Variety is the spice of riding and it was a day full of variety — a great way to cross 3,000 miles on this trip.

We left Truckee, CA early this morning and crossed Donner Pass, legendary for its beauty and famous cannbalism episode of 1846. The Donner Party, traveling by wagons, became stranded in a blizzard and wound up spending the winter on the mountain. 45 of the 81 settlers survived by eating the other 36.  In contrast to our trip today, the Donner Party had no variety (same food day after day) and no spice (what’s a good seasoning for bicep?)

The view was spectacular — you’ll have to take my word for it because I didn’t want to stop in case a blizzard stranded us and my riding partners decided I should become the first entree on the survival menu.

Next came a long, long trip across the state of California. Granted, making your way east to west is a fraction of the challenge vs. riding north to south but it took us awhile to get to Fort Bragg — which I envisioned as a hardcore military community and was surprised to find a coastal paradise. But getting there took us across vast valleys and plains, with the temperature hovering in the high 90’s for hours.

The last 35 miles on highway 20 were spectacular — endless numbers of sweeping curves, the road undulating up and down valleys and mountains, much of it through dense forests that canopied the road for miles. This is one of the most incredible motorcycle roads I’ve ever enjoyed. Adding to the pleasure were reasonable speed limits (i.e., not too slow) and dozens of “turn outs” for slower vehicles — which the motorists used frequently and freely to let us swift but sane bikers pass them safely and easily.

On this trek up and over the mountains to get to the coast, the temperature plummeted into the mid 60’s; it was breathtaking to feel cool air rushing by after the long, hot heat of the afternoon.

Exhilarated by this experience and given that we’d finally reached the Pacific Ocean, we decided it was time to stop and memorialize our arrival:

We then picked up Highway 1 and took it along the coast for several miles. In this part of California, there are relatively few cars and bikes to contend with and the coastline is nearly completely undeveloped. It’s rugged, beautiful and rocky, with the road often cut into large cliffs overlooking the ocean.

Then Highway 1 turns inland and we rode the curviest road any of us ever rode. By comparison, there’s a “bucket list” route in the southeast called, “The Tail of the Dragon, which is famous for its 318 turns in 11 miles. We didn’t count the turns as we rode Highway 1 for 22 miles from Hardy to Leggett, but I think several dragons contributed to building this road because it was incredibly tight, twisty and intoxicating — almost hypnotic. This map gives you the general idea but there are curves within curves all along the route.

Tonight, we are in a Best Western in Fortuna, CA. (I texted that information to Penny earlier and she replied, “How FORTUNAte!” That girl knows how to get to me 🙂 As a side note, Best Westerns are noted for being motorcycle-friendly. They usually have great places to park and often have security cameras to keep an electronic eye on your steed as you slumber.

We are still in the “no planning” part of our vacation — we don’t have to do any serious map-plotting until we are within a few days of Denver — I fly back the afternoon of June 27th and my brother Clive will help me ship my bike back to Atlanta. I don’t mind the long ride back across the country but if you have limited days on the road, it’s better to spend them in the mountains.

I do know that tomorrow we will continue north and ride along the Oregon coast. I haven’t visited there since I was 9 years old and even in that long-ago memory, it’s rocky and gorgeous. I can’t wait to see witness it again and will report on the experience tomorrow night. Watch this space.