ROL Day 1&2: San Jose to Shelter Cove



The Range of Light Gypsy Tour is a ride that every motorcyclist in at least Northern California should do at least once. The premise is pretty simple: all you know at the beginning is the start point. This year it was in Santa Rosa at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. Given that it always competes with something on Labor Day weekend I’ve never actually done the ride. This year was going to change that.

I met Nick the night before I was ready to leave for the ride. We cross paths online and decided to grab a drink. He was from England and very much into motorcycling. I was just in the motorcycling 🙂 I come to find out he’s also a type I which is really cool. I don’t think I’ve met another type I who is an avid motorcyclist. I asked him what he was planning to do for the long weekend and he gave me the obvious response: “I’m in a strange land, don’t know anybody, and don’t know what’s interesting to do. Thus I’m not sure.” I had told him my plans and I’m guessing his wheels were spinning as well as mine.

I tossed out there, “Why don’t you come on the tour?” I had figured he was going to turn me down as I was nearly a complete stranger. Two bit of my surprise, he said “Yes!” Given that departure was less than 24 hours away we both had a bit of planning to do. He didn’t have any camping gear, riding gear, and I didn’t know how to fit everything on the bike. With a bit of ingenuity and trimming down to only what we absolutely needed, it all fit!

We didn’t actually get out of town until about 9 o’clock that night. Fortunately Santa Rosa was only about two hours away and was the late departure traffic was virtually nonexistent. I wasn’t sure how we do two up as every passenger tends to be different. Often times passengers with motorcycling experience make for worse passengers as you both tend to steer the bike rather than the passenger just following. My experience this time was the rule rather than the exception at first but we both settled into a decent groove 10 or so miles from home.

There is no traffic all the way up to San Francisco yet we had our fair share of lights on 19th Ave. I’ve lived here nearly 15 years and every time I go over the Golden gate Bridge it’s still an awesome experience! There was virtually no wind nor any clouds and the bridge just gleamed in the dark night. Once we crossed over into Marin County there is a fair amount of wind blowing us around the US 101.

I think we were just about the last ones in at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. I really had no idea where I was going and got lucky to find to riders out on a beer run. They were riding BMWs so I knew I’d found somebody who could show me where I was going. The directions were actually pretty simple :-). We turned on to this road, then to that road, then to that road, onto a pedestrian path, through pedestrian gate down another road and out to the campsite. I totally could’ve found that in the dark! 🙂

As with all late nights, morning came early. The rest of the group was already headed to breakfast as I was getting up. I met the full group that I was going to be riding with the next few days: Steve, Rob, and, Carrie, and Dave.

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Also in the restaurant were Laura and Jimmy from South Bay Riders.

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The destination for today was Shelter Cove. I was excited that we were going there as it’s a very cool spot but I knew it was going to be a cold night. We had traveled light anticipating that would be a bit further inland and not directly on the coast.

The Gypsy Tour has a couple of components to it. The most obvious is the ride. The organizers choose great roads that not many know about all throughout Northern California. The other piece that I didn’t know was there was an integrated poker run as well. There were six different pieces of trivia that you needed to capture to complete it. For each question you got right they gave you a card. They also gave the two cards for free. At the end of the day you would choose your best five cards out of eight and play your hand against everybody else. The other thing that I didn’t know is that cheating was encouraged.

The main route crisscrossed between the coast and the US 101 corridor. Since Nick and I were still getting used to the motorcycle thing we decided to reduce our miles a little bit and ride straight up the coast. It was foggy just about all the way there except for a few places of sun. It had been a long time since I spent time on the Sonoma County coast and there were a few places that were just beautiful!

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We decided that lunch was going to be in Fort Bragg. For is populated as California is the coast tends to be fairly remote. You have to spend some time thinking about where you want to eat. Being diabetic makes it a bit more challenging as you don’t always have the luxury of eating when you want to. One of the things that was nice about traveling with Nick is that we both understood each others’ adventure with blood sugar management.

Lunch was at Captain Flint’s. I wasn’t getting a lot of good guidance about where to go for lunch out of Yelp so I just started riding and ran into this place.  It did have a pretty view of Noyo Harbor.

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Captain Flint’s (C is average. No grade inflation here):

SeatingA-We arrived during the busy time but got a seat right by the window.
AtmosphereBThe restaurant had lots of natural light in it and felt very nautical.  It took advantage of the area it was in.
Wait StaffCPar for the course.  Our waitress was good, but not above average.
FoodDThe clam chowder was below average.  They didn’t offer a bread bowl option and the soup was not as thick as other places.
ValueCSeemed to be fair for the area, but food quality was below par.
OverallC-Next time I’d bet my money somewhere else.

Once we got north of Fort Bragg it was pretty smooth sailing all the way into Garberville. Right before we headed back into the woods from the coast we stopped at Westport Union Landing beach.  Nick wanted to go swimming in the ocean even though it’s much colder than he’s used to.  I give him props for doing it!

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The beach had a ton of sea gulls around.  The birds were quick at your side to see if they could score a quick meal!

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The last 22 miles Highway 1 are well known for being a great piece of asphalt in that area. Having ridden Branscomb Road just a few weeks ago it was nice to compare the two. Highway 1 has better pavement from beginning to end. Branscomb Road is the typical setup of great pavement in the east and somewhat lousy pavement in the west. That being said I prefer Branscomb Road. The traffic is a little lighter and the pavement on the east side is a little better so it’s worth the cost of the extra miles and a little rougher pavement on the west side.

The road down the Shelter Cove is great. It’s got lots of twists and turns, strong elevation change, and very little traffic I thought the bike was going to be a lot to handle but it proved to be quite a bit of fun. We got into Shelter Cove righted about sunset and the fog was nearly nonexistent. It was still a bit cold but wow what a great sunset!

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Dinner was great after a long day of riding.  They had tri tip sandwiches that hit the spot!

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After dinner there was a roaring campfire which kept the cold at bay.  There was realativly little fog and with a full moon it was a beautiful night out on the coast. However, once I left the warmth of the fire, the truth set in.  There was no way around it: this night was cold. 🙁 The good news was morning came quickly and it was time to go riding again!


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