Seven hundred miles in two days makes for a long weekend of fabulous motorcycling. As always with Jon Baker, searching for dirt roads and out of the way places is an adventure. We found rolling pastures colorful with spring flora, historic towns, grand hotels, giant redwoods, the Lost Coast and newly opened Usal Road.
South of Shelter Cove along California’s Northern coast lies Mendocino County Route 431, the famous Usal Road. Approaching Usal Road in mid-afternoon and finding the gate unlocked I was eager to ride this challenging road that I had read about and waited all winter to see.
Ignoring the distant call to caution echoing in my brain, I turned my big bike into the forest along the gentle inviting dirt road. The road turned the corner and quickly tilted uphill becoming a trail.
Steep up and down, hardly ever flat or straight, I rode from curve to curve dodging limbs, rocks, and picking my way through ruts and around the trail. Feeling challenged, excited, thrilled, invincible, I was; then it happened.
A steep uphill invited me to make a quick choice between a thin sloped edge for 5 yards, or cross through the rut. Unweighted the front tire sailed across the rut giving me a microscopically brief thrill of victory. Then the bash plate hit and the back tire began to spin; forward momentum ceased. I straddled the bike, pushing uphill, giving it throttle and determined to clear the rut. I could smell the engine and felt encouraged as the tire for a quick second started to dig in and the bike lurched forward. Quickly and again, the momentum ceased as the upside of the rut proved too steep and I was no match for the near 600-pound bike against the uphill. The time-space between victory and defeat lasted only a nanosecond before I had no choice but jump clear of the falling bike. It seemed like 10 minutes but was only 10 seconds before my husband’s voice in my ear told me to wait, he was on his way down to help. Giving all we had, it took two of us to upright the bike and get uphill of the rut. After taping up the broken hand guard and seeing no leaking oil I was ready to go on. Jon said no. He turned my bike around and said get on, we are going back. I put up a brief argument, sick at the idea of defeat but quickly accepted his wisdom. It was too late in the day, the trail ahead unknown, and hundreds of miles still ahead before nightfall. Turning back onto the asphalt we met a local biker eager to know if the Usal gate up ahead was opened. Happy to hear it was, he shook his head and told us our bikes were ridiculously big for Usal Road. All alone, off he went on his dirt bike for his first ride of the season on this famously challenging road.
He was right of course. Usal Road is a motorcycle destination for a dirt bike/camping weekend. It is not a side trip for a long adventure bike weekend. With proper planning and the right bike, it promises a fun filled weekend for later this year.