Finally in California! Now that I have turned south and am within reach of my last couple of goals for this trip, I can feel a change. It was still cold and foggy this morning, but it's easier to keep riding. I feel some anticipation for turning toward home now. And I have a healthier definition of what "home" really is and what it means to me, too. I believe that at the end of this trip I will definitely feel much more like I've come home than I have so far this year. At least I hope so.
On the recommendation of one of the California cachers familiar with the area, I sought out the Avenue of the Giants. This is a stretch of 2-lane about 30 miles long that runs parallel to highway 101. The road was was built in such a way as to leave the trees alone as much as possible. This means that there are places where I could stick a hand out and touch a tree on my way past sometimes. The road is not very technically demanding for a rider, but it gets tough when you try to look up and see the tops of the trees. They are just so incredibly tall (some over 300 feet and 3000 to 5000 years old) that you get vertigo just trying to take it all in. I took a couple of pictures, but I don't think any photograph can give a good sense of scale of these things. And they almost don't seem real. Most of these redwood trees are perfectly straight and perfectly tapered. All you'd have to do is knock the branches off a fallen tree (don't even THINK of cutting one of these things down - I'd beat you myself) and you'd have a perfect building log a couple HUNDRED feet long. Just amazing. It was difficult leaving this path and getting back on the highway, but I had a lot of miles to cover today.
A few hours and a few small towns later, I was on the northern outskirts of San Francisco. I had been here sixteen years before when the ship on which I was stationed made a port call here, so I wanted to see how things had changed (or hadn't changed) and get a few pictures. I had thought of cutting around the city to save time, but I really felt like staying true to the "mission" of this ride, so I drove through. I stopped at an overlook just west of the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. Hundreds of pictures have been taken from this spot (including an opening scene in Charmed), but no one else's had me in them, so you're just going to have to suffer with another vanity shot. I then drove into the city, where the highway turns into Lombard Street. Another famous landmark of the city, one block of this street is the steepest in the city (some say the world) and does eight switchbacks in one block. So of course I had to ride the bike down it. I parked at the bottom and tried to get a good shot. You can't really see the street, but you can definitely see how steep it is. Then I turned around and took this shot of Coit Tower. After that, I went down to the Ghirardelli chocolate factory and bought candy bars fresh from the factory for my wife and daughter. Although there isn't much remarkable about the picture, I have an identical one that I took sixteen years ago from the same spot. Only this one's got that awesome Harley in it. Finally, I rode a couple of blocks down to Fisherman's Wharf, but couldn't find any parking for motorcycles (the lots and the parking garages don't allow them for some reason!) so I took a cable car picture and headed out of town.
I got back onto 101 and headed south again. I ran into some light rain for about a half hour, but thanks to leathers and a windshield I was dry again half an hour after it stopped. That had been my first encounter with precipitation since I started this journey. My final goal for the night was Lompoc and the home of a geocacher I have been friends with through the discussion forums for a couple of years now. Cache Viking is a very patriotic guy and is not shy about showing it. While I was in Iraq, he sent a picture that his daughter had drawn, along with a poem she had written. I have them framed at home now. I arrived at their home just in time for dinner, and CV was grilling chicken. That guy definitely knows how to set fire to poultry. I recommend that he post his secret recipe here to share it with the world. CV gave me the tour of "The Reno" as he has named their house after he and his wife did EXTENSIVE renovations and add-ons to it. He was very modest about the whole thing, just pointing to things and telling how it used to look and what they did to change it. But don't let him fool you. He and his wife did most of the work themselves and they have added tens of thousands of dollars to the value (not to mention the beauty) of their house. He is entitled to a great deal of pride in his work. It's a great place. I then sat down to dinner and met the rest of his family. We spent another couple of hours talking cars and motorcycles and politics late into the night and then I crashed in their guest bedroom on the most comfortable bed in the quietest house and neighborhood I had been in for quite some time. I had ridden 585 miles today, putting me at 4507 for the trip, and it was good to get some peaceful rest.