Conclusion 2022 Recap Day 11

Day 11: September 20, 2022
Gilroy to San Francisco, California

April 30, 2024

Gilroy to San Francisco, California

Rush Hour Traffic in the San Francisco Bay Area

It seemed that the closer we got to the Clift Hotel in San Francisco, the heavier traffic was getting. My initial plan was mount up south of the city to ride all the way to the Clift Hotel, but when we arrived at the Chevron station near the southern end of Potrero Avenue to ride the remaining three and a half miles to the Clift Hotel, that plan changed again. As far as I could see, there was stop-and-go traffic heading into the city, with traffic lights at nearly every intersection.

In case I didn’t mention it previously, I will do so now. Beginning with their initial model in 1912, the Henderson brothers built four-cylinder in-line air-cooled engines that depended on movement (preferably at speed) to keep air moving over the engine to stay cool. When we got to San Francisco, I flashed back to the beginning of my trip in traffic-clogged New York City in 2019. Two words came to mind: Not pretty.

Dealing with NYC traffic in 2019 looked not only unappealing, but it struck me as unsafe. But my safety rider and mechanic, Loring Hill, was game. Loring, some forty years my junior, was already a veteran of several transcontinental Motorcycle Cannonball rallies. I watched in amazement as Loring skillfully coaxed the Red One over the Williamsburg Bridge, thirty blocks across lower Manhattan, block by block, light by light, then down and through the Holland Tunnel. He managed his speed to get green lights when he could, or stop and shut the engine down when the lights turned red. While Loring made it look easy, he later admitted it was a challenge even for him.

So here I was in San Francisco facing much the same kind of intense traffic with stop signs or signal lights at every intersection! I was only twenty blocks from reaching my destination on a centennial tribute ride that I had planned for nearly two decades, had twice commenced, and had covered thousands of miles. As I looked into the distance at the seemingly-unending signal lights and bustling traffic, I had to ask myself, “is this worth risking overheating and seriously damaging my engine?” Truth be told, I was also worried about getting run over by a distracted motorist.

The only responsible choice I had was to put the Red One back in the trailer and make our way to the Clift Hotel. Needless to say, it was a major disappointment. But if my decision kept me safe so I could arrive at the end of my journey with the Red One in one piece, then it was a sacrifice worth making.  

Arrival at the Clift Hotel 

A few weeks before we arrived, I heard back from one of my childhood friends – Dirk Setchko – who said he would try to meet me at the Clift Hotel when I arrived. I spent some time coordinating with Dirk, explaining when we planned to arrive at the Clift Hotel. Unbeknownst to me, Dirk arrived at the Clift Hotel an hour or so before we were to arrive. He informed the hotel staff about the travelling circus that was soon to arrive. He told them we “only” needed an open “pull through” parking spot in front of the hotel to unload the Red One and take a few photos. When we arrived, there was a massive space for us to pull in and park in front, more than we needed!  I can’t be sure that it was usual for that much space to be available, but there was a lot of traffic on Geary Street, so I cannot help but imagine the extraordinary efforts the hotel doorman, Todd Shinn, went to ensuring we had the space we needed.

Mark Hunnibell and Clift Hotel Doorman, Todd Shinn

Mark Hunnibell and Clift Hotel Doorman Todd Shinn at the Hotel Desk

Dirk saw us coming up Geary Street. Having previously loaded his BMW into the trailer next to the Red One, Glen was driving Willie’s truck as we pulled up to the Clift. Dirk caught it all on video and in photos. Once we got the Red One out, I parked it on the sidewalk in front of the Clift and started it up. I also started a Facebook Live session and broadcast for four minutes while Glen filmed. Dirk presented me with a bottle of sparkling wine in celebration. It was a surreal moment that was, to be honest, over too soon.

Conclusion 2022 Day 11 Recap Video

I had long dreamed of completing this trip, but had not given adequate thought as to what to do after arriving in San Francisco. I didn’t want to abuse Todd Shinn’s consideration by overstaying my welcome. Willie, Glen, and I all seemed to have “places to go – things to do” after we finished, so I had not booked any rooms at the Clift for the night. Probably twenty minutes after we arrived, we carefully secured our motorcycles in the trailer. I bid farewell to Dirk and Willie, and we (Glen and I) left for Ohio in Willie’s truck. Willie got a lift back to San Francisco airport with a friend so he could meet his new grandson who had been born just before we arrived in Winslow, Arizona. Glen and I headed east over the Bay Bridge to join I-80 through Reno to overnight in Winnemucca, Nevada.

Two more days of driving later, on Friday, and I was home.

I asked Willie, Glen, and Lloyd to send me a few remarks about their experiences on this adventure and will send them along in an “Epilogue” in about a week.

Words cannot convey my heartfelt appreciation for all of those who helped bring this dream to life, but “thank you all!” will have to suffice for now.


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Captain Mark Hunnibell

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