Don't Ride to Portland

6:00 AM. Oh, snap.

I think I was supposed to be on a plane. This morning? Wouldn't I have set an alarm for that? Yeah, the plane definitely leaves at 7. Today? I packed last night--it must be today. How long does it take to get to San Jose?

An hour?

Fuck me.

Well, my bags were already packed for the motorcycle trip to the airport. Christmas presents neatly bundled, rain covers ready, the bike inspected, everything. Hmm. Weather advisories on 101 are clear. It's only 14 hours to Portland, right?

It starts raining about two hours out, and continues off-and-on through most of California. As the humidity rises to 95% my visor refuses to clear, and I find myself squinting sideways through the lesser-fogged bits at the edges. My summer gloves gave up two hours in, leaving my hands white and going numb. Good thing I installed those heated grips.

The grips start to fail around Coos Bay, somewhere around sundown. My hands descend further into the icy depths of those gloves, and my pants and boots are well-soaked through, despite waterproofing spray, gore-tex, and four layers. Hail bounces off my windscreen, followed by snow. I think the snow is worse; it clings to your visor and requires constant wiping-away.

The last three hours coming up I5 are a mix between cursing and begging in my helmet. The internal dialogue of motorcyclists is a lot more interesting than you might think. In desperation I stop at gas stations every half-hour to run my hands under the hot water tap.

I arrive at my parents house in Portland wondering whatever possessed me to consider my family worth seeing, and vowing to never approach a road, motorcycle, or the outdoors again.

Return Trip

That lasts about three days, at which point encroaching snowstorms convince me I need to bug out of Oregon. I dodge snowflakes before brunch with Ivy downtown, and manage to stay just ahead of the storm clouds on the way south. In fact, conditions are ideal, if slightly chilly, all the way to Coos Bay. It's well above freezing, and the weather map is totally clear. I decide to push further south.


Ten miles south of Coos Bay I start to question my sanity again, probably because it is snowing, there's an inch on the ground already, it is getting much darker than I had expected, and heading downhill I have no chance to turn around. In fact, making any sort of steering maneuver seems like a Bad Idea at this point, as the sliding cars ahead of me suggest. Pausing at the top of the next hill, I examine the Snow Situation closely. It's still warm up here; warm enough that ice hasn't formed, and I sure as hell don't want to go back up that pass again.

So I push onwards, pulling over to let cars pass as often as possible. Somehow I make it without losing serious traction, and coast into Port Orford safe, but perhaps not mentally sound.

Dinner is an entire large pizza in Gold Beach, followed by rain. Finally I give up and squish-squish-squish my way into the front office of a Crescent City motel. Rooms are only $45 here. Disassembling the seven layers of my gear takes a good half-hour, and with the pieces hanging up to dry I get some much-needed rest.

Definitely not doing that again

For reference, that's UnderArmour coldgear, a T shirt, button-down, medium-weight fleece jacket, thermal liner, rain liner, and Revit Ignition jacket. Upper body was bone-dry, if cold. My gloves and pants didn't fare so well.

In the morning I realize my gloves and boots are still soaked, and take some quality time with the hair dryer to rectify the situation before getting on the road.

In the Redwood passes I hit snow again. The clouds diffuse the sunlight; it's striking. I pass two northbound motorcycles, which fills me with a can-do attitude. Unfortunately that attitude backfires a hundred miles later when the low-fuel light turns on, and I stupidly refuse to ride 20 miles back to the most recent town.


Sure enough, the engine lugs on the very last hill before Garberville, and I kick it into neutral, pop on the flashers, and coast to the off-ramp at about 2 miles an hour. Luckily the gas station is uphill, because the angle gives me the extra ounce of gas I need to get off the freeway and into town.

From there the ride is uneventful. Pleasant, even. The sun comes out, redwoods give way to farmland, and snowlines recede. I make it home just in time to pick up fresh oil, and finish the day with a thorough cleaning, regreasing, and oil change.


Fourteen hundred miles in three days. 14 contiguous hours, through rain, snow, hail, fog, and night. Is this adventure riding yet? Whatever the case, I'm sure glad to be back in the Bay--riding in the sun again.

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