Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Coastline California / The Beginning 2003

In mid April of 2003 my new bride and I ventured off on a ride for our honeymoon for ‘our beginning’, although our first meeting was 30 years before. She thought it would be a great idea to do a ride out to and down the coastline of California from our home in the central valley. Being the avid biker I am and always wanting to please the wishes of my woman; I obliged her with this GREAT IDEA! We packed up the bike (directly after our wedding day) on April 26, 2003 and headed out on a path that I had spent weeks putting together so that we could see some of the greatest places and roadways along our travels.

We both had been reading and looking at some of the travels of others on a website called and it was very intriguing to say the least. She had never really been on a long term ride, nor traveled more than about 200 miles on a ride in her life. We were now setting off on a 10 day trip that would take us from Sacramento out to the Northern Coast at Mendocino and then travel south on mostly two-lane twisties and coastal roads to Morro Bay ultimately. Not a cross-country ride mind you, but definitely more than just a breakfast ride to catch some fresh air. The spring of 2003 was a very wet one and we almost didn't think that we would have much of 'dry wedding day' more less a dry ride that lasted almost two weeks. We were forever hopeful on the days leading up to "our special day" and it was a beautiful one. There was rain the day before... it was clear and the sun was shining on our wedding day and then the rain came again the day after, which of course was the day we were leaving. So we dawned our foul weather gear along with our full face helmets and set out upon the road.

We crossed into the Napa Valley on Highway 128 about the time it really started coming down and we ran head-long into some rain that didn't seem like it was ever going to stop. My leather gloves were so soaking wet that we finally had to stop at a store and get something different. I bought some snow gloves that were at least waterproof and kept my hands a little warmer and dryer. I remember they were a kids’ size because my palms didn't quite fit into them all the way. But hey, they were dry! The ride through Napa was very wet and even though we were well prepared for this days ride out to the coast, we still got wet through and through. Even under the conditions we were presented I'd say my wife did a great job of hanging in there and keeping us both going.

From Napa we continued out westward on Highway 128, which is a beautiful two-lane road along a stream bed (at least there was one running at that time) that winds its way all the way out to the coast to meet up with Highway 1 just south of Navarro Point. We headed north on Hwy 1 until we came into the town of Little River. Some friends of ours had told us of small place there that is really nice to stay called the Little River Inn. This place has got allot of history and it is one of the most beautiful places on this earth, even in the rain. (uh yea it was still raining) We went into the office to get a room only to find out our friends had taken care of everything for us and we had the "special suite" across the road for the night.
We walked into a beautiful old style small home that was converted into this great room with a huge view of the wide open ocean right there overlooking Van Damme Beach. There was champagne on the table with a card and flowers with wishes for great time on them. It was awesome and we needed a good drying out next to the fireplace. We took our champagne out onto the private deck, popped it open and jumped into the already waiting and HOT Jacuzzi tub to warm ourselves back up.

Afterwards with the fireplace roaring we just watched the waves breaking in over the rocks and the beach down below us until going up for dinner at the Inn's Restaurant. There was great food and great people with some really interesting stories about the place. It was the best way we could have started off the trip!

Mendocino County Line / Day 2

The next day we headed into the town of Mendocino and found a nice little place in the center of town with some hot coffee. This is a place that is very rich in historical value with lots of old buildings and lots of stories behind them. We could have spent the whole day here but we wanted to get on the road and go someplace else. And that we did... We started heading south again on Highway 1 towards our next destination which would be our breakfast stop. It was someplace along the highway that we found and it was great food but I just can remember where exactly it was at.

We hit some more rain as we headed off down the Coast Highway again and had to suit up for the occasion. We took off to the east onto Highway 116 and into a little town called Duncan Mills. This destination would ultimately bring us some trouble...We had lunch there and it seemed like the rain was going to let up a bit. When we came out to leave… the bike didn't want to start. It’s like it was flooded or something. So we took a little walk around the shops and then came back and tried again a few minutes later. The damn thing started right up! very strange being this bike... but hey, she was running and we were on our way again. Little did we know that this was going to be a precursor to our entire trip?

We continued back out onto the coast highway (this would be our home for the next two weeks) and headed for Drakes Bay where there has always been stories told of Sir Francis Drake who came ashore here so many, many years ago aboard a 'pirates' vessel. Well some people called him a pirate and others say he was just an adventurer (just like myself) There’s a great lighthouse out there and more history to intake. I love history, it's what makes it all worthwhile to know that there were so many more people here before us and saw some of the same things we see now. We are stepping in their same footprints many 100's of years later… it's really all consuming sometimes.

We headed into a little town named Tomales; it’s located directly east of Drakes Bay on the inland bay channel aptly named Tomales Bay. Who would have thought of such a thing? Anyway, we grabbed ourselves a little something to drink at the general store there and nosed around just a bit. The weather had cleared by now and it was actually starting to look like a typical California day, sunny and bright. Then the storm started… and I’m not talking about any weather at this point.

The bike, as I have named “Dyna” over the years has decided to take on a mind of her own. Just like a woman… (I’m sure I’m gonna get in trouble here) when she is needed most, she decides to become ‘difficult’. She won’t start again. A combustion engine isn’t rocket science folks it takes 3 things to run; Air, Fuel and Spark. I had almost a full tank of gas, I could smell gas so it wasn’t lack of fuel. The air cleaner was off so there was no obstruction there, and when I check the spark I couldn’t see anything between the plug wire and the cap when I pulled it off. So I get the gear off the bike, I get the seat off, I start checking all the electronics for wetness or something stupid like that. My wife in the meantime is in a bit of a tiff, and at that point I try to start it again and the engine roars back to life!!!! So I figure I’ll get all this stuff back on it while it’s running (and I do), I tell the wife to jump on and we’ll be gone. She jumps on the back seat and the bike dies… Flat out dead. I turned to my wife and said “She doesn’t like you”.

That’s the last we hear from ole Dyna. So here we are dead in the water in the middle of no-where ( I thought) and I have to call a dealership… luckily we weren’t too far from civilization and we find a place… a great shop called Michaels Harley Davidson in Cotati, CA. This part gets long and drawn out but to make a long story shorter, they send a guy out for us with a truck and take us back to the shop and get us going again about 4 hours later. We are very grateful to them for getting the "Honeymooners" back on the road and we still get Christmas cards from them every year!!! Thanks Mike and crew!

We stayed the night in Petaluma as that was as far as we could get before nightfall after the repairs were made. They ended up changing the mag sensor, it was the only thing that didn't seem to be working at the time. More on this later.

After The Storm Passes... / Day 3

This is actually the point at which we finally get across the Golden Gate Bridge on Day #3 and it’s a beautiful day. The bike is running again (finally) and the wife is happy and that makes me happy. We make a bee-line for the coast again and get back out onto Highway 1 before the big traffic hits the area. We have been through the city before and that’s the last place we want to be right now. We take off onto Point Lobos Road after getting over the bridge and go west to "the Great Highway" which is actually the start of Highway 35. It is known to the locals here as Skyline Boulevard because it traverses the western most coastal mountain range at its peak and you can see both the inland valleys to the east and then the Pacific Ocean to the west. It’s a great site to behold on nice days and we had one that was working well for us now.
Once we made it up to the Highway 92 junction we took a break and looked back. This is the cutoff to Half-Moon Bay. I would have like to head down there but we had already lost a half of a day with the bike breaking down and we'd been-there-done-that anyway. So we moved on and continued our journey through the rustic woods of pine and oak that filtered the sunshine above us. You could see patches of bright blue off to the west as the Pacific waters met the clear blue skies. The valley to the east was as green as could be with all the winter and spring rains we had. The road was smooth and clear of any debris and it was like dancing through the winding roads.

We came into LaHonda, which is not a Spanish name for a motorcycle, but a town that it is famous for other things; one of which is Alice's Restaurant, the one made famous in the movies.
This place on the weekends is a mad-house of motorcycle mania and it attracts all makes and models of people and their motorcycles. This used to be my old stompin' grounds when I was a younger man and would run this mountain road with my friends at very scary speeds. We were much younger then with no responsibilities or brain content either... Anyway, we had breakfast here and it was very good and then we loaded up and went on down the road again.The bike was running good, the storm had passed... or so we thought.
We continued on our route through the coastal mountain range along the ridge highway known to every local as Skyline Boulevard, and to any map readers it would be Highway 35. We came to the junction known only as "The Crossroads" to most mountain road racing enthusiasts, which is the Highway 9 / Highway 35 junction. This leads you either into the town of Saratoga on 9 East or towards Santa Cruz on 9 West. We headed towards the coast again on our way to Monterey and beyond Highway 9 is still very much a mountain road with many twisties and elevation changes for the next 45 miles or so into Santa Cruz on the coast. But along the way you go through some of the most beautiful little mountain towns in the San Lorenzo River Valley like Boulder Creek, Brookdale, Ben Lomond and Felton. The highway also passes through a portion of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. There is a ton of California State history within this area and its communities.

(From the S.C. Site) Boulder Creek was originally founded as a logging camp. Timber claims were first made in 1865, and by 1870 there were a dozen claim camps. John H. Alcorn, son of Branciford Alcorn, built a hotel in 1870 near the river. Tilford George Berry was another founding father. Berry Falls are named for him in Big Basin. Boulder Creek incorporated as a village in1902, but voted out town government in 1905. Southern Pacific Railway chose the Boulder Creek site for its station and the town quickly grew. Boulder Creek became one of California's busiest logging towns, shipping out over 2 billion feet of redwood. Lumber was trained out 24 hours a day, almost every day. Boulder Creek was probably more infamous than famous: it had as many as 26 saloons, gambling houses, cat houses and hotels. The environment was almost wrecked by the clear-cut logging policies of the time. Very few old growth redwood trees survive today. With the advent of trucking and growing environmental concerns, the logging business slowed. Boulder Creek became a resort and hide out. During the late 1940s many summer cabins were built and the area maintained a fairly large summer population. It now serves as the 'Gateway to Big Basin.'

Big Basin is another of California's Redwood Forest State Parks. We headed into the general store at Boulder and Mt. Hermon for some refreshments along the way and then on down the road towards Santa Cruz. We came out onto Highway 1 again right at the Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park in downtown Santa Cruz. This is a place we visited on many occasions as kids and young adults growing up. The Boardwalk is one of California’s oldest with a 1924 wooden roller coaster named “The Giant Dipper”. We rode through town and along the coastal roads into some of the other little communities like East Cliff, Opal Cliffs, Capitola, and Aptos. We stopped in Capitola for lunch and enjoyed the coastal view from the deck of Margaritaville while enjoying their frozen melon margaritas. We got back onto Highway 1 and headed south once again, this is where Hwy 1 goes inland a bit and circles around the areas of Watsonville and Salinas before heading into the Monterey Bay Area.

Once into Monterey proper we headed down to the docks and on the frontage roads, down by the aquarium and onto Cannery Row. This place is filled with all kinds of places to eat and visit. We ended up at Sly McFly’s which just happens to be a legendary (fictional) race-car driver that left a legacy for bar patrons. You’ll have to read about the legend and check out some of the photos at the web link. He has a brother also that was a mad-scientist named Ely McFly and he had a bar in Cupertino, CA. Don’t know if that one is still there or not. Each of the brothers ended up in the saloon world somehow and the bar motif is that of their trades. Pretty nice setup.
We got done there and headed into Pacific Grove along 17 Mile Drive winding amongst million dollar homes and the tide pools surrounding them. This would lead us into the world renowned Pebble Beach Golf Course area. What a beautiful view of the greens with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop. I could see some beautiful shots taken out there with Dyna and my wife and I. Too bad I didn’t take any…. Oh well maybe next time.So onto Carmel by the Sea…. Oops, nope that wasn’t gonna happen either. All of a sudden the bike just goes dead again. Can you believe it????? Well we can’t and at this point we are fuming. But the story gets pretty funny here.

It Happened Along The Way...

Now I told you that there was a funny story behind this next breakdown and you'll have to just have an open mind on this one. So the bike is broken down on the side of the road, packed down with all our stuff and we're all leathered up in our biker garb. There's nothing but residential homes and such that can be seen from where we're at so my wife decides that she'll take a little walk and see what she can find. I'm gonna stay with the bike and fight off any would-be thieves looking to steal us blind. Ok so we're in Carmel, not much chance of that, and it is a NON-running bike so they're not going get far pushing it. But I decide to sit and wait.
So here's the story as retold by my wife, of her travels and what she finds to save the day. She walked up the road about 100 yards and found a driveway to a motel that wound up this long hill. She figured there’s got to be someone there that has a phone, (this was before cell phone mania mind you) and so she walks up this never-ending hill (she would come to find out) and when she reaches the top she sees this little 1950's period motel named The Tickle Pink Inn. Nope, no I'm actually not kidding... So she goes into the office and explains our situation to the gal there at the desk and she lets her use the phone book to find a local mechanic. She calls up this random Harley shop in Monterey, now mind you they're not your 'boutique' Harley Dealer types, these are biker shop guys that really know what they are doing, (more on that later)
Anyway she says "HI, My name is TINKER and I’m down at the TINKLE PINK INN and my bike is broken down, how would you like to come PICK ME UP?...” Well I don’t need to tell you that the phone went silent for a few seconds while the guys on the other end tried to figure out whether or not this was a prank. He was probably looking around to see if someone was filming him in his office. So he said something like "Uh … so you're kidding me right?..."Well after she explained things a bit more clearly it got much better from there on out.
They sent a guy out with a truck and retrieved us once again and brought us back to their shop. We were all still kinda laughing about Tinker at the Tickle Pink thingy and it would be something to remember for the rest of our lives.The guys found a bad coil and some wiring that was scraped on the main harness and made the fixes we needed and it worked like a charm. (I knew it was that damn coil!) Anyway the guys did us good and they all wished us well and we took off again just far enough to find a place to eat and sleep for the night.

Leaving Carmel / Day 4
So this time we feel the bike has really been repaired and we are ready to move on down the coast and see some more sites. We pack it all up and head South again down Highway 1 with a destination for the day somewhere near Hearst Castle. This place is a must see for my wife so I figure this will be a good opportunity for us to take some time away from the bike and do some other types of site seeing.Our travels were inland allot until we came out along the headlands. We stopped just before the Bixby Bridge which holds some kind of record for something... I don't know. Check out the link though, it is an interactive photograph of the bridge and the coastline by Brooks Leffler, a local photographer. This was a site to behold just like the many others we had seen.We get a little further down along the headlands near Big Sur and the views looking out to sea are just unbelievable. We are easily 1000 to 1500 feet above the rocks below and you can still hear the waves crashing against the land even with the Harley running, it's a pounding sound that's alarming a bit until you figure out what it is.

In the distant we could see a storm brewing and it was in the path that we would be journeying down. The clouds were immense and they were so black and dark grey in color that it looked like a different planet altogether. We stopped again and took some pictures down on a beach and then put our rain gear on, knowing that the sun was not gonna be shining on us for very much longer. There was no way to go around it, it was blowing in off the Pacific and it was already inland as far as we could see from this vantage point. So we toughed it out.We ran head long into what I would call a hurricane force weather front, only because we were running at 40-50 mph and hitting winds of probably the same speed. We dropped into a little canyon area that had a coffee shop, eatery and an art gallery. We found some cover for awhile. The major storm passed and we had mostly drizzle to deal with after that. We decided to hit the road again and get to our destination. Well we made one more stop at the Piedras Blancas Light House. What a beautiful place!!!We arrived in San Simeon and found a beautiful place called the Cavalier Resort on the beach side of the highway to stay the night and who knows how much longer. It was still raining and our gear was soaked almost through. We were dry inside so it was doing its job. Nothing like our sunny morning start from Carmel and our awesome beach party in Big Sur. San Simeon is a very beautiful place and we were both hoping that the storm would break and we would be able to experience it in all of its glory.We would have much more to experience... Stay tuned

San Simeon... and The Castle! / Day 5

San Simeon is a small town situated on the Highway 1 coastline of California's 'middle' section... not quite North and not quite South. The town was basically born by the Hearst family by means of building their magnificent 'home' in the hills overlooking the bay... Now this is no ordinary "home", this is truly a man's castle, and truly a man's showroom for all the wealth that they once represented in their day and age in the early 1900's. The San Simeon harbor sits in a natural cove along the coastline but it needed to have a pier built into the deeper water. Large ships would bring the necessary materials from all around the world for the construction of this elaborate castle. The pier still stands today.William Randolph Hearst was a newspaper man and made a very good business of it from the looks of this place. There are tours available that cover every aspect of the family's background and how this entire area came together due mostly in part to this man's dream.When you visit the castle known as "La Cuesta Encantada" - The Enchanted Hill; you are overwhelmed by its size and the workmanship because it is the best that can be had. There is so much history within this 127 acre estate that once encompassed more than 250,000 acres of prime land that was owned by the Hearst's. The living space alone covers over 90,000 square feet, 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms and 41 fireplaces just to name a few of the specs.

There were many things that inspired the design and construction of this 'palace of wealth' over a period of 28 years but the underlying effort was to have a place to stay when they went 'camping at the ranch'. The many gardens and pools and even a zoo of different exotic animals were built on the grounds to provide recreation for the family and their influential guests (which were many) over the years.Mr. Hearst died in 1951, the Castle and the entire estate were given over to the State of California in 1957 in order to preserve it as part of the history of this state and the man that helped build a part of it.
This is a great wonder of this state if you're interested in architecture and history, there is a lot to see and learn and more than you can do in a single day. I would have like to spend at least 2 or 3 days here and possibly taken more than just the Main tour but we had places to go and people to see so we boarded the bus ( no bike parking at the top I guess) and headed back down the hill.

Onto Morro Bay / Day 6 -7

Leaving San Simeon was unusually uneventful... thank God everything was now working well again, the bike was running perfectly, the sun was out and there were no clouds in site. The hotel staff had left a 'Bike Cleaning bag' with towels and cleaners by our door and that was pretty cool I thought. I polished up and loaded Dyna and we readied ourselves for the road ahead. We had breakfast at the hotel restaurant and then hit the road again heading south.Highway 1 again leaves the coastline and heads inland a few miles at this point and there is not much to see except the coastal headlands which can be pretty boring if you're not in a glorious newly-wed state of mind like Tinker and I were. We stopped occasionally along the road just to take in the mood of our surroundings and to just stretch our legs a bit. We ran through a few small towns along the way and just kinda made glances at the sites as we rode on through.

As we traveled further southward, we could see at a distance Morro Rock which is basically a big friggen mound of rock that sits off the coast about a half mile. It is also known as "The Gibraltar of the Pacific" from a distance its looks more like a ten gallon cowboy hat floatin on the water. As the miles passed the 'hat' just got bigger and bigger until the town limits came into view and we arrived. We road on down into town and there was a car show going on, mostly hotrods and older vintage types that were right up my alley. We parked it and decided to grab a drink and take a walk through to view all these fine autos. We met quite a few car people interested in our adventures and swapped stories of our travels and vehicles with each of them. The day was perfect but it was coming to a close with the temperature falling and the wind was whipping up. We decided to go find ourselves a place to stay for the night. Close in town we found a small motel overlooking the Morro Bay Marina and unloaded our stuff and took a nap, it seemed like it was a long day.

We had a dinner at one of the many marina restaurants within walking distance that I don’t remember the name of but the bartender was really funny. Tinker wanted a 'cruise ship' drink with lots of fu-fu stuff in it and he made one up as he went along. The wind was really blowin by this time and we were watching the seagulls trying to land on the railings outside the windows. It was hilarious to see them come floating in on the wind and then dive bomb into a crowd of other gulls perched on a rail and knock them off just to start the whole process over again... and again.We had a great meal there and then headed back to the room with a bottle of wine and our thoughts of the day’s occurrences. Morro Bay is a very gorgeous area with lots of history to be found here also. Something I found interesting was the population of Peregrine Falcons that nest within the rock's protected crevices. Much can be learned of this area.Tomorrow; we’d be going into Solvang. Skole!!!!

Solvang... The Day Ride /Day 7

We decided to take a day ride into the town of Solvang which is an authentic Danish town established in 1911. It’s located about 80 miles to the south and then inland of the coast. We traveled on Hwy 1 to San Luis Obispo, then followed Hwy 101 to Pismo Beach, through Arroyo Grande and Santa Maria on the way also. There are many small towns on this route but we didn’t stop as much as we could have. It was a gorgeous day and we wanted to get to Solvang to partake in some of the great foods and wine they are known for. We were baggage-less and the roads were open and no traffic, it was motorcycle bliss!We entered to within the city limits of Solvang and found that road 'bliss' had ended... the town was full of people and cars and so we just made our way through the tangled masses and found a parking spot to call our own. "Dyna" would be happy sitting under a beautiful maple tree along the street with people taking looks at her while we found places of our own to enjoy.We found a couple of restaurants to eat some food, "you can't eat just one"... we found a couple wineries to do some tasting and we did some window shopping at some of the stores along the route.We found the Vintage Motorcycle Museum right in the heart of downtown also, so we took a look and found treasures of motorcycle history I had long forgotten. What a collection of bikes from around the entire world. This is a 'must see' if you are ever down in this area. It's worth the trip just for this.It was a very nice trip in all, we decided to get back on the road and get into Morro before it got dark. We packed up our memories of Solvang and were back on the road again... Motorcycle 'Bliss' all the way back to Morro!!!

Time To Head Back To The Real World

Well after another fine evening meal and a refreshing night kicking around Morro Bay it was time to start thinking about heading back home again. We both enjoyed our ride down along the coast but life had to go on and it was going to be a new life for both of us at this point in our lives. Lots of new challenges ahead for us to take on and overcome.

This ride into 'the unknown' was definitely a test drive into what life's little un-expected happenings can throw at you. I think we both came out better prepared to take on anything and to just deal with it and make the best of any situation. And now that I am writing about it and memorializing the events of this ride it's really quite funny to look back on. Isn't that the way it always is? It is never funny when it's occurring, but we always say that "we will look back on this and laugh!" and we do.

Our ride home was just as beautiful as the ride down and we didn't hit anymore rain the entire way. It took us about 4 days to get back to Santa Cruz and there we met up with some friends from Boulder Creek that rode up and had dinner with us that last night on the road. We stayed at the Sea & Sand Inn overlooking the Beach Boardwalk and Pier. We all had dinner down at The Crows Nest Restaurant. Very good food with very good friends and that made it a perfect ending to a great trip overall.

Thanks for listening in. More travels to come.


  1. Very good storytelling. I felt I was riding with you. pls continue sharing your honeymoon on bike.

  2. Stay tuned theres lot to tell!