It takes just one day off the bike for all of my gear to leap out of the bags and be strewn all around the room. It’s been a good day off in Jacksonville, OR, but it’s time to gear up for the final stretch.
It’s already steaming hot as I approach Grants Pass, OR. Ahead, I spy a pair of fully-loaded bikes strapped to the gills and give them a friendly wave at a red light. I don’t recognize the motorcycles. The light turns green and one leaves in a puff of smoke as they shrink in my mirrors. I bump into them later at Dairy Queen. Erik and Lisbeth are from Denmark and are riding 1932 Nimbus motorcycles from their home country. They have crossed Canada, ridden up to Alaska, and are now heading down to Ushuaia, Argentina. But the heat is taxing one of the 750cc in-line four motors, causing it to lose power and puff smoke. I catch them again on the way out of Grants Pass and give them one more wave as I continue on.
It’s 97 degrees Fahrenheit in Cave Junction. I stop for Chinese food and air conditioning, and down glass after glass of ice water before getting back on the road. As I cross the California state line, I ride through the Collier Tunnel and laugh in my helmet as the cool air pours through my Klim gear and gives me a moment of relief.
The number of redwoods grows with each passing mile until they crowd the road and blot out the sun. I cannot see the ocean yet, but I can feel its tempering effect. In just 50 miles, the temperature drops nearly 50 degrees. I’m cold now and put on rain gear at a gas station.
Crescent City and the Pacific Ocean. I am finally here, at the end of the world. It is rocky and raw. I pause to reflect on the effort it’s taken to get here. Now, it’s time to turn south for the last leg of this adventure.
Motorcycle & Gear
2021 Honda CBR650R
Helmet: Scorpion EXO-ST1400
Jacket & Pants: Klim Induction
Boots: REV’IT! Everest GTX
Luggage: Rigg Gear Hurricane Dry Duffle (40l), Hurricane Waterproof Dry Tank Bag, Nelson-Rigg Mini Expandable Sport
Motorcycle Saddlebags, Chrome Niko Camera Backpack
Comm System: UClear Motion 4
Safety Gear: Klim Ai-1 airbag vest, Spot Gen 4
Cameras: Panasonic Lumix GX85 and G100, DJI Mini 3 Pro, Insta360
“Chris hangs onto my shoulders now and I turn a little and see that he stands up on the foot pegs. ‘That’s a little dangerous,’ I say. ‘No, it isn’t. I can tell.’ He probably can. ‘Be careful anyway,’ I say. After a while when we cut sharp into a hairpin under some overhanging trees he says, ‘Oh,’ and then later on, ’Ah,’ and then, ‘Wow.’ Some of these branches over the road are hanging so low they’re going to conk him on the head if he isn’t careful. ‘What’s the matter?’ I ask. ‘It’s so different.’ ‘What?’ ‘Everything. I never could see over your shoulders before.’”
I put on all of my layers to brace against the morning chill that hugs the coast like a wet blanket. The road shadows the sea, the trees parting now and again to reveal steep hills thick with trees meeting the steel-gray water. When the clouds momentarily break, the scene transforms from moody to magnificent. I dance between the redwood forest and the rugged coastline before stopping for lunch in the sleepy little town of Arcata and watch life meander on the tidy town green.
The day leads deeper into the woods and the trees grow impossibly tall. I get off US 101 and ride along the quieter Avenue of the Giants. In the middle of the afternoon, it’s dark and cool. The ground is soft with pine needles, the air hushed with reverence. The redwoods, thick as houses, touch the sky.
It’s getting late and I still need to find a place to stay. The Humboldt Redwoods State Park campground is full. I continue deeper into the park, looking for a suitable spot to wild camp before stumbling upon Cuneo Creek Horse Group Camp and the 50th annual Ride & Tie World Championships. Part equestrian event and part running race, a team of two runners take turns running and riding a horse 33 miles over rugged terrain.