Long Christmas Ride Story
First, thanks to all who responded with Christmas ride suggestions after I asked a month or so back. I considered all. Then my wife had to have surgery on a parotid mass near her left ear on December 5. The surgery went well in spite of the tumor being tangled in the facial nerve. The tumor proved to be benign. I really doubted that we would go for a Christmas ride so soon after a surgery. However, Karen is a real trooper and thought that riding would be the best thing. We both wear half helmets and hers did not really touch the surgical cuts.
We decided to leave Tucson on Christmas and ride to Palm Springs as a first stop on the way to the Pacific Coast Highway. This was planned as a relatively easy first day to see how her healing head did. We left Tucson at a few minutes before eight. This was shocking to me because I thought we would leave at about 8:30 since I told Karen I wanted to be on the bike at 7:30. This is our usual method. I tell her when I want to be on the bike and we usually get there about an hour later. I guess she was anxious to ride.
The temp as we left was about 42 degrees. We were packed for cold with MotoGP pants with liners, BMW heated vests and me with a First Gear Kilimanjaro and her with Harley Davidson Leather. I still have HD gauntlet gloves. Traffic was light heading out of town and it only to about 15 minutes to hit the Interstate. Some days it takes a good 45 minutes. I-10 was busy, but notably absent were Semis. Very nice. I stopped at Casa Grande for a quick Mickey D’s breakfast. South Beach diet be damned on this trip. I’m going for the South Park diet. Yeah, I want Cheesie Poofs. I checked with Karen; how’s the ear, how’s the head, how are you feeling? “Fine, Fine, let’s get on the road.”
Back on the road, filling my Thermal Mug with coffee and placing it carefully in my official BMW cup holder. Next stop was Gila Bend. That place always reminds of the late great local band The Gila Bends. Now it also reminds me of Dave Shealey’s accident. I don’t know him but I followed his accident and recovery on this site and wish him the best. I always look at the left shoulder and wonder how the hell he came out as good as he did.
As we were riding I kept asking Karen if she wanted to stop and how she was doing, how was her ear, how was her neck, how was everything. She finally just said fine, I’m relaxing back here and enjoying the ride, shut up already. Well I might not be a genius, but I do know when to shut up and ride, which is what I did. And turned up the new Ipod and Icelink doohickey. That is until it locked up. BTW, does anyone know how to get it going again without waiting for the Ipod battery to drain completely? Man, that thing is great when it works.
So, we just continued. We passed Yuma, and turned north to drive by the Salton Sea and enjoy the fine aroma of the place, to say nothing of the fine driving of giant trucks attached to toy haulers. We then joined I-10 at Indio and then I proceeded to pass on by Palm Springs and the assorted windmills. We found a spot to spend Christmas night in Beautiful Banning, CA. It was about 5:00 PM Arizona time or 4:00 PM California time. Total miles for day 1, about 430. Kind of a marshmallow butt, but not bad for our circumstance. We found an open Denny’s and had a delightful Christmas dinner of Turkey and mashed potatoes. Christmas at Denny’s in Banning, on the road on an LT. I wonder? Does it get better than this?
The next day was pretty much getting from Banning to Santa Barbara, where we started our coast run and staying the night in San Luis Obispo. I thought taking 10 to 210 and then 134 to 101 would be the best route. I’m not that familiar with this area. It was pretty full of traffic the whole route so there might have been a better way. Maybe not. In San Luis Obispo we stayed at some place across the street from the Apple Farm Hotel. Had a much better dinner of trout, pork chops and some takeaway pie, for breakfast in the morning.
We then really started to enjoy riding Highway 1. Not much traffic this time of year and it was a beautiful Tuesday, no rain, and no fog. What traffic there was seem to turn at San Simeon. We stopped at a viewpoint near San Simeon called Piedras Blancas, since there was a sign saying something about friends of Elephant Seals. The last time we were on this highway was in the mid eighties, and I thought the only place in California to see elephant seals was at Año Nuevo SR. Apparently not so anymore, as seals began arriving on at Piedras Blancas in the early nineties. Very Cool. There were several newborns nursing and a few male adults getting in scraps. No real big fighting this time around. A shame because I am a ex Minnesotan and still a hockey fan, and I do like to see a good donnybrook every once in a while. They are truly amazing animals and their migration twice a year is Iron Fin worthy. We spent quite a while checking them out.
We then continued north until a bit north of Santa Cruz. The rain had been building and at a gas stop I asked about weather. It looked to be just getting worse toward San Francisco, so without any real destination, we just turned around and rode back out of the rain and back into being able to see the ocean. We spent the night in Monterey. We took a nice walk around Fisherman’s Wharf and enjoyed a fine meal of seafood. I suggested a whale-watching trip in the morning, but Karen suggested more riding would be better. Bike is better than boat, was her thought. Good thing as it was raining pretty good when we got up the next morning.
It wasn’t raining very hard and we went back onto Highway went going back the way we came. I continue to be amazed at how we stay dry in the rain on this bike. It wasn’t raining hard, but I know my legs would have soaked on my old FLHT. Traffic again wasn’t too bad and most cars just pulled out of the way when we came up on them. One exception was a guy who was waving and flashing lights and blinkers at a slower car in front of him, but when he was the one slowing me down, he never considered pulling over. When we did get good bits of open highway, it is a blast riding through the corners up through Big Sur and down. We ended up spending the night in Carpinteria.
Then we just rode back home to Tucson, with a stop in Yuma. We were home by One O’clock on Friday. Five and a half days of riding with no troubles and nothing but fun. It really does not get any better. I am already looking forward to our next trip.
"The shortest distance between two points is often unbearable."
— Charles Bukowski