West Coast Possibilities

Once in a while I have good bike trip dreams. Twice a year I try to conceive a big motorcycle trip that has real possibilities. Epic, as the kids say nowadays. Not just to dream, but to plan and to execute such a trip. I occasionally spin an old school globe perched on my desk on its axis, contemplating all the places on the planet I’ve not ridden. The more I travel on a bike, the more I realize I’ve not seen. I sat peering at North America on the little sphere and it occurred to me that I have never ridden the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). That ribbon of highway that meanders up the California coast for 655.8 miles from “Southern” to “Northern” California. Affectionately known as “US-1”, it is the longest state route in California. Consequently, that’s the state with the 3rd longest coastline behind Alaska (6,640 miles) and Florida (1,350 miles). Although neither of those have a road that navigates the entire coast. PCH is a ribbon of limited access asphalt that twists and turns past iconic American landmarks like Big Sur and Carmel and Hollywood and the Golden Gate Bridge. Although its greatest asset is that it has the Pacific Ocean at its shoulder! To peer left northbound, with magic vision, you’d see right past Hawaii straight to Japan due West! I’ve heard PCH revered by bikers and sports car drivers alike as one of those unforgettable bucket list items that MUST be ridden. It crosses the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco at about its mid point at the city they call “Frisco”. Home to some of the coolest custom bike innovations and biker shops in the world. In peering at the globe, I have realized that there are dozens of waypoints within a day’s ride of the scenic byway affectionately know as the “PCH”. State parks galore, The Redwood Forests, Yosemite National Park, Napa Valley, Alcatraz, Joshua Tree, Oakland Harley Davidson, Fisherman’s Wharf, Hearst Castle, Glacier Point, and the list goes on. I conceived a trip in my mind starting the day after Christmas. Courts close, lawyers vacation, bikers settle in, so a perfect opportunity to make some miles. My girl Mandy and I will fly out to Los Angeles, rent a Harley and tour the Pacific coast first. Motor up to Frisco, cross the Golden Gate then to Napa to ring in the New Year. We could then make our way East and clip a few more landmarks before spending Mandy’s birthday on the rim of the Grand Canyon, maybe tour the Indian reservations, hit route 66 for a few historic hours, then northwest to Williams, Arizona for chili dog. Then it’s a day’s push to Vegas, yea baby, Vegas, where we could spend the last couple of days, turn in the bike and play a little poker. Lastly to fly home with a pocketful of memories and at least three successive articles to share with you on our unknown adventures that would inevitably unfold. So far, I have spent a few nights pouring over paper maps, Googling things to do and places to visit. The possibilities are endless, but we’ve only got 2 weeks.

The macro plan is a loosely structured 2 week motorcycle tour of 5 separate areas of the Westerly most portion of mainland America across three states, California, Arizona and Nevada. The micro plan is to connect LA to Frisco to Napa to Yosemite to Grand Canyon and finally to Vegas, all on secondary roads. I’ve broken the trip down into four 2 to 3 day segments. An Electraglide limiting us only by how many pairs of shoes the passenger can bring. Three! Not four, three! Believe me, this is the topic of much consternation. Mandy’s consternation, not mine. In packing for the 70 degree days and 40 degree nights, layers, as we all know, are the key. The only outlier segment of the trip is the Grand Canyon. It has snowed there already and we’d have to amend our access point based on where the roads were passable. Electric gear we have and while it can keep us warm, snow squalls can make the roads impassable for a motorcycle at a moments notice. The first leg of our journey is really just couple of days settling into the western landscape eating real sushi and adjusting gear and bike in and about Los Angeles. Initially my plan includes a rendezvous with my old riding pal George (GPK) who lives in LA. GPK and I last rode together back in the 90’s in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. GPK will ride with us for the first leg of the trip up the PCH to Frisco. Then we peel off north to Napa for New Year’s Eve and GPK rides home to LA. Mandy and I are not big wine drinkers, but when in Rome… I’ve reserved a couple of nights at the Meritage Vineyards right on the Napa River. Seems a snobby wine connoisseur’s resort complete with sommeliers and messages and wine pairings and tours of vineyards. The stuff that I have about 1 day of patience for but ‘try almost anything once’ is my mantra.

The packing list has been a bit of a chore given my passenger’s proclivity for packing 1 trunk for day clothes, 1 large suitcase for nightclothes, 1 medium suitcase for shoes and 1 carry on suitcase for equipment. And by equipment I mean makeup, blow dryers, hair straightener, iron, mirror, bras, jewelry, etc… So we sat in my barn with bags strewn about looking at my Harley, a Road Glide, almost identical to our rental, an Electraglide. Same 4.7 cubic feet of luggage space on both bikes. A bit different than the 121 cubic feet of storage space in my suburban when we head to the beach with kids! So we start cramming and folding and rolling and pushing and figure out that laundry facilities on the trip are a must. With electric gear and rain gear and chaps and electronics there’s room enough for about 1 small duffle bag of clothes between us. I agree to implement the rack on the top case for my clothes in a rain proof bag and allow Mandy 1 saddle bag and the top case. After that, we’ll have to simply stop to buy provisions. I’m pretty sure they have Wal Marts out there. Rodeo Drive shopping we will NOT be doing! We plan on Face booking the segments of our trip live and reporting back in three separate stories from our adventure. The fluidity of biker travel is what makes the plan so exciting. Will the wildfires around US 10 in southern California cut us off from Nevada? Will snow in the mountain passes around the Grand Canyon require a southern approach through Arizona? Will Ms. Mandy sneak that 4th pair of shoes into the luggage? Only time and miles will tell. Stay tuned.

 Remember, ride hard, ride safe, and in the end make sure you ride home.  –Irish

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