Among the many things characteristics I portray, taking a two thousand mile road trip on a motorcycle isn’t one that immediately comes to mind. However since having my first bike in April, getting my second bike in July and then my M1 endorsement in August I’ve had a hankering for riding my bike everywhere. So I set a plan to travel up and down California.
This thought seriously provoked my pops into buying a similar bike in order to hit the road with me. I have ’04 Suzuki Marauder vz1600 purchased off craigslist and he bought the ’03 Kawasaki Meanstreak 1500 Classic about a week later off craigslist. These bikes are essentially the same bikes because at the time Kawasaki made everything and Suzuki made some cosmetic changes with the rear fender and slapped their sticker on it. Heck even my frame VIN says Kawasaki.
With all the parts in place, time taken off from work and bikes packed and ready to go. We headed out at around 4:30am on Saturday the twenty-second of September. The air was crisp, the sunrise still a couple hours away and nearly no traffic. We headed north on interstate 15. Our first stop to replenish our gas tanks and bellies was at the Pilot Travel Center where highway 395 and interstate 15 meet. Now I’m not going to mentioned every pit stop however this one stood out because about halfway to this location our trip nearly ended. We were going about 90mph the whole way since the traffic and conditions permitted it. Along the way we came across a big chunk of tire from a truck that I was able to dodge but my pops nicked and got tossed around a bit. That was scary moment because it’s equivalent to hitting a boulder in the middle of the road and because it was still dark, the tire is black on black pavements it could have been a real disaster.
By the time we left the truck stop the sun was out but the air still cool. We started up highway 395. It was an awesome ride passing Joshua trees, lots of desert, hidden CHP and open road before arriving Lone Pine, CA. Lone Pine was our original planned stop to spend the night however we still had energy and it was only noon. Therefore we decided to strap our helmets back on and head towards Bishop where we stayed at the Townhouse Motel.
There’s really not much to say about Bishop that’s worth mentioning. We ate some mediocre BBQ and watched police give people tickets because they have weird roads that force you to do giant circles around blocks. We hit the road nice and early in the morning, I think around 5:30am this time. We got about 20 miles before we stopped and started adding more layers. It was bloody freezing leaving Bishop. The sun was barely hitting the Sierra Nevada Mountains and we were on the side of the road hugging our bikes oil and exhaust to thaw out our hands and warming our gloves.
Once warm he stayed on the highway 395 until reaching highway 120 also known as Tioga Pass, which goes right through Yosemite. This was an amazing part of ride with lots of nature. I think the rocky terrain towards the valley was more appealing than the valley itself. I think the fumbling tourists played a major factor in that opinion. Unfortunately there weren’t any running waterfalls. You can we were towards the end of the season upon our arrival.
We left Yosemite and continue on highway 120 towards Stockton. In retrospect I will never stop in Stockton again. The place is one giant ghetto, truck stop and meth lab. Everything shuts down before sunset and even being a few blocks from the rather good-looking police station we never saw an officer. It was another Motel 6 and Denny’s stop however we eagerly moved on from there the next morning.
Our next plotted stay was Uncle Bob’s and Aunt Shirley’s place in Red Bluff. The trip to Red Bluff was mostly up Interstate 5. This section of our trip was plagued with bugs. I was so happy to have the windshield on my bike because there wasn’t a spot not covered with bug goo. My dad literally had to constantly wipe his sunglasses off because a bug would splatter all over them. It was nice wen we arrived at my Uncles because we got there early and were able to just chill out. Also nice to see my Uncle & Aunt whom I haven’t seen in almost 20 years. Unlike Stockton we decided on a late morning leave and headed for the Coast via highway 299. On the way to the 299 I had lost my favorite hoodie, which flew, out of my saddlebag at 100mph. It’s a good thing it didn’t hit my dad who was riding behind and even better he got me to pull over because the next thing that was going to take flight was my bike cover. The bike cover would have definitely killed someone, as it resembles a parachute.
Highway 299 was by far the most beautiful section of this whole trip. To start off we passed Whiskeytown Lake, which is absolutely stunning. The lake offers hugs the road for miles and the reflections of the mountains behind it are breathtaking. Later down the highway, the Trinity River is parallel to the road, which led to some nice pit stops. There was one particular where I had wished I brought my collapsible rod because there were trout in the river as long as my arm. To our surprise highway 299 is rather well maintained and was a nice introductory to Red Woods towards the latter half of the segment.
We took a pit stop in Blue Lake. This was the first time I’ve seen a mini casino inside a gas station. Definitely felt strange to me even with the there being so many casinos in Southern California. We put warm clothes on at this point because we could feel the overcast fog from the coast starting to take effect on the overall temperature and onwards towards Eureka we went.
Eureka wasn’t as classy as I envisioned. Perhaps I can blame the show called Eureka for that impression. The town lacked culinary culture and the restaurants looked like broken down Carrows branches. We did meet a cool couple that rolled in on a pair of Kawasaki Nomads. Made for some good chatting about the bikes since they basically had a different model of the same bike.
Bundled up again we took off at first light and headed towards Fort Brag. Stopped about at what we perceived as half way in Garberville for breakfast. Garberville is literally a 3-block town and if you blink you will miss it. We had a nice biscuits and gravy. Not much to see in this town except Humboldt deadheads. Continued onwards towards Fort Brag and just before the one we decided to do the tourist thing and stopped at Drive-thru tree in Leggett, CA and was a short detour down highway 271. We managed to fit both our bikes thru the tree which is a feat because now we can say we’ve driven thru a tree to live and talk about it. Upon rolling up to the gift shop I had a woman actually want to take their photo with me because of my mask. I don’t know what it is but my mask got a lot of attention from women during my trip.
We headed back towards highway 1. Ok this segment of the trip really made us not want to do anymore-tight curves for the remainder of the trip. The sign seriously said 20 miles to the next spot however our odometers read 120 miles by the time we reached Fort Bragg. We were hurting and the whole time we were negotiating blind U-turn style turns, we were competing with loggers. I had a nice knock on the head from a piece of bark that flew off one as well. The coast was fogged in and over cast so we were happy to get off the one and onto the 128 towards highway 101. The 128 was a relief with warm weather that took us right thru wine country and the 101 was a welcomed site because towards the end of the 128 there was all kinds of repaving happening.
We stopped in Santa Rosa where the culture is definitely on the ritzy side of things. I we ate at a Jewish style deli by the name of Mac’s. They make a nice Reuben sandwich but the portion size is a bit of for the price. From Santa Road we headed towards San Rafael for another night at another Motel 6. Our logic told us that it would be the perfect place to sleep in a little and head towards the Golden Gate when the sun was out. Of course the sun never came out and we couldn’t see more than twenty feet in front of us all the way across the bridge. Boo!
Once in Frisco (a city I have not been too since 2001) we made a dash for the first bridge that would get us out of there. People cannot drive in the city to save their lives. Had some serious close encounters in during the mere 20 minutes we were in it. I talked my pops into stopping in Fremont because there’s aftermarkets shop I ordered my rack and sissy bar from. I had hoped it was a bigger store however it was mostly more Internet based sales. The store still had more inventory for cruisers than most of the chains in San Diego. By now I was starting to develop some serious cupping on my tires and therefore omitted Big Sur from the trip.
Our next stop was San Luis Obispo where I had to pickup a new spacer for my saddlebag at the Home Depot. San Luis Obispo didn’t have much to offer however they have the best BBQ we had on our trip. Of course it wasn’t till we arrived we found out the Ribline was one of the Man vs. Food locations for the Brahma Bull challenge. No we didn’t attempt it. We had the K.I.S.S. the Piggy sandwich from their Pig Pen section of their menu. It was hot diggity good!
From San Luis we headed thru Santa Barbara towards Burbank to meet up with a close friend for dinner and off to New Port for you guessed it, another Motel 6. The next morning we had breakfast with my aunt Linda and then headed back to El Cajon for a nice cruise back home. 1934 miles later, a victory beer and the rest is history.