Highway 58 and the Rocket III did not disappoint. Despite being a Saturday afternoon, the road was clear of cars and bikes for half its length; just me swooping corner to corner on the big machine. Popping out of the back roads at Paso Robles and running out of daylight, I hightailed it up the 101 and 1 to Santa Cruz to finish out my first day.
I spent the night at the downtown apartment of an old friend and travel companion. Even though I'd only spent a day on the road, I decided to kill a full day here before moving on. As a tribute to the LA neighborhood where we grew up, my friends call Santa Cruz "North Westchester" since so many from my home zip code have made lives for themselves here. So at the risk of excommunication, I needed to stay and hang with some lifelong pals before continuing my journey.
Returning to Angelee's downtown apartment over the San Lorenzo River from a breakfast date at Santa Cruz Diner (lame, skip it) with one of my high school chums, I happened to be tracing in reverse the path of Santa Cruz's Pride parade, and got a show I was not even remotely expecting. The tiny, totally walkable city, filled with cool mom and pop stores, and surrounded by killer rides had me thinking of permanently joining them up here in Northchester.
After yet another visit with friends I made it only 80 miles of freeway hell that day to my riding buddy Bill Sanders' house in Concord in the East Bay. The plan going forward was to spend two days riding with Bill, camping out at a location to be determined somewhere in the far north of California. So after two days in a little spare bed space in Downtown Hippieville (with the bike in a Santa Cruz public garage), my third night was couch crashing at Bill's large spread in Suburbia, complete with chickens and garage space for the Rocket.
The next day we set out for the northern stretch of CA-1, the Shoreline Highway. Big Sur and Malibu to the south are the two sections of the famed route that get the most attention, and that was fine by us, as this stretch of lonely coast is blissfully uncrowded. We left on a Monday to hopefully miss the motorhomes that might otherwise dampen our spirited ride, and it worked like a charm.
How different is the Northern California coast than SoCal? Barrier beaches and cliffs, miles-long inlets and bays, dairy cows wandering the cool windswept greenery stands in sharp contrast to our flat, sandy expanses and palm trees to the south. The transition from the bustle of Marin County to what looks like the middle of nowhere is abrupt thanks to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area that hugs the urban Bay Area. From dodging Monday morning commuters to slaloming along CA-1 to the coast was a welcome change, and we soon arrived at out breakfast stop: Point Reyes Station and the Station House Café. The sleepy little town and mostly empty café felt nothing like a place just 35 miles from the middle of downtown San Francisco, though the gourmet food and fairly high prices might give that impression.
After the Station there's a feeling of riding away from the ocean along the long Tomales Bay. Looking across the narrow bay to the mountains of Point Reyes helps the illusion. In fact, the long, calm bay runs parallel to the ocean, perfect for oyster farming and watersports, as a number of boat launches and seafood restaurants will attest. From there, a pattern starts to develop: the road wanders inland for a few miles, then back out to the coast through small towns and dairy farms, across some tall cliffs and back inland again. In the cliffside portions there are several old bridges spanning the deep gorges cut by rivers, and some (like the Albion Bridge) are scheduled for replacement soon, so catch them while you can.