...from Mendocino to the Bay Area would reveal the majesty of the NorCal coast. Riding was blissful except for one instance when a dickhead in a Porsche...
Day Three - Mendocino County to Salinas (257 miles)
Day Three from Mendocino County to the Bay Area would reveal the majesty of the Northern California coast. Unlike the Oregon coastline, the California coast changes in elevation dramatically and affords travelers these breathtaking views from up high. Very rarely—or if at all—is it possible to make it down to the waters edge. Along with these majestic views, the roads would impress just as much with tight hairpins, esses, cambered and off cambered corners, and blind corners.
The riding was blissful except for one instance when a dickhead in a Porsche came barreling around a corner and crossed the double line nearly sending me off a cliff. Luckily, I was in the middle of my lane and able to pull wide to avoid getting creamed.
It's hard not to stop often and take in the view.
My first stop of the day was at the Estero Café in the town of Jenner. There, I enjoyed a delicious plate of French toast and, of course, a hot cup of coffee. I chatted up the waitress, checked in with family and friends, planned my route through San Francisco, and glanced at the overwhelming number of emails and deemed none of them too much of priority before closing my laptop. Just before leaving, a group of old guys had gathered around the CB 1100 DLX to comment on how impressed they were by the “classic” nature of the bike.
Damn fine pancakes and cup of joe here at the Estero Cafe in Valley Ford.
Unfortunately, due to some road construction and traffic warnings, I was forced to cross over to the 101 and proceed through the majority of the Bay Area via boring interstates. The rest of my daily journey would be a basic 80 mph of highway riding. The excitement began when I arrived in Salinas at my dear friend Shawn Thomas’s home.
Shawn Thomas, like myself, is a bit of a character, but whereas I am a novice BADASS adventure motorcyclist, he is an expert BADASS off-road adventure motorcyclist. Shawn works as lead coach for RawHyde Adventures in Castaic, CA serving as a lead instructor for those looking how to ride and operate big adventure bikes like the BMW R1200 GS and KTM 1190 Adventure. When Jim Hyde invited me to learn how to ride these bikes in 2014, it was Shawn that took me under his wing and became my Obi-wan Kenobi. Since then, he and I have become good friends.
He fired up the grill and made some amazing steaks and veggies. I even purchased five boxes of Girl Scout cookies from his daughter because I needed something for desert.
Dinner by Shawn Thomas
The master and his pup enjoying some desert
Oh yeah...you better believe it. If I only had more room on my bike I would have laid claim to the whole box.
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Day Four - Salinas to Buellton (189 miles)
I said so long to Shawn and his family and headed west toward the coast. The morning was unnaturally cold and foggy. As I approached Carmel-by-the-Sea, I chose to stop off at one of my favorite cafes in California: The Carmel Valley Roasting Co. Located in downtown Carmel, it was the perfect place to hang out for a spell and let the marine layer burn off before continuing on down the coast. I could not fathom riding through Monterey and Big Sur only to have my view of the coast obscured by thick fog. Around 11am, I ventured back out onto the road. Luckily, the fog had lifted enough where the view was not totally obscured.
Enjoying a bit of coffee before heading down to Big Sur
Upon Shawn’s advise from the night before, he recommended I check out Naciemento Road, the only road that cuts inland from Big Sur back to the 101. He argued that it was one of his top 5 favorite roads in California. With that kind of praise I needed little convincing to work it into my itinerary. After filling up my tank in Gordo (a.k.a the most expensive gas station in the United States), I doubled back to Naciemento Road and proceeded up the 1.5 lane asphalt.
More epic views. Monterrey, CA
Arguably the most expensive gas station in the lower 48. Gordo, CA
The elevation gain was insane and the corners were tight and blind the entire way. Switchback after switchback, I climbed into the heavens. The view of the Pacific only grew more and more amazing. Every couple of miles I would find a Volkswagen Westfalia with a naked couple tanning on the rooftop. I had to stop at one point because the fog that once enveloped me now gave way to clear blue skies. I peered over the cliff to see an ocean of fog held at bay by the rocky cliffs. It was a stunning sight to behold.
Into the mist.
One of my favorite shots of the trip. Taking in the sea of fog that lay at my feet.
Upon reaching the summit, I proceeded down the mountain into the lowlands and the valley. The mountain forest would give way to the open valley of Fort Hunter-Leggett, an Army base located to the west of Big Sur where civilians are allowed to pass through.
For over an hour, I did not come across another soul. When I hopped off my bike, the silence was eerie. The landscape before me was open and vast, almost untouched by man with the exception of the asphalt ribbon stretched out before me and some off-road tracks bordering the highway. Oh no…the urge to take the CB1100 off-road struck again. For about three miles, I romped along in the dirt to test the bike’s suspension on not so favorable terrain. While a bit heavy in the dirt, the CB1100 again surprised me in how forgiving it was off the tarmac.
The desolation of Fort Hunter Leggett.
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Day 4 Continued
The stretch through Fort Hunter-Leggett from the Pacific Coast was a joy and now holds a spot in one of my favorite roads in California. Is it in the top five? Absolutely.
I would soon find myself back on the 101 heading into San Louis Obispo. I was beginning to worry because I had not taken the time to figure out where I would set up camp for the night and I was now back in the urban setting of southern California. The ability to pull off the side of the road and pitching a tent was no longer an option.
I had about 45 minutes of daylight left until I would be riding in darkness and it was at this point I decided to take a gamble. Exactly 45 minutes south of my current location and just off the 101 was my favorite winery in Southern California: Mosby Wines in Buellton. I would ask to camp there for the night.
I arrived at the Mosby Winery just as the sun dipped below the horizon. I entered the property and parked my bike next to the big house, which is adjacent to the tasting room housed in a big barn. There was a young man sitting on the porch, who appeared to be a field hand awaiting a ride home. I asked him if the owners of the winery were inside and he nodded, indicating a “yes”.
After five or six attempts at knocking on the door, no one answered. I walked around the house peered through a window to see an old man and woman sitting in a room. I gently tapped on the glass knowing that I was in the precarious position of possibly giving these poor people a heart attack. I held my motorcycle helmet up to my chest and smiled as I waved. I figured this would somehow diffuse the situation. The old man got up and walked to a door that exited into the courtyard where I was standing.
I introduced myself from afar and concisely stated that I was a weary traveler on long motorcycle journey from Portland to Los Angeles with the hope that I could pitch camp on the grounds for the evening. I even pointed over at my motorcycle somehow to confirm that I was not spinning a tall tale and squeezed in the fact that this was one of my favorite wineries in Southern California.
The old man, naturally suspicious of me, walked up outstretched an open hand and asked me for my name a second time as he peered over at my motorcycle. I shook his hand and told him my name. His wife came to the door and began to ask if he was ok. He shooed her away. I smiled.
He looked at me and said, “You can go ahead and set up camp just over by the there.” He was pointing to the flagpole on a hill about 300 feet from where we were standing. I thanked him and told him I would be on my way again early in the morning. He nodded and walked back into the house.
I hopped on my bike and moved it up on the hill where I was told to set up camp. After pulling my gear off my bike and setting up my tent, I looked up and saw a side-by-side approaching from the house. It was the old man. He parked about 10 feet from my tent and walked over to me with a plate and a bottle of wine in his hands.
“My wife just finished cooking and had some food left over. She thought you might be hungry,” as he handed me the bottle and plate.
I was flabbergasted, but managed to express my sincerest thanks. I put the bottle of wine in one of my dry bags as a souvenir to enjoy when I reached the end of my journey. The plate of food—baked and breaded chicken with cheese grits and peppers with a side of buttered toast—was quickly consumed. I hopped into my tent, made a cup of tea, and got ready for bed.
Morning at Mosby Winery in Buellton, CA. I highly reccommend anyone heading up the 101 visit this establishment. It's directly off the highway.
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Day Five - Buellton to Santa Monica (135 miles)
I packed up camp and was ready to hit the road by 9 am, but before leaving, I thought it would be foolish not to stock up on some wine for my home collection. I walked into the tasting room and purchased a couple of bottles, including one I had my eye one for a while: La Seduzione. Made from the Lagrein grape—a grape that is rare in the United States—La Seduzione is a velvety violet colored wine that offers delicious aromas of dark plums, coca, and wild wood mint and rich flavors of ripe black currants. With four bottles, including the one I received the night before, I got back on the road.
The final day of riding was nothing really of note. I was back in Santa Monica before noon, but not before hopping off the 101 to Topanga Canyon and back onto PCH for the final leg. With a 3800 mile journey over 10 days complete, all I wanted to do was just keep on riding.
All the Places That Brought Me Happiness in the Form of Food and Drink
The Shop Cafe
730 N. Milpas St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93103
Black Lightning Motorcycle Café
440 F Street
Eureka, CA 95501
Valley Ford, CA 94972
9496 Santa Rosa Rd.
Buellton, CA 93427