The Ride Back from a NorCal Campout

Tag line: On a Tuesday afternoon, there is no traffic on Uvas Road.

Saturday, 25 Jul 05, I blasted up 101 to make the NorCal Campout and meeting in Shelter Cove. Had a great seafood dinner at the little restaurant on the water. But had to sit at the bar because it's the only eatery open after 5pm.

The next day, I headed out up Kings Peak Road. This is a dirt road that I remember as being more difficult than Uvas to the south. I was wrong but it's instructive to say that Kings Peak is indeed difficult.

Kings Peak Road is improved now because they have put in some campgrounds as indicated by the road sign at the beginning of the road. Strangely enough, there is no sign for Honeydew, though that would be a major destination on this road. I think it is because they don't expect anyone to try to get to Honeydew this way.

Once you get past the turn-off for Saddle Mountain, the road reverts to its old self: a small charming ride through the mountains with zero traffic. You can make pretty good time. But it starts to get tricky as the narrow gravel road starts going up and down. There are six trivial creek crossings. This is all doable on any bike.

After Saddle Mountain road rejoins Kings Peak, it starts to get really interesting. The switchbacks are very steep and the gravel is loose with bigger rocks and sand. This is slightly challenging going up: I remember it going down. That's what I remember it as so difficult. And IMHO, it is indeed more difficult because of this than Uvas. But more on that shortly.

Kings Peak eventually connects with Wilder Ridge Road, now known as the Honeydew-Ettetsburg Road. It's paved. For 4 miles. Just as it starts to go downhill through turns almost as sharp and steep as Kings Peak, without warning, it turns to gravel for about a mile. And for no reason. Focus. There is another short patch of gravel ahead before Honeydew. Honeydew has gas, but it's only about 100 miles from gas at Shelter Cove to Matole Beach and back.

I checked out the primitive campground at Matole Beach and then ran back up to Petrolia to get a lunch burrito at the General Store. Lighthouse Road turns to easy dirt 20 miles from Honeydew. The campground is somewhat improved, mostly by adding gravel to the camping spots so that vehicles won't get stuck in the beach sand. They have added water spigots but they don't actually work.

I did some beach walks. People hike from here to Shelter Cove - takes about 3 days. There is water along the way. I saw two springs on my short hike as well as a shelter built out of driftwood complete with dead animal decorations. Close to the camp on this trail, you can see where they have fenced off the old Indian shell middens. I went back and started my driftwood fire, had a nice dinner with wine, and lit a candle in a bottle that someone had left.

Monday, after a nice breakfast, I headed back. I stopped at Honeydew and met Sean and Peggy in nice new "Rev'it" riding gear on a new BMW 1200GS. Sean was thinking about doing Kings Peak but thought the road from Petrolia to Honeydew was bad, so I dissuaded him. They were very nice and I gave them a NorCal Newsletter and invited them to join. They headed off to see the Redwoods and I am sure they had fun. I headed off to Shelter Cove on the pavement to gas up and find Uvas Road.

One starts with Chemise Mtn Rd, which begins as dirt but that is just to discourage tourists. It is soon a nice paved road through the woods. Now to find Uvas.

There is a point where two dirt roads intersect the paved one. If you continue on the pavement in the direction of 101 as indicated by the most prominent sign, you are headed inland on Briceland Road. If you select the dirt road that the sign says goes to Sinkyone Wildeness State Park, my map says this is also Briceland Road and it dead-ends in Bear Harbour.

The third possibility is a smaller dirt road marked most prominently by a sign that says "Closed to Through Traffic", but it has been shot many times and pushed down, so it wasn't very important. There was a small sign that had been largely scratched out that probably said "Uvas Beach", so I went on this one. It matched what my Dolorme map showed me.

This is an abandoned road. When I did Uvas 10 years ago, it was a regular gravel road. Not great but much easier than Kings Peak. It had obviously been abandoned since then. Kings Peak is still worse because of the downhill steep switchbacks through loose dirt. The major difficulty of Uvas was the huge ruts that required a good suspension. There was only one major water crossing. But there were a lot of downed trees. Only in the sandy parts could I find some traces of other motorcycle tracks to persuade me that this was really the right road. And of course I could see I was going in the right direction and once I could glimpse the ocean.

I found turnoffs to other tracks shown on my Delorme map and eventually the road started going down and getting colder, just as the map predicted. The road comes out in another park where the sign also says "Closed to Through Traffic". It's only about 30 miles, but it is (for me) a slow ride. I was glad I was on the G/S.

The rest of Uvas is an easy dirt road as I remembered it. Then you hit 1 and ride along the coast. I was out of supplies, dirty, and tired, so I just went to Mendocino and got a special rate on a "European" room, as this was just after the local musical festival had ended and they had vacancies.

My room opened onto the balcony where I met some nice folks drinking. They shared their bottles of wine with me and got out the hoola hoops. Much fun and a nice dinner at the Mendocino Cafe ensued. One of the girls has a sea glass jewelry enterprise in Santa Cruz and they were getting up early to look for good specimens before the beaches were scoured for the day - and to sneak onto private property.

The next day I went up to Sand Beach in Ft. Bragg to look for sea glass. Late in in the most public place. There's not much left anymore, though the sand is remarkable. A young woman who was raised there says that she can remember finding whole pieces of antique pottery there. Now you are very lucky to find a piece the size of your thumbnail. There is one section of the beach where old spark plugs are embedded into the rock. And another that seems to have the remains of a vehicle though it has long turned into sea art.

I stopped at the Skunk Railway to get their schedules and then I just worked my way down the coast. It was mostly foggy and cold. But I had electrics and occasionally the fog lifted to reveal the brilliant sea. And the stretch of curves up and down the cliffs near the intersection with Meyers Grade is always worth riding. There is still a one-lane section where you can jump ahead of the line of cars so that you don't have to pass them. There wasn't much passing necessary on this foggy Tuesday afternoon anyway.

In Jenner, I had lunch and coffee at a picnic table and decided to stay on the coast. I knew 101 would be hot and I would have to change clothes. And then when I hit the GG bridge, I'd have to change again. So I just stayed in my warm clothes and electrics. Besides, I really wanted to do those curves through the Eucalyptus trees just north of Dogpatch. Sure enough, the bridge was foggy and cold. And I made my goal: hit the bridge at 5pm during carpool hours so I didn't have to stop and pay toll. Took me another half-hour to make my way through (literally) the traffic to Jane's house. A nice end to a great trip.

Mileage: average of 39MPG
Location Mileage Gal Miles MPG
Mtn. View 9361 3.27 129 39.5
Jenner 9232 2.56 98.0 38.3
Ft. Bragg 9134 2.70 115 42.6
Shel. Cove 9019 2.70 105 38.9
Shel. Cove 8914 2.00 75.0 37.5
Laytonville 8839 2.42 90.0 37.2
Healdsburg 8749 2.83 110 38.9
Mtn. View 8639 15.2 722 N/A