West Coast Wonders

Text: Stephan Fennel • Photography: Stephan Fennel

Most famous for their gorgeous coastlines, Washington, Oregon and Northern California offer any visitor an array of sights and sounds. But further inland the Pacific Northwest also harbors a host of surprises for the motorcycle traveler.

This time out, the Promised Land lies between San Francisco and Seattle - the route along the coast is a dream. However, our first leg takes our small group inland from the City by the Bay to Sacramento, the capital of California, the "Golden State." Even before reaching the "Old Town" and its Wild West style, the eye gravitates to the focal point of the city: the golden-domed Capitol. Apart from this striking structure, the administrative seat has little to offer. Only on the outskirts, close to the highway hotels, can a little nightlife infrastructure be found: restaurants, bars and some noteworthy jazz clubs.

We put our Goldwings, Harleys and Beamers to rest and try to overcome this small disappointment. After having traveled a day from Germany to the US, having picked up the motorcycles and having taken off from the San Francisco Bay, most of us expected a little more from Sacramento than adequate accommodation. But calling it an early night was okay anyhow. We needed to overcome the time difference and get some sleep.

Gold country waits in the morning. The legendary Highway 49 proves to be not only "paved with gold" for those who sought their luck in the 1849 gold rush, bikers also find an El Dorado on the narrow road, with countless bends, that winds through the foothills of the Sierra. Some sites attract with the fame of bygone days, others lie slumbering by the wayside as though reclaiming the tranquil anonymity enjoyed before the gold rush of the nineteenth century.

Two examples of this difference are Nevada City and Downieville. The former still has gold mines that tourists can prospect and work. Main Street has been suitably restored, the historical hotel twinkles in its old-time shine, and the shops, restaurants and bars, the Bed & Breakfasts (including California's smallest with just two rooms) and hotels abound with the wealth of that golden history. Sure, there's lots of commerce, but without the sentimental trashiness one might expect.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the Spring 2002 back issue.