Velut luna statu variabilis. I’m in love with California’s coast, the unstoppable crashing tides, the infinite miles of rolling gray sky, the shifting floral hues flashing shades of earthy green and sun-dried yellow, the forever air of freshness. A permanence of change.
I wasn’t in the mood. Having used the coast as my motoring playground these past years, it was all a bit too familiar for the sense of adventure I wanted. My sights were set toward the unseen corners of the Pacific Northwest, but getting there necessitated either of two parts of a dilemma: endure the heavy heat of the Central Valley or reluctantly retread California’s western edge.
In truth, it wasn’t a difficult decision, made easier when my good friend Brian, a resident of the Central Valley, dropped out of the tour. I wanted to make this year’s venture as different from last year’s as possible and Brian was a part of that. When he wasn’t a part of it, my insistence on a new trail waned. The coast it is, again. At least I wouldn’t sweat in my leathers.
July 17, 2010
An unknown quantity of miles separated the morning me from my unknown destination. No reservations this year, rather a sleeping bag and a tent. Four bungees, a pair of side bags and a heavy squint turned the Ninja 250 into a convincing miniature of a touring bike, a 7:10 scale approximation of something more sensible folk employ for 2,500 mile journeys. Charlie and Ewan wouldn’t dare.
San Francisco vanished behind me, swallowed by the lazy fog monster that annually makes my home its home during summer months. The creature’s tendrils stretched further north than I’d hoped, but lunch in Tomales came with the company of sun and clear skies.
More miles, more cold, and more too-familiar towns. Bodega Bay? I’m not impressed anymore. Jenner and Stewart’s Point? Wake me up in Bragg, if I can make it. I didn’t. Well south of Fort Bragg, mental fatigue tugged me off course and into a miserable cafe in a town with the miserable name of Gualala.
I’d been wrong all day, a truth elucidated by a simple cup of coffee. Only I was miserable.
I hit the road with a renewed enthusiasm, a warming urge to ride that evaporated the thoughts of an early day’s retirement clouding my mind.
Einstein proved his genius when he discovered that time and space are relative, but it’s got nothing to do with velocity and everything to do with a stimulated mind. The hours before Gualala were long, but post a mug of inspired Sumatra, miles compressed into a black hole behind the front tire of my motorcycle at an impossible rate without diminishing my cognitive appreciation of the world around me. Manchester Beach, the Point Arena lighthouse, Mendocino and Fort Bragg were history before they were news, but I perceived the overcast, humbling lot.
As I neared the terminus of Highway 1, memories surfaced of last year’s hurried race against the setting sun across the most perfect stretch of road I’d ever found. The twenty miles between the Pacific and Leggett twist and curl as if Highway 1 is writhing in its death throes, aware of its imminent demise and determined to make a stink about it. The road’s as good as I remembered, perhaps better without the pressure of being behind a schedule. And per the laws discovered by the physicist with terrible hair and perverted by a yours truly, it was over in an instant.
Leggett was a road sign a year ago, but I was curious if there was more. A drive-through redwood tree yonder? Who could resist. More north on 101, Fortuna signaled the end of my coastal traipse. I wasted daylight with dinner in Eureka and sought a suitable spot for the tent before the sun had fully dipped under the sky. Splattered midge flies obscured my visor faster than I could scrub ‘em off and, as I turned east onto Highway 36, the last reminders of light faded behind a dense canopy of green.
Not that I could see any green, or any color other than the faint yellow glow of my high beam. The scramble for a bed I’d hoped to avoid by forsaking a schedule had taken me again. Stopped at a volunteer firehouse to ask permission to set up a tent and be off early, but no one was around. Deeper into the woods. Finally, a campsite but a sign outside insisted it was full. I cruised quietly through the grounds, looking for a secluded hole where maybe I’d get away with crashing for the night, but ran into a ranger who reluctantly gave me a riverside picnic area for the night. Under the headlight of the bike, I erected my modest quarters and slept to sounds of swishing streams and redneck camper romantic chit-chatter.