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Mattole Road


Dave McReynolds

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Dave McReynolds

Mattole Road twists and turns for about 70 miles or so in northwest California, in part along the Lost Coast. There probably isn't more than a half-mile of straight road on the whole thing. There is only one thing keeping it from being on a short list of the most wonderful destination motorcycle roads in the whole USA: only about half the road is well paved; the other half is patched and bumpy cracked pavement, and there are a few very short sections of unpaved gravel. None of the unpaved gravel sections are more than 30-40 yards long, and all are well marked in advance. Because of this, Pashnit gives it a so-so rating, which is probably one reason motorcyclists stay away in droves.

 

Which I probably would have also, except that Nancy hiked the Lost Coast, and the price of a taxi ride back to her car was that she consent for me to pick her up on the motorcycle. She left her car at the BLM campground, which is on the ocean about halfway around Mattole Road.

 

After spending the night at a nice, motorcycle friendly motel in Leggitt, and having breakfast in Garberville, we picked up Mattole Road at the Honeydew exit on 101, about 20 miles north of Garberville. The road first winds through the Redwood Forrest for a few miles. After the turnoff to the Park, traffic, whether motorcycle or car, essentially ceased. Remember, we're talking Memorial Day weekend. This is one of the two wonderful things about Mattole Road. The other is the beautiful scenery, starting with winding through 10' and larger diameter Redwoods, on to winding switchbacks up the coast range, and then dropping down to the coast. Ending with picturesque Ferndale, at the end of the Road.

 

Did I mention lack of traffic? On the whole road, I only had two cars in front of me, both of which immediately pulled over for me to pass, and no motorcycles either in front or behind me. When we were stopped, the occasional car or motorcycle would come by, but never saw any other than the ones I mentioned while riding. So bereft of the excuse that the darned traffic was keeping me from optimizing the turns, I had to figure out my entry speeds on my own. Several of the hairpin turns are marked 10 or 15 mph, and I would advise paying attention to the signs, at least until you figure things out for yourself. All the problem areas are well marked, and so I began to have enough confidence in unmarked turns to take them at a reasonable clip. The unpaved patches were all on straights and no problem for the K1200GT to negotiate. The road to the BLM campground is unpaved for about the last mile, but it was well packed gravel, and again no problem. Of course, if you don't want to go to the BLM campground, you don't need to go on that section of unpaved road.

 

It became kind of a joke in my mind, the unpaved sections. They seemed to occur regularly every 10 miles or so, not near obvious washes, and just for a few yards. I imagined some local committee deciding they didn't want the road overrun with motorcycles on weekends, and hiring someone to tear up the road at regular intervals.

 

Did I mention lack of people? On Memorial Day Monday, we stopped at a section of beach, about seven miles long and a half mile wide of sand. We hiked most of the beach, and were the only people there. Beautiful sunny day. Well....beautiful sunny Northern Calfornia day, anyway; true sunlovers might find it a tad nippy. The only set of tracks in the sand going down the beach were ours, and those were the only tracks we saw coming back.

 

Our ride ended in Ferndale, where the main street was shut down for their annual unusual self-propelled vehicle contest. We had a nice lunch at the Ferndale Inn. From breakfast in Garberville to dinner in Ferndale, it could be an easy day's ride, or if you wanted to do some hiking and exploring, you could make it two days, like we did.

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I will be up in Cazadero CA in early/mid June

northwest of Santa Rosa (hour north of SF) My wife is a instructor at a music camp up there in the redwood forest.

 

There are a few roads (to say the least) that are crazy! Ft. Ross Road and Kings Ridge Road for example. I drove them in a car last year and swore I would be back on a bike! The topper is when your done your at the beautiful pacific ocean.

 

I can not describe them accurately in words all I can say is that the term straight and level does not exsist here.

 

Dave have you ever done these roads if not maybe some of the other Nor Cal riders may have.

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Dave McReynolds

I don't have any personal experience with the two roads you mention, but Pashnit has them listed on their website, so someone must consider them to be pretty good motorcycle roads. Unfortunately, Pashnit is no longer free, but perhaps someone else on the board has ridden them and will offer some information.

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Dave McReynolds

Thanks! I was almost embarrased to post on this ride without pictures, but somehow my camera didn't find its way into the bag. But I thought it was a unique road, and worth riding, so went ahead with words alone. You filled in the gaps!

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