Monday, January 13, 2014

Our last hurrah for 2013

Our last few weeks in the States flew by.

After having to skip seeing San Francisco in order to get to the Long Beach Bike Show, we were determined to explore SF and ride the famed Pacific Coast Highway before leaving the country. 

Due to critical paperwork for my Australian visa application appearing in my inbox just as we were about to set out, (Murphy’s Law) we wound up not making it too far North on our first day. The sun set, but we continued to follow our “route” as the road wound up through the Santa Barbera mountains, until we found a suitable spot to camp just off of the road but well-hidden, overlooking the twinkling lights of Santa Barbara with ocean liners beyond. 

We packed up early the next morning but couldn’t leave the
Cleaning up after others
site in the condition we had found it in… there was litter and broken glass everywhere. Our creed is that we always leave places we have stayed better than we found them. This case was no differen
t, and by the time we rode off we had shopping bags filled with garbage hanging off of all safe/available places on the bikes. 

We had planned to fit in a few wine tastings throughout the Paso Robles area but stopped first to visit a friend and former colleague from the vintage I had done at Two Hands in South Australia. Darren is now working for Tablas Creek, a biodynamic estate winery producing all Rhone varieties. For wine nerds like us, this place was a treasure trove of interesting practices, facts and delicious wine. Darren spent a good part of the afternoon touring us through the vineyards, farming areas, winery and finally brought it all together with a fabulous tasting which included many back vintage treats that were leftover from their staff tasting the day before. I’d say our timing was perfect!!

We went on our merry way just a few minutes before 4pm and did our best to get a little farther north before searching for a place to camp. It was getting cold and we were both exhausted, so we settled on a poorly managed field just off of the highway, riding in a few hundred meters before finding a nice level spot to pitch the tent. 

We made a quick stop to visit our friend Lee at Racer Gloves USA. We had met him at the Long Beach show and really liked his product and also his outlook on sales. If you’re in need of some new gloves this riding season, I highly recommend Racer Gloves… the product is top notch and the customer service policies maintain that level of quality: if your gloves aren’t a perfect fit, you can ship them back and receive a different size, free of shipping costs. Lee just wants his customers to be happy with their new gloves. We certainly are :)

And on we went to San Francisco. 

Thanks to some local recommendations and guides, we found a couple of very sweet spots to view the city from. We arrived at Marin Headlands hours before the sun was to set and thought we would be bored while we were waiting. 

However, watching the bridge change colors from a rusty brown to a shining gold, not only did we finally understand where the name “Golden Gate” came from, but we were enthralled by the interplay of the wonder of nature and this wonder of human creation.

The Golden Gate Bridge, looking truly golden
Between sun set and moon rise, we filled our memory cards with photos of the Golden Gate Bridge with the beautiful San Francisco skyline beyond. 
With some of the Piston & Chain Crew
Piston & Chain
We joined a gathering at Piston and Chain, a really unique and cool motorcycle club in downtown SF, which gives city dwellers with limited garage space a place to work on their bikes. Our Toronto friends, Carol and Hans had “e-introduced” us to a relative, Daniel, who is a member there. Daniel and his family were incredible hosts during our time in SF and showed us some really beautiful spots. 

We spent a night camping in the Marin Headlands and put to use our Christmas gift from Adventure Designs, an awesome adventure riding shop just outside of SF. Adventure Designs
Being interviewed @ Adventure Designs
has everything to kit out bikes for big or small adventures, and the guys at the shop are extremely helpful. Chad noticed that one of our shoddy camping chairs was broken and before we left, gave us two new extremely comfortable (and lightweight, packable) Joey Chairs. Per usual, we
waited out rush-hour traffic and set up our tent well after dark. We sat outside enjoying the city lights twinkling through

the Golden Gate Bridge until it got too chilly and we turned in. We rose early the next morning to catch the sun rise over the city and watched the city wake up as we leisurely enjoyed our coffees in our Joey chairs. 
Sunrise over San Francisco
With Daniel and his friend, Christian, escorting us on their KTMs, we headed South on the Pacific Coast Highway, heading inland for a stop at Alice’s Restaurant for lunch. We said goodbye to Daniel and set off South again, with Christian taking us on a beautiful ride through an impressive redwood forrest. 

After waving goodbye to Christian, Roel and I continued down the coast for a few hours, stopping just before Big Sur and following the descriptions of roads that Daniel and Christian had given us that would lead to a beautiful camping area in yet another redwood forrest. 

We set up camp in a clearing in the towering trees, put together our new chairs and laid out our cheese feast, a gift from Daniel’s wife, Caroline. It truly was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

We rose early the next morning, determined to get within reach of Los Angeles by nightfall, as my mother would be flying in to spend the holiday with us.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur

Big Sur

Our ride South was picturesque but largely uneventful, aside from a few moments of violent elephant seal fighting. We enjoyed some sweeping coastal views of Big Sur, got to see how the coastal fog conceals 
nearly everything along and on the PCH and even stopped for a taste at the “Wine Ghetto” in Lompoc (a collection of wineries in an industrial area).

Elephant Seals Whining
The next day was Christmas Eve and since we still had heaps to do in LA before my mother arrived in the afternoon, we made sure to get within reach of the city that evening. Though we didn’t sleep for long, the spot we chose was only a few meters from where the waves crashed on the beach all night long. We packed up our tent for the last time the next morning and headed into the city. 

Our last camp spot of 2013
A successful last hurrah, and there was no shortage of gratitude on our parts that our bikes stayed mechanically “sound” for the duration of it.