Words and Color Photos by Amanda Leigh Smith, B&W Photos by James CroweI’ve never really considered my Toyota Corolla an adventure mobile, even though it has gone a hundred thousand miles with me across the country multiple times and explored all over the Pacific Northwest (even down many dirt roads!). But it really proved tough when we decided to tow two motorcycles with it almost 2,000 miles up and down the west coast. We packed our little white sedan to the brim, loaded up the trailer and our motorcycles, and drove from Whistler, BC to San Francisco to pick up some friends from Santiago, Chile who were visiting the USA for their first time. We met them last summer on a motorcycle trip through South America, so it seemed fitting for us to cruise around on bikes, but we wanted the comforts of having a car around for our two-week adventure. I wasn’t sure if our little car could carry all that weight up and down mountains and for so many miles, but it did great and made us realize you don’t need a fancy rig to get out there and have fun. That’s not to say we didn’t get a few goofy looks and laughs along the highway.
After we picked up our friends from their hotel in downtown San Francisco, we headed to Big Sur. It was my first time camping there, and we found a great spot along the Big Sur River to set up for two nights. We took a day trip with the motorcycles up the mountains of Los Padres National Forest. It was so beautiful. The hills were gold, the oak trees were huge and the fog rolled in from the ocean.
The next day we headed to El Portal to camp near Yosemite Valley. We rode the motorcycles down Tioga Road through Yosemite National Park and Inyo National Forest to the town of Lee Vining where we would stop for lunch. We cruised through the high desert to the Mono Lake Tufa Reserve to check out the unique limestone formations and made it back just in time for sunset in Yosemite Valley. Half Dome and the giant granite monoliths were lit up golden by the setting sun.
After packing up camp at Yosemite, we drove northwest across the state to camp in the redwoods. It was exciting to show our Chilean friends this area, as it’s unlike anything they had ever seen before. We camped beneath the canopy of the Richardson Grove State Park, stoked to be out of the crowds of Yosemite, having the whole campground to ourselves. In the morning we set out for the Usal Road, an unmaintained dirt road winding along the Lost Coast. Splashing through massive mud puddles and riding over downed trees we caught glimpses of whales and elk. It was definitely the most fun day of riding. We ended our day with a delicious seafood feast in Shelter Cove. Our last day on the bikes would take us through the Avenue of the Giants, stopping along the way for hikes through the ancient trees, grateful to be in there presence.
So the little Corolla that could. From Whistler to Portland to SF to Big Sur to Yosemite to Mono Lake to the Redwoods to Southern Oregon coast to Portland and back home to Whistler. Two weeks, 2,000 miles and loaded up 2,000 pounds of fun stuff. Making it home without a hitch.