Monday, August 15, 2011

Do you know the way through San Jose?

Our ride from Humbolt Redwoods State Park to Novato wasn't unusually long -- about 240 miles -- but the blind hairpin turns and chill winds made for a tiring day and we were ready to take a break when we arrived in Novato to stay with longtime friends Jan and Rick.

Both David and I have ridden the famous "Tail of the Dragon," US 129 from Tennessee into Deal's Gap, N.C., and we agree that the 28 miles of California Highway 1 from Leggett to Westport, Calif. is more fun, more challenging and longer. Besides, they don't let log trucks on the Tail.

Rick and Jan, old friends from Flanman's newspaper days in Marin County, let us stay in their home in Novato, fed us salmon and fresh green beans from the garden and spoiled us in many other ways.

On our way to Jan and Rick's, we stopped in Petaluma to exchange a turn signal bulb David had picked up in Eureka that didn't fit his bike for the correct part and then at the Rouge et Noire French cheese factory in West Marin, where we bought sourdough bread, triple cream brie and a couple of bottles of wine. Thus supplied, we settled in for two nights in sunny Novato.

On Friday, Aug. 12, David toured the Bay Area, visiting friends in the Berkeley marina and stopping at the BMW dealer in San Francisco to admire the latest motorcycle models. Meanwhile, I did laundry, updated the blog and took a nap. That evening, Jay, Janet and Kathy -- more old friends -- came by to share old times over a great dinner and a few too many bottles of wine.

Hannah and Ryan got a ride on the V-Strom in San Ramon.

Saturday afternoon, we packed up and rode over the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge to the East Bay. Despite the day of the week, the traffic near the Oakland end of the Bay Bridge where a cluster of interstates connect was daunting but, once we were south of the bridge ramps, it was smooth sailing into San Ramon to visit Dave, a classmate of David's wife and mine. Dave's mom was also visiting and we got to spend some time with Hannah and Ryan, Dave's kids, and Daisy, his giant Labrador retriever.

Our San Ramon host Dave, who visits us frequently in Hawaii, treated us to barbequed ribs for dinner and blueberry pancakes for breakfast.

Sunday morning, Hannah and Ryan got rides on the V-Strom before we packed up to leave for the southern half of Highway 1 and our final destination, Los Angeles. First, after finding our way to the Dumbarton Bridge and the road to the pass at Los Gatos, we needed to cross the peninsula south of San Francisco to Santa Cruz.

Sunday afternoon's traffic wasn't as bad as a weekday's, for sure, but hurtling over the Stevens Creek Freeway, Highway 85, at 65 mph penned in behind an enormous tow truck required our full attention. Below Santa Cruz things got worse. For reasons we were never able to discover, traffic slowed to a stop-and-go crawl for more than 10 miles through the farmlands outside Salinas and remained busy all the way through Monterey and Carmel. Then, at last, we were on open roads along the cliffs leading to Big Sur.

Eventually, we broke out of the traffic between Palo Alto and Monterey -- it was bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go through Salinas -- and reached the beautiful coastline south of Carmel.

Our campground was right on the Big Sur River -- in fact, our campsite was only 30 feet from the water.

Rafting on the Big Sur doesn't require high-tech equipment.

The Pacific Coast Highway near Big Sur is open for business despite numerous landslides and several bridge and repair projects.

David found a paved road down to Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur where the path to the water was framed in cypress ...

... and we got a taste of why Big Sur is a magnet for photographers.

A gull posed for his portrait on the rocks.

Old redwood logs and stumps provide convenient benches.

Shorebirds pick their dinners out of the shore break ...

... and then dance up the sand to keep their feet dry.

In the morning, as we rode south toward San Luis Obispo, the marine layer was conspicuous along the coastline.

Our campsite in Big Sur was nestled in the redwoods adjoining the river. Unfortunately, our neighbors insisted on playing golden oldies on a boom box until after 10 p.m. -- not good camping etiquette. I resisted the impulse to ask them to turn it down, but we weren't shy about making noise as we broke camp in the morning for the 100-mile ride to San Luis Obispo to stay with David's old friend and mentor, Ross, before completing our trek in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

An ambitious homeowner's aerie is perched high above the Pacific on the cliffs.

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