Narratives about motorcycling on Northern California's back roads; Reflections on the history and geography of the North State; Memoirs and early recollections of youthful visits to towns and forests and mountaintops.
Also middle-of-the-road takes on current issues in politics and education. Middle of the road? Isn't that dangerous?
My foray into cruiser motorcycling
is over.The Triumph Thunderbird
is gone, not so much because she wasn’t a relatively competent and very cool
looking machine – although there were some bugs in her that shouldn’t have been
– but because I guess I’m a fickle rider.While I generally keep a machine for six to eight years, the T-bird
lasted less than two.It seems my
experiment on a heavyweight bike with loads of chrome and torque gave way to a
longing for crisp handling, long distance capability, lighter weight to push
around in the garage, a collective record of dependability, a comprehensive
dealer network, and a shaft drive system.
After conducting some on-line research and chatting with
guys on the road who loved this particular mount, the Yamaha Super Tenere rose
to the top as the chosen successor.It has become the first non-BMW, non-Moto Guzzi, non-Triumph,
non-European primary motorcycle I’ve owned since I was about 24.Forty years past that age, I suspect I
found that, for me, cachet has succumbed to something else.
900 miles in, this scoot appears to have that something.
The Yamaha Super T recalls my BMW
R1200GSA with its tall seat, commanding view, rugged go-almost-anywhere
suspension and ability to strap on a week’s worth of gear before heading
out.With a smaller fuel tank,
however, ready-to-roll it is lighter and easier to pad around in the garage
much like the Guzzi Breva or the Kawasaki KLR.
Enrico Caruso, tenor 1873-1921
At idle, the exhaust doesn’t burble like the T-bird, rather
it sings a smooth tenor note similar to the Breva or maybe more similar to
Sitting on the Tenere, rather than in it, at speed, the
miniscule windscreen deflects the blast from my chest, but even when adjusted
to the high position, blows a good torrent of whistling air past my
helmet.Plenty of aftermarket
windscreens are out there.I’ll do
a bit of research with an eye toward upgrading that.
And only that.
Everything else on this machine feels as if it were
engineered specifically for me.The seat is high, wide and comfortable making a ninety-minute or even
two-hour runs quite reasonable.The switchgear seems standardized – that’s good – but I have yet to take
the five minutes it’ll take to figure out resetting the trip meters.
The fuel tank packs premium and gets me a couple of hundred
miles down the road and I now get better mileage on a bike than my
brother-in-law gets in his Prius.Noted
is that the range function is pretty optimistic until it isn’t optimistic any
longer.I was cruising along with
60 miles listed when all at once it hopped down to 32, then 21 then zero, when
it mysteriously began counting single miles up, one… two… three… and me still
about sixteen miles short of the next Chevron.When I, with a sigh of relief, filled Enrico up, he only
took about 4.6 gallons in his 6.1-gallon tank.
Something a little more saddle time will help me to
The Super Tenere handles 65 to 75 mile-per-hour jaunts on
the freeway portion of US 101 with ease, although the windblast makes slower
speeds winding through the redwoods more enjoyable.
Of all the gin joints, in all the towns...
Not as classically good looking as
the T-bird or, say, Ingrid Bergman, it does garner comments, one from a Harley
rider who’d accompanied a pal on a GS, saying, “It’s sort of a shame to see a Triumph Tiger with no dirt on it, ain’t it?”To which the GS rider (a former Tiger owner, it turns out)
responded: “That’s not a Tiger.It’s a Yamaha that’s like a Tiger only with a dealer network.”
Enrico was, indeed, rather clean that day.He only had 456 miles on him at the
time.And my intention is to use
the bike as a paved road tourer recalling the sinking feeling I got trying to
singlehandedly pry my GS upright from laying on her side in the gravel on many
a remote forest service road.Don’t want to do that anymore.
It is a gift to live in an area
where within a half-day’s ride, one can view among the world’s most scenic of wonders.Like some grand candy store for
motorcyclists, the west coast offers mountains, deserts, croplands and the
The initial adventure on the new Yamaha Super Tenere was
slated to be a run up to Grants Pass, Oregon followed by a circum-navigation of
Crater Lake, but smoke from the late summer’s horrendous fires prompted a
change in plans.
No problem.There are so many options.My riding buddy from Seattle would travel south; I would travel north
and we’d meet in Bandon, a delightful coastal village about a hundred miles up
the Oregon coast.
Sans panniers, which are ordered from my local Yamaha
dealer, I strapped a duffel on the back of my new mount and headed into the
Finding the western end of California’s northern border,
something on my bucket list, proved to be less of a trek…
…one made easier with the use of the mapping program on my
There is no Von Schmidt marker – there’s no marker at all,
but this post at 42.00013 degrees north is about sixteen feet into Oregon.
The folks in Oregon have done a fine
job preserving access to their dramatic coastline, thanks in no small measure
to the efforts of Samuel Boardman who’s life and work is outlined on this wayside
A thirteen-mile (dog-friendly) trail parallels US 101…
… affording breath-taking views of the Pacific and her work
against the timeless shore.
Lunch would be in Gold Beach where
the bridge crossing the Rogue proves to be art you can use…
… and a half-sunk vessel reminds us that the Pacific isn’t
The Inn at Face Rockhttp://www.innatfacerock.com/ is a
Best Western affiliate located near the bluffs a couple of miles southwest of
Bandon – I suspect on the old highway.Though not on the water, within earshot of the surf, the oceanic lullaby
it provides is perfect after a long day of riding and sight-seeing.
The Yamaha Tenere and the Triumph Trophy pose in the parking
Face Rock is named after a rock that… well… looks like a
face.At dusk, this particular
evening, perhaps 140 folks were in position with cameras on tripods eagerly seeking
a shot at sunset.
“What is this,” I asked one young woman, “another eclipse?”
prompting a courtesy giggle.
Bandon, itself, is a sweet little town located at the mouth
of the Coquille River.Its rustic
business district and picturesque wharf invite strolls and stops for suds, but
I left my camera back at the room.
The misty morning prompts this view of the cliffs.
Heading south, stops along the way
made the two hundred mile route to Eureka a full day’s ride.
The bluffs demand to be photographed…
… particularly the arched ones …
… and the beaches on the California side offer a nice place
to stretch one’s legs and catch a gentle slap of salt air to the face.
Eureka is a favorite for
over-nighting.The harbor supports
a fascinating collection of working sea vessels…
… the Old Town area transports one back in time …
… and the historic Eureka Inn https://www.eurekainn.com/ offers
accommodations once enjoyed by presidents and Hollywood personalities.
We celebrate the day’s travel out in the courtyard.
… elbow to muffler with their favorite classic two-wheeler.
The final leg of the journey
involves the Avenue of the Giants, a road that gloriously celebrates the
ancient and mystical redwoods that once dominated California’s north coast.
The Yamaha seems ready for this relaxed 30 mile stretch,
softly offering a tenor exhaust note that does not drown out the spirits that
whisper in the woods.
So a successful initial trip on the new machine mated the
Tenere’s honey-smooth riding characteristics with a wonderful couple of days
exploring both the natural and human history of our Pacific shore, leaving me
with the desire to do it all over again ...
I am a huge supporter of small
businesses and because many motorcycle dealerships are small businesses, I like
to develop a relationship with my dealer and do most of my maintenance and
merchandise trade with him or her.I want them to be successful for two reasons.Selfishly, I feel if I care for the small business, the
small businessperson will care for me, and I believe that small businesses are
the economic backbone of many communities both large and small.
Earlier this year, my Triumph dealership gave up or lost the
Triumph franchise.Too bad.They are a good group of people to whom
I happily took my BMW for service and my Moto Guzzi for consignment.Slipping out of my motorcycle comfort
zone or biases, I purchased a 2015 Triumph Thunderbird.The huge cruiser came with compromises,
but will always rank as the most comfortable motorcycle I’ve ever owned.Long distances melted beneath her
white-walled wheels and passers-by’s eyes popped whenever I pulled into a rest
stop or a 7-11.
My new “local” dealer – who I will not identify here – was
nearly fifty freeway miles distant but windy alternative routes made that
distance a gift rather than a burden.
Two months ago, I scheduled a tire
change delivering the T-Bird at the appointed 10:00 hour and was told by the
service writer that they’d “get right on it; shouldn’t be more than and
I had brought along a book and after perusing the inventory
of new machines sat down for a few minutes of literacy.By noon, the beast was not yet on the
“Next in line,” I was told.
Ultimately, the keys were handed back to me at 4:30.Arriving home, I discovered the Avon on
the rear was a full 10 p.s.i. underinflated.
Probably just an oversight.
I’ll give ‘em a heads
up next time I’m in.
Three weeks ago, on a Wednesday, “Big Blue” went in for her
12,000-mile service including a valve inspection.
“Plan on leaving her overnight.”
“No problem.I’ll be back next Tuesday.”
“She’ll be ready.”I ticked off three items needing attention beyond the normal service:
Belt adjustment, check engine light, and “Oh, and could you pop a new bulb in
the right side running light?”
The following Wednesday, I boarded the newly operating
commuter train with helmet in hand to pick up the ‘Bird.
just going up on the rack right now,” says the advisor.“Probably be six hours or so.Are you waiting?”
The train ride back was pleasant.I helped a little fifth-grade girl with her math homework.
Shame on me for not
calling the dealership prior to heading down there.
Thursday at noon, the call came, “Your bike is ready.Are you going to pick it up today?”
“Probably tomorrow.What did you find out about the check engine light?”
“Oh (pause) It’s on the lift right now.We’re checking it out and will get back
Unseasonable heat – like 106 degrees – prompted me to
postpone picking up “Big Blue” until after the temperatures broke. That’d turned out to be the following
Tuesday. I called to make sure it’d be okay for them to hold on to it.Graciously, they said yes.In the mean time they spotted a coolant
leak for which I authorized repair, suggesting it might be a warranty issue.
The bike was, indeed ready on Tuesday.I hiked over from the depot to be
presented with a bill for all repairs including $4.78 for the running light bulb
and $139.00 to “diagnose the problem.”
Wouldn’t one stick a new light bulb in there and if it
didn’t pop immediately, there’s nothing to diagnose?
Also was told that the check engine light was due to
improper routing of wires to the sensor in the exhaust system. “We rerouted
them and reprogrammed.”
that be covered under warranty?”
“I asked around and no, I have to charge you for that
because the part wasn’t bad.”
.75 hour shop time.
The coolant leak turned out to be a clamp that failed: not
Ultimately, the bill came to nearly $1500.00 for a
12,000-mile service.“But I have a
bit of good news.It seems when
Triumph sent us the 12,000-mile kit, they included the wrong air filter.You can bring it back down and we’ll
install it, or I can credit your bill.”
Doesn’t make Triumph
USA, Ltd sound very good to me, the customer.
“Credit please.”Then I mentioned: “When I picked the bike up a few weeks ago after you
put new tires on, I got home and the rear was at 34 when it should be 44.Can you double check pressures for
“Sure, no problem.I’ll meet you out back.”
Me: “What did you find out about the belt alignment.”
Service advisor: “I’ll check with the mechanic. (Leaves
momentarily.) He adjusted it.”
wasn’t listed on the bill.”
Me: “What was the source of the check engine light?”
for double checking the tire pressure.”
SA:“Sure.The rear was a bit low.I got it up to 40.That should be good enough.”
I bit my tongue.
Firing her up three things became
obvious.Tiniest one first:
·One: It takes thirty seconds to reset the clock
after a battery disconnect.When
I, the customer, have to reset the clock it sends a message about the degree of
customer care I just paid a large-and-a-half for.
·Two: After a battery disconnect, the gauges
reset – this I discovered – and the fuel gauge read “full” when I know I was
planning on filling ‘er up after I left the dealership.I decided to physically check the gas
tank only to find…
·Three: the filler cap was loose, not snapped
into place; now, back to…
·Two: As the machine idled, the gauge reset
a)I did, indeed, need to fill ‘er up – no problem
b)Since the battery had been reconnected, the bike
had not turned on or ridden as most service departments will do after
completing a job or the gauge would have already rest itself and ‘found home.’Perhaps.
Businesses fail for any of a number
of reasons.Here are some:
1)Evolution:What you make may no longer be needed:Buggy whips.Coal.
2)Lousy Product:Edsel Ford.Yugo.Pet Rocks.
3)Economic Downturns:Recessions hit and products deemed not essential (for some,
this means motorcycles) are not purchased at a sustainable level.
4)Competition:Somebody does what you do, only better
or cheaper: Let’s see how Tesla’s Model C
stacks up against Chevy’s Bolt.
5)Poor Customer Service:Something that is under the direct control of the business
A successful owner will likely set standards for his employees
relative to their interactions with customers and the quality of service the
customer receives.Employees are
counseled and coached to ensure that their work matches a standard that will
invite the confidence of the customer.Screw-ups – things that naturally happen as apart of the human condition
– are seen as teaching moments; opportunities to invest in the employee and
thereby grow the business.
At the outset of this post, I stated
that I am a supporter of small business – and I am with this small business,
even though I feel as if my recent experiences ranked well below satisfactory. I’m sure others have fared much better
with this shop. A copy of this diatribe
is being sent to the shop in the hopes that they’ll do better for the next guy.
I am disappointed in Triumph USA Ltd.I am disappointed with my new local Triumph
shop.This storied brand deserves
It has been three days since “Big Blue” returned from her
12,000-mile service.She ran like
a top coming home and also ran delightfully well to the local Yamaha dealer
where she was traded yesterday.
This morning, Terri, a woman who
once taught at a school where I served as the site principal posted the above on
my page on a popular social media site.I was touched deeply by her remembrance.
(For the record: I’m retired, and a different district
employs Terri now.And “Terri” is
her real name.)
September 11, 2001 wasn’t all that
long ago.I recall driving to
school, listening to NPR’s Morning Edition and wondering what the hell was
going on.Once at school, I tuned
a TV in to discover that hell was indeed going on that day.
At a hastily called staff meeting as we discussed how to
address this great unknown with our students, one teacher asked, “Shouldn’t we
just send the kids home today?What could we possibly teach them?” to which I replied: “If we don’t
teach today, they win.”
That was a damned fine statement I made, but honestly, it
must be the case that I heard it somewhere else that morning.I don’t think on my feet all that well.
I didn’t glance at my Facebook page
this morning until after I’d read the local (Santa Rosa) paper.A page five story reported that in the
midst of an investigation a Sacramento County stolen vehicle task force was
fired upon.An assailant armed
with a high-powered weapon injured to CHP officers and fatally wounded a
deputy.A witness reported,
“It sounded like a machine gun.It
just kept going and going.”
When I read Terri’s post on my page, I connected some dots
concluding that her school was locked down as this incident played out in the
All the while, she taught.
Walloped by a few moments of
introspection, I got to thinking: Maybe I’d lied on that morning of September
11th.Maybe they are winning anyway.
A hit and run on a local highway left a bicyclist dead.A driver in a white pickup shoots into
the passenger compartment of a car he’s passing on 101 then disappears.A homeless Santa Rosan, know for his
writing and story telling bleeds to death on a sidewalk after being knifed by
someone unknown. Daily we read about or witness violent demonstrations or mass
shootings or assaults on the police or assaults by police somewhere in the
Yep, maybe they
The moment passes.I find myself remembering visits to
classrooms.In pretty much all of
the classrooms, students are engaged in learning – rich, deep and challenging.But in a lot of classrooms, more is
going on.Kids’ unique needs are
embraced, their differences celebrated, their fears quelled, they feel safe; their
smiles glowing, their hearts in tune with the teacher who’s heart is in tune
with her students.Education
steeped in nurture.Good things are
Such things happen in classrooms across America every day.
Yesterday, I know, they were happening in Terri’s room.
And because of that, I know the bad guys aren’t going to
A couple of months back, Dan Rather,
venerable news anchor of CBS fame, now working “News and Guts,” a site on social
media, diverged from his usual council on all things politic to share that he
and his grandson were departing on a road trip across America’s heartland.“What music,” he asked, “do you listen
to when you’re on a road trip?”
I had pondered his question for several weeks, then on a recent
motorcycle adventure through several states, the answer came to me:The music I listen to is my own.
As a kid, although we had a fine AM
radio in the old Ford Ranchwagon, most of the music we ‘enjoyed’ was performed
by Dad, who, while driving would regale us with Broadway show tunes.His favorites?“Ol’ Man River” from Show Boat and“If I Loved You,” from Carousel,
in both I could devise some harmony for the final few bars or so – Dad liked
that a lot – and “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific.Although he apparently had a thing for Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics, Ezio
Pinza he was not.
When Dad really got going, he’d pull a ten-hole Hohner
Chromonica from his shirt pocket and begin to play Clyde McCoy’s “Sugar
Blues.”That’s when Mom would
force him to pull over so she could take the wheel.
My road trip play list comes completely from my own head –
usually consisting of either show tunes or American Song Book standards.I was the only kid ever who grew up in
the sixties with no rock n roll music allowed in the house.“Next it will be drugs,” Mom would say
with more than a hint of exasperation, “or… or… SEX!”And there’d be none of that.
So this day, I’m driving north on US
101 along Oregon’s dramatic coastline.For reasons I cannot understand, I find myself singing something from
Johnny Mercer’s catalog: The summer wind
came blowin’ in from across the sea… Perhaps it’s because the sea was right over there.This song as followed by “The Way You
Look Tonight.”Maybe it’s because Sinatra
sang it just as he had the previous tune.Then I’m singing “Here Comes That Rainy Day.”There’s always a rainy day coming to Oregon…
About half way through this ‘set,’ I realize, Hey!The acoustics inside this Shoei motorcycle helmet are excellent! As a visitor, I’d once been given
the chance to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in their Salt Lake City
building whose perfect acoustics was designed by a bridge builder.The interior of my helmet was at least
“Somewhere, Over the Rainbow” showed up on my play list,
along with “That Old Black Magic,” followed by my personal theme song, “As Time
Not a Beatles song in the lot.
Nor a song by the Doors.“Doors,” Mom opined, “were devises used to allow access from
one room to the next.Nothing
The set ended at a Chevron station
in Reedsport or Lincoln City.Open
the front of the helmet and the acoustics suddenly turn to crap.Plus, when filling your motorcycle gas
tank, it is necessary to hear when the fuel is about to overtop things and
spoil the paint.On top of that,
singing at the gas station may prompt people to cast strained glances or even
contact the authorities.
Back in the saddle, I was concentrating on the serpentine
pavement that split Oregon’s coastal forest and reveling when I broke through
the curtain of trees to gain a glorious view of a fog dappled Pacific.
A tiny island, little more than a rock, rested on the cusp
of the horizon as the road twisted back into a forest stand. I’m singing, Somewhere, beyond the sea…
Vancouver Island is a Pacific gem
worthy of more time for exploration than we afforded.But our abbreviated visit – enough to invite us to return –
was probably just about the right length given the blow-over from mainland
fires only a few dozen kilometers east.
The journey began by lashing the big T-bird to the sidewalls
of the Black Ball Ferry sailing out of Port Angeles…
… then heading above deck to take in the view.
Smoke and haze clung to the Washington State end of the
voyage, but cleared as we entered the harbor at Victoria.
The city is clean and beautiful, enhanced by many floral
displays in even the tiniest of spaces.
A trip to Butchart Gardens proved unnecessary.
Day Two found us playing tag with
traffic on BC 19 and BC 19 A until we reached our digs at Campbell River.“Love Boats” were said to frequent this
Smoke had settled on the Inside Passage at daybreak.We were unlikely to see one of those
But a derelict boathouse ages on the rocky beach.
Fresh Salmon was purchased off the pier in Campbell River to
be grilled for dinner, but the following night, our landlord provided us with
fresher salmon – he being a fishing guide in real life.It’ll take me a while to get re-acclimated
to the store bought fish I find in my little berg.
Attempting to escape the haze, we sojourned to Gold River, a
nice ride through verdant hills and past deep blue lakes.Gold Lake, touted by some as an artist
enclave, we didn’t scratch around deep enough to find their lairs.
The second leg of our tour found us
at the Black Rock Oceanside Resort in Ucluelet on the Pacific side. http://www.blackrockresort.com/Here, the air was cloaked in a
From the resort, nicely groomed bluff side trails tunneled
through foliage bridged streams and provided access to beaches.
Ucluelet has a quaint harbor with a tiny fishing fleet, some
warm and welcoming bakeries and provides an un-tourist-i-fied experience on
this side of the island.
Just a short hop up the road rests
Tofino, a well-renowned destination and surfing capitol.
The Main Street caters to tourists with pubs and
restaurants, ice cream shops and novelty stores.A block away, the waterfront seems a bit more purposeful,
harkening back to the town’s lumber and fishing heritage.
Stumbling around, as I do, I found this interesting marker
that I hesitated to photograph as I hadn’t done
much, if any, of the Trans-Canada Highway.
South of Tofino, beach access invites a stroll…
…and another lighthouse forces a shot.
Our trip was planned to revolve
around two guys on motorcycles tailed by their wives in a car.My riding partner, however, carried
home with him from Europe some sort of gastro-bug that rendered not riding the
safer choice.Shout out here to the
good folks at the lovely Qualicum Beach Inn http://www.qualicumbeachinn.com/ (in
Qualicum Beach) who graciously allowed him to stash his bike in their back
lot.During our next visit to the
island, the hostelry will definitely be getting our business.
We caught the BC Ferry from Nanaimo
to Tsawwassen.The afternoon mists
on the Sound muted the islands and shoreline making us momentarily forget they
we not out at sea on a ship skippered by Gavin McLeod.Skirting the City of Vancouver, we
returned to Washington State.
Six Days on Vancouver Island is not nearly enough.Port Hardy calls, as do many hot
springs, hiking trails and rocky beaches.
We’re told that the smoke clears after the first big storm
but that in recent years, large fires have become more common on the mainland creating
the atmosphere we’d experienced touring the island.