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California Love: Golden Fields on Hot Springs Drive

The weather in California proved to be unpredictable. We went through cycles of sweating bullets to freezing cold over and over again.

The hottest weather we experienced was along the aptly named Hot Springs Drive around Porterville. The grassy hills were fried to a golden crisp with a garnish of a few green trees, the occasional boulder and four-legged beef to round out the plate.

Ed and Kenny – knowing me as they do – opted to keep their distance from me since the temperature had to be at least 300°. I become a super-cranky viper once the thermometer edges over 85 or so. Smart boys.

In the heat, keep away from Fuzzy if you know what's good for you
In the heat, keep away from Fuzzy if you know what's good for you

The valley landscape was so far removed from my everyday life. Its spartan look drew me right it. It seemed to me that you could really do some good thinking out there.

During the course of our week of riding I came to the realization that I am more of a rock person than a tree person. I love wide open landscapes or being above the tree line. With the exception of being amongst the Redwood or Sequoia trees, I feel much more connected to rocky mountains or treeless rolling hills.

What does that say about me? Surely that has something to do with my psychological makeup.

The three of us were positively simmering inside of our gear. When the cows on the side of the road tried to use us as a salt lick, we decided that it was time to get back up into the cool of the mountains. Since we were in the neighborhood, taking a turn through Sequoia National Park seemed in order.

California Love: Rendezvous at the Big Shoe

When you’re on the road, it can be difficult to coordinate times and places to meet up with people. This is espcially true when you don’t have a set route or plan. Meetings require a bit of flexibility on everyone’s part.

Kenny and I called our dear friend Ed when we arrived in San Luis Obispo so that we could hook and do some riding together the following day. We decided that we were going to be heading towards the Sierras. Since Ed lives near LA, we thought Bakersfield would be a good central spot for us to meet. It would be a quick shot up the slab for him and a direct shot across Route 58 for us.

“Isn’t there a giant shoe in Bakersfield?
“Yea.”
“Why do you know that?”
“Well, you introduced me to Roadside America.”
“Right. Let’s meet at the Big Shoe at 10am.”

The big shoe is as good a place to meet as any, right? I thought so :)

After skirting the lightning storm on 58 and dodging the rain, we pulled in to town to find the familiar site of Ed’s RSV parked on the sidewalk next to the big shoe. I couldn’t park my bike fast enough to give him a hug. It was so good to see him. Love that guy :)

California Love: Chasing Lightning on Route 58

By the time we’d pulled in to San Luis Obispo, the sun had packed it in for the night and a wet fog hung on Route 1. It had been a great day of riding.

The following morning I woke up to the sound of a steady rain tapping against the window. I got out of bed to look out the window but it was still dark out. The only thing I could see were the circles made by the rain falling in the lighted hotel swimming pool below.

The rain stopped while we stood outside packing up the bikes to get on our way. Thunder rolled over the mountains to the east. Hoping for the best, we set off on Route 58.

The western side of 58 is really a nice ride. It isn’t the most technical road, but there is something I like so very much about riding its curves through the golden hills. There was a sense of peacefulness to it.

Well,.. except for the place where the people from the Hills Have Eyes apparently live. Kenny surmised that the shirts were trophies from all of the other hapless travelers that stopped on the road, never to be seen again. I didn’t really want to test out his theory so on we motored, continuing east.

The fields were so dry. There was a large section that stretched out, burned black from the roadway far up into the mountains. It was a dramatic contrast with one side of the road being bright yellow and the other black.

We kept skirting around the edge of a pretty nasty storm. As we rode on, it always seemed like it was over the next hill. We watched as lightning danced from the clouds off to our right.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared to be out there in the lightning. There was no shelter, no place to wait it out. At best, we could do nothing more than turn around to get away from the storm. As I mulled these things over, the road turned away from where the storm looked the darkest.

Then as we approached the town of McKittrick, the storm was right in front of us. Lightning began reaching down from the clouds and shaking hands with the ground.

My heart was thumping away in my chest as I slowed to a stop. What to do, what to do?

As we sat on the side of the road for a minute a tumbleweed rolled in front of us. It wasn’t waiting around to make any decisions, it was just getting the hell out of there… and so would we.

Oh crap. Did you see that?
Oh crap. Did you see that?

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California Love: Seaside Sandwiches in Big Sur

Do you think it would be possible to tire of looking at the Pacific Ocean from the seat of your motorcycle? I had plenty of time  to ponder that question as we headed south on the PCH. My best guess was ‘no’.

This was our second time riding down the coast from San Francisco. I was happy to find that seeing the blue water crash against the craggy rocks was just as exciting as it had been the first time we made the trek.

All through our 200 mile coastal leg, we rode in and out of silvery fog back into bright blue skies. The air hung cooly, sending a chill across the knuckles of my summer gloves. It was a stark contrast from the blazing heat we’d come down out of at the Lick Observatory.

This day was a little extra special. It was Kenny’s birthday. Though I know he means it when he says he doesn’t want or need anything for his birthday, I always find it hard to really adhere to. Thankfully part of me took great pleasure in knowing that he was spending his day doing something that he loves, in a place that is dear to his heart.

I guess you could say that we celebrated the day with a special lunch. We stopped off at the store at Lucia Lodge in Big Sur and each got a ham and cheese croissant. They were found in the freezer cases and came in very unglamorous plastic containers. We heated them up in the well-worn microwave whose digital display numbers were no longer visible. I didn’t have really high hopes, but we were both quite hungry.

We took our lunch out back onto the deck and ate overlooking the water. There we were, just the two of us and the sound of rolling waves below. As it turned out, the sandwiches were delicious.

Now, I don’t know if they were really good in the own right or if they were sprinkled with magical sunshine dust that is only found on Highway 1, or if the birthday fairy came along and made a perfect moment for us. Whatever the case may have been, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

There is something really special about riding the Pacific Coast Highway. If you haven’t done it yet, you owe it to yourself. There are perfect moments just waiting to be had.

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California Love: Mount Hamilton and Lick Observatory

What better way to give your new livery a test than with a winding road? As the sun rose higher in the sky, we made our way from the cool air of San Francisco to the golden hills of Route 130 to visit the Lick Observatory atop Mt. Hamilton.

If Wikipedia is to be believed, Route 130 is said to have 365 curves – one for each day of the year. Now, I don’t know if that is true but I can tell you that the road is indeed very twisty. It took twice as many minutes to travel the 20 or so miles from the west to the observatory.

In addition to its plethora of turns, the road is also quite bumpy in some spots. Major lumps and ripples crossed large sections of the road similar to frost heaves that we get in the Northeast.

A few of the dips in the road sent the Tiger’s too soft rear suspension a-bouncing. Hitting one of those on a firmly suspended sportbike would indeed give your naughty bits quite an unwelcome surprise or possibly dislodge your spleen.

The higher and higher we climbed, the closer to the sun we got. It was 409° when we finally made it to the summit. But the view once we got there was worth the sweat. The rolling toasty hills spread out before us whispering “…come closer… we’ve got secrets to share with you…”

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