Today was about exploring what we could around Ojai, we discovered Santa Barbara, views above Malibu and a taste of motorbike heaven – the Mulholland Highway.
So I remembered something else about Big Sur… The large number of open top Mustangs we saw; it was almost as if when you hire a car in LA and you tell them that you’re driving the Pacific Coast Highway, the hire car company insists you have a Mustang. Still, we’d probably do the same if we were hiring a car. Maybe next time…
Back to Day Four. We woke up after a fun evening at the local craft beer bar, bonding with a couple (Lovely Eveline and Mad Frank) we had met earlier at our hotel and the day was amazing – not too hot and clear blue sky.
We stayed in Ojai for two nights, preplanned to manage the fatigue of our trip – as it turned out it wasn’t bad at all although I did note that I need to manage my hydration levels better. Yesterday had been hot and I do get dehydrated on the bike anyway so, note to self, drink more water…note to Gary, we may need to stop for comfort breaks more often…
Well watered, we headed out of Ojai towards the coast and Santa Barbara.
Today I started to feel much more comfortable on the Sportster Forty-Eight, and have decided that it’s my preferred motorbike of the two, it’s reasonably easy to handle at low speeds and I am getting used to its overly vibrating engine. What settled it for me was, on the way to Santa Barbara, and not going particularly fast, taking a tight bend, I scraped my boot and a foot peg! Yup, I’m a proper motorbike rider now…maybe.
It was a bit of a surprise but, upon reflection I feel like I am really learning to handle this motorbike. The handling is very different from my Monster, which has a shorter wheel base and therefore can corner more tightly, cruisers are not quite so nimble although the Sportster is in the sporty end of the cruisers despite the foot pegs being quite far forward.
Back to Santa Barbara, we arrived on the palm tree lined seafront where, although it was around 11am, the sun had still not burned off most of the morning seamist which gave the city a rather grey feel.
We cruised along the seafront, up a hill and over to the other side where we were provided with some rather lovely views over the town and towards the mountains.
We turned around and found parking on the seafront.
By this time the sun had done a great job with the seamist and was poking through bringing a lovely tropical feel to the seafront. I was surprised by Santa Barbara, I expected it to have a bigger, tackier sea front with lots of restaurants and bars, instead restaurants and bars were few and far between and the frontage was mostly taken up by hotels, which became grander as we rode south.
The architecture was Spanish/ Mexican and very pleasing. The main drag was dominated by a beach which was protected from the surf by a huge breakwater which also protected a marina on the northern end. There was also a wooden pier, onto which cars could drive, we didn’t, we wanted to keep our visit to Santa Barbara quick so we could explore more of the coast.
We had lunch at one of the few places in the seafront, which was reasonably priced – I was very happy to have my first huevos rancheros of the trip, eggs on a fried tortilla covered in guacamole, chopped tomatoes and onions, black beans and sour cream accompanied by little roast potatoes – my idea of heaven.
After lunch, we left Santa Barbara and tried to ride close to the coast but were quickly thwarted, bikes were allowed, just not the kind with motors attached to them. Boo.
So back onto the freeway we went, flanked by looming arid mountains to the left and beautiful ocean to the right. Out to sea, in the distance, we could see a number of oil drilling rigs, necessary, I realise, but still a slight blot off some beautiful coastline, in my opinion.
At Summerland (how great is that name?) the road started to hug the coast more tightly and, although we were riding near the water, we could see a road right next to it at beach level, that said our elevated position on the freeway meant we probably had a better view.
We left the freeway at Ventura, had a quick stop to view a section of seafront and check the map, then continued onto Oxnard, an expansive tidy town on a flat area of land to the east of the mountainside. We passed many marinas and signs indicating ferries to California’s Channel Islands. Rather soberingly, I saw sign posts to tsunami evacuation routes, a real danger in this low lying area of the coast.
Back on the Pacific Coast Highway, the Santa Monica Mountains rose majestically to our left as we arrived in the beach town of the stars, Malibu, with its grand mansions in the hills and beach front homes crowded along a narrow strip between the beach and the highway.
We turned up Encinal Canyon Road, and were rewarded with splendid views of northern Malibu which led us to the famous Mulholland Highway. I say famous as Gary informs me that this is a very popular road with motorbikers and car enthusiasts in the area, I can see why.
Mulholland is seriously winding, tight corners, steep drops and almost pristine tarmac. I took it slowly, the road was a little too narrow for my courage but that did enable me to enjoy the magnificent views across the valleys and the Spanish style villas built, I suspect, by the rich and famous of the area. We’re planning to come back here tomorrow and do more, it was getting late so we hit the rather busy Ventura Highway back to Ojai.
This journey enabled me to practice lane filtering as the traffic was heavy, the lanes wide and the traffic very considerate with many cars moving to the far side of the lane to let me through.
We arrived back in Ojai around 5pm with fumes in the tank; this tiny tank on the Forty-Eight is keeping me on my toes – with 76 miles on the clock, we filled him up.
Oh, I’ve called him Elvis. Think young Elvis, slim, dressed in white and as American as apple pie (although I would posit that apple pie is English. But anyway…)