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NorCal Revisited Part 3: Reclaiming San Francisco

My homework was done, and I was ready to jump on Eleanor and play! I looked on Google Maps and found out that there was a road that leads out of Petaluma onto some really nice twisties and headed out toward PCH. It was going to be a bit cooler going into this region (around the mid-60s), so I made sure that I inserted my rain liner into my mesh jacket to add more layers to battle the winds and fog on my way down toward San Francisco.

I had no idea what visually stunning sights I was in for as I was riding down these serene, two-lane roads. There were small lakes, seemingly unending hills, and very picturesque land forms as I rode through on a good clip. However, I had to come to a complete stop for this lake area amid the hills, otherwise known as the Nicasio Reservoir.

Once I made it onto the US-101 southbound heading into San Francisco (around 10:30 AM), the fog was so bad that I delayed taking a photo at Battery Spencer until later in the day when I was on my way out. Temps had also dropped down to the upper-50s so getting through the Golden Gate Bridge and into the city where it was warmer was a priority. It was surreal to cross back into San Francisco again from the north; it had been over six years since I had done it, and the third time that Eleanor had seen the bridge. I had ridden across the Golden Gate Bridge on another motorcycle before this, my 2005 Suzuki SV650.

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I learned a couple things once I made it to Fisherman's Wharf. First, with a motorcycle, you can park for free right in the entrance of the wharf. Second, I need to bring my FastTrak transponder with me the next time I return to Northern California. All of the toll roads are using the system now.

My first stop in the Fisherman's Wharf was the Musée Mécanique, a penny arcade and museum filled with video games and arcade machines from various decades, all of them fully playable. As I had done a decade prior, I threw a few quarters into the X-Men vs. Street Fighter game and beat the snot out of another patron. After that, I ventured outside to check out Alcatraz from a distance as it could be seen in plain view the day I was there.

Hmm. That's not what I think about when I envision a bunch of bimbos in a box.
There were too many food selections to choose from for lunch, and I had a little too much fun taking photos of everything. This may involve multiple visits back up here. I'm not complaining about that.

If it lived in the ocean, it'll probably end up on a roll. The options were endless. Would you like some rolls with your crab, lobster, or shrimp?

A pair of disgruntled giant lobster and an indifferent crab.
That's a long way to swim if you're planning to make any sort of escape.
Getting my clam-on-clam fix with a little help from the squid. This was totally worth the ride down to the city by the bay.
Even the Magikarp couldn't resist all the attention!
Cooked crab...master of the resting bitch face.

I have a feeling that these socks wouldn't fly well at my job. The kids would find it funny, though.
After lunch, I headed over the hilly parts of the city into Japantown to Daiso in an attempt to find a budget Apple Lightning cable to charge my iPad (I had forgotten mine at home). Unfortunately, they were sold out of them so I made my way to the flagship Apple Store in Union Square.

I spent a little time perusing this two-story, open air store and had the chance to plug my iPad in to get a little juice while I surfed the Internet on a display MacBook and took a break. It's a pretty cool location and it was packed with all sorts of visitors. I ended up getting out of there with a Lightning cable. (Tip: You have a 14-day return window if you buy anything from the Apple Store.) This is great for those people who just happen to be out of town and are forgetting anything.

Tangela is here to inquire about the new MacBook Pro.
Switching gears from technology and back to motorcycles, I rode to BMW Motorcycles of San Francisco to check out the store and ask for some assistance in topping off the oil on Eleanor. She tends to burn a little more oil than normal because of her mileage and age, and I was receiving an oil light on my dash while I was near the Nicasio Reservoir. It's a level, not a pressure, sensor. The service manager there wasn't too busy and helped me out in the service bay. I even got a t-shirt and stickers out of the whole deal. I'd definitely come back and visit again.

After that, I made a quick stop to the nearby D-Store to see if there were any good deals on motorcycle gear before riding back to Battery Spencer to get that view of the Golden Gate Bridge. By the time I got there (about 7:30 PM), the view was just perfect.

I made it back to Petaluma around 9 PM and had to find some creative parking on the street. The roads are severely banked here so I had to be careful where I put my kickstand down. In reference to the title of this blog, returning to San Francisco and some destinations that I have not seen in ten years brought closure to what were tumultuous times in my life. In many ways, even being back up here was a cleansing experience.

My next stop the following day, the Corbin Seats World Headquarters in Hollister, CA, would bring some of that healing energy onto my trusty Yamaha FJR1300 in the form of a completely restored rider seat.

That parking angle is just slightly unnerving...


NorCal Revisited Part 2: Breakfast, Homework, and San Rafael

Day 2 was a "homework and chill" kind of day. Since I'm currently in grad school and taking an online class during the summer, I had to complete the weekly readings and assignments while I was up here. Thanks to my laptop, wi-fi, and remote access back to my desktop PC at home, I was able to finish most of that within the course of five hours and a bunch of social media time killing in between.

Eleanor took a break today. Considering that Petaluma is significantly cooler than the inland route of I-5, I think she enjoyed the change of pace as well.
But before that drone, I joined my friend for an early morning breakfast at Hallie's Diner in Downtown Petaluma (125 Keller St, Petaluma, CA 94952). I had cornbread pancakes, chicken sausage, and eggs for breakfast. Those pancakes were so tasty and filling. I had never enjoyed cornbread pancakes before and now I want to make them. After this and a load of coffee, it was off to work on that. I won't bore you with the details of that, but let's just say that creating databases with minimal instruction would've been difficult if this process and related software weren't part of one of my jobs.

Once my friend came back from work, we jumped in her car and drove down US-101 to San Rafael to meet up with another old friend for dinner at Sol Food Restaurant in its downtown district.

How far is it to...? Never mind.

Reunited and it feels so good!
For dinner, I ordered the pork chops with black beans and a split of garlic plantain and regular plantain with a side of salad and pickled onions on top. This was very flavorful and a lot of food for the price. Not pictured was the mango tea that topped off this very large and delectable plate.

After dinner, we headed over to Double Rainbow Cafe to have some post-dinner coffee and catching up on life. I learned about several short-term car rental services that were available in the Bay Area because of the shortage of space and the fact that many people up there don't have cars because it's just too damn expensive. This is a beautiful place but man, the property values here are through the roof.

Speaking of inexplicably high property values, my next stop in this vacation journey will take me to San Francisco and visit particular parts of the city to revisit old haunts and create new memories. I did enjoy my time here in San Rafael and would definitely like to revisit the place again someday.


NorCal Revisited Part 1: Riding through the broiler.

I had a chance to escape from Los Angeles life for a while, so I jumped on a very much repaired Eleanor and headed up north to the Bay Area to recharge myself. However, to pull that off, she and I had to blast through a little bit of hell...more like 430 miles of it.

My return up to Northern California will be the first time I've done so since 2011. As I progressed through this trip, I was able to revise a few stories and memories that had stemmed back to 2007 and a previous life.

The traffic wasn't anything unexpected leaving LA on the 405 North. Temperatures on I-5 started off nice in the 70s, but as soon as I reached the Grapevine region, it had suddenly risen to the 90s, forcing me to pull out the evaporative cooling vest to supplement my Fly Racing Flux Air Mesh jacket that I had chosen to take up with me instead of my standard Aerostitch Roadcrafter jacket. To top off the set was my Camelback Rogue 70oz Hydration Pack filled with ice water. There was no logical way that I could survive the temperatures with my standard, in-town gear, so out came the hot weather accessories.

The ride up was hot and uneventful. Eleanor had no issue blasting past the trucks and the cars, maintaining constant speed the whole time. I was really happy with my shorter Cee Bailey windshield that I had replaced my old one with, and its additional thickness and weight kept it from flopping around in the gusts. I only stopped a few times to get gas, soak my cooling vest, and refill my Camelbak. However, I did take one special break in Gustine/Santa Nella, CA to Pea Soup Andersen's to revise a memory from a previous journey to the location in Buellton. Thanks to that trip, I now have officially been to both locations in California!

Hot soup during this time of the day? If it's split pea soup, hell yes!

Exterior of Pea Soup Anderson's in Santa Nella/Gustine, CA.
I made it to my first stop, Dharma Trading Company in Petaluma, CA, by around 2 PM (I had started riding around 6:30 AM.) to visit my friend and pick up the key for my lodging. She had kept a sign that I had sent to her a couple years back that was passed on to me by another friend. Considering that she works for a dye company, it was so fitting that she had this displayed prominently in her office.

I was zonked after that 430-mile ride, so I had a fried chicken sandwich at the nearby Pub Republic before heading back to the house, unloading my gear, and relaxing.

Once my friend came home from work, we walked through Downtown Petaluma and had some Mexican food. Honestly, the food was pretty forgettable as the shrimp did not have to be that salty at all. But we did stop by a 7-11 to get Lotto tickets and an It's-It ice cream treat. This is one of those regional things that I had heard of but did not get the chance to try until now. I think it will be slightly mandatory for me to have at least one of these every time I come up to visit. Besides, every good motorcycle ride has to end in ice cream. That's a very well-known unwritten rule!


How long does a windshield last on a Yamaha FJR1300?

The answer...about ten years, 190,000 miles, or until I can get around to replacing plastic that was probably on its way out at least 20k miles ago. I don't normally look through my windshield so it was something that I didn't care about for a while.

The original windshield, a Yamaha OEM extended touring version (4" taller, 1/2" wider) made by National Cycle, has been on Eleanor for all but 1200 miles of its life. That's 190k of every possible weather condition short of an absolute blizzard, road salt, bugs of every size, dirt, soot, and all sorts of crap hitting it at any given point on the road. By the end of its life, the plastic had yellowed, especially at the top, and there was a lot of distortion/fogging on it. Yeah, it was time for it to go.

Its replacement is a barely-used, Cee Bailey's 2" above standard OEM windshield taken off of a 2006 Yamaha FJR1300. If you haven't tried a Cee Bailey's windshield, I would suggest giving this company's products a shot. I could feel the quality of this aircraft plastic in my hands as I was installing it.

As for installing it, it's relatively straightforward. There are two bolts at the bottom of the windshield that have to be removed using a 3mm Allen key. That removes the decorative/protective cover that hides the plastic Phillips head screws that keep the shield in place on top of rubber bumpers. The entire process took less than ten minutes to do, and that was me taking my time. And you can do it without having to electronically raise the windshield.

In terms of image, replacing that plastic made my bike look several years younger again. I didn't realize how much of a visual difference it would make to Eleanor, and I'm really glad I did it when I was able to do so. I guess it's the same effect as getting a new pair of eyeglasses. Also, using a windshield that's 2" shorter than what I've been using has increased airflow and has made the bike feel a bit more aerodynamic than I've been used to.

Now that the major electrical issues (failing relays) have been attended to, I can focus on more of the other comfort items on the bike. She's still in the running toward 200k miles barring anything catastrophic so I'll make sure she'll look good on the way there. Perhaps I'll go back to doing some long-distance weekend rides for old times sake. Yes. That would be amazing.