Danish delights abound on main street, beautiful blondes in pigtails, windmills and traditional culinary cuisine of Frikadeller and Aebleskiver, (don't ask). Solvang reminds me of master magic maker, Walt Disney. At every cobblestone corner I expect Snow White and her dancing dwarves or a faux snow capped Matterhorn. My destination here is the Solvang Motorcycle Museum. Virgil Elings, owner of the Museum, came to Santa Barbara to teach Physics at UCSB. In 1987, while on sabbatical, Elings co-founded Digital Instruments that became the world's leader in the design and manufacture of Scanning Probe Microscopes, the first scientific instrument to actually 'see' individual atoms.
Virgil has been collecting motorcycles for two decades and his museum is downright amazing. Open daily from 11-5 p.m. it houses over 130 beautifully restored motorcycles of all makes. Plan hours of gawking, gaping and glaring. Every time your eyes move an inch to the right or the left another astounding, perfectly restored relic of motorcycle history dazzles you. His collection includes a Triumph Tiger, the motorcycle Steve McQueen rode in The Great Escape.
Magic: A: Supernatural power over natural forces
A: Producing illusions
Of course McQueen didn't make the epic motorcycle jump in The Great Escape that duty fell to his close friend and stuntman Bud Ekins. He claimed that the stunt was done with a bone-stock Triumph Tiger. During the climatic motorcycle chase, director John Sturges allowed Steve McQueen to ride (in disguise) as one of the pursuing German soldiers, so that in the final sequence, through the magic of editing, Steve McQueen is actually chasing himself.
Wanting to soak up Solvang's local color and a Yurt is out of the question. This city boy will take the cozy room, Jacuzzi, continental breakfast and H.O.G discount at (you guessed it) Best Western, Copenhagen in the heart of Solvang. Tip: they will give you a 10 percent discount to the Touch Restaurant/Bar right next door. The Touch switches to a great Chinese menu after 5pm and serves drinks until 12 p.m.
Riding solo, I carried my trusty Dowco Iron Rider luggage. A favorite because it fits my laptop, cameras, clothes, and all other personal goodies. Its sturdy, easily removed and carried anywhere. With zippered side pockets it allows for more storage of gloves, maps, and food. Made from durable 1680 polyester each bag offers generous storage areas, exterior pockets, webbing, interior compartments, strong molded handles and rain covers are included!
Riding a Rocket several truths become self-evident. The first is its astounding power. Reaching freeway speeds from onramps is a rush. Glancing at the oncoming traffic, a window of opportunity appears, grabbing full throttle you become ballistic and within seconds own the fast lane at 85 mph. And, there's still head snapping acceleration left! Traversing mountains? No grade is steep enough to allow gravity to tug at this big triple. Secondly, is engine braking, the thunderous compression allows the Rocket III to literally growl down mountain descents without touching the brakes. Finally, the engine's low center of gravity makes this 800 pound bike surprisingly manageable, flipping through the twisties with relative ease. With an impressive lean angle before pavement finds the floorboards, a 150/80 R16 front tire gnaws at the curves. The Rocket III Touring actually has a smaller rear tire (180/70 R16) than the standard Rocket III (240/50 R16) creating a noticeably nimbler motorcycle.
Continuing north on the 101 to Hwy 25 I keep running the celluloid history of biker lore in my mind. Hollywood's master mythmakers released The Wild One starring Marlon Brando in 1953. Loosely based on Hollister, it indelibly branded the American biker a booze fighting, rabble-rousing outlaw. Only these outlaws were well cast, scripted and nationally distributed. Biker lore is born, or shall I say manufactured. By the way, that was a Triumph Thunderbird Marlon was riding.