ride report

Ride Report, Solo Ride through West Virginia and Virginia

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During the second week of May this year, my plan was to spend 8 solid days on the road, but unfortunately mother nature decided otherwise. It was the high 40s, low 50s and raining on and off. So I left on a Tuesday instead of Sunday as planned. It was still chilly and raining off and on the entire day.

Since I really had zero plans other than meeting my wonderful friend Tamela Rich in Roanoke VA on Thursday, I had plenty of time so I took the long way down and stayed off highway, went around DC and ended up my first night in Front Royal, VA.

Front Royal is basically the starting point of the Blue Ridge Parkway. As much I as I enjoy the scenery of the parkway, it’s a fairly limiting road due to the speed limits and traffic. But I did do an obligatory portion of the top of the parkway so I could snap a few pics. And do a little scenic, casual riding.

One of the many well paved roads I found in WVA.

One of the many well paved roads I found in WVA.

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We went riding the following morning and ended up on one of the many unpaved backroads that VA is notorious for. For the ADV folk out there, it's a dreamy place to ride. But for us, particularly me and my smooth tires, it was a nailbiter. I've been on 3 death grip dirt roads in my illustrious 15-year riding career. This one was one of the worst.

A single lane, dirty, steep, gravel-filled road with no room to turn around. Something about riding uphill on this kind of road terrifies me when I'm on a sportbike. All I could see was my rear wheel spinning so fast and hard, losing traction and then flipping over. My bike has so much torque and can send so much power to the rear wheel, even at 1,000rpm that I didn't foresee this going very well.

My friend Tamela on her dirt worthy F650GS

My friend Tamela on her dirt worthy F650GS

This is why many sporty folk fear the dirt. We can lose traction so very quickly. I know that if I were on a cute KLX250 with knobby tires that I would've tore up that hill like it was a smooth, paved track. 

Luckily I remembered what my friend Nancy from Streetmasters told me a long time ago; smooth and steady in 2nd gear. So up I went. It was only a mile or so but felt like 10. This was really the most exciting part of my trip. Otherwise, I had an uneventful trip with an awesome friend whom I missed very much. We have

Sometimes getting out of my comfort zone can be painful. But afterwards, it feels so good knowing that I did it!

Trip planning post, if you want to see what gear and luggage I used

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Ride Report, West Virginia. Again!

At the top of Skyline Drive

At the top of Skyline Drive

What can I say? I love West Virginia. I never thought I'd say that, but when it comes to finding heavenly, twisty roads, I can't help it. 

My husband and I went on a 5 day vacation from Philly to West Virginia a few weeks ago, leaving on Sunday and returning Thursday that week. Here are a few highlights!  

Stopping somewhere in Washington DC by the Potomac on our way down.

Stopping somewhere in Washington DC by the Potomac on our way down.

When we left on Sunday, May 8th, we had a rather late start. I won't even bother to share the ride route. We pretty much slabbed  drove through Washington DC and stopped briefly to take some pictures before heading into Arlington. Since we started so late we decided to stay the night just outside DC at the Hampton Inn Gainesville-Haymarket

I'd highly recommend it, very motorcycle friendly, clean and just overall a very nice place to stay (I usually try to stay at smoke-free hotels, because I just can't stand the smell of smoking hotels). Unfortunately someone left the microwave on or something, and we had a 4:30am wake up call. Luckily, it only lasted about 20 minutes and we were able to get back to sleep. Zzzzzzz. 

The weather was raining on and off Monday, so we headed out late and just decided to head south, towards the border of West Virginia and Virginia. Looking at the radar reports, we tried to go just below the storm paths so we could at least find some dry, twisty roads. Oh and along the way we found tasty Mexican food! Who knew there were delicious, authentic Mexican restaurants in Virginia? We stopped at La Michoacana Taqueria & Restaurant. Delicious! 

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So we headed out and we aimed for Waynesboro, VA. When we stopped to take a look at hotels, we found a room in Staunton, VA at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel. It was beautiful, and we got their Stay 2 Nights and Save Promo. 

Staunton is a really lovely town with a lot of history including an old train station and wonderfully preserved downtown. 

Staunton at night. My husband sure knows how to take photos. 

Staunton at night. My husband sure knows how to take photos. 

Easy parking at the hotel in their garage. I just love how these two look side by side. 

Easy parking at the hotel in their garage. I just love how these two look side by side. 

So we decided to camp out in Staunton and just looked at the maps every day to figure out which way we thought we wanted to go. 

Tuesday was our first day of explorations. The weather was crummy in the early morning so we waited until the rain passed a bit more before heading out. We found some fun scenery including a rickety bridge that you aren't supposed to ride across. So we didn't. 

As we rode off, we found even more scenery, including some horses who didn't seem to mind as we pulled over to take photos next to them. I tried to coax them away from lunch but they just weren't interested. :(

I don't know how, but he manages to get the timing just right on these sometimes. I guess I was stretching...

I don't know how, but he manages to get the timing just right on these sometimes. I guess I was stretching...

I think the horse is looking at us like we're crazy. 

I think the horse is looking at us like we're crazy. 

One of the coolest things we saw a few times were abandoned buildings like this old service station. These photos just don't do this building justice. It was so pretty in person, eerie and stunning at the same time.  

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We didn't get to go inside, but I was able to get a photo through the windows. 

We didn't get to go inside, but I was able to get a photo through the windows. 

Evan poses!

Evan poses!

And another abandoned garage. Way creepier. 

And another abandoned garage. Way creepier. 

Since the weather wasn't that cooperative most of the time, we did some very simple routes, nothing fancy. But some of the best riding on this coast lives here: 

Staunton to West Virginia and Back. 

Staunton to West Virginia and Back. 

We were trying to find some cool covered bridges, but we only found this one which we weren't able to actually drive through. It was called Humpback Covered Bridge in Covington. 

So all we could do was take selfies. 

I highly recommend lunch in Marlinton at the Greenbrier Grill. Tasty, inexpensive and outdoor seating. 

We took 39 back mostly, such a fantastic road. I'll warn you, these roads are twisty so should always take those easy if you're not immediately comfortable. I practically live to ride these roads, I just wish they were closer :(

My friend Tamela recommended Route 311, just south of Covington but unfortunately I somehow got us off track and never got to ride it. It also looked amazing. 

The next day we played around 39 and 250 again. 250 is probably my favorite road on the East Coast so far. 

Unfortunately we didn't get video of 250 because of the crappy weather that day, but in case you missed it, here's a short video my husband shot on his GoPro, Swivit Mount and Gimbal. We finally had some clearing weather and was able to get some beautiful shots while on 39 or 84, I can't remember which road this is. It's mixed in with some footage of Skyline drive as well, but there are bits and pieces of WVA in here. 

Getting all the equipment ready to film. If you've never heard of  Swivit.com , check them out. Their adjustable mount is unique, and was the first of its kind. 

Getting all the equipment ready to film. If you've never heard of Swivit.com, check them out. Their adjustable mount is unique, and was the first of its kind. 

With the Swivit, he was able to get shots like this one, because you can move the camera on the fly. (We were going maybe 15mph, and there was zero traffic!)

With the Swivit, he was able to get shots like this one, because you can move the camera on the fly. (We were going maybe 15mph, and there was zero traffic!)

 I don't know why but we decided to slab it back from Staunton to Philly on Thursday. Although we had an early start, we took the scenic route up Skyline Drive. Since the hubby had never ridden through it before, we thought we'd take a look! Twas foggy on and off. If you watch the video, the tunnel is at the end.

After a bit of fog, we finally got to some clear parts of the mountain. And yes, the speed limit is 35mph. We were following the limits pretty closely, but it was a very quiet day on Skyline so we were lucky enough to have little or not traffic at times. And no performance awards :)

The coolest stop we made was at Fort Johnson. Such a cool, crazy story from the Civil War. I didn't get to climb the entire trail, but I did get to the first tier. Since moving to an older city such as Philadelphia, I am fascinated and constantly amazed by the history that I encounter everywhere I go. Virginia was no exception. So crazy to think that a war was fought on this mountain, where we now stand and take scenic photos. 

Steps to the first level of trenches. 

Steps to the first level of trenches. 

A long line of trench!

A long line of trench!

We even met some fellow motorcyclists who were passing through. 

We even met some fellow motorcyclists who were passing through. 

And then we had to say goodbye! 

We used our Sena SMH10R's to communicate with eachother the entire week and they performed quite well. I used the Garmin quite a bit, along with my music and I forgot to recharge it one night so it died after a second full day. Just by habit, we recharge our headsets every night but you really don't have to. You should be able to get 2 full days; although we don't have our channels open the entire time. We go back and forth between chatting or keeping the channel open for 10-15 minutes, then back to our own music while I listen for Garmin directions at the same time. 

If you're curious as to how that all worked for me, read my review of the Garmin Zumo 390LM here

 

Until next time, West Virginia.... until next time..... 

Until next time, West Virginia.... until next time..... 

Ride Review: Suzuki DRZ 400 SM. That Was Tall!

Suzuki DRZ400SM Last week I rode a DRZ 400 SM. Wow, I learned so much and rode the tallest bike I've ever ridden. Yes, You Can.

I learned that a Suzuki Drz400sm isn't in my near future. Not because it was really tall (35"+!) but I didn't like the way it rode. I'm still very much a sporty girl and love the handling, feedback and stability that modern sportbikes offer. If you know me at all, you know I'm a sucker for twisties and don't care much about straight lines either. This bike was definitely a demon in the twisties, but in a different way.

I only had the chance to ride it for one afternoon, down to Alice's Restaurant from San Francisco. We took a very simple ride route, a little slab to get to the twisties!:

  • 280 South --> 92 West
  • 35 South (twisties begin)
  • 84 West
  • Quick stop at Stage Road in San Gregorio, then South on Stage Road
  • Left on Pescadero Road to 84 East back to Alices

Although short but sweet, it was heavenly. We left around 12, so it was too late of a start to head further south towards Boulder Creek as planned. Oh well, that's what Christmas vacation will be for! So my friend generously let me borrow his DRZ 400 SM and my husband rode another friend's KTM RC8 (we have awesome friends!!), and my girlfriend joined us on her DR650.

I definitely wouldn't have ridden a heavier bike of the same height. Since it was skinny and lightweight, I felt fairly confident that I could handle it. But to be completely honest, I probably would've said no if I took a minute to think about what I was going to ride.

I'm glad I didn't think about it too much and just rode my brains out. I also didn't wear my big girl boots which didn't make it much easier but I guess I like a challenge.

2005 Suzuki DRZ 400 SM

Here are some specs for the one I rode:

  • Dry Weight: 295lbs
  • Wheelbase: 57in
  • Seat Height: 35in; with a Gel Seat for a 1" shorter seat height
  • Ground Clearance: 10in
  • Unlowered suspension
  • Shinko Trailmaster Tires; these tires are taller, so they counteracted the gel seat
  • Click here for a full list of specs 

If there's one thing I love about riding different bikes, it's that I usually learn something new. On this bike, I had to relearn how to make my lines. I was having trouble through corners and my friend reminded me that I can't ride it like a sport bike because it isn't one. It's a supermoto! After she gave me a couple tips, it was a lot easier to stay smooth through the corners and increase my entry and exit speeds.

I quickly learned that in the twisties, I still love the way street bikes perform and am not sure if a smaller supermoto is in my future. I definitely love how mid weight supermotos like KTM's 690 SMR and 690 Duke feel and would love to have one someday.

I'm a bit on the fence about this bike, I mean besides the fact that it's annoyingly tall. I loved the riding position and how far I could see up ahead. You're almost the same height as SUVs so it's really easy to see down the road. Of course, the riding position was really comfortable. I did have to jump on the highway to get down to Alice's but doing 75mph was easy.

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When you ride something that's barely tall enough to throw one leg over, curbs suddenly become your best friend. As soon as I'd see one at a stoplight or freeway offramp, it was always convenient to pull up next to one and rest my wayward foot. My right leg is typically rather useless because I can only get my toes down, but on this one it was *completely* useless! I also avoided dirt and uneven pavement and always got off the bike to park it. Luckily I was able to balance it just perfectly to hop right and get my right foot down to kick the sidestand down with my left foot. Whew!

 

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It's just too bad I didn't have time to throw a leg over my friend's RC8!

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At the end of the day, I feel like I accomplished a lot and rode something I never expected to be able to ride. If someone told me that someday I'd be able to throw a leg over a bike with almost 35" seat height I would've told them they were nuts.

I guess the moral of the story is, don't think about it, just do it. (Of course, after you've perfected your braking and balancing techniques :D)

Ride Report: Philly to Maryland to Virginia to West Virginia and Back!

I've been dying to ride to West Virginia since I moved here. Looking at the maps, it has the twistiest roads I've seen here so far. I had an ambitious plan and didn't pull off as much as I'd hoped but still found some killer roads with a quick stop to Gettysburg on the way back. We left Saturday evening after I got off work, around 6pm.  The day before we left was a bit hectic because someone needed to get new tires mounted and set up. The 2nd tires of choice were Michelin Pilot Road 4 front and rear tires. Unfortunately since this was left to the last minute, the first choice was out of stock. But, these performed very well apparently, certainly far better than the 7 year old Pilot Powers that came with the bike!

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So we left Saturday evening around 6pm. My friend and coworker Brian came with us for the ride. I love riding with friends!

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The plan was to get to Hagerstown, MD because it was fairly close to the cluster of roads in W. VA that we were trying to get to for Sunday. Given that we didn't get in til after 11pm, it was definitely a good spot for us. We avoided the Interstates and decided to stick to Route 30. As we got started on 76W, I saw this cool car and had to take a pic. Someone told me that old cars were hard to see on the road in the East Coast, because of the weather. But I guess Philly doesn't fall under that statement, because I've seen so many classics around town. It was really nice to see this one.

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Map: Part 1, Philly to Hagerstown 170 miles

Our dinner stop was along Route 30 at this awesome local place called Jennie's Diner in the heart of Amish country.

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I had the biggest country fried steak, ever! It was delicious. This is what was left after I couldn't fit anymore in my tiny stomach.

I booked us rooms for the weekend at the Country Inn & Suites, which I highly highly recommend. It's a very clean, non smoking hotel that you can pretty much find everywhere. I would say they were pretty affordable, $89-99/night with free breakfast and parking. They even let us park our bikes right out front! It's also pet friendly, which worked well for us when we drove across country.

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Green, lighter green and blue. Not a bad group! (Left: Brian in his Revit Ignition 2 Jacket & Gear 2 pants & Sidi Adventure GTX Boots; Right: Evan in his Dainese Air-3 Jacket and old Rev'it Gear 1 pants)

The gem in this route was Route 77 through Catoctin Mountain Park. A really nice, twisty little road which was beautifully paved too. Even in the pitch black, it was pretty nice. Luckily we got to see it in daylight on the way home. We rolled in rather late, after 11pm since we took the scenic route to Hagerstown. We were definitely happy to get in and climb in bed to get ready for our long day into W. VA.

Map: Part 2: MD to W. VA 413 miles

This was definitely the best riding I've had since moving to Philly. The roads were smooth, hardly any cars but lots of twisties! If you just look at the map, you can tell that the roads are fantastic. Route 250 was definitely a favorite, sweepers & twisties stretched out over ~20 miles. The roads were very quiet, hardly any traffic and not much time spent stuck behind cars.

Since we were riding as much as possible, we only took a few photos along the way:

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Needless to say we had a really really great day riding around WVA. I wish we had one more day to ride further south and west of Elkins, W. VA, I hope I can try again soon, because those roads are calling me back already. I definitely loved 50 and 250, I think those were my favorite. If we had more time, I would've checked out some of the roads off the highway, but since our time was so short we decided to try out the highways first.

Here are a few more shots I managed to get along the way while we rode through W. Virginia:

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Day 3: Hagerstown to Gettysburg

On Saturday night we rode this highway in the dark which we definitely wanted to see during the daytime. It was twisty, smooth and glorious. It turned out to be Route 77 through Catoctin Mountain Park between Highway 15 and Smithsburg, MD. It was short, but sweet and a nice surprise. I managed to take a picture on Monday morning:

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After this we took 15 north to Gettysburg. We did the auto tour and saw all the beautiful, historic sites that basically created this country as we know it. Riding through the park was beautiful and humbling. We saw battlefields, cemeteries, and monuments. I highly recommend visiting the park and seeing how the war was essentially won. Here are some photos that I took along the way:

The way home was uneventful, just a lot of traffic and slow going. We did have to stop and take pic in the buggy at a Hess though:

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783 miles later, it was back to Philly. I had a blast, and can't wait to go back to W. VA!!

 

Ride Report, SF to Hawthorne, NV the Long Way Over

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Last weekend I ventured out to Hawthorne, NV as part of an annual pilgrimage with my friends from B.A.R.F. This was my first time going out to the desert and although I had a great time with my friends, the longest ride I've ever done in a day wrecked my back. 

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My friend Kurt routed this for us and it was certainly an incredible way to get there, instead of the boring highway routes.

Unfortunately I only had my iPhone with me so I wasn't able to take any good pics of the roads worth mentioning (I did manage to get a few random shots in my Instagram Feed here). The best part was the chunk from Valley Springs through the Sierras to 395. Here are the ones you should check out if you're headed East:

  • Jesus Maria Road from C to D (goaty, no dirt but nice short twisties)
  • N South Road to Mormon Emigran Trail up and over 88 (also goaty, no dirt and nice twisties)
  • Highway 89 Monitor Pass (perfect, twisty, amazingly paved to 395) See my ride report from last year to see pics from this road.

The total miles for me from SF that day was a painful 412 miles. A painful, personal best. But worth every inch of pain to hang out with my motorcycle family. Next year I pray that I'll have a dual sport or dirtbike to trailer out. There were some incredible dirt roads out that way...

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Huge thanks to Kriega for letting me use their universal fit packs for this trip. And to BMW Motorcycles of San Francisco for having them in stock!  For more info about these packs, click here.

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I also went the fastest I've ever ridden in a straight line wearing my Schuberth helmet. Once again, it impressed me with it's wind resistance and comfort at 80+mph.

Riding down the Lost Coast

Mattole Road, California This past weekend, I went riding for the first time with the ladies of Pashnit.com to the Lost Coast along Northern California. I never imagined what I would be up against...

It was my first group ride with that many women (25!) and for that long, 3 nights and 4 days. It's also the furthest north I've ever gone on my motorcycle. These gals get together every year to do a long weekend of riding and they don't just ride to one place, either. We went to 3 different cities altogether.

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There's something different about riding with just women, it's not necessarily better than riding with a co-ed group but it's just different. Better in some ways for sure. I really had a great time and can't wait to do another weekend trip with these girls next year.

I'm contemplating trying to get a group of local friends together for an overnight, because I had such a kickass time. I've only got a few photos of day 3 (saturday) and day 4 (sunday) since I had a GoPro malfunction (i.e. me not knowing what setting I needed to use to take photos every 10 seconds) on friday.

Day 1 - Santa Rosa to Weaverville

With 350 miles ahead of us, I met a few girls in Santa Rosa on Thursday morning, and then we headed up 101 to meet a few more folks in Laytonville. After Garberville, we pulled off on the Avenue of the Giants.  If you've never ridden through the Redwoods before, it's something you don't want to miss. The road was perfectly paved and the traffic was fairly light. There are a few parking lots to pull off and walk down some trails to see them up close. I highly recommend riding or driving this road. Beautiful!

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Avenue of the Giants

Avenue of the Giants Hwy 254

After we visited with the big trees, we continued up 101, stopping quickly in Rio Dell for gas, and then onto 36 East. YES! I've heard so many good things about this road, and to finally ride it was awesome. Well paved, lots of nice moderate twisties and sweepers.

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I won't bore you with more of these awesome pics. Sadly, I didn't get any footage of Hwy 3 north, which is another kickass road with more tight twisties than 36.

We stopped briefly in Hayfork for a snack/break and then onward up 3 to 299 North to get to Weaverville, a sleepy little town.

Day 2 - Weaverville to Crescent City

Day 2 started early, with an 830am start after breakfast at 730. We started out north on 299, then north on 3. We stopped in Callahan, a very small (no services, except a small general store/post office) town off 3.

After Callahan, it was onward to the Forks of Salmon. We headed north on 3, stopped briefly at Etna (no services) and then headed south on Sawyers Bar Road to get to the forks.
Unfortunately, I didn't get any pics of this road :(
But it's a narrow, goaty ride at some elevation. It's paved, just a little bumpy. We rode along at 20-30mph and enjoyed the view. The ride along the river is beautiful, and at a few points, we saw people floating down the river on intertubes. It looked awesome, we were all jealous at how cool and comfortable they looked in the water.
It was really hot, so at one point we pulled over under some trees to take a break and relax. It was a really fun road with a fantastic view, and I highly recommend taking it.
We continued north on Salmon River Road, to get to Hwy 96 North. I was getting really tired by this point, thank goodness we stopped in Happy Camp for a late lunch. One of the few places to eat, called Pizza House. A small, family run shop that wasn't expecting 20+ women to show up, that's for sure. It felt great to sit down, have a couple slices and enjoy the air conditioning.
After filling our bellies and our gas tanks, we headed  north on Indian Creek Road which turns into Grayback Road as you head north to Oregon, the road turns into Co Hwy 5828 / NF 48, then that turns into Co Hwy 5560 to O'Brien. I don't think we stopped there, but we headed south on 199 and got to ride through the Redwoods again. That never gets old. My new friend Pyxie and I rode the final miles into Crescent City together. If you're looking for a kickass photographer in or near Sacramento, check out her website.
Hwy 101 to Crescent City
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We then stayed for the night at the Curly Redwood Lodge, made from one huge curly redwood tree. Oooo. We rolled in fairly late, so it was a very early night for me since we would be up early again to head over to the Lost Coast. YES!

Day 3, Crescent City to Shelter Cove. The Lost Coast.

I had really been looking forward to this part of the trip. But I had no idea what the lost coast was, or where it was, or how amazing it could be! It was miles and miles of goaty goodness. Although most people on sportbikes would never consider riding the roads I went down, I was looking forward to it and I knew I was going to have a great time with my friend Nancy. She had led us on all these incredible roads so far, and I trusted her to take us places that were fun and within our limits.

We never went down a long dirt road, although we did hit a small patch. Nor did we cross any rivers or mud tracks. We just hit some of the most amazing roads the coast has to offer, and more.

It was a foggy, cold start.  We started south on Highway 101 and then took exit 765, Newton B Drury Parkway.

As you head down 101, right after you pass Orrick, after Hilton Road, turn off onto the Old State Highway. This was another gem that I also missed on my camera. If you look at the google maps I put together, I highlighted this part in red. I know not everyone will love this road, but if you're up for it, it's well worth the short detour.

Apparently it was a part of the old state highway, so unfortunately it's a little overgrown, goaty and darkish. But, the road is still open because people actually live there! It was a little creepy but oh so fun. We only went ~25mph since it was pretty narrow even though it was a 2 way road. We only ran into a few cars coming along the opposite direction and they were easy to pass. It was twisty, tight and bumpy. What was really cool was seeing these old houses that you knew people were still living in. But how? It was like going back in time.

We then kept on down 101 south and stopped for a tasty lunch in Ferndale. It's a really cute town with antique stores, boutiques and other shops that we didn't have time to check out. Because we had somewhere to go!

From Ferndale, we headed south on Mattole Road. Basically, this road takes you all the way down a good chunk of the lost coast. This time, I had my GoPro ready to go.

Started a little bumpy and then went back and forth between bumpy to smooth, ultra bumpy and then smooth again until we dropped down to the coast.

Lost Coast Mattole Road

 

Lost Coast Mattole Road

 

For some reason, I didn't get any pics from Honeydew to 101 :( :(. I don't know if I forgot to restart the camera, or if my battery died, which sucks because this was SO SO awesome. Switchbacks with elevation! One of the highest decreasing radius turns I've ever ridden. The turn went up this steep hill, so steep that I couldn't see it until I was facing it. At one point I was looking down at the bottom of the turn and I could see the next one because we were going downhill! The part where Mattole Road turns to Bull Creek Flats is soooooo good. If you love tight, twisty turns, you'll love it.