You couldn’t ask for a better destination. Cruising California’s picturesque coastal communities and vast ocean vistas, every pier has its own story. Ultimately, I visited every pier on the West Coast; all 67 of them. I passed within feet of gigantic aircraft carriers, crossed grand bridges that launched the bike airborne, and slept serenely on Imperial Beach Pier as the ocean crashed below. And that’s just San Diego! Standing at the end of a pier high above an azure sea, a cool breeze blows by. The rumbling surf pounds the shoreline with bubbling fists and I am riding. The whole of the Pacific Ocean is racing toward me and I am riding on it.
In 1909 a 500-foot-long pier was built by the Imperial Beach Improvement Association. In 1912 to power a direct electric inter-urban train service from San Diego to Imperial Beach six wave-motors, designed by Charles E. Edward, were built on a dogleg extension at the end of the pier. For a period of time the pier was called the Edwards’ Wave Motor Pier. The machines were used to power the electric these train cars utilized with excess electricity being sold to subscribers. Eventually these wave machines lost favor and in 1948 storms finally washed the pier away for good (kenjonesfishing.com/2011/03/funnty-how-things-go-around/).
It is the southernmost pier in California (and proclaims that it is the “Most Southwesterly City in the U.S.” It is within walking distance of the Mexican border and on most days displays a beautiful view of the Los Coronados Islands just off to the southwest. In the ’40s surfers from all over the U.S. made the journey to what is now Imperial Beach to surf the then-known biggest waves off the Continental United States.
The official opening day for the new pier and festivities were planned on Saturday, November 23, 1963. John F. Kennedy was assassinated the day before and it was hard to be festive when the nation was mourning.
Yea baby, time to ride the coast and check out some piers!
The pier is located on a long sandy beach extending out 1,491 feet and is shaped like an arrow. Pilings have a heavy growth of mussels and an artificial, half-moon shaped rock reef was constructed near the end of the pier in 1964. Later, after a barge accidentally spilled a large load of boulders, an additional, although unplanned, reef was added to the mix. Fish here are the normal Southern California sandy-shore species but mixed in are species attracted by the reefs and the deeper and calmer water found at the far end of the pier.
The Tin Fish restaurant opened at the end of the Imperial Pier in 2000. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it specializes in fresh fish. Ceviche (not on the menu) is made to order and is superb as are its garlic shrimp burritos. A six-passenger shuttle transports diners from the pier entrance to the café. It is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with counter seats indoors and indoor/outdoor tables and live music on weekends. There is another location in the bustling Gas Lamp District in downtown San Diego.
Each year when Harley-Davidson unveils its new Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) motorcycles, we journalists wait with baited breath. These incredible CVOs are manufactured in limited numbers at a premium price and we get to ride them. Decked out with amazing paint, a powerful Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110, and adorned with absolutely every bell and whistle available from H-D (hot girl not included), this ’11 CVO Street Glide is an absolute stunner. Rich Maroon Rum paint set against a Gold Leaf eagle with an elegantly sweeping golden arc graces this top-of-the-line Street Glide. The extended saddlebags, sculpted cutaways for the large exhaust pipes, and flush mounted teardrop taillights allow the eye to enjoy the stylish design without a single interruption of contrasting paint or pinstripe—the rear end of this CVO screams custom class. Those that know what a CVO is look upon with envy, those that don’t look upon with wonder because somehow, instinctively they know this is not just another Harley-Davidson. Hammering the throttle launches this Street Glide onto the super slab with the G-force of a dragster. I can be at 100 mph in a blink of an eye—it’s a rush. This is the perfect ride, on a perfect day to start our cruise northward to the piers of SoCal and the West Coast. B
Hours: A curfew is enforced in the area from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m.
Parking: Some free parking is available on nearby streets. A parking lot at the foot of Imperial Beach Pier is available. All-day parking is $2. After 5 p.m. it’s only $1.
Restaurants: The Tin Fish
Facilities: Restrooms, fish-cleaning stations, benches, and night lighting.
Special Events: Loews Surf Dog Competition. The original surfing competition for man’s best friend features three heats, prizes, and even a canine fashion show. Loews Coronado Bay Resort invites dogs of all sizes to “hang 20.” Competition fees range from $45 to $50. All proceeds are donated to charity.
Lodging: Seacoast Inn, 800 Seacoast Drive, Imperial Beach, CA 91932
How to Get There: From I-5 take the Palm Ave. (Hwy. 75) exit and follow it to where Palm Ave. and Hwy. 75 divide. Follow Palm Ave. to Seacoast Dr., turn left and it will take you right to the pier.
Modern lamppost with seagull spikes
The original old wood shows its age