Los Angeles to Portland On A Honda - Part One
February brought about cold temperatures across the United States, but not so much on the west coast. In southern California, we are plagued with nearly perfect weather 95 percent of the year, and much of that good fortune extends up toward central and northern California. Along the coast, our statesman to the north experience moderate amounts of cold, rain, and fog year round, but never arctic like conditions like those in the Midwest and East Coast. Here in California, motorcycle riding is a year round luxury. Upon my recent return home to Los Angeles, I had a handful of free time and the chance to travel on a whim.
So, I packed up my gear, charged my camera batteries, pulled out a paper map and decided to tackle a bucket list item that has stagnated on it or a while now: Embark upon a long-haul motorcycle adventure along the Pacific Coast.
I had made plans months earlier to attend The One Motorcycle Show and see a number of friends and colleagues, but now that I was home in LA, I jumped at the chance to cancel my flight and ride north. My journey from Los Angeles to Portland and back would mark the longest solo motorcycle trip I've done—I was excited.
I hope this story inspires you to carve out a little time and go on your own adventure. As for a first go on something like this, I think it went pretty damn well.
A Word to the Wise for Any Solo Trip
Plan your route. Stick to it, but also be keenly aware of alternate routes to get you where you’re going. Always have a paper map and religiously check weather reports along your route. Remember you are a motorcyclist riding in the elements, so proceed and prepare accordingly. Also, let friends and family know where you plan to be.
In my case, I prepared for two likely elements I could run into during this trip: rain and cold. Because I was to remain very close to the coastline for my whole trip and at a low altitude, I knew I would not encounter snow or ice.
Getting the Right Gear for your Trip
First, look at your motorcycle. With some common sense and logic ask yourself: What bags can I put on the back of this thing? There are a variety of luggage systems for all the different motorcycles out there, and at times it can be nauseating and complicated to figure out. Back to common sense, my advice is stick with simplicity whenever possible.
Dry bags are awesome and protect your gear from the elements, plus they are relatively affordable. My two main bags for this trip consisted of a 90L Redverz dry bag and a 38L Twisted Throttle DrySpec dry bag. Coupled with a few Rok Straps for the Redverz bag and the supplied universal mounting software for the Twisted Throttle Rigid DrySpec bag, I managed an amazing luggage system for under $260 that performed PERFECTLY for the whole trip. You can't beat the price—it's nothing compared to the use you will get out of it in the years to come.
Above is all the gear I packed onto my bike before and after. This can be done in an unlimited number of ways but this is how I did it:
The 90L Redverez bag housed all of my camping equipment, supplies, and items not needed for throughout each day of riding. All heavy items should also be loaded in the bottom bag to ensure balance and stability (again, common sense).
Redverez 90L Contents:Tent, compressed sleeping bag, inflatable sleeping pad, dehydrated food, stove and fuel, utensils, dishware, extra cinch straps, hatchet, extra pair of boots with a couple pairs socks inside the boots, medical kit, medications, matches, spare flashlights….
Twisted Throttle Rigid 38L Dry Bag Contents: Clothes, secondary camera equipment, snacks, tool bag, tire puncture kit, flashlight.
Outside / Quick Access: Strapped tripod, water canteen, and spare fuel canister outside of dry bags with straps. Bungie net used to strap down my backback to the top of the Twisted Throttle DrySpec bag.
Clothing can take up a lot of space so the key thing is pack as minimally as possible. Wear the same clothes as much as possible and accept that you will be grubby by the end of your trip. To minimize stink and potential itchiness, invest in merino wool base layers and undergarments. Anything that touches your skin should be 100 percent merino wool. Merino wool is a magical fabric that repels odor and does an excellent job at regulating and insulating body heat.
Also, think in layers: Merino wool base layer, insulated middle layers, motorcycle armor (pants and jacket), and a rain suit that fits over everything. With a clothing setup like this, you can be sure to stay comfortable in most climate's warm to cold.
The Trip and Route
Each ride day consisted of 8-10 hours of saddle time, so it was critical to get going at first light and get off the road when the sun went down. I would stress to anyone and everyone planning a route like this to never ride at night—bad things happen at night.
Day One - Santa Monica, CA to Novato, CA (484 Miles)
The first day was one of the longest days in the trip; however, it was necessary due to the need to arrive in Portland for the One Motorcycle Show. Leaving Santa Monica at 6am, I had 451 miles of highway in front of me with my destination being in Novato—a city just north of San Francisco in Marin County. I had done this drive in a car in just under six hours, but on a motorcycle that whole equation changes. Stops are more frequent, the need to eat and drink is more important, and the need to recognize fatigue becomes a real issue.
Ninety-two miles into my journey, my stomach advised me it was time to eat. I found myself in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara just off on Milpas Ave. I stopped in at one of my favorite breakfast spots in the city to enjoy a bowl of the “The Best Damn Oatmeal” and a cup of coffee. Sitting on the curb enjoying my meal, I was approached by a young man named Arlo on a bicycle that commented on my bike and asked where I was headed. I kindly replied by telling him was on my way to Portland and he said he was too.
Naturally, I was intrigued as he was on a bicycle, so I asked him where he started out his journey. He told me he started his trip in Boston….BOSTON! Intrigue gave way to astonishment and I did a proverbial double take.
“What? Boston? Ok, hold on, back-up. Tell me how you ended up here in Santa Barbara,” I asked.
Arlo took me through his story and it was unbelievable. At 21 years of age and with nothing but a bicycle, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and a couple pairs of clothes, he started out in Boston and cycled down the east coast through New York, Maryland, the Carolinas, and Georgia. He hopped on a train and ended up in San Diego where he biked up to LA and back, then proceeded north to the moment in time that was our encounter in Santa Barbara. I'm sure there aren't too many kids these days embarking upon grand adventures similar to what Arlo is experiencing, but for their sake, I think they should.
I pushed on from Santa Barbara along the 101 passing through central California and into the Bay Area. Rush hour traffic became thick around San Francisco (as one would expect), but good ol’ lane splitting kept me from sitting still, and I made it through the city with very little time added to my planned route.
As I was passing over the Golden Gate Bridge, dusk quickly set in and I needed a quick break before reaching my final destination in Novato. There was no better vantage point than a rest stop overlooking San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Twenty more minutes on the bike and my day was complete. Mike Kumelis, a fellow motorcycle buddy, and his family graciously hosted me for the evening. Mike, in addition to being an avid adventure motorcycle rider, is also the owner and vintner of Mantra Winery in Sonoma County. After 10 hours of riding with no windscreen, my body was beaten and exhausted. There was simply nothing better than sitting around the dining room table, conversing with these amazing individuals, drinking some AMAZING wine, and enjoying a home cooked meal.
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