The Lost Coast is a region in Mendocino County where the Hwy moves away from the coastline, and travels inland for a bit. I tend to think of it from below Fortuna (or more accurately Ferndale) down to where Hwy 1 heads east towards Leggett. I generously think all of this is the “Lost Coast”. I know I might be wrong.
If you are a hiker, I’ll bet you have a much shorter version. The Lost Coast Hiking Trail is only 26 miles of this coastline, starting at the Mattole Campground and ending at Shelter Cove.
But It’s Father’s Day!
First of all, I was just invited to go along on this ride. I had no part in the planning other than maybe I threw a few .gpx routes out there as suggestions. From what I heard, this was Bob’s gift to his Father Mark and Mike T and I (Mike M) were just following along – although Mike T had a much more influential role, probably as he was more familiar with the two.
Initially, I wasn’t going to go. It was Father’s Day weekend and obviously would have preferred to be on the adventure my own daughter would have had planned. There was also plenty of other rides and adventures I had planned.
The Summer of George!
For the record: This was going to be “The Summer of Mike!” and if you haven’t read The Summer of Mike has been Cancelled – go do that first.
I am deep in a funk – or in a deep funk, take your pick.
The wife knows my funk, and also knew that this trip was just going to be just 4 days and encouraged me to go. She and the Daughter changed Father’s Day plans so that I could. So that in a nutshell, is how I got here.
DAY 1: Getting to Mark’s Place in Inverness
Mark lives in Fresno (of all things) but he and his wife bought an old home in Inverness for retirement. It was a perfect place to meet and start from. Mark was already there and Bob was heading up the coast from his place in Moss Beach. Mike T was going to meet me at my house and from there I boasted that I could get him to Inverness with a very small amount of freeway action.
I can get from my house to the Richmond Bridge on back roads that I ride my bicycle on. We hit a little traffic in downtown Mill Valley but once we were through that it up and over Mt Tamalpias and through the Muir Woods and up to Invenrness.
Muir Woods was dark, foggy and even rainy in some places. We were pretty much all alone back in there. We got up to Mark’s in Inverness and he suggested while we wait for Bob, we head out to the lighthouse.
It was a great day along the coast. We saw some whales, then headed back to the house to meet Bob. Bob was already in town and waiting for us at a local Pizza place.
A few beers and an unremarkable Pizza later (I blame you Travis!) and it was back to Mark’s for the night. Mark mentioned that he had a Friday Night tradition at the house – Manhattans. I mentioned my sincere dislike for anything Whiskey, Whisky, Bourbon or Rye but also made it a point to give it a try. It was my first official Manhattan.
I can honestly say it was the best cocktail I had all week. They were ice cold, properly mixed and shaken, then strained. He did a great job! Don’t get me wrong, I still disliked it every bit as I thought I would, it was the other cocktails that came in the following days that elevated it to the BEST classification. When Mark offered up a second one I even imbibed in that too. I hate to be an ungracious guest. Mark pointed out that the recipe was the best, partly because of the Luxardo Cherries.
And you thought this was a motorcycle blog!
Mark and Mike T had beds in rooms and Bob and I took up sleeping on the floor. I blew up my air mattress and promptly went to sleep. Soon enough I realized I was sleeping on a flat air mattress. It was middle of the night so I just popped up on the loveseat that Mike and I are swishing down our Manhatans on above. It was way too short but it was fine for the night.
DAY 2: Inverness to Usal Beach
We woke up in the morning to some nice single serve nesspresso styled coffee. I figured I might as well patch up my air mattress here, but when I looked at it in the morning light it looked like I hadn’t flipped the valve closed all the way. Maybe that was why it went flat.
Our first stop was a local bakery for even more coffee and a pastry. Then it was up Hwy 1 towards Mendocino.
Almost right away we had our first and only incident. Because I was an invited guest I’m not going to address this in the typical ADV manor. Instead I’ll just say that someone was rounding a turn, had a water bottle come loose from his packing, and while distracted ended up going into a ditch. That’s all.
Back up and on the road, we turned right and went up Meyers Grade Road (38.47920890263915, -123.16358668940602) a little north of Jenner. It went up for a while into the clouds and then we turned left on Seaview Rd and then Kruse Ranch Rd – which led us through this weird little palace called Farm Camp. The road goes right through their compound. Here’s a Google Street View (https://goo.gl/maps/iejnyBjHg2aMrJiY9)
After the compound the road turned to dirt and we had a fabulous time riding back down to Hwy 1 through Kruse-Rhododedron State Natural Reserve. I was talking to Bob in our helmets and he asked what a Rhododedron was, so we stopped and took a picture of one.
Mike T. also took a picture of us too.
I’ve been up Myers Grade before but never down Kruse and this was a great little detour, Kruse drops you onto Hwy 1 at 38.59524798551557, -123.34579260296367.
Back on Hwy 1 it was motoring up the scenic Hwy 1. There was a plan to stop for lunch somewhere around Ft. Bragg. Mark suggested the Pub at Lost Coast Brewery. Ernie and I had eaten there on our Oregon trip years ago. I remember it was a little sketchy leaving the bikes outside where we couldn’t see them with more than a few undesirables roaming about. I suggested the place I had stopped with the Garberville Spa Enduro guys – Jenny’s Burgers. They were game so we did.
Sorry for the smear on the lens…
With Jenny’s and Gas, we headed up towards Usal Rd. I was riding sweep as I usually do. There’s a turn in the Hwy where it moves away from the coast and goes inland towards Leggett. This is a particularly dramatic view of the coastline so I stopped, leaned my bike up against the guardrail and took a few pictures.
and then the other direction.
I caught back up to the guys where they were waiting for me at Usal Rd. Usal Rd is easy to miss. Here’s the coordinates 39.78038673474925, -123.83157136806685. The last time I was here I was heading south. The road was just like I remembered. It’s dirt but it’s been graded enough that you could get a Prius back there (with a little care).
We got to Usal Beach and headed out onto the sand. There was a little talk about finding a campsite in under the trees but there was also a lot of mosquitos about too.
The last time I was at Usal I made it maybe 20 yards out into the sand. This time I had made it a bunch further (maybe 50 yards) and only stopped to wait for the others. Mike made out to where I was.
Bob doggie paddled his way close to where I had stopped. Mark wasn’t even going to give it a try. I was looking at the quieter side on the other side of the pond for a campsite. Mike started to head out that way, and then I followed. I got close to the surf, where you could get up to speed and zoom, but noticed a bunch of fishing poles stuck in the sand with their lines out to sea. So I had to go up the beach around them so as to not tangle in their lines. That made it a little tougher going but I did catch up to Mike.
We decided the others couldn’t possibly get out to where we were and so we decided to camp close to the first place I stopped. We found an old fire pit and centered around that. We pushed up close to the brush in between a few other people. It was Father’s Day Weekend and as expected, it was crowded.
Everyone set up their tents, we walked the beach, and we gathered a bit of firewood. There was a little breeze, but the sun wasn’t too hot. We all sat around and if I remember correctly, this is when Mark said we were having Gin & Tonics.
<insert an extreme tone of sarcasm>
If there’s something I love more than Whiskey, it would have to be Gin.
Mark pulled out of his bags, some sort of Gin, a lime, and a 2 liter bottle of tonic. We all retrieved our cups and while I kept waiting for the ice to appear (it didn’t), I was served the warmest, unfriendliest G&T I had ever seen. Not a small one either – just about a full 2 cups worth!
THIS is why my Manhattan was the BEST cocktail I had all weekend. For the record, there was a little extra after I had downed mine, so like the Manhattan the night before, I took one for the team and had a 2nd.
Somewhere about this time, another group of motos came to the beach. We watched as one and then another of the guys tried to get out as far as we were (and remember, we were close). We cheered loudly and visibly as they struggled. When one of them dropped it in the sand we got even louder – expressing our discontent. It must be a moto thing but our behavior was welcomed and to be expected. They had a few other guys, riding BMW 1250 ADVs, who after watching the struggle bus, didn’t even try. They decided to camp right where the sand started.
Although I wasn’t very hungry, dinner was Chicken Pad Thai, and like always, that was excellent. It also had flavor and I was hoping that flavor might help erase the G&T flavoids still stuck in my mouth. It didn’t.
Oh while we were walking the beach, we saw a small family of Otters heading from the pond to the ocean. That was really cool.
We had a small fire of driftwood and then all headed to bed early. I’m not sure why, just as soon as we did the fireworks started. Big Big Booms, the kind you find when there is no law and order. Somehow I managed to fall asleep. Oh, interesting side note. since we were camping on sand I did not use my air mattress (again).
DAY 3: Usal to Mattole Campground
I knew ahead of time that Usal Rd to the north was closed. The winter weather had destroyed parts of the road and we heard there were a bunch of downed trees. So we made coffee, and packed up. We were the first engines to start up in the morning. After the fireworks, I wasn’t worried about waking any one up.
We got back to Usal Rd and headed south back to Hwy 1. Bob had gone for a walk and found that the road to the north was indeed blocked off, so the only way in and out was via the south. I stopped on the way and took a nice pic of the campground on the way out.
Our next stop for the night would be in Mattole Campground (40.289059371907385, -124.35599772294313). Mike had a work around for the Usal Rd blockage. We did Hwy 101 north for a while to Garberville. We stopped for gas and then headed west up and over to Shelter Cove.
It was a great paved road that wound up and over and then down (very steep) into Shelter Cove. I had ridden by but never stopped in Shelter Cove. We went to a brew pub that was literally right off the runway. It was neat seeing some small planes land right next to us, taxi over to the brewery, get out and have lunch. I think a few of them were there for the $100 Burger. (see https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/restaurants-to-fly-to).
We got there before the lunch rush which might have been a good thing – because although we didn’t lollygag, service was incredibly slow and it was a 3 hour lunch stop!
After lunch it was up to Honeydew. We took an interesting way to Honeydew that I had not been on before. Part road, part dirt. Most of it in the trees. Since this was post lunch I think we were all a little tired and nobody stopped to take a picture except for me, and I only took this one.
From Honeydew it was next up the road to Mattole Campground.
At Mattole Campground, we picked a spot we thought would be great only to find out it was laden with goat heads! What’s a goat head? Technically speaking they are called (Tribulus terrestris) or puncture vine. If you’ve ridden a bicycle you’ve probably pulled them out of your tires.
So we moved and found a better, non goat head-encrusted, sandy place to camp.
For some strange reason Mark and Bob had been talking about one particular bike – the KTM 500 EXC-F and how that might be the perfect bike. We were walking from the old campsite to the new one when we saw a Father and Son on two brand new 500 Six Days, just sitting and taking a break. We went over and talked to them at length. They were from Oregon and just day tripping. We got to talk a lot about their bikes and then they came over and looked at mine and we talked about mine for a bit.
After we set up camp it was a quick walk over the dune and onto the beach. The beach was incredible. Bob and Mark continued walking a ways and gathered up some driftwood for firewood. These guys like their fires. There was no shitty cocktail competition this night. Mike T had bought a bottle of local red wine at a stop in Shelter Cove, so that was great!
The morning was once again incredible. Coffee, Oatmeal, pack it up and head out. Mike and I were usually first to wake up while Bob was the last.
For the record: It was another sandy campsite and so I did not inflate the air mattress.
DAY 3: Mattole Beach to Mendocino
Up for today was a little more riding north and then an inland loop to the south and finally over to a campsite that Mike T had reserved at Van Damme State Park just south of Mendocino.
Over dinner or breakfast we had discussed wheelies, loading and unloading the front end and that kind of thing. Mark said he had never wheelied on his BMW and maybe that it couldn’t. I suggested that Mark and I swap bikes for a bit. He wanted me to ride ahead of him, so on the road coming out from Mattole Campground I did a few crappy wheelies on his bike. We swapped bikes back when we got to Mattole Rd.
Mark had also mentioned something that he wanted to see in Petrolia. Something from a video I think. So as we cruised up Mattole Road we came right through what little there is of Petrolia.
From there Mattole Road cruises a bit right along the coast. There were a few places I stopped to take pictures along the way. I was riding sweep and so I could stop anywhere and catch up as I liked. This area was also ranch land and you don’t often think of cows on the beach.
The road goes steeply up and away from the coast towards Ferndale. I caught up with the guys, pulled ahead and then stopped again to take pictures of them as they passed. The only one who I got any sort of excitement from was Mike T.
We stopped for 2nd breakfast in Ferndale. From there it was into Fortuna for gas and then the .gpx had us going offroad for a long while down to Fort Bragg. It was going to be a long hard day. (yay!)
But as we pulled into Fortuna the weather hit. It was a steady state of rain. Not hard but more than a sprinkle.
We decided that Mark and Bob shouldn’t / couldn’t go the route we had planned. I had done this route in reverse with the Garberville guys a few years before. Although none of it was technical, mud would make it technical.
So Mike and I went the dirt (mud) way and told Mark and Bob we would meet them at Van Damme Campground. They could take roads and be comfy.
Mike and I then rode down through Avenue of the Giants. I was hoping we might go through Myers Flat so I could see if I could get a sticker, but we were off into the dirt a few miles before that. Myer’s Flat is where it’s at. IYKYK.
The rain eased up and the gravel roads were great. Mike and I had a great time drifting the bikes.
There’s one point we stopped to grab a snack. I’ve stopped here before. It’s the driveway of somebody in the middle of nowhere but he has a tall flag pole and a moto cut out of steel.
You can see the weather was good but here and there we had rain to worry about.
We came down the hills and jumped for a very short time North on Hwy 101. We turned off the highway and onto dirt again on Sherwood Road. Someplace I had not been before.
Coordinates were 39.59625, -123.45427 and I highly recommend this road. It started out rising up the hills and into some nice cattle and small farm areas.
We took a left turn to stay on Sherwood and took that all the way into Fort Bragg. That’s the blue line, not the red and I believe the blue was the harder route.
It was 99% dirt and as I was riding I was thinking back to when I did the Garberville ride. We were going the opposite way (counterclockwise) and while we were having lunch at Jenny’s my riding partner was saying he was fatigued and not looking forward to the next section. He said it was dusty and silty with deep ruts below the silt that could drop you really quick.
I came to realize this was the road he was talking about. We were coming the other way but there was dust and there was silt and there certainly were deep ruts here and there. Sometimes we would come around a turn to find 12″ deep ruts. If you were good you missed falling into them. If you weren’t… well.
One time I had come around a turn, my front tire fell right into one of the ruts and so I was stuck riding in the rut, no problem – until it got deeper and grabbed the side of my riding boot and tore it right off the footpeg! I slammed on the brakes as fast as I could. My foot and boot had swedged into the rut and were stuck by my rear tire trying to run it over. I gently rolled backwards an inch, pulled my boot out from the rut and then took a minute. There was a weird pain sensation going through my ankle and I sat for a minute wondering if I had broken my ankle.
I had not, and the feeling came back slowly. I got on the bike and continued, but that was a close one.
We came out in Fort Bragg, then zipped down the coast to Van Damme State Park. When we pulled up the Ranger greeted us as Mike & Mike – meaning that Mark and Bob had already arrived.
I had stayed at Van Damme before but always down in the valley. Our campsite tonight was up in this large grassy area. We set up camp and discussed dinner. My vote was pizza and beer but also suggested that it was improbable in nearby Mendocino.
Mike T pulled up a place he said had pizza and so we went into town for dinner. While the map showed a pizza place there certainly wasn’t one so Mike T suggested a local cafe that had a good menu and beer.
We got a table on the outside patio and ordered beers. Here’s my dinner. It’s a pasta with a chicken breast, cream sauce and mushrooms ($30). It was good, but nothing outstanding.
After dinner Mark wanted to find a local store and maybe buy a sixer of beer. There’s one just up the street. I bought an IPA and bought him a six pack of something Belgian.
Back at the campsite, they all showered and then we did the campfire and beer thing. I was really tired from riding hard all day. That was good! I told the guys that in the morning I was going to bee line it back home and get some work done.
DAY 4: Mendocino to Home
I woke up at 5 am – a little earlier than usual. I saw a fox running through the campsite. I strolled down and took a nice long hot shower. I then packed up. Mike was now up and making his coffee. Just as I was getting ready to coast the bike down the hill and head home, Mark woke up. He said that in the middle of the night he had a fox pounce on his feet. It startled him, and it startled the fox – who ran off, but how cool is that?
I coasted down the hill, started the bike when I was at the bottom. Pretty much all of the campers were still asleep so I was being as mindful as I could.
At the exit of the park, at Hwy 1 I stopped and took a final picture of the bike.
In the end it was just about 900 miles for me. Much of that was dirt and almost all of that was fun!
I know you are wondering. Since we were camping on this lush lawn, I did not fill up my air mattress (again)!
It was a beautiful morning and a beautiful way to end four days of riding. Thanks Mike T. Mark and Bob!
UPDATE: Both Mike T and Bob had GoPros. They both created short videos which I have embedded below. Mike T published first so…
and then here is Bob’s
I took just a few of our pics and sent them in to ADV and they featured us in the weekly photo post! https://www.advrider.com/inmate-photos-of-the-week-21-2023/