The strange, quiet noise of travel. When you have nothing but time to think—about the past, about all the good and the bad times, about the things that lie ahead, for now unknown but certainly there, approaching on that smooth ribbon of pavement.
I was somewhere between my home in Mount Baldy, CA, and Seattle, WA. Fully half of this more than 3,000-mile coastal trip was new to me. I’d ridden the coast for 20 years but never farther north than Fort Bragg. Finally, after years of thinking about it, I was doing it, riding the length of the Pacific Coast Highway through California, Oregon, and Washington.
In the leadup to this particular trip, I had passing thoughts about how, as motorcyclists, there is an often unspoken awareness of managing risks. It comes with the two-wheel territory. As I’ve gotten older, I find myself weighing out those risks more often. I think we start wondering about how much longer we can keep doing this once we reach a certain age. I’ve had several friends call it quits due to their reflexes getting noticeably slower. It’s a legitimate concern and certainly something we’ve all considered. Anticipating 3,000 miles of solo travel on unfamiliar roads, it was on my mind more than usual. After all, a lot can happen on the road over that kind of distance.
Recommended Lodging: Itty Bitty Inn
There was a hotel stay that deserves special mention—the Itty Bitty Inn of North Bend, OR. It has just five rooms, each with a theme. I was fortunate to stay in the most requested one—the Star Trek room. It’s as you’d expect; a rabid fan’s homage to one of the great TV shows, replete with Starship Enterprise bridge sound effects, a flashing console, and a healthy supply of DVDs cued up for viewing. A host after my own heart, the innkeeper Rick offers coffee blended personally to each guest’s tastes.
On the morning of my departure, having coffee in the gray of pre-dawn as I made final preparations, I was listening to NPR. There was a piece about the changing aspect of work due to the pandemic, claiming that just 2% of employed people can say they love their jobs. That statistic stayed with me and actually helped assuage the risk of the journey that lay ahead, reminding me why we do this—because we love it.
My mount for this trip was BMW’s R 18 B. The German-built bagger is well-suited to the highways and byways of America, comfortable for the long haul yet surprisingly sporty when tackling the meandering mountain passes and twisting coastal roads I had mapped out. Given all the esoteric pondering in the ramp-up to the departure, the initial click into gear and the first release of clutch on the big Beemer into this new adventure was especially poignant.
Motorcycle & Gear
There is an invisible threshold with travel, that point when you slip from the tether and feel that first blush of freedom, the routines of life altered as you find yourself on that American icon—the road trip. It’s different for everyone. Some people have it when they wake up the morning of the trip. Others, like me, take a while to ease into it. It’s as if I have to put in some miles before I truly feel gone.
Southern California was experiencing an oppressive heat wave when I took off. Passing through Malibu, that bastion of cool Pacific breezes, the thermometer hit a steady and rare 100 degrees. My personal slip from the tether came as I was weaving through wine country above Santa Barbara.