I'm not even sure how I'm going to be able to do this. Write another long procession of words about the weekend full of riding? Really? I can barely feel my hands! The buzzing in my arms is still fresh. My ears are still ringing a little. Every bone in my 'not so young anymore' body is screaming at me for medication. Sometimes the memories are just too fresh to pass up an opportunity to tell about them. So here goes nothin'...
Still at work, I'm off in a couple of hours. Sunday and Monday are yet to be planned. I know we plan on riding but where? "boop-beep"... a text from the lady. "Where are we going this time? Have you called Miles?"
Minutes later the destination is set. We are going to the coast. Santa Barbara is the midway point. My old stomping grounds. The idea came to me to hit up some riding buddies and see if they wanted to meet us on our way into town. Flurries of text messages later there were going to be at least three meeting us at our main stop on Highway 33, just north of Ojai, CA. This is gonna be fun!
Work is done... I'm heading home to pack and prep ol' "Sunshine".
I'm up WAY too early. Maybe I'm excited or something... I'm not sure. By 8:00am I shoot a message to my girl and see if she's awake. No response. "hmmmm... I better call her..." I think to myself. A few moments later there's a voice on the other end. "Good morning, my love! Are you ready for an adventure?" she asks. "Yes! Meet you at that Shell station near the freeway... 10:30 sharp!"
I was ready... The smell of motorcycle is a pretty awesome thing on a Sunday morning when the sun is shining... it's not too hot... and you've got plans to kick the crap out of one of your favorite roads. It's a mixture of heat, fuel, plastics and rubber, the remnants of last weekends ride coming from the brake rotors, and various other synthetic lubricants ranging from motor oil to chain lube. It is awe inspiring to say the the least. The bike perched on the stands like it's some kind of animal, locked inside of a cage just waiting for that gate to open.
Front wheel down. Rear stand next. Back her up into the driveway. Check kickstand. When I lean her onto the side stand I give her a nice loving "good morning, Sunshine..." Hit the starter button and she comes to life with a quickness. Ready to pounce. Like a Jaguar on prey she has her target. A twisty bit of road just southwest from here. And there... We will meet the rest of the animals.
I grab my CamelBack, packed neatly with the stuff needed for basic hygiene. Toothbrush, Toothpaste, deodorant, keys, change of undies and socks, jeans, and a couple of shirts. Wait! Don't forget the phone charger. Suited up and ready to roll I head out and in a few minutes I'm stopped again. Fully fueled and awaiting the arrival of my love. A short, black haired vixen some call "Mayhem". Cool name I say for such a girl. Blacked out bike... Blacked out leathers... looking like she's right out of a movie where she's some urban assault bad ass. It fits I think...
From where we happen to start this journey is pretty flat. Mostly straight. And if we don't get the hell out early we could fry in the heat. It is almost all farmland for much of the trip south and west out of Bakersfield. It was actually a pretty cool morning. You could smell different produce as you cruised through the millions of acres of field on a 2-lane road until it turns to oilfields outside of Taft. More foothills means there are turns coming. We can almost see them now. Keep pushing forward. We're almost there.
Through Taft to a gas stop in Maricopa, then we are on our way into the hills. The ascent up the mountain brings open road, a little more speed, and some really cool sweeping turns to get you warmed up. Come over the hill and bam... more flat and straight. Crap.
As we turned onto the mouth of the road we were destined for that day we see a long line of cars ahead of us. I'm pretty sure my companion on the 'Dual Sport from Hell' was thinking the same thing I was. "Hopefully they move over or aren't too slow." No sooner were we thinking this when we see about 12 Ferrari's ranging in year from the 1960's to the latest in innovation. Problem is... they're all pretty tightly lined up together. In a display of safe but swift, one by one, passing I managed to get around most of the back markers. A glance in the mirror and the DRZ was still there.
"We were almost to the best part!" I thought as I stacked up behind the last 3 remaining cars. All gleaming their brilliant colors and shining Horse on the front of each of their hoods. I twist the throttle. One down.. another. "One more to go and it's on!" Finally getting around him I made my way up the hill and into the turns. This road is mine. I know it better than any road I have ridden. I have gone so far as to bring a push-broom into that canyon and sweep out every shitty turn in 20 miles. Then I am reminded of another rider. Crap... I lost her. Last I saw her she was pinned behind those last three Ferrari's. I had better stop.
The parade is coming and I see her there. Stuck behind the 2nd car. I pick back up with her and we follow the cars down the hill. Eventually we are flipping on the turn signals and waving our departure to the line of grossly expensive automobiles.
12:30pm: Wolfe’s to Santa Barbara.
A few of the riding buddies joined us at the stop. When my companion and I got there we sat and chatted but it wasn’t long before we had the bikes fired back up and the smell of exhaust hit the air once again. Pretty much everyone in a full 1-piece suit we climbed on our machines and began the descent.
One of the guys had been up and down the hill already and he quickly jumped ahead of the pack, leaving the rest of us behind. Colleen waved me by and I glanced down at the plate reading “HER6” on the back. Got around Eduardo as his CBR 600RR accelerated forward. A check of the mirror and I can see Mark right on my heels. Miles is way out in front of the pack by now. But I can see him slowing up a bit. I get by Mike who is putting on a pretty damn impressive show of cornering and twist the throttle back some more. Finally I’m starting to catch Miles. Mark still in the mirrors capturing the scene on a GoPro, I press forward.
I haven’t been on this road in a pretty long time and my friend has been up and down already once today. He’s losing the two of us pretty fast. But we are still keeping up pretty well just riding our own ride. The speeds are dangerous but not excessive. Not pushing the limits of our abilities. After all… there are rewards at the end of this ride.
The top section carves a winding path through a valley with 3rd and 4th gear sweepers that, if you find yourself in a good rhythm, will keep you pinned right into the line and pull you around the corners. The pavement is a little bumpy and the tarmac course. The speeds are a little higher in this top section. There is also a long straight where should you find yourself inclined you can reach speeds that are downright insane on a road where the nearest help is 20 miles away. I won’t say how fast I’ve been down this little stretch but this day we kept the pace smooth and easy for people to get back into a grouping on this day.
Across the bridge it tightens up. You now start plunging into the canyon below. I feel my legs starting to burn a little. “Is it from the heat? The spirited riding? Both?” I’m wondering as I brake into another tight left hander. My favorite sections are right around the next few corners. The tires on the ZX are nice and sticky but there is still the occasional feeling you shouldn’t be going any harder. Too many variables and some things you have no control over.
The switchbacks come into view. I know it’s about to get good! Imagine descending from 3000ft to 1500 feet in about 4 miles of virtually 180 degree turns. My favorite turn is in this section of asphalt. As I’m making my way down I let the engine settle into a nice low rpm 4th gear stroll. No need for power here… just smoothness and braking. The low torque helps the rear end stay planted on the exits. “Skip…” I feel the left knee touch…
As we come into civilization we probably look like battle scarred mercenaries after a street brawl with a roadway. The bikers at the bar eating way too much BBQ and drinking way too much beer to be riding probably think we look like Power Rangers or something. Not us… Not those who ride. Those who really ride for the sake of the road itself being the destination? Not some bar where we can park our bikes and look out at the chrome.
We arrive at the gas station and I then remember my love… probably miles back on the DRZ, pissed that she can’t keep up with the sport bikes. Hers are both in need of repairs and as much as she loves that thumper… it’s the finely crafted geometry of a sport bike that heightens her emotions. I know how she feels. After a few minutes I start worrying and begin thinking I should go back and find her. Damn it! I did it again! I left her hanging so I could haul ass. I’ll have to buy dinner.
Upon our arrival to the friend’s house we are having a post ride brew (remember that reward I was talking about earlier?) and playing with RC helicopters and overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There are friends and pizza. Life doesn’t suck…
Apparently there was an eclipse today… This is the only one I saw.
6:30am – Monday:
I woke to the sound of birds and my companion rolling over to wish me a good morning. My feet still a little sore from the two and a half mile walk we made to dinner… both of us in our Sidi boots. There was a slight haze along the coast but not too bad as we could see the sun starting to peek out from the clouds. A new day of adventuring was upon us.
We got our things in order. Cell phones charged and clothes packed again in our packs we pulled the bikes out into the street and fired them up. The short run down the hill was a nice wake up but the coffee we were destined for was more inviting at the moment. Soon we would be embarking on a journey I had made more than a few times. My girl had not been on these roads but I knew her DRZ was the perfect conveyance for where I was about to lead her.
After coffee and a brief meeting with another friend of mine we saddled up and left to find fuel. Monday morning in Santa Barbara isn’t like your average Monday anywhere else. People are generally in good spirits in this beach side haven. A few glances from people wondering why they couldn’t be doing something as cool as we were from people with much more mundane things to do that day were an entertaining site. “Ready to roll?”, I asked. With a thumbs up and a twist of the grip we were off for the hills overlooking Santa Barbara.
Gibraltar Road carves into the hills overlooking the area. It’s a winding stretch of tarmac that leads you to the top of the mountain. Not really a sport bike road in any way but very accessible nonetheless. Heat was becoming a factor. The smells of salt water air left us behind the higher we climbed. Past a few houses clinging to the side of the mountain like flies to a wall we made our first stop. I knew she wanted to stop as every time I looked in the mirrors her head was turned toward the magnificent views to the little city below.
Stopped under a tree we climbed from our steeds and took in the view. My companion was so elated. Fear of heights almost a factor as she stepped closer to the edge to snap a few photos. The smile from her face made me know that she was having the time of her life and her embrace was all that much more convincing. I took a step back to watch her take in the beauty laid out before us. What a perfect day.
We climbed up the mountain even more. The road at some points turning into something that should have just been dirt. It probably would’ve been smoother than way. The ZX was eating up the pavement but doing it slowly. The mighty DRZ behind be looked as if it was mocking my supersport as if to say, “The road was meant for me today.” A few miles later we stopped again, this time at Gibraltar Peak. The views from here are so astounding. The air is cool and clean and you get the feeling that you are flying. “So this is what birds must feel like”, I thought to myself.
Feeling the need to eat I had a place in mind. It wasn’t that far and it was a place every motorcyclist needs to pay a visit to. We wound down the mountain until we got to the main highway where we took off with a reckless abandon. Finally the ZX could stretch her legs a little. Not for long though as the turn for Stagecoach Road was upon us. Flipped on the blinkers and made the left turn. As we rounded the last few turns the destination came into view. An old stagecoach stop turned restaurant and bar called Cold Spring Tavern.
Here they have food you won’t find just anywhere. Venison sausage and rabbit are just a couple of the findings on the menu. I settled for a BBQ chicken sandwich. I wasn’t ready for buffalo this early in the day. We sat in my favorite room in the restaurant and sat where we could see the spring out the window. and I had a nice cold beer to wash down my lunch. Just one beer… Don’t want to get crazy. We have a lot of riding to do today. After lunch we walked around the place and took a few photos. When trying to capture the moment ourselves a man asked if he could snap the photo for us. We kindly said yes and I’m glad we did. The picture was perfect.
Soon we found ourselves back in the saddle and winding into the valley towards Lake Cachuma. Keeping pace with the few cars out on the road and keeping our speeds down as I’m well aware of a pretty high police presence on this stretch leading into Los Olivos. Our road of choice from there would be one that lends itself the prestige of going past some of the areas most famous wineries. It’s a road you really shouldn’t haul a bunch of ass on. For one, it’s pretty bumpy in spots and you could lose it. For two, if you’re going fast you can’t take in the sights and smells of this beautiful region. We zigged and zagged from one end of wine country into the heart of it as we got to a new road for both of us.
I had wanted to take this road for a while but never had the chance before. The problem was that either way we would probably have to backtrack for fuel before the long 60 miles it took to get from one civilization to the next on our way home. So it was either take the road we had been on and get out to where we could fuel up or take this new road to its end and turn toward the city for fuel there. We decided it was in our best interest to explore this new road. And with a glance and a rev of the engines we shot out into the unknown. Uncharted territory lie ahead.
As we went on I could begin to feel the body starting to tell me it was about ready for a break. These are the times when mind over matter is most beneficial. You can feel pain setting in to the knees, the wrists, the back, and in a few other places you weren't aware existed. With each new turn my mind snapped back into the task at hand and with each stop for pictures a new muscle hurt. It was when I thought my hand was going to go numb that we began the roughly 6 miles of tight 2nd gear twists and turns that would end our run on Tepusquet Road and back to Highway 166. Man what a rush! What a road! "We are gonna need to come back." I remember saying to myself as the pavement flattened out and I could see the Stop Ahead' sign.
Pulling to a stop at the other end I shut off the engine and waited for the black haired vixen on the DRZ to come up beside me. I had just looked in the tank and saw what seemed to be enough fuel to get me back to Maricopa. "Got enough gas to make it 60 miles?" I asked my lady. She replied with a flip up of the visor and a wink, "Looks like I will be ok. Let's do it!" We made the right hand turn onto 166 and head off into the land we were most familiar with. The two lane highway lends itself well to some decent sweeping turns and rising temperatures. A few more cars in our way we were able to snake by them with little effort until we came up to a bit of road work. As we got to the front of a long line of cars waiting for the road workers escort we shut off the bikes and sat scorching in the sun.
Finally we were able to start moving again and once the truck with the sign on the back reading "follow me... escort vehicle" pulled away we were back on the gas and clipping along at a good pace. Chomping up the miles on our way home. Then it happened. I was following behind my companion allowing her to pace us. I had the feet dangling in the wind and my chest across the tank while looking out on the road through the tinted Puig windscreen when I saw that little amber light come on. "Well ain't that about a b**ch...", I thought.... The word "FUEL" flashing on my dashboard. We had just passed through New Cuyama and the lonely gas station was behind us. I got up alongside my road weary partner and motioned the "I need gas" sign, pointing at the fuel tank of the ZX6R. She was thirsty. Making the "I'm turning around" sign I pulled off and flipped around... blasting off and through the gears (probably didn't help my limited fuel economy now that I think of it.)
I finally see the sign, "MK GAS" it reads. Making my turn into the dusty little town I pull up to an ancient gas pump, no digital read outs or credit card slots, and no LCD screen shouting out advertisements at me while I try to pump gas. Then it hits me. The place is closed. My lady pointing out a hand written sign on the door that reads "We are closed because we have no fuel". So here we are... roughly 30 miles from the next town with gas and I'm on a re-geared sport bike that gets around 30-35mpg... of which I've put at least 5 or 6 miles on since I saw the light come on. My reserve is 0.8 gallons. You do the math. It wasn't looking like we were going to get to Maricopa unless I coasted down the hill... provided I made it UP the hill at all.
We cruise back down the road and stop at a local fire station. A knock on the door and two firemen answer, probably not expecting two fully geared adventurers like us to be knocking this Monday afternoon. We asked them if they might have a gallon of gas. The older of the two, most likely the chief or a bit higher ranking man asks, "Can you make it 15 miles? There is a pistachio farm out on 33 that has gas." We certainly are lucky... That's all I can say.
When I pulled up to the pump clearly marked "PREMIUM" on it, I open the gas cap and give the bike a shove. It's almost comical how little gas splashed around in the tank, but we weren't out of the woods yet. I roll inside and give the man my credit card and he says he'll start the pump. Another old style pump is staring at me as I walk out to the bike. My body hurts. I need to get these leathers off. It's hot. I'm cranky. I need a shower. "Clank..." I flip the little guard down as I hear the pump begin to prime. A pull of the handle and get about 80 cents of fuel out before it is at a trickle. "Seriously? You're kidding..." I think I said to my adventure buddy. The guy comes out an attempts to try the pump about 6 more times. Each time warranting less fuel and more frustration. "Screw it", I say, "She's getting regular today." and I push the bike to the pump a little further down. 1.5 gallons later I pull the bike into the shade and get out of my leathers. A well needed break is in order.
Water and energy drinks, a bag of sunflower seeds, and a cool breeze made everything better. As we sat there smiling about our good furtune the neighbor opens up his door about 50 or so feet away and out comes what would become the highlight of my day. His name was Jack, a big yellow Lab complete with John Deere collar and tennis ball secured between his jowls. Jack was probably over 10 years old judging by the slow pace and dropped eyes but his demeanor was definitely reflective of a youth full of life and memories only a dog can have. The dog came and greeted us almost knowing the type of day we had been having. Laying down to give us the chance to pat him on the back and rub his ears he gave us a smile. Then the ball dropped from the mouth and he sprang to life as my companion picked it up. Life was far from being over for this old pooch. We played for a good 15 or 20 minutes. Laughing and smiling... the three of us. It was the time I spent at this place that had me reflecting back on the last two days and nearly 350 miles. What a great ride!!
Finally ready to head home we geared back up and started our machines. Stretching a little before our journey home I started to really feel this body about to hate me. But it's not far. Another hour of riding and I can wash two days of road off of my body and leave only the memories of another adventure with my girl and her mighty DRZ. This was another one for the record books for sure.
One last stop about 20 miles up the road for a fresh tank of 91 octane and we set out down the road we came through only a day before. It was hot and we were tired. Passing the many cars with people ending their days work. If they only knew what our Monday had been like. The word "jealousy" comes to mind with a smile as I think of it now.
Winding our way into Bakersfield she blew me a kiss and we separated our paths, her to the Northeast side of town, me to the Northwest. Another adventure done. I love that girl.
I stink... I need a shower.