So, this being sunny and beautiful California, the idea of a quick two-day tour to Monterey from Los Angeles (San Diego for me) and back again in the middle of December doesn't seem like a bad idea at all. ZX-Greg had a course all plotted out, and made reservations for a place to stay on Monterey. All together, eight of us signed up for the jaunt up the coast and back.
Up the coast and back, though, really does no justice to Greg's ride-routing skills. He had strung together a bunch of roads we all know, some roads we'd never heard of, and even a few nobody
has ever heard of, because they pretty much don't exist. More on that later.
Anyhow, met up in Long Beach, and headed north up I-5 to Frazier Park. Turning off the freeway, we got the first taste of what was in store for us all weekend- we got split up, albeit briefly. Somehow, one of the group somehow didn't notice the other seven bikers exiting the freeway, and he just went right past the offramp. He rejoined us minutes later at the gas station, so it was no big deal.
We headed west, then north and more importantly, uphill. Soon we got to elevations above the freezing point, and every wet patch on the road (and there were plenty of them) shone white with frost and ice. The feeling of our bikes slithering around on the road was also to become far too familiar... Still, we were all smiles at this point.
We took a bunch of fun roads, and even briefly stopped at a curve where one of us had pitched his bike into a farmer's field last November. I took some photos, but they didn't turn out quite as well as I would have liked. In the center of this you can see the rider who crashed last year (look close- he's pretty much right in the center), and the field he wound up in.
Not too long after that road I tried a shot while riding:
Man, California is way too crowded.
We stopped for gas in lovely Taft, an oil town that looks a bit down on its luck. Leaving the gas station, one of us managed to not see the rest of us make a turn off the main road. Thinking that we'd all somehow just put the hammer down, he did his best to catch up, heading west at an extremely high rate of speed. We watched him vanish in the distance. Tried to catch him, too, but he had too much of a lead and he kept hitting all the lights on green but the pursuers had to stop for reds.
He knew the route, though, so it just meant he got to the lunch stop before the rest of us.
We stopped for lunch in a tiny town (pop. 18) called Parkfield, and it turns out to have its own web site, www.parkfield.com
. If you ever wind up there, stop to eat. It's good. Get the fries.
In Parkfield we were joined by the Den Mother, riding a police BMW she'd stolen somewhere. As I understand it, she was planning on taking it out of the country- but true to her nature, she couldn't just take it down to Mexico a couple of easy hours away, no. She was en route to Canada with the thing.
Some others in the group took pictures of us by the sign that says "San Andreas Fault. Now entering North American Plate" which was a hundred yards from the restaurant, and hopefully they'll post some later on.
Leaving Parkfield, we took the Parkfield-Coalinga "road". This was a nice, paved road for while, until it wasn't anymore. That is, it stopped being paved, and not too long later, stopped being nice. We were all up for riding a dirt road, but a road with big dropoffs on the side, and as slick as snot, proved to be a bit much for some of us. Here's a picture of the Den Mother riding the big RT-P on the slick stuff (if you zoom in enough, you can probably see the smile on her face).
Here's exactly what a fire-engine red Ducati ST4s was not
designed for (notice the approved outrigger technique to keep the bike upright and pointing in the correct direction):
None of us dropped our bikes, but some of us were having an unpleasant time of it and elected to backtrack, then meet up in Monterey.
Ironically, the road turned to nice, clean pavement again not very far at all from where they'd turned around. In fact, in retrospect it might have been easier to press on than to ride back down to Parkfield. On the other hand, a lot of what was to follow was quite challenging, too, so it probably was the best choice. Especially since the cop bike's headlights didn't work, and was getting later all the time.
Here is a photo of the road leading back down the other side of the hills. Notice the clouds looming in the distance.
The remaining five of us continued on with the planned route. We turned off the main(ish) road onto a smaller road, and then that petered out into and even less distinguished chunk of pavement. This was the type of county road that is at best a 1 1/2 lane road. When oncoming vehicles meet, one has to pull off onto the shoulder to let the other by. No painted lines of any kind, either. No signs, nothing.
We kept up a pretty brisk pace, albeit with an element of caution. There were many decreasing radius turn, potholes, and plenty of debris to keep us on our toes.
Then, it got tough.
At pretty much about the same time, the road got worse, and narrower. It started to rain, and any hint of daylight vanished. Did I mention that the color of the pavement was about exactly the color that is hardest to see at night, with the rain pelting down? About exactly the same color as the extremely slippery clay mud that made up the shoulders of the road? Well, it was. I was proud of myself for only running off the road twice. Sorry, no pictures. One of the other riders took some photos when we stopped. Maybe he'll post one.
We rode by braille for what seemed like at least an hour until the road finally met up with a larger county road that was so welcome for its painted lines and smooth, clean pavement. It was still dark as a cave, though, and cold and pouring down rain. Pretty soon, we arrived (like Marlon Brando and his pals) in Hollister. No, it isn't just a brand of clothing. This town, like Parkfield and Coalinga, claims for itself the title of "Earthquake Capital of the World". No earthquakes happened while we were in any of the three towns, so I really can't say which is the true champ.
We stopped at a mini mart, with a very friendly and bored little old lady manning the counter. Regarding the absolutely pouring down rain, shae said to me that she thought bikers didn't ride in the rain. "The smart ones don't", I replied. At the moment, this was absolutely the most correct answer I could think of.
From Hollister to Monterey was an hour of intense, pounding rain. Pretty uneventful other than that, though.
We arrived at the motel (which had underground parking- thanks, Greg) only a few minutes after the other group did. I guess they'd spent an hour somewhere trying to get the headlights on the police bike working, to no avail... So DD just rode in the pounding rain, in the dark, between two of the other riders, poaching off of their lights. Her reputation only gets more and more legendary. I'm pretty sure she had a smile on the entire time.
Dinner at the El Palomar restaurant across the street was good, but we were so loud we chased away all the other diners, I'm sorry to say.
All in all, a good day on the bike. Fifteen hours from start to finish. Not the easy way to get to Monterey, but what would be the fun in that?
The next day we came back home.
Ha- you didn't think that was it, did you? Well, you were right. To start things off, BMW-K figured out the problem with the lights on the police bike and got it properly sorted, and all before breakfast. After a quick bite, we all headed down to Cannery Row for a photo op, then DD left us to head north. We hit the road southbound, down Highway 1 and to the Big Sur coast.
In the rain. The cold, hard rain. And wind.
The views were fantastic- that coastline at its best is quite spectacular. With the storm conditions the waves were enormous, crashing hundreds of feet up the cliffs. Well, OK, they weren't quite that big- maybe 15' at the crest, but crashing on the rocks and throwing spay maybe 50' or so in the air. The road conditions, again, were quite poor. In other places, guys drive snowplows. In the Big Sur, they drive rockplows. I am not joking. We saw at least five rockplow trucks, and they could have benefitted from twice as many. We had to slalom around rocks and small boulders in the road dozens of times. Cornering on a twisty road with a four hundred foot cliff immediately to the right, while dodging rocks and slipping in mud run-off and getting blown around by a strong, gusty wind made for some amusing moments.
Anyhow, we made short work of that section. Soon, leaving the Big Sur behind, the road opened up a bit and we put on some speed to make time. Visibilty was extremely poor because of the weather conditions. As it turns out, two of our group lagged a little behind and lost sight of the rest of us in the rain and fog. The rest of us stopped for gas in San Luis Obispo, and wondered where they were. One of them was the guy who'd planned the whole ride, too. Somebody remembered something about a turnoff, and we had no emergency voicemails on our phones, so we figured that they were just hitting some side road.
We were wet and cold. In fact, one rider's 'stitch had let in so much water by this point he wouldn't have been wetter if he'd been riding in his bathing suit. He opted to pull into a coin-op laundromat to dry everything off, while the rest of us continued on. We stopped for a bit to eat in a town called Los Olivos, which seems to have lots of good looking women infesting the place. Definitely worth a return visit when the weather is better. From there it was over the hill to Highway 101, then a quick turn onto the Coast Highway to Malibu.
Malibu seemed to be the end of the rain, so I used the opportunity to change out of sodden clothes into clean, dry stuff. Best of all, I still had a pair of dry gloves... heaven. The others (only four by this point) were all so close to home that they weren't worried about being wet for a little longer. I had a couple more hours to go, though, so it made a huge difference in my mood.
We blasted south on through Malibu, intimidating all the movie stars in their Lamborghinis on our way to the freeway. One by one, all the others peeled of at their exits, leaving me to push the pace on through L.A., Orange County, and finally home. Eleven hours to the minute from when we'd rolled out of the parking garage, I pulled into my driveway. All told, it added up to 1046 miles on the odometer.
I was damp, but happy to have spent the weekend riding with a great bunch of people. Thanks to ZX-Greg for organizing it, and thanks to everybody else who made it such a memorable experience.
Next time, though, let's plan it for sometime when it's dry.