My new riding buddy, Mike (Catfish) asked if I wanted to do a 2 day dual sport ride, and I said sure! He said it’s an annual event with a few route changes from year to year but starts in Ukiah, goes up past Lake Pillsbury, then over to Garberville for the night, heading up and out to the Lost Coast and then back down to Ukiah. No camping, so minimal gear and sleeping nights in motels in Garberville and Ukiah.
He sent me the .gpx and I tossed that into both Google (for the wife) and Gaia (for me). I created the route in Gaia so I could better follow on my ipad for instant navigation.
With Ukiah a good 2.5 hours away and the ride starting at 8:00 am, we decided to head up on Friday afternoon. Mike has a High Roof Ford Transit that he is modding that we loaded the bikes up and drove to Ukiah. He already had reservations for Motel rooms in Ukiah for Friday, Garberville on Saturday and then Sunday Night back in Ukiah.
The group was a collection of smaller groups. Most everyone had done the ride in years past with many remembering Mike. His last time there was back in 2016! Most everyone was on smaller, 350 or 500s with just a handful of larger bikes – I saw a new 1250 BMW, a 1190 KTM, a new 890, and a Yamaha Tenere 700. I was the only 690 there and my bike stood out as it’s built for the multiday, while theirs were built more for the single track forest trails. I had luggage strapped to the bike while they generally just carried a backpack. That said, everyone was warm and welcoming.
Friday night there was a group dinner at a steakhouse up the road. This event isn’t structured and seems to run more on tradition than anything else. The guy who started it and planned it is a guy named Ray, he’s at the end of the dinner table. I know there were 22 of us at dinner with even more showing up in the morning.
In the morning people filtered out somewhat which was great. We quickly got to dirt roads and one of my big fears is that I was to spend all day riding in a cloud of dust (like we did on the Yosemite ride). A few miles on dirt and my ipad mount failed. Ugh! 🙁 I had to pull it off the bars but kept it running in my back pack.
Up and over South Cow Mountain OHV and down into Upper Lake was scenic and cool. Coming into Upper lake there was a gas station near a round about and we stopped. Mike went inside and I stayed in the shade. A guy named Murphy that I met at dinner was having issues with his kickstand and needed a torx. I had on in my newly added tooltube. So I undid the tape that was sealing the right side, gave him the torx he needed and then screwed everything back together without being able to “lock” them with tape.
As we started back up into the dirt I stopped and noticed that my tool tube cap had unscrewed and was long gone! My tool roll fit snugly in the tube and was still there – so I pulled everything out and stuck it in my tail pack for the rest of the ride. Oh well.
Just after Lake Pillsbury, the climb to Hull Mountain is steep and it turns out that Ernie and I had done that portion on out trip up to Oregon a few years ago.
We stopped at the top and took a picture. It’s a thing in this group to say “braaaap” instead of cheese and when asked to braaaap, you hold your throttle hand in the appropriate position. You can see I had yet to learn this secret.
We traveled up M1 on roads I had been on before with Ernie but of course looked different as much of what we rode through had been burned in the fires a few years ago.
Lunch was at the little commercial camp and convenience store Ernie and I had bought food at when we camped across the street at the Eel River Campground. It’s called Black Butte Country Store. From there it was on pavement into Covelo for gas and then back on dirt via Mina Rd (which is straight north out of town).
Mina Rd. took us to a small market where we stopped for a bit and then descended down into Garberville. It wasn’t a small descent, it was like coming down from the summit of Mt. Diablo. Paved in places, bumpy but always descending for miles and miles. How this market stays in business is beyond me.
About half way down the mountain, Mike pointed to a dirt road that was going off to the right. With no helmet communication that often meant for me to make note of that for the future when we talked. It turns out the next day we would be heading out that way.
We pulled into Garberville sometime around 6 or so, got our room, showered, and then Mike and I went to the best restaurant in town. Cecil’s does New Orleans styled food and was incredibly good after a long day of dirt. I even got to have a traditional Saturday Night Martini that was more like a double!
We heard there was breakfast in the hotel lobby. There was, and yet there wasn’t. Due to COVID it was one person at a time and you ordered one thing from column A, and another from column B. I asked for a breakfast burrito and an orange juice. I got the smallest premade flour tortilla with maybe a single scrambled egg in it and a ketchup packet of salsa on the side. The OJ was a kids juice box. So I ate that as I walked down the street to the cafe where I sat down at a proper table, had a few cups of coffee and a full order of french toast. Why even try Best Western Plus Humboldt House Inn, why even try?
Back on the bike we headed up the hill to where Mike had pointed to the road that went off the other way. We went up that gravel road (heading north). It was misty and cool with us being smack dab in the marine layer. We passed some houses and ranches here and there. Amazing to be living off the beaten track like that.
We slowly dropped off the ridge and down again to the Eel River which we followed along till we went under Hwy 101 right at the northern most part of the Avenue of the Giants.. We saw a few riders under the overpass and they looked like they were fixing a flat but gave us the thumbs up so we continued on.
Now we were deep in the redwoods heading west on Mattole Rd. Had we turned left we would have gone south down the Avenue of the Giants (Hwy 254). Instead we headed west out towards Honeydew in the Lost Coast.
We had crossed quite a few interesting bridges along the way and I was a little miffed at myself that I wasn’t stopping enough to take pictures. As you come into Honeydew we crossed this bridge and I forced myself to stop and take a picture.
Just after this bridge was the “town” of Honeydew. There’s no real town, just a small gas station with an attached store and a few picnic tables in the shade. This was the next rest stop. When I got there Mike explained that this place was where people got a gallon of gas just to make sure they had enough to get to Ft. Bragg. I forget how many miles I currently had on my tank but I also had a full gallon in my RotoPax so I skipped the gas.
Heading south out of Honeydew we zipped down the road a few miles till we hit a turn and dirt. It started as a easier fire road but kept getting steeper, more overgrown and definitely more technical. We came around a turn (King Range Rd?) and Eric was there blocking the road. Apparently the route turned up this almost hidden turn off and he was making sure everyone knew that. Going straight lead to a dead end miles down the road. What a nice guy!
This new road didn’t have a name on my map but it lead up to Saddle Mountain. We climbed and rode along the ridge for miles and miles. Great trails for sure. At one point we finally broke out of the trees and were treated to glorious views of the ocean.
The Golden Shower
Remember, this ride was an annual ride and these guys have known each other for many years. We had stopped at this panoramic spot with a few others. There were guys picture taking and talking and every now and then I noticed someone working their way around my bike to pee off the edge.
“Ok, that’s weird”, I thought. There was plenty of room to pee anywhere else but for some reason this was the preferred pee spot. It wasn’t until I overheard someone asking another rider if this was “the place“. Apparently one of their friends had died years ago and they had spread his ashes right there. He was, or maybe they were, the kind of friends with twisted senses of humor and so it was traditional to give him a “Golden Shower” as you passed by. Love it! Oh, and no he didn’t die there, he died watching tv on the couch – or so I heard.
Now, imagine if you had spread the ashes of your wife her unknowing that these guys did what they did and then you happened to come up to pay respects only to find all these hooligans peeing on your dead wife’s ashes. That’s the other side of the coin!
From this point the route turned down and away from the coast for a bit. We got to the next section and there was a guy with his bike across the trail who told us that some guy had crashed a few miles ahead and broke his leg. Someone had driven by a few minutes before who was an off duty fireman in a pickup truck who would radio in the rescue so they didn’t have to “SPOT” it. After talking about it we had about 10 of us standing there blocking the way so I suggested we motor slowly up past the accident (it was the only way out) so that we weren’t blocking when the ambulance arrived.
You’re either part of the solution, or part of the problem, right?
Later on we heard he was helicoptered out and someone had already taken care of his bike. It’s good to ride with friends. Usal Rd. had claimed another one.
Our next stop was at Usal Beach. Having never been out there, Mike suggested we zip out to the beach. Apparently it’s one of the few beaches that you can drive on.
Getting OUT to the beach was one thing, getting ON the beach where you could ride next to the waves was another. My bike stuck into the deep sand and just couldn’t get to the waves as hard as I could try. This is as far as I could make it.
A few others could make it. They either had more skill, less weight, more knobbies or a combo of all three. As for me and my bike, that’s all I could do.
One of these guys, “Turbo”, asked to borrow a half gallon of gas here and then showed us all how to wheelie up and down the beach. There’s also a bunch of campgrounds around Usal Beach.
The road out of Usal Beach (heading south) was recently zambonied and was easy riding. So easy that I was thinking a Toyota Corolla could have made it and probably did. The dirt road dumped us down onto Hwy 1 and that’s right when my fuel light came on. It was 20+ miles to gas in Ft. Bragg. Not knowing how many miles my fuel light would give me I tucked down as best I could and tried to ride as fuel efficiently as possible.
I coasted into Ft. Bragg and our lunch stop at Jenny’s Giant Burgers for a great burger, fries and shake. Gas was just across the street so that was easy.
After lunch we had options. There was a silty way back to Ukiah or the couple of road options. One of the road options was the Comptche Ukiah Rd that started just south of downtown Mendocino. Feeling full, nappy and a little tired muscle wise it was the general idea of most everyone that this was the right way to go.
Comptche Ukiah Rd cuts east towards Ukiah, first along the high plains, the redwoods, the cute little town of Comptche (complete with a community center), Orr Hot Springs (clothing optional), up to the top and along the ridge and finally down into the center of Ukiah.
The road was great at first but became a game of pothole bingo somewhere around Comptche. This was just fine on the 690 but it would rip apart a normal car or bike.
Once in Ukiah and back to the motel, we loaded our bikes back in the van, took showers and talked to a few others in the parking lot. The bulk of riders went straight home with only a few of us staying the night to leave in the morning.
All in all it was a great trip, great ride. I was worried it was going to be another Yosemite Family Ride, where I spent all day in the dust clouds of others but this was so spread out I hardly ever was in someone else’s dust. I told everyone I’d like to do it again next year too!
Link to all the pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Ew51Lg9Ag7ycGJBh9
Link to .gpx Route I was given: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?mid=16CIH_q1gMkZssvQJxP9XUsAzOZU7Xeev&usp=sharing