Riding the Oregon Coast and California Redwoods

Quick blast to the Redwoods

We have all heard it. That voice in the back of your head that starts screaming at you in September. “Ride while the weather is good”! The best part of the year to ride ( in bikerbros opinion, late summer / early fall) is quickly coming to an end. So this weekend we took a quick ride from Portland Oregon to the Redwood National Forest in Northern California. The need to ride outweighed many other concerns. Namely, the 17 fires burning Oregon, the Redwood state park being closed to riders and cagers because of a 10K run, and the first major storm of the season to hit the Northwest US. Ride on!

We met the Oregon coast line in a little town called Florence. Riding the 101 this far north, the shoreline is in and out of your vision from highway 101. The coast is truly spectacular with big sand dune beaches and some amazing rock formations visible in the water. Lot’s of hiking/walking and camping options available along this section of coast, but not in the cards for this quick trip.

A favorite along the Oregon coast, Florence is the little brother to Newport. Florence has a small, but charming downtown. We grabbed lunch at Mo’s. Known for good chowder and all things fried (mostly from the sea, go figure), the service is always good and a prerequisite for this trip, quick. We enjoyed the watery views, some good chowder, fried shrimp, an adult grilled cheese and the beauty of a 110 outlet to put a little juice back in some of our hardware. Lot’s of tasty beers to be enjoyed here, but as is our practice on two wheels, we keep the adult beverages for the end of the day, after all the riding is done.

Leaving Florence and heading south on 101, the coastline quickly transitions into dunes. While this looks like something out of the Sahara, it is sandwiched between beautiful pine trees and the Pacific Ocean. This is a very popular area for ATV riding, and lots of places to rent them. On this September Friday afternoon, the beaches were surprisingly quiet, and had a desolate feel about them.

Friday’s riding weather was really what we think of as perfect. Mid 60’s to mid 70’s, with a mixture of partly cloudy and full sun. Riding the coastline was relaxing, in spite of the tight time frames we placed on this trip. A good riding day came to an end in the little town of Gold Beach. We enjoyed some prime rib and beers at Spinners. We give Spinners a solid on our food scale but a little pricey for what they offer. Early to bed on this night as we have big trees to see on Saturday.

We started Saturday morning at Double D cafe in Gold Beach. Very friendly staff taking care of customers, with large portions of good breakfast food, and all the coffee you can handle. Double D is the kind of place we just love. Friendly folks who are happy to share info about their town and the surrounding area, love to know more about you, and figure out how to make all that happen while taking good care of everyone with good food.

Charged with good food and serious amounts of coffee, a stop was immediately required south of Gold Beach to take in the coastline and rock formations directly off the coast. This look really defines the Northwest coast. Plan on some picture opportunities in this section of riding. There is also some opportunities to do a little exploring along the coast here and climb some interesting rock cropping overlooking the coast.

Gold_Beach_Coastline

Riding 101 in this area is really scenic. The riding is not dramatic overall, but there a few curvy sections that it’s required to give up the site seeing and really execute pushing your bike around. Overall a good ride that includes some bridges and other interesting small towns, like Brookings and Smith River.

Soon enough you cross over into California and Crescent City. The roads in this area were under construction, and timed lights managing the one lane strategy for both directions of traffic. We knew there would be some delays, and there were. The road quality from entering the state of California, riding through Del Norte Coast Redwoods State park, and the National Park is a mess. The patch work quilt strategy being employed is not one that considers riding on two wheels. There is also some really nice scenery here, both coastal and forest, but the roads will make you pay if your eyes wander too far. Plan a few stops along this section to take it all in, and curse the lack of detail in putting the roads back together before old man winter shows up.

The Redwood experience from a parks standpoint can be confusing. Not that we totally understand it, but here is what we learned. Don’t look for a major gate of entrance to the Redwood National or State Park. The parks layout north to south this way. Del Norte Redwood State Park. Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and the Redwood National Park. Essentially, 3 parks ( think 3 groups of massive trees), run by different services. The folks at the National Park were helpful in identifying what was open during our visit, where we could ride easily and where roads became unpaved trails.

Pictures do not capture the true majesty of the forest and the size of these trees. We would recommend a pair of shoes / hikers besides your riding boots if you want to do a little exploring. The effort is worthwhile and there is much to see. An easy walk in riding boots or sandals can be done at the edge of the Northern park, Del Norte in Simpson-Reed Grove. Good parking for biker and you can even putt through some of it from your saddle. Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway in Prairie State Park, we were told is also a great ride. Closed on this visit for a 10K running race, we will see it next time.

We chose to re-ride some of the same roads out, as fires had eliminated some of our preferred choices. We ended up riding to Medford, Oregon. The riding to Medford on Highway 199 has some nice turns at speed. The roads and signs line up well. The road quality immediately improves when you enter Oregon. Nice wooded scenery with some rivers and lakes. By the end of our day, we chose to catch interstate 5 for just a bit  between Grant’s Pass and Medford.

Dinner was some serious Italian at Vinny’s in Medford. Quality food and service. Reasonably priced. Best, the Owner, Vinny, took the time to chat us up, asked about our meal, made sure we got our cab (no Uber in Medford). If in Medord, give this one a try.

Crater Lake was intended to be the next stop on this ride. We knew before we left that it was doubtful, due to fires. The smoke smell in the air as we crossed from Grants Pass to Medford made it clear that Crater Lake would have to wait. We made the decision that night to skip the next day and just freeway ride back to Portland, up Interstate 5. The fires and incoming rain forced our hand. Interstate 5 surprised us, as it’s mostly two lanes of scenic views from Medford to Eugene,  with some of the best fast turns we have ever ridden coming out of Grants Pass and into Glendale. If you like 70 MPH long sweeping turns, you will enjoy this section of Interstate. The rain caught up with us south of Eugene. Nothing to dramatic, but a little caution with the first rain of the season.

Just under three days, great scenery, and about 800 miles of nice riding. It was a good ride. The bad news, we can still hear that voice in the back of our heads; “riding season is winding down”. Time to get a few more rides in. Ride On!

 

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The Cherohala Skyway, and the Tail of the Dragon

Tennessee – June 2016

Like any great vacation, a good ride involves some planning. The level of planning needs to fit your own individual style and desires. To some extent the type of ride will also determine how much prep time is needed. This ride involves both HDBikerBros traveling and renting bikes. The level of planning to make this type of ride successful is significant. Not to give too much away, this ride rocked!

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Day One: Rental and Riding

As both HDBikerBros are flying in from different coasts ( CA and RI ), we agreed to meet in KC and fly to Nashville together. Arriving on the ground around 10:00am, we Uber’d ($25 ride) to the dealer we had chosen, Boswell’s on Fesslers Lane in Nashville (Boswell’s website).

(A note about this dealer. Like most HD dealers they are very friendly. Boswell’s sets the bar high in their rental area. They are a few dollars per day more (4 day rental for a 2016 Street Glide Special with all the insurance was $742), but delivered nicely on a pleasant experience, adding highway pegs, a Klockwerks windscreen, and a desire to please. They were very supportive of our adding some of our own equipment to their rentals, even providing a shady place to complete the process. We typically add rider back rests and bead rider seat covers. We usually bring our windscreens and highway pegs as well, but Adam at Boswell’s committed to covering them for us on this ride.)

After an hour and half of rental agreements and adding equipment to the bikes, we left our travel cases with the dealer and hit the road. First stop was downtown Nashville for some lunch at a place called “Biscuit Love“. A little searching prior to our arrival said this would be some good eats. (searching out food / gas / points of interest prior to riding always makes the trip more enjoyable). What we missed in our prep was noticing if any special events in a big city like Nashville were going on that would impact travel time and crowd roads. As it turns out, the Country Music Awards were in town, and the line for some Biscuit Love started in the next county over. Time for an audible for lunch at a place called “The Pub” across the street. Excellent service and Ruben sandwich. Cold beer too, although we tend to go slow with it when we are riding.

As we saddled up, we garnered a few compliments from some of the local lovelies regarding our bikes, rentals no less. Girls love A Harley. Our destination for day one is Chattanooga TN. The riding opportunities are endless between Nashville and Chattanooga. We chose highway 41A, and road that to Shelbyville, and then took highway 82, and then 55 to Lynchburg.

On the way we couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit our buddy JD.

Lynchburg is home to the Jack Daniels distillery. We love a good tour and this one is very good if you want to understand what makes Jack Daniels different from other whiskeys and bourbons. The folks at Jack take tremendous pride in the their product and operations. The tasting was fun as well. Again, we go easy when on two wheels and this was no exception. A couple of notes. The parking lot is gravel and not a bikers friend. We didn’t see any drops but heard about a few that happened earlier in the day. As you enter the drive, a hard right will take you to a small concrete patch that is suited for a biker to park on. Also note that the town of Lynchburg closes early, about 4:00pm on weekdays. Plan accordingly. Tough life in a town powered by the biggest maker / seller of whiskey in the USA. Also a dry county, so go figure, big business at work maybe?

Riding out of Lynchburg we took some excellent back roads with easy riding and green country side. We road highway 50 south-east from Lynchburg which curves in and around Tims Ford State Park. Then we jumped back on 41A and road that into Sewannee and Monteagle.  Nothing spectacular but very enjoyable riding without a lot of traffic and lots of greenery. A perfect way to get warmed up for the Dragon and the Cherohala  Skyway. The temps were in the mid nineties. Time to wet the doo rags before they go in the helmet (TN has helmet laws) and put on our hydration vests. More relaxing riding until reaching downtown Chattanooga via Interstate 24.

We opted to stay downtown on this trip, as Chattanooga offers a lot to do and of course, more good eats (We useTripAdvisor for finding all the good stuff). As it turned out, we missed that Riverbend music festival was starting on this Friday night so the crowds were bigger than normal, but the town was alive and folks were in a good mood. A few blocks back from the crowds and sounds of Riverbend, we found Sticky Fingers BBQ. We enjoyed a hard earned set of beers and ribs. Food was good and Chad and Gabby (bartenders) were a lot of fun. We like a good chat at the bar around local food and flavor. A bit of a lost art in the world of technology; but not here. A good find and a likely to return establishment.

It’s been our experience that Day One’s tend to be a lot of work and tiring. All the travel, bike rentals and just getting out of town always seem to more work than we planned. Partially why we ended up taking the interstate into town for the last 30 miles. While a good day overall on this trip, it was still a “day one”.

Day Two: Hanging in Chattanooga – A Little Riding

We are not planning on much riding today, but rather a little food and fun in the city of Chattanooga. The highlights of the day involved some amazing food at a place called the “Maple Street Biscuit Company“. A fun setting where you provide the name of a famous person you would like to meet when ordering and that name is used to notify you when your order is ready. After a variety of Albert Einsteins, Abe Lincolns and Jesus’s, Ronald Reagan was called and the food was killer good. All built around biscuits, gravy and chicken, how bad could it be? This is a highly recommended location for us. After enjoying coffee and breakfast a little walk to keep the blood pumping through those arteries led us to a whiskey house called “The Tennessee Stillhouse“.

The Stillhouse is the only distillery in Chattanooga. The host for our tour was a fellow rider named Levi. A more passionate person when it comes to whiskey will be hard to find. He has his hands on blending and distilling and doubles as a guide for this micro distillery.

A great experience to learn about whiskey making, with a fabulous decor and good product. After a couple hours of “whiskey learning and drinking” we wandered across the street to the Terminal Brewhouse. We enjoyed some local brews and something called “The Soup”. An excellent beer based soup made with cheese and sausage. Another highly recommended food item that was excellent even on a day when it was over ninety outside. After an afternoon siesta we took a an evening ride to “Lookout Mountain“. The temps had dropped and it was light till after 8:00pm. It was an nice ride under shade trees up most of the mountain. Some 3000 feet in elevation change with winding mountain roads. The reward at the top is a tie between a historical account of the Battle of Chattanooga and Clumpies Ice Cream. We enjoyed both as well as the view over the entire area. The ride down was just as enjoyable. An easy ride with winding roads, a few sharp curves and minimal traffic.

Our last destination of the day was a local watering hole recommend through some bar conversation, called the “Honest Pint“. Good service and ok food. After dinner we made a few adjustments to the bikes and packed it in. We were determined to get a good night’s sleep and an early start for the Dragon in the morning.

Day Three:   Cherohala Skyway and The Dragon

An early(6am) start with a breakfast stop at the City Diner. Chosen because it was open early and located close downtown. Poor service and average food. Not the cleanest establishment we have visited, but as my brother likes to say – “it’ll make a turd”. The ride out of Chattanooga on a Sunday morning early was perfect. Quiet, no traffic, cooler temps and some nice two lane city roads. We did a bit of freeway driving on Interstate 75, then took the cutoff to Ducktown on highway 74. From there, highway 68 took us north to Tellico-Plains, then east on 165/143 to Robbinsville. It is a great ride for a biker. The roads have lots of curves that are signed 15 to 30 mph. It’s green everywhere and often shady. It’s a good warm up for the Dragon’s Tail. Sharpens your focus, makes you practice good turning technique and gear box work.

As we were riding up we discussed those focus areas ( we use Uclear helmet to helmet communication) and I was reminded of something an instructor told me: “Never ride outside your abilities or comfort zone, just because someone else might be”. As the day went along, I got a clear picture of what this really meant. The Dragon’s tail is a section of mountainous highway that has 318 curves in little over 11 miles. A bikers dream if your in the mood to really work your bike. This particular Sunday, there were lots of folks with that in mind. Bike and cars of every shape and size. The good news for us, even with some attempted photo stops we didn’t really get stacked up behind anyone. Only once did we have someone pressing from behind. It was an exhilarating ride the entire day. Once down the mountain we learned that the prior week, two bikers went down and another one slammed into a car. No fatalities we were told, at least this time. We would share if you do this ride, get plenty of rest, be sharp, and ride at your skill level.

In reflection,The roads up and down the mountain to get to the Dragon’s Tail were our favorites of the trip. A really great riding day that concluded with us rewarding ourselves with photos with the dragon and some new tee shirts, and later that night a good drink.

Day Four:  Ride Out In The Sweat Box

Another early start with breakfast at Sami’s Diner in the Cedar Bluff area of west Knoxville. A really good eating experience with good service. Then a quick run down Interstate 40, and off onto highway 162, and from there, some nice riding on 85, 62 and 52. These smaller state roads had a lot of charm with good curves and greenery. A few more cars than we normally prefer, but it was a Monday. As the morning faded away the heat really kicked up. By lunch time in Gainesboro we were starting to fade. The hydration vests were drying too quickly to really cool well in temps near 100, with high humidity. After a bite to eat at “The Sports Grill”, we took a couple of quick photos with a unique statue / bust thing of Andrew Jackson. The photo explains it all and if it hadn’t been so hot we probably would still be there laughing ( no disrespect intended to the community or Mr Jackson) . Somewhere around 2pm we made the decision to hit the interstate and travel the last 40 miles back to Nashville at the legal 70MPH that interstate 40 allows.

Back at Boswell’s Harley we told our tales of riding the dragon. We learned of other great rides in the area that many locals prefer. Squared the rental bikes with Adam and hydrated to try and put back the sweat of the day. It was an excellent riding experience with several lessons learned on how to make the next trip even better. At the end of the day, it’s always about the company you keep and the roads you ride. There are good people everywhere and we found a great many of them in the great state of Tennessee.

Grand Canyon- October 2015

Jacobs Lake and the North Rim

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