On Sunday, September 25, 2011, the old motorcycles started arriving at the Flamingo
Resort and Conference Center in Santa Rosa, California. The Yerba Buena Chapter was
hosting a National Road Run and the next three days promised great weather and fantastic
rides. By Monday morning there were a little over 90 pre-1975 motorcycles in the
Flamingo parking lot. Total attendance, riders and passengers, exceeded 120. Each
of the three following days started at about 9:00 am with a Riders’ Meeting in the
parking lot. The Flamingo is laid out like the spokes of a wheel (fittingly) and
the parking areas lie between the spokes. With one of these lots reserved for our
motorcycles, and most of the riders occupying rooms in the overlooking spokes, our
bikes had great security for the next several days.
Our first day was as near perfect as it could be. The weather was just warm enough,
the previous day’s rain was solidly in the past, and we had about 185 miles of incredible
scenic roads ahead of us. Our destination was Stinson Beach in Marin County, where
we were hoping our lunch caterers, Everybody Eats, would be waiting and ready to
Bill Huth had the foresight to bring a bullhorn with him and, as a result, he became
the defacto leader of the Riders’ Meeting every morning. He did a great job of briefing
everyone on the day’s routes, gas stop advice, and other things to look out for.
He desperately tried to hand this duty off each day, but for some reason no one took
him up on it. As an aside, on the second day the meeting was a little late getting
started and many people approached me wondering if we were going to have one. Turns
out a lot of people think Bill and I look alike and I was getting all the credit
for Bill’s great work.
Knowing today’s route would take us to the coast, I added a layer under my lightweight
leather jacket. With temperatures in the mid 60s, this turned out to be a good decision.
We headed South from the hotel to pick up Hwy 12 West, a short stint on the freeway
(and our last visit to such a road for the remainder of the week). We picked up Hwy
16 and headed west toward the coast. Hwy 16 really took us Northwest for quite a
ways before heading back to the Southwest. We visited the small towns of Sebastopol
and Forrestville on our way to Guerneville, the northern-most point on the day’s
journey. The scenery between towns was unbelievable and the towns seemed like they’d
been frozen in time about fifty years ago. Who would have thought you could ride
so few miles and step so far back in time? Fortunately, the roads have been well
maintained in the interim and we had some great riding. We passed through open spaces
and dark, heavily wooded areas with long sweeping turns, tight first gear hairpins
and virtually no straights. From Guerneville we passed through Monte Rio, Villa Grande,
Sheridan, and Duncan Mills, finally arriving in Jenner and catching our first glimpse
of the Pacific Ocean. I’ve lived in the Bay Area all my life and some of my earliest
memories are of times spent at the beach. Yet the awe of the first view, every time,
is like I’ve never seen the ocean before. I wish I could do this ride every day!
From Jenner we followed Hwy 1 South. I was with a group that was among the last to
leave the Flamingo parking lot, so most of the riders were ahead of me. The ride
from Jenner south is really incredible. The terrain is hilly and the coast is jagged.
The road follows the terrain, so you’re virtually always in a turn. As we came around
one left hander, there were about 50 bikes pulled off the side of the road at a particularly
spectacular vista point (I didn’t count, could have been more). Check out the picture
gallery (link below) for a lot of shots of this gathering and the incredible scenic
backdrop. One rider commented to me that he had recently ridden the “Tail of the
Dragon.” He said the Tail didn’t compare to the ride so far today. I’ve read about
the “Tail of the Dragon” and it has legendary status, but I’ve never had the opportunity
to ride it. It’s nice to know we have such little known legendary rides here in Northern
Eventually the lure of the road overcame the views and most of us fired up and continued
our ride south. We eventually came to Bodega Bay, where Hwy 1 begins a bit of an
inland sweep before heading back toward the water. If you were on this ride and thought
Bodega Bay looked familiar in any way, you may have recognized it from the Alfred
Hitchcock movie, “The Birds.” When the road brought us back to the water, our view
wasn’t of the Pacific Ocean any longer. We were motoring down the East side of Tomales
Bay. There are a lot of fisheries, seafood distributors and restaurants along Tomales
Bay. I believe they actually farm clams here and that seemed to be the specialty
of most of the businesses.
As we came to the south end of Tomales Bay we entered Point Reyes National Seashore.
More amazing roads and great scenery. At some point along the route the group I was
riding with caught up with Dave, who turned out to be the guy that laid out the routes
for us. He lead us right to the lunch stop at Stinson Beach. And guess what? Everybody
Eats was there waiting for us, all set up and ready to go. The food was excellent
and they even had desert for us! The beach itself was just a short walk from the
picnic area. I could have spent hours enjoying the view – the visibility this day
was about as good as it gets – were it not for the promise of even more great riding
ahead. We had already covered what many would probably consider to be a full day
of riding, and we were only half done.
The return trip included a special treat. We headed up Mt. Tamalpais and rode to
the top at an elevation of over 2,500 ft. The views of the ocean, San Francisco and
the bay from the top are unique. The only other way to see this much of the Bay and
the surrounding land is from an airplane. And with the air being so clear that day,
even the view from an airplane most days wouldn’t compare. Even though I’ve lived
in the Bay Area all my life, I had never made the trip up Mt. Tam, so this was a
real treat for me.
Our return to Santa Rosa was on inland roads that I had no idea even existed. We
didn’t see any real signs of civilization until we arrived in Petaluma (home of the
legendary creator of the Peanuts comic strip, Charles Schultz). Along the way we
covered some great downhill twisties and had a great view of a small pristine mountain
reservoir. This is Dairy Land and we saw (and smelled) evidence of this fact numerous
We eventually found ourselves back at the hotel. We left the parking lot at about
10:00 that morning and it was now after 5:00. I think a number of riders may have
found the day’s ride too long. Others probably felt it was about right. A few of
us were ready to do it again.
One of our Yerba Buena Chapter members, Mark Jacobs, is a musician (among other things)
and he brought his band to Santa Rosa to entertain us Monday night. They started
playing at about 8:00 and pulled the plug sometime after 11:00. The Flamingo Lounge
was pretty packed and everyone seemed to really enjoy the music, a combination of
‘60’s R&B and blues. The lounge had a pretty large dance floor and it was pretty
well occupied for most of the night. Mark and his band were great and most of us
could have listened to them for another couple of hours.