CA Roaming – Back to North Beach


29 November

Devil’s Ride


Picture a gorgeous mountain road, winding through majestic redwoods and evergreens, rising and falling with the natural terrain instead of arrogantly cutting straight through it. Feel the sun beaming down, peeking through the canopy, dappling the road with patches of coolness and warmth. Picture yourself on a Ducati road-racing motorcycle, or sitting in a sleek Porsche Carrera, darting through the turns, weaving among the colossal trees, and being At One with the road and the forest. This is the quintessential touring road, a section of California Highway One, crossing the coastal mountain range between US101 and the lonesome northern coast of California.

Now, picture yourself on the same road under slightly different circumstances. You have already driven 200 miles and you’re a little tired. It’s dark, “blacker than the soul of a goat”. You are not on a Ducati or in a Porsche, you are in a 27-foot motorhome and you are towing a 17-foot pickup truck. Together, these vehicles (Howie and Ralph) weigh 18,000 pounds, are 50 feet long, and can make a turn approximately 100 feet wide. The road lane varies between 8 feet wide and 10 feet wide. The track of the motorhome (distance between tires) is 8 feet, and the width (outer edges of rear-view mirrors) is over 10 feet. Under these conditions, a decidedly heavenly journey becomes more of a perilous devil’s ride.

Along the gorgeous/menacing road, there are additional adventurous conditions that delight/terrify. Barely outside of the road’s white shoulder line (the stripe of paint that is 8 feet to the right of the double-yellow center line), the road builders have left in place most of the original terrain. As the road negotiates 6-foot-diameter redwood trees, it hardly clears them; the white stripe actually glances off a root or trunk here and there. If Howie were to just roll the outside tire evenly along the white stripe, the tree trunk would shear off the entire side of the motorhome by about six inches.
The same white stripe nearly crumbles away in spots, where the road is carved into a steep slope. There may have been some extra asphalt there at one time, but the years and erosion have worn it away. Literally one inch farther to the right, the road is non-existent, replaced by a 45-degree drop. No shoulder, no ditch, nothing except air. Rolling off the road in one of these areas would immediately drop the axle onto the roadway and incur the possibility of tumbling the entire coach (and toad) down the hillside.

As if these issues were not sufficient deterrents, the road itself consists of about 25 continuous miles of spectacularly delightful (or demonically cruel) twists, climbs, descents, hairpins, squeezes, and of course oncoming traffic. Let me assure you, two 10-foot-wide motorhomes passing each other, at night, on a 16-foot-wide road has some true pucker-factor. Yes, we did it – twice. (We would unconsciously pinch our shoulders up toward our ears, trying to be “narrower”.)


So, after a seemingly endless series of “Slow to 30”, “Slow to 20”, and yes even “Slow to 10” signs; after engine-roaring climbs in first gear at 20mph, and brake-stinking descents even more slowly; after giggling hysterically at the torture we were subjecting ourselves to; and after commenting to each other that only our extensive experience with Howie, and the many modifications and upgrades to his chassis and suspension, made it possible (and reasonably safe); after all this, we pulled out along the coast, rolled into a beautiful seaside camp, smiled peacefully at each other and settled in.

Howie and Ralph were happy too, and I think a little relieved.

30 November

The Coast

Yesterday, we “mosied”. [For those of you translating this, that word means “moved in a casual fashion”.] We got propane, stopped to dump and refill water, stopped to shop, stopped to make coffee, stopped for gas and occasional sight-seeing. We traveled for 7 hours and made only 200 miles or so – – which was why we ended up on the Devil’s Ride in the dark, by the way.

Today, we will mosey some more.

We LIKE moseying. We’re trying to train ourselves to become very proficient at it.


Once again, we’re ensconced in a nifty little spot on the north coast, Westport-Union state beach. Our camp is perched right above the beach, and this morning (before the picture was taken) the tide is in and we can’t even see any sand – – the waves are breaking at the bottom of the cliff, 40 feet below our doorstep.

The highway is only 100 feet away, and would normally be a bit of an annoyance. But here, the traffic is very light, and the constant voice of the surf blankets all but the loudest passing motorcycle or heavy truck. The weather is still good, sunshine and calm winds with the morning thermometer at 46F.


The shore is gently sloped, and the incoming swells are low and easy (maybe 3 feet). Long, low breakers start almost 200 yards offshore, and it’s not unusual to see 5 or 6 sets of breakers at once working their way to the beach. As a consequence, we do not hear the customary intermittent beach sound of “waves breaking” – – instead, there is a steady, only slightly undulating rushing background of constant waves, constant surf, constant inrush and outflow of the foamy sea.

This area of the coast is very appealing for a number of reasons. First and foremost of course, it’s extremely beautiful, in a rugged, wild way. It is far away from any population center, and as a result is relatively untrammeled, which contributes to the wildness. Geographical concerns also help to isolate and preserve the area. Just north of our location, the roughness of the coastline takes a quantum step deeper and crosses the line into impossible. The road builders, who relentlessly dug and paved CA-1 into existence for the previous hundreds of miles, simply gave up and retreated inland. (I presume their last act of defiance was creating the Devil’s Ride.) The coast is so rough that no attempt is made to have any shoreline road built for another 60 more miles north, where US101 re-achieves the coast at Eureka.

As beautiful as this area is, traveling south on CA-1 will lead us to the Mendocino Coast, one of the true wonders of California and the western US. Mendocino is also closer to San Francisco and Sacramento, and these factors make it even more appealing – – and a bit more crowded and touristy as well.
This is Saturday, and we are “only” 20 miles from the nearest Catholic church. Since we don’t much like hurrying in the morning, we will go catch the evening mass (5PM) and then have some dinner in Fort Bragg.


Meanwhile, the beach is being revealed by the retreating tide, and we’re off for a leisurely walk to continue our mosey-training.


The beach shares its beauties with some rose-pink sand across the dark gray expanse, resting shore birds on high rocks, a small cliff-side waterfall and its clear streamlet coursing across the sand and into the waves.


On the way into town for Mass and dinner, we pass a dirt exit off CA-1 that goes to a section of beach where vehicles are permitted. Tomorrow, we will bring Ralph back to exercise his 4WD muscle and have a little fun. I think my testosterone level rose by a hundred points just thinking about it. Woof.


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