We’re Off on our 5-Day Trip
After planning and waiting for a couple of months, the day had finally arrived for the start of our trip. We wouldn’t be going alone—our good friend Andy Spliethof would be joining us too! He’s an avid photographer like we are, and this trip was going to center on photo-ops whenever possi
Steve and I woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning and got ourselves out of the house in record time. We can’t be late on the first day of our vacation, can we?! 🙂 After a few last-minute details we were ready to go!
Leaving the house with my riding gear, I walked down our road and watched as Steve rode the motorcycle with its trailer carefully down to the main road, the engine purring with expectation. I closed the gate as he rode by, put my gear on and climbed behind Steve. Our vacation was officially starting, hooray!!
We rode through the pretty countryside to the Gold Hill Library and very soon after, Andy showed up on his BMW R1200GS motorcycle. We spent a few minutes getting our three Senna intercoms synced, a task that turned out to be a bit confusing, but eventually we got it worked out. What a nice luxury to be able to have conversations between the three of us!
It was a beautiful sunny day with puffy clouds dotting the blue sky here and there, and we buzzed up I-5 to Grants Pass, where we pulled off to get coffee for Andy and Steve before heading out to Cave Junction. Breakfast was calling our name, and we stopped at the Junction Inn for a bite to eat. You can file that restaurant under Not Recommended…the service was poor and the food was worse, but we really didn’t care because we were all so excited about our trip! 🙂 And let’s face it…how good can the food be when the owners can’t even be bothered to keep their sign looking good?
Properly fueled, we headed down Hwy 199 past farms and weathered homes, and the terrain slowly changed from Oak savannah to mixed conifer forest and then to California redwoods. Andy found the turnoff he was looking for and we headed towards a special destination.
Quick Note: The Trailer that Steve Built
I need to take a couple of minutes to explain something extra cool about this adventure compared to our last trip. Last year (August 2015), Steve and I rode up to Canada and back down the coast on an 8-day extravaganza. We had a good time but it was a miserable jigsaw puzzle whenever it came to dealing with our luggage. We both agreed that we needed a trailer for our next trip, but the reality is that motorcycle trailers are VERY PRICEY. The least expensive go for about $2,000, which is just crazy in our book. So, being the ingenious fellow that he is, Steve BUILT a trailer for our motorcycle. We have a section on this site devoted to his trailer, so I won’t go into detail here, but I did want to mention that this trip was the maiden voyage for our trailer, and it worked flawlessly! It gave us the extra space we needed and made our trip so much more pleasant. No more jigsaw puzzles to get things to fit! And now, back to the adventure! 🙂
Carnivorous Plants and Tiger Lilies!
Before we left on our trip, Andy mentioned a very special place that had been on my bucket list for years, and soon after crossing the California border, we pulled into Darlingtonia State Natural Site and parked the bikes.
Have you ever wondered where carnivorous plants grow in the wild? If you’re like me, you’d think they grow in the jungle. And though that’s true, they are also found in marshes and swampy areas, and I was very surprised to learn that one species grows in Oregon! The California Pitcher Plant (Darlingtonia californica), also known as a Cobra Lily, is found in only a few places in Oregon, so it was a real treat to finally get to visit one of these special places, Darlingtonia State Natural Site.
We hopped off our bikes, grabbed our cameras, and soon the three of us were wandering down the trail with identical Canon 100mm 2.8L macro lenses attached, ready for some close-up photography. Just a short walk from the trail head, Andy was first to spot a popular flower known to grow here, a brilliant orange Tiger Lily. It grew at the edge of the bog like a sentry to show where the marsh began. I was last to arrive, and Steve called down the trail, “Wait til’ you see this flower!” I hurried up then and was soon taking pictures of the stunning Tiger Lily. By then Andy and Steve had discovered the pitcher plants, and I followed their voices through the bushes, around some trees, and then I stopped in my tracks…WOW! I had arrived! For a long moment, I just stared.
The Cobra Lilies grew in a thick dappled green mass in a bog that was maybe 100 feet in size. I know there were other marshy spots along the trail that bordered the 18-acre preserve, but we only spent time at this area since it had everything we were hoping to see. The pitcher plants were much larger than I’d imagined, and it was easy to see why they got their name. Rising up out of the water and muck as much as 20″ tall, these strange green tubes bent over at the top sort of like fat-headed candy canes. At the ends were two long ribbon-like extensions which many describe as a “mustache.” Very odd indeed! They faced this way and that, appearing to look around their surroundings in a interested manner, and I thought to myself, “Why, they look like a village of noble snake people at a large gathering!” LOL, yes, my imagination is in working order! 🙂
It was hard to take it all in…there were literally hundreds of pitcher plants in this small area, packed in tightly with very few open spaces. They were truly beautiful to behold. Most were an impossible, almost neon green with lighter green mottling, and they glowed like lanterns wherever the sunlight shone through the tubes. Others were green blending to ruby-red around the throat and “mustache.” As they aged, the bright green faded to a khaki and then to a mahogany brown as a dried husk, and yet, still beautiful to see.
If that weren’t enough to take in, among the Cobra Lilies were more Tiger Lilies and a few other flowers to appreciate. It was a wonder. Taking pictures from high and low, I creeped around very cautiously. There were very few places to stand without possibly sinking into mud or maybe even slipping so I had to be satisfied with images that might not turn out as I’d hoped. I overheard Andy saying to Steve, “I could spend hours taking pictures here!” and I had to agree. There was a treasure trove of spectacular subjects that begged for more attention.
Alas, we had a full day’s ride ahead of us, so as soon as we all felt satisfied that we’d gotten some nice pictures, we headed back to our bikes and prepared to continue on our way. The nice thing about this place is that it’s close enough for a day trip, which means that we can come back again for an extended visit. (If you’re interested in learning more about these carnivorous plants and want to see many excellent close-ups, you’ll want to visit this page from the Botanical Society of America: Darlingtonia californica – the Cobra Lily
A Small Change that Changed Everything
As we prepared to leave, Steve asked me a question that would change everything for me. “Why don’t you try taking pictures as we ride along?” This was a question I’d been struggling with since our last trip up to Canada. Andy, who’s been taking pictures from his bike for years, had encouraged me to try then. However, as much as I wanted to, I was just too scared to try then. Today was different. The bike we rode to Canada was about 300 pounds heavier, a massive beast that required vigilant attention from Steve to keep it under control when we’d roll to a stop. As lush and comfortable as it was to ride, I was too nervous to take pictures on our travels. Our new bike was lighter, more responsive and agile, and I felt confidence I lacked before.
“YES! I’m going to do it.” Steve looked up from what he was doing. “What?” I smiled widely at both Steve and Andy, and announced, “I’m going to try taking pictures as we ride!” They congratulated me on giving it a try, and I swapped to our 17-40 wide-angle lens while Steve changed settings to accommodate for high-speed photography. When I climbed onto the bike behind Steve, I had my camera in hand, ready for a brand new adventure!
Life as a Backseat Photographer
Taking pictures as a motorcycle passenger is really fun and easy, as challenging as you want, and it’s also quite safe. I don’t know about other bikes, but both of the BMW’s that I’ve ridden on have extremely secure handholds. I’ve got a strong grip at all times with my left hand and hold the camera in my right. Taking pictures isn’t about looking through the viewfinder—instead, you point the camera in the direction of interest and click away, hoping for the best! I thought it would be hard to press the shutter button with my gloved hand, but it’s not an issue.
I’ve learned to adjust the zoom from 17mm for taking in as much of the view as possible, to 40mm when subjects are close to the road. It’s also subjective—for instance, if it’s a wide-open area but I really just want to take a picture of a specific thing, I’ll dial in to 40 if I am able to. This begs the question, “How do you adjust between 17 and 40 with one hand???” With lots of practice. It requires being able to feel the zoom ring and dial it using a finger to move it one way or the other. Then you need to check to make sure you’ve zoomed it to the right end of the spectrum.
I am just a novice at this new craft and still learning which settings are best depending on the conditions. Even with proper settings I get plenty of garbage pictures, but that’s to be expected. The big surprise was getting home and discovering the huge volume of wonderful images I’ve gotten using this method! I really thought this would be a failed experiment that I wouldn’t repeat in the future—what’s the point of wasting hours looking through a thousand pictures and finding only half a dozen that are passable?
The reality is like finding a new cornucopia of photography! I got so many wonderful pictures that, even after tossing out hundreds of garbage pictures, choosing which usable images to process is a huge task! I was struck dumb by the realization that we now have a great way to record our motorcycle adventures!
Paul Bunyan, What Have they Done to You?
After heading out from the Darlingtonia reserve, I began taking pictures from the bike and we rode steadily west and then south into California. When we got to Klamath, Andy pulled into a very busy parking lot crammed with cars, RVs and tour buses. What on earth was all the fuss about? Why, a 50′ tall figure of Paul Bunyan and his ever faithful friend, Babe the Blue Ox, of course!
After parking the bikes, the three of us made our way closer to the enormous statues and were totally stunned at how HUGE they were! Andy mentioned that the pair had recently been newly restored and repainted, and they were bright and fun to look at. As I was taking pictures, I kept hearing somebody talking very loudly through speakers and I looked around to locate the source. Whoever it was needed to have a cork stuffed into their mouth…corny questions and comments, and then…answers too? Why couldn’t I find the person talking so I could glare at them? Then it dawned on me. I looked up. Yeah…seriously…they had some guy playing the part of Paul Bunyan and now he was talking about my neon yellow windbreaker pants! Dancing back and forth to show off my blinding pants, I laughed and then carried on with my photography. Soon Paul was cracking another horrible joke to the people walking by and I shook my head to myself and groaned. Talk about a cheesy way to add to the already ridiculous figure…which, by the way, also waved. Little kids were asking any question they could think of, and Paul obviously needed a break because his answers were sounding bored and a bit on the annoyed and snarky side. HE was annoyed? What about us? Then again, what would it be like to spend day in and day out playing the part of Paul Bunyan at a tourist stop? That gig might be fun for a while but then it would be torture. The turnover for that job had to be pretty high!
Paul and Babe were just one of the attractions here at the Trees of Mystery, but we didn’t have time to hang around. Steve grabbed a snack from the unbelievably large gift shop while I glanced around at the goods for sale. It seemed like they sold everything under the sun here. A tiny sampling of the offerings ranged from postcards, clothing and artwork to jewelry, geodes, and wood carvings. A tourist trap if I ever saw one, but then again, folks have to make money somehow, right? Judging by the swarms of people, they were doing just fine.
Sometime we’ll have to come back and walk along their little trail system that features majestic old redwood trees and interesting carved wooden sculptures. They have gondolas that takes visitors through the canopy of redwoods, and though I didn’t realize it at the time, the gift shop also doubled as a museum with many cool things to see. I enjoy these sort of “Roadside America” places, so it would be great to return in the future.
Amazing Skies and a Drive-Through Tree
Waving goodbye to Paul and Babe, we rode through the redwood forest and soon dappled light began to cut through the dark glades and suddenly the thick forest gave way to pretty little meadows dotted with trees. How do you describe such a thing? It was beautiful!! And oh, the incredible SKY! Puffy clouds forming pretty patterns were especially lovely, and I aimed my camera upwards in the hopes that I might capture some of the incredible cloud-scapes that I was seeing.
Soon after crossing the Klamath River, we arrived at an official-looking kiosk, paid a fee and wound our way up a steep, forested hill that ended in a line of cars. Each one would turn around in the cramped space and eventually make its way through the famous Tour-Through Tree. It was actually pretty amusing to watch. Nobody wanted to wait their turn, and yet, once a car was in the center of the crudely-carved out tree, the driver would stop and take all the time in the world for pictures, oblivious to the fact that cars were piling up behind them. I can only imagine some of the colorful interactions that must take place here!
We had Andy drive through first and I took pictures as he rode in, and Steve took pictures as he rode out. Then Steve and I hopped on our bike and Andy took pictures of us. What fun! Literature suggests that the hole cut through the tree was planned carefully so it would still be able to get the water and nutrients it needs, but I personally think they got lucky. I feel pretty icky supporting an organization that mutilated this glorious tree, but as many have said, “How many chances will you get to actually drive through a tree?” (If you’re interested in learning more about these trees, I found a page which describes each of them: Drive Through a Redwood).
Beautiful Trinidad and Mashed Potato Cones!
From Klamath we headed south through woods that gave way to glimpses of the coastline through the trees. Soon the views of the ocean were grand spectacles, wide open and stunning. Huge boulders jutted out of the water, a perfect resting place for the hoards of seabirds dotting the sky. I loved the contrast of the dark rocks against the colorful deep blue sea.
Riding along, I clicked away, taking pictures of the beautiful clouds in the sky, the boulders peeking out of the water and houses that clung to the ragged cliffs. I was surprised to recognize an actual lagoon, and soon we passed another and then crossed a long bridge over an even larger one. I didn’t know it at the time, but the largest lagoon was separated from the ocean by a mere strip of land that stretches for three miles! Some day I would like to return to Big Lagoon State Park so that I can spend half a day walking in that special place.
Enjoying the gorgeous ocean views, we passed cattle pastures and meadows, and then a sprawling burlwood shop that welcomed us into the town of Trinidad. Andy led us out to an jaw-dropping view of Trinidad Bay. There we enjoyed taking pictures of the area as well as a replica of the Trinidad Lighthouse (the actual one resides a mile to the southwest at Trinidad Head). The replica serves as a memorial to those who were lost at sea, and the space is filled with hundreds of dedication plaques. The original bell from the lighthouse was donated to the memorial and was enormous and quite impressive to see.
Steve asked a local where we should have lunch, and she suggested we make our way over to the nearby Lighthouse Grill. What a great idea that was! We stepped inside a laid-back establishment with classics playing to set the mood. Greeted by friendly staff, we just needed to place our order at the front before seating ourselves. All of us gazed up at menus neatly written in colored chalk on large boards, and it was no surprise that we picked the same thing: mashed potato cones! Who ever heard of such a thing?! You take a savory cornmeal waffle cone and fill it with garlic mashed potatoes and a choice of topping…YUM! It goes without saying that we were all salivating in anticipation as we sat down! Looking around, I loved the sea life murals painted on the walls and the interesting artwork on display. It was a thoroughly cool place. Steve got a glass of mint lemonade and I was amazed how refreshing and delicious it was. When our cones came, all of us were transported to a sinful nirvana of tasty goodness…it’s probably a good thing that mashed potato cones aren’t available in Medford! 😀
Windswept Coastline and Threatening Skies
After our delicious lunch, we took off down the road and enjoyed the wonderful scenery along the way. For miles upon miles, the road was lined with hundreds of planted eucalyptus and cyprus trees. Seeing them flash by, my mind wandered to memories of the Blue Mountains in Australia, a vast forest filled with the indigenous eucalyptus tree. They grow readily and fast in foreign lands like the United States, but they do not have deep roots and fall in high winds. I wondered if they ever fell across this highway and stopped traffic.
As we made our way south, the weather grew increasingly cloudy and windy, with dark and brooding skies that promised rain. I was glad to have the fluffy scarf around my neck and warm liner in my jacket. Steve and I took advantage of our heated seats, what a luxury! We passed broken down farm houses and lonely-looking areas that seemed so desolate and isolated. We also rode through the bustling city of Eureka, which has always appeared to be very boring looking but it’s probably a lot nicer than it appears when passing through.
Miles flew by and I amused myself by taking pictures along the way. Among the ones I liked were some neat pictures of a huge mural of California’s Hispanic farming community, trees along the road, pretty farmland, and I also got the off-ramp sign for the little down of Piercy, which is my maiden name!
Ouch! My Head Hurts!
Soon after Steve purchased this motorcycle, he found a very nice deal on new helmets for us. We bought them online so we couldn’t try them on first, and in the end, Steve needed to buy a new inner liner because his was too tight. As for me, it seemed fine on the ride I’d tested it on before the trip. A tiny bit tight, but Steve was confident that it would loosen up as the miles added up.
As the day wore on from Medford out to the coast, I began to notice that the liner was pushing against the crown of my head in an increasingly uncomfortable manner. More than that, it was pressing against my forehead, which gradually began to ache. By the time we sat down for lunch at the Lighthouse Grill, I was happy to take my helmet off so I could gently rub the back of my head and I gingerly touch my tender forehead. Showing Steve, he winced and I nodded when he asked me if my helmet caused the angry mark. I told him I shifted my helmet this way and that as we rode to ease the pressure but it wasn’t getting better. He spent a few minutes pressing in on my helmet’s liner and hoped it would feel better.
Although Steve’s efforts helped a tiny bit, the pressure was now taking a toll on my enjoyment of the day, though I still had a very nice time riding along. We entered the pretty wooded community of Leggett and pulled in front of their general store. Andy needed some caffeine and we liked the idea too. Mostly though, I couldn’t wait to get my helmet off. The back of my head was really hurting now and I could tell that my forehead was rubbed raw. Steve knew from the sound of my voice that I was in pain, and when I took my helmet off with a whimper, both he and Andy were concerned. It was time to fix this problem.
Steve spent a while pressing in on the insulated hard foam lining with as much strength as he had, and we saw that it was making a difference. Then Andy came up with the idea of using the edge of one of our coffee bottles to roll and press in on the liner in both areas that were hurting. Pulling back a bit of cloth, Steve found a bit of removable liner right where it had been pressing in on my head. When they were satisfied, I tried it on and it was so much more comfortable! WHAT A RELIF! Both spots were no longer pressure points! The areas still hurt but the pain was from before, not now. I was profoundly happy.
We hung out for about 20 minutes while the boys helped fix my helmet, and we also went inside Leggett’s general store, The Peg House, for refreshments. Starbucks chilled coffee in a can was a nice waker-upper for all of us, and Steve and I couldn’t resist the ginormous, VERY FRESH cookies that sat so temptingly by the register. What an awesome, classic little country store. Complete with creaky wooden floors, its narrow aisles were jam-packed with a zillion things to consider bringing home. Offerings leaned towards snacks and drinks, but they also had a deli and served a wonderful selection of burgers too. We were surprised to find out they had a stage outside next to the store, and that very weekend they would be hosting a huge 25-band event called “Hickeyfest” (named after the nearby Standish-Hickey State Park). We were all really happy that we found this cool spot and it left us feeling very giddy. You know what it’s like when you’ve discovered a surprise you weren’t expecting? That’s what Leggett was for us, and we look forward to spending time here again sometime in the future.
Refreshed, we took off down the road again. As the miles flew by, I couldn’t help repeating to Steve and Andy how much better my head felt now. It was a bit like an earache that medicine is finally relieving…as it feels better, you can hardly believe how much it had been hurting.
Sand Traps in Fort Bragg—the Boys Come to the Rescue!
We enjoyed a picturesque ride for the next hour as we made our way down the coast on Highway 1. Rolling into the Fort Bragg area, we were surprised to find a car stuck in deep sand, its wheels spinning fruitlessly. Andy and Steve instantly pulled over to help out and I stood by to watch the excitement! We pieced the classic story together…
Clever Teenager takes his mom’s sports car without permission so he can impress his girlfriend. However, driving around town just isn’t exciting enough, so when he sees the big sandy area, he can’t resist the opportunity to do donuts! Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long before the car gets stuck in deep sand, and no amount of acceleration will free the car. By the time we got there, the back tires had spun out enough sand that they were buried almost half-way to the axle.
As Steve and Andy were digging out the tires and finding something for traction that the car could get a grip on, a little car drives up and out pops a furious woman who immediately begins squawking at Clever Teenager. “What are you doing with my car! Who said you could take it!” You get the idea. Embarrassed Girlfriend edges away from the car, looking terrified. Clever Teenager looks totally mortified. Mom storms over and tells her son to get out of the car this instant. She gets in, announcing, “I got this, I got this.” Meanwhile, another car arrives with people to help push the car. Mom applies gas and soon the car edges out of the sand pit and the evil woman drives to a spot to stop, get out and continue berating her son. There’s no time for appropriate pleasantries such as, “Thanks for the help guys!” Everyone shakes their heads in amazement and we all depart the scene.
Our motel was so close that we actually passed it and had to turn around and go back. The Beach House Inn was a perfect place to stay with clean, spacious rooms at a reasonable price. After a long day on the bikes, we were road-weary and ready for showers and a nice dinner.
Steve really wanted to go to the North Coast Brewery for dinner and we hoped that the bad reviews we read were just from picky people. Unfortunately, this restaurant turned out to be a terrible experience from the moment we stepped inside.
First of all, the restaurant was supposed to be accepting diners until 8:30. It was 8:25 when we got there and immediately we were rudely informed that the kitchen was closing in 5 minutes. Steve asked, “Why is it closing at 8:30 when the doors are open to new arrivals until then?” The greeter didn’t have an answer for that and grumbled that we would have to sit in the restaurant area because the bar area was closing. Fine, we didn’t want to sit in the bar. We were shown to the first booth closest to the door, which actually happened to be nice. The prices were laughably expensive, and when we finally got our food, my salad had grit in it because the greens hadn’t been washed properly, Andy’s food was swimming in grease, and Steve’s food was overcooked and flavorless. We couldn’t wait to get out of there, and they locked the doors loudly as we left. Horrible, awful place with rude wait-staff and terrible food.
Even though dinner was a wash and it was raining when we stepped outside, our moods were giddy as we returned to our rooms. We had an unforgettable day full of great adventures! Saying goodnight to Andy, Steve and I soon dove into bed and fell asleep dreaming about the wonderful day we’d had.