by Craig Littlefield
Skip Blecker had a few days off work and Dave Delie and I thought it was time for a ride. Phil Curtis and David Swain were ready to go too. We had California in mind but this time of year a trip with any mountains is out of the question. I laid out a route that I thought would work.
Day 1 we rode to Gila Bend, old Route 80, Salome Road to Parker. On to 29 Palms and Barstow. We had planned on staying in Tehachapi but Don Cameron warned us that it was cold there in the mornings. We went through there at 5 pm. It was already dark and there was snow along the side of the road and ice in the gas station parking lot. We went on to Bakersfield for the night. It was a 600 mile day but we all enjoyed it.
It was near freezing in the morning. We then went west over route 58 to Atascadero. The weather was beautiful by now and that is one of the best roads anywhere. We gassed up and headed for Morro Bay on route 41. We had lunch overlooking the bay and then headed up the Coast Highway. I have been riding that road since I lived in San Jose in 1965 and this is the best I have ever seen it. We were riding at a fast pace and probably passed 5 cars getting to Big Sur. The ocean was blue, not a cloud in the sky, no offshore fog and no construction. Fantastic riding. We stopped to see the Elephant Seals and then spent over an hour at Nepenthe enjoying the sunshine and beautiful views. Then it was on to Carmel.
We took Carmel Valley Road back to King City. It is a very tight winding road and we did the last half of the 50 miles in the dark. We arrived at our Motel 6 in King City for the night. The next morning we expected temperatures in the 40s. Overnight the sprinklers had come on and covered our bikes and the temperature was in the high 20s. The bikes were covered with ice. We managed to scrape it all off. My starter button was frozen but we got all the bikes running with no trouble.
I led the group into Camp Hunter Liggett and onto the Nacimento-Fergusson Road. It is a small single lane road that winds through some open fields covered with huge old Oak trees, then into some canyons and over the mountains to Highway 1 and the coast about 15 miles south of Big Sur. It is slow and challenging. It comes out on top of a mountain range looking out over the Pacific. Beautiful views. After reaching Highway 1 we were ready for some faster riding.
We continued south on the Coast Highway through Morro Bay and on to Shell Beach for lunch. Then to Santa Maria and over CA166 to CA33. This is one of the best known motorcycle roads in California but as we approached the first hills on the north of the mountains heading south there were ice warning signs. There was snow along side of the road and they had spread something on the road but it was hard to tell if it was icy or not. The ride south on 33 was not what we expected. It was nerve racking except the last 10 miles.
We went through Ojai and Santa Paula and took the freeway, again in the dark, to Palmdale in heavy commute traffic. It gets dark in that country about 4:30. We managed 80 MPH in heavy freeway traffic without losing anyone. We are lucky to live in Tucson where it is usually warm, no snow and ice and none of that insane traffic. We still had a great day with some terrific riding.
The last day was a fast ride home. We took 138, I15, I 215, I210 and I10 to Indio and then took CA111 down the east side of the Salton Sea. That is an interesting ride and it kept us off the freeway. We joined I8 west of Yuma and got home about 6:30.
We rode some of the best roads in the west and put over 1800 miles on our bikes in 4 days. We had no problems with the 5 BMWs but did come home with a few stories to remember the trip by. Stuff always happens.