Monday, January 15, 2007

Seattle, WA to Fortuna, CA

Seattle, WA to Fortuna, CA
May 18 - 22, 2006
Total Miles: 1,623
Map 2b:
West Coast Regional Meet III
We took the coastal views of 101 south of Crescent City, passing through the little burbs of Orick, Trinidad and Moonstone. We cruised through Eureka, our hosts’ hometown, and continued the last 15 miles to Fortuna.
I had already decided that I wanted to ride the Lost Coast road – a seventy-mile route that I was rumored to hold not only amazing coastal scenery, but also terrible, potholed roads.
Then the ocean appeared. I rounded a bend and suddenly it was there. I don’t know how the world’s largest body of water can surprise me, but it did. The road surface became flat and smooth and fast. The sportbikes were in their element, spinning the speedometer needle around the instrument face. I myself wasn’t looking for speed. Instead I studied the grassy hillsides, the rolling waves and the languor of the cows in the fields. I stopped for photos of the wild flowers and to catch some fellow riders in action as they zipped by me. The rocks offshore held birds and seals and other, smaller, unseen creatures. The sky was almost blue and the wind whipped in from the ocean’s vast surface, giving life to the tall grasses nodding in unison. This was what it was all about. It had nothing to do with the miles but instead all about the experience. This was here and now and this was living.

It is only for a few miles that the Lost Coast road actually follows the coast before diving inland again. But when taken from north-to-south, the “dive” inland is much more like an ascent. Or, more accurately, an assault. It’s an 18% grade that takes you up like a roller coaster ascending the first hill in an amusement park. With a sharp turn at the top just to make things interesting. From this point on the Lost Coast was all inland roads, snaking up hillsides and rolling along ridgelines. The roads were narrow and slightly better maintained than through the redwood forest but they were still challenging to ride on. Our group scattered, and as we got closer to our destination the photo stops decreased. Only a couple of us bothered to stop in the picturesque town of Ferndale, taking in the beautiful restored and maintained Victorian buildings. From here it was a quick trip to Fortuna and our second group dinner. And this time I would not only be on time, I would be early!
The return North trip:
When we reached Willow Creek we made the decision to keep going east on 299 instead of north on 96. I kept hoping that if we headed further inland then the clouds would part and I’d be basking in the warmth of the sun with dry roads passing beneath my tires. It wasn’t to be. The sun played peak-a-boo for a while and I was tired. I relished the thought of finding a quiet pull-out along the Trinity River where I could park the bike, lay down on the grass and close my eyes for 15 minutes. No sooner had I mentally drawn out that thought then the clouds thickened and promised another dousing. We reached Weaverville and I knew that the road would get very technical between here and the interstate, something I was not looking forward to in my mental state and with the impending rain. As an alternative Doug and I consulted the maps and saw that 3 ran north of Weaverville, following the shores of Trinity Lake before joining up with the I-5 at Yreka. We chose to take the unknown northern route along the lake.
The rain started almost immediately, drenching the roads as I led us along unfamiliar territory. The road was in good shape and there was no traffic to impede us. I took the turns fast considering that they were wet and new to me. Doug followed along behind, trailing me like a hound dog “gone to ground”. The lake was almost deserted on this rainy Sunday, the glassy surface broken up by a gentle breeze and drops of rain. We followed the Trinity River north for quite some time, enjoying the wide, volatile riverbed that dominated the valley. The road veered suddenly from the lowlands and immediately rocketed my bike upward, twisting its way through tree-covered slopes. I spied a waterfall at one bend and pulled to the side to investigate. There was a scattering of snow nestled among the trees and the river was a raging torrent, hurtling down the mountain like an angry lion. We got back on the bikes and the road immediately turned back on itself. It snaked up the side of the mountains, a wet serpentine ribbon of pavement that switched back and forth, climbing into the clouds. There were occasional rocks and pine cones in the road, and of course the continuing rainfall, so I once again took an easy pace.
There isn’t much to say about the ride from wherever it was we stopped and into Seattle. It was the same interstate we rode down a few days ago and little had changed. The rain continued to haunt our journey and traffic kept things interesting.

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