Preparation Update: T-minus 52 days
Updated: Jul 21, 2018
Most of the journey will be on interstate highways, but a few of the roads I will travel are legendary.
By the time it's over, my adventure will have covered approximately 5,000 miles. Most of those miles will consist of Interstate highways, city streets, and small-town byways. However, as I've been researching various roads along my planned route I have discovered that some of those roads are legendary, carrying histories and stories all their own. I intend to explore these strips of history and add their stories to my own.
Location: Laramie, WY to Saratoga, WY
Distance: 97 miles
Day 3 of my journey will take me north from Denver to Laramie, WY along Interstate 80. However, rather than continuing on I-80 another 79 miles to Walcott, WY, I will be turning west on Snowy Range Road (Highway 130), and following it 98 miles through Saratoga to Walcott. Closed during the winter, this amazing highways carves through rolling hills framed by distance, snow-capped mountains, and punctuated by glacial lakes and hot springs. One of the most beautiful stretches of road anywhere in the Rocky Mountain Range the Snowy Range Scenic Byway this road passes through the Medicine Bow–Routt National Forest, which has been populated by several Native tribes for more than 8,000 years.
Location: Truckee, CA to Soda Springs, CA
Distance: 10 miles
At 766 miles, Day 4 is the longest single leg of my journey. I’ll be hot-footing it out of Salt Lake City and hoping to get to San Francisco before the sun gets too low and I’m forced to ride right into the sunset or worse, forced to navigate the Bay Area in the dark. I’ll be pressed for time, but I really cannot resist this short little historic detour off I-80 just across the Nevada border in California. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, The Donner family were part of a settler group that set out from Missouri in 1846, following the Oregon Trail west. The hardships and disaster they encountered as they attempted to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains into California killed many in the party and led others to resort to cannibalism in order to survive. The story is one of the most infamous tales from the American period of Western expansion.
Location: El Sobrante, CA to Castro Valley, CA
Distance: 38 miles
After taking a break from the road on day 5, Day 6 of my journey will see me riding with friends in the hills above the eastern Bay Area. While the route utilizes four different roads, the highlight of this ride will be Skyline Boulevard, featuring scenic overlooks that provide some absolutely gorgeous views of San Francisco, Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, and the city of Oakland.
Pacific Coast Highway 1 (partial)
Location: Bodega Bay, CA to Hardy, CA
Distance: 129 miles
I will be leaving the Bay Area on Day 8, heading west on I-580 over San Francisco Bay, then turning north and following Highway 101 north to Cotati. From there, I’ll head west again until I connect with Pacific Coast Highway 1 in Valley Ford. Ten more miles and the PCH turns north at Bodega Bay and hugs the California coastline all the way to Hardy before turning inland and terminating just short of Leggett.
California’s Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most famous roadways in the world. The southern portions, especially Big Sur in Monterrey just south of San Francisco, get most of the press…and tourists. North of the Bay Area, however, the PCH becomes increasingly more rugged and remote, dotted with villages that got their start during the late 1800s when lumber was king in the region.
Location: Myers Flat, CA to Scotia, CA
Distance: 25 miles
Located about 40 miles north of Leggett along Highway 101 is the world-famous Humboldt Redwoods State Park. You might not recognize the name immediately, but every classic image you have seen of California Redwood trees was likely taken here. My plan during the Day 8 ride from San Francisco to Eureka is to exit Highway 101 at Myers Flat and ride the Avenue of the Giants scenic road, which parallels the 101 but gives you time to appreciate the monstrous, 350-foot tall, 1,500-year-old sequoias.
California Highway 36 (The “Serpent to the Sea”)
Location: Fortuna, CA to Red Bluff, CA
Distance: 143 miles
I plan to overnight in Eureka, CA before backtracking south along Highway 101 to Fortuna, then heading east on California Highway 36 from the coast to the town of Red Bluff at Interstate 5. There are a lot of people who point to the legendary Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina as the curviest thrill ride a motorcyclist can take. The Dragon impresses with 318 curves over its 11 miles of road, but they say that California Highway 36, with 1,811 curves over 140 miles is in a league of its own. THIS is when having a naked sport-style bike will come in handy. My plan calls for me to be up and on the road by 6.00a every day. This, and the fact that I will be tackling this stretch of road on a Sunday morning, should allow me to enjoy the thrill of the ride without worrying too much about lumber trucks screaming around corners or over hill crests at me.
Crater Lake Loop (partial)
Location: Crater Lake National Park
Distance: 15 miles
Another beautiful (and creepy, for the paranoid among you) scenic byway that I cannot pass by without visiting. I’ll be most of the way to Bend, Oregon when I make it past Klamath Falls and Upper Klamath Lake. I’ll detour onto Highway 62, ride the western rim of Crater Lake, then catch County Road 138 back to Highway 97 and onward to Bend.
Historic Columbia River Highway (partial)
Location: The Dalles, OR to Troutdale, OR
Distance: 73 miles
On day 11, I’ll take the scenic route north out of Bend, OR. I plan to stay to the east, rather than cutting through the Mt. Hood National Forest, then turn west when I reach the Columbia River Gorge at The Dalles.
For those of you with an interest in geology, the Columbia River Gorge was carved out mostly as a result of a series of cataclysmic events following the last Ice Age. The melting glaciers created and reformed Glacial Lake Missoula, which would periodically experience a rupture of the rock and ice dams that contained its waters. Periodic glacial lake outburst floods would send huge amounts of water streaming across eastern Washington state. Those floods scoured the area to create the Scablands in eastern Washington state before being channeled to carve out what is now known as the Columbia River Gorge. As you might imagine, the geography is both beautiful and inconsistent. As a result, there are a number of scenic highways and byways I’ll be riding as I turn west at The Dalles and head toward Portland, including the Columbia River Highway (Oregon Highway 30) and the Lewis and Clark Highway (Washington Highway 14).
Hood Canal (eastern leg of the Olympic Peninsula Loop)
Location: Olympia, WA to Port Townsend, WA
Distance: 99 miles
Day 12 will see me getting a jump on the rush hour traffic as I pass through Portland and turn north along 1-5. At Olympia, WA, I’ll jog west and follow scenic Highway 101 north along Hood Canal, the longest fjord in the U.S. At Discovery Bay, I’ll continue north along Highway 20 to Port Townsend so I can get a look at the second-greatest concentration of Victorian architecture in the U.S. (next to San Francisco). That’s as far north as I go; I’ll head south from there for my stay in Suquamish, just above Bainbridge Island and across Puget Sound from Seattle.
Hurricane Ridge Road
Location: Port Angeles, WA
Distance: 20 miles
About an hour ride west of Suquamish along Highway 101 is the quaint little town of Port Angeles. Situated on the southern edge of town is the Olympic National Park Visitors Center and the gateway to one of the most spectacular climbs in the state: Hurricane Ridge Road. The road climbs more than 6,000 feet (2,000m) in just under 20 miles. After a long series of hair-raising sweeps and tight turns, riders are rewarded with an unparalleled view of the Olympic Mountain Range.
:: UPDATE ::
Hurricane Ridge Road will spend the next 5 months under construction due to storm damage. As a result, visitors can expect severe traffic delays. I don't think I'll be riding 80 miles from Puget Sound to Port Angels just to sit in traffic on a narrow mountain road. It looks as though this bit of road candy will have to wait until my next trip out West. :/
:: NEW ::
Location: Lewiston/Clarkston valley, ID/MT (confluence of the Clearwater River and the Snake River)
Distance: 7.3 Miles
I'll head out of Seattle on I-90 for almost 150 miles before I cross the Columbia River, dip south to County Road 26, then head east Colfax, WA heading south again along Highway 195. Highway 195 is absorbed into Highway 95 just above the twin cities of Lewiston and Clarkston (get it? LewisTON and ClarkSTON? Explorers Lewis and Clark figure heavily into the history and mythos of the Pacific Northwest). Now, you can take the newer, sweeping Highway 95 around North Lewiston, or you can dive almost straight down into the valley using the Old Spiral Highway. This stretch of road is noteworthy because of its 64 turns and 2,000 feet of elevation change in just over seven miles.
:: NEW ::
The Northwest Passage Scenic Byway
Location: Lewiston, ID to Lolo, MT
Distance: 202 Miles
The primary road heading east out of Lewiston, ID, is Highway 12, also known as the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway. While the legendary Lolo Pass (the eastern portion of the byway) gets all the press, this entire scenic stretch of Highway 12 is steeped in history. The highway follows the approximate path Lewis and Clark followed as they crossed the Rocky Mountains via the Lolo Pass and made their way to the Snake River. There is no fuel to be had once you reach the Nez Pierce-Clearwater National Forest, so I'll refuel in Kamiah before tackling the pass itself. Once I hit Syringa, It's another 117 miles through the forest and across the continental divide to Lolo, MT.
Location: Ovando, MT to Avon, MT
Distance: 32 miles
I will spend Day 14 riding over 660 miles. After pounding east on the I-90 interstate, then winding my way through forests and mountain passes, I’ll treat myself to one of the great rides in the state of Montana: The Wonderful 141. An hour east of Missoula on County Road 200 west, I’ll reach the junction with Highway 141. While it’s only 32 miles from there to Avon, riders I’ve met cannot say enough about the beauty and solitude of that stretch of highway. It will be a nice, relaxing ride before taking Highway 12 into Helena and a much needed night of sleep before the last two legs of my journey.