Beautiful, Terrible Eureka! (BC to Baja 4)

Keeping the motorcycles safe with cable locks

We awoke to the numbing chill, once again. Mornings have been unpleasant in our tent these past few days. The combination of sleeping on the ground, cold temperatures and legs stuck in the same position for hours on end while we ride meant our knees and hips were slow to move and seem to creak a little bit more each passing day. 

Packing for the day ahead is also becoming a chore when it’s cold out, fingers are slow to move to make the little things all the more challenging The worst task being unsnapping the tent poles from the clips that bind them to the inner tent. With frosty fingers each one is a stabbing pinch, getting progressively more painful as we complete the task. We’ve taken to wearing riding gloves to get this painful task done. 

Our morning pit-stop was quick and easy to find. A 10-minute ride to the Cove Cafe, it was a little breakfast hub on the side of the road.

We both ordered our usual coffee with milk. We’ve noticed that when you ask for milk in the US, the servers seem to become a little bit frazzled. Each time I’ve asked, I always get the response “yes, we have half & half over there” which I respond, “no, just regular milk, do you have that?” And their response is usually “oh, uhhh, what kind? 2%, whole…?” the looks I get, it’s almost stressful for all of us. I don’t know why milk is such an unusual request for a cup of coffee?

We stared at the menu for a bit and today Neil decided to take one for the team, ordering ‘chicken fried steak with gravy’. It seems like such an odd choice for breakfast but is a common item on breakfast menus around these parts. Time to try it.

The little cafe was cute and relatively busy, filled with a healthy combination of locals and out-of-towners.

Everyone here seemed a little chilled though, so the server whipped out an electric bar heater and kept the hot coffee flowing to warm the place up. 

One local guy did what everyone else wanted to do, and sat right in front of the heater, blocking it for the rest of us. Rude, but you’ve got to admire his brazenness.

Breakfast arrived quickly. Our plates loaded with food, mostly with shredded hash browns and whatever sides that came with it. Neil’s was covered in flattened, breaded chicken breast and gravy. The gravy is an off white color with a creamy and chunky texture, who knows whats in it. Regardless, we tried it, and it wasn’t terrible but definitely not something we could eat every day, or ever again. After a few minutes, Neil was done with the chicken and gravy and moved it to the side of the plate, and finished with his eggs.

Adventure motorcyclist trying chicken fried steak for the first time
Time to take one for the team and order a local favorite, chicken fried steak with gravy. Never again!
A traditional north american breakfast is better suited to fuel an adventure motorcyclist on his journey
Neil has food envy watching me eat a more traditional breakfast choice

A local pulled a chair up to our table and started to talk to us. He was looking at our bikes outside but really admired Neil’s KTM 1090 Adventure R. He told us how he used to dual sport ride a lot back in the day, but he had been injured twice attempting to ride the Continental Divide, first time on a DR 650 and then on a KLR, the second accident broke a few places that haven’t healed all too well when an ATV hit him. He recommended we take a couple of different detours on our route south to pass through some of the larger giant redwood trees most people miss. We took his advice and got on our bikes and off we went. 

South Oregon is different to Northern Oregon. The sand on the beaches taking on a much darker tone and the coastline is much rockier than further north. In fact, they reminded us more of our beaches back home on Vancouver Island, more weathered, more eroded, centuries and countless Pacific storms have beaten them into their current shape. 

Taking a break from our motorcycle adventure ride in a small town called Bandon
Bandon is a lovely town full of west coast charm, ice cream, and seafood
riding our motorcycles through Bandon we stumbled across some local art made fro recycled plastics
Local art highlights the amount of discarded plastic in our oceans which especially affects sea turtles who mistake it for one of their primary sources of food, the jellyfish

Our coastal route took us briefly through the small Oceanside town of Bandon. I have a friend who lives nearby and named Bandon as a must-see. It’s a beautiful, quaint little town, full of tourist treats; ice cream, seafood, dozens of restaurants and coffee shops all bustling with people and energy. Our schedule didn’t leave much time for us to explore bandon, but it’s definitely made it on our list of places to re-visit with more time to explore.

After leaving Bandon it wasn’t long before we passed by the sign, “Welcome to California”, marking another significant milestone in our journey from BC to Baja. 

We had been so cold on the ride south up to now, and rather than the distance we’d ridden that little naked Honda Rebel 500, or all of the amazing things we were about to see, we were most excited by the imminent increase in temperatures this welcome sign signified. We could almost smell the warmth, almost. 

Welcome to California sign on our motorcycle ride from BC to Baja
We’re in California, why is it still cold out? We hit another milestone, California, we’re here!
Giant redwood tree dwarfs our little motorcycles
This was an average-sized Redwood, larger ones could be easily seen but a short walk from the roadside

We took the advice our broken Continental Divide friend gave us over breakfast and took his detour through the Redwood forests of Northern California. We took his secret right turn off the highway and were immediately gifted with an avenue of the largest trees we’ve ever seen, both wide and tall. Trees in British Columbia can be large, but extensive logging throughout the province has all but wiped out the kind of magnificence we experienced riding through miles upon miles of old growth. Pictures can’t do them justice. 

Roosevelt Elk are everywhere in northern CA. During our redwood ride we encountered one particularly impressive bull, he stood more than 6 feet tall, with antlers easily more than half his height again, and must have weighed 800 or 900 lbs. This impressive guy seemed a bit spooked by us, and our motorcycles, so we stayed as clear as we could in an effort to avoid an altercation we’d surely lose. 

Today’s ride had been long, so at around 6:00 pm we rolled into a cute little Oceanside town called Eureka, California. Not knowing anything about this city, we decided to stay anyways. How bad could it be?  

We booked a Travelodge, unpacked our bikes, locked them up as usual, two front wheels locked together with a cable lock, then assumed our now predictable search for dinner.

Keeping the motorcycles safe with cable locks
It looks like the Honda Rebel 500 and the KTM 1090 Adventure R are best of friends locked together with a cable lock.
Eureka is the first major town along the 101 after we passed through the Oregon/California state line.
Eureka is the first major town along the 101 after we passed through the Oregon/California state line.

We stopped at Gallagher’s, an Irish bar, at about 8:00pm, but their kitchen had just closed and they were closing out the bar. I’ve never been to a pub that closed that early before, especially an Irish one.

Regardless, we asked for a recommendation and the barman pointed us to a place down the road called ‘Jack’s Seafood’. Two minutes later we walked in and sat down. They too were closing in an hour, but they were still serving food, so we ordered quickly and chatted with the bartender for a bit. 

We’d only been in Eureka for a couple of hours you now but something felt strange about this town. It was hard to put our finger on so we asked the bartender. 

Eureka was once a bustling port and mining town and the area known as ‘old town’ was a hub of successful businesses. It’s old industries have long gone leaving a picturesque downtown full of beautiful old buildings and elaborate Victorian houses, now largely turned into hotels. 

There are dozens of small towns up and down this coast that have suffered a similar fate. Once grown from a booming industry of mining, or forestry, or sea trade, times change and the town struggles to adapt.

Eureka seems like it should have had enough charm to pivot and adapt, but has suffered a different fate to others. Eureka’s attractive facade hides a real social problem it has with homeless people, many of which have terrible opioid and meth addictions. 

It is well known that California is an expensive place to live, average people earning an average salary don’t live an average lifestyle. There is a huge problem with affordable housing and it hits the people at the bottom of the social ladder the hardest. For reasons we’ve yet to fully understand though Eureka has become a bit of a go-to for those struggling with homelessness and addictions and you can feel it as you walk around the streets. There aren’t many tourists, and every other person we encountered seems to have a struggle of one form or another. 

Crime rates have gone up and Eureka is just not a place you want to walk around, especially once the sun sets and the shadows grow longer and darker. 

After our discussion with our server over Eureka’s struggles I accidentally knocked over my water glass, broke it, and cut my finger.

I went to wash my hands and clean the wound in the bathroom and walked in on an agitated woman in there searching for something.

She looked at me with a vacant, yet somewhat intense stare, then resumed her search for whatever it was she’d lost. This poor woman was in awful shape, thin skin pulled taut over bone, with a huge scab covering her chin and sores all over her drawn face and bony body. I felt so sorry for her, but her erratic energy made me very nervous so I quickly left the bathroom without tending to the cut on my hand. I mentioned to Neil that we should head back to our hotel.

The sun had gone down now on the streets of Eureka and our walk back to our hotel, just three blocks up the road, was scattered with people, higher than life, stumbling through the streets. It was unreal the amount of homeless people we saw. I felt uneasy on our entire walk back. We checked on our bikes, rushed back in to our hotel room, then locked the door on beautiful, terrible Eureka, CA. 

Stage 4. Cape Lookout, Oregon (OR) to Eureka, California (CA). Stage total: 377 miles, ride total: 750 miles

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  1. Carol Barnes

    Here’s a suggestion for brekky, biscuits and gravy, delicious! It’s just baking powder biscuits with a sausage gravy. The gravy is made with milk and crumbled fried sausage meat. Looks awful, tastes like heaven.

  2. Gordin Warner

    Go to Ferndale, eat breakfast at Bob’s, then ride the Lost Coast Highway. It’s awful, beautiful and legendary. Ferndale is the opposite of Eureka.

    • Karen Willis

      We passed there already, but honestly, we will be back sooner then later. Bobs in Ferndale is noted! Thank you for reading, Gordin.

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