It's probably not a huge surprise to you, the loyal reader, that our not-so-secret headquarters is located in Southern California. When I travel, I usually say we're in LA, since that's where I live, but in actuality we're in the shadows of the mighty mouse empire--Orange County. Saying Orange County just confuses people. They always ask if I know the famous OCC (Orange County Choppers) boys. Then I need to explain that they're in the other Orange County, located all the way across the continent in New York--the state, not the city.
Growing up, I awoke every morning greeted by the silhouettes of the colossal Twin Towers piercing the clouds high above the Hudson River. Orange County was north of the big city and everything I knew of LA I learned from Jim Morrison, news coverage of the Manson clan, the movies, and college sports. It seemed like a wacky paradise, palm trees, eternal warmth and sunshine, and babes galore. Of course all blonde.
No matter how good life is--family, friends, great job, security, and connections, for some people there's some kind of inner calling to explore. That mythical journey, filled with hopes of greater prosperity (or solitude), and all the trappings and rewards that come with the chosen path. Ironically, every motorcycle ride can lead to the same conclusion, depending on the road you take. It seems we're always looking to take the next unknown fork in the road, rather than experience a repeat performance of rides gone by. A new adventure is within a tankful of gas for all of us; it doesn't matter where you're from, or how far you might have to go, it's all out there and more. Most of the people I meet on the road would rather ride to the wherever they're going than fly or cage. Sure, it would be so easy to just pack it in a plane (or your truck) and relax--enjoying the pretzels and beverage service. But for so many, that's not how it's done. That ancient-explorer gene calls out to live and feel life, not just be a spectator. You all know the feeling--whether your destination is the majestic mountain pass, the beach, river, or forest; Sturgis, Laconia, or Daytona. Just thinking about it gives me chills.
Oh yeah, so back to the East Coast. I remember it being cold. Seasons, trees, rivers, ocean, and beauty. There was much less than a year's worth of riding too. As fall progressed, the fallen leaves that only days before shone like multi-colored lights in the sun, became a scourge for riders. Dry or wet, those things just loved to gather up in the corners and wait to tug the rug out from under you. It was slippery stuff, and the harbinger of bad weather to come. Back in those days before the super-fabrics of today, it was time to break out the ski gear and ride until first snow, at which time the winterizing process of the bike began. Admittedly, for me that consisted of just covering it in the garage, forgetting about it, and doing "winter things," joining back into my non-rider friend community during the cold months.
Finally, after one too many winter storms and dealing with the snowed in streets of Hoboken, I remembered LA. I'd visited, and it was great, but vacation mentality is different from the day-to-day grind of actually living someplace. It seemed like every time I turned on the radio there were signals to move on and take the journey; The Doors, Zeppelin's "Going to California," and the Grateful Dead (not LA, but California based). "Go West young man," and tales from Kerouac and Steinbeck only strengthened the urge. In deciding which fork to take it came down to those early sports memories, with Keith Jackson live at the Rose Bowl announcing the blue and gold of UCLA. That was it--I'd move to LA to attend UCLA, where coincidentally, both Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek graduated. Thankfully, it happens to be a world-class learning environment too. The stars were aligned. I packed up my bike, loaded up the car, and hit the open highway with a crazy redhead. Looking back, I loved Kansas the best--a beautiful, open-space state, with Colorado coming in the place position.
Arriving in California, having nowhere to stay, it seemed logical to bum around Venice Beach, a fantastical carnival scene along the Pacific shore. It's a cool place to visit too--just note that it can be a little weird, but biker friendly too. It's one of the few places in SoCal that gracefully melds the past with the present--the starving, bohemian artist living side-by-side with the well-to-do movie-studio exec.
Possibly best of all, I quickly learned (after getting a proper pad), that a stone's throw from Venice were some of the best twisty roads I'd ever dreamed of. With vistas of the majestic ocean below, each of the numerous canyon roads offers world-class E-ticket riding. It reminds me of the Denver area and the Rockies. The mountains aren't as high and the roads aren't as desolate, but it's a paradise surrounded by 11 million people.
The intentions of even the most skilled traveler are sometimes thwarted. I had planned on spending four or five years here. That plan furthered my desire to trade in the metric and get on some American steel. Everything was going well and the country was in the middle of the H-D craze. Instead of splitting back to the right coast, after earning two advanced degrees, I stayed. It wasn't so much a decision to stay and settle, it just never seemed like a good time to go.
After a stint in San Diego living the beach life and thoroughly testing the beer and burrito diet, it was time to hang up the lab coat and follow my passion: motorcycling, but only for a year to test the waters. Well, now it's 4-1/2 years later and life just keeps getting better and brighter. One thing though: it isn't always warm, or even dry. Seasons aren't as delineated here, but it's not all umbrella-covered tropical drinks and bikinis. Parts of the LA County desert just got dumped with 13 inches of snow, the rest got cold rain, with freeze warnings broadcast almost every night. As uncomfortable and wet as it sometimes gets, I still don't drive a car. In this chaotic, fast-paced 21st century, riding is as close to freedom and nirvana I can experience. Oh, and I still don't winterize my scooters either.