Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Day 4 - Highway 1 Adventure

Today was the longest days ride in both time and distance. Google maps said to was just shy of 300 miles and would take just under 6 hours by my chosen route. That proved  to be a massive under estimate.

The first section of the route was on HWY 101. Now I know HWY 101 as the road from San Francisco to San Jose through the heart of Silicon Valley and to say that this road is dull and un-attractive is being very kind to it. Not so for the section from Santa Maria to Santa Barbara. To start with it winds though the hills past before it  drops through a gorge and turns left along the coast heading south to Santa Barbara. Along this stretch it is possible to find sections of the old Pacific Coast Highway but mostly you end up dragged back onto 101, or I did.

A detour through the suburbs of Santa Barbara showed up some of the most extravagant mansions I think i have ever seen as well as the beach front at Santa Barbara. This looks spectacular but is just the warm up act for what follows. I finally managed to relocate the PCH somewhere between Santa Barbara and Santa Monica for the run through Malibu. Wow what a beach. The joke in England is that rthe USA have to do everything bigger than the rest of the world - burgers, buildings, RVs, people, you name it - well this beach certain proves that, as does much of the rest of the trip. Finally I start to enter LA. Now confident of my navigation strategy, keep the ocean on your right hand side, I decide to ver of route following a sign for Venice Beach. The last time I was here I am sure you could drive along the water front but not any more it seems. This was the start of getting very lost. Having lost the ocean I decided to head away from the ocean until I crossed the PCH again. After an hour of getting no where but stuck in traffic in the heat in all my bike gear I decided to jump on a nearby freeway. I soon found myself heading back to Santa Barbara. Not what I wanted so a quick exit to U-turn and oh shiit there is no on ramp  southbound. At this point I decided to stop for fuel and ask directions. Fimally back on the freeway heading in the right direction. Although there is no signs to tell you so bikes appear to be allowed (or tolerated) in  the car share lanes. At least the 2 motorcycle cops that passed my in the car share lane did not appear to want to pull me over. Well done MAG USA.

Finally a sign for PCH again and a chance to get off the crowded freeway and on more interesting roads but after about 1/2 and hour I am lost again and hunting for the freeway. Once again I join in the wrong direction and need to make a U-turn. I am sure that stories will pass into folklore in LA of the mad englishman on a motorbike touring the city asking for directions to San Diego. Finally after about 3 hours I start to exit LA.

About 1/2 way from LA to San Diego I manage to relocate PCH and more interesting roads. My hotel in San Diego is located on PCH so what could be easier than just cruising up to it but no somehow I miss a turn and end up on the city's by pass in a traffic jam. Finally after consulting a couple of car drivers in the jam I turn off and head for what I am told is downtown. Man I wish I spoke Spanish at this point. I finally locate Old Town and know that i am close. Following the cycle route signs for downtown I manage a couple of circuits of the Old Town and attempt to go the wrong way down a 5 lane oneway street. Finally a sign for PCH now you are talking but as usual I discover I am heading in the wrong direct back out of town. A quick U-turn and I am back on course and finally cruise into my hotel at 7pm after a gruelling 10 your ride with no real breaks.

Every fibre of my body aches and I  have come to hate the constant un-ending vibration from the Harley.Thank god that I had planned the next day as a rest day. A chance to relax by the pool and loosen up before I start to do the whole thing in reverse. In the hotel car park that eveningI spy a Ducati  Moto Strada with Puerto Rica plates and start to wonder if he will consider a swap. I am sure the rental company will not mind the upgrade!

Before I came on this trip I had many prejudices about Harleys now I have none - just facts born of much experience. The ride position is good for touring although if I owned one I would fit highway pegs for a change of position occasionally, the cornering is better than I expected, the luggage space is good and it certainly looks the part BUT the seat is uncomfortable (only saved by the Airhawk 2 that I brought with me) the noise is unbearable and the vibration crippling. This is all made worse by the fact the only way I can get the thing to pull is in what I would consider impossibly low revs. Since I have learnt that however the fuel consumption has improved significantly! Will I be trading in my Triumphs for a Harley on my return? You have to be joking. Would I rent a Harley again in the USA? Possibly, but not for any journey of any serious length. Sorry Eamon.

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