Howdy folks! Here we are again on another trip of a lifetime – The Pacific Coast Highway Tour and it’s an absolute corker!
2018 USA Pacific Coast Highway tour report!
Howdy folks! Here we are again on another trip of a lifetime – The Pacific Coast Highway Tour and it’s an absolute corker!
For a long time I have wanted to do the classic American road trip, I think it features on a lot of people’s bucket lists. Having done it twice now I can tell you it’s riding at it’s absolute best! The feeling of euphoria having the sun warm your back as you cruise down the West Coast through sleepy little seaside towns, the realisation of how small you are as you ride through the massive Redwoods and on to the foreboding Avenue of the Giants, the sense of achievement as you glide over the Golden Gate Bridge, the tranquillity as we head inland to the beautiful Yosemite national park, the excitement when you see the big lights of Las Vegas and stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon. All this is before we even get to the iconic Route 66…
It’s the ultimate road trip, that will have you grinning in your helmets all day long!
So without further ado, it’s time to introduce our riders
Adrian Green – Street Glide – Having joined us on the PNW tour finishing just 3 days before – Adrian was back from his mini break in Seattle and raring to go, trading the R1200GS for a Harley Street Glide. After a slightly nervous start on a bike he had never ridden before, they soon became firm friends and by the end of the trip he was chucking that Street Glide around like an absolute pro!
Stuart Briggs – R1200GS – Sue-Tart, Stu-rat… I mean Stuart, joined us for both America trips and unlike the other tour we managed to not lose him on a mountain! However, on this tour the American folk seemed to have a bit of a problem with his name. Poor guy! Luckily, equipped with a great sense of humour our Yorkshire lad found the funny side of it all.
David Allott – R1200GS – A Ducati rider at home and a regular Magellan rider. David is seen at the beginning of the day and more often than not seen at the end of the day in the pool or back from a run, when the rest of us are just arriving! A true gentleman, it was a pleasure to have you along for the inaugural PCH tour.
Phillip Head – Street Glide – Phillip is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, he kept us howling with laughter all day! Being the ultimate road trip he decided to rent a Street Glide and you could hear him coming a mile away! Not because of the loud Harley engine, but because of his sat nav shouting instructions through the sound system. It was so loud it made a poor woman jump in her car as he pulled up to the traffic lights next to her. TURN LEFT!
Ronnie & Sheena Stuart – R1200RT – These two are amazing! First time Magellanites and they knocked it out of the park, rocking about on that RT. Despite bringing two Sat Navs (both sending them back to Scotland) they made it in each day with big smiles on their faces and another little Ronnie joke to keep us all laughing! Welcome to the family guys.
Felix Billington – Honda Goldwing – Our fearless leader once again on the QE2! And occasionally ferrying me around having a nap on the back! As always he led the tour and made it look effortless!
Bill Douglas – Honda Goldwing – Bill is a real child at heart who delights in making me jump around every corner and chasing me around with caterpillars, but as soon as he gets on his bike it’s serious all the way making sure everyone is happy and safe. Living in Washington State he was a font of information having helped us on the recce tours. He was also pretty good with bringing me and Felix coffee every morning!
The Support truck crew
Judy Douglas – Dynamite comes in a small package as Bill would say. What an absolute rockstar she is! Not only for putting up with Bill, but for hauling a massive truck with a trailer and spare bike on the back! She handled it like an absolute pro! It was a pleasure to co pilot with you. We love Jude! We also love the treats she kept in the truck for those times we stopped and got peckish.
Naomi Sesstein (The person writing this) – Usually seen on a BMW F800R except seen on this trip from the top of my laptop having to work. I never get to have any fun!
Now you’ve met everyone and are sitting comfortably I shall begin…
Portland to Astoria
Ready, Steady, Go! ….
After a night of Elk burgers at Bill and Jude’s house our crew had all met each other and it was time to pick the bikes up and get this show on the road.
After pushing our way out of the city and some of us going on a magical mystery tour, we were soon on the right tracks and greeted with the wide open road.
Our first days riding saw us taking the twisty back roads following the Columbia River and at one point getting a charming ferry ride across it, on our way to the pretty seaside town of Astoria.
With only 3 hours riding from Portland we were in to our waterfront hotel nice and early. While some of us napped, the others got some bicycles from reception and went for a little ride around town.
After an afternoon exploring Astoria, it was time for dinner and it came in style in the waterfront restaurant and with David’s birthday to celebrate, we all sat down to a lovely meal with the pianist playing Elton John songs.
A lovely way to end our first day!
Astoria to Florence
Cheese, cheese and more cheese!…..
Day 2 of riding saw us on Highway 1, a spectacularly twisty road hugging the pacific coast passing through Seaside, Cannon Beach, Newport and then onto Florence. Morning coffee we took at Fort Clatsop, made famous by the Lewis and Clarke expedition as their most westerly point of progress and where they wintered. From here we carried on in the brilliant sunshine on a fantastic road (it was so good David decided to ride it twice!) and on to lunch at the Tillamook cheese factory for some cheese based loveliness. The grilled cheese here is to die for and the ice cream isn’t bad either!
After we had waddled back to our bikes, we hit the road again following the coast down to Florence and after a stop off at the sea lion caves we arrived into our hotel for the evening, right on the beach just in time for a lovely sunset.
Florence to Klamath
Play it again Phillip! …..
Staying once again on the beautiful coast road, we were crossing state lines today as we left Oregon for California and after a quick stop at a Harley dealership for some back rests for our Street Glide boys and some obligatory mooching around the dealership we were on our way to lunch.
Aptly named the Hungry Clam, we all sat down to a bowl of clam chowder right on the waterfront – on the border with the golden state.
An afternoon in the trees was next on the agenda as we made our way to the start of the Redwood national park, and past the trees of mystery to our hotel for the evening in Klamath.
On the outside this hotel does not look much but appearances can be deceiving. When you enter you are treated to wingback chairs, white linen tablecloths, luxury rooms and amazing views out over Klamath river.
The cherry on top of the cake though, was when Phillip found a piano in the dining room and serenaded us with a few songs while we waited for the grub to arrive.
Klamath to Miranda
Avenue of the Giants …..
Day 4 of riding was upon us and what a day it was! It was the day of the almighty Redwoods, and after a play with a friendly little cat we set out to embark on the beautiful ride. There were 2 options on offer today with a long ride into the Shasta Trinity national park or a shorter ride heading south after lunch, through the drive through tree and straight to the hotel. Our decisions were made when at morning coffee in Eureka the heavens opened and didn’t shut again! While most of us headed into the Redwood national park and on to the hotel, David and Stuart braved it on the longer ride.
As we made our way through the Redwoods the rain had subsided, and we were blessed with the leaves falling like blossom as we made our way through the giants on the twisty roads. After a slightly unplanned detour that involved everyone, including the truck to turn around on a steep hill with a vertical drop down the valley, we made our way onto the Avenue of the Giants and to our quaint log cabins. David and Stuart arrived some 3 hours later looking like drowned rats, but with big smiles on their faces! On that soggy note it was time for massive pizza’s and a few beers over the road. Lovely job!
Miranda to San Francisco
Oh look… seals?…..
The ride today is consistently voted the best motorcycle road in America and they aren’t wrong! Leaving the Avenue of the Giants with it’s 500 year old redwoods, we journeyed to Leggett to ride our bikes through the drive through tree.
From here the road broke out of the trees and opened up right onto the twisty coast road, we followed this all day and it just seemed to get better and better if not slightly exhausting! Jude looked like Popeye at the end of the day from turning the steering wheel so much!
For lunch we were right on the marina for some clam chowder and a relax in the sun. We were especially proud of the seal sightings…later to be discovered as planks of wood. David Attenborough we are not!
The afternoon came with more spectacular scenery and hairpins as we continued on the coast road and through sleepy seaside towns all the way to San Francisco, where we would spend the next 2 nights.
Once in, we all met up for a swanky Italian meal down the road from our hotel and revelled in what a treat the day had been!
Rest day in San Francisco
Escape from Alcatraz! ….
Our rest day in San Fran came with various options for a good time! David and Stuart got straight back on the bikes for a spin around the cool city. Adrian, Phillip, Ronnie and Sheena got the early boat over to Alcatraz for a tour and after they had been allowed out, hit the town for a walkabout and a go on those famous tram cars that run up and down the steep hills. Bill and Jude went to Chinatown then treated themselves to ice cream while they waited for the boat back to our hotel. A day well spent in our opinion!
San Francisco to Yosemite
I was wondering why I couldn’t see the road! …..
Day 7 started wet! Very, very wet! To the point we pretty much swam out of the car park, but as we got kitted up the blue skies were on the way right in time for the ride over the impressive Golden Gate Bridge. After getting through the middle of San Fran we were ready for a coffee however, after taking a wrong turn 5 minutes from our stop we ended up down a narrow dead end road with the truck and trailer. Some running up and down the street on the phone and sending of coordinates later, Bill came to the rescue and fished us out!
Before we knew it lunch time had arrived, and with it came a puncture to David’s tyre.
While the group carried on to the Air museum to check out the old Air Force One, Blackbird and SR71 to name a few. Felix, David, Jude and myself made a detour to BMW to get it fixed.
After some tyre kicking at the dealership we were set and ready to get to our hotel, by this time it was starting to get dark and we were heading into Yosemite national park. Now this is a testament to Jude’s ability because she managed to unknowingly drive the twisties with no lights on!
We just thought the lights were very dim on the truck. It was only after we had pulled into the resort David said “You know you didn’t have any lights on?” no, no we didn’t know that….
The hotel on this day is a real treat! It was the base for the filming of The Great Outdoors and everyone had their own private cabins decked out with a kitchen, living room with a fireplace, balcony and bedroom.
After getting in 4 hours after the rest of the crew, Bill came to the rescue once again with pizza and beers! A lovely end to a long day!
Rest day in Yosemite
Today was a free day that could be spent lounging by the lake, taking a hike up the river or venturing off to see the sights in Yosemite National Park. The group split with some opting for each option. It was a wet afternoon and those riding in the park certainly got a shower or two, but the views, even in the clouds, were more than worth it.
Yosemite to Kernville
Put your comfy trousers on, we are EATING! …..
After leaving the tranquil Yosemite national park we had an absolute corker of a ride to embark on in the shape of Sequoia national park. If I’m honest out of the whole trip, this was my favourite road, it was simply stunning making our way through the pine forest in the mist to get to the other side of the mountains in brilliant sunshine.
At this point I have to congratulate the Street Glide boys as it was the type of road a GS just sneers at, but lugging a Harley around those twisties having never ridden one previously took some doing!
Our cabins for that evening were situated in the mountains of the picturesque town of Kernville, and after we had dragged the boys away from playing pool in the bar we made our way to the best meal we had all trip, in the steak house up the road.
This place wasn’t messing about with its meals, each steak was nearly the size of a cow, say nothing of the deserts! We pretty much rolled back down the hill!
Kernville to Las Vegas
Viva Las Vegas….
Here we go people! It’s the day riding to sin city and what a ride it is, going through the Sierra Mountains and then into Death Valley 282 feet below sea level. Known for its weather extremes it’s the hottest, lowest and driest of all the national parks in the United States.
Our day started with yet another huge breakfast and after piling on the bikes, we were straight away thrust into the beauty of this area as we rode through the Sierra Mountains to morning coffee for a relaxing sit down in the sunshine. We then rode to the Father Crowley overlook with stunning views down into the canyon before hitting Death Valley national park, riding past the salt flats, sand dunes, canyons and mountains to get to our lunch stop. We were by no means there at the hottest point of the year, but even so sitting outside was like sitting in an oven! We had a short ride from there to Zabriskie Point where 5 million years ago sat the Furnace Creek Lake long before Death Valley existed.
The afternoon saw us saying goodbye to the incredible Death Valley and making our way to the bright lights of Las Vegas. Driving into this bustling city can be tricky with the amount of traffic especially with a big truck and trailer so while Jude, myself, Ronnie, Sheena, Bill and Phillip took a route in that would skip the strip – Felix, David, Adrian and Stuart rode the full length of the Disneyland for adults road. We rode en mass to try and not to get separated too much however, we lost Phillip at a set of traffic lights on the ring road getting in, we were all but 5 minutes from the hotel and we were starting to get concerned he hadn’t caught us up.
As we were waiting at the lights who should appear on the other side of the road going in the wrong direction but our very own Phillip, sporting a huge grin as he sailed past without seeing us at all! We pulled into the hotel and started hatching a plan to go rescue him as once you’re on the strip that’s it you can’t turn. However, after making a slightly illegal turn, our adventurer rode into the car park full of smiles! Great work Phillip!
Rest day in Las Vegas
Sue-tart and friend…..
There is an unlimited amount of things you can do in Vegas, wake up to a big breakfast and take a stroll down the strip taking in The Big Apple roller coaster, the Bellagio fountain shows and Botanical Gardens bringing you nicely to the best buffet in Vegas at Caesars Palace for some lobster and champagne.
In Caesars Palace you can also see the replica of the Trevi Fountain, the fall of Atlantis, oh and all of the Casinos of course! While some of our crew took in the sights, others wanted more bike time and did the ride-out to the Valley of Fire just north of the city.
The evening came and we were all ready to hit the town but not before taking a helicopter ride over the strip. What an utterly amazing experience that is, seeing sin city from above. After a drive to get to the airfield we all signed in and with a glass of champagne we waited for our names to be called to board.
While the staff in the office had no trouble with 80% of our names the remaining 20% seemed to throw them somewhat, so when we heard Sue-Tart and friend being called out we looked around in confusion, eventually deciding they must have meant Stuart and Adrian. Sorry we laughed so much guys! It was pretty funny 😉
After the ride with a bird’s eye view, we came back down to earth right in time for an all you can eat meat party, where the waiters just keep presenting you with different cuts every 5 minutes! What’s not to like?!
Las Vegas to Laughlin
The Hoover Dam, The Grand Canyon, Route 66, Donkeys and being the smartest people in the restaurant!….
An early start on day 12 sees us crossing state lines as we make our way into Arizona from Nevada. With construction starting in 1931 the 726 foot high Hoover Dam is right on the border split and our first port of call on a very impressive day, that sees us at the Grand Canyon, riding a section of Route 66 and going through little wild west towns.
After visiting the Hoover Dam we got moving as next up was the immense Grand Canyon. After parking up we hopped on the shuttle bus that would take us to the west rim and the slightly terrifying skywalk – the horseshoe shaped bridge with a glass walkway, that hangs out over the rim with a 500 ft vertical drop. I am usually ok with heights but I have to admit walking over that bridge and seeing down into the canyon made my stomach turn a little bit. Having said that it was an amazing experience and we mostly enjoyed it! Even more so, when we were back on solid ground! Once we had stood right on the edge and got our pictures, we headed for lunch further up the canyon where we shared our food with some opportunistic ravens.
Laughlin to Palm Desert
Spot the odd one out …..
Our penultimate day was upon us, and we were on Route 66 again riding through the Mojave Desert, on our way to morning coffee. The Kelso whistle stop cafe is a great little spot in the desert right by the railway line, here we were treated to a train going past. Unlike our trains though, this one was made up of over 150 carriages and took about 10 minutes to pass!
We carried on through the remote desert on Route 66 to lunch, chosen for its prime location next to the iconic Route 66 signs painted on the road. After befriending some fellow Englishmen like us, doing the classic American road trip we all got in the road for some pictures and tried not to get squashed by the trucks!
Our afternoon ride took us through the rugged rock formations of Joshua Tree national park known for it’s twisted, bristled Joshua Trees. Here we had an impressive photo op lined up in the shape of Arch Rock some 30 feet across, where you can climb up into the middle of the arch. In an impressive show of agility we all clambered up the rocks to get a nice group photo. Somehow though, we managed to get photo bombed by an American tourist obviously not aware he was getting in the way of a Magellan moment! At least he was gracious enough to smile nicely!
Crossing back into California we made our way to our hotel for the evening, in Palm Desert founded in 1957 by celebrity couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
Palm Desert to Los Angeles
Magellan Starbursts! …….
Here we are on the last day and we go out with a bang as we ride the famous Ortega Highway. This stunning road in Orange County is one of California’s most popular motorcycle drives, and it’s not difficult to see why with it’s hairpin turns, open stretches, pine forests and beautiful mountain scenery. With rock walls on one side and canyons on the other this road epitomises what riding in the states is all about especially California, you really could be nowhere else! After unknowingly taking a wrong turn earlier Jude and myself were the first of our group to experience the Ortega Highway and made it in for lunch an hour before everybody else, so what did we do? We ate burgers and sunbathed of course!
After the crew had arrived at the famous Harley hangout for lunch, it was time to make our way into LA. This can be tricky as with any big city, so we rode as a group to create a more intimidating figure down the 4 lane highways. However, everybody’s Sat Nav’s were giving them different instructions so at one point our group starbursts up the highway, off the highway and around the highway.
Not knowing which direction was correct Jude followed Felix like the truck was tethered to the Goldwing! Felix had a prior warning from Jude that if he loses her she would shout at him! Now we love Jude she is amazing, but she is not a woman you want to upset! Bill isn’t messing about when he says she’s dynamite, and as we all know dynamite comes in a small package!
Luckily we all made it into the rental company from different directions and were welcomed with cold beers 🙂
So there it is! We had an absolutely amazing trip. That’s in part to do with the route we took with all of these iconic places and sublime roads, but it’s largely due to the company! You guys were wonderful and it was a pleasure to ride with you.
That just leaves me to say thank you to each and everyone of you. Ride safe boys and girls and we shall see you on the next Magellan adventure! For those of you reading this and wanting to join us on the next American trip, we look forwards to seeing you next year!