A bear ate my jerky!

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by BGil, Dec 30, 2018.

  1. BGil

    BGil Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    540
    Location:
    Belgium
    In August and September 2018, I toured the western U.S. (and a little bit of Canada) for 8 weeks on a DRZ400-S.

    If it wasn’t my first long motorcycle trip, both in time and distance, but it was my first time on the American continent.

    I really want to thank the ADVRider community for the success of this journey, and for different reasons:

    First, I started to be interested in that kind of travel after discovering by chance the old FrontPage Pictures thread on advrider.com, back in 2011.

    Second, I managed to buy a bike in the U.S., and register and insure it with the help of an inmate, the famous james (@TUCKERS).

    Third, when I asked for advices about this journey on the Trip Planning section (here), I got a lot more answers than I was hoping for. Thanks to them, my route changed substantially, for the best.

    And last, I met on my way some inmates who I now like to call friends.


    In 2015 when I was travelling to Mongolia, I kept a blog for my family, friends and co-workers. Back home after the trip, I translated it and posted it on advrider.com (a dog with a hat, the link is in my sig line).
    I'm doing the same this time.
    #1
    Lopburi, KLRalph, cyclopathic and 7 others like this.
  2. BGil

    BGil Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    540
    Location:
    Belgium
    The first day was really long, indeed.

    It started at 5 AM in Belgium. Train to Luxembourg at 7 AM, then a bus to Findel, Luxembourg’s airport. Plane to London at 10 AM with 5 hours of waiting time in Heathrow then the 11 hours of the flight to Los Angeles.
    Then the long queue for the customs: 1 hour, maybe 2? Another bus, another train, and at 00.30 AM (local time, that’s 09.30 AM Belgian time) I reached Claremont Station, where James Tucker was waiting for me.

    We didn’t wait for the morning to have a look at the bike that James bought, prepared and registered for me. A Suzuki DRZ400-S, what a nice little toy. That was the smallest bike I had since I was a teen, and the most dirt-oriented one ever.

    After a cold beer and a shower, I went to bed.

    In the morning, I met Rob, an Australian. He, too, bought a bike through James, a big GS, to tour North America. Maybe our path will cross again later.

    Here is my bike, sparkling clean. This won’t last.

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    And here is James’s house and garage. I counted 7 bikes there that day.

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    I hit the road before noon. After a quick visit to a Walmart to get some food and water, I went to an AT&T shop for a SIM card.
    At 02.30 PM, I left L.A. and its endless suburbs. What a huge city, especially compared to my little hometown!

    After a bit of Highway 15, I met the road 395 and followed it to the North for a hundred miles.

    That was one of the most boring road of the whole trip, maybe because I wasn’t used yet to those long stretch of pavement, flat and straight, with nothing to see on the horizon.
    The Mojave Desert was so hot, it was like standing in front of an open oven.

    I made frequents stops, to drink and relieve the pain on my buttocks. I never really got used to the DRZ saddle. I heard it is famous for being one of the most uncomfortable seat you can find. It’s certainly the worst I ever had.

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    After a while, the flat plain was interrupted low rocky hills.

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    The scarce and dry vegetation was dominated by these strange Joshua trees.

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    After a few hours, the scenery started to turn a little greener.

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    The road was getting closer to the Sierras, the mountains that form the backbone of California.

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    At Inyokern, I left the road 395 to head straight to the mountains.

    Reaching the lake Isabella, I followed its shore until Kernville before taking the road to the Sierras that runs along the Kern River. You won’t be surprised to know that the place is called Kern Valley. Ecology is very popular here; they recycle even the names…

    The evening was not very far and I discovered a little campground on the side of the road called Ants Canyon. Nearby and below, the Kern River.

    The place was almost empty. There was a car and I heard children playing but I didn’t see anybody.
    It was also free.

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    After a day in the hot desert, the waters of the Kern River were so clean and fresh that I could not resist to the urge of going for a swim.

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    I fell asleep immediately after the nightfall.
    I endured jetlag better than I had feared, but I was really tired.
    #2
  3. BGil

    BGil Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
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    The truck tasked with cleaning the port-a-potty arrived just when I was leaving Ants Canyon campground. I got off the bike to greet the guy and ask him if there was a fuel station close north of there.
    No, the next one was quite far; I should better head back to Kernville to refuel before resuming my journey. So I did.

    One of the many suggestions I got here on advrider was to take the road crossing Sherman Pass (thanks @95Monster and @jonz). That’s why I went to Lake Isabella, as it’s on the way.

    The road soon started to climb.

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    Higher, the mountains became gradually dryer and rockier.

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    My father lives in southern France, in the Languedoc region. These mountains look a little like there, minus the ruined castles.

    The road runs at the foot of these jagged peaks.

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    The most impressive trees are the redwoods, a lot taller than the beeches and oak trees of my Ardennes hills.

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    I’m now above the valleys.

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    The road is very quiet; the traffic is almost non-existent.

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    As I come closer to the highest point of the road, the forest recedes like my hairline (but the view is prettier).

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    After the pass, the forest comes back in full strength.

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    But, as I keep going to the East, the desert is getting closer and the landscape becomes drier and drier.

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    I reach the last part of this road, Nine Miles Canyon.

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    Eventually, I meet again the desert and the Road 395, only a few miles north of where I left it. I will even trace back my steps for 6 miles to the south: a man met while refuelling in Kernville had advised me to go to the fuel station of Inyokern as the next one north could be too far for me.

    I must add that, each time I stop somewhere, to get fuel or groceries or simply to have a break, people come and chat with me and give me advices about the road, things to see, etc.

    The population is very friendly and welcoming in the US.
    #3
  4. Bigbob1

    Bigbob1 Rain Rider Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    528
    Location:
    Juneau Alaska
    Good stuff, looking forward for more.
    #4
  5. BGil

    BGil Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    540
    Location:
    Belgium
    Back on Road 395, I was riding again in an overwhelming heat.

    Here and there, on the side of the road, signs were informing me that, had I the whim of visiting Death Valley this time of the year, it was only a hundred miles to my right.

    Fortunately, I was quickly getting away from this open-air oven to come back to the mountains.

    I briefly left the road to have a look at the very touristic town of Mammoth Lakes.

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    As I was stopped at a red light, I noticed that the red Tesla in front of me had an unusual roof ornament: a laptop computer.
    When the light turned green, I managed to pass the car, waving frantically at the driver (the horn wasn’t working), signalling her to stop. Eventually she did and her passenger got out of the car. I pointed my finger to the roof of the Tesla while shouting “your computer!” He picked it up with visible relief and a little embarrassment.

    Back on Road 395. The evening was getting close; time to find a place to camp.

    I spotted a sign advertising a campground and followed the dirt road.
    After a mile or so, I met a couple on ATV and, of course, started to chat with them, the usual questions: where are you from? where are you going? do you like the country? etc. That’s exactly the same questions I have been asked in Russia, Turkey or Kyrgyzstan. And probably the questions that anyone would ask when meeting a tourist coming from a country far away.

    They told me that the campground was nice, clean, and free. Great news!

    Indeed, the place was nice. The campsites were widely scattered; the land is cheap here. It’s called Hartley Springs.

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    The campground at Ants Canyon was very primitive so this was my first night in one of these “standard” American campsites. A flat ground for the tent, a picnic table and a fire ring, with a trash bin and a toilet on the side.

    Under my picnic table, I noticed a hole. The place had a permanent resident.

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    A few minutes later, I spotted my neighbour, who seemed anxious to see me leave. Or maybe he was just waiting to have a share of my diner.

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    “Excuse me sir, you’re not doing anything with these crumbs, do you?”

    The next day, after a short stop in Lee Vining, I headed toward the entrance of Yosemite NP.

    When I was preparing this trip, I had planned to stop for 2 or 3 days in Yosemite. Unfortunately, little did I know that wildfires would be devastating California.
    All the roads coming from the west were closed; the central valley itself was forbidden. Only one road was still open, the one coming from the east and crossing Tioga Pass. I would have to drive it in both directions; it was now a dead end.

    Even before entering the park, the landscape was beautiful.

    Earlier, I had met a Fire Ranger at a fuel station. She told me that the fires were progressing. When I asked if the park was still worth a visit, she answered with a nice smile: “On a motorcycle, yes, absolutely. But you have to go right now, before the smokes.”

    After Tioga Pass, at the park entrance, I asked for an annual pass but the lady in the booth told me that she didn’t have that kind of pass, so I went in for free. I will buy one at the next park.

    Keeping in mind the Ranger’s advice, I went all the way without stopping, to enjoy the view with a clear air.

    At White Wolf, where the road was closed due to the fires, I turned back and retraced my steps, this time taking the time to stop here and there.

    The scenery made me even more frustrated that the central valley was closed.

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    Far away, the smoke starts to seep in the valleys.

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    The local inhabitants seem worried.

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    Between the trees and the rocks, the bushes have a hard time finding cracks to anchor their roots.

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    But nature is strong and resilient. It will recover, like this tree, split in two by a thunder strike or by the frost, but that managed to survive.

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    The smoke thickens. The smell of burnt wood is getting stronger.

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    On a tree, birds are gathering, like travellers waiting for the next train that will take them away from the flames.

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    Despite that, the road is still beautiful and pleasant.

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    On the shores of Tenaya Lake, the smoke is still present.

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    #5
  6. BGil

    BGil Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    540
    Location:
    Belgium
    Thanks Bob! I hope that you will like it.
    #6
    Bigbob1 likes this.
  7. BGil

    BGil Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    540
    Location:
    Belgium
    Riding east, I left the smoke behind me. Little by little, the sky became blue again.

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    A nice road went gently down the valleys.

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    On the mountainside, the vegetation makes good use of all the cracks and crevices in the smooth rock.

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    In these high and wide valleys, sculpted by the glaciers, the forest gives way to the meadows.

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    A little further, the forest is back.

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    And of course, at the bottom of the valleys, streams make their way between the boulders.

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    Another meadow.

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    A last picture in a wooden frame and I’m out of the park.

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    Before Tioga Pass, Tioga Lake.

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    And at least, the pass itself, an impressing road cut in the side of the mountain, high above the valley. I wasn’t surprised that this road is closed in winter.

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    When digging into the mountain is not possible, a bridge is thrown across the gaps.

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    After around 10 km, the valley widens before reaching Lee Vining and, a little further, Mono Lake.

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    Everywhere, volcanism left its mark.

    This black island is a volcanic cone.

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    The day was still young and I kept riding the road 395 until I eventually left it just before Topaz Lake. I took the mountain road leading to Lake Tahoe.

    This road follows the bottom of the valley, where a river brings a welcome coolness.

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    Others were enjoying it, too.

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    I stopped in the little town of Markleeville for dinner. Tuesday was special tacos, and they were tasty!
    Then I retraced my steps: I had spotted a camping ground that seemed nice.
    I found it a bit expensive (35 $) but it was very well located, on the side of the road, next to the river.

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    I waited until the last fisherman was gone before swimming in the river; I didn’t want to scare the fish. I also did my laundry. The wind was hot and dry, my clothes will dry fast.

    Here too, the water was pleasant.

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    Tomorrow, I will have a long day.

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    #7
  8. BGil

    BGil Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    540
    Location:
    Belgium
    The road to Lake Tahoe was nice and the traffic smooth until I reached South Lake Tahoe.
    I stopped there for a few hours, to have a snack and update my blog in a park.

    After that, I took the road following the west shores of the lake. The traffic was insane. Between roadworks and the hundreds of RV and camping trailers, it was quite difficult to stop and enjoy the gorgeous scenery and to take pictures.

    I left as soon as possible and took the road to Truckee.

    West of the town, I left the Freeway 80. My map was showing a forest trail heading south roughly to my intended destination. I was sick of the highway and I wanted to test my bike off-road.

    After Soda Springs, the pavement ended and adventure started.

    The trail was climbing steeply on the side of the mountain.

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    The trail was good. Dry. Sometimes, a bit of gravel, sometimes a bit of sand. I was riding cautiously; I’m not used to riding off-road (you are not allowed to in Belgium) and it was my first time of this trip and on this bike.

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    I didn’t see a single car.

    After around 10 km, in a deep valley, my GPS was showing a place called The Cedars. To my surprise, there was a house with a few people having a drink on the deck, and, a little to the side, a large building looking like a hunting lodge.

    A few km later, the sun started to set. Time to look for a camping spot.

    I stopped to enjoy the view.

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    Looking at that lost valley, I was thinking that it would be a nice place to pitch my tent.
    But wait! The shoulder there, just below, looks almost flat for a couple of meters. That’s all I need for my tent.

    Still, it took me 15 minutes to remove the rocks and flatten the ground.

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    I spent the last half hour of light to munch on some bread and a disgusting thing presumptuously called “salami”, helped with a can of beer just a little too cold to be said lukewarm.

    I take this opportunity to say that I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of American beers, as long as you stay away from Budweiser, Pabst, Coors and the like, and only go for craft beers.
    The IPAs especially take great care of selecting fragrant hops.

    The sun was setting on the mountains.

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    I went to sleep with a slight concern. In this part of California, I saw everywhere, even in the parks in the middle of a town, posts warning about bears. The trash bins, for instance are fitted with a special lock to prevent the bears from opening them and eating what’s inside.

    I hoped that they would not be attracted by the leftovers of my meal. Maybe it was a good thing that my salami was so awful.

    The morning came without any trouble. The night had been surprisingly quiet.

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    I had found the road nice, but it kept going for another 60 km through the mountain.
    However, I still not had a decent tool kit. I couldn’t fix even a puncture. Considering the remoteness of place, I thought that I could have to wait for days before meeting a car. Any breakdown could send me for a 2 days hike to the nearest village.

    So I decided to turn back. The test was a success anyway: the bike behaved very well, even in the soft sand.

    Coming back to that sandy part, I crossed my own tracks, but another traveller had been there last night.

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    It was definitely a cat, but which one? My first idea was a bobcat, but many weeks later I watched this picture with Ken (@2mstone) and upgraded it to a Puma.

    The air is cleaner this morning than yesterday afternoon. The view goes further.

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    And the light is beautiful.

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    On the side of the road, I noticed a stunted tree. Is it a bristlecone pine, one of the oldest living thing on earth?

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    I’m back on the Freeway 80, heading to the southwest. First stop: the little town of Colfax.
    I didn’t stop there for sightseeing, although it’s a pretty city, but for business.

    To sum up, a little board games editor, called Lumenaris, recently moved to Colfax. Their top-selling game (Leaving Earth, a game about the space exploration starting in the 50’s) was out of stock in every shop in Europe so I ordered it directly from them. I didn’t want to pay the 75$ shipping rate + custom taxes so I told them that I would come and pick it up in August. So, here I am!

    Even if it will prove a bother to lug around the three small boxes of the game (I had to get the full set) in my bags, so much that I eventually shipped them myself to Belgium, it was a good idea to come to Colfax.

    I met the owners and got a little tour of the workshop along with a friendly chatter with them. Of course, I got the usual travel recommendations and advices.

    Back on the road. I keep heading west, toward the coast.

    I cross Grass Valley, then Yuba City. The region is flat and covered in fields. Boring.

    Hopefully, I reach Clear Lake in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the Natural Park and its campground are closed due to the wildfires.

    I will eventually stay in a dilapidated campground in the village of Nice, for extra irony. Well, it’s not that it’s really dilapidated, it’s just half-finished while giving the feeling that they’re not planning on working on it for some times.

    Anyway, it’s directly on the lakeside, they have showers, a laundry and a handful of canoes and kayaks are at the free disposal of the customers. That’s good enough for me!

    Of course, I went for a boat ride before the evening, and of course I capsized the canoe. Where’s the fun if you don’t?

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    #8
  9. boristhebold

    boristhebold Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2012
    Oddometer:
    218
    Location:
    Yorkshire, England
    Great reading so far.....
    #9
  10. BGil

    BGil Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    540
    Location:
    Belgium
    I kept going west, to the coast.

    I had been advised on this forum to get Butler maps, another very good tip. These maps are water and tear resistant, easy to read and highlight the best motorcycle roads. I really like them and most of the time I chose my route with them.

    Today was not an exception.
    Unfortunately, my road (from Ukiah, to Boonville then the coast), although lovely, was punctuated by roadworks.

    To make things even worse, I spent the evening writing on my computer, plugged on the bike’s battery to charge it. And of course I forgot to unplug it when going to sleep. In the morning, the battery was completely drained; the dashboard wouldn’t even light up.

    To start the bike, I had to push it in front of the campground.

    20 km later, I had to stop at a fuel station. The battery was still not charged enough to start the engine… Just to be sure, the rest of the day, I took great care to stop at the top of a slope when I wanted to take a break or snap pictures.

    Later, I was told that it’s a common problem with Suzuki bikes, even the V-Strom has a weak alternator.

    The air started to have a sea smell. The ocean was close.

    I spotted a post pointing to a walking trail leading to the beach. I parked there (there was a slight slope) and went for a stroll.

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    After at least a km or even a mile in the loose sand with my heavy motorcycle boots, I eventually reached the Pacific Ocean, which I was seeing for the first time.

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    A strong wind was spraying the beach with a mist heavy with water droplets. I dipped my fingers into the ocean: freezing.

    I have a basic knowledge of geography and of the ocean currents, I knew that the waters along the coast of California come from the arctic, but I wasn’t expecting them to be that cold.

    I had been advised by many people, and not only on advrider, to take the Road 1 that follows the Californian coast. They were right.

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    In some ways, the coast reminded me of Greece: rocks and low mountains bathed by the sea. But the climate here is much more violent.

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    I spent the night in the campground of a State Park north of Fort Bragg.
    Once again, I bothered the locals.

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    The next morning, I visited the park for a few hours.

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    In every Parks that I have visited, signs ask insistently the visitors not to feed the wildlife. Despite that, this squirrel came to me to beg for food. Clearly, cookies and crumbs are an important part of its diet.

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    A little further, napping in the sun, a seal.

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    The coast is still very wild here.

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    Even the birds look grumpy.

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    For dozens of miles, the coast is dotted with reefs.

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    I see a black dot in the middle of the bay. But is it really a rock? Zoom.

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    #10
  11. DewaldReynecke

    DewaldReynecke Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 24, 2014
    Oddometer:
    19
    Location:
    Cape Town, South Africa
    Great read, nice photos. Looking forward to the rest!
    #11
    eaglescan likes this.
  12. 51ave

    51ave n00b

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2018
    Oddometer:
    6
    Location:
    Australia
    Enjoying this, thanks for sharing!
    #12
  13. greenmtndave

    greenmtndave Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2004
    Oddometer:
    300
    Location:
    North Central Vermont
    Subscribed. I am enjoying your trip. Thanks.
    #13
  14. Bob

    Bob Formerly H20Pumper

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2002
    Oddometer:
    3,405
    Location:
    Corral de Tierra CA, Ketchum ID
    Glad you are having fun, thanks for posting your ride.
    #14
  15. murdock84

    murdock84 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2012
    Oddometer:
    679
    Location:
    Elizabethtown, PA
    Nice report, looking forward to reading and seeing more.
    #15
  16. * SHAG *

    * SHAG * Unstable

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2001
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    5,238
    Location:
    Bradford, Pa
    Great! This is the best part of Winter for me! Thanks and keep it coming!
    #16
  17. 2mstone

    2mstone Stir the oil Baby!

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    272
    Location:
    Utah
    Looks good Bernard!
    #17
  18. thirsty 1

    thirsty 1 Rider Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2009
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    3,116
    Location:
    Top Hat - Seattle Wa.
    :clap :lurk
    #18
  19. Mcgee

    Mcgee Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2011
    Oddometer:
    711
    Location:
    Pacific NW
    Great photos and report of a very nice ride! Thank you for letting us ride along! How's that DRZ working out for you other than the seat, lol. Again, thanks.
    #19
  20. BGil

    BGil Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    540
    Location:
    Belgium
    11th of August. My plans were to follow the coast for 30 km or so, then head inland to discover the Avenue of the Giants before stopping in Eureka.

    The first part of this route went smoothly.
    The weather was cloudy, misty, with a wind loaded with spray. It was a bit cold.

    As soon as I went away from the coast, the sun came back.

    A pleasant winding road took me to Leggett. A little further, I decided that it was time to act like a normal tourist.

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    Here is the complete tree. Well, most of it.

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    Next to it, one of the wagon used to move these huge logs to the towns or the ports.

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    At last, I reached this Avenue of the Giants, the aforementioned giants being sequoias, the tallest trees in the world.

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    You can't help but feel tiny next to them.

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    I got to Eureka in the afternoon.

    It was time to test another feature of advrider: the camp space list.

    I had sent a PM asking for a bed or a place to camp to an inmate earlier (@MeefZah) who answered me basically this:
    “Me and my wife are working the night, so the house will be empty. Here is my address, here is the code of the garage door, your bedroom is that room, there will be towels on the bed, look into the fridge if you’re hungry.”

    I used to do the same with Couchsurfers, but it’s not the same thing when you’re on the receiving end of hospitality.

    So I entered in an empty house.

    I didn’t pillage the fridge but took a hot shower. Then I spent some times simply relaxing in the couch before enjoying a real bed!

    At 7 a.m., a noise awakened me. Mark and his wife Meredith were coming back home. I could finally meet them.

    Meredith is a nurse and Mark is a policeman. This explains their night shifts.

    Mark and me spent an hour chatting before he went to sleep.
    He told me the best bike roads nearby, gave me a few tools that I needed and suggested shops in town where I could find the last ones. He also invited to stay at their house for another night if I wished to explore the area. I gladly accepted.

    First, a stop in a workshop to get new tyres. I had gotten a change of oil at the same place the day before.

    Then I headed back south, to the “Lost Coast”.

    The road leading there is not always well maintained; that keeps most of the travellers away. It’s true that the region is empty. Considering the moistness brought by the sea breeze, I was surprised by dryness of the hills.

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    I reached Cape Mendocino, the westernmost point of California.

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    South of it, by taking back roads, I discovered a more rural California.

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    Eventually, the road lead me to a narrow valley where the village of Shelter Cove is hidden.

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    The surroundings of the black sand beach were posted with signs inviting the visitors to be careful and not to come too close to the surf, because rogue waves could be dangerous.

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    The village spreads along the cliffs, to the south of this beach.

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    The bay of Shelter Cove is lined with reefs sheltering wildlife too.

    Birds.

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    Or mammals.

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    These islets battered by the waves are a haven against predators.

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    The lighthouse that was previously located at Cape Mendocino has been moved here and carefully renovated.

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    #20