Easy Riding: The Ultimate Motorcycle Tours
The famed Coastal HighwayCalif. 1 and US 101 along the California and Oregon coastsoffers over 1,000 miles of verdant scenery and challenging curves. From Los Angeles, head north on 101, then cut over to Calif. 154 at Santa Barbara. You'll be rewarded with breathtaking ocean views as you climb a 2,224-foot-high pass. Just beyond the top of the pass is the Cold Springs Tavern, a legendary bikers' watering hole. After 25 more miles of two-lane asphalt, Highway 264 reconnects with 101 northbound. When you reach San Luis Obispo, follow the signs for Highway 1 and Big Sur.
North of Morro Bay (a good place for a seaside lunch) you'll head through open country toward San Simeon, home to the improbable Hearst Castle. Some of the nicest bends are just north of town. Once you're past the Hearst Castle Park Center, the traffic thins out and you'll feel like you're riding through the California of another erabefore it discovered grid-lock and Burger Kings. After Big Sur, however, you'll enter civilization again in the form of Carmel, Pacific Grove, and Monterey. Take your time in Pacific Grove. There is a nice shoreline route, perfect for picnicking or exploring tidepools.
From San Francisco, be sure to explore the Marin Headlands at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. When you cross the bridge, turn to the right almost immediately, and cross back under the roadway. The Headlands road then climbs to the ridge, offering 180-degree views that are the equal of any in North America.
You're in for some serious riding north of San Francisco. Stay on Calif. 1 where it splits off for Stinson Beach. If you've got the time, head west out to the lighthousea 2-hour sidetrip. When you return to Calif. 1, you've hit the big time: The next 100 miles north to Mendocino is probably America's best coastal motorcycle road. Stunning rock formations dot the coast at Elk, an in Albion you can sample the region's best cuisine at the Albion River Inn. Just nor th of there, Mendocino is home to many romantic bed-and-breakfasts. North of Ft. Bragg, Calif. 1 switchbacks through the redwoods until you rejoin US 101.
Just inside Oregon, you'll find great beaches between Brookings and Port Orford. North of Reedsport the road crosses the Umpqua River and winds along sheer cliffs high above the water. Stop for a photo opportunity and you can hear the surf pounding hundreds of feet below. Just north, Otter Rock (near Newport) boasts superb campgrounds. You may want to continue north as far as Tillamook and then heading inland on Highway 6 to finish your tour at Portland.
No commercial trip duplicates this itinerary, but you can rent BMW and Harley touring bikes at Dubbelju Motorcycle Rentals (San Francisco, CA 415.495.2774. www.dubbelju.com). If you're starting farther down south, BMWs are available from California Motorcycle Rental (La Jolla, CA 858.456.9577. www.calif-motorcyclerental.com). An R1100R costs $700 per week with unlimited mileage. EagleRider (Torrance, CA 800.501.8687. www.hogrent.com) offers Harley rentals in Los Angeles and San Fran, as well as other locations nationwide. For those with limited time but big budgets, Edelweiss Bike Travel (800.582.2263. www.edelweissbike.com) offers a seven-day, $2,900 loop tour from San Fran that includes the Napa Valley and the best of Highway 1 from the Golden Gate to the Oregon border. Riders stay in five-star hotels.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication