The Road Less Traveled

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.

Tribe

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.

Bench

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.

Beach

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.

Wet

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.

Cup Holder_closedCup Holder_open

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.

Cows

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.

Solvang

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.

Night

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.

Chapel

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.

Hindsight

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.

Angel

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.

Coast

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.

Coast-2

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.

Twilight

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.

  • Catitia Rowe

    My grandfather, coincidentally, just got the same exact motorcycle that you have with a sidecar as well. Haha.
    He took me for a ride in the sidecar and, unfortunately, it started raining. Hard. AND we were on a freeway.
    So, holy crap, do I know the torments of riding in the rain on a motorcycle/sidecar.

  • Kellie Stewart

    I just remember one Christmas going to my then boyfriend’s parents. His only mode of transportation was a motorcycle. I was about a 45 minute drive and the weather was freezing. I didn’t have the luxury of tucking my hands inside his coat for comfort. I couldn’t press myself against his back for a wind break either. We had many presents to deliver and I had to carry them the whole way. By the time we got there, I had to be pried off the bike. I have tremendous sympathy for you, As with any trip, you should always try to pack for all weather types. A good pair of leathers might help. Good luck with your next endeavor.

  • Jan Wilson

    I can help! I had a motorcycle when I lived in New Mexico, which gets super cold in the winter. The key to keeping your hands warm is to get a new helmet! Your hands got cold because your body was trying to keep your head/brain warm so it took resources from lesser important areas…your hands and feet. If you get a full helmet with a good visor it’ll keep your head warmer and your fingers won’t get as cold.

  • Arielle

    I swear, I live to read your blogs. <3
    I also live in Florida and have never driven or even been in (on?) a motorcycle before, so I'll refrain from offering any tips here. The extent of my advice would be, just don't go on any outdoor adventures and risk getting into uncomfortable or dangerous situations?
    Actually, avoid going outdoors at all.
    That's how I live my life, and I am proud to assert myself as a completely stable and well-adjusted human being.
    (mostly)
    No judging! I like it inside my safe little box where nobody disturbs me and the evil world can't reach me.
    Oh, did you ever reveal your Ural's most (obviously) marvelous moniker? Forgive my goldfish memory if you already did, but I feel it's only respectful to move on from me referencing "THE BEAST" and "THE WHIP."

  • Severus Tepes

    When it comes to colder weather, one word: Leather. It cuts the wind well and is more mobile than wearing many many layers that could become hazardous. Indiana weather is like living in the Bermuda Triangle of the US and can change at the drop of a hat. Many times I think “Mighty fine day to ride!” just to get poured on a few hours later. Good luck my friend and ride safe and ride free.

  • Chris Rose

    I’d say you found yourself in the type of situation that separates the people who ride motorcycles from the motorcyclists and bikers. I once found myself in a downpour that came on suddenly. When I felt the water soaking me to the core I realized that even cold and wet I was enjoying the ride. When you love something, a bit of off weather doesn’t seem to matter much. I’ve ridden through thunderstorms and fog and even hail once. Still, I’d never trade the worst bike ride for the best car ride.
    As for help for future weather there are a lot of options depending on your budget. Windshields with handle guards help with cold hands by keeping the wind to a minimum. Layers are always a good idea on a cold ride. On the other hand, if you have the money, you can get a heated suit that plugs in to the bikes electrical systems. In the rain you can go from Thousand dollar rain gear all the way down to cheap plastic ponchos (I even saw a friend who got caught in the rain so he hit the Dollar Store and used trash bags and duct tape). I use a wind breaker type jogging suit or gor-tex.
    Lastly there’s the safety aspect. I’ve never had a sidecar so I’m not sure how it changes the handling, but if you have good tread on your tires and keep your speed down a bit I have found rain isn’t too bad for traction.
    I know this was long, but I hope it wasn’t too unhelpful.

  • Dani TheTutors Protege

    Cupholders! gotta have cupholders!

  • Katrina LeFaye

    Purchase and wear a leather jacket and an Australian oil skin! I wear the leather under my oil skin when it is pouring. Things like leather lined gloves, full helmets and of scarf, goggles, and what not.

  • Nikki Homicide

    my family has a few motorcycle enthusiasts who ride in one of the worst parts of the US in terms of unpredictable weather: the northeast. leather is important (jacket and chaps, preferably, to waterproof as much of your legs as is reasonable without limiting mobility), but the little things are what most people forget! keep gloves in the pockets of your riding jacket, just in case (leather is best, or anything you find comfortable that has some degree of water resistance). and if your helmet doesn’t cover the bottom of your face, neoprene masks are warm, waterproof, and thick enough to buffer impact while still being easy to stuff in a pocket or saddlebag. as for the sidecar specifically, I’ve heard of crafty folks using modified kayak skirts to keep water from getting in, but it would depend largely on the measurements of the sidecar and how much time/effort/money you’re willing to sink in to keeping it cozy. for how often you’re likely to get caught in the rain where you are, it probably wouldn’t be worthwhile.

  • Eliza

    I visited Hearst Castle as a teenager and immediately fell in love with it. My fantasies always revolved around the Roman Pool (the indoor one)…can you imagine the debauchery that took place in that glorious setting? Heavenly.

  • Jessica Cha

    you’re a great photographer, T. Not really surprised, since you have an artist’s eye, but kudos, bubby.