I can’t deny that the plan for today was bothering me a bit. My itinerary had the mileage down as over 360 miles and after yesterday’s ride, I had realised that getting fifty miles done in an hour was about as much as you can expect on Highway 101, so that equated to at least seven rolling hours. Seven hour on a rigid framed motorcycle. Seven hours on a rigid framed motorcycle with very loud exhausts and an engine that vibrates like a rampant rabbit with fresh lithium batteries. Yeah, I was a bit apprehensive.Steph and Suzanne are the loveliest people but there was a nagging doubt in my mind that kept reminding me that they’re both extraordinarily experienced long distance bikers and I’m a numpty from West London with a sparkly helmet and a daft idea. The bikes that we are all riding are incredibly well adapted to long road trips, though; Steph’s a genius-level custom builder. After we’d knocked out about 200 or so miles this morning, we stopped for lunch and a guy came up to our table in the diner, asking, “are those your bikes out there?” He wanted to know about the aluminium cylinders on the back of Steph and Suzanne’s bikes and whether they were “big ol’ oil bags”. They are, in fact, auxiliary fuel tanks, which allow you to swap over on the hoof and add a couple of gallons more riding capacity…
It’s all a bit weird and deja-vu at the moment, because I was remember this road. My partner Julian and I rode it nearly a decade ago when we took our tandem bicycle from Seattle to San Francisco over the course of about three and a half weeks. We rode through the town of Gold Beach, Oregon – where ten years earlier, Julian and I had rocked up soaked to the skin, freezing cold and not fancying putting up our tiny tent for the night. No motel rooms were to be found, so we ended up staying in a yurt at the airport RV park, run by a terrifying Christian fundamentalist who we were deeply concerned was going to twig that we were a pair of queers and deny us shelter for the night on account of our deviant ways. Ah, the memories…
Anyway, at this rate, I could be in the Bay Area tomorrow night. I’m not going to do that though – it’s about 400 miles to the Golden Gate Bridge by the coast road and I’m going to split that into two days and aim to get to SF by Sunday lunchtime.
So what have I learned today? In no particular order:
- The travelling plant-based motorcyclist is likely to eat a lot of roadside diner-grade veggie burgers
- When you’re about to hit a bump in the road on a hardtail – get some weight on your foot pegs and try to let your knees rather than your arse take the shock
- The exhausts on my bike are set *very* low – and it’s good to keep this fact to the forefront of your mind during spirited cornering
- You may not pump your own gasoline in the state of Oregon (unless you’re on a motorcycle, in which case you may not touch the pump – you have to wait for the attendant to hand you the nozzle)
- Choose life, choose 92RON unleaded with 10% ethanol
- Drink more water
- If it looks a bit overcast, clean your sunglasses
Steph and Suzanne head back up Hwy 101 to Anacortes tomorrow and I’m on my own for a couple of days. I’m profoundly grateful to these fine people for looking after me so amazingly well and escorting me two days south on my route. Riding along with Steph up front and Suzanne following along behind me has been incredible. These two hard-as-nails bikers are salt of the earth and I’m going to miss their company when they’re gone.