Sunday, May 25, 2014

Rockin' The Snake (Pismo Beach to Huntington Beach)

We were up by 6:45, woken by combination of beeps and whirring engine sounds of garbage trucks collecting trash. The mornings on the road, staying in hotels, are starting to feel more routine. Shower, breakfast, coffee, blog, pack, and go.

We've been staying in budget hotels and this one was no exception. Surrounded by RV parks and a mini mall, it wasn't in the most romantic locale. I've heard of these beach names before but never really experienced the surrounding businesses. It's mostly crummy restaurants, outdoor shopping malls, gas stations, and crummy hotels. I miss the natural beauty of the northern California coastline and the little sleepy towns.

We left Pismo beach, headed south on 101 towards LA. The scenery changed from coastal highway to dry, deserty hills in all directions. We stopped off for gas again for the baby ninja in a town called Los Alamos, snapped a few pictures and left. I had a vague memory of this town being famous for something. Kris later told me the hills were famous for harboring the bandit Solomon Pico (Zoro).

I was told I must eat at least once at In-N-Out burger. So, we stoppped at the Ventura In-N-Out. Dude, this place was packed! We had to park in the overflow lot and the line to order food nearly went around the building! It must have taken 30 minutes from the time we got there to the time we had our food. I remember telling Kris, "This food had better be worth this insane wait." Let me tell you, it was worth every single drooling over other people's food minute. The burgers were greasy, sloppy, but in that good, melt in your mouth kind of way. The buns were fresh as were all of the veggies. The fries were just amazing! They also seemed to melt in your mouth.

We got back on the road, bellies full, and after a hundred or so miles we found Mullholland hwy, took a left, and it hit me all of a sudden. I was about to ride the snake. If you've never seen the YouTube videos and you ride a bike, go check out rnickymouse's channel on the tube. There are countless videos of people with various degrees of success at making or not making the endless hairpin turns.

Let me just say, I loved every second we got to play on this fabulous road! The weather was perfect, a cool 65 degrees, it was overcast so no sun in your eyes, conditions were perfect. We wound our way through Mullholland hwy and eventually found ourselves at the famous corner. The camerman pointed his camera straight at me, I gunned it, grabbed a fist full of brakes, and I pitched the KLR into the corner in a full sportbike lean. Knee out, tucked as best I could on a dual sport, I heard the peg scrape and saw the corner exit. To this, the throttle opened all the way and I got ready for the tight left hander to follow. It was epic!

My heart was racing but I didn't care. I just kept riding these corners hard and fast. Once I reached the famous Rock Store, it hit me. I just rode the famous section of the snake. The one that countless movie stars had ridden! And....I was on a Kawasaki KLR 650. The nice thing about the KLR is, it sorta likes being ridden hard like this. I mean, it's not fast but its so well balanced, the power is smooth and linear, the new suspension on the 2014 model is nice and firm, and it makes for a very forgiving motorcycle. Still, this would be a lot more epic on my old bike, a GSXR 1000.

The Rock Store is a cool place. When we ordered some lunch, an egg salad sandwich, we told the employee we were honeymooners from Seattle, traveling the Pacific Coast Highway. She said, "Well you guys need a tour! Rich, come give these people a tour!" Little did I know, Rich was the son of the original owner of the Rock Store, who has since passed away. When it opened, it was a little gas station and general store in the middle of nowhere. It was Steve McQueen who made it famous when he started riding the hills in the area on his motorcycle.

Rich gave us a wonderful tour and told us the history of the place, how it started as a Pony Express, and was later converted to a store. He showed us where the stables for the horses were and where the original pony express office was. He was very friendly and personable. What an honor to get to chat with this guy who had met many movie stars over the years! There were many many autographed celebrity pictures on the walls there, most of which Rich had met personally. He told us that Matt LeBlanc was just there yesterday. Sadly, no movie stars were there today.

We got pictures in the popular spots, in front of the old, no longer functioning gas pumps and in front of the sign. Rich was very helpful and gratious with that. Lunch was delicious. Probably the best egg salad sandwich I'd ever had.

After lunch, I decided to ride Kris' bike up the short portion of the snake from the rock store to the top of the hill, where all of the accidents happen and the photographer sits. I did this a few times and each time, getting faster and faster. One of the times, I was tailed by some kind of Ducati. I know he was trying because I could hear him wringing out that big motor (in comparison to the 250 cc's I was rockin') behind me. I scraped pegs and muffler many times as I put the bike into corner after corner at full lean, knee out. I felt pretty confident I was going just about as fast as that little ninja could propel me and it at. I loved it. The ninja loved it. It was like my friend, Carl, would describe racing his Miata. It's just happy to bounce along the road like a little buzzing bee.

Fun time over, we headed back the way we came, enjoying every last minute of the snake. We got to 101 and headed south, feeling a little taken back by the amazing experience we just had.

It was then that it hit us, we had not yet played on the beach. I mean, we were having so much fun goofing around on bikes that we forgot to even get off of them and touch our feet to the sand. So, we stopped off at Zuma beach in Malibu, stripped off our many layers of motorcycle gear, and headed toward the sand with bare feet.

The beach was stunning. The sand was soft and warm between my toes. We goofed around, taking pictures for a little while but the open road once again beckoned to us. After all, this was a motorcycle trip and we both love riding bikes.

Something happened next we weren't expecting. The Pacific Coast Highway became the LAX airport road and then it became a slummy midtown highway for miles and miles. We had originally planned to make it to San Diego this day but the heavy traffic and many stop lights slowed our progress greatly. Tired, getting dark, and ready for dinner, we found a hotel in Huntington beach and unloaded the bikes.

A quick search online gave us a list of local restaurants. Mediterranean food sounded good so we walked over to the Golden Olive. The food was absolutely delicious!! We stumbled back to the hotel room, literly in a tired stuper and crashed for the night.

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