I'm broke. No need to sugar coat it, the simultaneous implosion of print publishing and the motorcycle industry (thanks to the Great Recession) has left a few freelancers like myself feeling the pinch...probably not so differently than more than a few of you. Thankfully, magazines remain a very affordable luxury, right? But unlike the guys who abandon riding when their state passes a helmet law, or pull under a freeway overpass at the first sign of rain, I'm in this for life. I tour. It's part of who I am, and I'm not giving it up just for lack of funds. So the challenge is: How to pull off an epic tour on minimal dollars? Where do you skimp? Where do you not skimp? And where are we going?
That last question is best answered by your network: friends, family, relatives, work associates, and (in a pinch) random folks off of the internet. Adventure is where you find it, and, chances are, in a big beautiful country like ours, you can find somewhere to ride where you know somebody. In my case, my path led north. I knew of a ride to commemorate the opening of Chinook Pass (close to Mt. Rainier in Washington) at the end of last spring and I put together a plan to ride it.
I had crashpads (or potential crashpads) in Santa Cruz, Concord (East SF Bay), Eugene, Portland, and Auburn (SE of Seattle). There was a pretty big gap in the middle, but I was prepared to camp out if needed on this trip. At just about every one of my stops, my potential hosts asked for nothing in return but my company for a pair of meals and warm place to stay. I'll get into more logistical details in Part 2 (such as ideas for how you can pull this off yourself), but suffice it to say: it pays to not be an asshole (or so I hear).
The first leg of my trip, from LA to the sleepy surfer burg of Santa Cruz is an easy 350-ish-mile blast up either I-5, US-101, or both...but it wouldn't be much of an adventure if I stuck to the Interstates, right?
Draped across the middle of the state, starting in exactly the middle of nowhere is one of my favorite roads, CA-58. Seeing as the eastern end of it starts about 150 miles from where I live, I don't get the chance to ride it too often. With its rollercoaster curves and grades and good sight lines, 58 is one of the better places on the planet to test a bike's handling, but a pretty lousy place to crash (don't ask). I found this out over a decade ago, first running it on sport-touring bikes, and later on an early Twin Cam Ultra (back when they had a hinge in the middle). On a sportbike, the elevation and camber changes coupled with good sightlines in the hilly grassland makes for an exercise in concentration that is very rewarding.
The old Ultra (probably overloaded by me) was a different story as it wallowed through the curves, and was generally not fun. Incidentally, this is not something a modern H-D Tourer would do. So I figured what better place to test the backroad handling of the Triumph Rocket III Tour. She's a big girl, and a handful at parking lot speeds, but how would she comply in a real on-road challenge? But before I ever got there, I decided on a little exploring.
Like I said, it's a buck-fifty (ish) before I even saw the beginning of 58, so there are a lot of choices for routes, most of them boring. The most common way for LA-based twisty road enthusiasts to pull it off is to go to the top of the Tejon pass on Interstate 5, then take Frazier Park Road to Lockwood Valley Road. Having gone that way more than a few times, I decided on a slight detour via a more direct route through the town of Pine Mountain Club, wondering why more people didn't go that way. Well, long story short, it's just got a lot of houses, cops, and low speed limits for the first half of the road, before opening up in the second half to some fun riding and killer views on Cerro Noroeste. As Lockwood Valley only adds 16 fairly worry-free miles, I'm not sure I'd do that detour again.