After 6 months of planning, we were finally on our way! We picked up our motorbikes, wobbled out of San Francisco and started our coastal journey south. Ride on the right, ride on the right!
Having landed in San Francisco on Friday, it is now Monday and I am now over the jet lag and very excited about my big motorbike trip around California. The plan is to ride down to LA, stopping at Carmel, Morro Bay, Ojai, a couple of days in LA and then back up to San Francisco via Ridgecrest, Death Valley, Mammoth Lakes, Yosemite and Lake Tahoe.
First thing, we caught an Uber to the San Francisco branch of Eaglerider.
On arrival, we discovered a bit of confusion when I was presented with a Harley Sportster 883 with the tiniest bag, attached in the front, that I have ever seen. He problem wasn’t the motorbike, the problem was that I want sure where I was going to store my clothes during the journey – I have handbags bigger than that bag!
After a bit of thinking on their part, I was upgraded to a Sportster 48, a special edition Sportster with a 1200cc engine which came complete with saddle bags. Awesome, now I was able to take clothes on the trip!
That said, I had come prepared with a Kriega bag, a soft case, waterproof luggage system which clips to the back of a motorbike, my bag had a capacity of 30 litres. Arthur, the very helpful general manager at EagleRider, helped me attach the bag to the back of the motorbike.
Gary was upgraded from a Harley Sportster 1200 to an Indian Scout with larger saddles bags, he was very happy about that.
I crammed as much of our things onto the bikes as I could, my hiking shoes, my brand new Dianese jacket, a few clothes and a couple of books were left behind – such is life. I think I left two bananas in the bag we used to get our stuff to the store, must remember to call them ask them to take them out before they start to rot!
Update: I contacted EagleRider a few days later and said bananas were removed!
I tentatively directed the motorbike onto the street, desperately hoping that my brain would accept the different rising position from my Monster – a forward position for my legs with the brake and gear levers requiring an upkick rather than a forward nudge. ‘Keep to the right, keep to the right’ was our mantra for the day and, for the most part we did.
We headed out of the store, around the block, to help me get used to the bike and then on our way, crossing back through the city to the ocean side which, I have to admit, I’d forgotten was so close to the city.
Labour Day meant that traffic was very heavy although a bit of lane filtering helped us on our way.
The day was lovely, clear sunshine with a little haze. The coast varied between beaches and wild, rocky outcrops, occasionally flanked by farms growing an assortment of vegetables, including bright orange pumpkins fattening up for Thanksgiving.
Lunch was at Taco Bell, with the most beautiful view of probably any fast food restaurant I have ever been seen.
As part of our motorbike briefing it was explained to us that the bikes should be filled every 80-100 miles, with NO MORE than 10 miles left in the tank once the fuel light comes on so, imagine my surprise, with 50 miles on the trip metre, the fuel light comes on. Oh. There wasn’t much happening on the stretch of road that we were on except for the occasional surfer, kite surfers and hang gliders. One mile, two miles, three miles … nothing.
Thankfully, at six miles, we spotted a service station, excellent, nothing to panic here.
And then we made our first discovery, our foreign credit cards were not accepted by the bowser (US zip code required) and the gas station attendant was the most unhelpful attendant I have ever met. I would have to prepay which means that I would also have to know how much I wanted. After a bit of pondering, we settled on 3 gallons – what? the attendant, says, three gallons? What does that mean? Is that too much? Too little? It would help if we could remember how much a US gallon is! He just pointed at a gallon container in the fridge as if this would explain everything. Not helpful.
Anyway, I decide to chance it at three gallons, managed to pour only 2.5 into the bikes. I found out later that the fuel tank of the Forty-Eight holds just 2.1 US gallons which is about 8 litres!! My monster holds about 18, such is the price of good looks on the Harley Sportster 48 where the fuel tank was chopped to size. After we had filled I asked him if there was any chance of a refund, turns out that that’s the way things work. Number one lesson learned!
Update: I also found out later that the trick might be to enter 99999 when prompted for a zip code by the payment system on the bowser, although I only found that out on our very last fill!
It was also the time that, on my way to the restrooms, a young guy called me a ‘badass’, with great, friendly, enthusiasm, er, thank you… I think.
Onwards, south, we were finally doing some miles. Through Santa Cruz and Monteray and then to Mazda Laguna Seca, the home of the California Superbike School, one Moto GP a year and numerous other races. Apparently, it features heavily in many racing games, so my racing game lover, Gary, told me.
We explored the raceway as much as could, it was deserted and was slightly eerie seeing the architecture of grand race days which have been and will be.
We arrived at Carmel around 7pm, checked into our motel and had dinner at a local restaurant. It had been an amazing first day, we were tired but exhilarated.