Saturday, July 21, 2007

Start Yer Engines!

After Anne and Russell’s party-packed, song-filled, deliciously tropical wedding weekend, we drop off our rental car at Eugene Airport and begin our journey down to California on a 2007 Harley-Davidson ElectraGlide. Now neither of us is used to this monster. Our 2002 Sporty at home is low, sleek, maneuverable, and rough. The ElectraGlide is about 200 pounds heavier, has a bigger engine, and has a completely different feel…it’s COMFY! But I have a hard time finding my center of gravity since I’m way up high with the luggage, so it takes us both a few days to get used to it.

First Leg: Eugene Oregon to Eureka California

We have 300 miles and about 6 hours to cover before we get to Eureka. Back in Eugene it’s in the 80s, dry, and sunny. By the time we stop at Grant’s Pass OR (in the Rogue River region) to get gas it’s in the high 90s and hot as hell. We down a couple of iced teas and continue on.

First View of California

And what a view! There’s the Pacific and with it comes the refreshing breeze we’ve needed for the past hundred miles.

Cornelius Daly Inn, Eureka

We’ve arrived! The Inn is a beautiful mansion built in 1905. The innkeeper invites Steve to park his Harley inside the garden and we take him up on it (outside our lavish Inn is the somewhat rough logging/fishing town of Eureka.) After we check in we ask the innkeeper to recommend a restaurant within walking distance. On H Street we pass several run down buildings and a few raucous domestic disturbances before we get to the local brewery for cold beer and good eatin.

Avenue of the Giants

We sleep like babies. The next morning after a gourmet breakfast at the Inn we head down to the Avenue of the Giants: The Redwood Forest. We ride on 101 for about an hour and it’s great. No cars, winding well paved highways, and not a cloud in the sky.

Our first view of these giants is intimidating. Up close and personal they seem like they might come alive because they seem so supernatural. Everything people said about them was true, and we wrapped our arms around them as instructed.

I’m from the puny Northeast so I’m thinking we’ll be at the forest for about an hour, see a tree or two and head back. DUH! The Avenue of the Giants is a long road that parallels 101 winding through the forest with many stops along the way. Before we discover this we take a few snaps of these magnificent trees, trying to capture the scale of them.

Founders Grove

We continue on the Redwood Highway and stop at the Immortal Tree where we get a few things for Michelle, Anne, and Russell. In the gift shop I find a little teddy bear who is supposed to be for Michelle but he ends up being our trip companion. "Reddy Teddy" rides comfortably in the side luggage compartment the rest of the way!

The Founders Grove contains gigantic fallen Redwoods as well as many live ones. Visitors are not allowed to climb on these trees, but you can touch them.

Here’s some pictures of us standing next to them. The crown of roots from the fallen giants is so huge it surrounds us like an aura.

Second Leg: Eureka California to Sonoma California

101 is great! It's a delicious ride down through California. The roads are good, the bike is working out great. Steve's starting to really get into the power of the bike.

Drive-Through Tree, Leggett, California

The next day we head on down to Sonoma. Our Innkeeper suggests we take a quick detour to Leggett to go to the Chandelier Tree, one of the Drive Through Redwoods.
So 80 miles after Eureka we find the tree, I hop off, snap this pic, and we head back onto 101.

Here, we also meet our second Earl of the trip. The first was at the Cornelius Daly. He and his wife sat next to us at breakfast. They came all the way from Missouri to tour the area. Earl travels for his job as a consultant, and, in the small world department, mentioned he had been to Fitchburg on business!

Our second Earl in Leggett came from Mississippi and had never been to California. I wish I had gotten a pic of him. He had long white hair, wore a grand white beard, overalls with no tee shirt underneath, and had a strong, lovely sounding drawl

Coming into Sonoma.

The landscape changes from the fast winding steep roads to the acres and acres of rolling vineyards. We begin to notice more cars—we had the road to ourselves for so many miles—but it’s good company. So many families on vacation. The kids strapped in the backseats waved at us so I waved right back.

We had a slight MapQuest wrinkle en route, and ended up way out in cool wet Bodega Bay, rather than sunny, warm Sonoma. That made us both cranky but once we found our way back we were our old sunny selves again!

If It’s Wednesday It Must Be Wine Country

Benziger Vineyards: A great tour! We only had one full day in Sonoma so we wanted to take a tour of one of the big wineries. Benziger gives you a real tour of their operation: explaining how factors such as volcanic ash affect the soil making the Sonoma Valley one of the best places for growing grapes. They do not use any pesticides, instead they have an “insectory” on one of the hills where all kinds of herbs attract beneficial insects and lizards for more earth-friendly pest control.

After we toured the Benziger winery we went to the Mayo Estate Winery. We loved the cabernet and the sauvignon blanc and ordered some to be shipped back home. Our next stop was the wine at the Cohen winery, where, feeling the effects of our past two trips, we split a tasting.

Sonoma is not exactly a motorcycle-friendly town to tour in. It wasn’t that the natives didn’t like us, it was that the Electraglide is for highway riding, not for frequent stop signs and narrow one way roads (on which most of the drivers, having been touring wineries all day themselves, were not as careful as we would have liked them to be).

So we headed back to our room with a bottle of the Cohen sauvignon blanc and gave Steve a smiley tattoo.

Fancy Running into You!

Cousin Shawna was in Napa on business with Izzy and had the capital idea to meet for dinner. She suggested the Glen Ellen Inn Restaurant nearby. Delicious food, great company, fun conversation, and two bottles of yum wine. Life is good!

The Long Hot Haul

The Third Leg of our trip was the grand daddy: a long hot ride on rt 5 going up through the less glam half of California. We have 331 odd miles and some 6 hours to go. Our first hour goes well but we hit a major traffic jam where we’re stop and go for 45 minutes in the heat. The cars and trucks beside us crank their ac, but we’re covered from head to toe and Steve wrestles to keep the bike upright.

In the vid you get the sense of the expanse of the land out here.

Shasta Lake

Out of nowhere we come across Shasta Lake near Redding. I am still struck by the proportions of things out here. Lakes at home are like swimming pool size compared to this lake. It’s so gorgeous I try to get a vid of it but I fear dropping the camera into the drink.

We’re 200 miles from San Fran, 300 from Eugene.

Mt. Shasta at Lasta! (sorry, couldn’t help myself)

We have some great riding up rt 5, though we are sharing the road with a lot of 18 wheelers. As we come to the top of California after seeing so much desert and farmland it’s a relief to spot, in the distance, grand Mt. Shasta. It’s a real sight. Imposing and beautiful.

Leaving Mt Shasta Behind Us

Our landscape changes back to desert as we head to Yreka…not Eureka mind you!

Ashland Oregon, A Sight for Sore Eyes, Hands, Bums

We arrive in Ashland Oregon, a beautiful little town where they have the Shakespeare Festival. We LOVED the Oak Hill B&B, and stayed in the garden room with our own private entrance that led out to the outdoor garden patio, where we had a delicious breakfast with the other guests.

Since we had been on the bike for so long we asked the innkeeper if there was a place within walking distance to have dinner and she said no. We poo poohed her advice and said to ourselves these Westerners are so wedded to their cars they probably think a 10 minute walk is too far, so we headed out to find a restaurant and 45 minutes and some foot blisters (damn fashionable sandals!) later we found a place to get a cold cold beer on draught!

Our Last Leg: Ashland back to Eugene!

A (now) leisurely 3 hours, 179 miles to go….

Coming into Eugene..we were so thankful for the overcast sky…a great ride back into Oregon--our home on the west coast!