Nuns and Bikers.

“A nun and a biker walk into a bar…” began no joke ever.

I think the nicest types of people I’ve probably ever met are nuns and bikers. So far, I haven’t met any nuns on this trip, unless they were incognito. You know, undercover nuns. I have, however, met a number of bikers. Well, more like I’ve talked to a number of bikers. I have yet to meet a biker-nun (nun-biker?), but I’m sure they exist.

First, let’s get the nun thing out of the way. Okay, I know some nuns. My daughter, Kelsey, attended Louisville High School, an all-girls catholic school, and we got to know a few of the nuns, who are Sisters of St. Louis, through parent organization meetings and the like. Many of the sisters have become our friends. Why? Because they are just outstanding human beings —  the kind of people you want to be associated with and wish you were like, short of, well, you know, the nun commitment thing. And I’m a dude. Anyway, these women have devoted their lives to making the world a better place, which is usually a cliché, but absolutely the day-to-day deal for the Sisters of St. Louis. We’ve become close to a couple of them, Sister Brid and Sister Michele, and have been fortunate to stay with them whenever we’re in New York City — and they with us.

What I love about the sisters is their acceptance of all people, good and bad, and the sisters’ unshakable belief that we are all worthy of grace and have value. I come from the business world where success is measured by one’s ability to “scale up” an idea – put a product into as many hands, and for as much profit, as possible. The sisters help others find their way and are content to do it one person at a time. So I like nuns.

Bikers are also, generally, good people. I know some bikers. To be clear, I’m not a biker, per se. I think of myself as a “rider.” I ride all styles and brands of motorcycles – call me “bike agnostic” — and I don’t really embrace the perceived biker “culture” of Harleys and leather outerwear. I don’t have a problem with that culture, but it’s just not me.

What I like about bikers/riders is that we share a common love of two-wheel-driven exposure to the elements found on the road (or trail, or track, or whatever). And we’ll talk about it to any other biker/rider who’ll listen. And to some who won’t.

It seems that everywhere that I’ve stopped on this trip – for meals, butt-unnumbing or an Advil reload – I’ve gotten into a conversation with a fellow rider. It’s summertime on perfect roads, so they’re everywhere. We pass each other by the hundreds, going in opposite directions on the highway and, most often, returning the familiar two-fingers-held-low wave that says, “Yo, you and I get it.”

When we’re stopped and talking, the tone is collegial and the topic is always about the ride. We almost never speak to drivers in cages (cars), unless they start up the conversation and have that “Man, I used to ride a bike…” look in their eyes, as their kids drop Cheerios and apple juice between the seats of their mini-van. I don’t know, it’s just an unwritten rule. “I’m cool with you asking me about my bike and where I’m headed, but you gotta start the convo, Mac.”

But fellow riders? Jeeze, we get right into it and only stop talking because we have another hundred miles or so to ride before we reach our destinations.


This is my bike. You wanna talk about it?

Ship Yard

Random thing along the way that I can’t explain. If there’s a ship in the yard, would that make it a shipyard? Help me out here.

I got into a conversation with a biker yesterday as we both were checking into the Motel 6 in Coos Bay, Oregon (truly much nicer than the parking garage suite). Two dudes, who’d never met before, riding different bikes and within 10 minutes we were like long lost pals, deep in conversation about our shared passion. We decided get some dinner at a nice Coos Bay workaday burger and beer joint called “Walt’s Pourhouse.” Get it?

My instant pal, Randy, hails from the Florida Keys and is a retired air traffic controller. I know a little about aviation and air traffic controllers. You’d think a guy who made a career out of talking to people – lots of people – all day long would be kind of reticent. Not Randy. Man, we talked for over three hours about life, the places we’ve been and, of course, motorcycles.


My new riding buddy, Randy. 11 years my senior, riding 9,000 miles to my measly 4,000. Badass. Keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down, brother!

Randy rides a top-of-the-line Harley, his 18th bike I believe he said, and is currently on a 9,000 mile, “round the US trip.” His target destination is Sturgis, South Dakota, where about 500,000 (mostly) Harley riders converge each summer to hang out and, you guessed it, talk about bikes. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the event. BMW has a similar annual event, but only draws about 7,000 attendees.

Grants Pass

More randomness. Grant’s Pass is NOT a small town. (Inside joke)

Randy and I agreed to meet this morning and ride together for about a hundred miles along the central coast of Oregon from Coos Bay to Newport. This has some of the most beautiful coastline you’ll ever see — from a motorcycle or a cage (car). We stopped for breakfast at a joint called the Newport Café, which was voted “#1 Breakfast in Newport.” It says so on the sign out front. Who am I to argue? We both had the breaded and fried razor clams and eggs for breakfast (OMG! Just…OMG!). We talked for at least another hour about bikes and life before Randy headed east towards Sturgis and I continued north. If clocks didn’t move and the sun never set, we’d probably still be there debating the merits of liquid-cooled motors.

Newport CafeRazor Clam Bfast

Razor clams, breaded and fried, with a Lipitor chaser. Worth it. Why is the crab smiling while holding fries and a soda? Think he knows what comes next? If everything I liked to eat was presented in it’s cute animal form, I’d probably become a vegan right quick.

More fantastic Oregon coastal vistas continued and, along the way, I stopped at the Tillamook Cheese Factory in (where else?) Tillamook. Ah-yup, they make a bunch of cheese there. Like 167,000 pounds per day. That’s what the sign said, anyway. I trust signs. You can watch the assembly line floor from above and behind glass on the self-guided tour, then walk through a salad bar type line to sample various Tillamook cheeses using a toothpick. Or fingers, if you’re a four-year-old. Yeef. I was probably there for a total of 22 minutes, including the time it took to secure my bike and gear. Go there, or don’t.

Tillamook Cheese Ext Tillamook Cheese Int

Those blocks of Tillamook cheddar cheese in the lower right corner weigh in at around 40 lbs. About right for my kinda cheeseburger.

Tillamook Cheese bar

The problem with the cheese sample bar is that most four-year-olds can’t read the sign that says, “Please use a toothpick to select samples.” Ew.

Oregon Coastline

Nope, still not sick of the views.

I arrived at my destination, Astoria, Oregon, in the late afternoon. Astoria is a city of 10,000 people on the Columbia River, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, and is the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies. The city lines the south banks of the Columbia River, and the north banks of Young’s Bay. What’s interesting about Astoria in pop culture is that the city was the filming location for “Kindergarten Cop” and, more famously, “Goonies.” I love both of these films (“It’s naht a toomah!”) and Astoria was the perfect backdrop, with a gentrified and hipster-vibed city center and classic Victorian homes on the hillside overlooking town. Just beautiful.

I watched the sun set on this warm evening at the Fort George Brewery and Public House, while sampling their small batch brews and enjoying a bowl of rich and spicy clam chowder. I guess today’s dining theme was “clams, two ways.”

Tonight, I’m staying at the Commodore Astoria Hotel, which is a funky, retro Euro-style hotel (as in a shared bath in the hallway, which is fine). I’m in comfortable room that’s apparently nowhere near the county jail.

Tomorrow I’ll cross the Astoria-Megler Bridge (a very imposing structure at 196 feet – can’t wait to see how windy it is on the GS) into Washington and head to Seattle to meet up with Dee, after she flies in tomorrow night. From there, the adventure really begins. Dee is much more outgoing than I am. She’s a great conversationalist and has the gift of being able to engage almost anyone. That said, if there’s a biker-nun in our path, trust me, Dee will find her.

Tsunami sign

Oh, okay. Wait… what?

Eureka! I Have Found It!

This is the motto of the State of California that appears on the Great Seal. It’s not an “official” motto of the State, but there it is. “Eureka” is a Greek word that translates into “I have found it,” so if you think about it, the unofficial motto of the State of California is actually redundant. “I have found it! I have found it!” Jeeze, calm down. Historically, “Eureka!” refers to the discovery of gold in California in 1849. The impact of the gold rush is that people moved here and now traffic sucks in LA.

Greetings from Eureka, California, where I’ve just finished day three of the Northwest Epic Ride (With a Twist). Let’s get you up-to-speed.

As planned, I left home Friday morning and rode to our ranch in Paso Robles. I’ve done this ride a few times and have discovered some great side roads you should check out sometime when you’re headed north. I usually take the San Marcos Pass/Highway 154 from Santa Barbara to Los Olivos. It’s a great alternative to the 101 beach view, although not always faster. From there, I took Foxen Canyon Road, which runs past some great wineries, like Fess Parker and Cambria Estates, and rolled into Santa Maria. Then I rode along the coast through little towns like Guadalupe (stuck somewhere in time around 1975) and Nipomo (just stuck). The last few miles into Paso Robles on the 101 were a traffic-filled mess (see gold rush above), as the Midstate Fair is in town, but whenever I walk through the door at the ranch, I exhale and say out loud, “We should live here.”


Rancho Deeluxe, Paso Robles. What’s not to like?

Saturday I started the day with breakfast at the Nosh Café in Paso Robles (solid eggs benedict) with my pal and ranch neighbor, Charlie. Charlie is married to Steve. Charlie is a chick. Steve isn’t. Steve and Charlie grow amazing wine grapes and Steve taught me the saying, “Wanna have a million dollars from the wine business? Start with two million dollars.”

Charlie and hank

Me and Charlie (the chick in “Charlie and Steve”) at the Nosh Cafe. Hey! Matching shirts!

Arroyo Seco Bridge

Single lane Arroyo Seco Bridge between Greenfield and Carmel Valley. Shhh… secret side road.

Then I was off on more side roads to San Jose and spent the night in the guesthouse of our good friends, John and Debra Murphy. Here’s how I know they’re good friends: they weren’t even home. Fortunately, John’s mom, Ellie, lives with John and Deb and her daughter, Eileen, was visiting from Reno. I made chicken marsala for dinner and had one of those amazing conversations with a wise person of a certain age (yeah, that’d be Ellie) who reminded me (without actually saying it like this) that life is beautiful and should be lived well. I just adore her.

Ellie and Hank

Me and Ellie. Pay attention and you might just learn a few things.

So, Eureka. I wasn’t sure if I’d even make it this far today. My usual mileage target is about 200-250 miles. I like riding side roads and stopping to look at stuff, so that can take a while. It often takes me six hours to travel 200 miles. Today I did 350 miles in about nine hours — and I’m really feeling those last 50 miles.

Bodega Bay Selfie

Bodega Bay. Patience, I’m new to this selfie stick thing.

Mendocino Coast

The Mendocino coastline. After 100-plus perfect panoramas of rocky shoreline, did I get bored? No. Duh.

I usually plan ahead for lodging, as is the case for most of this trip — and especially during the busy summer vacation months. But not today. I just didn’t know where I’d land. When I was about 100 miles out from Eureka, I called Dee, using the Cardo Scala Rider G9 communication system in my helmet that connects via Bluetooth to my mobile phone, and we started discussing lodging options. It’s good to have a competent travel planner for a spouse. The possible destination options included Garberville (original target), Fortuna (50 more miles) and Eureka (68 more miles). Long story short, Dee found a good deal on a Four-Star-TripAdvisor-rated motel in Eureka called the Town House Motel. Okay, said me. Give me the coordinates and I’ll drink a Red Bull for the additional mileage boost. The last 70 miles were through the Redwood Forest area, so the scenery was worth the effort.

Eureka has been going through some hard times. It’s like Stockton, California, but without the glitz. For you Midwesterners reading this, that’s like saying Akron is like Cleveland, but without, well, the glitz.

The Town House Motel hasn’t been spared, either. It’s on the main drag and conveniently located (I found out later) directly across the street from the Humboldt County Correctional Facility. The motel manager, who proudly displays his Four Star rating from TripAdvisor on the wall of the office, referred to the county joint as the “Humboldt Hilton.” Nice.

Town House Ext

Fairmont. Ritz Carlton. Waldorf-Astoria. Town House. Been there. Done that.

Humboldt Joint

The neighbors are staying across the street at the Humboldt County Correctional Facility.

My room, to be fair, is very clean. What makes it unique, however, is that it’s a ground floor room. In the parking garage. The Town House has two rooms in the parking garage. I really don’t know why someone would design something like this on purpose. My room is adjacent to the stairwell leading upstairs to the “regular” rooms and a 2006 Ford Expedition. I’ve included a photo as proof. From my room, I can hear the residents of the Humboldt Hilton talking loudly as they work out in the weight room. I’m being dead serious here. I can hear the weights clanking down as I write this.

Room With View

Room with a view. Of the parking garage.

Apparently I was the last to check in this evening and the Town House now had its “No Vacancy” sign sputtering intermittently out front as it partially illuminated the four or five panhandlers that I had to navigate and dole out cash to while walking to and from dinner. My thinking about this is that they’re human beings — like me and you — and are just trying to get by. Hell, who isn’t? I figure some loose change from me won’t make their lives any better or any worse, so I usually hand it over. Addiction is a day-by-day thing, you know?

I had dinner at the Lost Coast Brewery Pub, which was packed with Humboldt hipsters. Along with a pint of Lost Coast Blonde Ale I savored the signature beef stew, which is cooked in Lost Coast’s stout beer. A hearty reward after 370 miles of windy California coastline.

When I got back to my room – and after stripping every possible removable part from my bike and then parking it under a surveillance camera – I bolted the door, placed a chair to block it and sat rocking back and forth on the bed for a few minutes, comparing Eureka to what the apocalyptic city looked like in the film “Blade Runner.” Suddenly concerned about defending myself if things went south, I dug around in my tank bag looking for the little folding knife My Buddy, Bird, gave me. It always falls to the bottom and I was kind of worried that I wouldn’t find the only weapon – short of snappy dry wit – that I carry. Then…

Eureka! I have found it!

Pig sticker

Whew! Planning to sleep with one eye open.

Thataway, Redux

I’m lazy. I’ll admit it. I love to write, but hate the chore of the actual “writing” part. Perhaps more accurately I don’t type well, and because it slows down my creative process, I tend not to have the discipline to just sit down and write which is a quality that I admire in other writers. “Writers write,” I believe, is the adage.

I have friends and colleagues who write or publish something nearly… Every. Damn. Day. At the very least they re-post something interesting they’ve read, along with a comment or two. I don’t know how they do it. I’m so easily distracted by shiny objects and puppy videos that I haven’t posted to this blog in over a year. And even then I repurposed someone else’s Ride Report (see “Lifted Literary Longings”).

It’s not because I haven’t been traveling. Just like the Johnny Cash song, “I’ve been everywhere, man.” I’ve been back and forth across the US about five times. I ate three helpings of tuna poke on the Big Island of Hawaii, bruddah. I’ve taken two significant motorcycle rides; one on slab through the Shenandoah Valley and Smokey Mountains, the other off-road on the Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route (AZBDR) with the Smooth Crew. I bopped around Patagonia in South-Freakin’ America in January. Pura vida and great beefsteaks. I’ve even been to Akron, Ohio — twice in the past year. They have a very nice air and space (okay, mostly air) museum there.

So I’ve been around; seen me some airports. But I guess I didn’t have enough to talk about to motivate me to write and post my observations. Some of you reading this are incredulous at this comment. And because, like I said, I’m lazy.

Until now.

On Friday, July 24, 2015, I’m leaving on an Epic Ride — an Epic Ride with a twist. I’ll ride my trusty BMW R1200GS, “Baby,” from my home in Topanga north to Seattle, across Washington state on the North Cascade Highway and up into Canada. The farthest destination north will be Jasper, Alberta, then down the Icefield Parkway to Lake Louise, Banff and back into the US via Montana. From there, it’s Glacier National Park (which is currently on fire, yay), then Paradise Valley, Montana to visit my pal and former boss (he hates that title, but it makes it simpler to explain), Joe Phelps. Then it’s on to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Jackson Hole, Park City, Zion National Park (for the fourth time — and worth it, trust me), Las Vegas (because Vegas, baby! — and it’s on the way home) and then, well, home. 4,200 linear miles. 23 days. If all goes according to plan (HA! See “Smoothtah”), I’ll return home on Saturday, August 15.

Oh yeah, the twist? Dee is joining me for this trip. I’ll pick her up in Seattle and she’ll settle into the co-pilot position on the pillion seat.

Dee rode with me last year for a week down Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway through Virginia and North Carolina on a rented Honda Goldwing 1800. She’s solid when it comes to being both a traveling companion (always carries her own stuff) and a non-vehicle-operating motorcycle passenger, short of when she waves her hand in front of my face to get me to slow down instead of just saying it over the connected intercom in our helmets. Thankfully she spends about a third of her riding time asleep, so she doesn’t complain much. Yep, you read that correctly. Feel free to ask her about it.

So Baby has been outfitted, serviced and is ready to go. I’ve been fighting a summer cold which turned into this thing called “walking pneumonia,” which is laughable in that I didn’t walk much overIMG_4671 the past two weeks while hosting this crud. I’m on the mend and pretty much ready to go, as well.

Follow me (link below) and stay tuned for posts along the way — assuming, of course, that I don’t get lazy and watch puppy videos instead of writing.

Travel safe and often.