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West Coast in March


Ken S

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I'm planning a ride starting around the middle of March from Mesa AZ. The planned stops are Oatman AZ, Valley of Fire NV, Sonoma CA and Santa Rosa CA. I haven't ridden in CA and would appreciate advice on routes. Here's a tentative map of the general direction ( LINK ).

 

I prefer to avoid big cities and interstates as much as possible. I'll probably be riding double and camping at night when it's warm enough. Am considering going as far north as Seattle area, if weather isn't too bad that time of year. So routes to Santa Rosa and north would be appreciated.

 

Thanks

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Ken, since you are coming up thru CA, you and Lisa could stop in Livermore and Linda and I could show you some old CA wineries before you get to Sonoma. You could stay in the Marty Hill Suite. :grin:

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Ken, I can't offer much route info but if you haven't been to the Sedona area it's worth a visit and then from there take 89A westward. You'll just have to check the weather in March because of the elevation up in those mountains. Make sure you check out Hwy 66, picking it up at Seligman and then heading for Vegas out of Kingman on 93 or my preference is going further west as you've shown and going north on 95 but that means you have to double back to catch Hoover Dam, which is pretty remarkable, even with the new bridge towering above it. I'll have to leave CA to others more familiar but will say that north of Fort Bragg on the coast is one heck of a state park (MacKerricher) that has miles of beautiful coastline. if you head further north (by this time you'll have perfected the art of donning really good rain gear) then in my book do the Redwoods, as much of the OR coastline as you have time for and then slab on I-5 from around Salem on up to Seattle. Many of the really good roads won't be open in March but catching a ferry from Seattle (or better yet go over Deception Pass onto Whidbey Island and ferry to Port Townsend and do the 101 loop, lots to see there if you haven't already...but again, be prepared for cold rain.

 

Ken, sorry I didn't get back to you on my Alaska Ride this summer, we barely slowed down going through the Anchorage area, just pitched a tent at the Harley store for one night. Their free camping (with hot showers no less) is a good tip for any just passing through.

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you and Lisa could stop in Livermore and Linda and I could show you some old CA wineries before you get to Sonoma. You could stay in the Marty Hill Suite. :grin:

 

Thanks Doug. That sounds good, we'd like to do that. We'll get in touch when we have a better idea of the trip. And we'd be honored to visit the MH suite.

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if you haven't been to the Sedona area it's worth a visit and then from there take 89A westward...but again, be prepared for cold rain.

Thanks Jim for the recommendations. I have been through Sedona, but do like the area -- depending on the time of year. At 4400 feet, it's likely to be cold until late Spring. I rode part of that area on the way down in October, and really liked the Valley of Fire SP near Las Vegas, etc.

 

I'm thinking of bringing the RT up to AK this summer. I may have an opportunity to haul it one-way. I'd like to ride the AK Hwy either north or south, but will probably want to get the bike back down south before cold weather comes to AK next Fall.

 

Also, thanks for the tip about camping at the Harley dealer in Anchorage. I didn't know they did that. BMWs OK there?

 

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Ken, don't know about about road construction on the Alcan next fall obviously but this June it sure was a mess. GSA (even with Anakee 3's) did fine but there were lots of places where the Harleys seem to be struggling with huge holes and deep loose gravel. We took the Cassiar back and it was much easier. Your results may vary.

 

And yes the Harley dealership takes all brands, they just ask that you sign in and leave the showers clean. We purchased a few items to express our appreciation.

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CoarsegoldKid

One should not pass up an opportunity to drive through Yosemite Nat'l Park. Enter through the West or South entrances if there is no ice on the road. Death Valley is also great that time of year.

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California:

Hwy 36

Lost Coast Hwy.

As much of HWY 1 as possible.Especially don't miss the section from the coast to Leggett,at 101 and 1.East to west is best route,as you are rewarded with magnificent view of the ocean,but either way is great riding.

Take the side trips thru the Redwoods Parks.

WoodRose cafe in Garberville.

 

Oregon:

101 up to/thru Oregon with side trip to Crater lake(if roads open)

Side trip to Old Mckenzie Hwy(if open)

Western Columbia Gorge(take old Columbia River Hwy to Crown Point and Multnomah Falls)

 

Washington:

Continue east on 84 from Multnomah Falls and cross Bridge of the Gods into WA,then back west on WA Hwy 14 and continue north,possibly up past Mt.St Helens.

 

Avoid Seattle unless its a destination for you.

Beautiful city,BUT anything approaching rush hours is terrible traffic,even HOV lanes!

Traffic picks up at Olympia/Tacoma,north to Seattle.Busy from north out past Everett

 

JR356

 

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JR is right on about Seattle traffic, avoid I-405 especially since they've instituted "pay" HOV lanes. They are underutilized while regular lanes suffer. On a bike you can pick up HOV lanes from Tacoma all the way to Everett on I-5. Did I mention rain gear? Elevation anywhere above Redding in March can be pretty tricky. I recommended slab because if you really enjoy the southern points with better weather you may run short on time. One nice thing about the ferries though is that they are first on-first off for bikes. No waiting.

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Ken:

 

I'm not sure why a Canadian would be commenting on your proposed route....but.

 

It will be pretty dicey in mid-March to plan on getting through Carson Pass, and you will have a VERY long detour if you can't get through. I-80 might be a bit better, but not much. All the other Sierra passes south of there will still be closed for the winter.

 

I think you should just plan on getting to central California or the California coast south of the Sierras. CA 178 Ridgecrest to Bakersfield would probably be OK and you could include Death Valley. At least it only has a maximum elevation of 5000ft.

 

Mike Cassidy

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Thanks guys for the advice. I'll do more research based on this and may end up changing the plans to stay in CA, and come back later in the Spring to get the bike farther north. I do want to see Death Valley and Yosemite as much as possible.

 

When I make it to WA, I was thinking of heading up the west side of Puget Sound at Tacoma, then going on up to Kingston where Rich's Seats is located. I think I could take a ferry across to Everett from there. I have no interest in riding in Seattle traffic.

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Yeah, the Sierra passes (120, 108, 88, 4) may not be open by mid-March. 120 is the eastern access to Yosemite. If it's closed, you can't get into Yosemite from 395 except via a very long detour to the north or south.

 

Assuming 120 is open (or even if it isn't but you're still passing through), I'd suggest a fun little detour off 395. Take 6 northeast to Benton, and then turn west on 120 there. The stretch of 120 from Benton to 395 is a real roller coaster ride, and great fun.

 

For Death Valley, I'd drop down 373 to Death Valley Junction and catch 190 there, rather than going up to Beatty. You'll see a lot more of the park, including Badwater, the lowest point in the US. Catch the Artist's Drive off 190 between Badwater and Furnace Creek, too.

 

I assume you have reasons for going to Livermore and Rio Vista. Between Rio Vista and Santa Rosa, unless I was in a hurry, I think I'd rather go this way. 37 is not scenic, IMHO. You'll no doubt hit traffic on 29 and 12 (weekdays better), but Oakville Grade is a tight, twisty hoot, and the Napa and Sonoma valleys are pretty and have lots of wineries to visit.

 

From Santa Rosa north, I'd go straight out 116 (through the redwoods) to 1 (on the coast). CA-1 is a must ride.

 

All of this being said, I'm not sure I'd try to do any of this in March. Folks who've lived in NorCal more recently than I (I grew up there, but left in '83) can comment on the likely weather, but I think storms are not unlikely. The first west coast BMWST event of the year is usually in late March in Temecula, just north of San Diego. We have great weather for that. The next is North Meets South in the Middle, in late April near Yosemite, and we nearly always have at least one day of rain (or more) for that event. Last year, heading up to Weaverville in late May, I had to change my planned route due to snowstorms in the Sierras, and a couple of riders attending rode their LTs across Donner Pass in snow! So, if you go, you're really going to have to be flexible, and you may have to accommodate a day or more hunkered down waiting for weather to pass.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks Bill for the recommendations. I see from CalTrans that all the roads through Yosemite are closed for the winter. I'd probably be there the last week of winter.

 

I'd like to get from Las Vegas to Death Valley, Fullerton and Santa Rosa. With these passes closed, any suggested routes? Looks like I'd have to take the Interstate to Bakersfield, then head north? I don't suppose it's a good option to go north through NV to Reno, then west?

 

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Danny caddyshack Noonan

Don't go north in March via 50 or 80 unless you check the weather first and, it hasn't snowed in a week or so. Especially bad if it gets over 40 during the day and you get snow melt and a boatload of road ice. I got lucky in late April bringing my bike out to Utah having missed a storm and no melting. There was still some black ice and very dirty (sand) road resulting in filthy bike and gear. 27 or 28 F over Donner Pass on that trip. It was worth the look from the Caltrans guys standing on the side of the road in Truckee though.

120 won't be open since they don't start with the snow blowers until the storm cycle stops.....usually late April into May. However, the park website shows status for clearing the road and webcam views. For scale on how much snow the northern Sierras and Cascades get, the south slope of Mt. Lassen can get 40+ feet and stays closed usually into June. Rode over it on opening day several years ago on July 10.

Edited by Danny caddyshack Noonan
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Thanks Bill for the recommendations. I see from CalTrans that all the roads through Yosemite are closed for the winter. I'd probably be there the last week of winter.

 

You never know. It's a La Niña year, so we might not have that much snow. We're currently well below average for the date. They open the passes based on conditions, not on the calendar. But if they've opened recently, be very wary of ice or sand on the road.

 

I'd like to get from Las Vegas to Death Valley, Fullerton and Santa Rosa. With these passes closed, any suggested routes? Looks like I'd have to take the Interstate to Bakersfield, then head north? I don't suppose it's a good option to go north through NV to Reno, then west?

 

Fullerton is a big dogleg out of the way (and not shown on your original map). Once you're there (down 395 from DV to I-15, then throw the dice about where to cross west to I-5), that time of year, I'd probably take 101 north from LA. It'll keep your altitude down and avoid the tule fog in the central valley (or is March too late for that? I don't remember). And unlike I-5, it has curves and scenery in places. And if the weather is nice and you have time, you can hop over to CA-1, aka the Pacific Coast Highway (I wouldn't bother doing that any further south than San Luis Obispo, though). Check conditions for CA-1, though, because winter landslides can result in closures.

 

Getting through San Francisco is always kind of a pain (I'd take 280 from San Jose rather than staying on 101), but you get to cross the Golden Gate bridge (no toll going north, BTW). Try not to hit it on a weekday after, I'd guess, 3:00 PM. From there, you can just take 101 straight to Santa Rosa, or take CA-1 again at Mill Valley and go up the coast until you feel like crossing back east. CA-116 is your northernmost chance, but you can also take scenic back roads from Valley Ford or Bodega.

 

Google suggests going up the East Bay on I-880 from San Jose and crossing the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to 101. I had the misfortune to hit that route at commute time on my way north to the Moscow UN a couple of years ago, and it was bumper-to-bumper traffic from south of San Jose all the way to Emeryville, where I stopped for the night. And it's not very scenic.

 

General tip for LA and the Bay Area: remember that bikes can use the HOV lane and that lane splitting is legal.

 

If you want to avoid the Bay Area altogether (it's beautiful, but crowded), then north on I-5 and then west on CA-12 at Lodi (per previously posted route) is probably your best bet.

 

If you wanted to skip Fullerton, I'd say either take 190 west out of DV, go south on 395 and 14, then take 58 west all the way to 101 (there's a short dog-leg on CA-99 in Bakersfield), or take the scenic, mostly-two-lane 178 through Lake Isabella, which runs right into 58 heading west out of Bakersfield. 58 from 14 to 99 is a divided 4-lane, but it's curvy and kinda fun and scenic from Tehachapi to near Bakersfield. The part of 58 from I-5 west to CA-101 is a really fun, mostly-twisty, two-lane road. Once you're at 101, you can then decide to continue north on 101, or cross west to CA-1 via 46. Take Santa Rosa Creek Rd. off 46 to Cambria if you have time and conditions are right to enjoy a twisty, scenic little goat-track. Cambria's not a bad place to spend a night. The motels aren't cheap, but there are several and there are plenty of good restaurants.

 

Obviously, you have a lot of options. So much is going to depend on what weather you hit and how much time you have. You're going to have to be flexible and adaptable, and you might have to build some wait-out-the-weather days into your schedule, if you have one.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Take a look at Temecula Days in Event Planning section. Chance to ride SoCal mountains and desert, and meet lots of the bmwst.com cognoscenti.

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  • 1 month later...
a lot of options.

The tips are very helpful for someone who hasn't ridden much in CA -- or the West Coast. Here's my tentative route to Santa Rosa. LINK

 

I've been to San Francisco several times, but don't want to ride on crowded city highways this trip. Does it make sense to go around/thru SF on the west side, or would it be too slow and painful? I'd like to do it on a Sunday, but may end up in the middle of a weekday.

 

Thanks

Ken

 

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Danny caddyshack Noonan

Ken

check dot.ca.gov for road conditions. Been a little wet in Cali, could be sections of 1 washed out. Scratch that, there are sections of 1 closed. One near Big Sur for a bridge that's moving....it isn't supposed to.

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Ken, if you've never been to Sedona it is well worth visiting; then catch 89A (this is all predicated on the weather of course) then 89 north, then pick up Route 66 at Seligman.

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CA Hwy 1 closure. This bridge has been deemed unusable and permanently closed. The replacement will take months, if not years.

 

https://www.google.com/amp/www.sfgate.com/news/amp/See-the-Big-Sur-bridge-that-s-cracked-and-10951909.php?client=safari

 

I'd suggest CA 33 North at McKittrick, then 198 West to 25 North. Then if it's the coast you want, a short trip over 152 to Watsonville and Hwy 1.

 

MB>

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bridge has been deemed unusable and permanently closed

Thanks for the closure info. Recalculatiing route...

 

And Jim, thanks for the tip about Sedona. I have passed through before, but that may make a good side-trip -- depending on the weather.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Bill_Walker

I've been to San Francisco several times, but don't want to ride on crowded city highways this trip. Does it make sense to go around/thru SF on the west side, or would it be too slow and painful? I'd like to do it on a Sunday, but may end up in the middle of a weekday.

 

Thanks

Ken

 

Sorry for the late reply. I've been away. As others have told you, CA-1 is currently closed in multiple places. People in Big Sur are getting food and other supplies delivered by helicopter! That's not likely to change this month. Since you're not coming up 1, there's not much point in going through San Fran if you've seen it before. Some of the alternatives to 1 have also been damaged, like CA-35 (aka Skyline Drive) up the spine of the SF peninsula. You're really going to have to check conditions on every single road you plan to ride on.

 

That being said, I can't think of any good, traffic-avoiding way to get between Gilroy and Santa Rosa. But I'll admit that I don't know the East Bay non-freeway roads very well. The last time I went north through the Bay Area, I ended up hitting 880 in San Jose at rush hour, and it was bumper-to-bumper all the way to Emeryville, where I stopped for the night. If it were me, and I came up 25 and to Gilroy, I'd probably still take 280 north through SF and deal with the traffic on 19th Avenue to get to 101.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Based on the information I had in early March (Thanks Bill and all here!), we changed our plans and rode about 1500 miles through AZ and NM. We rode through some beautiful country, including Hwy 78 east of Three Way AZ and into NM, Gina Natl Forest, Silver City, Emory Pass, Bosque del Apache and the Manzano and Sandia Mtns.

 

I ended up parking the bike at a friend's house in Albuquerque. I'll go back soon and continue the adventure from there.

 

Part of the reason for the change in plans was the closure of the Pacific Coast Hwy in places. We'd also like to visit CA when we can get up into the Sierras, among other spots.

 

Thanks again for the tips and recommendations.

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Sounds like a good way to make lemonade. We'll fix the roads up for ya on the next leg. Fall is really nice in northern California.

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