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Day 11
June 16th, 2006
Motel 6                                                                                      
Eureka, California                                                          
 
 
A bright sunny morning greeted us as we loaded the bikes and prepared for the ride south.  Not all that many miles to the Bay Area and it was good not be rushed.

I took a short walk to a nearby cafe and met the gang for a quick sandwich.   I was still full from the Samoan and not able to eat much.

Motorcycling has enhanced my life so much the last 5 years.  I now have good friends everywhere.  East, West, Canada, and the U.K.  I officially started down this path 5 years ago, but in reality it was long before that- like in Jr High.

My friends wanted to make millions of dollars, live in big houses, or be rock stars.  All I wanted to be was a Long Rider.  I would need a career, and raise a family first, but I never stopped planning.

I knew what I wanted to do.  I wanted to ride free, see places and meet people, and do it in a fashion that is uniquely mine.   I seldom worry getting there, and if I'm curious about something I'll ask someone, stranger or not.  In 2001 I was ready.  I spent the 3 previous years getting my affairs in order, to go down this path.  

So here I am  5 years later, and 200,000 miles with a data base full of life experience, strapping down my gear in anticipation of one of America's great roads, with friends I love dearly.  Life just doesn't get any better.  

I called my son at the office.  "I was just thinking about ya son, you have a good day today,"  "I will dad, you call me when you get to the Bay Area."  I called my sister, "nah baby, not in the Bay Area yet, but will be tonight."  We spoke for 10 minutes, and laughed how mother could be so hard to get along with sometimes.  She died last November just a few weeks after I returned from the Blue Ridge.   I saw more the first week of this ONE trip, then she did her entire 82 years.   "Look, its just us now, you be careful.  Do you need anything?"  "No baby, I was just callin to see how ya were, and don't worry, I'm pretty good at this, I'll be home soon.  We'll go for Mexican if you come stay with me a day or 2.  You owe me one, I was there last time."

My last call was to Debbie, who was fast at work in the office.  "How ya doin baby?"  "Busy day here, how are you?"  I'm leaving in a few minutes for the ride down to the Bay Area.  It's a gorgeous day here."  "Everything OK?"  "Yeah, yeah everything's fine, "Ok, you just called earlier then normal."  "I know, but won't have a signal till we get back across the hills into the valley, so figured I better call now, I just wanted you to know I'm good and miss ya."  

Finished with my phone calls I left the room and met the others in the parking lot.

I dialed up the dampening on the quick adjust knob to stiffen up for the upcoming 150 miles.  A great feature on the 1300.

Our first order of business was topping off the gas tanks at a Chevron station down the street.  We followed Ray and Hope (riding pillion) a short distance through Fortuna and turned off on SR 36, to begin one of the all time great rides.

SR 36 was the last of the 5 Northern California roads I needed to complete my list.  I make it a point every tour to ride as many different roads as I can, both west and east bound legs.

I was next to last, and Don took my back.  A GOOD feeling knowing Freestyle has your back.

The first miles of the route passes through a plot of redwoods, and starts the leaning process.  SR 36 carves and twists for 150 miles to Red Bluff.  Along the way you are treated to hills, mountains, valleys, and a ranch land.  Every kind of riding you can think of.   An awesome road, and a case can be for the best of all time if I had to make a call.

I was not ready for anything sporty yet, so took my time.   I was enjoying the ride and scenery as we began to climb in elevation.  The curves were good, but I kept the Honda reined in.  Ray, Alan, and Joyce sped off to enjoy more of the riding aspect of the road.  

Across the brown hills I rode, now I know why they call the Hotel the "Golden State."  The surrounding ranch land was brown behind barbed wire fences.  


























                                    After 50 miles of curves it was time to relax

We stopped for a short break, at a gas station /Laundromat thing somewhere in the hills.  I sipped a diet drink while we stood around .  A cruiser rider heading west pulled in and we had a nice chat.  He said it was hot in the valley, Free already said things were going to heat up over there today.  He's seldom wrong about anything.

























We met this cruiser rider from the valley out enjoying 
the day and the ride.

The communities along the route were small and quiet, but welcome diversions from the leaning.  Traffic was non existent.   Out of the grassland we went and soon were crossing the mountains.   

A rancher in a old truck was moving slow, and never saw us when we came around.

Several areas of 36 were washed out from last winter and still not in the best of shape.  In the high portions, cliff had dropped rocks and other debris on the roadway.  I stayed well within myself and refrained from any extreme angles.

The mountains went higher and the vistas were great.  I spotted Mount Shasta in the distance and stopped for a pic.  Freestyle came in behind me, and offered assistance. 






















 
         I posed for this pic on SR 36.  Mt. Shasta in the background


After the photo op Free and I had to book to close the gap on Ray, Alan, and Joyce.  We were zipping along and crested above the tree line of a mountain when I jammed on the brakes for a buck standing on the right shoulder, just a few feet off the pavement.  At 75 mph I grabbed hard, and thought for a second the ABS was going to fire off, I was still looking at the deer, fearful he was going to jump over at the worst possible time, before I get my speed down.  I knew Don would see my brake light and wonder what was going on.  The anti dive technology of the front end worked great, helping me keep the bike under control.  By the time I was 20 yards or so from the beast, the powerful brakes (the best in the business) had brought the 1300 down to 35, a manageable speed to avoid him if he does something.  But the deer never flinched, and just watched me ride by.  Don said he didn't see him till I pointed him out, and the beast was still frozen when he closed in on it.  Only when he hit the horn  did he bolt back in the tree line.  I cataloged that tactic for the next frozen deer I spot.

























                            Great views are common on SR 36


Don and I picked up the pace trying to close the gap with the others.  We were now in a long downhill  run and I leaned the 1300 over and over.  Curves were everywhere.  They were spaced out all over the map, rhythm was impossible- 1, 2, 3, LEAN- 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 LEAN- nothing was easy.  Uphill, downhill, the switchbacks repeated, and when I thought I had it down 36 would throw out a few sweepers to totally make you refocus.   The riding was very technical.

The group was waiting for us at a general store in Wildwood.  The store had a nice porch and a pot bellied stove inside.  Old magazines and newspapers were scattered on the knee high tables next to two wood rocking chairs.  I bought a drink and made small talk with the clerk/ owner.   His daughter was working a HUGE jigsaw puzzle on a nearby table-

"You guys have a nice day for a ride."  Why folks say "you guys" instead of y'all I don't know.  Its so much harder that way.
"Yes sir we do."

We had a nice break on the porch but it was time to move out.  We still have a number of miles to ride before Red Bluff.

























                                                           Wildwood


I decided after the break to ride in the number 2 spot for awhile.  I fell in behind Ray who was riding 2 up.  Ray and Hope ride pillon about as good as any couple I've eve seen.  She knows the physics and the workings of riding (unlike Debbie who actually leans the OTHER way.  She does NOT like that sensation) I don't think Ray even realizes she's back there.

We took several curves that leaned a guy a loooooooooong time.  I kept looking for the exit point on a lengthy right hander, I was leaned  over so long I forgot to roll out, and Ray opened a huge gap that took me 1 mile to close.

The east side of 36 had less elevation, but was still good as it wrapped around ranch land hills.  The curves were more of the sweeper variety.  Longer and more spaced out.

The 1300 is a nice handling touring bike.  It leans over quick and remains stable.  It is  hefty, but it hides that weight well.   It doesn't have the feedback from the road the RT has, but in the hands of a skilled rider, it will provide all the fun you can handle.

I rode hard in the number 2 spot for 15-20 miles.  It was the hardest I've ridden in a long, long time.  I was at 90%.  I was done taking pictures and video, and wanted to see if I could still do it.   The white lines shot past me as did the scenery around me.  I was looking at nothing but the road, reading it far ahead of my actual spot.   I  had crossed over into the hooligan stage.  The adrenaline rush felt good, and after feeling it I dropped back down, and waved the others around me.  " Thats all, I better mellow out and loaf on into Red Bluff".  And I did.  I took a few more pictures, and enjoyed the scenery the last 20 miles.




















               Mt. Shasta watches over the ranch land on SR 36


Much of my riding these days is focused on other things, but for a few miles I had a relapse.

Away from the coast the temperature soared into the mid 90s.  The warmest I've been since leaving Nebraska.  Man, it felt good.

A series of roller coaster hills came at me and as I crested the first my butt left the seat and startled me, "Whoa," a little too fast," as I clinched the bars.

After one of the all time great rides we rolled into Red Bluff, and landed in a Subway for a quick lunch.  From here it was straight shot down I-5.
I had a meatball sandwich and enjoyed spending time with my friends.
  
"You know Hope, I dunno how you do it.  Noway I ride pillion on a road like that, you must have alot of trust in Ray.  Y'all were giving it hell back there. 
 
On I-5 the temp soared to over 100, topping out at 104 somewhere south of Willows.  Hot doesn't much bother me, so I was ok.  As many times as I've been out here, it always amuses me how the temp changes in such a short time.  

I basked in the feeling of warmth, and loved how it moved through the Roadcrafter, and this time NOT cool or cold air, but nice flowing HOT air.  "I don't have to worry about being cold, or rain, all the way back to Alabama."

It was here I missed the on the fly suspension of the RT.  I leave the ST set up hard.  I like the way it handles, but a pain on the slab or rural bumpy road.  I can adjust the dampening quick enough but not the pre load.  "I'll dial it down at the next stop."

I led the formation half the way and then Freestyle took the point and led us into a rest area just north of the 505.

We relaxed in the shade and talked about the ride we were just completing.  "It was a great ride today bros."  As I walked to the facilities.
When I came back out I noticed a man in a blue van parked near us.  I was curious about him so went over to check him out. 




















                               Rest stop hob


"Whats up?

"Just hanging out."

I found out he lives on a 800 dollar a month government check.  "That's all I get because I quit work at age 52, never paid all that much in."
His van was packed with bedding, rags, tools and food for his 3 dogs.  It never ceases to amaze me how someone that can barely afford to feed himself can feed 3 dogs, which easily eat up a  100 dollars or more a month.

I noticed a accent that use to be southern but years away from his homeland had caused it to fade.  "So where ya from?  "Arkansas."   "I just came through there.  So what ya do in between checks?  Hang out at rest areas?"  "Yeah, but after a few days they run me off."

So I guess he just moves on from rest area to rest area.  But on 800 dollars a month, and gas 4.00 dollars a gallon out here, they better not be spread out too far.

Free said the afternoon commute was building, and it might be best to avoid the Bay Area, and knew a few routes to take to help us do that.
I said good bye to Alan and Ray who were splitting off for home soon.

I'm not sure of the routes from here to Castro Valley.  I just followed Don through the urban sprawl off the expressways.  Traffic was thick in some places after we left the system.  We filtered through car lines if we had to.

About 25 miles from home the VFR needed gas so we stopped at a con store for something to drink and for Joyce to top of the smaller tank of the Viffer.  Don and I were still good. 
 
Two patrol cars had a guy locked down in the parking lot.  He was still detained when we left.

We jumped backed on the freeway to enter Castro Valley from the south.  I had to stop and adjust my load when one of the straps worked loose, and the Moto Fixx shifted.  Joyce noticed it and got my attention to exit to stabilize things.

I knew we were close to exit and was glad.  The last 100 miles was just getting there.  Getting around the Bay Area is not easy and always a challenge, no matter which way you do it.  

By late afternoon we were pulling up the long hill to Freestyle's backyard and I shut the ST down after a 385 mile day, and 4,675 miles for the west bound leg of my tour.  I was at the terminus.  I'll be off the bike tomorrow, with a short 150 mile ride down the coast on Sunday.  I was feeling good, and could easily start back east if I wanted to the next day, but its good to get away from it for a day or 2. 

I knew from past experience  I'd be raring to start the ride back east in a day or 2.

At the Casa Cortez I took a shower and checked some email, and called home.  "At Don's.  Yeah, baby things are good, wish you were here."  Like I promised earlier, I called Chris. 

We had a quiet supper at Jenny's.  And I quizzed Free about his youth, growing up in Lubbock.  He grew up hard, without a whole lot of formal education, but learned in the school of life.  But his rough days in Texas were something else.  "Shoot we fought every day, just because we had nothing else to do."  For the last few years, Free has has been riding to Lubbock each spring to spend time.  "So you riding back to Texas to see those boys again next year."   "Yeah, if nothing happens, always fun."

We got back to the house kind of late, and watched a little tv, then went upstairs for a good nights sleep.




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