Saturday 30 July 2016

Big Guy rides the Left Coast - Day Six - San Luis Obispo, CA to Lodi, CA

Day 6 - 470 km - 5 and a half hours

Today was a bit of a slow start after last night's beer fest - can't tolerate the brewskis like I once did! 

I had planned to take the longer, but quieter, route - by avoiding the interstate and taking a secondary highway. Early on, I ended up on this three digit highway ( I think it was 229)  that I call the "Disney Highway". Parts of it were single track - in other words, there was only one lane and pull outs for cars to get by each other. No big trucks or motorhomes were allowed on the road. There were pretty trees and animals like rabbits and squirrels that scampered across the highway as I rode past. For the entire time on that particular highway, there was not another vehicle!

For brunch I stopped at the McDonald's in Kerman - interestingly the staff was almost all Hispanic - and not young kids either - lots of mom aged women which is not what you see around my home. The crew chief, however, was a young, white woman which gave me pause....
Waiting for the train to pass - lost looking for the Nut Factory in Le Grand
Found it! Tasty nuts!
The next exciting stop I made was near Le Grand. I was looking for the Buchanan Hollow Nut Factory (interestingly, it was not named after hollow nuts, it was named after Buchanan Hollow - sort of like Sleepy Hollow). It took forever to find it! I knew it was in Le Grand which was an 11 km detour but when I got into the town there were no signs saying where the nut factory was. I did find it on my Google maps and it was actually in the other end of town and it was another 8 km out of my way! There were no signs that I could see that told you that the factory was even there until you were right on it.
A shady tree for my BMW near the Nut Factory
I got out and went into the factory shop and a nice old lady offered me several different samples of all of their different products - mostly flavoured pistachios but there were other nuts and figs -  and I ended up buying a big bag of salted pistachios. They were very good and I knew it was going to be a challenge to keep the bag intact until I returned to Canada. 

A lot easier to find - especially with a big truck outside!

Another shady spot for my BMW

Front view of the waterfall
The other stop I made was Hillman's Cheese Factory which was the opposite of the nut factory. This place was made for tourists! There was a fancy parking lot with a beautiful walkway including a waterfall that you go walk under and picnic tables in the shade. It was a great place to just walk through! 

Once inside there were was a mini tour including how cheese is made and how the factory works. Once inside the actual retail part, there were a ton of cheeses but only a few were actually made at the factory. I ended up buying a corn salad and a small block of garlic jack cheese and I must confirm that it is very tasty cheese.
So, that's how milking works!

Corn salad, garlic cheese, and Squirt - lunch of champions!
I also bought a Squirt thanks to my friend Mike's suggestion and it was actually a very flavourful drink but not too sweet and not to grapefruity.

Best Western - comfy room!
Finally I made it into Lodi and the motel room at the Best Western Royal Host was super nice. The bathroom was clean and the shower had nozzles that squirted a forceful jet of water as well as a big rain shower fixture. The room was well appointed and clean and fresh and was better then any of the motels I had stayed in so far. The only complaint was that the pool. It was the first one of the trip and  it was literally covered in bugs - dead bugs. Maybe it's some sort of natural thing that's happening right now that is difficult than control but you think somebody would use  the skimmer every so often just to get the bugs out. Actually, the skimmer was broken.

Buggy pool - ugh! Don't drink the water!
I did go for a swim and just pushed the bugs away as they were on the surface so I could enjoy a little bit of the pool to myself but I did not put my head under the water as I was worried about getting some weird disease.

For dinner there were the choices of Mexican, Mexican, or Mexican. I think the area that I was in was a predominately Hispanic neighbourhood. Unfortunately I didn't really feel like Mexican, even though I was in a really Mexican area so I went to a place called Hawaiian Barbecue and got take out. I went back to my room and tucked into a nice meal (but was way too big so I left quite a lot) and then watched HBO as it was included on the TV. 

It was a rather early night and I did feel that I was stuck in Lodi again.

Friday 29 July 2016

Big Guy rides the Left Coast - Day Five - El Granada, CA to San Luis Obispo, CA

Day 5 -  380 km - 6 and a half hours (excluding visit to Hearst Castle)

The real Day 5 was a rest day so I will call my next day on the road day 5 to avoid confusion.

After a nice coffee and breakfast I left my friends in El Granada and headed south on picturesque Highway 1. It was a bit moist and misty but I thought the clouds would burn off and I would be immersed in California sunshine. I even turned on both my electric seat and grips.

An hour later and I was freezing - I even started to shiver. Time for the polar fleece! I warmed up a little but had become chilled so it was a bit of a pain! Finally the sun started to peak out and I was warm! I also started taking some photos of the gorgeous sea coast!

I was a bit pressed for time as I had a reservation for Hearst Castle for 3pm and didn't know how accurate the CoDriver app was. As a result, I didn't stop as often as I would like for the incredible number of photo ops but I was pretty happy with the ones I did.
Carmel City Beach

Big wave at Carmel Beach

After consulting my list of 'must sees', I made a detour and went to the beach at Carmel. From my brief visit, I would definitely spend more time there in the future. Lovely shopping area and a nice beach.
Sea Otter State Refuge near Carmel

I don't look that impressed - but I am!
Just outside of Carmel, I stopped at a scenic viewpoint and was rewarded with some more gorgeous views of the ocean.
Big Sur Beach

My BMW parked on the side of the road by Big Sur

Big Sur Selfie

Further down from Carmel is a stretch of the highway that is known as Big Sur. I managed to stay on the road during this part but the scenery was absolutely beautiful.

The next place I decided to visit was Pfeiffer beach. I first went to Pfeiffer National Park but the friendly ranger told me it was a mile down the road. I almost missed it and had to back up the bike past a carful of smiling teen girls but eventually made it to the beach.

The road was basically single track with pullouts - much like Scotland. I finally made it to the beach without too much problem because it was very little traffic. It was $10 to park at the beach but only $5 for my scooter.
Purple tinged sand at Pfeiffer Beach

Pounding surf at Pfeiffer Beach

Not all of Pfeiffer Beach had people around. 

Pfeiffer Beach rocks

Pfeiffer Beach - you can sun, you can relax, but you can't go in the water!

One of the reasons I went to the beach was because it was known as a purple send the beach. Well, the sand had a slight purple tinge to it but it wasn't like great Barney purple. After that I looked around at the beach and watch the surf. Unlike most beaches this when you couldn't swim in or get too close to basically but it was a nice place to just chill out in. Sadly after pay my five dollars to go there, I only spent about five minutes at the beach because I had to press on toward Hearst Castle.
Another Big Sur shot south of Pfeiffer Beach

I continued on and finally made my way to wards the Hearst Castle visitor center. It reminded me a little bit of the Icefield Parkway in the Rockies in that there is a giant Centre which sells tickets and has food and has the gates be for buses that take you up to Hearst Castle. I was early but luckily the girl that at the ticket counter asked me if I want to go right away and of course I said yes so I got in a half an hour early!

The bus tour up to Hearst Castle included an interesting narration by Alex Trebek (of all people - did you know that he is actually Canadian?) who told you about Hearst Castle and the first family. It was interesting and formative. On the way to the bus actually I made a connection with a guy and his daughter who's name is Emily. We chatted on and off before the bus ride and on the bus and I was actually looking forward to doing the tour with them. Unfortunately after the first little bit of the tour they felt that the tour guide behind our tour guide would be better it would be a better choice so I lost contact with them.
Outside Hearst Castle - very beautiful!

Coffered ceiling in Hearst Castle

Um - choir stalls used to decorate rooms in Hearst Castle - what?

Flags representing different families from the Palio in Siena, Italy decorations the Hearst Castle dining room. 

Outside Hearst castle - note the gold statue behind my shoulder. 

Beautiful indoor pool of Hearst Castle. 
My overall impression of Hearst Castle is it's got some interesting stuff in it but it's a bit garish inside.  The outside of the castle is very nice and there are some interesting statues scattered around the grounds. But then there are things like choir stalls that are used as decoration in the house. They belong in a church! And there were some beautiful things such as the tapestries and some of the paintings but it seemed a little , no, it seemed a lot over the top. We did get a good tour of the main rooms in the downs in the main floor but it just doesn't meet the standards of a place in Europe for example,. It all seems a bit disjointed because there are different eras in different styles that are mixed within each room. However he had a lot of money and I guess he could do whatever he wanted with it!
The Brown Butter Cookie Company in Caucus

The cookies were amazing. Unfortunately they only lasted a couple of days. 
After I left the Hearst Castle I continue riding along looking for a couple of places that I had read about. One was a restaurant called Robin's in Cambria but unfortunately I couldn't find it. However I did find the Brown Butter Cookie Company in Cayucos and had some awesome samples… In fact each sample was half a cookie… And I ended up buying six cookies for my trip. The problem is they will be hard to keep with me because they are so darn tasty!

Finally I arrived in the San Luis Obispo. The motel called Los Padres was a nice little family run motel. The woman at the front was friendly although a little distant and she had everything I needed ready for me. She let me park the bike in a carport and gave me all the information about SLO.

Tahoe Crunch Roll at the Naked Fish

Tahoe Crunch Roll description

After settling in I walked to the downtown area and went to the Naked Fish and had some amazing sushi. Some of it was sushi that I had never even heard of before as they had made up their own interesting combinations.

While I was there, a young couple with their daughter was seated outside. We struck up a  conversation and  I found that they were from Fresno. We spoke of several things but what stuck with me was that they had just returned  from Nice a few days before the bombing! We all agreed that the chance of something like Nice happening can't stop you from travelling. It was awful but it was an isolated incident!   I also had a couple of nice beers to accompany the sushi so I was feeling content when I left the sushi restaurant.

Tasters at the Central Coast Brewery Company
From there I went to the Central Coast Brewery Company as I had spotted it on the way to dinner. It was close to my motel which is a good thing because I tried some tasters and some little samples of their stronger IPAs. The place was full of younger people out for a few beers and it seems like the craft brewery culture is quite alive in the San Luis Obispo.

After my tastes of beer, I headed back to the motel and had a really good sleep!

Thursday 28 July 2016

Big Guy rides the Left Coast - Day Four - Mendocino, CA to El Granada, CA

Day 4 - 300 km - 5 hours

After the plethora of photos from the last three days, I decided to give everyone a break as I .. um .. didn't take a single photo during day 4.

Not that it was not scenic - but I was a bit anxious to see my good friend, Michael, and his wife, Shirley. You see, Mike and I go way back - back to Tokyo - I've known Mike almost as long as I've known my wife because all three of us taught English at a school in Tokyo back in 1984! 

Hands up, who was alive in 1984?

We have visited Mike and Shirley before - a few years back - and took advantage of the time to check out San Fransisco. This time I was there solely to visit with them so I was in a bit of a hurry to see them. Instead of taking highway 1 down the coast, which would have been more scenic, I took highway 101 which promised to be more direct!

I left Mendocino after getting ready in the shared bathroom. Actually, I first waited for ten minutes outside the shared bathroom until I wandered around the floor and found a couple more bathrooms that were vacant. After I had packed up, I left the grand old Mendocino Hotel and hopped on my scooter.

It was a cold start - a really cold start. I had on my jacket, with liner, which was sufficient every other morning so far but this morning it was cold and stayed cold. I was forced to unpack my fleece sweater and put on my rain pants for part of the trip just get at a comfortable riding temperature. Thankfully, I had my heated grips (on full) and heated seat (on half) to help out. 

Having 'luxuries' like heated grips and heated seats are sort of like having air conditioning or heated seats in a car - once you have them, you figure that you won't be able to cope without them in future vehicles. 

Not the sign I saw, but same idea....
The first thing I had to deal with was to get from Highway 1 (on the coast) over to Highway 101 (a bit inland) which was a bit of a problem. My first attempt, thanks to CoPilot, was a very minor road that had a sign "Through Traffic Not Advised" posted at the turn off. I decided to take it for a while as it looked pretty good but after a couple of miles or so it became very rough. Upon further research, I believe the road is called Comptche Ukiah Road and is a popular cycling route. However, I had not filled up my tank and had no idea of the services available on this route. That, combined with thick fog, made me re-assess the road that CoPilot had suggested and I back tracked, returning to Highway 1. I would like to come back one day, with a full tank of gas, and try this rough road as it would probably be an interesting ride, especially if I wasn't in a hurry.

My next route suggested was Highway 128 which I took. Although there was still a fair bit of fog in places, it was, overall, a very nice road. It had lots of twisty curves that were a lot of fun. I had that euphoric feeling like I was skiing moguls (really well)  and thoroughly enjoyed the ride towards highway 101. There was, however, a guy in a pick up truck who was on my butt during the twists which detracted from their enjoyment. I did pull off when I was able so he could pass but I was a bit uncomfortable with how close he was riding me. 

Highway 101 was pretty straight forward - at least until I got to Santa Rosa. There, the traffic slowed right down to rush hour proportions. Stop and go, stop and go. I wondered if you could go up the breakdown lane in California (not legal) and wished I looked up the legality of it before hand. Then, as I slowly crept along, I saw a motorcyclist zip by between the cars - lane splitting, in other words. 

Ah, that was it, I recalled. You can lane split ( lane filter) in California - legally! 

Hippie Grandma, circa 1969?

While I mulled this over, an old VW Van - you know, the one that hippies used to drive - pulled up beside me, driven by a hippie grandma. She was friendly enough but asked me why I was sitting in traffic when I could be lane splitting. Whenever she said 'lane-splitting' she gestured with both hands in a very urgent manner. I explained to her that I was Canadian and we're not allowed to lane split (or buy automatic weapons) but she reminded me that we were in California (the only state to allow lane splitting legally - or at least, not to prohibit it). I shrugged and, while I considered it, the traffic started to pick up. 

I'm a little disappointed I didn't even try it but, on the other hand, I was to make sure that I am a mostly safe rider so I don't know if I will ever try lane-splitting. Maybe if there was a course....

Once I cleared the traffic it was smooth riding to San Fran. I had a bit of slight panic just before the Golden Gate bridge when I didn't know how I was going to pay the toll but just went on through, not worrying about it. We will see if I get an invoice to pay the toll or if they just don't bother with out-of-country plates. 

I ended up back on Highway 1 through San Francisco. I was desperately needing some lunch as all I had eaten up to that point was some left over Tillamook cheese. I stopped at one of my favourite American chains, Chipotle, and had a tasty burrito. Now I have discovered that there are 2 Chipotle restaurants in Vancouver so I will have to check them out!

On the way to El Granada, I discovered that part of the highway had been changed - the tricky part which suffered from landslides, erosion, and traffic accidents had been replaced with slick new tunnels. The old highway route has since been changed into a picturesque walking trail. 

I arrived in at Michael and Shirley's place in El Granada (after CoPilot sent me down no fewer than three dead ends in the town) and had beers and cheese while relaxing and watching a movie. 

The next day was a rest day which was extremely pleasant but had zero time on my BMW C600 scooter so I will continue the next entry with my next day on the scoot. 

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Big Guy rides the Left Coast - Day Three - Crescent City, CA to Mendocino, CA

Day 3 - 375 kms - 7 hours

I woke up after an incredibly good sleep- and I actually slept in until 8! I packed my stuff (which doesn't take a long time) and headed down to the lobby of the motel for a fine brekky of a bagel and banana before starting off - into the fog!

Feeling perplexed by the lack of sunshine in California.

When I left it was 12° Celsius (54°F)! The road was twisty and a bit rough so it was hard to see at times! Not to worry, though, as the temperature started to climb.
My BMW with a tall tree.

A little perspective.

I joined the Redwood Highway pretty much right away and saw many of the mighty trees. I took a side road named after somebody called Drury (but probably not Ian Drury of the Blockhead - 'hit me with your redwood stick...'). It was densely populated with Redwoods.

The big tree.

Big guy, big tree!
At one point I stopped to see the 'Big Tree' which was, in fact, a big tree. Nice photos.

Ladybird tree.

Such a tall hollow tree!

Another tree selfie in Ladybird Johnson grove.

You can see the forest for the trees!

Stuck in the middle with two trees.

I continued on until the detour for Ladybird Johnson grove which was a 3.5 Mike detour and a 1.5 mile walk and definitely worth it! It was a self guided trail and very informative. Lots of photo ops with giant cedars.

Lunch time was at a Subway in some small town. I did my best to have a light breakfast and light lunch while I was riding. This is to avoid that feeling where you all full and sleepy and start to nod off while going 120 km down a twisty road. And through the forest there were lots of twisty roads! It was a blast to ride them!

Inside the One Log House.
A little later, feeling very hot, I stopped at the One Log House. Somebody hollowed out a giant cedar many years ago and made the world's first tiny house. It was interesting, and inexpensive ($1)  but the best part was the air conditioning in the shop where I bought the ticket! Back on the bike, the temperature topped out at 42°C.  (107° F)!...Hot!

The view from Westport.

Rocky view from Fort Bragg.
I continued down highway 101 until I reached the split off to highway 1. Then it was prepare the Go Pro and ride! Super twisters and narrow roads! Fun, fun, fun! Got some nice photos at Westport and at Fort Bragg.

I finally rolled into Mendocino around 4:30 - a mere 7 hours on the road! Including a couple of hikes!

I followed the CoPilot app's instructions to find my hotel for the night but thought there was an error because I was outside this classic stately manor on the Main Street facing the ocean. Nope, no error. My $68 went far tonight!

Now, the room was tiny - bed,chair, sink, and little table - and a tiny closet. The bathroom / shower was in the hallway but was clean and looked nice. The lobby was fantastic - the best part!  It looked like your classic idea of an old time fancy hotel.  I had a few beers and some dinner sitting in a little couch. Very nice food! I spent a fair bit of time taking to a retired couple from New York who retired to Arizona named Larry and.... Mrs Larry?

We spoke of many things - our respective trips,kids, retirement, beer, and, of course, motorcycles. They were very nice company for my meal. Very nice couple.

I then took a walk - across Main Street and over to the beach. There was a nice walk that took me around some rocky outcroppings and gave me some excellent views. It was a lovely place.

After dinner, beer, and a walk, I went upstairs to the little balcony over the front of the hotel and painted. It was a post-beer painting so it's not one that will fetch a fortune in 100 years....

Looking forward to seeing my friends Mike and Shirley in El Granada tomorrow! Should be fun!