California – LA to Santa Barbara

My plans for an early start faded as rapidly as my winning streak in the Vegas casinos and I eventually got my ass out of bed and into the saddle at 11:00.  I was looking forward to my next destination – California, and the Pacific Coast Highway I’d heard so much about.  I’d also heard much about the LA traffic and it didn’t disappoint! (or rather it did).  Every mile I got nearer to LA the traffic grew heavier and heavier, until it stopped.  Luckily, California is the only sensible ‘free thinking’ state (in my opinion) that allows motorcycles to ‘filter’ between slow moving or stationary vehicles, just as any motorcyclist could in the rest of the normal world.  For the life of me I do not understand why every other state in the USA think motorcyclists should sit and wait in traffic jams experiencing the same mental stress and wasted time as car drivers when they don’t have to, while also overheating in the baking sun and breathing in toxic fumes!  If car drivers don’t like it, then they should get a motorcycle too and help reduce congestion, greenhouse gases, air pollution and wastage of finite fossil fuels.  Rant over.

I must admit I quickly loved California for this (legal filtering), as I sped (sensibly) between 5 rows of stationary vehicles, cool air circulating throughout my vented Kilimanjaro.  Motorcyclists can also use the HOV (High-Occupancy Vehicle) lanes in California, which again makes a lot of sense for the same reasons.  I LOVE YOU CALIFORNIA!

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Not the Interstate 5 heading into LA! Thought I’d put this photo of the Pacific Coast Highway in instead to cheer us all up.

LA was to be my first stop where I had been invited to stay by a friend, Dana, whom I used to work with at Club Med in the paradise that is San Salvador Island in The Bahamas.  I was lucky enough to be a Scuba Diving Instructor there and Dana was a chef.  As you can imagine, it was a horrible job!  My daily routine consisted of getting up & diving in some of the world’s clearest, most scenic (caves, canyons) and life teeming waters in the world, and then ‘forced’ to frequent the club bar for free drinks, mingle with the clientele and make a fool of myself in the après-dinner ‘shows’ (which I often excelled at a little too enthusiastically, due to the free drinks part).

Dana is an up-and-coming Hollywood screenwriter/actress and I’m going to take a minute to plug her new project, which is a very funny & original film about drinking to excess (something I have only heard about, obviously).  So take a minute to look at this link and maybe you’d like to be part of it:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1650667043/dead-drunk-0

I’m also going to take a minute to plug my Garman Zumo 550 Sat Nav, because without it I would probably still be riding around lost in the LA gargantuan.

I was looking forward to giving Dana the first (and best) motorcycle ride of her life, but before our planned day trip up the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Barbara and dip into wine country, we had some business to attend to down the pub.  Or, rather, an LA comedy club.  I remember someone once telling me that everyone in LA is either an actor, screenwriter or producer, and I was pleased to experience that they appear to be correct.

Nursing a small hangover (I must be getting old) we tried for an early start in the morning, but, as usual (for me), time ran away from us and we ended stopping for a quick brunch rather than breakfast on the way to the coast, after a short detour to Paramount Studios for Dana to collect a helmet from a kindly friend.  Unfortunately once we hit the coast we were engulfed in the infamous coastal ‘sea fog’, or more accurately marine layer, caused by the cooling effect of the cold sea as it meets the often intensely heated inland air.  This made for a somewhat chilly and not quite as picturesque ride as I had anticipated, so upon reaching Santa Barbara we were pleased to head up into the hills along the beautifully scenic route 154 and thaw out in the gorgeously warm, crisp, March sun.

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Route 154 – Out of the coastal fog and into the sun!

Our mission was to tour some of the vineyards that featured in the film ‘Sideways’, and I am pleased to say we succeeded.

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Wine – it’s good for you!

Many people make a holiday (or even career) of touring California’s world famous vineyards, and it is certainly good business for the vineyards.  Over the years I have enjoyed many wine-tasting sessions all over the world, and the proprietors made their money when you purchased the wines you enjoyed on completion of the tasting.  However, it seems vineyards in California are different, and they expect you to pay for the pleasure of tasting their products.  At 10-20 USD per session this soon adds up to an expensive hobby (well, for a budget traveler it does), and I expect it’s very good business for them.

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Dana demonstrating how to mount a motorbike after a series of wine tasting sessions…

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Made it!

After cruising the beautiful wine valleys of Santa Barbara, we headed to the Cold Spring Tavern back on 154 for a drink, recommended to us by a couple on a Harley we had met on the way up.  And I’m glad they did!  The tavern sits in a cool, shaded spot down the twisty Stagecoach Road and is a popular gathering spot for bikers at weekends.  It also has a good selection of local beers, but if there’s one disadvantage of riding a motorcycle (with a new pillion) it’s that riding safely and multiple wine/beer tastings don’t mix very well.  Dana, however, took full advantage of both.

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Cold Spring Tavern – I need a drink!

After stretching the day out as much as we could, it was eventually time to head back to LA, which we did along the quickest route 101.  Dana’s friend had invited us to her birthday party at the other end of town, so we dropped off the Tiger, grabbed a quick ‘In and Out’ burger and turned up only a couple of hours late.  Fortunately we arrived in time to see the band fully warmed up, and they were amazing!  An interesting & fun mix of folk, country and rock, they had a dozen or so members who basically took it in turns to wonder off to the bar at will while other players took the spotlight.  The party was also cleverly held at the American Legion, which meant very cheap drinks.

At the end of the day Dana had LOVED her fist biking experience, no doubt due to her amazingly talented (and handsome to boot) chauffeur.  In fact, she couldn’t get enough of it, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her next movie feature herself cruising on a Harley beneath the Geocorona.

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