Picture Intermission – An Impromptu Sport-Touring Test with the Yamaha Tracer 900GT

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As you hopefully saw with my First Ride review of the new Yamaha Tracer 900GT, I was given the opportunity to ditch my flight home and ride back to Los Angeles from the launch in Stevenson, Washington instead. You can probably guess what I decided to do! Here’s a brief picture tour of my 1,300 mile, 2 day trip on Yamaha’s newest mid-sized sport-tourer.

I had never been to southeastern Washington before. It was unexpectedly hot (I saw 107 degrees on the dashboard thermometer at one point) but the scenery was worth it!

The next day, I got a later start than the other folks who were riding back to Southern California. I got some Bike-urious posts done in the morning and then rolled off the centerstand around 9am.

The launch was just a few minutes away from the crossing into Oregon, so I crossed off my first state almost instantly. That was easy!

Crossing the boundary between Washington and Oregon via the Bridge of the Gods. The motorcycle toll is $1 (compared to the automotive toll of $2). I was pleasantly surprised at the tool booth when I found out that the Cadillac Escalade in front of me had paid my toll as a kind gesture!

Interestingly, the first sign I saw in Oregon was motorcycle-related.

Whenever I hit the road, I like to refer to Roadside America to find quirky destinations near my route. That’s how I found out about the “Train Appreciation Park”

This is the entire park! I only went to see if it was real. Sadly, a train did not come by for me to appreciate while I was at the park.

Just 5 miles away, I saw a log barge approaching some locks to get around the Bonneville Dam. I ditched Interstate 84 with the hopes of seeing the locks up close, but unfortunately the public isn’t allowed to watch. My consolation prize was some time near the dam.

Log barges are awesome. I’ve set this video to skip to 0:40 to get right to the good stuff, and there’s another one at 1:35:

I debated reaching out to a few friends in Portland, but I was worried that I’d end up spending hours in the city and fall behind my barely-prepared schedule. I decided to just bug one person – Gregor Halenda, whom I’ve featured many times in the past. He showed me an awesome R100GS project that he’s working on – he’s got a lot of great ideas for this bike and I’m truly looking forward to seeing its final form.

Does this bike look familiar? If you say yes, consider me very impressed. I featured it almost exactly a year ago and while Gregor wasn’t able to snap it up at the time, he kept in touch with the seller and ended up buying it months later. It was currently torn apart to fix an electrical issue, but Gregor was able to get it all back together again to tackle a 500 mile dual-sport ride the next morning!

I could have spent hours with Gregor but I needed to get back home and he needed to put his bike back together. So he gave me some suggestions for twisties to tackle and I headed south to test his suggestions. One of the highlights was Route 34 – west of Philomath there’s a series of banked curves that feel like they should be part of a racetrack, not a public street.

At Cape Perpetua (just south of Yachats, Oregon) there’s an overlook where I saw an ocean geyser called “The Spouting Horn”.

Further south there’s some obvious signs that the road goes right alongside the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.

Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to ride up, I settled on inspecting the sand up close. I became entranced by how the sand would fall into place when it was disturbed at the bottom:

I saw an empty truck scale and was curious to see if it would even bother registering the Tracer and me. The display rounds off to the nearest 50, and with a little bit of trial and error I was able to estimate that I weighed about 730 pounds. Considering Yamaha’s quoted figured of a 474 pound wet weight (without bags), I guessed that I was lugging around about 60 pounds of luggage and gear.

Something Awesome” is a hardwood mill that is hard to miss thanks to some incredible wood sculptures. I like seeing this kind of stuff on the side of the road but I always wonder who actually buys these things.

This “road sign” was easily visible from the main road, so I had to check it out. The view wasn’t really worth the detour, but I may have been jaded after having just ridden along the coast for a few hours.

The view when entering Gold Coast, Oregon from the north is delightful. Assuming it’s not covered in fog, you’ll see a small municipal airport alongside the water before the road briefly cuts in and then you cross a bridge that spans the Rogue River. Near the water’s edge is what’s left of an interesting boat called the Mary D. Hume.

The Mary D. Hume has an interesting story that dates back to 1880. Named after the builder’s wife, this boat ended up service completing 97 years of active commercial sea service, making it the longest service for “any commercial vessel on the Pacific Coast.” It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 after a career that covered freight, Arctic whaling, fishing, towing, and even as an ocean tugboat.

The boat’s Arctic whaling days (a 10-year period) make for great reading. From a sign next to the final resting place of this ship:
The Mary D. Hume recorded the largest catch of whale Baleen, valued at $400,000 after a 29 month voyage. She then made Artic [sic] Whaling history with the longest recorded whaling voyage of six years. During her long Artic [sic] voyage numerous sailors died from scurvy, cold, and lunacy caused by privation. Their bodies were stored frozen in ice until the spring thaw allowed burial on nearby Herschel Island. Her last whaling voyage was recorded in 1899 and on her return trip she was caught in a horrible storm which tore whaling boats from the decks and washed two sailors overboard to their deaths in the frigid sea.

The boat was retired in 1978. She returned almost exactly to her place of birth under her own power and was then parked to age away and apparently have toilets throw on her.

Why Arch Rock was given its name is fairly obvious.

How many signs do you need to describe one restaurant?

I finally get to lane split again! Spending time in Washington and Oregon reminded me that I take lane splitting for granted.

At the “Trees of Mystery” in Northern California there’s statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe. Both statues are made out of wood, wire, and cement. Paul is 49 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs 30,000 pounds, while Babe is 35 feet tall and weighs the same amount. If you want to see part of what Paul is watching at any given time, there’s a webcam you can check out.

This beautiful sunset was my cue to start planning my hotel stop for the night.

See? I promise I was actually invited to this launch.

The nice thing about the giant visor size of the AGV AX-8 EVO Naked Carbon is the excellent visibility. The bad thing is that there’s even more space to kill bugs that interfere with sight lines.

I got a motel in Eureka, California and then headed to Lost Coast to sample some of their wares. The LED running lights look great, but it was the lights on my Alpinestars jacket that got the most attention. I got asked by 7 different people about the lights in my jacket in a 2-hour span – they were the indicator LEDS for my airbag system. I’ll have a review of it for you soon.

The Fogcutter Double IPA had a motorcycle as part of the label, so I felt obligated to order one. It was good!

The next morning I continued my trek south and took a detour through the appropriately-named Avenue of the Giants. Until 1960, it was part of Route 101. Then it was replaced by a freeway so it now just functions as a scenic route.

Officially known as Route 254, Avenue of the Giants is 31.6 miles long and it’s full of beautiful views like this. It’s also full of tourist attractions that transport you back to the 50s when America was full of roadside novelties to capture the attention of drivers.

A popular attraction in this neck of the woods is the Drive Thru Tree. I stopped at the Shrine, which charges $8 for cars and $4 for motorcycles.

I don’t think the average SUV could fit through here.

Yamaha quotes the Tracer’s wheelbase at 59.1 inches, so you can use that as scale for the diameter of this tree trunk.

Redwood bark is fascinating.

While I was on my way down, I posted some updates to my Instagram stories so that people could follow along live. One reader suggested that I should stop by the town of Ukiah, the home of Germain-Robin. I had never heard of it, but he said it was the best brandy in the US. I was easily sold on the idea, but I thought I’d do a little bit of research beforehand.

The company started with a coincidence – an ex-Berkeley professor named Ansley Coale bought 2,000 acres of farmland near Ukiah in 1973, saving his money with the intent of planting grapes. Eight years later he picked up a hitchhiker, and it turned out to be Hubert Germain-Robin. Hubert’s family had been making Cognac since the late 1700s and after the family business was sold off to a conglomerate he was looking for a new location to produce alcohol the old-school way. Ansley and Coale decided to start a business together during the car ride!

The official shop is a small one – this is just about half of the footprint.

Hubert Germain-Robin left a few years ago, but over 30 years later Ansley Coale is still going strong. I was surprised to meet him on a random Saturday morning – I assumed he’d have an employee working on the weekend – but he clearly cares about his work. I know very little about brandy so he let me try a few options.

Years ago I rode to the top of Alaska with Vy’s uncle, Bui. Bui loves brandy and he was on my way home, so I grabbed a bottle for him and then I grabbed a bottle of the Select Barrel XO for myself.

A quick stop at the Napa Valley sign probably gives you an idea of my next stop.

My boss’s wife loves Cakebread Cellars, so I stopped by to see if I could grab anything that wasn’t available in Los Angeles. The answer was yes, but the nice lady I spoke with at the counter scolded me when I said I was going to bring it on a bike because I wouldn’t be able to keep it cold. We decided to ship it, instead.

I stopped at Bui’s house for a late lunch (2pm) in Fremont, and that left me 350 miles to get back home that evening. Interstate 5 was over 100 degrees so I chugged along the 101, taking mental notes about how the Tracer was doing and stopping only for this photo.

That’s it! If you missed my formal review of the Tracer 900GT, you can check it out here.

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