Tuesday, May 24, 2016

SoCal Weekend Trips Part Three


SoCal Weekend Riding Trips Part Three

Yosemite National Park and San Luis Obispo, CA

Yosemite National Park's El Capitan
Story and Photos by Jim Foreman except where noted.

Once again, it’s time to present two more outstanding Southern California weekend riding destinations.  As teased in the last installment, we are featuring San Luis Obispo and Yosemite National Park for a weekend of fun!

This is also the 25th story we've published.

There are specific criteria for these weekend destinations.  First, the duration of the trip has to be within three days.  Typically referred to as Friday through Sunday.  Most people can take a Friday or Monday off.  Second, there should be no more than 400 miles traveled in a single day.  Many riders can comfortably ride much more than 400 miles in a day, however, to be inclusive of all types of bikes and riding styles, the cap is 400.  Lastly, the ride must be able to be done by 95% of riders out there.  The ride must be nearly entirely street based and within a certain level of difficulty to be inclusive.

If you are looking for tips and advice on how to travel overnight with your motorcycle, please enjoy this story featuring valuable insight.
Photo National Park Sercice.

Ah, Yosemite.  Getting to Yosemite from Los Angeles is a slog no matter how you look at it.  The route you take will largely depend if Highway 120, the Tioga Pass, is fully open.  Tioga Pass is a Butler Maps G-1 run.  You can check the National Park Service Yosemite Website for current information on whether roads are open or closed.
Half-Dome Vista Point on Tioga Pass

If Tioga Pass is open, I recommend traveling up Interstate 395 and staying in Mammoth Lakes or Bishop. 

If Tioga Pass is closed, (The eastern approach is closed) you're stuck on CA-99 or, Heaven forbid, I-5.  Overnight in Sonora, Angels Camp, Mariposa, or Oakhurst.

Regardless if Tioga Pass is open or closed, Yosemite is a great run.  Tioga and Big Oak Flat will lead you into the heart of most of Yosemite’s best attractions.  It’s best to spend a whole day riding and exploring the park.   

One strong recommendation for Yosemite is to pack mosquito repellent.  The little buggers are everywhere and most active at dawn and dusk. 

Yosemite does have its share of phenomenal roadways.  One should be respectful and not treat Yosemite as an alternative to the racetrack.  It's important to realize many animals live in Yosemite, and they are not as road wise as you might think.  Visitors from all over the world also visit Yosemite demonstrating a broad range of driving skills.  Remember, Right of Way does not exceed the law of physics.  Be mindful, slow down, and enjoy the breathtaking scenery.  If there are not too many cars, you can further enjoy some very scenic and exciting roads.  You’ll be able to visit El Capitan, Bridal Veil Falls, Half-Dome vista points, Yosemite Falls, and much more, all in one day.

Fortunately, by basing yourself in one of the nearby towns, recommended above you’ll also be able to enjoy great dining and a little history.
Yosemite Campground Map

Camping is very overrated in Yosemite.  Don’t listen to the people who foolishly boast that if you’re not camping, it’s not an adventure.  This mindset is short-sighted and very oblivious to reality.  That said, if you’re an experienced camper and camping appeals to you, please arrange, well in advance, campground reservations.  Remember, camping is not always ‘cheaper’ and after one buys all the expensive kit, it can be much more costly than a nice hotel with a private bathroom and hot shower.

If you do finish up Yosemite and have some spare hours of riding left in you, consider these noteworthy nearby Butler Maps rated highways.

Highway 4 from Angels Camp is spectacular, all the way to the end.  Take CA-88 or CA-108 back and you’ll have had a fantastic day of riding that you will brag about, to your friends!

The only downer you’ll experience going to Yosemite is heading back to Los Angeles.  It’s no secret that I-5 through the central valley is horribly annoying, at best.  One will desire to gnaw one’s fingers out of boredom.  If you’ve got some adventure or want to extend your trip, consider some of the incredible canyons off of I-5.  Del Puerto Canyon, (CA-130) west of Patterson, comes to mind.   It’ll drop you into San Jose, and you’ll be able to take I-101 or even the magnificent CA-1 Pacific Coast Highway back.  If you have the time, might as well!  If you don’t CA-99 is only slightly more interesting than I-5.  At least you do pass through towns.  If you can stand the stench of riding near Stockton, you’ll be OK.  I-5 and CA-99 meet south of Bakersfield at the base of the Grapevine.


San Luis Obispo is a charming town just inland from Morrow Bay.  Because it’s not on the seafront, it’s very affordable for overnight accommodations.  Dining is excellent and again, not priced for tourists.   Because of its central location, it makes a perfect weekend destination on a motorcycle. 
From Downtown Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo or SLO is 190 miles via the 101.   
If you want to have a truly enjoyable ride, consider the longer but more interesting back roads to SLO.  Make your way to Santa Paula and Ojai.  Continue to Taft.  The roadway north of Ojai is where the motorcycle magazines take many of their sexy motorcycle shots with the bike leaned over and stunning scenery.  Yes, you’re welcome.  Be sure to fuel up in the near ghost town of Taft.  There will not be gas for quite some time, from here.  

From Taft, continue north on the 33 until you reach CA 58.  Head west and take it all the way into SLO.  Signs will point the way.
Court Street in SLO

In SLO, don’t be afraid to bargain shop a little for lodging rates. 
Two similar hotels can vary by as much at $90 per night.  Remember, you’re just there to keep your stuff during the day and to enjoy romance with your partner, sleep and use the loo. 

Once settled in SLO, enjoy great dining ranging from hole in the wall to hole in your wallet. 

If after you pull into SLO and drop your kit off at the hotel, you are looking for a quick amazing and fun road, consider taking a run on Prefuma Canyon Road.  It’s not very long, but the roadway and sights are breathtaking.  It's also featured in the Butler Maps as a G-1 Roadway.  Be warned, there is a small two-mile section of hard-packed gravel.  Any bike, including super-sports, can do it, just fine.   It’s not a speed canyon, but rather a scenic technical canyon.
Prefuma Canyon

Prefuma Canyon is on the east side of town and is pretty easy to locate.  Consider taking it before dinner.

On Saturday, wake up early and enjoy a good breakfast because you're going up CA-1 (Pacific Coast Highway) to Monterey.

The 135 miles up Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is considered one of the top 10 driving/riding roads in the world.  It does NOT disappoint.  It is better if you can run it during the week, but you will enjoy it no matter when you go.  Do consider stopping in Morro Bay, Big Sur, and Carmel before you enjoy lunch in Monterey.

After Lunch, turn around and head back on PCH for an equally pleasant trip back down the coast.  There will be numerous opportunities to stop and take photos.

On the final day, there are multiple ways to head home.  One can head back on CA-58 to the 33 south to the 166 west.  Make a left at  Hudson Ranch Road and ride through the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge.  This road will continue all the way to Frazier Park and eventually, to I-5 for the final leg home. 

Of course, one could also take the interstate back.  This may not be a bad option unless you wait too late in the day and hit major traffic from Oxnard to the 405.
The choice is yours, but the weekend will be splendid, and you will be the envy of all your friends and co-workers, come Monday morning.

When you’re in Southern California, visit Irv Seaver BMW in Orange County.  Irv Seaver BMW, located on Katella Avenue, is just three minutes east of Anaheim Stadium and 8 minutes from Disneyland.

At Irv Seaver BMW, you'll find one of  the USA's biggest and best stocked BMW Motorrad dealer.  Irv Seaver BMW also features exceptional brands such as BMW Motorrad Apparel, Held USA, Schuberth, Butler Motorcycle Maps, Bull-It Jeans, Drayko Jeans, Shoei Helmets, Arai Helmets, Sidi Boots, and many more.
Yosemite Falls (NPS)
Bridal Veil Falls (NPS)
El Capitan (NPS)
Sunset in Yosemite (NPS)

Big Sur
Morro Bay
Looking at the view
Great riding on PCH
Great riding in Yosemite
Lots of Motorcyclists come to Yosemite
Hiking trail to Half Dome
Overlooking Pacific Coast Highway
Elaine and Danny Wassaner in a cafe on PCH
This is why PCH is a Butler Maps G-1 road
German motorcyclists who rented H-Ds to run PCH.  (Except for one who was grateful he insisted on a BMW)
Sea Lions on Morro Bay. 

 ©2016 Jim Foreman All Rights Reserved

Saturday, April 30, 2016

SoCal Weekend Trips Part Two

SoCal Weekend Trips Part Two (Series)

Story and Photos by Jim Foreman

Eager for more travel, the subject of where to visit has hit, for a second round.  Spring has finally joined us in full stride.  Most of Southern California enjoys spring and summer weather all year long, making anytime a great time for moto journeys.

Sometimes those journeys are with riding buddies.  Maybe, it’s riding two-up, just you and your partner.  For a select few, the calling of a solo adventure is what drives one’s passions.  Regardless of one’s preferred travel style, here’s two more great weekend destinations using Los Angeles as a center point.  Since there are so many great destinations, that this topic is being broken up into multiple parts. 

When imagining all the many locations one could reach on a three-day, Friday to Monday weekend, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.  Yes, paralysis from over-analysis is real! Because of this, some arbitrary factors are impressed to make these journeys easy and accessible to most riders.  For some, this list will bring back awesome memories of voyages past.  For others, it will serve as inspiration and realization that the motorcycle is an excellent means to do overnight traveling. 

If you have yet to make an overnight trip on your bike, please read this story that simplifies and explains how to have a great time traversing on your moto.

Since everyone’s riding stamina is a bit different, I decided to cap the daily distance at 400 miles.  For many riders, especially on sportbikes, 400 miles is a long day.  The daily mileage, on average, will be much shorter. 

Another stipulation is that it needs to be three days, in duration.  Often, an extra day may be added, but the trip should be complete, in three days.

Finally, the skill level necessary has to include 95% of riders.  The focus is mostly street riding.  There are numerous dual-sport opportunities in the Southland.  The goal here is to be inclusive.  If you wish to share a dual-sport experience, please do.  It's easy to envision a complete story dedicated to unpaved roads.

Here are two more interesting, exciting and, in some cases, surprising destinations that can make for a memorable weekend that will make all of your friends envious.

Palm Springs, CA

According to the Official Palm Springs Visitors Website, “Palm Springs served as a winter playground for Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Bob Hope, and Loretta Young. Today's stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Dakota Fanning, Halle Berry and Gwen Stefani continue to seek relaxation just hours away from the Hollywood glitz. European royalty and business tycoons all come to enjoy the endless sunshine and serenity of the desert.”

The Saguaro Palm Springs
Palm Springs serves as an oasis in the desert with spectacular dining and diverse lodging options from the opulent to 50’s kitsch.  Surprisingly walkable along the main strip, in all but the summer months, it’s a great place to base a weekend stay.

Getting there from Los Angeles is super easy.  Most folks would hop on I-10 and head east until the 111 and veer off to Palm Springs.  That’s fine if you’re in a hurry or four-wheeling it. 

There are a few alternatives that make the journey much more diverse.  One option is to head south on Pacific Coast Highway or I-5 until Hwy 74 and take Ortega Hwy over to Elsinore and continue through Hemet. 

After the town of Valle Vista, your journey up the mountain transforms the mundane into the desirable.   CA-74 takes you to the backside of Idyllwild through a marvelous G-1 (Butler Maps Designation) series of twists and turns, to the top.

From the top, known as Mountain Center, continue on 74 until you arrive in Palm Desert.  Your dining and accommodation choices will determine where you go from there. 
Trips from Palm Springs

On Saturday, You have many options.  One could reverse course on the 74 and take it to the 231 (Palms to Pines Highway and enjoy lunch in Idyllwild.  From there, take it to the valley floor for an epic ride.  Reverse it, to get back to your hotel for a fun-filled extravaganza of twists and turns guaranteed to wear down the sides of your tires.

Another option is to head west, a little bit on I-10, toward Mentone and connect with CA-38 up to Big Bear Lake.  The higher elevation will be refreshing, and the roads will keep you sharp and excited.

Big Bear Lake
At Big Bear Lake, head west on the 18 and take the 330 down to the valley floor, again to return to Palm Springs. 

Many details and information of Big Bear and Highway 18 are in this story.

After either of these destinations, you will probably be well-worn with excitement and thrills and want to settle in for an exquisite meal, complete with your favorite adult beverages.

A third option combines fun and relaxation with Joshua Tree National Park.  You’ll need to bring your swim trunks or bikini.  Please, guys, leave your bikini or mankini at home.  With your swim attire packed, make your way to Box Canyon.  Follow it along until you cross Interstate 10 and enter Joshua Tree National Park.  Do make sure your bike’s sound system or Bluetooth helmet speakers have U2’s album ‘The Joshua Tree” cued up and playing quite loud, as you make your trek.  Do stop by the visitors center and pay your park fee or have your National Parks Annual Pass ready.  If you don’t, you’ll pay upon exit and have to make up a stupid story on why you thought it was OK not to pay.

Joshua Tree is a brilliant run.  With many points of interest, it can take a significant portion of the day.  You can find details and learn more from this previous story

Miracle Spa - Desert Hot Springs
Now for the swimwear, off of CA-62, you will have the option of various hot springs that you can affordably get a day-pass to visit.  An hour in the healing mineral waters can make any tense muscles relax and bring you down to a more peaceful state. If you are so inclined, there is even the clothing-optional Living Waters Spa.

Riding CA-62 is it’s own fun back down to the valley and connecting up with Palm Springs again. 

Palm Springs Arial Tramway
The final day, there are still options.  Consider a couple of hours on the Palm Springs Arial Tramway.  This California treasure is well worth the reasonable cost of admission and a remarkable way to experience a different side of the region.  While it may be hot at the base, it’ll be cool, at the top.

Another way to return home, the long way, is to head south and hit Anzo Borrego and then Palomar Mountain going up from Lake Henshaw and down Palomar Mountain Road.  From there find I-15 back to the 91 or 60 and into Los Angeles.

All the options, riding, and exotic destinations make Palm Springs a great weekend for rich and plentiful motorcycling adventures.

Ensenada

You’re probably saying, “Wait a minute.  Ensenada is in Mexico, isn’t it?”  Yes, Ensenada is in Mexico.  Please refer to this story for the information you’ll need to know to ride your bike in Mexico

Mexico is an easy and fascinating destination that is affordable, attractive and exciting.  The recently re-opened Scenic Highway between Tijuana and Ensenada is both breathtaking in beauty, and challenging as a rider. 

Getting to the Mexican Border is simple from Los Angeles.  One can travel east and run south on I-15 or take I-5 south for a cooler coastal route. 

After the border crossing and getting Pesos at the ATM in the Blue SAT building, take the Zona Rio South.

You won't need a Visa or TVIP (Temprary Vehicle Import Permit) if you're staying in Baja and you'll be 72 hours or less.  If staying longer than 72 hours, you should get a Visa, though nobody checks that you have one.  7 day Visas are free.  Remember to return it (which can be a pain) before leaving.  The two things you MUST have before you enter Mexico are a Passport/Passcard and Mexican Auto or Moto Insurance.  There are many reputable brokers, but my preferred source is Mexican Insurance Store.com. Unless your bike is over 15 years old, the full coverage Ace Platinum is highly recommended.  If it is over 15 years old, you can still get full coverage, but you'll have to call in.  Otherwise, it's liability only.  If you have any problem, both Ace Seguros and Mexican Insurance Store will be there to help you.  Ace will get your claim solved and settled much faster and with much less hassle, than even your home carrier.  

Tijuana has a heavenly place for lunch and is a great place start to your Mexican adventure.

Tacos Kokopelli - Tijuana
Tacos Kokopelli is renown by Mexicans as one of the best places for tacos in Tijuana.   See the valet about parking your bikes on the sidewalk in front of the cafe.  Please remember to tip him 20 or 30 Pesos ($1.25-$1.75USD)  He's remarkably helpful, loves motorcycles, and speaks good English.
From there, it’s an easy run south on the main road to the Scenic Road to Ensenada.


Mex 1D - Scenic Highway from Tijuana to Ensenada
Ensenada is only 65 miles south of the border, but it's lightyears away from the lifestyle, back home.  Motorcycles traveling on the Scenic Highway will need to pay two tolls of $14MX each.  As of April 2016, the US Dollar exchanges for around $17MX.

There are many accommodation choices within EnsenadaAirBnB has several offerings, also.  Ensenada caters extremely well to visitors and has many big-city amenities and options.

While it doesn’t take too long to get into Ensenada, you’ll probably be a little tired as the riding is more intense in Mexico.  It’s best to check into your hotel or AirBnB accommodations and drop off your stuff.   If you’re still up for a little riding, consider a run to La Bufadora.

La Bufadora or, the blowhole, in English, is a naturally occurring rock formation that causes water to shoot up simulating a whale’s blowhole. The action happens when the tide is coming in.  Check a tide chart app or look at the position of the moon to determine the best time to go.  The best viewpoint is a natural overlook from up high.  Going down into the village is fun, but crowded.  One can ride the full way, to the end. 

Natural Overlook above La Bufadora
To get there, head south on the main north/south road and follow the huge signs to La Bufadora.
On Saturday, there are several options for day-long riding.  One is to head east on MX 3 toward San Felipe.  The roadway is excellent and visually pleasing.  Mike’s Sky Ranch is found, along the way, close to the San Felipe end.  Reservations to Mike's Sky Ranch can be made by calling +1 52-664-681-5514.  If staying, Saturday night, in San Felipe, you can enjoy lunch and do a quick and fun run to Gonzaga Bay.  Otherwise, riding back the same way is still fun and visually different, each direction.

Mama Espinoza's in El Rosario
Another option is to head south on Highway 1 to El Rosario and Mama Espinosa’s for lunch.  Then return to Ensenada for another night.  That way you can abandon your luggage at the hotel. Here's a map of the region.  Alternatively, you can travel all the way to Cataviña and stay the night at the Hotel Mision Cataviña.  The road approacing El Rosario and onward to Cataviña is superb and very exciting for motorcyclists.  Again, Butler Maps would rate it G-1.  El Rosario also has two very nice hotels.  Mama Espinosa's is one and Baja Cactus is the other.  If you wish to stay in El Rosario or Cataviña, reservations are highly recommended, due to it's off-road popularity.  Regardless of your accommodations, do make sure you fuel up at El Rosario before heading further south.

Map of the wine region known as Valle de Guadalupe
Sunday, I recommend heading to the wine region of Valle de Guadalupe.   Make a plan to stop there for lunch.  It’s about 30 minutes northeast of Ensenada.  There are several unique dining options to cater to a variety of palates.

Restaurante Mustafa
A local favorite with superb food is Restaurante Mustafa.  Coming from Morocco, Mustafa Ali brings excellent local and Mediterranean cuisine to the wine region.  Prices are for locals, so the value is phenomenal.  Do save some room for their home made Apple Pie.  It will blow your mind!  charming and modern accommodations are also available.  Send a message on the Restaurante Mustafa Facebook Page or call to make reservations.

Encuentro - Valle de Guadalupe
Further up are two additional noteworthy wineries.  The ultra exquisite Encuentro serves up Napa grade dining and overnight accommodations.  The cabanas along the crest of the hill are available for the night.  They range in price from $250US to $350US a night.

La Esperanza Baja Med
La Esperanza Baja Med (L.A. Cetto on the map) is where locals go for an impressive meal and culinary experience.  Master Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero brings his special blend of locally sourced food, excellent wines and delightful ambiance to this world renown destination. Well regarded as a must, to impress one’s partner, La Esperanza BajaMed is the insider's dining option in the region.

Tecate, Baja California
From Valle de Guadelupe, continue north to Tecate, as in the beer!  The twists and turns would earn a G-1 rating from Butler Maps.  Tecate, BC is where Cerveza Tecate originates.  Tecate is a great town and a great place to cross over, back to the US.  Bikes enter where the cars do, but that’s where the similar rules end.  Stay to the left and ride all the way to the front.  5-minute wait! Hooray!

Once stateside, the ride up to Jamul, CA is a bonus treat with some great corners and scenery.

Part Three, in the series, will include destinations to Yosemite National Park and San Luis Obispo.

When you're in Southern California, please visit Irv Seaver BMW in Orange County, CA. Irv Seaver BMW has the largest selection of the latest BMW Motorcycles and one of the most extensive pre-owned motorcycle selections in California.
Master Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero (left) with a plate of octopus
Arial shot of Hotel Mision Cataviña
Museo de Historia

Motel at Mama Espinoza's in El Rosario
Two Bunch Palms Resort and Spa
Downtown Ensenada
Mouth watering tacos at Kokopelli
Ensenada Sunset
Riding along Big Bear Lake
Palm Springs at night
Cruise Passengers from Los Angeles in Ensenada

©2016 Jim Foreman All Rights Reserved.