A weekend’s journey beach-bound to Mendocino, Caspar, Fort Bragg, Gualala, and Point Arena becomes a cornucopia of ride-to-eat destinations. But, the real delectable delight would be our last-minute detour inland, riding the twisties through Comptche and Booneville to Mountain View Road, becoming the unexpected highlight of the tour.
Darn! It was already 10:15 AM when Matt and I were flying through Santa Rosa, north on Highway 101, making a mad dash to India’s house in Windsor just a few miles away. Praying (in my helmet) that when she said to be there at 10:00 am for our weekend ride she meant give or take a few minutes!
When we pulled into India’s drive, I was relieved to see her and Vicky bent down over her silver V-Strom vehemently trying to put air into her rear tire. Let’s face it, three women to one guy; someone is bound to be late! A half hour later the four of us were geared up and heading towards the charming coastal town of Mendocino, roughly a hundred miles north up Highway One from Jenner.
Heading west on River Road/Highway 116 making our 38 mile trek to the coast, we made sure to give ourselves plenty of time to completely enjoy the 4 to 5 hours of riding time. To thoroughly allow our bikes to meld into the many 20 mph turns with a leisurely cadence and to stop for the multiple photo ops along the many pullouts.
The strikingly beautiful seascapes makes it difficult to keep your eyes on the road while riding the arcs of the curvaceous road. In this stretch of the gangling highway it predominately hugs the ocean shores, with the exception of few inland turns at Salt Point State Park and through Point Arena to Manchester. But, this only adds to the integral diversity of the panoramic ride.
Because of our late start and grumbling bellies, we decided to make our lunch stop in Gualala, 37 miles north of Jenner. I love to stop at the Surf Supermarket and pick up a scrumptious made to order deli sandwich. If it’s in the spring or summer time, I can’t resist to savor the tangy flavors of their fresh barbecued chicken or ribs they grill out in front of the store on the weekends. Walk beyond the parking lot to the right to find picnic tables over looking the ocean, a picture perfect place to devour your delectable feast! This is also a good place to gas up, with at least two gas stations to choose from. I always go to the Chevron Station on the east side of Main Street where I like to replenish my snack supplies at their well stocked mini mart.
Fifty miles or so up the two-lane byway is the historical town of Point Arena. If you’re a true motorcycle buff, then you must stop here and say hello to owner and master mechanic, David Harris of the Zen House Motorcycle Shop, on the west side of Main Street. This nostalgic garage specializes in servicing new and vintage European motorbikes, but they’re always willing to help a passing traveler in need of help, no matter what they ride.
MENDOCINO – CASPAR – FORT BRAGG
Thirty five miles of coiling curves and a hand full of quaint little towns later, we arrived in the seaside town of Mendocino. This artisan influenced borough sits on the headland overlooking a dramatic rugged Pacific coastline, giving a first-time visitor the distinct impression they made a wrong turn and ended up on the coast of Maine.
We stopped at the Mendocino Café for coffee and a sweet before heading to the Pine Beach Inn, just a few miles north of Caspar in Fort Bragg. I was pleasantly surprised by this modestly priced lodge; a convenient location between Mendocino and the town of Fort Bragg, right off the Shoreline Highway. This clean and conservative hideaway offers a large room with all the necessary amenities such as hair dryer, microwave, fridge and cable TV, all within a short stroll to the beach.
There is also an unassuming Thai restaurant on the hotel property that is out of this world. At first sight, Viraporn’s Thai Café décor gave me the impression that there was a good possibility I might be disappointed in the cuisine, but oh how looks can be deceiving. The most flavorful fresh authentic dishes intermingled in a melody of herbs and light sauces that delicately complimented each other, making each bite better than the next.
Breakfast in Fort Bragg
The next morning we rode into Fort Bragg and met up with my good friend Liz for breakfast at the Laurel Deli, right next to the Skunk Train Station. The Laurel Deli is my favorite place to have breakfast when visiting Fort Bragg. With a big open atmosphere, it’s more like a great room than a deli, housing a larger than life train that sits comfortably right in the dining area. Good coffee great service and an omelet so big and fluffy, you could sleep on it.
On India’s suggestion, we unanimously decided to travel down to Comptche-Ukiah Road, just 10 miles south of Fort Bragg. She told us it was known for the abandoned dwellings scattered along the way; I found her mysterious words drawing me in like an old ghost story being told around a campfire when I was a kid. Intrigued, but at the same time, excitable!
THE MYSTERY HOUSE OF COMPTCHE
Comptche Road did not disappoint, as my colleague, Cat Macleod has superbly detailed in his “Secret Roads” article. The fast-paced, flowing two-lane country road quickly recessed into the depths of the coastal forest but soon gave way to wide open straights, giving you a false sense of ease before propelling you back into the bows of the road once again. Not far into Comptche I noticed the first boarded up house, sitting on the edge of the road, giving me that familiar eerie feeling.
We passed by a few more deserted dwellings before arriving at Comptche’s general store at the Y in the road, giving a rider the option to go west toward Ukiah via Highway 101 or south towards Highway 128. We made our stop here to vote on what direction we would take. We opted for south to Highway 128, toward Boonville. While taking our break, I noticed an old house just off the road, falling apart and soon to crumble into the stream flowing beside it, the water slowly eroding the remaining earth beneath. I peaked in through the open window and to my surprise; the house was full of someone’s old belongings like they had just walked out the door and never looked back.
Boonville to Mountain View Road
Aside from the creepy old house, Comptche sparsely consists of a general store (with no bathroom facilities) and a post office. So we mounted up and were on our way south for eight more miles of twisty frondescence until reaching Highway 128 and east to Boonville. A good place to gas up and if you’re feeling those hunger pangs, the Moss Wood Cafe is a great place to stop. Offering an off the board menu on the lighter side with a full choice of delicious organic soups, salads, and sandwiches. I recommend the Chicken Mango wrap or the Red Bell Pepper Panini. If there is still room for dessert, right next door is the Paysanne Ice Cream Shop, my new discovery. A tiny little place filled with a vast variety of tasty treats! They also make homemade fresh fruit popsicles, I tried the organic apricot and it was heaven!
But the real treat of the day was discovering Mountain View Road, a remote country byway heading southwest off of Highway 128 from Boonville. I have a real soft spot for the less traveled passageways and this one is at the top of my list for fun roads to ride! Twenty-five miles of smooth, rhythmic, curvy mountainous roads with everything from scenic babbling brooks to breathtaking views of the Pacific and thick forest groves below; giving you a multitude of Kodak moments before connecting back with Highway 1 just north of Point Arena.
Overall, this is a fabulous two-day route, but if time is a factor for you, I would bypass everything else just to be able to experience Mountain View Road for a day ride, starting from Highway 128 in Boonville. I positively loved this road!
View Mad Dash to Mendocino in a larger map.