Monday, May 23, 2005

Journey Begins! Day 1: Santa Rosa to Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Mandatory pre-trip self-portrait

11:30 p.m. In bed!

Left my home of 16 years on Sonoma Mountain at 1:13 this afternoon. 6,079 miles on my 2005 BMW R1200GS. Before I return to Northern California, I expect to have 30 or 40,000 more miles on it.

Loaded, really loaded

I nearly panicked after fully loading the bike, suiting up and mounting it. I couldn't even get it off the center stand. "Oh, sh...!" I had 10 pounds of stuff thrown over my shoulder for the short ride into Rohnert Park, and another 7-pound box of stuff to mail to my brother from Santa Rosa.

All this made for a very shaky start. I am thankful no one was there to witness.

At my storage unit in Rohnert Park, I shed the 10-pound sack, quickly determined to reduce my wine inventory by half (leaving one bottle behind) and chuck the fleece vest.

At a mail center in Santa Rosa, I got rid of the 7-pound box. Things were looking better. But I was already sweating profusely in my Aerostich suit. "I need to get on the road!"

So, at 2:40 p.m., I officially left Santa Rosa for Alaska, 6,099 miles now on the bike! It still felt so heavy, and I wondered if I would ever get used to handling the weight.

The ride north through Sonoma and Mendocino counties, a familiar territory, provided a chance to review everything in my mind. Was everything done that could be done? What was I forgetting? (For surely there were many things forgotten!)

My first refueling stop was in Ukiah, and already some people asked about the journey. In the crowded station, a woman walking by suddenly shouted "watch out!" A young driver was trying to pull in past my parked bike. "He was about to hit it!" she said. I thanked her for looking out for me.

As I started to enter the redwood forests, the feeling of being on the road began to sink in. I came to the Eel River and its milky green water reminded me of Austria's Inn River. The winds coming up river from the coast were strong, and increased approaching Eureka.

Bike and big tree. Really big tree.

Mandatory redwood shot

I saw the sign for the "Samoa Cookhouse" and, having missed opportunities to try it in the past, decided this was the time. A cold ride out to the peninsula that shields Humboldt Bay from the wild and stormy North Pacific.

The Cookhouse is a funny place, with plenty of history and character. You walk in and are seated at long tables. The menu is what it is; everybody gets basically the same thing. And it's all-you-can-eat. Served "family style", the food was very simple and ordinary. But it's a great place to take the family, at least once.

Leaving Samoa, and driving the long peninsula toward Arcata, I was overcome with a powerful feeling of homelessness, of having reached the end of some road. There was a connection to this town, and this area, since my daughter had lived here as a small child. I visited only rarely from Southern California.

Refueling in Arcata, I was able to put the bike on the centerstand, but then unable to roll it off. "This is embarrassing!" After repeated attempts, it finally tipped forward. I was winded from the effort.

It was dark now, not a great time to be searching for a campsite. Passed numerous campgrounds, each full of campers. I rolled into one, which had a group tent site. As my headlights illuminated the tents, I saw flashlights waving back to me, essentially telling me to "get the hell out of here."

Finally, I found this campground, tucked back in a canyon well off the highway. I was now officially a camper. A relief to finally climb "into the sack" (literally).

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