I woke up in an overpriced Motel just off the 101. Usually, I’m quite happy to forgoe the inclusive toast and cereal breakfast that you get in most motels in order to pay absolute bottom dollar for a room for the night, but at just shy of $100, I felt like the Motel 6 in Fort Bragg owed me breakfast before I left.
Motel 6 doesn’t do breakfast though – so I packed up my meagre belongings, strapped them onto the bike and tootled down the road to the Safeway, hoping to find a supermarket cafe. Sadly, despite being approximately the same square acreage as a small unincorporated town, they didn’t have a sit down cafe, so I breakfasted on a wholemeal baguette, some ready made guacamole and a kale smoothie, all scarfed down sitting on the grass outside.
I was done and out on the road by eight, which was necessary as I’d agreed to meet my bother in law Phil at the vista point overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge at noon. First, I had 160 miles to do, 40 of which were through the redwoods and round the mountain twisties on the way back to a sensibly graded highway. These 40 miles took almost as long as the remaining 120 and I was continually at peril of either decking the exhaust or overshooting the road entirely. Fortunately, neither eventuality came to pass and I managed to turn back onto the 101 after a good hour and a half’s riding. I’m glad that I did this route, but I’m going to admit that it might have been more fun on my Triumph Explorer, blessed as it is with a high ground clearance and modern braking equipment.
Highway 101 was fast and for the most part, we surfaced. Although there was a stretch of about ten miles where the tarmac gave way to bare concrete and at 65mph on a bike with no rear suspension, I got a number of moments where my backside was launched from the saddle as I pummelled into a road feature. Any more of that and I’m going to write off to get my rightful quota of air miles.
I made the Golden Gate Bridge by noon, but like a numpty, I hadn’t realised that the vista point is only accessible from the northbound carriageway, which meant a trip over the bridge, only to turn round and go straight back again so I could pull off at the look out point. Whilst I was there, I got a phone call from Phil who’d taken a wrong turning and was running late. So instead of waiting for him to shlepp up to the bridge, I agree to meet him downtown at a notorious hipster bike accessories shop I wanted to visit. But first, the obligatory photo:
Iron and Resin is the sort of shop that only San Francisco could play host to. Imagine a perfectly curated selection of high end motorcycle accessories, lifestyle clothing pieces and more small-batch, organic, locally-produced, ethical beard oil than you can shake a stick at. I wanted to swing by because I’d been resorting to strapping an unsightly drybag onto the bike and I knew that they sold a range of rather handsome canvas luggage that might look well on the chopper. Here’s what I bought:
If that were not painfully on-trend enough, I’m afraid I have one more offence to be taken into consideration. I give you chopper stereotype No.63(b) – the Mexican blanket:Take a look at any self-respecting chopper road movie and you’ll notice that the Mexican blanket makes an appearance. Nobody’s entirely sure what they’re actually for, but I intend to use mine to keep warm if Phil and I sleep out in Death Valley next week. Okay, I also have a bivi bag and a borrowed North Face sleeping bag, but the blanket is an integral part of my over-romanticised road trip kit…
After we’d finished at the hipster shop, Phil took me for a whistle stop tour of downtown SF. He was riding his very splendid Triumph Tiger 1050 and did a lovely job of showing me the sights. Riding a rigid framed chopper across the tramlines that the city by the bay is famous for was… interesting – but nothing could wipe the stupid grin off my face as we roared down some of those famous streets. Our destination was a late lunch in the Castro and I can’t deny, I got a little teary riding past Harvey Milk’s camera shop (now the storefront for the Human Rights Foundation). For a queer person, seeing all the rainbow flags flying makes visiting the Castro feel oddly like like coming home. I will always love coming here – however briefly – as it holds a very special place in my heart.
After a delicious brunch of avo toast, we rode off to Phil’s place in Berkley. The trip over the Bay Bridge was spectacular, as was the ride up the side of the mountain that Phil lives on. Almost at the top, he pulled over at a lookout point popular with local bikers. Already parked up was a Triumph Thruxton, a Ducati, a classic Suzuki and several other very nice bikes. The riders gathered round my peculiar ride to ask me what the hell it was, where I’d got it and how far I’d ridden it. I love the way this bike gets me talking to people.
After dropping my bags at Phil’s awesome house ,we rode back down to Berkley to meet Shea, his girlfriend for dinner. Oddly, this was the first time I’d ever ridden the chop without bags on – and it felt amazing. Cruising through the streets of the university district, past the frat houses and into the city centre, I felt like a total badass, listening to the noise of the exhaust thunder off the buildings and noticing the looks I was getting from pedestrians This is not a low key mode of transport.
Phil treated me to dinner at Millenium, a vegan restaurant that might just have served me up one of the very best meals I have ever had. I strongly suspect that I shall not eat so well in Texas, so getting in some fine dining at this point seemed like a very sensible idea. Hurrah for queer, liberal, plant-eating, dope-smoking, tree-hugging California!