Honda ST1300 Tour of Lassen, Crater Lake,
Tahoe and Yosemite National Parks
by Chris and Carmen Daly - September 2009
Coming from Australia, we had put together a route with Scott and Ilene's help which took us through four national parks: Yosemite, Lake Tahoe and Lassen Volcanic, all in northern California and Crater Lake in Oregon. Other riders had recommended the parks as having well maintained and twisty roads and the US National Parks website showed lots of nice scenery. In retrospect, the decision to visit the parks was probably the best plan we made. It's difficult to describe the majesty of Yosemite; it really is a special place and it was our introduction to the whole concept of national parks in the USA and the pivotal role of John Muir in establishing them ("Wildness is a necessity").
Crater Lake was even bluer than it looks on the websites and Lake Tahoe was prettier, but it was Lassen that we liked the most. It is the least visited National Park in the USA and so there is little traffic, great roads and the stark contrast of white rocks and blue lakes and sky with steam escaping from the ground here and there.
Traveling from park to park was easy; just follow your chosen motorcycle road which has the most corners and long sweepers. For us this was 4E and 4W from Murphy's up to Lake Alpine and back; 49 South with the section between Coulterville and Bear Valley our introduction to 25MPH corners, sheer drops and no safety barriers; 120E over Tioga Pass at 9,495 feet where the temperature dropped to 46 degrees F ; 395N from Lee Vining to Bridgeport which has amazing high speed long sweepers; 89N up Monitor Pass at 8,314 feet and continuing up the western shore of Lake Tahoe; and 85N through Lassen.
We traveled in September 2009 and in 21 days, rode 3000 miles on a Honda ST1300 doing a big loop which looked like a figure 8. From San Francisco, we headed to San Andreas then down to Yosemite, out into Nevada and Topaz Lake and up through Lake Tahoe and Truckee to Susanville and Lassen Volcanic National Park. We then traveled the rural areas to Klammath Falls OR and then to Prospect where we stayed for two nights while exploring Crater Lake and the surrounding area. Cutting across to the coast from Roseberg Or, we followed 38W to Reedsport with lovely bends and views.
We spent a few days traveling down the Oregon coast back into California on 101 South then into the Valley of the Giants with its huge Redwoods and lots of pull-outs to leave the bike and wander into the silent, brooding forest. Although the coast was scenic, there was lots more traffic and most of the towns were touristy. We had missed riding the Sonora Pass so we left the coast on Highway 1 at Mendocino CA and headed through the Napa Valley with its rows of orderly vineyards, across the Sacramento Delta and back up into the High Sierras. We then rode the Sonora Pass (9,624 feet) on highway 108 both ways from Sonora to Bridgeport and back and it would have to be our pick of the roads. Our final leg was across to Carmel on the coast below San Francisco, where we rode to Big Sur and back and then it was up the coast and east through the hills to Mountain View and handover.
The best accommodation venues we found were Robins Nest B and B at San Andreas CA (absolutely beautiful and bike friendly) , Prospect Historic Hotel at Prospect OR (great restaurant and bike friendly), Virginia Creek Settlement near Bridgeport (cowboy theme motel rooms and a great restaurant) and the Best Western Motel at Topaz Lake, NV (modern, lake view and good value).
Our impressions? Very friendly people everywhere we went, especially out in the rural areas. Lots of bikers on the road and they were all our age! We found the drivers courteous. Even the deer behaved themselves when we rounded a corner to find them on the road. Unlike kangaroos in Australia, these deer must have been to a motorcycle avoidance class as they got off the road very quickly.
Would we do it again? Yes. In fact, we are coming back in September 2010 to hire the same bike from Scott and Ilene and heading to Glacier National Park in Montana then down to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Zion NP etc. See you on the road!
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