Piers are always the perfect day-ride destination, cruising the coast consuming cool air and ocean vistas. Standing at the end of a pier the entire Pacific Ocean is racing toward me and I am riding on it. All the piers that jut along the coastline have unique stories: one in the past and the present. In the 1900s, the railroad replaced steam ships as a safer and faster method of travel. Some piers became attractions by real estate developers to lure customers and the Big Red Cars on the railroad stopped at many Southern California beach cities. The port of Long Beach/San Pedro combine as the world’s second largest port and is rather industrial with some rough edges. I often eat breakfast at The World Famous Curly’s Restaurant while oil wells pump crude in the front parking lot. There are in fact more than 500 working rigs still scattered about Long Beach.
The perfect ride through the LBC to Cabrillo Pier is the muscular Triumph Rocket III Touring. Launching with its 2,300 cc of pure adrenaline; with 140 horses and tire-shredding 147 lb-ft of torque, the world’s largest production motorcycle is awe-inspiring. With pistons the size of a Dodge Viper this liquid-cooled inline triple is pyrotechnic. In 2004, the Rocket III set the world land-speed record for a production motorcycle over 2,000 cc reaching its electronically set limiter of 140.3 mph. Dynas, Softails, and even Road Kings look like runts of the litter next to this bad boy.
Cabrillo Pier is located in San Pedro (pronounced “san PEE dro”) and is an empty 1,200-foot slab of concrete that was dedicated in 1969. Although a ringside seat to one of the world’s largest seaports, it’s simply a fishing pier with sinks and large metal cabanas shading the fisherman. It’s what’s near the pier that’s well worth the visit. The surrounding beach and park area is bustling with family barbecues, beachgoers, and windsurfers but the pier remains solitary. The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (cabrillomarineaquarium.org), located at the base of the pier, is an educational and recreational facility promoting knowledge and understanding of marine life that offers tours, classes, and hands-on learning exhibits. Its hours of operation are from 12 to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Although admission is free, parking is not.
A stone’s throw away is Point Fermin Park and the Historic Point Fermin Lighthouse (pointferminlighthouse.org). Built in 1874, it was a coastal beacon for decades. On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was bombed and the West Coast was blacked out for fear of being a target to enemy ships and planes. Sadly, the light was never to be lit again. During WWII, the lighthouse served the US Navy as a lookout tower and signaling station for ships coming into the harbor. Lighthouse tours are held every Sunday afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m. with the last tour beginning at 3:30 p.m.
Right across the park is Walker’s Café. The café was originally an end station for the Big Red Car rail transit system bringing tourists from Los Angeles. The railway shut down in 1942 and Bessie Walker opened the café. A renowned biker hangout, you will be welcomed as one of the two-wheeled brethren here. This historic location has been featured in movies like Chinatown and The Black Dahlia. Inside, the decor looks like grandma’s kitchen with little ceramic chatchky on the shelves. Its two-fisted BLTA—bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado—sandwich is my choice and the Bessie Burger is considered one of the best burgers in Long Beach. Standing outside pondering the power of this ballistic missile, a passerby asks me what the gas mileage of the Rocket III is. I reply, “If you have to ask, you shouldn’t own one.” Being conservative is not in this Rocket’s genetic makeup but moderately piloted, mileage is akin to a compact car. Although only equipped with a five-speed transmission, the bike never feels strained because this engine redlines at 6,259 rpm and with its copious amount of power, is geared tall. The incredibly smooth powerplant, endless torque, and acceleration of the Rocket III never ceases to amaze.