Sunday, April 6, 2008
Santa Barbara, CA to Cupertino, CA
Waving goodbye to my parents, my first attempt to leave the hotel parking lot resulted in a stalled bike and a sheepish grin.
I started (successfully) the day’s ride by heading up and away from the coast on San Marcos pass (CA 154), a badly-kept secret shortcut of US101. It had been foggy and overcast on the coast, but as soon as I got on the other side of the first set of mountains, sunny blue skies greeted me.
California’s famous golden hills are green this time of year, but there were lots of patches of golden poppies, bright yellow mustard flowers, and waving blue lupine.
Coming down off the pass, I followed US101 to Pismo Beach. Just a few blocks from the ocean in “downtown” Pismo, Splash Café makes the tastiest, most wonderful clam chowder in the world (in my opinion).
My college town, San Luis Obispo, is just 15 miles up US101. Price Canyon Road, an alternate route from San Luis Obispo, runs inland through rolling hills. Back in college, when I had my Honda 80cc scooter, I would pack a bag with textbooks and ride down to the coast for an afternoon of studying on the beach, always punctuated with a sourdough bread bowl of clam chowder with seafood topping.
At just 11:30, the line was already out the door.
My plan for the day was to hug the coast all the way up to Santa Cruz. Back in college I would do this run as a weekend lunch ride, so I knew that Highway 1 from San Luis Obispo to Cambria was fairly boring. I had planned to liven up the route with a short trip inland to a couple of very special Central Coast roads.
I headed north to Santa Margarita. CA58 always makes it onto lists of the “Best Roads” in California. I’ve run it many times, but it’s always nice to revisit, even if only for a short distance. I like to think that the engineer who designed this road liked motorcycles.
Turning north onto CA227, I swooped and curved through rolling green hills. This road is unique in that it is one of very few numbered California state highways with no center line. Care must be taken in the many blind curves to stay to the right. This undulating, twisting road is a roller coaster. Due to the narrowness, there were very few spots where I felt comfortable pulling over.
I finally headed back toward the ocean on CA46. It was definitely wildflower season along this road.
I don’t think I’ve ever taken so many pictures along Highway 1. When I was in college nearby, it was a regular weekend ride for me, nothing hugely special. Many of the curves and distinct sections were like old friends. I vividly remember all the times I stopped for coffee at Ragged Point, gas at Gorda, and lunch in Big Sur.
The elephant seals were out in force north of San Simeon.
The fun really begins north of Ragged Point. The coastal mountains fall steeply into the Pacific Ocean, making for a thrilling ride hugging the slopes.
The vista point turnout overlooking Big Creek Bridge is a traditional stop for me. I always park the bike in the same place and take the same shot. I’ve got photographs of all my bikes (except for the scooter and the new GS of course) at this exact spot.
I’ve actually already got this shot of the ST, but I just had to grab another. I love this bridge. Really, I love all the 1930’s coastal bridges. The arches are so graceful and beautiful.
I slowed to pass through Big Sur and then crossed the Bixby Bridge (another delicious ‘30s structure). I’ve always considered this the end of the fun part of the coast road until you get north of San Francisco. The traffic between Big Sur and Carmel makes this stretch either a “passing fest” or a 2nd gear “hope the bike doesn’t stall following this RV” ordeal. I opted for a little bit of passing, a little bit of following.
From Carmel to Half Moon Bay, Highway 1 is mostly straight with a few stretches of freeway. I had been considering running all the way up to Santa Cruz and taking CA9 over into Saratoga, but I decided in the end to cross via Soquel-San Jose Road. This less well-known road through the redwoods has long been one of my favorites.
I would be staying the night with my friend (and motorcycling idol!) Carolyn (“Bluepoof” on several motorcycle forums). I arrived at her house around 6pm. After unpacking the bike and changing into “street” clothes, we chatted about cats and moto-camping gear until it was time to go to dinner.
We met about 12 members of Sport-Touring.Net at the “New Saffron Club” in Mountain View. All of us opted for the buffet, enjoying various curries, vindaloo, and other Indian dishes.
Carolyn, her husband Peter, and I finished off the outing with a trip to a local Asian supermarket. There, next to durian and taro popsicles, just down the aisle from the fish balls (yummy?), Carolyn stocked up to satisfy her sudden mochi craving.