MotoGP trip #2, Day 1
Hernan and Sandy have been reading these (well, actually, they make me read them out loud every night), and Hernan insisted that I post them in another forum where more people would read them. So, in order to oblige my host, here they are again. Of course, this has nothing at all to do with massaging my ego... Then again, I've spent many hours on these, so I wouldn't mind if a bunch more people saw them. Day 1 is Thursday, and so on. I hope you enjoy reading them.
MotoGP #2, Day 1
Last June, I was out at Blackhawk for a NESBA event, camped next to the silo, sitting and talking with my buddy Hernan between sessions. At that point, we had been doing track days together for almost 2 years. I don't recall exactly what we were talking about, but at one point he told me that he and his wife had a house in California, he had tickets to MotoGP, and would I like to come out and go to the race? A no-brainer, right? So it would seem, but not so fast. See, the thing is, I was never actually a big fan of motorcycle racing. Track days were different; this was something I was actually doing, instead of something I was watching someone else do on TV. Also, it was only 3 weeks or so before the event, so it was pretty short notice. Still, it was the really big show, and I'd never been to California before, and I'd always pictured myself as a California-type dude, so I told him that I'd ask my boss and my wife (AKA the real boss) if I could go. Well, much to my delight, both parties refrained from actually calling me a effing idiot and told me that, in fact, I pretty much had to go. Who was I to argue? I couldn't really afford it, but I put my plane tickets on our Discover card, flew on out, and had one of the best, most mind blowingest trips I've ever had. In fact, I decided then that I would go back, whether Hernan invited me as a guest or not.
Fast forward to this year; apparently, I was a gracious enough guest last year that not only was I welcomed back, but my wife Nan was more than welcome also. Thus, I'm actually writing this from California right now. I never got around to relating any of my trip last year (awesome as it was), but I thought that I'd actually blog my trip as it happened this year, at the risk of incurring the hatred of all my fellow CLSB'ers. So, here goes, and don't hate me because I'm beautiful...
We flew out here last night. The flight(s) was(were)pretty much uneventful, save for the fact that our fellow travellers wanted to destroy our helmets. Lids are a real pain to transport on planes; they're too big, unwieldy, and prone to damage to check in as luggage, so you carry them on, whereupon it is virtually guaranteed that every moron on your plane will try to crush your helmet (a brand new $600.00 Shoei X11 which you ordered on Monday to replace the helmet you biffed up in a turn 1 get-off on Sunday @ BHF, and which you picked up from the dealership on Wednesday a mere 15 minutes before the cab picked you up to take you to the airport) with their 85 lb. piece of carry-on luggage, which, because they are such a fat, weak, piece of shit, they have to heave into the overhead compartment with a running start from 5 rows away. On top of that, they get pissed at you when you ask them to please be careful with your belongings. As if air travel isn't stressful enough. Luckily, I was able to refrain from choking the shit out of my fellow passengers, and thus will be able to actually see the races in person, instead of watching them on TV in the Cook County Jail.
We arrived in San Jose around midnight PST, feeling about as fresh as a 5 day old daisy. We claimed our baggage and picked up our car with little problem, although I do have a few bruised ribs from riding the car rental shuttle. It must suck to lose your NASCAR ride and be relegated to driving in circles around BFE airports. Speaking of which, I can't for the life of me understand how I can drive in and out of O'Hare, one of the world's busiest airports, in 15 minutes, and yet it takes half an hour to get out of some berg field which appeared to have all of 3 planeloads worth of passengers in it at 12:30 in the morning. I guess when you're not totally landlocked, you just have a bonerific time laying out all your runways, terminals, and access roads. Go figure.
Ever been to central California? All you need to know is that the roads kick ass. I had the throttle pinned, the steering wound lock to lock, and the brakes smoking, and that was just in the rental car on the way to Hernan's house. Hell, I couldn't even keep up with the 3/4 ton 4X4 in front of me. These people can drive. I was worried that Nan was geting sick, or scared, or both, but she informed me that she was just trying to see stuff. I assured her that the highway we were on was nothing compared to the roads we'd be riding on bikes today, even though the road sometimes dropped completely away or rose straight up mere inches from the shoulder. We're talking freeway here, people. This place is nuts. We made it to Hernan and Sandy's at 1:30 (3:30 Chicago time) said hello on our way to our room, and promptly passed out. I love travelling.
We woke up this morning at first light, whereupon Nan tried to deduce whether the plants in the windows were succulents or cacti. I told her it didn't matter; everything here is just cool. It is, too. We greeted our hosts and walked around their property. Sandy is very artistic, and their grounds really show it. They have nearly 2 acres arrayed on a gently sloping hillside, and there are paths, patios, plants, verandi, and various outbuildings pretty much everywhere. It's amazing, and totally beautiful. Hernan and Sandy originally hail from Argentina, but Sandy is also of British descent, so the grounds really are like an estate garden, albeit with native Californian flora and flair. Once you've been here, you really come to understand why you hear about wildfires in California so much; it really is a dry, desert environment, whether you're in the mountains or adjacent to the seashore, but there are still tons of unique and beautiful flowering plants, all contrasted against varying shades of tan and brown background. The trees are overwhelmingly coniferous and plentiful, ranging from scrubby pine to towering redwoods. The smells are awesome, varying blends of piny scents intermingled with dried grasses and heathers, with subtle hints of all different types of spiciness. I know it sounds over the top, but I've never really seen or smelled anything like this place. It's simply amazing, period.
We had some breakfast, and laid out a rough agenda for our visit. Today, we decided to ride north, up to the Skyline to Alice's Restaurant, and then to California 1 back along the Pacific and home. Hernan has 2 BMW's out here for us to ride, a K1200 and a R1200C. Sure, truth be told, I'd prefer a Ducati or even a CBR600, but, shit, I'd ride a freaking Briggs and Stratton powered minibike with bent valves on these roads and have the time of my life. He gave me the choice of the 2 bikes; I rode the K bike a lot last year and liked it, but I chose the cruiser for the more relaxed passenger seating position and lower Cg. I haven't had a bike with a passenger seat for years, and Nan was never the most intuitive passenger anyway, so I thought the mellower bike would be just the ticket, although I was still plenty apprehensive as I wasn't familiar with the bike and we'd be on roads with tighter turns than the racetracks back home. Seriously. Not to worry. Nan was so totally enthralled with the scenery she was relaxed to the point of being invisible on the back, and I am a kickass rider, after all. Well, we weren't trying to tear up the road either. The surface is overwhelmingly better than any of the roads at home, but these are really, really, seriously twisting, winding roads. In fact, Hernan told me at lunch that it's totally common for 1 or 2 riders to die on any given Sunday. As for me, I was literally laughing with glee in my helmet when I first rode them last year; I was more prepared and familiar with them this year, but still a way happy camper. Like I said, we weren't setting the world on fire, but we probably averaged 60 mph on 2 lane with no shoulder to speak of, through heavily forested areas, with cars and trucks, and terrain directly adjacent to theshoulder which rose up or fell away even more abruptly than that of the aforementioned freeway. Intense stuff. Moreover, the road snakes through these scenic little towns which are full of little bars, bistros, and businesses. (I saw at least one sign advertising hydroponic equipment, too. One of my old college buddy's sister lived out here for a while; she used to tell us how enforcement of marijuana laws was so lax the stuff was practically legal. Sweet. I love it here.) And then, every twenty miles or so, there's a scenic overlook, the last of which affords a view which encompasses the whole of Silicon Valley, the campus of Stanford, and to the north, most of San Francisco. Mind Blowing. The roads, though, are the real treat. I was just sure to pay close attention, particularly if the signs warned to travel 30 mph or slower; this generally means the road is doubling back, tightly, at least 180 degrees. I dragged the kickstand and pegs on the bike a few times, which made me laugh my ass off, but Nan's wild gyrations on the back of the bike made me pucker right up. At least she seemed to get used to it after a while.
We made it to Alice's around 12:15, and had lunch out on the deck while we watched all manner of bikes pull up and leave. There were probably 70 or so bikes there, with more and more coming when we left, on a Wednesday afternoon to boot. Alice's is a local landmark and meeting place along the lines of Highland House, although it's busy all week long instead of just Sunday. It's a lot more scenic than HH, too; it's situated at a 4 way intersection shared with a few businesses, homes, and tons of towering redwoods. There is no shortage of exotic cars, either. I saw plenty of Porsches, M3s, and a Ferrari in the 45 minutes we were there. Good stuff. Oh, good food, too, with most of the dishes named after different bikes and marques. I wonder how many people only eat what they ride? I wonder how long it would be until Mopar tired of eating the Ducati? And how would Rob be able to choose something? Would he crash his fork on the way to his mouth?
We left Alice's and made our way to California 1. There were plenty more turns, although it eventually opened up and flattened out somewhat, revealing wide expanses of planted produce fields and grasslands, with distant hills rising back up. It took us about 20 minutes to get to the ocean, where the air temp dropped 15 degrees or so and we turned south to go home. The Pacific was on our right, with fairly big hills covered in grass and scrub on our left. The scenery here was breathtaking, too, as the highway rose and fell and offered plenty of views of the water and beaches. In places, the there were sheer drop-offs to the water, again, mere feet from the shoulder. In others, the sand dunes ended right at the white line at the edge of the road. There is no armco or barriers of any sort, either. This place is insane! The beaches are like something right out of Point Break, with cliffs rising straight up from them and huge rock outcroppings in the water offshore. There were tons of access points, and you could see surfers everywhere. Great white shark attacks are common here as there are plenty of sea lions in the area and the sharks often mistake surfers for food. At one point we came over a rise in the road to see what appeared to be 10 or so huge kites flying over a beach, only to discover when we got closer that they had surfers attached to them. We stopped and watched for a while; the wind was really cranking and these guys could really get going. There were also 5 or 6 windsurfers in the water - it was pretty bizarre seing all these guys jamming around at the same beach. I'm hoping we can hang out at the beach on Monday, but I'll have to wait see what Nan wants to do.
We stopped in Santa Cruz for a while; it's the town where the movie Lost Boys was set. The amusement park and wharf from the movie are still there. Pretty cool beach town, nice shopping area, kinda seedy in areas, lotsa surfer/freak/alternageeks. Evidently, it's not somewhere you want to be after dark (because of all the vampires?). I believe it. The adjacent town of Capitola was nicer and more upscale, but more congested, too. There were more areas to surf right in town, and some pretty cool houses right on the cliffs overlooking the water. Big bucks to live there. Definitely not a highlight of the trip, but thought I'd mention it. What the hell, might as well after the preceding 10,000 or so words, huh? Oh yeah, there were a ton of VW Beetles and buses all over the place, which might not seem noteworthy, except that my wife and I may be the oldest dorks alive to play punch bug, or slug bug, whatever you call it. Only, we couldn't say it out loud because we had our helmets on, so it was a race to slug each other first. This was extremely difficult for me to do while driving in town, so I mostly just stomped on her instep, while she kept jacking me in the ribs (and under our rules, buses count for 2). Ouch. Like I said, dorks.
We returned here around 5, took a nap, and then cleaned up as Hernan and Sandy hosted a dinner party for 15 or so people. There are no shortage of interesting and fascinating people out here. I won't bore you with details, but suffice it to say it was a lively time. We had mexican food and plenty of margaritas, which were made, by coincidence, with my favorite recipe, as follows. Try it, you'll like it:
2 shots tequilla (I like Cuervo, but Petron is so the shit right now)
2 shots lime juice (preferably fresh squeezed)
1 shot Cointreau
Easy, and delicious. Of course, you're on your ass after 2 or 3 of them, but isn't that the point?
So that was day one of trip two. Tomorrow (actually, today, it's 5 AM here), we're riding to Carmel and Big Sur. I'll fill you in later, unless you're bored to tears. The race update begins Saturday, and hopefully will be more interesting. Whatever, I'm having a blast. Like I said, don't hate me.
Oh, and I'm taking lots of pics, but I forgot the USB cord for my camera, so I'll post some up when I get home.
There will always be a better ride out there. It's not the bike that bends, it's the rider. There is no spoon.
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