A Motorcycle Ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles

Ok technically not Los Angeles, we stayed in Santa Monica (for those who would be offended). If you want to take this ride, click here to download my route cards for your tank bag.

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Before this trip I had only been to LA two times: once for an overnighter to see my friends Dana and Missy; the other to meet my dad and go to Disneyland with his girlfriend and adopted daughter. I had not driven down, and furthermore I have never taken such a long trip by motorcycle. My husband Steve and our friend Ivan joined me on this epic journey which began in San Francisco…

The Trip Down

Day One, Leg One

Route: 280 to 35 / Skyline Blvd to 9 to 17 to 1 to Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey
Time: 2 hours 46 minutes
Length: 120 miles

The three of us took our usual route down to Santa Cruz. We usually take this ride on Sundays, so it was nice to do it on a Thursday with just about zero traffic. Our first stop was in Monterey at our favorite squid restaurant, Abalonetti Seafood. Although we went through a cold patch of fog right before reaching Monterey, the weather was really nice overall. And now for the unfamiliar stuff…

Day One, Leg Two

Route: 1 to G16 to 101 to G14 to 101 to the Madonna Inn
Time: 4 hours 14 minutes
Length: 162 miles

Middle of Nowhere After a short bit of freeway we were onto the county road G16. Eventually traffic disappeared (along with the yellow divider line) and the road got narrower and narrower, but it was ALL OURS. We passed maybe three other vehicles going the opposite direction. Even though it was the middle of nowhere, the surroundings weren’t flat or boring. It was hilly and at times there was a lot of vegetation on the roadsides, with long green leafy stalks reaching out to the road — it was quite enchanting. Due to the lack of divider lines, I was riding a bit slow and the narrowness freaked me out a little. There were a couple of sharp turns at a complete 90 degree angle, so I took those extra slow. At one point I turned the corner to find Steve and Ivan waiting for me, overlooking a spectacular view of mountains. We took some photos, but the beauty was not to be captured on film.

We enjoyed the serenity of G16 for about 50 miles before returning to 101. Our next twisty would be in another 30 miles, but I was going to suggest that we skip it because the daylight was slowly leaving us. When we came to the exit that should have been ours, the sign was wrong and there was no exit number — needless to say, we blew right by it. A couple exits later we stopped to regroup and agreed that the exit was in fact the one we wanted, but moving on to the hotel would be best at that point.

The Madonna Inn was quite interesting. I could easily see some girly women going gaga over this place. Each room has its own unique theme, some of which have two levels and with waterfalls running through them. We ended up with a tacky simple room then reported to the steakhouse for dinner. The decor was mostly pink, with cherubs hanging from the ceiling and fake flowers everywhere. So romantic for the three of us. The food was just alright and the margarita I ordered sucked, but our server was just as sweet as the surroundings.

We played around a little then returned to our room and promptly fell asleep within an about hour. I guess that’s what 7 hours worth of motorcycle riding will do to you.

Day Two

Route: 101 to 166 to 33 to 101 to 23 to 1 to our rental home in Santa Monica
Time: 4 hours 37 minutes
Length: 225 miles

Now this day, was even better than the last. We had three twisty roads planned, and each one was extremely different. First we have 166, with its long sweeping turns, providing a much faster pace. The scenery was amazing: hills, mountains and valleys covered in a light dusting of fog. While we traveled along we kept passing trucks and a few cars — though the road wasn’t busy by any means — until I looked in my review mirror (I was last again because I’m slower) and I saw a car approaching in the distance. I don’t wear my glasses while riding because of my helmet, so I couldn’t tell what it was, but I knew it would be good. Finally it was *right* behind me. Ivan noticed it too, and moved to the side a bit — suddenly it passed me and was right behind him — an Audi R8, one hell of a four-wheel machine. Steve saw the R8 and waved him on. He took the opportunity and passed Steve and Ivan and the truck in front of them. I thought to myself, “Steve is going to chase him” and sure enough he did. He kept up until they hit 130 mph (on a straight line) and figured he should slow down before losing his luggage. At one point I had my motorcycle going 110 mph, again on a straight line, to catch up with the guys. Man was that exhilarating!

The road eventually straightened out and we got gas at the first place we saw (we had to fill up every 80-100 miles, and this was a close one). Route 166 went on for a while longer, with nothing around and no roads to turn off onto, then suddenly our next road appeared, route 33. This road lead us up, over and through the Los Padres Forest, a wonderful magical place full of nice soft pavement and excellent turns with banks galore. On the very first turn I was doing well, then suddenly the turn got sharper — and I was officially freaked out. The remainder of route 33 I went really slow and to add to my freak out, many of the turns had gravel, and we all know how you can slip on gravel. So I enjoyed the forest and took my time. Luckily the guys were understanding and would wait for me to catch up every now and then. We basically climbed the mountain and came down the other side, so there were a couple of spots where I was above and could see them on the switchbacks below. They really enjoyed 33 way more than I did.

Pit stop at the Deer Lodge When we came out of the woods we stopped at the Deer Lodge for lunch, where we were served by the slowest waitress on the planet. She also seemed to have no short term memory, and mistook Steve for a new patron when he was coming back from the bathroom. They had some great buffalo burgers though!

To finish up the ride, we took a short 12 mile voyage down route 23. By this time we were in some thick fog, and as we climbed up the mountain it just got thicker. The turns were also quite sharp and the road was narrow. In some ways it reminded me of our county road from the day before, but way more dangerous due to the lack of visibility. When I finally met the guys at the end they were joking about how 23 was a black diamond, and I couldn’t agree more.

We arrived at the house in Santa Monica and our rentor Mark showed us around. He showed us how to turn on the lights, how to open the garage and how to use the gate. Thank goodness he did, or we would have been in the dark the whole time! Actually, it was cute — Mark is quite the character. He gave us a recommendation for dinner, a place we could walk to down the street: Sam’s Restaurant. The food was pretty good, a little expensive though. When we got back to the house it wasn’t long before we all crawled into our beds and slept for about 12 hours. Which still wasn’t enough rest.

Our Visit to LA

Day Three

The Alibi Room The next day our friend Alex was kind enough to pick us up. We met his girlfriend Rachel for the first time and we all went off to see some artwork at this little spot in Santa Monica with a bunch of galleries. There were two artists I liked a lot, Asuka Ohsawa and Robert Gutierrez (his stuff looks way better in person). Ivan and Steve were a bit bored with the art, so we headed to the Museum of Jurassic Technology — a very strange place. I won’t say more than that. After being dazzled by the strange, we got dinner at the Alibi Room (which Steve pronounced uh-lee-bee) and hung out for a while then went back to the house for a few more drinks. At some point during the hanging out Steve got into an argument with Rachel about Orthodox Jewish tradition, so I had them pose for this picture.

Day Four

The next day I rented a car (the cheapest they had) because the forecast claimed rain for the next few days, which meant we needed to get rain gear. After shopping for gear we tried to see the Hollywood Sign and failed miserably because the gates were closed once we got to the top of the hill. You would think they would post some sort of sign about this at the bottom, but no. Upon failing to see one of LA’s sites, we opted for another — the La Brea Tar Pits. This we succeeded at and here are the pictures to prove it. Meh, not so special. That night we ate dinner at Versailles, a cuban restaurant that Ivan’s sister Estella recommended, and we were NOT disappointed. I had oxtail stew, and boy was it good!

Day Five

Another crappy, rainy, overcast day. We didn’t do much and weren’t motivated to sight-see in the rain, so we went to the movies. We saw Red and all three of us thoroughly enjoyed it. That night we ate dinner at Honey Pig, another fabulous rec from Estella. It was the kind of place where you sit around a grill and the food cooks in front of you. Each thing we ate was delicious: black pig belly, steak and shrimp.

Our Ride Home

Day Six

Route: 10 to 405 to 5 to 580 to 152 to 101 to 85 to 280 to HOME!
Time: 6 hours 40 minutes
Length: 394 miles

The day I dreaded most. I figured we would stop at least four times (remember, we need to refill every 80-100 miles), so I thought I’d be able to just take a nice long break each stop and let my butt regain some feeling. We set out in our rain gear, well, except for Ivan. About 20 miles out the rain started, so we stopped and Ivan put on his gear. We continued on in the rain for about 100 miles — roughly an hour or so. And I have to admit, riding in the rain wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

While we road on route 5 north we passed an extraordinary amount of cows, what Ivan refers to as “the cow factory”. When I was younger my mom, aunt and I would go on road trips, just to drive around and enjoy the scenery. One time we passed a bunch of cows (it might have been on a trip to Mount Pleasant, PA) and my mom exclaimed, “look honey, a million cows!” This phrase lead to several months of joking around, because there couldn’t possibly have been a million cows in that field, it was probably more like a couple hundred. But I tell you mom, when we passed the cow factory, there had to be hundreds of thousands! As far as I could see to the right of me — cows. As I moved forward, more cows, and more cows and more cows — it was a million cows! It looked something like this.

We stopped for gas around 80 miles, and decided to keep riding in hopes of outrunning the storm that was now behind us. There was a tiny bit more rain, but 100 miles later we were clear of it. We stopped and ate lunch at Wendy’s — a road trip is mine and Steve’s only excuse to ever eat a frosty, which is a bit nostalgic for us.

Reluctantly, I got back on the bike to continue our trek home. We stopped again after about 90 miles or so, and I needed a significant break. My butt REALLY hurt, I was vibrating all over, and the back of my knee was killing me from being stuck in one position. After about 20 minutes we got back on and continued, but with a slight change to the route. Instead of continuing up route 5 and crossing the bridge over the bay around rush hour, Steve and Ivan wanted to go through San Jose and up the peninsula on 280.

We had one stop left. I wanted to break for a while, but Steve wanted to get this ride over with (at this point we only had about 50 miles to go). We carried on quickly, and in the last 20 miles we were freezing our asses off in the Bay Area fog — the coldest point of the entire trip. At least it was only the last 20 minutes.

Trip Total

Time: 18 hours
Length: 902 miles

I was so relieved to get off that bike. The trip up was fantastic, the visit to LA was rather boring (except for our visit with Alex), and the ride home sucked! If I ever plan a trip like this again, I will NOT be doing such freeway riding. The route home will involve two days of twisties, just like the ride down. I’m so glad we did though, my first motorcycle road trip!

Entire photo set

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