We woke in the most comfortable bed we’ve slept in since this motorcycle adventure started. After days of sleeping on the dirt, imagine the joy of laying in a warm, dry, fluffy cloud, surrounded by squishy pillows and a ‘cool to the touch’ comforter. If there is a heaven, this is it. “Just five more minutes,” was uttered more than once!
We finished spoiling ourselves with a lay-in, then got up, showered, and packed our things. As I put on my jacket, I looked down and saw the rip I’d forgotten about from the previous day.
To prevent the hole from getting any worse, I figured I would try and fix it before leaving, and Neil’s suggestion of “duct tape” wasn’t going to cut it. I called down to the front desk to see if they had any sewing kits, and they quickly sent one up to our room. Five minutes later, I was kneeling over our pristine white sheets, sewing my jacket covered with insect-guts in our beautiful hotel room.
We had arranged to meet another friend for breakfast before we headed out of San Francisco. With the jacket now repaired, I threw it on, and we headed out to get our bikes, which were parked in a multi-storey behind the hotel.
The ride to meet up with Mike, Neil’s buddy, took us through the grid-like, undulating streets of San Francisco. Our route avoided the bulk of the morning traffic but took us up some pretty steep hills. I’m not the most confident rider, yet, and my coordination could use a little work. I got nervous about stopping at the stop signs at the top of each rise. Each time we approached the peak of a 45-degree slope, I’d tell Neil through our Cardo helmet communications, “Babe, I can’t do it,” to which he’d predictably respond, “yes you can, you’ve got this.” I did them, with encouragement, but each one was nerve-wracking, and I’d be fine to never ride them again.
Twenty minutes later, we arrived at a cute little breakfast spot that Mike had suggested, called ‘Velo Rouge Cafe,’ We ordered coffee and breakfast and then sat down to enjoy the ambiance. The coffee in this place was the best we’ve had in days! It was a welcome upgrade from the continental sludge we’d been forced to endure each morning of the ride so far. Breakfast also exceeded our expectations, and with the company of Mike, our morning turned out to be quite satisfying.
Mike recommended that we ride up to ‘twin peaks’ before leaving the city. Of course, I got nervous about all of those uphills and almost told Neil I didn’t want to go. But I’m not one to give up and let fear force me to miss out on a new experience, so I sucked it up, and we went. The hills were not as bad this time, and I conquered them. I’m glad we went because it was a sight to see the whole of downtown San Francisco—a jaw-dropping vista. After taking some photos, we resumed our journey.
The sun consistently hits you in the eyes when riding south. Unfortunately for Neil, his cheapo-sunglasses didn’t combine well with his Bell helmet. We pulled over in Santa Cruz so he could somehow jury-rigg them to fit better. We failed terribly. I suggested finding a bike store since they may stock sunglasses that fit well in helmets. A few minutes later, we came across a shop where Neil found a pair that were comfortable and reasonably priced.
We took a few minutes to explore Santa Cruz from our saddles before continuing our journey; a cute little beach town, littered with palm trees, surfers, and bikinis. We tried to pull over several times to take photos of the shoreline, but the beachfront was bustling, jam-packed full of people and traffic, so we kept going.
Riding south from Santa Cruz takes you through beach-town after beach-town; Seaside, Monterey, Pebble Beach, and Carmel. The latter is a lovely little place of narrow, immaculately manicured streets. It was late afternoon, so we had just enough time to stop and admire the golden sands before the lengthening shadows forced us to decide where we wanted to sleep. Checking our camping app didn’t yield any hits nearby, it seems Carmel is devoid of campsites, and the accommodation choices were way over our meagre daily budget.
We modified our search to focus on campsites further along our route. There were a couple around Big Sur Mountain, so we decided to head out, but not before our predictable grocery store and a gas pit stop to pick up a few things for dinner. We went for supplies we didn’t need to cook, such as a chicken wrap, two different salads, snack food, chocolate, wine, and a couple of beers. We packed our bikes up high and headed off.
Big Sur is big and beautiful. Each new turn presented a spectacular display of rocks and beaches one after another. The views became increasingly stunning as we rounded each corner.
Stopping to take a picture on a ride takes a surprising amount of time. You have to pull over, switch the motorcycle off, find a reliable spot for the kickstand, take off your gloves, take the shot, then re-glove, start-up and pull away. It’s quite the process.
This process chews into the ride time, and with the sun beginning to draw closer to the curved horizon with every minute, we knew we needed to stop capturing the surrounding beauty, or we’d be sleeping on the roadside.
After an hour, we started to see signs for the first campsite on our list, but as approached it, we saw a sign indicating that it was full. We rode to the next one, again, no room for us. It was about 6:00 pm, and the sky was turning scarlet. Neil suggested we pull over to the side of the road and camp out there. I wasn’t comfortable with that idea at all, the mere thought of pitching our tent anywhere other than a managed campsite stressed me out.
A few miles later, we found a tiny little gas station on the mountainside. As we filled up our motorcycles, I asked the attendant if there were any other campsites in the area. He suggested a site in San Simeon, which was about an hour away, looks like we’ve got another 70 miles of night riding ahead of us!
It was completely dark when we arrived at San Simeon campground. The posted sign indicated that the park was full, but that didn’t prevent me from interrogating the attendant. I rode up and asked him if he had a spot, he said he didn’t, but that wasn’t good enough. I pressed the issue, “can you please go a physically check?” I wasn’t going until I was positive they had no room for us. Reluctantly, he had a more thorough look and found a reservation that hadn’t turned up.
I sent Neil off to begin setting up camp while I completed the paperwork. Once finished, I set off to our site in the darkness but struggled to find it. After a minute or two of searching, I spotted the big white KTM in the reflecting back the headlights of my Honda. Given that it was pitch black outside, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Neil had already set up our tent. It was far too late for site attendants to be around, so we had no firewood, but instead of bitching, we just rolled with it, making a table lamp from an iPhone flashlight shining up into a full bottle of white wine. After an hour, our liquid-lamp was empty, so we climbed into the tent and settled into our sleeping bags for the night.
It was 3:30 am in Eureka and I was awake! Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well. All night I’d heard noises outside the door; rattling, shouting, grunting, and banging,
It was a beautiful, crisp, extremely cold morning as we left Fort Bragg. We left early, hoping to get a head start on the ride to San Francisco and arrive