I read a statistic that over fifty percent of adult Americans never move further than fifty miles from the house they grew up in. While I’m not amongst the report’s majority, this lifelong residential propinquity makes sense. Most families—even dysfunctional ones—tend to stay close to one another, and I’m sure there are evolutionary advantages to not wandering too far from your tribe’s nest.
On the other hand, this stick-with-where-you-know behavior surely limits potential life adventures and must also bleed into other social habits. For example, I live in Los Angeles and have noticed that most Angelenos seldom travel to the end of the city opposite where they work and reside. Sure, miserable traffic conditions are a factor in avoiding vehicular wayfaring, but lazy traditions and passiveness are also huge considerations. In fact, unless you’re one of LA’s denizens residing plum along the beach, most locals all but forget the beauty and majesty of California’s coastline, including yours truly.
Last week, on the heels of completing the songwriting process for The Devil’s Carnival: Episode Two and a mini-five-year movie anniversary tour for Repo! The Genetic Opera, I decided to venture beyond my residential routines and take an impromptu motorcycle trip up the state’s coastline.
The plan was simple and twofold: 1.) take the scenic route up Pacific Coast Highway from Malibu to San Simeon, visit a historical landmark, spend the night, and then drive back the following day; and; 2.) be open to any and all adventures along the way. I was not prepared for what followed.
I should start by saying that I’m a relatively new motorcycle driver. I’ve had my Ural since early July and while I’ve come a long way in the past four-and-a-half months, I’d yet to experience many of the road and weather obstacles that I’ve heard other motorcyclists bemoan—experiences that became front and center on my coastal escapades.
In advance of the trip, I purchased a few motorcycle gear upgrades, including a rear luggage rack, spare tire and mount, waterproof sidecar cover, and retractable cup holders. Yes, cup holders: the hallmark of any luxury sidecar experience.
The adventure began on a late Tuesday afternoon without a hitch. The ocean views, crisp coastal air, and winding waterfront roads reminded me that it was more than gold that lured people westward in the country’s formative years. In addition to picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean, there are also stretches of croplands, ranches, mountainous regions, and quaint towns no more than a block or two in length.
The trip took a challenging turn midway, however, when the sun and temperature dramatically dipped as my travel companion and I detoured for dinner to the Danish-style town of Solvang. With its thatched roofs, windmills, and village-style atmosphere, Solvang looks like something out of a Disney cartoon. It’s cheerfully-lit storefronts and facades appeared warm in every sense of the word, but with the coastal night air, increased altitudes, and pre-winter chill, it was anything but.
Accustomed to SoCal’s yearlong moderate weather, I was ill-prepared for the experience climate can play on the seat of a motorcycle. By the time we reached our dinner destination—a Viking themed pub—my hands were completely numb from the cold, so much so that I struggled with the simple and routine act of dismounting the bike and putting my vehicle’s keys into my pants pocket.
Inside the heated restaurant, with my hands wrapped around a hot cup of tea, it took a half-hour for normal feelings to return to my fingers… but the true test of the adventure wouldn’t come until the following day on the return trip home.
Day two started off great with a visit to Hearst Castle—the famed former mansion and expansive art collection of deceased newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. I had visited Hearst Castle once before as a child. Walking through the grounds, memories of my childhood sojourn came flashing back, especially recollections of a certain nude statue that in “hind” sight may have helped cement some of the perversities that carried over into my adult life.
Leaving Hearst’s historic estate, the weather took an unfortunate change for the worse. It started to rain. No, pour. Without rain gear or a backup plan, the motorcycle ride that followed demonstrated that it was not only uncomfortable to be on the road in the rain, but unwise due to safety concerns.
In an open-faced, three-quarter shell helmet, riding into the rain felt like sharp pebbles beating against my face. I’d glance down between face pelts to see tiny, sizzling pocks beneath my legs as drops of rain made contact with the bike’s hot exhaust pipes. Worse, in a matter of moments, I was completely soaked—socks, underwear, everywhere.
We pulled off the road at the first restaurant we saw and went inside to dry off and wait for the storm to pass. Two hours later, we were still wet, and still waiting. That’s when the drinking began.
Our bartender—sympathetic to our situation after witnessing us roll up, dismount, and drippingly make our way to his barstools—spoke with the manager of the restaurant (which was fortuitously attached to a hotel). The manager, because it was the establishment’s off-season, offered us a room to shower and crash in until the rains lifted for thirty bucks. We took it.
It rained all night, but by morning the sun peeked through the clouds and the skies cleared. We got back on the road for the final leg of the adventure and made it home, safe and sound, by evening.
Weather snags included, the three-day expedition was a blast—an experience certainly worthy of a blog post. It also left me with a better understanding of how to prepare for the next motorcycle voyage… but I could use your help.
If there are any motorcyclists amongst you, fair readers, please share in the “Comments” section below any tips or tricks of the trade that you’ve learned for navigating cold and rainy weather conditions. Feel free to to share some of your own two, three, or four wheeled adventures as well.