2006 Laguna Seca MotoGP Trip

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Just back from a week long trip with Mark from Seattle to Monterey, CA to watch the 2006 MotoGP races at Laguna Seca. Mark flew out from Delaware and rented a Harley-Davidson Ultra-Classic. We rode the HD and my BMW 1150RT - swapping bikes roughly every gas fill-up.

What an awesome trip. It was brutally hot at the racetrack in Laguna Seca, but otherwise we were mostly on the coast and the weather was very pleasant. We hit all of my old favorite spots and added a few new ones. Eugene, Eureka, Stinson's Beach, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Monterey. Fantastic. Why do I always seem to end up in Monterey? I was just there at Christmas.

Total distance was around 2,500 miles. On the route down we Slabbed it down I-5 to Grants Pass, then over to Crescent City, CA on the Redwood Highway and hugged the CA coast all the way to SF, over the Golden Gate bridge, and on to Santa Cruz and Monterey. We skipped Route 35 (aka Skyline Drive) and Alice's Restaurant, because the heat was brutal passing out of San Francisco.

We spit lanes for about 15 miles in 100 degree heat through heavy traffic on Highway 17 between Mountain View and Santa Cruz. We were riding pretty aggressively the whole time, but I felt pretty comfortable and did not take off any mirrors. I am definitely no match for Mark in the gonzo lane splitting, even when he's on the Harley. Of course he has the psychological advantage that he thinks people are moving out of his way! Haha. He was probably trying to flip his siren on.

Below are the nice clean bikes at the start of the trip. My 2004 BMW R1150RT and a Harley-Davidson Ultra-Classic we rented from Harley-Davidson of Seattle - very nice people there.

The HD dealer gave us a very good deal on the rental. There were some scary people renting Ultra Classics at the same time as us. Two middle age couples. Conversation went something like this: Do you own a motorcycle? No. When's the last time you rode a motorcycle? 12 years ago. What type of bike? Forget what he said here - some kind of small displacement Honda or something. OMG! Last we'll see of them. After the rental guy came back from giving them a riding lesson in the parking lot, we got checked out and got the hell out of there.

What an awesome bike!

Mark behind the RT on the Redwood Highway near Crescent City, CA. This is one of the only pictures I took since we left Seattle. We were mostly Freeway slabbing and there wasn't much to see. I would have taken some pictures in Eugene, but we got there at dusk. Had dinner at an outdoor cafe on Pearl Street. Ahhh Eugene. It never changes.

Lighthouse at Crescent City, CA. Our First view of the coast! Temperatures dropped from 105F in Grants Pass to a nice 60F on the coast.

This BMW gets around -- somewhere between Crescent City and Eureka, CA

Elk near Eureka, CA

Uneven gravel parking lot + centerstand = Expensive Tipover. Mirror assembly was destroyed. Cylinder heads had some gouges, but fortunately were structurally intact. System cases have some more battle scars on them now. Oh well, what can you do?

Sunset near Fort Bragg, CA

Beautiful CA coast north of San Francisco

Near the Presidio in San Francisco

We stopped at Santa Cruz BMW to pick up some oil and other parts. They had a brand new R1200RT-P out front. It was really nice. The sales guy turn all the various lights on for Mark - I thought he was just going to write a check right there and ride it home.

Meanwhile I was busy looking at this .

Bikes parked on Cannery Row in Montery, CA. The R1100S in the foreground belonged to a guy who had ridden down from Kirkland, WA (I think his name was Rich ???). Nice guy - we chatted with him for a while before heading off to see the Biker Boyz spectacle on Sat night before the race.

Bike parking at Laguna Seca. Supposedly there were 155,000 people at the race. The only way in was bike or shuttlebus, so there were a lot of bikes there.

A whole lot of bikes...

Mark and Paul having a bad hair day. Mark has some kind of reverse Mohawk - mine is like some farmer boy bowl cut. It's those stupid German helmets we wear. They are too tight. We need some of those beany helmets like the HD guys have.

This is heading north into Marin county. Headed home.

Somewhere on the southern OR coast. Awesome!

Florence, OR

Lighthouse on OR coast at the Sea Lion caves. I believe this is Heceta Head Lighthouse. Sea Lion Cave is definitely worth the $8.00 to ride the elevator.

Getting near home. Whale skeleton on Washington Coast in Westport, WA.

Mothballed Navy ships in Bremerton, WA. We rode the ferry from Bremerton to downtown Seattle - a perfect way to end the trip. Had lunch at Anthony's on Pier 70 and spent some time on the waterfront talking with a tourist from San Francisco who was about to go on a two week trip from San Francisco through Nevada, OR, and Idaho on his Harley-Davidson. We would have given him some grief, but he also owned a Ducati, so I guess he was O.K..

On the return trip, we went straight up the 101 from San Francisco to Eureka, then stayed on the coast all the way through OR, across the Columbia river into Washington. We were going to ride around the Olympic peninsula, but we ran out of time.

Some random observations about the trip:

- Mark is a hell of a combat commuter. It was relaxing to ride with him, because I could just ride my own ride. I never had to worry about him wrapping himself around a car or anything. Not sure if the reverse was true. I'm sure he thought I would kill myself on the Harley. Our skills were definitely put to the test in some of the urban environments we passed through.

- I had never ridden a Harley before this trip. It was a very strange mixture of really enjoyable and annoying at the same time. The Ultra-Classic was really comfortable and sounded and looked great, but I felt like I was riding an antique motorcycle. I was a always a little nervous because the brakes were not in the same universe as the RT uber-brakes and the chassis would start to wallow if you pushed it in the twistys. I get the Harley experience now, but I don't know if it's for me.

- RT and Harley are not the perfect combination for a long trip. It was nice to feel the contrast when you switched bikes, but whoever was on the RT could never fully enjoy himself in the twistys because he was always keeping one eye on the Harley; half-expecting it to crash. Then again, maybe the Harley kept our speed down and kept us alive...

- This was a lot of distance to cover for the time we had. We were pretty much riding 12 hours each day. We could have easily spent a week in Monterey or the northern CA coast, or OR coast.

- The Schuberth S1 helmets worked really well although Mark's visor broke at the very end. I will never buy another helmet without an integral drop-down sun visor. My BMW commuter 3 suit worked very well too. Although it was a bit hot when the temp got over 100F. My Aerostich Combat Lite boots worked well although they got a little hot as well. I am looking around for some more streamlined boots for summer wear.

- The R1150RT worked great. It was pretty much the perfect bike for a trip like this although my butt did start to hurt on the freeway slabbing. Mark and I were talking about the new K1200GT. We both agreed that although this bike would have been awesome, it would put you in jail or the morgue -- at least the way we ride.

- The section of Highway 1 between Legett and the coast (where it breaks off from 101) north of Fort Bragg was a truly fantastic section of rode. I was scraping floorboards on the HD. Mark was trying to watch me in the one good mirror on the RT.

- The section of Highway 1 between Stinson's beach and Mill Valley goes up and over a mountain that cliffs straight down to the ocean. I had never been on this road before. The scenery was spectacular.

- Places I would have liked to stop and linger if we had more time: Arcata, Stinson's Beach, SF (Marina district, Cliff house), Santa Cruz, and of course Monterey.

- Nicky Hayden won the race convincingly. Valentino Rossi dropped out with mechanical problems. These guys go faster than seems possible. Truly amazing.

- If we had communicated with Mark's friends from the Pelican Forum after the race, we could have hung out with Nicky Hayden.

Where the hell is the Harley

Hey Paul, did the Harley actually make the trip. I'm just wondering as I didn't see it in any of the photos after the one when you guys picked it up. I have ridden with Mark numerous times on Harleys and would completely understand if the bike didn't make it (just ask him about the dent to Newark Police Motorcycle 902's tank).

Mark brought in the memory card from his camera and I was able to see all of the pictures, it looked like a great time. Good luck putting the RT back together.

Dave (Radar) Kerr (the only true remaining Motor Officer with the Newark Police)

Yup, the Harley made the

Yup, the Harley made the whole trip. We just didn't take as many pictures of it, because it was a rental bike.

We were riding it a bit more aggressively than I think is ususal for a Harley, but it survived. We had two minor problems: It overheated and stalled once while we were stuck in traffic and it felt like maybe the clutch was slipping a little bit otherwise it worked great.


Combat Commuting

The Harley did prove to be less than ideal as a hard core combat commuter but it held its own all things considered! For the record, the clutch must have already been out of whack since it was a rental b/c I certainly didn't smoke it!