California has some of the most beautiful scenic routes in the United States. State Route 1 runs from Orange County to Mendocino County and is 656 miles long. On State Route 1, you will see the Pacific Ocean, which will turn inward for a while in different locations where you will see colossal redwood trees and wildlife. You get a great combination of riding through the mountains and riding next to the ocean.
I had never taken State Route 1 north of Malibu and heard it was a beautiful ride. It took about two months, and I had planned the route in extreme detail. I had planned where I wanted to take a break, what to see, and where we would be camping. I also read several books and researched gear I would like to take with me. All the research I had read told me to do no more than 200-300 miles daily. I had planned to go 600 miles a day and wanted to do about 2200 miles in 4 days. I later discovered that the only planning I should have been doing was what kind of gear to bring and when I needed to be home. In a way, I ruined the trip because we were pushing ourselves way too hard, and it meant we missed many chances to stop and see the sights and increased our chances of being involved in a motorcycle accident because of how tired we were getting toward the end of the day.
On the first day, my buddy Dave and I met in Tehachapi and rode west toward State Route 1. Getting to State Route 1 was incredibly dull and uneventful. Once we got on State Route 1 in Cambria, I was not expecting the beautiful scenery on both sides of the road. I also was not expecting State Route 1 to cut into the 500-plus-year-old redwood trees where the streets would twist and turn with no end. State Route 1 has many sharp turns, switchback turns, and decreasing radius turns. You must pay attention to the road to avoid a motorcycle accident. Another significant part of State Route 1 was the little fishing villages and towns you would ride through. The population of most of these towns had to be under 100. The only issue with these small towns is that they close the entire village down early, usually around 5 or 6 PM, and after that, you would not see anyone walking around the town. It also meant if you needed gas or food, you would have to wait until you got to a bigger town. The villages were so small that you would probably miss the town if you blinked. Most towns usually had a little place to eat, a gas station, and a market.
Something else I had never done was ride my motorcycle over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Riding to the Golden Gate Bridge was difficult because of the traffic jams for about 5-6 miles before getting to the bridge. The traffic lanes were small, so splitting lanes on a big motorcycle was challenging.
After traveling about 500 miles on the first day, we had abandoned any idea of traveling another 100 miles to the first campground. We were north of San Francisco and hurting because of how long we had been riding. It was about 8:30 PM, and we were starting to see deer along the road, and we were starting to zone out. The last thing we wanted was to ruin a great trip by being involved in a motorcycle accident with a deer. The best part of State Route 1 is the numerous hotels and campgrounds all along the route. We were able to find a campground to stay at for the night within a few miles.
Once we got our camp setup, we completely deleted my plan and changed our mileage to 400 miles a day because we still wanted to see a lot in four short days. The original plan was to go to about the middle of Oregon and start heading back. We changed our plans to ride a short distance into Oregon, camp, and head back.
On Day 2, we felt refreshed and ready to get on the road and see some more of the coast. We also felt relieved to be cutting 200 miles a day off our trip. The next 400 miles were more of the same from Day 1. Even though it was a lot of the same scenery, it was just as awesome as the first day. We ended our day in Grants Pass in Oregon. Even after cutting 200 miles off the day, we were still exhausted and hurting in many different places.
On Day 3, our goal was to get to Lake Tahoe, a little over 400 miles away. Now, the only bad part about not planning your end destination for the day is not knowing where you're going to be pitching a tent or where you are getting a hotel room. If you're going to be camping near s a famous landmark or area, you should probably try to get a reservation, or you can hope for the best and expect the worse.
Getting to Lake Tahoe from Grants Pass was an incredible ride. We took the 5 Freeway southbound to the 89 highway and stopped by the Lassen Peak National Park. We rode up to about 10,000 feet and saw snow-packed 12 feet high. The streets were clear of ice and snow, which was fantastic for motorcycle riders. There was snow on both sides of the road, which can feel nerve-racking on two wheels.
After leaving the Lassen Peak National Park, we continued to Lake Tahoe. We started looking for a campground about 5-6 miles from Lake Tahoe. We drove through 4 campgrounds before finding a campground with a couple of open spots. A few people left a day early, leaving their site open. We talked to the camp host, and after a bit of pleading, we had a place for the night for free.
On Day 4, we were dragging our feet with packing up. The realization that our trip was coming to an end was disappointing. I wanted to keep going and continue exploring the rest of the world. We were also dragging our feet because it was starting to rain. By the time we had finished cleaning up and were ready to get on the road, the rain had become steadier. We rode in the rain for the first hour or so while going around Lake Tahoe. Once we started riding away from Lake Tahoe, the rain began to lighten up. Due to the rain, we had to slow down because we had reduced traction, and some people had difficulty driving in the shower. We last wanted to be involved in a motorcycle accident with another car on our last day. One thing I made sure I packed was rain gear because I knew we were covering many areas, and there was always a chance it could rain. Once your underclothes get wet, your trip can be miserable.
The weather got hot and boring once we were away from Lake Tahoe. When we were near the coast, the weather would be in the 60's and low 70s, and now we were in the 90’s and low 100’s. We were sweating and no longer enjoying the weather. When the weather is hot, it wears you out a lot quicker which can cause mistakes and motorcycle accidents. When we started feeling tired or dehydrated, we pulled over and took a break to avoid any issues.
Even though I think the trip could have been a lot better, I learned a lot about how to ride long distances, how to plan, what to bring, and how to pack my gear. We rode a total of 1700 miles over four days. It was many miles for four days, and it would have been much more fun to stop and see more stuff and do fewer miles.
Some things to consider if you take a long-distance ride where you will be camping or staying in a hotel. Don't spend so much time on how you will get there; instead, enjoy the ride. Have a general idea of how you want to get there and where you want to stay but have a backup plan. Don't ride more than 200-300 miles a day. Keeping the miles down will give you more time to stop and see the sights, have a nice lunch, and not feel rushed. When you feel rushed, you are more likely to make mistakes and ride longer than you should, which could cause a motorcycle accident. Also, when you take a break, look at the map, and you might find something cool nearby or maybe a different route to the location that is more scenic.
One of my biggest struggles during my trip was getting gear out of my saddle bags. I had gear strapped to the top of my saddle bags, preventing me from getting in my saddle bags. I had to take the bungee cords and gear off to get into my saddle bags. I decided to fix the problem on the third night of the trip. I took all my gear and bags off the motorcycle. I re-arranged how the equipment went on my bike so that everything went into bags, and I was no longer using bungee cords. You want to ensure that anything you may need is on top, including anything that will help fix your motorcycle. The last thing you want is to be stuck on the side of the road with half of your gear lying on the ground while looking for a tool, flashlight, etc.
I always suggest riding with a partner just in case something goes wrong and you need someone to get help. It's not necessary, but it makes the trip more fun. If you go by yourself, I would suggest getting a GPS locator with the ability to call or text. The GPS locator is excellent because it allows family and friends to track your progress.
I always suggest taking your bike to a mechanic before your trip and ensuring everything is in working order, especially if you have an older bike. The last thing you want is to have your motorcycle break down while you enjoy your trip. The most important thing is to enjoy the ride, ride safely, and don't get hung up on the details.