California On Fire

[Ride stats: Nov. 10-12, 2018; Central California Coast, LA to Monterey; 750+ miles]

Another work trip, another chance to explore! This trip to California was overshadowed, however, by a literal dark cloud of smoke from wildfires raging just north of L.A. near Malibu. While I had a fabulous trip, my mind kept snapping back to the harsh reality for so many facing evacuation and death, and I stayed grateful for the opportunity for leisure while other suffered. (Please give blood and/or donate to help those affected.)


I stayed my first night in Venice, and this was the view from my hotel rooftop, of the boardwalk and north over the hills to Malibu.

Saturday morning, I Lyft’ed to Eagle Rider LA and the nice guys outfitted me with a gorgeous ’18 BMW 1200 GS with all the farkles and huge bags.

After situating all my gear and storing my luggage, I was off – not on my originally-planned route – but on a modified trip to avoid the fires. Instead of Hwy 1 the entire way, this trip would have detours and modifications to stay far away.

I was spit immediately onto Highway 5, which would have been daunting, except I’ve ridden this bike before and felt immediately comfortable (I also travel with all my own gear including helmet,) plus I’m from Atlanta so we know traffic. The HOV lane was pleasantly open, and when traffic slowed down, I intensely studied the other riders splitting lanes. It’s not legal in Georgia, and it terrifies me! Only when the cars were crawling did I feel comfortable enough to scootch between, but to my happy surprise, most cars moved to the edges to make way for us. How very hospitable of you!

Exiting onto 166W, I entered a different world. I understand that California is a heavily agricultural state, but Hollywood and the beach always come to mind first. Well on this ride, I got a full immersion into the fields (upon fields, upon fields) of vegetables, citrus, leafy greens, and cows. It’s a beautiful area especially when the mountains in the background are lit with a warm west coast sun.

My destination was Santa Maria, where I’d booked a stay a the historic Santa Maria Inn. I wasn’t riding with a GPS, so as I neared the intersection with 101, I knew I’d need to pull over to check my phone. Through a stop sign and over a small ridge, and immediately ahead of me were about two dozen bikes on either side of the road. My people!!!

A poker run benefiting a local veteran’s charity had reached its last stop just as dusk approached, and what an opportune time for a beer and to meet some locals. I was the only BMW in a sea of Harleys, but I know that real riders don’t care. After getting a local IPA and heading out to the patio, I started chatting with Keith, a new Harley owner (“you can’t take it with you”), father and John Deere parts salesman. He was incredibly nice and introduced me to all his friends as we talked bikes, California riding and the role of the military in this area. Many of them had served, and it was a great opportunity for me to show my appreciation in more than just the abstract this Veteran’s Day.


Sunday morning I rode to Guadalupe and Keith met me for a quick and authentic Mexican meal. Then we (finally!) hit Hwy 1 and he led me to Pismo Beach, then Avila, where we rode out onto a pier (!!!) for a beer and seal-watching (and beautiful fish and OTTERS!). It was a gorgeous day, and I’m so grateful for a kind local who generously showed me his beautiful coastline.

Keith headed home, and I kept north. Big Sur and ultimately Monterey were my destination. What a FABULOUS and stunning ride! I pulled over for pics so many times, my ride took over 7 hours. I stopped for cliffs and seals and the sunset. This road is unbelievable. Twistys on cliff sides, elevation gains and losses over the crashing waves, bikes and campers and cars all with gawking drivers soaking in the gorgeous views.

The sun sets so early in November, that it was dark when I hit Big Sur, and the temperature had dropped from 80 degrees in Pismo, to 52 in Monterey!

Freezing when I hit Monterey, I took a hot shower at my hotel, ventured out for dinner and hit the sack. The downtown area was lovely and I definitely want to come back to explore.

Monday was throttle-open highway time. A quick visit to the Monterey marina before turning onto 68E and 101 all the way to Santa Barbara where I totally guessed and picked the right exit to land right at the harbor, where I rode out on another pier (I love this!) for a quick bite before hitting the 5 >405> 105 in lovely LA traffic. I felt a bit more comfortable splitting this time but in a rush to make my business meeting, I definitely rode harder and faster than I would have normally, and felt like a true Angeleno.

A fabulous and reflecting adventure, feeling grateful for safety and the freedom to explore.

Screen Shot 2018-11-18 at 12.39.20 PM

Leave a Reply