Tuesday June 2nd 7:19 PM – San Francisco, CA

I just finished an amazing dinner at the Cafe Grande here in San Francisco. Don’t let the pedantic name fool you. The restaurant is gourmet and ‘all that and more.’ Chardonnay, escargot, and day boat scallops followed by tarte tartin apples (that’s French for ‘Good lord, that’s good!’). Today was an amazing exerience. And it was all California.

It started overcast and misty in Fortuna. I slept well, which is always a bonus and not to be expected when on the road. Breakfast #1 was the ‘one-notch-above-vending-machine’ continental offering courtesy of Super 8. Enough to kill the growlings in my stomach until I can get something decent down the road. It was misting a bit as I headed south on 101. Traffic was light and I made good time getting to Leggett, where I veered west onto Highway 1.

It’s amazing how you can see a route on the map and have no idea what it’s actually like. Highway 1 has got to be the curviest, snakiest, twistiest little road this side of a spastic snake’s tail after one too many espressos. I don’t think I got out of second gear more than twice for over an hour. Heaven on two wheels. But wait, it gets better.

The clouds dissipated and the sun came out without being overly warm, a luxury if you’re decked out in protective motorcycle gear. The road stayed twisty and the scenery kept up the awesome pace mile after mile. I noticed a tree with flaky bark and wilty leaves, like a very tall willow, that smells amazing. Like sage or thyme or something. They’re everywhere. And redwoods, too. Lots of huge, massive, tall redwoods. Northern California has the market cornered on great trees, or at the very least giving every other state a serious run for their money.

Breakfast #2 was at Perko’s (WTF?) in Fort Bragg. One waitress was so obnoxiously loud and fast I’d swear an oath in court she was wacked out on WAY too much meth. The other had so many piercings in her left ear she’ll eventually start walking with a limp from the extra weight. The belgian waffle with two eggs (on top, thank you very much!) and bacon — plus coffee, of course! — was pretty good, though, so I didn’t complain.

For the most part my way south on 1 was better mile after mile. The Oregon coast is well regarded, but I’d put my money on the northern California coast for overal aesthetic beauty. Plus it’s not marred by clear cuts like the Oregon Coast. The towns are more quaint and the air smells better. Must be the herb trees. Whatever they are.

Then things got twisty. And fast. The road gets very narrow and follows every curve of the landscape, alternating between mere feet above the beach to a thousand feet up steep cliffs above the water line. The turns come fast-paced one after the other and they’re tight, oh Lord they’re tight! The first gear kind and with your ass-end nearly in front of you.

Taking a break
Taking a break

Then the buzz kill came along in the form of two vehicles completely unaware of the “pull over when you’re ass is slow” law that most other Californians honor. After nearly two dozen miles of that many cars or more piled up behind these Lifetime Members of the Anti-Destination League, they finally pulled off into a resort and the rest of us took off in earnest.

First in line was a Ford Mustang, then myself, followed by a silver Porsche 911 Carrera. The Mustang was outclassed and he knew it because I was on his tail with every twist and turn. He pulled over after about a mile and let the Kraut and I get by. Then the race was on. In the rare stretches without turns the Porsche caught up to me but I gained ground in the tight turns. I scraped my pegs twice which isn’t easy on a bike as tall as mine.

Central California Coast
Central California Coast

We went through a couple of small towns with 25 or 30 mph speed limits and that allowed him to catch up. For whatever reason, perhaps the challenge, I allowed him to pass by pulling over onto one of the numerous turn-outs. He zoomed past and I pulled back on the throttle to catch up. His acceleration far exceeded my bike’s but I could carve up the turns with an edge.

Soon I was right on his tail again. This kept up for several miles, with the cliffs getting steeper down to the crashing waves below and the road seemingly getting narrower with every mile. Eventually he pulled off on a side road and I continued on a much safer and more sensible pace. Maybe someday I’ll get a sport bike, something more appropriate for my riding style. Or maybe not. I like remaining alive.

Highway 1 north of San Francisco
Highway 1 north of San Francisco

The last stretch of 1 before reaching San Francisco is very tight and technical and not for the faint of heart. My clutch hand was beginning to get tired so I focused on solid yet safe technique. Soon I was in the city and feeling the need to strip down to warmer-weather gear. I pulled into an alley between two buildings and stripped down to my skivvies, getting a very interesting stare from a lady in a Honda taking a short-cut through the alley, then changed into my riding jeans and switched into lighter gloves. More comfortable, I got onto 101 and was soon turning a corner to see the Golden Gate bridge. I was blown away by how massive it is.

I had put a $5 bill in my chest pocket, easy to reach and ready for the toll. Somewhere my research got mixed up — they required $6 — so I had to pull my gloves off and dig my wallet out of my front pants pocket which is not an easy task when sitting on a bike. Once through the toll-booth I found myself in busy city traffic. It was urban warfare and everyone was out to get me! “Clowns to the left of me / Joker’s to the right / Here I am stuck in the middle with you!”

My handy GPS guided me true, thank God! I never would have found my way otherwise. I ran a red light, though, as prophesied by several dreams I had a while back. The lights in San Francisco are on the corners of intersections and aren’t very easy to see with the massive amount of visual pollution bombarding the senses. I pulled over in front of a hotel and asked the doorman where my hotel was. He said, “Right here, sir!” Wunderbar! I shut off the bike and unloaded my luggage onto his brass cart. Once I checked in, the desk clerk assured me my luggage would be deposited safely in my room while I looped around the block and parked my bike in the secured parking garage.

After getting showered and settled, I took care of a few phone calls and e-mails (it never ends for an IT guy, unfortunately) I headed downstairs to dinner. Tomorrow? Who the hell knows! I’m playing things totally by ear, which as anyone who knows me can tell you is completely out of my nature. Things have gone swimmingly so far, here’s hoping that continues!