Thursday, May 25, 2023


 First impressions of my ’22 V85tt Travel


A couple of years ago, I rashly decided I was through with long-distance multi-night touring.  Better to hop in the Subaru with my wife and the dog (now deceased) and do life’s highway that way.  Shortly thereafter, I received bad news as the result of a PSA test.  Prostate Cancer.  I knew I was gonna die.  (But, obviously, I didn’t.) Still, in that moment, I decided to take a bath on my Yamaha Super Tenere and trade it for what still strikes me as the most beautiful retro-roadster then or now on the market: a 2021 Moto Guzzi V7 Special in blue.


Then I found out I wasn’t gonna die of Prostate Cancer.  And I found I still yearned for a day or three of long rides punctuated by a couple of nights on the road.  So, I took another bath and purchased the V85.  Great ride.  Nice looking enough, but no V7 Special in blue.  Students of Hans Christian Andersen will ‘get’ why I’ve named the Travel model the “Duckling.”

With only fifty miles on the clock, I set off for one of those protracted who-knows-where rides.  A layer of overcast was sure to melt away, but if it didn’t, I packed layers.  Northern Sonoma County (California) is a treasure trove of great roads that wind through redwoods and vineyards, over mountain ridges and into fertile farmlands, into the state’s interior or out to the Pacific.  There are no wrong choices on a spring morning.



Heading north, I parallel US 101 on a country road through Mendocino’s Sanal Valley. Six weeks into bud break, the leaves on row upon row of vines look like a carpet of green backed by hillsides just beginning to turn golden.  River Road is a pleasant blend of curves and straights that allow me to honor the break-in rules on the new 850cc engine: avoid singular RPMs.  A bright amber banner flared atop the TFT if I over revved things, which, on this road, why would I?


North of Ukiah came a first choice: Head east into Lake County with its roads twisting around volcanic residue and along the shore of California’s largest natural lake, or head north and see what other choices availed themselves.  The latter choice finds me in Willits, taking a westward bent on CA 20 crossing the tracks of the California Western and heading toward Fort Bragg.


CA 20 is a thirty-three miles ride from hell in the back of a ’63 Ford Fairlane Ranchwagon, especially when the way-back seat faces the rear.  But on any bike I’ve ever owned, it is a pure joy. Nice pavement courses through pasturelands and into redwood forests with the occasional shaft of sunlight splitting the canopy.  Tight curves and sometimes too much traffic, but not this day.



Perhaps the best fish n chips I’ve found in my travels, I’ve found at Silver’s by the Wharf at Noyo Harbor on the south edge of Fort Bragg.  The lunch I enjoyed, I’m sure was swimming in the waters below the restaurant at about 6 AM this morning. It was that fresh.  And it always is.  The view of the water is superb and a glass of Sauv Blanc would have been nice, but I was riding and the wine would have to wait.



Now: north or south on the vaunted Pacific Coast Highway.  Again, there are no bad choices, but the little berg of Mendocino, and the headlands there by are always a treat.  Town this day was unusually packed for a Thursday before Memorial Day, so I opted to simply drive through keeping a wary eye out for tourists focusing more on the surging Pacific than some random guy on a V85tt. The pickup that backed out in front of me bore a bumper sticker that read “Look twice for Motorcycles.”  I figure he must have only looked once.


CA 1 is a delight that cannot be over-enjoyed.  Each time I ride it is like the first time.  The weather is always changing.  The light.  The time of day.  The smell of someone’s woodburning fireplace or the beached kelp fermenting in the ocean air.  Again, great pavement makes the process a joy and the ins and outs and ups and downs make each view of the surf or the prairie or the introductory hills of the Coast Range a marvel.  Light traffic.  Light fog.  Put on that layer.


The V85 shifts effortlessly, never missing a cog.  Whatever tires they put on this sample like the pavement, grip the curves, and stop with aplomb.  I’m noting that the cockpit space better fits my 33-34” inseam better than that lovely Special did.  The windscreen keeps the blast off my chest but not my Shoei.  Not sure if a modification will be in the offing.  Let’s get a few thousand on the thing before we do anything rash.



The rugged coast is a delight.  One can easily imagine the issues surround the transport of harvested redwood to markets in San Francisco Bay prior to the advent of the diesel truck.  Fishing boats bob out there just this side of the curtain of marine layer.  A great bridge crosses at Albion.  A wonderful little market rests in Elk.  There’s an ATM with my credit union’s name on it in Point Arena and I need some cash.


Skipping the lighthouse this time, I head south through the Sea Ranch development.  This massive subdivision, though nicely laid out, prompted enough concern that California formed a Coastal Commission to ensure fewer miles of our shoreline would be subjected to development.  About halfway through, I take the turnoff east toward Annapolis, a lovely winegrowing, formerly lumber producing hamlet tucked into the hills about seven miles from the coast. I pass through ‘town’ about the time school is getting out.


Venturing on, just past a circa 1922 steel bridge, Annapolis Road tees into the Stewart’s Point-Skaggs Springs route.  This road has a thousand curves and the westernmost portion can be single lane at washed out places.  Toward Healdsburg, though the road is a mecca for sports bikers with sweeping curves and some of those magical views where you see a portion of the road you’re going to be riding on the opposite ridge.  What a delight.


Passing the Warm Springs Dam that embargos Lake Sonoma, I am only fifteen miles from home through the scenic Dry Creek viticulture region.  



210 miles on, I’m convinced there will be more long rides and some over-nights in my future astride the Duckling.


© 2023

Church of the Open Road Press

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