm familiar with - the Tiger 800. Oldtownduc chose a KTM 990 Adventure as he's been dying to ride one. The employees were friendly and helpful. I definitely recommend this company if you're looking to rent a bike out there.




Oldtownduc with the 990 @ Dubbelju


The first day, we rode down the PCH heading to Big Sur (first stop in Moss Landing).





As 280 became Route 1, the weather was damp and chilly, the Pacific Ocean hidden beneath fog. But as we wound our way further south, the sun broke through the clouds and revealed the breathtaking coastline. The warm sun and the salty scent of the ocean raised my spirits while I watched seagulls flit along the cliffs as I rode by.





There was a fair bit of traffic, but we also encountered a number of cops hiding out, so it was probably for the best that we kept things relatively slow. We met a group of Australians who had purchased Harleys in the US and were making their way down the coast from Seattle. They said that they were going to ship the bikes home as their bikes cost 1/3rd their price in Australia. Can't argue with that logic.




Oldtownduc and I


We stopped for lunch in Moss Landing at a restaurant one of my coworkers recommended for their cioppino - Phil's Fish Market.








I got the cioppino and Oldtownduc chose fish tacos. We split a plate of fried smelt.





We both enjoyed our food as well as the view - from our table we could see whales surfacing in the ocean.




Table view


However, the seagulls that lurked around us were evil SOBs. Twice the size of east coast seagulls, they hopped around the outdoor tables, waiting impatiently for a customer to get up to leap onto his plate and purloin some tasty treats. This created quite a commotion as the remaining guests at the table would try to beat away the 20+ birds that cackled hysterically while divebombing the cups and dishes.


There were other casualities as well - a fellow at the table next to ours was splattered like a Jackson Pollock by a number of birds swooping down to the table ahead of his. Fortunately, we ate unscathed and soon found ourselves the only people left eating outside.





We continued to Big Sur, gazing at the beautiful views and finally enjoying a respite from traffic.














Our home for the evening was Glen Oaks Big Sur. It's right off Route 1 and a big plus is that it's a short walk to a restaurant. We stayed in a riverfront cabin that looked rustic on the outside...





... but the inside was quite the opposite.








After checking in, we went to Julia Pfeiffer Burns Park for a hike. We did the Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View trails. It was good to stretch our legs and work up an appetite.







The "Valley View"


Dinner was at the Big Sur Roadhouse. Thinking of the Patrick Swayze movie, I was secretly hoping this would be a place where chairs regularly meet heads, but it was actually a respectable Cajun restaurant.





Dinner was pretty good, but I wasn't a huge fan of the fried chicken, which tasted like it was coated in cornmeal and then incinerated. Oldtownduc really enjoyed his jambalaya. The cheese plate was ridiculously good, as was the beer.





One bottle of local pinot noir and an amazing hot shower later, we passed out for the night.

CaptnSlo screwed with this post 10-06-2014 at 10:27 PM
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Old 10-06-2014, 08:59 PM   #2
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The next day, we gassed up ($5.11/gallon!), ate a quick but hearty breakfast at the Ripplewood Resort restaurant, and headed down the PCH to Cambria. We had to cover a lot of ground that day as we had a reservation at the John Muir Lodge in Sequoia National Park that night, around 300 miles away.


At one point, we were stuck in a line of vehicles behind a toddling Corolla and I ended up being tailgated by a bicycle. The Corolla adamantly refused to pull into the innumerable pulloff areas to let anyone pass and there was no way to pass him because that part of the PCH was so twisty. But on the positive side, at least I got more time to enjoy the beautiful Pacific views on this gorgeous sunny day. Always look on the bright side of life, right?











We stopped at Piedras Blancas to see the elephant seals.





It is now my goal in life to be an elephant seal when I grow up. They are the laziest, happiest fat mofos I've ever seen. There were hundreds sprawled shamelessly on the beach, blissfully sunning their naked nugget bodies before a sea of tourist cameras. At times, one would attempt to inch himself closer to the water, but would fall asleep face-first into the sand after only crawling forward a foot. Others fanned sand onto themselves with their flippers before passing out. The air was replete with their barks ("ah-roo ah-roo ah-roo") and the sound of crashing waves. Walking back to our bikes, we met a Californian wielding a serious camera set-up who had arrived on a beautiful new red Multistrada.


We rode south from there to Cambria, doing a doubletake at a field of zebras along the way, then headed east on 46, to 41, to 198 to get to Sequoia National Park. I don't have any photos of the terrain, but for a while we rode up winding, climbing hills through a beautiful arid landscape. The remainder of the ride was across long, straight roads in baking heat, through what seemed to be a desert but was actually farmland devastated by the drought.





After several hours in the heat (and one requisite stop at an In-N-Out), we reached Sequoia National Park, sweaty and tired. We got there around 4 and were looking forward to checking in at the John Muir Lodge in Kings Canyon and then going for a hike, but we quickly realized that we had vastly underestimated the size of the park when the ranger told us that it would take us an additional 2 hours to get to the lodge.





The road through the park had some serious hairpin turns and as soon as we'd swing around one, we would be blasted in the face by the sun. It was pretty slow going for a while. Then we got stuck in a long line of cars because the road through the forest was closed temporarily for construction. Oldtownduc used our 30 minute wait to stretch his legs along with the other tourists, while I napped on my bike until a British guy woke me up by telling me not to fall asleep.




Traffic sucks!


But finally the road through the Giant Forest opened up and we were allowed through. The tourists ahead of us pulled off to the sights and we were able to plow along to reach the lodge before the sun had set completely. The heat of the afternoon seemed like a distant memory as the temperature plunged into the 50s. I started regretting not zipping in my jacket liner during naptime and visions of a hot shower filled my head. And then these thoughts vanished as I came face-to-face with a black-tailed mule deer. I did a panic stop and felt my rear wheel rise high. But I didn't hit the forest rat. It just glanced at me. Waited a few seconds. Then casually trotted to the other lane and disappeared into the brush. The hot shower vision was viciously replaced with thoughts of venison sausage, and, reminded of how hungry I was, I pressed on, albeit with more caution.





The John Muir Lodge, named for the writer and conservationist, looks impressive from the outside, and like a Motel 6 on the inside, while the common areas reminded me of a fitness club. And neither of us cared because all we wanted to do was to get off our bikes, take a shower and eat. The lodge is in Grant Grove Village (within walking distance to the General Grant Sequoia tree), in which is conveniently located a market that sells alcohol and a restaurant reviled by Yelp reviewers. While leaving the market with my bounty of wine and beef jerky, I got a wave from two guys heading out, one on a V-Strom, the other on an R1200GS.





The restaurant served college cafeteria-type food, but everything tastes better when you're hungry and my steak was decent and Oldtownduc managed not to fall asleep while eating his chicken marsala so I guess it was good. The service was hilariously slow though and it was clear that the customers there were uniformly annoyed by this. Oldtownduc nodded off while waiting during the eternity it took to get the check. On the bright side, the breakfast featured a decent buffet (biscuits and gravy!) - a better format for indolent employees.


During the short, chilly walk back in the dark, the stars gleamed brightly through the trees. There were more stars than I had ever seen at once and I wanted to admire them all night. But instead I passed out. Around 9.


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Old 10-06-2014, 09:07 PM   #3
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We woke up early the next day and visited the General Grant tree. I had only heard that the Giant Sequoia trees were big, but let me tell you - these are some BIG ASS TREES.





Words and photos cannot convey their size, but maybe some numbers will help:


Giant Sequoias can grow to 311 feet. They weigh up to 2.7 million pounds. Their bases can be up to 40 feet in diameter. Redwoods may be taller (max at 380 feet), but they are not quite as old (Sequoias are as old as 3,200 years, while Redwoods top out at 2,000) or as massive in girth (up to 22 feet). As I said, these are big ass trees.




Oldtownduc for scale


We wandered down the trail to the General Grant Grove, enjoying the sweetly scented forest air, the solitude and the silence that was broken only by the screams of alarmed chipmunks. As we walked through the grove, each tree grew increasingly larger. I kept thinking oh, this must be the General Grant, but a larger one would appear in the background. But finally we reached it.





I like trees (who doesn't?), but I have never really seen a tree and thought - well, damn that's majestic. But I felt that way for the first time when I saw the Giant Sequoias. And for the General Grant tree - the largest in the grove - I felt it most keenly. It's more like being in the presence of a human being than a plant. Perhaps it's its age that gives this impression. You can't help but discover a newfound respect for a plant - a tree - for living for thousands of years - a time beyond human comprehension. The size of these trees is certainly astounding, but their age brings another dimension to their immensity. And like looking at the stars, seeing something that has existed for so long before you reminds you of how ephemeral and insignificant your own life actually is. I stood there and looked at the General Grant tree and I felt like this encounter with me was just another infinitesimal speck in the eternity of its life.


After I consumed an unholy quantity of biscuits and gravy at the breakfast buffet, we set off for San Francisco, taking 99 N to 580 W to 280 W to 80.





The ride back was unremarkable. Roads were really congested, but no one seems to pay attention to expressway speed limits in California, so at least traffic was moving extremely quickly. I had bundled up as it was certainly brisk in the park that morning and I figured San Francisco would be as well, but we reached the city during an abnormal heat wave and the stop-and-go traffic on the unsheltered Bay Bridge made me feel as if I had gone for a dip in the Bay. Oldtownduc's KTM overheated on the bridge but we both managed to return our bikes safely.


With the bike portion of the trip concluded, we settled down for a few nights in Sausalito, visited friends in San Francisco, checked out wineries in Napa Valley, had fantastic meals and saw a beautiful classic car show in Sausalito. It was a great trip overall, but renting bikes was certainly one of its highlights.




Bonus photo of Sausalito's police G650GS


Overall thoughts on the bikes - I really liked the Triumph Tiger 800 roadie. Its seat height is lower than my 800XC, it has a smaller front wheel (19" vs. 21" for the XC), and less travel in the suspension. It's easier for me to manuever it around (i.e. back it up) than my XC because I can get my feet completely on the ground as I'm not crazy tall. The front wheel also turns in a little quicker than my XC so it's more flickable to ride. It was a fun bike and its gearbox was invented by magical elves who have existed for millenia only building gearboxes. I would rent it again.





Oldtownduc, who usually rides a BMW F800GS and a Ducati Monster 1100S and has owned a bunch of Ducatis, was smitten with the KTM 990 Adventure. He said it was like a dirt bike with a Ducati engine. On the other hand, the bike had a tendency to overheat in traffic. We don't know if that's just something that happens to the rental. Despite that issue, he definitely enjoyed riding it.





If you guys have any questions, or need any recommendations or suggestions for renting bikes out there, don't hesitate to ask. We'll likely do more exploring of these areas in the future.

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Old 10-07-2014, 12:55 AM   #4
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Beautiful!

Ahhh, the good life! Bookmarking this one. Love it Blixa!
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Old 10-07-2014, 04:49 AM   #5
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thanks for the trip. It has been 25 years since I was out there- a long time for me a blip for the sequoias. I need to get out there again.
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Old 10-07-2014, 06:10 AM   #6
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Ahhh, the good life! Bookmarking this one. Love it Blixa!
That's very kind of you - thanks!

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thanks for the trip. It has been 25 years since I was out there- a long time for me a blip for the sequoias. I need to get out there again.
You're very welcome. The scenery was perfect and the weather wasn't bad. It's a great area to explore, can't go wrong. Definitely make a return trip!
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Old 10-07-2014, 07:26 AM   #7
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I enjoyed that very much. I haven't been to that part of the world since I was 12 - time to go back.
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Old 10-07-2014, 07:39 AM   #8
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I hit In N Out several times when I was in California last month. Wish we had it here
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Old 10-07-2014, 07:44 AM   #9
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Awesome! Dubbelju is great. I was living just a few blocks from them until I moved here (to VA).

It sounds like you may have missed out on one of the best parts of riding in CA - lane splitting! Screw being stuck in traffic!

You also missed most of my favorite parts of riding in CA - all the stuff north of SF along the coast. Best punctuated with a night in Fort Bragg spent eating and drinking at the North Coast Brewery taproom.

You'll just have to go back for another trip!
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Old 10-07-2014, 01:51 PM   #10
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Nice Blixa, looks like great ride
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Old 10-07-2014, 04:35 PM   #11
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I enjoyed that very much. I haven't been to that part of the world since I was 12 - time to go back.
Thank you. I bet you will appreciate the area better now that you are older, and I guarantee it will be more fun than you remember it if you visit it on a bike.

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I hit In N Out several times when I was in California last month. Wish we had it here
Yes indeedy. Great stuff and so cheap. But forbidden fruit always tastes sweeter. If we ever get them out here, the food just won't be the same.

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Awesome! Dubbelju is great. I was living just a few blocks from them until I moved here (to VA).

It sounds like you may have missed out on one of the best parts of riding in CA - lane splitting! Screw being stuck in traffic!

You also missed most of my favorite parts of riding in CA - all the stuff north of SF along the coast. Best punctuated with a night in Fort Bragg spent eating and drinking at the North Coast Brewery taproom.

You'll just have to go back for another trip!
I totally forgot about lanesplitting! And about the north, well, there's only one way to fix that - I guess it's time for return trip

I really have been dying to check out the north coast. I didn't have a ton of time to take off for this trip so I couldn't manage everything, but I'll be back.



Thanks for the tips

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Nice Blixa, looks like great ride
Thank you, DCrider!
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Old 10-07-2014, 07:55 PM   #12
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neat trip. I've been on most of PCH from the southern to northern CA borders, but have not done the stretch from Oxnard to Monterey. I did not stop to see the big trees in the parks, but rode my VFR to Boole Tree. I had the same experience of awe when touching the tree - surrounded by 100 year old babies & stumps of its peers. Thanks for sharing your trip.

Linkie if you are curious: http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/sequoia/gsnm...oole-tree.html
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Old 10-08-2014, 05:28 AM   #13
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Thanks for sharing the story and beautiful photos, they bring back the memories of my last family trip out to the Bay area...


RE KTM overheating: it normally runs a bit hot, but there's also a couple kits to install a second fan to help keep the temperatures down.
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Old 10-08-2014, 10:13 AM   #14
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neat trip. I've been on most of PCH from the southern to northern CA borders, but have not done the stretch from Oxnard to Monterey. I did not stop to see the big trees in the parks, but rode my VFR to Boole Tree. I had the same experience of awe when touching the tree - surrounded by 100 year old babies & stumps of its peers. Thanks for sharing your trip.

Linkie if you are curious: http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/sequoia/gsnm...oole-tree.html
Hey thanks, Creekgeek! It's a strange feeling, isn't it? At least for me, it was awe tinged with a little sadness at the acknowledgment of my own insignificance, but overall relief that all of the crap we deal with daily - and even some of the bigger issues - really doesn't mean so much in the grand scheme of things. Regardless of what may happen, life still goes on. Thank you for the link. I'd like to check out Boole Tree next time I'm out there.

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Thanks for sharing the story and beautiful photos, they bring back the memories of my last family trip out to the Bay area...


RE KTM overheating: it normally runs a bit hot, but there's also a couple kits to install a second fan to help keep the temperatures down.
You're very welcome, Lupin. Time to return on your own KTM! There are some very cool dirt trails out there that I had to pass up b/c I didn't want to risk it on a rental with street tires (and void the insurance). I'll pass on the info to Oldtownduc as he'd be interested to know that. I think overheating was the only concern he had with the bike. I'll probably find something big and orange crammed in next to my bike very soon.
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Old 10-08-2014, 02:38 PM   #15
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Great trip! Thanks for documenting it here!
NoCal is extraordinary.
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