California: Mendocino Coast

California: Mendocino Coast
Our excitement is undeniable - accelerating pulses, shallow breathing - as we climb on the plane jetting us to a most beautiful part of California: Highway 1, between San Francisco and Eureka, where the scenic seductions of Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino and Humboldt counties thrill us in the coming days.

The long flight finally over, Christa and I arrive in Los Angeles to collect our motor­cycles, an Interceptor and a Honda 919. Luggage firmly affixed, we hit the road to San Francisco.

Our breakfast the next day in Ghiradelli Square is composed of tasty bagels, steaming coffee (from the renowned Boudin Bakery), and the breathtaking view across the waters that extend from Fisherman's Wharf. Alcatraz, "The Rock," and its phantoms are still out there, surrounded by the blue-green sea. Bright white sails dip and scurry, tacking against the azure sky.

It all certainly sets the mood for an adventurous escape as we ride over the Golden Gate Bridge past Sausalito (on Hwy 1), and turning left toward Muir Beach. The highway begins to snake there, between the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Mount Tamalpais State Park. My Interceptor handles well through the wide sweepers and tight turns, and so does the 919, from what I can tell in the mirror. Suddenly, after about 18 miles, the first grand view of the ocean opens out before us. The thought of riding along without a stop to soak in this sight is an incomprehensible notion. A turnout appears as if on cue along the rough coastline. The water wildly thrashes the rocks, launching spumes of spray that sparkle far below the coastal road. Engines stilled, we pull our helmets off and turn our noses into the whipping, saline breeze.

"It's cold today," Christa says. "But this overlook certainly warms the heart and soul - isn't that great?" I add, extending an arm to pan the whole horizon.

Looking down to my left, I spy our veering route on Hwy 1. I didn't expect in my boldest dreams such an incredible course along the shoreline. Its pattern looks like an old-time roller coaster. Up, down, left, right, and wide and tight - providing everything a biker wishes for to stir the blood.

Somewhere along this asphalt gauntlet, I check our saddlebags - still there, fitting snugly on our bikes - and then we open up our throttles again and head for Bodega Bay and lunch. With big smiles and shining eyes we sweep up and over, down, around, and through this fantastic combination of curves.

"What would you like to drink?" our waitress asks, trying to pull us from our dreams.
"Fish and chips," I answer idly, still rolling into corners. "Oh, sorry, I mean iced tea and fish and chips."
"It's okay, Huh-n. You're not the only one who's still on the road when sitting down here."
I perked up then. "You're from North Carolina, aren't you?" I ask.
"And what gave it away, Huh-n?"
"It's the huh-n, hon," I quip to general mirth.

If the name Bodega prompts some dim, spooky memory, you're right. Five miles east of here, one finds much of the scenery filmed in Hitchcock's classic, The Birds. But we decide to frolic on our bikes without the creep-out factor and, instead, swing the Hondas through the curves of Hwy 1, enjoying the overwhelming visions at each of the different bays and the unbelievable variety of colors in the wildflowers passed along the way.

Arts and Coffee

The light is great and the opportunity unsurpassed for taking pictures. But it's hard to find just the right spot because there are simply too many new impressions to catalogue behind every curve. And so, to cover the next 58 miles we need almost three hours. And then came another pleasant discovery, Gualala, a cozy little village by the sea. This charming place invites you to stop and rest a spell, to frequent its bewitching restaurants, the small, artsy stores, and a nice café where cappuccinos and tasty coconut cookies appease our empty stomachs. To start up again in such a relaxing atmosphere is difficult, but our next target is only 60 miles away. The road is smoother and our ride proceeds briskly.

Mendocino, the next highlight, was founded in the 18th century but achieved its current notoriety in the 1960s as an artists' colony. Now a very upscale tourist magnet, it still promotes the creative flair. Unfortunately for the photographer in me, it's too late for shooting and check-in time at Fort Bragg SM8 is drawing nigh. Ten miles onward, we end a speedy ride and find the comforts of a bed.