blank 08/26/13 03:04PM Riding, Scenic Route

Riding for Fun on the 101
Guest Blog

The 101. The 1. The PCH. People generally know what you're talking about when you drop these seemingly obscure numbers and letters. If they're among the lucky, they've ridden along the coastal region, somewhere in the long stretch between the City of Angels and the city of...plaid flannels (ending point Olympia, WA). And, if they're crazy, they've done it on a motorcycle.

"Crazy, you say?!" Well, there are plenty of us. Crazy we might be, but US Highway 101 is undisputedly one of the most breathtaking, scenic routes anywhere in the United States. I've been on several different stretches, but riding it in its entirety has been a dream vacation of mine for years. One of these days I'll hug every curve up the Pacific and back, but in the mean time I'll settle for fond memories.

Freedom can be found cruising the gorges and dips and switchbacks, sailing past surf and spray. Crashing waves to your right, geographical wonders on your left (depending on which way you're headed, of course). Wicked cliffs, towering redwoods, picturesque lighthouses, honking sea lion colonies, the occasional breaching whale... The roadway is jam-packed with little pull-offs and detours loaded with tourist-y attractions. Maps and brochures along the way list "sightseeing" destinations, but the only way to miss the sight is to close your eyes. Beauty abounds everywhere.

Set up camp (or check into that roadside motel) and take time to sample what the Northwest wineries and microbreweries have to offer. There's practically one or the other in every town these days. If you mention the PCH, one of the first things that springs to mind is ridiculously fresh seafood. Oysters, in particular. Mmm, there was this little spot outside of Cannon Beach I went to years ago -- it's closed now and I think I actually mourn for it.

The twisting road, prone to landslides, debilitating thick fog (particularly due north of San Francisco) and, of course, rain make this stretch pretty darn dangerous. It seems every year a rider loses his life on the road, if not several. Most of the 101 is two-lane constant curves, with the occasional 4-lane stretch. I've heard certain areas in Oregon have been re-paved recently, but accidents can be caused by anything from wildlife (lizards, squirrels, etc.) scuttling across the road and getting under your tires to the dreaded unforeseen wash-out around the corner. Be prepared for debris, terrible drivers and silly bicyclists.

I would never recommend skipping certain stretches of the 101 (to each their own, of course). However -- I'm currently living in the Bay Area and if I, hypothetically, were leaving from San Francisco on an open-ended journey, I would most certainly head north. Towards Oregon, like the pioneers from days of yore. There's less traffic and more nature. The 101 from San Fran to L.A. is nothing to scoff at, unless you're one of the many people who scoff at bumper-to-bumper commuters and tourists. Pick your own route, forget the tour guides! Most importantly, everyone -- have fun.

Morgan Sansotta, a freelance blogger, may ride a “starter bike”, but she can still keep up with the big boys. When she’s not putting rubber to pavement, you can find her playing Springsteen covers on her guitar.

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