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.”
Me and Charlie (the chick in “Charlie and Steve”) at the Nosh Cafe. Hey! Matching shirts!
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.
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. Patience, I’m new to this selfie stick thing.
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.
Fairmont. Ritz Carlton. Waldorf-Astoria. Town House. Been there. Done that.
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 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!
Whew! Planning to sleep with one eye open.