An intoxicating cocktail of fact and fantasy, motorcycling culture has been romanticized and demonized to mythic proportion. Cruising California evokes those infamous images, icons and the cinematic magic that weave this invisible spell.
Myth: Story or tale that has no proven factual basis.
In 1947 some 3,000 riders assembled for the annual hill climb in Hollister, California. Many were WWII vets, American heroes who'd bought army surplus Harleys for 50 bucks, repainted them and chopped off unnecessary parts. There were a few boisterous boys in the bunch-it ain't a party unless the cops get called. The evening newspaper read: HAVOC in HOLLISTER! "Highway Patrolmen armed with tear gas guns clamped in formal martial law on downtown Hollister in the face of several thousand riotous motorcyclists," One single image defined the American biker for decades.
San Francisco Chronicle photographer, Barney Peterson staged this notorious photo. There weren't even any bikers in town so he recruited the local drunk, piled beer bottles around a bike and took the shot. Myth is made in Hollister, birthplace of the American Biker. Alas, this annual rally for over six decades skids to a halt again in 2009. The city sites exorbitant expenditures in Law enforcement claiming security explodes. Sadly, I never made it to Hollister. I'll go next year this procrastinator proclaimed. Well... I'm going anyway, rally or not. The 2009 Triumph Rocket III Touring motorcycle crouching in the garage is restless. I'll take my time, ride leisurely north and see all the places I was always gonna go.... next year.
The Triumph Rocket III Touring bike is not for the faint of heart or frail in stature. Beginners beware, this missile launches with 2300cc's of pure adrenalin. A ground pounding 140 horses and tire-shredding 147 lb-ft of torque propel this rocket. With piston size akin to a V-10 Dodge Viper and weighing in at over 800 pounds wet, this liquid cooled in-line triple is pyrotechnic. The sheer width and breadth of this beast is awe-inspiring. Dual overhead camshafts, multi-point sequential electronic fuel injection and the Rocket III's phenomenal power plant assure a smooth, truly unforgettable ride.
Leaving L.A. resembles a massive heart attack. Its main arteries clogged with big rigs and SUV's. How drivers survive this daily coronary is a minor miracle. Once freed from the congestion, Hwy 101 north skirts the coast in San Buenaventura then, Hwy 154 splits eastward toward Lake Cachuma. Sweeping mountain curves posted at 50 mph (implying 70) allow long languid lean angles; the Rocket III is home here. Dropping into Santa Inez valley, panoramic views of Lake Cachuma emerge and you're in wine country. At the northern end is Lake Cachuma State Recreation area. If you fancy camping with a half-dozen friends Yurts are available for over night stays. Yurts are a cross between a tent and teepee and feature platform beds, lockable door, inside lighting and heating, screened windows and fabric siding. Set on the bluff with access to the lakeshore, the view is gorgeous but lacking amenities, it's no Best Western.
Highway I54 continues to Rt. 246 to Solvang. Crowned one of the 10 most beautiful small towns in the west by Sunset Magazine, dating back to 1911 when Danish-Americans traversed the plains from Iowa. They established Solvang (Sunny Fields) adjacent to the Santa Inés Mission already 100 years old then.