For the past couple of years the date for the Cycle World International Motorcycle Show in San Francisco Bay Area has been moved to the middle of December. The problem I'm having with this is not so much the date, I have lots of time off that time of year, it's the weather that goes along with holding it. Part of the problem is me. I'm one of those guys who just doesn't like to show up at motorcycling events driving the family car…I just don't feel it's right. That means I'm at the mercy of the weather. Riding a motorcycle down the 300 miles down to the show during the middle of winter (ok, not technically "winter" but you know what I mean) in the rain, freezing temperatures and short daylight hours can be somewhat demanding (revisit last year's horrific ordeal HERE).
But it looked like I might just luck out for this 2006 ride. A few light showers and some freezing temperatures were predicted. That's not so bad. I was all prepared to leave early Friday morning but a glance outside told me that perhaps it would be best to take my time, eat a little breakfast, have another cup of coffee and go through my gear one more time. It was a frozen, winter wonderland outside. The whole world was white with ice and frost.
I wanted to arrive in San Mateo (where the show was taking place) before dark…and I tend to travel pretty slowly. I had to get going. So around 9:00 I put on all the thermal clothing I have, added a polar fleece jacket, warmed up the mighty Moto Guzzi Le Mans, flipped on the heated handgrips and headed south down Hwy 101 into threatening skies.
I made it to Willits without mishap at around lunch time. This is a good thing because one of the most delightful cafes in the world is in Willits…Ardella's. It's right on the main street at the north end of the town and should NOT be missed! Fortified by some sort of Cajun style wrap and a bowl of smoky chicken soup that was to die for I headed back out on the road.
Next up is Santa Rosa. It's always a problem. It is a fast growing city always in a perpetual state of gridlock. Lane splitting (sharing) is legal in California…so I did. Coming from a rural area I'm not used to having to travel this way and I find it exhausting. I threaded traffic for 10 miles. Then San Francisco…more lane splitting/sharing/filtering and finally I arrived at the Howard Johnson's where I had reservation and is located just a couple of blocks from where I would be attending the show the following day. I've stayed here before and found it VERY conveniently located, clean, motorcycle friendly and quite affordable. I was supposed to hook up with friends (Nelson-"nsalas" and Sean-"elseanno") for the evening but just couldn't do it. So I called Nelson and begged off. I was cold, tired and had a crushing headache from the day's ride.
I took a hot shower, bought some awful Taco Bell food, poured myself a medicinal large whiskey and found a "Star Trek the Next Generation" marathon on the tube. I was content. I slept like a baby.
The next morning I was off bright and early to the Contra Costa Airport for breakfast at their cafe with 20 or so other friends from Sport-Touring.net (an international online community centered around touring on sports motorcycles that Becky and are quite involved with). It was wonderful seeing all my old friends again and meeting some new ones.
After finishing a quick breakfast I walked outside to find Larry ("Busy Little Shop") apparently trying to steal my mighty Moto Guzzi!
Suffice it to say, the show was a delight. I saw the world's fastest motorcycle, I saw amazing "space-pod" motor scooters.
Around two o'clock I burned out. I'd seen everything (I think) and decided that I'd better get on down the road to Dixon, CA where I planned to spend the night. Dixon is inland about 85 miles and it's all freeway getting there…no big deal, right? Except the freeway is Interstate 80 the most hellish, hated road in northern California. It is rough, crowded (yes, more lane splitting/sharing…sigh) and people drive like maniacs. It took me THREE hours to cover the 85 miles. But eventually I did arrive in Dixon, found a cheap motel (a Super 8 Deluxe Inn) and called it a day.
I woke up to clear skies and once again, a frozen world. This time it was even more seriously frozen. Like my bike had ½" of ice covering it! I scraped off what I could and then rolled the Le Mans around to the sunny side of the building to help it thaw out a bit in the early morning light. I had a breakfast appointment at 9:00 with the Northern California Chapter of the National Moto Guzzi Owners Club at their monthly breakfast. I'd never been before and was excited about meeting my fellow "local" Guzzista's.
The breakfast was to be held at the Putah Creek Café in Winters, 12 miles away. I got lost twice and found myself wandering along almond tree lined, arrow-straight roads for about an hour (fortunately I realize that the chances are good that I'll get lost wherever I'm going and allot myself extra time).
I finally found the town and the café. No one was there. I was the only motorcycle parked out front.
No problem, the café is legendary for its breakfasts and I bellied up to the counter and had a wonderful meal.
I kept one eye on the food and the other on the front door half expecting a wild bunch of motorcyclists to come bursting through any minute. As I was just finishing my coffee and paying the bill Don van Zant, the chapter president (who I had met back in October at "Guzzi's By The Sea" down in Bodega Bay) wandered through the door. I called out and he took me across the street to where the other members were. "Too crowded" was his excuse for not meeting at the Putah Creek Café…he thought everyone knew…sigh. I gave 'em hell, making them feel as guilty as possible about their treatment of a new-guy who traveled so many hard miles and suffered so many hardships just to be with them…but I did it in a good natured way and I don't think they actually felt guilty at all. There were only about 6 of us there but it was a good time and loads of fun trying to convince each other that Moto Guzzi's are wonderful bikes. Talk about preaching to the converted…HA!
About 10:30 I said my farewells and hit the road (they kindly pointed me in the right direction). I headed up Road 89 (paralleling Hwy 505) to where Hwy 16 intersects it. I've known about Hwy 16 for years (I graduated from high school just down the road in Woodland). It's a little two-lane, rural road that travels up the Capay Valley though some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere. This was a complete turnaround from the craziness that was Interstate 80 the day before and was very healing. I needed it.
Hwy 16 eventually intersects Hwy 20 just east of Clear Lake. I turned off and followed it in a westerly direction where Hwy 20 hugs the lakes north shore. This is also a lovely road, just a bit too much civilization and traffic for my tastes.
Hwy 20 intersects Hwy 101 just south of Willits. I had given myself 1 more day to get home but I was in Willits at about 1:30 so I figured I'd just jam on home. I should be able to make it home before dark, hug my lovely wife, pat the basset hound and sleep in my own bed that night. I resisted the strong temptation to eat at Ardella's again (twice in three days would be...well, it would be almost "sinful"). I decided to just pass on lunch entirely, grabbed some fuel and headed north.
I made pretty good time (for me). I did the 300+ miles from Dixon that morning to our modest home in Eureka in record time (especially when you consider that 1 1/2 hour breakfast).
All in all it was an excellent trip. The weather had held off for me…other than the cold (only one short period of drizzle on the way down). It was great seeing old friends and making new ones. The motorcycle show was a heap of fun. The bike ran wonderfully and I really, really loved that ride on the final day. Once again I was reminded why I like riding motorcycles…and I especially liked being back on the road riding the mighty Moto Guzzi!
So where shall we go next? I can't wait to get started!
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