The Vortex of California

By the end of the 2 weeks we were itching to get going again. Mike got back, took a day off and said “OK LET’S GO!” Part man, part machine, I thought I could hear the Six Million Dollar Man sound effects as he packed up his bike. Just like that we were back on the road with our energetic tour guides leading us south.

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Mike and Kati wanted to take us down the 17 mile drive in the Monterey Peninsula but checking online ahead of time we discovered motorcycles were prohibited, something about motorcycles being too loud :(. Ah, the ‘loud pipes save lives ideology strikes again.

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We stopped for a picnic lunch on the beach at Carmel Bay instead and got treated to some seals fishing for their own lunch along the breaking surf and a very large pod of dolphins doing the same a bit further out in the bay. I didn’t realize till later when I looked at a map that the famed Pebble Beach golf course is located off 17 mile drive. Thanks to Tiger Woods golf video games, there was a time when I could tell you every break on every green on that course. Except for the prohibitive cost, playing here was at one time on my bucket list.

Dude in the background reminded Lori of Weekend At Bernie’s for some reason. But don’t worry, this guy was still breathing…we think.

Alas we continued south along the incredibly scenic highway 1 past Big Sur to Limekiln State Park campground where we camped out for the night. This absolutely stunning stretch of road turned out to be a fantastic consolation prize.

This little tunnel just outside Limekiln State Park had a very European feel to it.

After setting up our tents at Limekiln, we hopped back on the bikes and Mike led us to another gem down the highway, Nacimiento road.

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Nacimiento road snakes it’s way away from highway 1 climbing steeply up the mountain through Los Padres National Forest.

The setting sun casting an warm orange glow on the mountain as we rode up.

We pulled over and enjoyed a spectacular sunset.

The following morning Mike took me for a hike through Limekiln State Park to see the remains of several kilns from the late 1800’s that were used to harvest limestone from the area. What was interesting was the redwood forest we were hiking in had been completely eradicated during that time when they used the wood to fuel the kilns. Yet here we were walking through a beautiful fully grown forest, gotta love how nature takes care of itself. Sadly no pics as my iPhone ran out of juice. On the way back we passed another camper packing up his site, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the winter parka, hat and gloves he was wearing. Here I was in short sleeves sweating. It was about 16C out. Proof I guess that I wasn’t quite ‘California soft’ yet.

A little further south along highway 1, we made a pit stop at the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery. Although they can be found all over the world they seem to like this spot in California. Nearly hunted to extinction in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for the oil in their blubber, their numbers have managed to skyrocket from around 50 to 175,000.

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Male Elephant Seals can grow to 5,000lbs! That’s the size of a Ford F-150 pick up truck!

The males fight for breeding rights and dominance over a section of beach. It appears beach front property is highly sought after even in the animal kingdom. The battles can get pretty bloody leaving them with serious scars on their chest. Apparently these 2 males were just practicing for the main event later in the season.

While the ladies spend most of their time pregnant or nursing.

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Nap time it seems, also plays a very important role in the Elephant Seal world. I think I like these guys.

We had a fairly short ride to Morro Bay for brunch and to set up our tents again. We also made reservations to play tourist for the rest of the day.

Welcome to Hearst Castle, 65,000 square feet, 165 rooms & 127 acres of gardens of pure opulence!

Everything here is imported from around the world.

Restoring the smoking room. Estimated time of completion…oh about 10 years, for real. This guy was using a Q-tip to clean the ceiling and the lady doing the tour said it was a 10 year project to restore this one room.

The property was really quite something.

Mike & I chillin’ by the (outdoor) pool.

The detail has detail.

The indoor pool.

Oh and this was the road getting up here. Sadly we had to park the bikes and hop on a bus to get up here.

The following day we were awake at 5am and the four of us went out for some very early morning coffee. Due to previous commitments, Mike and Kati had to make an early departure and head back. A few weeks ago we met a complete stranger who opened up his garage, his home and his heart to us. Today we said goodbye to two amazing individuals that we can only describe as…family.

We really can’t thank you guys enough for everything.

San Francisco

Last month we had seen the Golden Gate but never actually made it across the bridge into San Francisco. So we decided to make a day of playing tourist and took the BART into the city. Getting off at Embarcadero we walked through Chinatown before hiking up to Coit Tower.

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Not sure who’s winning…but it was a fantastic place to people watch. Continue reading

Getting Soft in California

Our flight home to Ontario went by pretty quickly even with the one layover in Chicago, and to no ones surprise, rain greeted us upon arriving in Kitchener. Kitchener you say? Yup. Apparently KW offers international flights, who would have thunk it? Here’s a tip for you cheap, I mean savvy travellers. When we booked our car rental online, we booked the cheapest car that was available – a Chevy Spark. Sadly (ok not really) when we arrived to pick it up, none were available and they offered to upgrade us to a what they called an “economy” vehicle. In car rental parlance, this turned out to be a Hyundai Sonata. They initially wanted to give us a fully loaded Chrysler 300 but on inspection one of the tires was showing a low pressure reading. Continue reading

California 202

A day later, we found ourselves at Mike and Kati’s place for an overnight stop before heading back on the road in the morning.

Mike rides a BWM R1200GSA – hey no one’s perfect ;) and Kati rides a Can Am Spyder. As much as Lori loves riding on the back, a Spyder has just always managed to rev her engine when she thinks of riding her own bike.

Kati working her Spyder out of a turn here. Lori and I test rode one of these guys last year. First turn I took I almost got thrown off, I didn’t realize how much you as the rider have to actually lean compared to a regular bike.

Stopping at Busters BBQ for breakfast. Ok so it was more like brunch, even though it was the first thing I had to eat. Cool place though. I’d just like to point out that when they say that their sauce is HOT, they kind of mean it. A trend I’m seeing more and more of as we head further south. In Canada, HOT typically means MILD-MED…if that.

We took mostly back roads north through wine country (to avoid all the tourists), super twisty and a lot of fun. Much to my delight, Mike was taking a more exuberant pace through the twisty stuff. At first I was even surprised to see Kati keeping up. It was very nice to play follow the leader all day. We ended up at Navarro Beach Campground for the night, perfect spot right on the ocean. Funny enough Lori and I recognized the road we had turned off to get here as we had ridden past on our way south. After setting up our tents, Mike and I went scavenging for some fire wood from the beach and nearby bushes. FREE! All this time, Lori and I had been paying for the stuff. Duh!

Mike then pulled out his saw and tiny axe and Lori & I took turns cutting the wood into smaller pieces with Kati’s help. While Mike…

Well, he supervised the job site.

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Even had a local pay us a visit.

Can’t go wrong with this campsite view.

Armed with some extensive local knowledge in the form of our very own tour guides, we continued our take 2 of Northern California the next morning. First it was breakfast in Fort Bragg followed by lunch at the Avenue Cafe along the Avenue of the Giants in Miranda. Mike then led us down some interesting roads towards the middle of nowhere, also called Honeydew. What’s in Honeydew?

Besides a general store and some stupid expensive gas ($4.869/gallon), not a heck of a lot.

We arrived at Mattole Beach campground nice and early and had our pick of sites. Another stunning spot right on the ocean.

Starting our day with a beautiful ride along the ocean on Mattole road before making a very sharp turn UP!

Looking back near the top.

Welcome to Happy Camp. We had wanted to ride down Route 96 through here on our way south but there were road closures due to the wildfires. Thanks to all the firefighting efforts, the wildfires had been contained and all roads around Happy Camp were opened again.

We stopped at another very basic (as in Pit toilets only) state run campground right along the Klamath river. Of course as we were about to set up, Mike noticed fresh bear scat about 30 feet from our site right along the path we all just rode down. Apparently we all managed to miss it. After discussing it for a few minutes, we all decided to stay anyway. I have to say that I was pretty impressed that Lori was ok with staying. A few months ago, she would have ran, not walked but ran out of the place.

After setting up, Mike pulls out his camp shower, looks over at Kati and asks “so what temperature do you want the shower water?”. “How about 110,” she says. Lori and I looked at each other “A hot shower? Really?” Mike fired up the Jetboil a few times and 15 minutes later we’re all taking turns showering behind a big tree. Nice!

The next morning we continued east on 96 for a short time before turning south onto Scott River road. A very narrow and twisty road that serpentines through the mountains and what appeared to be ground zero for the Happy Camp fire. We rode past a house that had been burned to the ground, cars parked in the driveway also completely scorched. It was quite a sight. We would see other houses like it. Everywhere we looked, trees were completely burned up, the entire landscape was black. The air still heavy with the acrid smell of smoke. The road itself was absolutely mesmerizing. One of the most twisty roads I have ever been on, blind corners with several hundred foot drop offs to the valley below on our left, rock walls going straight up on our right. As if the ride wasn’t exciting enough, on our descend, we encountered a transport truck coming the opposite direction. WTF? We all came to a standstill. Now what? The truck moved over to our right as much as he could while motioning for us to move closer to the edge on our left. I guess the one with the biggest toys gets to call the shots. Luckily there was just enough room for all of us to squeeze in together. Mike and I pulled up beside each other and Kati right behind us. Had we met 10 seconds earlier, the three of us would have had to turn around and go back up the mountain to a spot that was wider. The road was that narrow. Lori and I just scratched our helmets wondering how he ever made it up here and how he was getting out. Judging by the confident pace he was moving at when we met, he had done this before. Good Luck buddy!

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Not only did Mike and Kati not stop often but Mike was really keeping up a blistering pace riding. Even at the campgrounds, they always managed to have everything set up before we did. They were up before us, even had coffee ready for us when we finally managed roll out of our tent. Camp showers, saw, ax, free firewood, these guys were schooling us in the art of camping. We were starting to get tuckered out while this retired couple seemed to be running on fresh Energizer lithiums. Zoom Zoom Zoom!

We camped at Cooper Gulch campground, located on Trinity Lake. It’s a small little campground with just 5 sites, but what a view! Kind of reminds me of Ontario a little.

Such a beautiful evening we didn’t even bother with the fly. In the morning we got up to a stunning sunrise coming up over the mountain across Trinity Lake.

With our flight already booked for the following morning, we made our way toward the dreaded but much more direct I-5 which would take us back to Mike & Kati’s place. We arrived in time to re-pack our gear while our hosts put together a little care package so we wouldn’t go hungry during our flight home. They then dropped us off in San Francisco where we booked a hotel since our flight was at 6am and we had to be at the airport around 4-ish. Yuck!

It would be a gross understatement to say that Mike & Kati are AWESOME!

Yosemite Valley

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Since we were so close, we decided to visit Yosemite National Park. I had actually been debating hiking Half Dome, something I’ve wanted to do since first learning about it years ago. However I decided to take a pass due to logistical reasons :(. For starters you have to book a permit to hike Half Dome a couple of days ahead of time which meant that we’d have to stick around in Yosemite Valley till then. Not exactly a hardship but Mike, who we met at the HU meeting and who offered us his garage to store our bike, also invited us to tag along with his wife, Kati and him on their bike trip for a few days. Something we both felt was an opportunity not to be missed. Besides, my legs have gotten a bit soft over the last several months from all this riding and sitting, so I wasn’t sure how I’d fare climbing up a mountain for most of a day. Not to mention there is just so much good hiking around here that I couldn’t begin to get it all in over the few days we’d have here. My bucket list continues to grow. Continue reading

California 101

If you follow our Facebook page you will no doubt know that I’m somewhat behind in the blog. In fact Facebook is probably the best place to keep tabs on us as Lori updates it more often than I can write a post here.

We’ve been having an absolute blast in California over the last while and I just haven’t been able to sit down in front of the computer long enough to compose something to post. A couple of days ago, I sat down with every intention of catching up but instead all I heard was the echo of Lori’s words from that morning: “Jenn passed away”. Jennifer was an amazing person that Lori and I both worked with for many years. She had a glow about her that seemed to radiate warmth, compassion and love. She had been struggling with cancer for several years and finally lost her battle November 12 at the age of 44.

Here we are gallivanting around North America on our motorcycle and life just seems to go on. It’s very strange. I remember this same feeling when my father passed away about 2 years ago, the feeling that life just continues seemingly like nothing ever happened. It’s very bizarre to be honest. What does this have to do with our blog? Nothing. Everything! As weird as it may sound, I find that death has an interesting way of inspiring us to live, to follow our dreams. It reminds me to not take for granted the amazing opportunity we have everyday to do almost anything we can dream of and to live life with passion.

To our friend Jennifer
You will be greatly missed.

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Small World

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Following the Destination Highways map, we found a pretty fun road, NF-26, to take us towards Mt St Helens. Although paved, it’s essentially a single lane road that winds it’s way through the Cascades towards NF-99. It had a very remote feeling as we only passed 1 vehicle the entire time.

Evidence of the 1980 Mt St Helens volcanic eruption lay all around us as we rode south through the blowdown zone. Thousands upon thousands of massive trees blown over by the initial blast covered the landscape, more resembling very large matchsticks. It’s difficult to imagine a 1,200 degree (F) pyroclastic flow travelling over these mountains at 125 MPH destroying everything in its path for 370 square kilometres. Continue reading

Close Encounters with Bush-Bears

In contrast to the previous day, we awoke to clear skies and sunshine, birds were singing, the tank was clean…THE TANK WAS CLEAN?! Brekky was at the waterfront Breakwater Cafe & Bistro.

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Real potatoes tossed in rosemary & sage, real bacon and eggs – delicious! Continue reading

British Columbia Continued

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We managed to ride a whopping 92.1km upon leaving Nakusp and ended up camping in Kaslo that night. Hey that’s quite a bit considering our post-5pm departure. It’s officially our smallest mileage day to date, our smallest mileage week for that matter. Yup, I think this slowing down business is going well. Not a lot happening in Kaslo but the road going into town, 31A is quite twisty and very scenic. It was as if the road was welcoming us back. I will say that I had some of the best fish & chips at a little booth next to the gas station at the main intersection of the little town.

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