I know there is something special pulling me to this adventure besides the quiet, seductive whisper of nature and the luring temptation of being solo on the open road. The goose bumps throughout the entire journey tell me there is more to this ride than exploring new and beautiful country in my own backyard, or feeling the independence of camping along the way. My adventure-loaded Suzuki DR-Z400S becomes the needle and I the thread as we weave a gorgeous tapestry that connects people, nature, and living life to the fullest.
October is my itch month. The kids are settled into the cadence of a new school year, and the California weather beckons me to hit the road. It’s the perfect time for a weeklong adventure ride. Although I don’t need an invitation from someone else to get out the door, plans for this trip get nailed down pretty quickly once a friend invites me to Portland, OR, for the weekend. Living in Southern California sometimes makes me yearn for the greenery and lush landscape of the Pacific Northwest, so I don’t have to be asked twice. This is the perfect opportunity to explore a neighboring state that has never been touched by my two wheels.
The Rainy Road to Freedom
Beginning my loop in Los Angeles, I float down Interstate 5 in the rain for 374 miles on this straight thoroughfare to San Francisco and get to my brother’s place on the six-hour mark. To me, the biggest part of my adventure rides are the people, whether that means visiting family and friends I haven’t seen in awhile or being embraced by families of different cultures in foreign lands. Being vulnerable and open on the motorcycle invites exciting exchanges all along the journey and provides a chance to experience things one wouldn’t normally encounter in other forms of enclosed transportation. I am filled with a sense of freedom on this first road day as I anticipate spending some very special time with my brother Jonathan, who shares my passion for motorcycles and adventure.
Motorcycle & Gear
Suzuki DR-Z400S (with custom adventure modifications)
Helmet: Arai XD-3 Adventure
Jacket: BMW Santiago, women’s
Pants: One Industries Defcon
Boots: Sidi On Road
Gloves: summer, Shift Fury; winter, MSR Cold Pro
Luggage: Wolfman Rainier Tank Bag, Wolfman Expedition Dry Duffle, SealLine dry bags
At my brother’s marina-facing, modern Berkeley apartment, I take the time to contact Warm & Safe Heated Gear customer service to let them know the glove liners I ordered didn’t include a connector to run off my SAE battery tender. I had just received them in the mail the day before launching on this trip but didn’t realize I needed an A/C adapter until I tried them on for the first time that morning. I immediately get a call back from Warm & Safe and am very impressed to find it is Mike, the owner, on his personal trip to Italy. He asks if I am anywhere near Portland, OR, where their warehouse is located. I laugh as I reply, “What do you know, that’s my weekend destination on the bike.” It looks like rolling with the obstacles seems to help the tangles work themselves out.
Heaven in the Hot Springs
I wake to an early alarm after a great night of conversation with my brother. It’s time to prep for the road. This includes organizing my dinner menu and rehydrating the dehydrated food I prepared at home a few days before taking off. I pour the ziplocked dried veggies and ground beef into a small thermos, cover it with twice the amount of boiling water, and then tuck it away in my backpack and forget it until dinner. I gear up and hit Interstate 80 in the dark and enjoy sharing the crossover Interstate 505 with only the early morning truckers and a few commuters. I land on Interstate 5 again for a straight shot up to Route 299. Having only a week away from my kids and a weekend with my friend leaves six travel days to cover 1,356 miles on the DR-Z—and that’s not including the ride back to LA! It’s a pretty ambitious schedule for a small bike, but so worth the beauty that is taken into my soul.
Twisty 299 and U.S. 395 give me some fun when I snake through the changing vegetation as clouds threaten more rain. Toward the end of the day, I become hyperaware of critters on the side of the road. The words of my friend Jeff, who told me about incredible Summer Lake Hot Springs in Oregon, echo in my mind: “The ride from Lakeview to Paisley is hilly and beautiful, but it is covered with deer. Watch carefully as you approach evening hours. It just takes one.” This would become a mantra for me all throughout the Oregon landscape.