Photos and words by Chhun Tang
The trip was more of everything than I could have imagined. There were plenty of moments of anxiety, nervousnous, stress but the joy of riding the open road in places I had never seen and feeling that sense of freedom was moved me to the core. Experiencing this country on a motorcycle is unlike anything else.
Here's how the trip went down day by day...
Santa Ana, CA to the Sawtooth National Forest, ID
July 19-29, 2015
3,257 miles (give or take 100 or so)
Santa Ana, CA to Bridgeport, CA
Adam and I set out from Anaheim, where he lives, about 6:15 am, gassed up and hit the road. Getting out of the Los Angeles/Orange County area of Southern California takes a little time, it's a solid couple of hours before the Sierras. But once out and headed up highway 395, the views of the Eastern Sierras are incredible. We reached Bishop by about 12:30 where we grabbed some BBQ for lunch and took a nap at a nearby park. At that point, it was nice to be off the bikes. Hopped back on 395 and headed north stopping to see Mono Lake and settling at the Travertine Hot Springs just outside of Bridgeport, CA. While sitting in the hot spring, we met Joaquin who helped us celebrate the first days ride, and my first time in a hot spring, with a couple of ice cold Sierra Nevadas. Perfect way to end the day.
Bridgeport, CA to Lakeview, OR
We woke up to a beautiful morning near the hot spring overlooking Bridgeport. Camp was packed up as quick as a whip and we made for the gas station. Once we filled up, we said our good byes, as this is where we parted ways, Adam was heading back home and I was heading to Bellevue Idaho to meet up with a friend. Admittedly, after we split up, I felt a strong sense of anxiety and reality hit me. I thought to myself, "this shit is real." Being on a vintage bike, it was always in the back of my mind that it may breakdown at some point and now being by myself, that responsibility would be all up to me. But that also came with a sense of freedom, to do what I set out to do in the way and time I wanted. Kept going north on 395 through some fantastic scenery and ended up in Lakeview, Oregon.
Lakeview, OR to Ketchum, ID
Had to book it this day to make it to Bellevue, ID to meet Ashly who was riding out from Livingston, MT on her '83 BMW R80RT to ride the Sawtooth area with me. Did a little over 400 miles to get to the meeting spot, through eastern Oregon and western Idaho including Boise. Interstate 84 in Idaho sucked ass, it was hot, breezy and not very scenic. We looked for a place to stay in area but most of it was booked. Who knew?! Ended up in Ketchum and celebrated the days ride properly....with a couple of drinks!
Ketchum, ID to Craters of the Moon National Monument to Smiley Creek Lodge, ID
We greeted the day with some coffee and bike trouble. After having gotten the green light from her mechanic before leaving, Ashly now had problems starting her bike up. Not quite knowing how it would do, she decided to gamble and ride it back home. I decided to stick around the area, with bad weather coming in, to wait out the rain before riding the epic stretch I had gone out there for. I still had most of the day so I headed for the Craters of the Moon National Monument, about 30 miles away. Ended the day enjoying a burger and beer a little further north into the park at Smiley Creek Lodge, a quaint lodge with cabins, tee pees, a great view of the Sawtooths and friendly faces. It was perfect.
Day 5 (the day I rode the Sawtooth National Forest)
Smiley Creek Lodge, ID to Pine Flats Campground, ID
Quite possibly the best day I have had for the past couple of years. It started with a great breakfast, then a short 5 mile hike a local suggested, which ended with a fantastic view of the Sawtooths, then the ride I set out to do and ended with a great camp site with an epic hot spring. It was truly worth the three days ride out to Idaho to do this ride, I would do it again in a heart beat. The road through Sawtooth National Forest was in great condition, curvy and swooping but not corners so tight that I wasn't able to just enjoy the surroundings, there were very few cars on the road and it was about 75 degrees and partly cloudy. I actually double backed to ride a section of it at the end. I capped off the day sitting in a clear hot spring pool that had a 15 foot hot water fall pouring into it while watching the sunset over the Payette River chatting with a fellow rider from Brooklyn, Ross. Hard to beat a day like that.
Pine Flats Campground, ID to Ochoco Divide Campground, OR
After coming out of the Sawtooth area, rode through Boise and into Eastern Oregon. That area wasn't quite as scenic and beautiful as some of the other areas of Oregon that I later saw. It became more and more beautiful as I gained elevation and made my way further west. My last gas stop for the day was in Dayville where I met William Galloway. In talking with him, I learned he had set off about a week before, riding a bicycle on what was to be a ride across the country. This wasn't his first foray into getting across the country of his own power, he had walked across America back in the 90's. While at the gas station, I spoke with the owner about camp spots further west and I ended up at the one she recommended, pulling in to Ochoco campground right as it was getting dark.
Ochoco Divide Campground, OR to Etna, CA
Passed through Bend on my way to Crater Lake. The lake itself is almost other worldly. The views of the lake were stunning and the areas leading to and from it were as well. Riding the rim road definitely had its moments as it would open up to dramatic views from time to time. Only problem was that I was enjoying it along with seemingly everyone else within the state of Oregon. It's a must ride destination, just don't do it on a weekend. Ever. From there I headed south, passing by Mt. Shasta before ending up in Etna. If you've never been, Etna is a great little town tucked into Scott Valley and has a great brewery where you'll commonly see PCT hikers and folks on their hawgs.
Etna, CA to Mattole, the Lost Coast, CA
I almost went off the road twice. Sketchy for sure! Heading out of Etna on highway 3, there were two times where the curves on the mountain road were a little too tight and my front tire was about an inch away from going over. No joke. That scared the shit out of me and I went extra slow. After coming out of the mountains, it was a sight for sore eyes seeing the Pacific. Off of the freeway, I had to ride on what was supposed to be a road but might as well not have been paved. After taking forever to get there, I reached my friend's cabins in Mattole, on the Lost Coast. I was greeted by sweet genuine people and treated to a home cooked meal.
Took a break from riding to enjoy the Lost Coast. It started out with a delicious breakfast, then it was bike check up time before heading to the beach. The BMW was making some noise and the two sides seemed to firing slightly off. Adjusted the valves and checked out some things, then crossed my fingers it would get me home. A leisurely day enjoying a part of the coast that's hard to get to and some great company.
Mattole, the Lost Coast, CA through the Redwood National Park to Monterey, CA
Got my ass up early to make it down to Monterey. Getting out was as treacherous as getting in, the road was terrible. Once out though, I was in the Redwood National Park. Insanely epic. This was my second favorite place on the trip after the Sawtooth. The scenery and the feel of the place was so peaceful and almost dreamlike. Because of all the trees, the light was very diffused and some areas almost glowed from the sun. After leaving what seemed like Middle Earth, I soaked up the salty air, ocean views, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and split some hairy lanes as I headed down the coast to Monterey.
Monterey, CA to Santa Ana, CA
The morning started off with a trip to Laguna Seca where Tara was taking the California Superbike class, where they happen to run BMW S100RRs. A vintage BMW at a BMW race school, too perfect. Met some great people there and the mechanics were super cool and helped me tune up my bike a little bit. Jumped back on the bike after lunch and headed toward home on PCH. Beautiful coastal scenery and rolling hills, perfect way to end a great day on an amazing trip.
Here are my thank yous - I was fortunate enough to have a lot of time to myself but I was also able to share the experience with people I knew. Very thankful to — Tara who put me up in Monterey and invited me to her Superbike class, Tim and his family who welcomed me to their cabin at the Lost Coast, Adam who rode up with me on day one and made sure I was prepared for the journey alone, Sharon for opening up her home in Etna and Ashly (of Little Jane and the Pistol Whips) who rode 400 miles from Livingston, MT to hang out for a night — for being part of the journey. And along with them, there were all the people I had met that were also in transit, coming or going somewhere as well — Tony from Tucson who was heading from Oregon to the BMW rally in Billings, MT, JC who kept crossing paths with me through Oregon and into Idaho, Kevin from Ashland, OR whom I had dinner with in Lakeview and was riding around with no agenda, Joaquin who made sure I celebrated my first day of my ride and my first time in a hot spring properly, with an ice cold Sierra Nevada beer, Ross who I met at the Pine Flats campground and was on his way back to Brooklyn after already been to the Oregon coast and said something to me that I didn't understand at the time but I would later come to know the exact feeling he described, and to all the others that made it unforgettable. And of course thanks to Nick who helped me with my bike maintenance and preparation for the trip. I wouldn't have been able to do it without him. And Gabefor holding down things at my store and my loft.