Saturday, September 1, 2012

West Coast Adventure - Day 18

Today is the end of the beginning...or the beginning of the end...or maybe that's tomorrow....

It's my last night in California and on the west coast. Tomorrow morning I hang a big left and start heading east, towards home. It will be mostly interstate riding, as I'd like to be home by the weekend. Unless things have changed drastically since the last time I rode on the interstate...I don't expect the next 4 or 5 days to be all that exciting.

If you're ever in Gualala, I'd highly recommend staying at the Surf Motel. It's a small place and the owner is involved in the whole operation. He was taking reservations, making breakfast, taking guests pictures on the beach, and I even walked out this morning to find a towel draped over the seat of Black Max so that it wouldn't get covered with dew during the night. That, my friends, is service. The facilities aren't high end, and I was glad the young couple in the room next to me was watching a ball game and not on their honeymoon...I'm assuming bear with me, but the service was what you'd expect from a place that cost a whole lot more than this one did.

The weather was perfect as I got on the road. Partly cloudy with bursts of warm sunshine bathing the coast is gold. That didn't last long. I was only a few miles south of town when the clouds pushed in, the "fog" came back, and what was once stunning was now just kinda pretty.
Rocky coast

Trees, fog, and grass...appropriately blurry
Not sure what I'm trying to accomplish with the blur
Black Max, pushing that fog back
I did get to see a few things today that were worth mentioning. In all the time I've spent on the coast, I haven't seen seals out "sunbathing." I got to see some today. :)
Seals, buzzards, and seagulls...sharing the beach
I also had one of those moments during the ride where I figure people can only have one of two possible reactions. I was scooting right along when I came around a bend in the road and had what for me was the "wheeeeee-I-get-to-ride-that-and-it's-going-to-be-so-fun" moment. I could see the road twisting down into a valley and coming out far in the distance on the other side. The following picture just doesn't do it justice...and for the record, I think the only other response to this type of road is probably "I-hope-I-have-a-clean-pair-of-underwear-in-my-bag." had to have been there
Here's the "flat" version of what that looks like
There's a point where California 1 strays from the coast, and that's where I got caught with my pants down. Not literally, duh, figuratively. If I could complain about one thing here in Cali, it's that your road signs kinda suck. They're not very big and they are often too close to the intersections to be of much help. They almost got me yesterday at the junction where 1 meets up with 128. If you're not really paying close attention (i.e. rubbernecking at all the cool scenery you don't get back home) you'll drive past the intersection where 1 make a right hand turn and the road you're on turns into 128. I was about 1 mile up the road before I realized I was following a river inland and I was sure 1 didn't follow any rivers inland on that part of the ride. An easy mistake to correct. Today it was almost the same deal. California 1 takes a right hand turn and if you go straight you're on Valley Ford Rd. It's sneaky, really, and I can't imagine I'm the only idiot that's made that mistake. As 1 veered away from the coast, it also moved away from the clouds and things warmed up to almost 60 degrees. Once I realized I was on the wrong road, I decided it didn't matter. I was enjoying the sunshine and the California farm country. I'll just have to see the rest of California 1 some other time (not that I was going to see the whole thing anyway.)

Before I knew it I was on US-101 and headed toward San Francisco. Because I'd left Gualala before 9:30AM, was cutting about 15 miles off my route, and making much better time than I would have on the coast, I knew I'd need to fill in some time before heading to my hotel. No better way to get to see a city than to visit all its Apple stores. :) This added about 50 miles and several hours to my riding schedule. Even on a holiday weekend, San Francisco is a big city and the streets are just packed. My first real introduction to the city was crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. I'll be honest, I like the Mackinaw Bridge better from a "view" perspective. Golden gate allows foot and bike traffic along the elevated sidewalks on either side of the bridge. The down side is that it really impedes your view of the water and the city while you're driving over it...I guess that could be a good thing or a bad thing.

After disembarking from the bridge, I followed California 1 back into the city and began my travels over the streets of San Francisco. I somehow managed to find a way around town that kept me traveling in the opposite direction of about 75% of the traffic. It always seemed like the direction I was going was relatively light while the other side of the road was usually backed up. You do know San Francisco is built on some hills, right? I got a good dose of it heading to the Apple store on Chestnut street and from there to the one down on Stockton. My route took me north on Divisadero Street which, between Geary and Lombard, goes UP and then DOWN at a very steep incline. I did that hill from north to south while taking Gough street down toward downtown.

I also got to see something today that I'm not sure I've ever all my travels. A completely naked man walking down the street. I guess he wasn't completely naked...he had a nice pair of boots and some colorful socks on and he was also wearing a stocking cap. But other than that...he was decked out it his birthday suit. From the even distribution of his tan, I'd have to guess this was not a one time event. In all honesty, it's the west coast...I expect to see things I wouldn't normally see at home when I'm here...I did not expect to see that.

If you ever decide to drive down, or up, the PCH, here's a piece of advice...don't bother taking your phone if you've got AT&T. There was a stretch of at least 60 miles where I had no phone service at all. More bars in more places my patootie. That little message in the upper left corner of my phone screen haunted for most of my travel on the PCH.

And so, this feels like the end. If anything exciting happens while I'm making the 2,300 mile trip home, I'll be sure to share it; but, I'm not really expecting much. Guess that means I'll be honestly surprised when I do see something cool.

Day 18, a little over 150 miles
Almost 4,300 miles in the bag and 2,300 left until I get to sleep in my own bed
You can pretty much take a ruler and draw a line from point O to point A and that's how I'll be going home. My only regret on this trip is that I left 5 days late. It made me feel a little rushed in getting down the coast so that I could get back in time for the ART167 class I'm sitting in on at Spring Arbor University this fall. Having an extra 2 days to get down the coast would have allowed for more off highway exploring and I could have had 3 days to visit Yellowstone. C'est la vie. There's always next summer. :)

Tomorrow is another day and another road (I-80 to be exact.) :)

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Chad Cole