Spirit Traffic is the story of the 10,000-mile motorcycle trip the author C. Jane Taylor took with her husband, John, and son, Emmett, to celebrate Emmett’s college graduation. They were all new riders, and it was their first trip. In May, Jane and John took Spirit Traffic back to the road on their BMW 650 GSs for a 97-day national book tour. Below is her eleventh installment of Postcards from the Road, which will be published every Monday.
Related Story: C. Jane Taylor Rides 6,000 Miles on National Book Tour
“How are you with dirt?” my motorcycling mentor asked. Reg Kittrelle and his wife Lora hosted us in Santa Cruz on two occasions. Reg is a winning moto racer, author, editor, and founder of Thunder Press Magazine (now called American Rider). Reg is also 80.
“Depends on the dirt,” I answered. We wanted to take the back way from his home in Santa Cruz to our campsite at Henry Coe State Park in Morgan Hill. Reg lives near California Highway 17 – a faster, curvier, possibly deadlier version of the very busy and fast Highway 101. Lora mentioned a recent motorcycle fatality at the intersection near their place. We wanted no part of it.
Reg’s suggested route was complicated and unknown to Google Maps. Rather than explain it, he offered to ride it with us.
“I want you guys to see the tree,” he said. “I’ll just take you to it … there’s just a little bit of dirt on the way.”
The route started out well with beautiful curvy roads winding through stands of redwoods. The night before, Reg taught us about the late apex. It’s a way of navigating curvy roads that affords the longest and thus safest views of the road ahead which essentially ‘straightens’ the curves. The numbers and degrees of the curves on our route gave us the perfect opportunity to practice the new concept. We followed Reg’s line thrilled with this game-changing motorcycle riding technique until the roads got narrower, much, much steeper, and without any guardrails to speak of. Reg kept turning onto progressively smaller, twistier, and rougher roads as we climbed. Into our intercoms, John and I wondered aloud about each successive road – “Is this really a road?” – until we came to a sign. Private Road. No Trespassing.
Reg charged ahead; we tried to keep up with him as the road became a narrow path of switchbacks, loose gravel, sand, and gullies atop a ridge with exquisite views east and west that I caught only in my peripheral vision. The slowest of our trio, I rode last and occasionally lost sight of John and Reg among the sharp curves.
Twice I hit a rock or ditch that broke my confidence and squeaked out in fear and surprise.
“Are you okay?” John asked more than once.
At one particularly challenging section of steep climbs, hairpins, and rocks, I called into the intercom, “Late apex, Johnny. Late apex.” We laughed and laughed.
After an hour of dirt travel which made me hope my sweet little 2006 650 had not lost any important parts and for which my sports bra was inadequate, some semblance of broken pavement returned, and the tight curves loosened slightly. Reg signaled for a left turn at the base of a magnificent tree near the entrance to Mt. Madonna County Park. He took off his helmet and fist bumped me congratulations for riding so well.
“Nice riding. There we some difficult sections. You did a great job,” he said. I was covered in dust and smiling. We learned later that Reg had not ridden that road is several years while he recovered from back surgery. Maybe we were taking care of him, too?
We stopped for sandwiches before Reg headed back to Santa Cruz. Across the table, I confronted him.
“I thought you said there was just a little bit of dirt?!”
“It’s relative,” he said, grinning. “Given the length of your trip, what we rode today was just a small section.”
Day 66 – I was the featured guest on Motorcycles and Misfits Podcast. Master Mechanic Miss Emma fixed my rear brake.
Days 67 and 68 – After riding the twisties of Highway 130 and Mount Hamilton, we camped at Henry Coe State Park on the Diablo Range. Coe is the largest state park in Northern California.
Day 69 – We were hosted in grand style and chilly fog by my friend Tony and his family in Richmond. The stories were terrific. One woman in the crowd told the story of being a falconer. She brought props.
Day 70 – We dipped our toes in the mighty Pacific at Point Reyes National Seashore North Beach.
Day 71 – I read to the Sebastopol Rotary Club, then our host Mike Ferguson took us on a sightseeing ride around the neighborhood. I met my new favorite being, Sunny. He’s a mule.
Day 72 – I read to members of the BMW Club of Northern California at Mike’s place in Freestone.
Keep the rubber side down.
Spirit Traffic can be purchased on the author’s website. It is also available on eBook and as an audio book read by the author.