2014 California – Week 2

Part 2 of 3.

A 7,763 km trip from Rocky Mountain House to San Diego following the Pacific Coast Highway and returning via Lake Tahoe, Lake Payette, and Waterton/Glacier National Park.

Day 8 – 26th June.

Monterey – Carmel – Lucia – San Simeon – Morro Bay – San Luis Obispo – Santa Maria – Santa Barbara.

Already packed, we were up at 5:30 a.m. and left the motel at 6:15 a.m. While I filled up at the nearby gas station, Jen picked up two bottles of coke and a couple of muffins forbreakfast and we headed for Carmel.

We drove through the very pretty town and found the Mission.

It was still early and of course the Mission wasn’t open for visitors but people had started arriving for morning Mass. We took pictures and had our photo taken and were able to at least look around the outside of the Mission.





Officially the Mission San Carlos Borromeo del río Carmelo, Carmel Mission dates from 1771.

Driving on, we stopped at the picturesque Monastery Beach, south of Carmel and had our breakfast muffins on the beach. Although it was cool and a little cloudy it was still nice.



Back on the bike, we rode along the Cabrillo Highway past endless wonderful sea views and peaceful coves.

The countryside was dotted with spectacular houses and occasional retreats interspersed with farmland.



In the tiny community of Lucia we pulled up at the Lucia Lodge for a break.

Not much there except a coffee shop and tourist store and a few vacation cabins.


We perused the tourist goods and I would have bought a Big Sur t-shirt but they didn’t have the style I liked in my size.

The beautiful coast was misty in places.


Further south in the Piedras Blancas region we saw seals on the beach ahead and slowed down looking for somewhere to pull over.

Sure enough a kilometre or so on there was a large gravel parking lot at the elephant seal watching area.



Those elephant seals are huge creatures!


There was an information table with some volunteers so we learned all about how the elephant seals almost became extinct and are now protected. Apparently they were very easy to hunt while laying on the beach.

Moving on, we passed the Hearst Castle (William Randolph Hearst’s famous estate and now a California historical monument), through San Simeon, Cambria, Cayucos and into Morro Bay where we stopped for lunch at the Otter Rock Cafe.




Service was good and we enjoyed our sandwiches – a beef patty melt for me and a turkey BLT for Jen.

Unfortunately Otter Rock was covered in mist.


After looking in the tourist shops for a few minutes we chatted to the owner of numerous bikes that included a V-strom and a DRZ.
He was very interested in out trip and plans and wished us all the best and a safe ride.

Soon we were through San Luis Obispo and back on the 101 to then took the San Marcos Pass road (154) toward Los Olivos where we stopped in the shade of some trees on a side road.

It was hot and we just needed a break for a few minutes.

Back on the 154 we rode along the south side of Cachuma Lake following the winding twisting road down out of the mountains and into Santa Barbara.
We soon found the Marina Beach – a nice hotel near the beach.





After unloading and changing into shorts and t-shirts, we strolled down the road to the beach and out on to Stearns Wharf.





We bought a couple of t-shirts at a tourist shop on the wharf and then stopped at a supermarket on the way back to our room, where we bought food and wine.



Back at the hotel, we washed some clothes, checked e-mail and generally caught up with things while eating and sipping wine.


We then wandered back down to the wharf and had a cold Longboard beer while we watched the sun go down.


It was a pleasant stroll back to our hotel in the dark and were soon in bed.



On day eight we had covered 387 kms.

Day 9 – 27th June.

Santa Barbara – Ventura – Malibu – Redondo – Huntington Beach.

The day started with a discussion about the condition of my rear tire which was getting toward the end of its useful life and more than likely had no prospect of making it all the way home. As it was Friday we thought today or tomorrow would be our best chance to replace the tire, either in Santa Barbara or somewhere nearby.

Using the Internet, I found a Yamaha dealership in Ventura about 50 kms south and on our proposed route, so after breakfast at the hotel we set off for Ventura and Cal Coast Motorsports.

We’d had an early start so we arrived a few minutes after they opened.

The guys there were very helpful and friendly and although they had limited options they did have the right size rear tire in stock, so we were in business.

My K60 was ready for the scrap yard!

I had to choose between a Tourance, a Trail Wing and an Anakee. I took the cheapest option; the Trail Wing as I only needed it to last for the duration of our trip

We unloaded the bike, stored our gear behind the counter at the dealership and went for coffee.

It was hot sitting in the shade outside the Panaderia La Victoria as we ate strawberry pastries and I drank coffee while Jen had a 7Up.

I wrote up my diary and at 10:50 the bike was ready.

Shortly after, we had a call from the dealership and walked back the few blocks to Cal Coast.We had a nice new tire and in no time were loaded up and ready to continue our journey.

The rest of the morning involved a lot of heavy traffic and lane splitting.

We were nearly smoked by a jacked-up pick up and endured traffic light after traffic light.  Keeping to the coast south of the Santa Monica mountains we continued through a very tacky and dirty looking Malibu, past Redondo Beach and Long Beach before stopping for lunch at a Mexican style fast food restaurant somewhere near LAX.

And very good it was too.

Once more we were soon in conversation with an interested local and talked about our trip and my bike. He gave me his business card – a computer salesman who was likely just trying to sell me something!

He was a nice guy and I did give him an ADS sticker so he’s probably got one on his PC.

We were soon at our hotel and I phoned my cousin, Roger, to let him know we had arrived and to make arrangements to meet up. He insisted in picking us up at the hotel later and when he arrived he took us for a tour of the area where my Great Uncle Charlie had owned orange groves. We also called in on Rogers Mum, Judy who is my Mum’s cousin.

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There’s definitely a family resemblance.  Yes, I’m younger and better looking, but we sure do have the same eyes.


Roger’s Mum, Judy loaded us up with fresh oranges and grapefruit before we left.  What a lovely lady!  I just had to figure a way to get the keys to that old Chevy …

Roger skilfully guided me away from the truck and insisted on taking us to the nearby Orange Hill Restaurant.


This is a very classy restaurant with a fantastic location on the hill overlooking Panorama Heights.


Huntington Beach was somewhere west of us in the haze.


We had a great meal and chatted about family history.  Eventually Roger dropped us off at our motel in Huntington Beach where we finished off the evening with a glass of wine.  Roger was a wonderful host!

Jen was tired and went to bed early but I decided to spend a few minutes writing up my daily diary and went over to my bike in the parking lot to check on the kilometres for the day.

I heard voices nearby, which seemed a bit odd, but turned out to be a young couple sat at the back of the parking lot having a beer or two.  I said ‘Hi’ to them and we chatted for a while about bikes, riding and family.  They were nice folk from Ventura who wished us safe riding for the rest of the trip.

On day nine we had covered 215 kms (on the bike).

Day 10 – 28th June.

Day off at Huntington Beach.

It was cloudy as we walked from the hotel to the beach but we didn’t complain as it was already hot. The skies soon cleared and the sun was streaming down by the time we got to the end of Beach Boulevard.


Crossing the PCH we stepped on to Huntington Beach and walked north towards the pier.


As we made our way along the beach and toward the pier we watched swimmers, surfers, pelicans and sun bathers.



When we reached the end of the pier it was lunch time and we decided to eat at the Ruby’s Diner there. Ruby’s Diner restaurants are a chain styled after the American Diners of the 1940’s.




It was fun and the RubyClub Turkey sandwiches were pretty good.

I hadn’t carried my swim shorts with me as I hadn’t planned on swimming but the sea was so inviting that we went over to the stores across the road and I searched for a cheap pair of shorts.

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Back at the beach, I changed on the pier and went swimming for a while as Jen paddled along the shore.

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After that we walked back toward the concession stand and had ice-cream. We wandered through the shops on Main Street and made our way back through the suburbs to the hotel. We spent a while swimming in the pool at the hotel and relaxing there.

Then after showering we made our way across the road to the mini-mart and bought food to eat. By the time we packed our bags and panniers and went to bed, we were pretty tired. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable day.

On day ten we had covered zero kms on the bike.

Day 11 – 29th June.

Huntington Beach – San Diego – San Diego Zoo – Coronado – Mexican border – Campo – El Centro – Brawley.

As usual, we left after an early breakfast. We took some snacks with us for lunch and followed the PCH south from Huntington Beach. There are some nice beaches but we also rode through some fairly run down areas.

We passed through Laguna Beach and Dana Point before merging on to the San Diego Freeway.

It didn’t take us long to pass San Clemente and numerous famous naval and marine military bases along the coast. Just south of Sea World, we stopped for a while near the Midway Towne Center and I ate the Danish I had taken with me. There was a Denny’s nearby and we went in for a drink and to sit in the air conditioning.

After examining the gps and map and finding out exactly where we were and how near the San Diego zoo was we decided we had time to spend a couple of hours at the zoo, which was only five miles away. We followed my gps directions and soon turned off Park Boulevard in to the zoo.


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It was hot but shady in the zoo.  In the end we spend about two and a half hours there but could easily have taken the whole day.

From the zoo we rode toward Coronado over the spectacular Coronado Bridge and stopped for a late lunch at Big Kahunas Hawaiian burger restaurant. I wasn’t especially hungry but ate anyway.

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After lunch we headed for the Mexican Border not far away at San Ysidro, where we bought gas and stopped to look at the busy border crossing.

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From there we we followed the back roads past Otay Lakes and on to the Campo Road.


Then continued east along the border, eventually stopping in the small border town of Campo.

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I pulled into the gas station and went to use the washroom. By this time it was obvious I wasn’t well.

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We pressed on through the desert in the oppressive heat and I stopped once more under the shade of an overpass to take care of my personal needs.

(The full gruesome events are described in my short story entitled ‘The Road To El Centro’ – to be published here shortly.)

I took this picture of the overpass where we stopped from Google Maps.

Riding on to El Centro, we stopped for Gatorade and to cool down in the air conditioning at a gas station.

By this time it was getting dark and we were aiming to get to Brawley further north. We had a short stop about half way to Brawley but were soon at the hotel. I had thrown up violently three times by then and dropped in to bed very quickly.

On day eleven we had covered 402 kms.

Day 12 – 30th June.

Sick day!

We stayed an extra unplanned day and night in Brawley as I recovered.  In between long periods of sleep we re-planned our route for the next few days.

As we were in the midst of a heat wave, that even the locals were complaining about, we decided to head back west rather than toward Death Valley and Lone Pine.  So we cancelled some reservations and changed the bookings we had at Lake Tahoe giving us three days to get to Lake Tahoe rather than the planned two.


I spent the whole day in the room with Jen as my nurse. By late afternoon I managed to eat a yogurt.

The motel in Brawley had a nice pool but I wasn’t able to take advantage of it.


At 7:30 p.m. I rode over to the nearby gas station across the road and filled up ready for the next day.


On day twelve we had covered zero kms.

Day 13 – 1st July. Canada Day.

Canada Day.  Brawley – Corona – Santa Clarita.

We left Brawley at 5:30 a.m. and it was already 29c. There was a cooling breeze at first which was very welcome! As we climbed the mountains is got quite windy in places and as we traveled further north east we were riding in mist and cloud and it actually got quite cold. We stopped at a Burger King and Jen had an iced tea. I stayed on my Gatorade diet!

We made another stop for gas at a 7-11 somewhere near Lake Elsinore; about twenty miles from Corona.  The ride as far as Corona had been easy and I was feeling okay, so we pressed on to Santa Clarita further north.  We eventually stopped at a Best Western on the north end of the city in the Valencia district.  The Magic Mountain amusement park was nearby.

It was still only lunchtime but felt later as we had started quite early.  We booked in the the motel and paid $15 extra for the privilege!  Lunch was at Starbucks nearby and Jen ate a sandwich while I tried a yogurt.  My system had settled down considerably but I was still having to be careful what I ate.

It was hot that afternoon, so we stayed around the hotel and enjoyed the air conditioning.  I braved the heat to go and fill up with gas during the early evening but other than that we just relaxed.  It was a chance for me to continue recuperating and we were in bed very early in preparation for an early start to avoid the heat again.

We didn’t take any photos that day and I didn’t even use my bike cam.

On day thirteen we had covered 483 kms.

Day 14 – 2nd July.

Santa Clarita – Bakersfield – Tulare – Chowcholla – Modesto – Salida.

At 6:00 a.m. we left Santa Clarita behind us riding through dramatic scrub land and mountain scenery as we swept through the passes and down on to the totally flat plain south of Bakersfield.  We stopped at the edge of town and and had a break for a few minutes at a Subway.  It was still early.

At the hotel at 5:00 a.m. it had been 17c but now, at the Subway in Bakersfield, it was 28c and climbing.  We opened up our air vents ready for the next leg of our journey.

As we turned back on to I-99 north, I pulled in behind a cool looking hot rod.


The next stop at 9:00 a.m. was our ‘lunch’ break at a roadside gas station south of Fresno, I believe it was the small community of Tipton, half way to Modesto.

The gas station store included a Subway and convenience store.  Jen had a Subway sandwich and I cautiously ate a few crackers.  We sat at a table in the Subway section of the convenience store and a guy started talking to us about our trip and bike.  He wanted to know how far we’d traveled and how far we were going.

He was a fan, he told us, of The Long Way Round and Long Way Down TV shows starring Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman.  Originally from Somalia, he had been involved in Baja desert racing and said it was his dream to ride a motorcycle down through Africa from the Mediterranean to Cape Town in South Africa much as Ewan and Charley had done.  I hope he achieves his dreams.

We had passed many vineyards in the morning and also numerous orchards of trees that we hadn’t identified, so I asked a couple of local farmers sitting nearby about the local crops.  They told be that the vineyards were actually for raisins and the trees were walnuts, pistachios and almonds.  It was in the middle of the drought struck area of California, so I asked them where the water was coming from.  They laughed and explained that the water was indeed a serious problem.  They usually rely on water from the Sierra Madre mountain range but that had dried up and so they were pumping water from aquifers.  They said the tree planting was expanding rapidly and they all just prayed the water would return.  The walnuts were a major source of income and are exported to China.

They also explained that the raisin vineyards have shallow troughs between the rows and these are lined with plastic sheeting.  The grapes are allowed to ripen and fall into the troughs where they naturally dry in the sun.  I never realized that sun dried raisins were produced so simply!

All our new friends wished us a safe ride and in 34c heat at 9:30 a.m. we continued northward on the Golden State Highway.

It was a fairly fast highway blast northeast to Chowchilla and we pulled in at a Starbucks restaurant and enjoyed a Greek yogurt and some shade.  A lady in the restaurant warned us that the forecast indicated the heat wave would continue and we should expect 102F – 108F (39c – 43c) over the next 10 days.  I told Jen it was a good thing we would be heading up in to the mountains soon!

South of Modesto, we rode through mile upon mile of nut trees and vineyards.  We passed numerous un-enclosed semi-trailers hauling similarly un-enclosed trailers laden with green tomatoes.  We even saw one laden with onions.  None of them had any netting or covers to retain the cargo and every now and again we saw tomatoes and onions spilled on the highway.

We were soon in Modesto, so carried on north and eventually saw a motel near the highway in Salida.  The temperature had gradually increased throughout the morning and now it was 36c.

The motel was clearly from the highway but there was a chaos of roadworks and diversions that were quite confusing.  We made our way through the road works reasonably well and I headed toward the motel turning on to a road that appeared to go directly to the motel – except I ended up on the ramp heading south at the back of the motel and would have soon been back on the highway.

I wouldn’t normally do a u-turn on a ramp but it was empty of traffic and, oh well!  So a quick u-turn was in order followed by back-tracking to the other end of the motel.

Then almost in desperation I turned onto the temporary contractors track at the side of the motel, across a dirt area and over a low berm into the back of the motel parking lot.


We’d made it!

DualSport bikes do have their advantages.

By 1:45 p.m. we had checked in, set our laundry going, and were enjoying the motel pool in the central courtyard of this very nice California Spanish style building, complete with pantile roof.

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We had no intention of suffering the heat of the afternoon, so we swam and relaxed around the pool, then at about 4:30 p.m. we rode over to the other side of the highway and found a supermarket where we bought food for our dinner.

We had to fight our way through the roadworks in the heat but eventually got to the Save Mart and bought microwave meals. My meal included a chocolate brownie but by the time we got back to the motel it had melted to the consistency of gravy.  It was 40c.

We relaxed after dinner in the room and headed off to bed early planning for another 5:30 a.m. start.


Jen reflected later that this had been the nicest Super 8 we had ever stayed in.  She said the room was straight out of the IKEA catalog.  It wasn’t expensive either, but it is right next to a very busy and noisy highway.

On day fourteen we had covered 480 very hot kms. Trip total so far was 4,582 kms.