Tuesday, March 22, 2016

SoCal Weekend Trips Part One

SoCal Weekend Trips Part One (Series)

Jim Rice and Jim Foreman riding PCH near Point Magu

Story by Jim Foreman Photos by Jim Foreman and Christina Orris.

While resting comfortably in the outdoor breeze, the subject of weekend travel destinations has hit with a wallop.  Spring has finally joined us again.  While most of Southern California enjoys spring and summer weather all year long, spring marks a time for moto journeys.

Sometimes those journeys are with some friends.  Other times it’s just you and your partner riding two-up.  Still, for a select few, the calling of a solo adventure is what drives one’s passions.

Regardless of one’s preferred travel style, Los Angeles has great weekend destinations.  There are so many great locations that this topic is being broken up into multiple parts. 

When imagining all the phenomenal locations one could easily do on a three-day, Friday to Monday weekend, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.  Yes, paralysis from over-analysis is real!

Because of this, I decided on some arbitrary factors to make these journeys easy and accessible to most riders.  For some, this list will bring back incredible memories of voyages past.  For others, this can serve as inspiration and realization that the motorcycle is an excellent means to do overnight traveling. 

Now, if you’ve never made an overnight trip on your motorbike, please take a look at this article that demystifies and simplifies what you need to have a great time traveling on your bike.

Since everyone’s daily distance stamina is a bit different, I decided to cap the daily journey to 400 miles.  For many riders, especially on sportbikes, this is a long day.  In most cases, the daily distances will be much shorter. 

Another qualification was that it needs to be three days, max.  In some cases, one could add an extra day, but the journey should be able to be done in three days.

Lastly, the skill level involved has to include 95% of riders.  As such, these trips are primarily street riding.  There are many phenomenal dual-sport weekend opportunities in SoCal, but the goal was to be inclusive.  If you wish to share your dual-sport experience, then one can easily envision a whole story dedicated to that.  Let’s do it!

Here are interesting, exciting and, in some cases, unexpected destinations that can make for a fantastic weekend.  All of your riding and non-riding friends will be envious of you.

Solvang, CA (Photo by Christina Orris)

Solvang, CA

A ridiculously good riding friend, Christina Orris suggested Solvang as a great weekend she and her boyfriend Giancarlo spent together.

With its Danish heritage, half-timbered buildings and cafés serving up authentic Danish cuisine, Solvang makes for a unique and centralized destination.  Solvang is nestled in the Santa Inez Mountains in Santa Barbara County, and only 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles.  Solvang’s popularity soared when it was featured in the 2004 film, “Sideways.”

Getting to Solvang is part of the fun.  Of course, one can hop on the 101 and just head north from Downtown Los Angeles, but where’s the joy in that?  While some interstate travel is probably necessary, it’s always best to limit its use, where possible.  To get there, I suggest taking I-10 to Santa Monica until it becomes Pacific Coast Highway.  PCH is good, all the way to Oxnard.  From there, PCH merges with the 101.  In Montecito, exit S Salinas Street and head north when you reach Sycamore Canyon Road (CA-144).  Take it all the way to El Cielito Road and head north.  It’s just past Parma Park.  Veer right onto Gibraltar Road and follow it around for some phenomenal riding.  Here’s a Map to make it easier.
Cold Spring Tavern (Christina Orris)

After the mind-bending roadway and scenery, stop at Cold Spring Tavern on Stagecoach Road for a memorable meal in a beautiful setting.

Continue CA 154 (San Marcos Pass Road) until you reach the well-signed exit onto CA-246 (Mission Drive).  Hotels are plentiful in and around Solvang.  A favorite nearby spot is the Chumash Casino Resort.

Solvang has several noteworthy things to do and see.  Among them is the excellent Vintage Motorcycle Museum featuring motorcycles from 1910 to today.  Another unexpectedly delightful place to visit is the Hans Christian Anderson Museum above The Book Loft
One would be blind not to notice that is an excellent wine-producing region of Southern California.  Plan to visit several of the Santa Inez Valley wineries

It’s a wise idea to spend your two nights in or near Solvang.  One of the many trips worth making is to Jalama Beach.  Located just south of Vandenberg Air Force Base, this secluded beach on Point Conception is well worth a visit.  Jalama Beach Store and Café is world-famous for its burgers and shakes. 
If you’re not afraid of 2 miles of hard packed gravel (go slow and use rear brakes to stop), then head north to Los Olivos and to Figueroa Mountain Road.  Figueroa Mountain Road is is where you find “Neverland Ranch.”   Michael Jackson's former home is located just outside Los Olivos.

Though currently closed to the public, many still make a pilgrimage, paying respects to the late artist.  It’s currently for sale, at $100M USD.  Further along, this exciting and scenic road will have you wondering if you are in the Italian Alps.

South of Solvang is Alisal Road for some easy fun riding and the much more challenging West Camino Cielo Road

Sunday, one can sleep in from the many adventures had on Saturday.  It's up to you how you decide to return home.

Las Vegas, NV

I know what you’re thinking.  Las Vegas, Nevada???  Are you high?  Hear me out.
Getting to Las Vegas is uninspiring.  There’s no denying it.  A 290-mile slog on I-15.  At least, you’re not in a car and you can lane-split.  Sure, if you’re on a GS, there’s some interesting dirt trails to Las Vegas, but for the rest of us mortals, we’re stuck on the slab.  Fortunately, it goes by pretty quick.

In CA, don’t go over 15 MPH on the highway.  In Nevada, don’t go over 5 MPH and keep it even less.  Lately, Nevada Highway Patrol has been very aggressively ticketing out of state drivers in Nevada who come in at warp speed.  Save your money for the bunny ranches, uh, I mean dazzling shows and dining in Las Vegas. 

Even the newest residents to SoCal know that Las Vegas is LA’s weekend getaway.  With a more relaxed environment with regards to partying and finding exciting ways to be separated from your money.  Friday and Saturday nights are always select nights in Las Vegas.   They’re also the busiest.  Naturally, it’s wise to book your accommodations early.  Now, with regards to your bike, it’s worth calling the hotel or resort you wish to stay at to see if there is secure parking for your bike.  Even at a modest price.  I’ve parked my bike in public garages with no incident.  It's better to be safe than sorry.

Ok.  You survived riding to Las Vegas.  You’re probably asking why you are here.  The answer is that there’s some superb riding around here.  Not like SoCal, but very interesting.

First off, head south on Las Vegas Boulevard and get a photo with the Las Vegas Sign.  If you do it early enough, you can ride your bike to one of the two photo points and snap away.  The picture makes a great Facebook update and fun start to your day!

When done, head west toward Summerlin.  You can get there via W Charleston Blvd or I-215 to W Charleston Blvd and head west.  Charleston Blvd is also NV-159.  If you missed breakfast to get your bomb photo with your bike in front of the sign, there are plenty of good places serving food around here.  While here, grab a couple 1 or 1.5-liter bottles of water. It can be very arid and hot here.  Dehydration is a serious concern.

When gassed up, fed and watered, head west on Charleston Blvd.  In a few blocks, it becomes Blue Diamond Road.  By now, you’re starting to see glimpses of why you’re here.  

A couple of miles in, you’ll see “Red Rock Visitor Center” and Scenic Loop Drive.  Stop by the visitor center and take a look.  Then head out onto the one-way Scenic Loop Drive!  It’ll lead you back to Blue Diamond Road, a little further south.  Here's a map that illustrates the ride.
Feel free to explore any of the branches that lead away from the road.  Some are well worth it.  If you’re on a GS, there are even more trails of awesomeness one can spend several hours riding.

When back onto Blue Diamond Road, make a right onto Bonnie Springs Road.  Bonnie Springs is an attraction built on the ruins of an actual townsite of  Bonnie Springs.  You can go on a spectacular and scenic horseback trail from here and then enjoy some lunch.  The horseback riding is highly recommended.  The trail is easy and memorable.  You'll feel as if you stepped out of a John Ford western movie like "The Searchers."  You don’t have to pay to enter the townsite unless you want to visit the rebuilt western town. 
From there, head back to the city or embark on your next destination.

If you're ready for another ride, navigate to I-95 North.  Mt. Charleston is a great Motorcycle run.

On I-95 North, take it all the way to Lee Canyon Road (NV-156) and head west (toward the mountains).  This stretch is a great place to go a little bit faster than you might otherwise do so.

Follow it up the mountain.  You won’t believe you’re near Las Vegas!  When you get to Deer Creek Road, make a left and continue to the top of the road.  Deer Creek is NV-158.  Deer Creek Road dead-ends into Forest Road.  Make a right to the town of Charleston and grab a coffee or other snack.  Then head back down Forest Road to the valley floor and I-95 again.

If you’re up for more riding, there’s Valley of Fire State Park.  From Las Vegas, it’s probably easiest to take I-515 south onto W Lake Mead Parkway (NV-564) East.  Follow it along to Northshore Rd.  Stay on Northshore Rd when you cross E Lake Mead Blvd.  If you brought your swimsuit or bikini, there are numerous places to take a swim into Lake Mead.  Follow along, for a while, Northshore Rd (NV-167) until you come to Valley of Fire Highway.  Head west onto Valley of Fire Hwy and take it to Valley of Fire State Park.  You’re welcome!  Continue Valley of Fire Highway until you reach I-15.  Now the map for easy reference.

On the third day, you’re probably going to want to rest by the pool and respond to all the amazing Facebook posts you lit up the internet with the night before.  Then head back to SoCal.

If you’re feeling a little (cough, cough) sick and don’t think you want to… ‘err... can make it into work on Monday, I’ve got a bonus riding day mind-blower!

Instead of showing off your prized physique at the pool on Sunday, Fuel your bike and head north on I-15.  Have I led you astray yet? At the town of Mesquite, you’ll cross into Arizona.  Now, this stretch of interstate is unbelievable on a motorcycle!  Be careful, but you can get some great high-speed lean angles here.  As you approach the Virgin River Gorge, your senses will be firing at 100 percent.  The visuals and roadway will fight for dominance.  Make sure the road wins.

Zion National Park
Once in Utah, things will calm down.  After St. George, exit State Street (Hwy 9) and follow it all the way to Zion National Park.  It’s about  160 miles (45 minutes on the S 1000 RR) from Las Vegas to Zion National Park, so you can ride there and back in one day

Alternatively, One could visit Hoover Dam and ride one’s bike across the dam.  If it’s not too busy, you can quickly stop and snap several photos with your bike on the Dam.  Do take the opportunity to ride over the majestic new bridge across the Dam.  It’s an engineering marvel!  Yes, a map to Hoover Dam.
Hoover Dam

Who knew Las Vegas could be so rewarding, right?

The next couple of chapters will feature more fantastic weekend destinations.  After all, the weather is perfect for riding.

Some of these may already be your favorite trips.  Others may be new.  Yet more may still be waiting to be discovered.  Whatever your motivation, Make Life a Ride.

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 the southland. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Eat to Ride or Ride to Eat

Eat to Ride or Ride to Eat? 

Ether way, these culinary destinations are worth the trip!

The South Coast BMW Riding Club doing what they do best.  Photo By Lisa Catarineau
Story and Photos by Jim Foreman

Many motorcyclists ride to places to enjoy spectacular scenery, challenging roads and time with close friends.  Surprisingly, it seems a great bunch of riders simply ride somewhere to eat. 
One shouldn’t be too surprised by this reality.  We all need to eat.   It just comes down to some who "Eat to Ride" and others who "Ride to Eat."
The importance of this topic, could not be overstated to the South Coast BMW Riders Club or South Coasters.  For them and any other palate inspired rider, it becomes prudent to list some excellent dining opportunities along some great motorcycle riding destinations. 
Everyone is familiar with places like Newcomb’s Ranch, The Rock Store Café, Neptune’s Net and Hell’s Kitchen.
While these places have their own merits and reasons to visit, everyone knows them. 
The criterion for this collection of dining destinations is specific.  The café or restaurant must be on or just off a Southern California motorcycle enthusiast’s road.  There must be something unique or truly noteworthy that makes it special. The cost including a non-alcoholic drink should not exceed $20USD per person.   The food needs to be excellent to way above average.  Finally, the location must be able to handle a group of motorcyclists without breaking a sweat or calling the authorities.
Jeremy’s On The Hill – Julian, CA
Jeremy’s On The Hill is a place that inspires a story like this. Located just outside of Julian and close to Palomar Mountain, Jeremy’s On The Hill makes an excellent lunch spot for those with tastes beyond Burger King.  Chef Jeremy Manley is a Cordon Bleu Graduate.   
Manley is a firm believer in locally sourced ingredients and routinely changes the menu as certain fruits and vegetables are in season.  Locally produced Bison and Pork make for some tasty and delectable dishes and are some of Manley’s best-loved offerings.  Stop for pie where you will but if you desire an excellent meal at a very reasonable price, look no further.

Big Horn Bar & Grill – Borrego Springs, CA
Borrego Springs has become quite the ghost town in recent years.  Many cafés and restaurants have closed or move to more lucrative locations.  Despite the dim outlook, there a few culinary highlights to Borrego Springs. 
After a great day of riding S-22 through Anza Borrego and getting an interesting photo with the sculptures in the desert, stop at Big Horn Bar & Grill for an above average dining experience.  Some favorites include the ribs with sweet potato fries, the spicy grilled chicken sandwich.  If you’re feeling ravenous, try the seared rib-eye steak.  All of these meals are well prepared and cost under $15USD. 
Big Horn Bar and Grill even brings in fresh apple pie from the Julian Pie Company.  Big Horn Grill is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays and is open from 2pm-9pm M, Th-F and 11am-9pm on weekends.


Deer Lodge – Ojai, CA
North of Ojai is some spectacular riding.  Many action shots featured in moto magazines are shot there for its exotic scenery and extremely light traffic.  Savvy riders know the Deer Lodge is one of the best places to enjoy a meal before continuing. 
Deer Lodge works closely with local growers and producers to bring fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables to your table. 
Favorites to order include the free-range BBQ chicken, the wild Pacific cedar plank salmon, and the buffalo burger (bison). 
On weekends, Deer Lodge is a favorite with stop for motorcyclists and typically features live music.
Monday through Thursday, Deer Lodge is open after 3 pm.  On Friday lunch is served at 11 am.  Saturdays and Sundays,  Brunch begins at 9:30 am.

Mt. Baldy Lodge – Mt. Baldy, CA
The village of Mt. Baldy is a rustic escape from the hustle and bustle of the city to the south.  It’s situated at an apex of two fun moto-friendly roads.  Many more casual riders love the ride up Mt.Baldy Road.  It’s an easy road with many beautiful vistas.  The road is ideal for those who enjoy a slower and more scenic ride.  Conversely, Mt. Baldy is reachable from Glendora Ridge Road, which is abranch of Glendora Mountain Road.  Glendora Mountain Road or GMR for short is a favorite among sportbikes.  It’s an extremely technical canyon offering many twists, turns, and plentiful excitement.  Regardless of which route suits your riding style, Mt. Baldy Lodge is a great place to enjoy a meal.  A favorite is the Steak Sandwich, made to order and very savory.  Monday-Friday Mt. Baldy Lodge is open at 11 am.  Saturday and Sunday, hours are from 9a to midnight and 11 pm, respectively.  Additionally, Mt. Baldy Lodge offers lovely cabins for the night.  It’s a great place to overnight with your partner and enjoy the clean, brisk, mountain air.

Malibu Kitchen – Malibu, CA
Running the Malibu Alps, as coined by Chris Weir, is a wonderful way to enjoy some great SoCal Motorcycling.  Often, finding a great place to eat is far more difficult.  There are certainly expensive offerings like Nobu and Gladstone’s if you’re trying to impress someone.  Duke’s is an affordable and notable place with moto-friendly valets, so it’s equally worthy of a visit.
For me and to the delight of my friends I have introduced there, Malibu Kitchen is my primary choice.  Serving up Boar’s Head deli meats and cheeses along with some excellent in-house offerings on freshly baked bread, Malibu Kitchen is the best.  For me, it’s the rare roast beef on a French roll with provolone cheese that gets me every time.  Located close to Pepperdine University and many celebrity residences, it is a common place for locals to enjoy.  It’s in the Malibu Country Mart at PCH and Cross Creek, behind the Shell Station.  It’s not far from Malibu Canyon Road.  It is also rare when one doesn’t recognize someone also enjoying lunch in the outdoor seating area.  A few steps down is a Starbucks where one can get amped up with coffee to run Latigo Canyon, Mulholland, and Stunt Road six more times before calling it a day.

John Kenji Hawley and Jim Foreman enjoying lunch at Gastrognome in Idyllwild, CA
Gastrognome – Idyllwild, CA
CA-243 or the Palms to Pines Highway is a treasure for experienced motorcyclists.  This lightly traveled road is chock full of great corners, elevation changes, and vistas.  The hidden beauty is that one can take it as hard or as mellow as one wants without being disappointed. 
 Situated in the middle of Idyllwild’s village, Gastrognome is an above-par European style café with excellent lunch offering.  Motorcycle parking, right in front, and outdoor seating make this mile-high café and culinary delight.   Favorites are the Raspberry Chicken Sandwich and the Rainbow Trout Filet Almondine. 
The town is charming to walk through and is very motorcycle friendly.  A nice gelato or coffee (or both) is a great treat before heading out.  From Idyllwild, one can easily reach Palm Desert via CA-74  or Anzo Borrego mentioned earlier.


Honorable Mentions

The Lookout - Lake Elsinore, CA
Surprisingly good food at the top of Ortega Highway's crescendo.


Old Place - Cornell, CA
Right on Mulholland Highway, east of the Rock Store.  No Freezers means everything's fresh and tasty.  It's a lively place with a great atmosphere.

Willie Boys Saloon and Dance Hall - Morongo Valley, CA
Willie Boys is a perfect destination after a great day riding Joshua Tree National Park. It's also something delightfully different from the glam and pretension of Palm Springs.

Yellow Vase - Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
A taste of European elegance can be found at Yellow Vase.  Several locations are in the south bay, but this on is my favorite on Rancho Palos Verdes Drive West.  Overlooking the ocean and Catalina Island, this place is a magnificent place to enjoy great coffee drinks and light lunch offerings.

Throughout Southern California, there are numerous cafés and dining destination along some favorite roads.   Some of these may already be your favorites.  Others will be new.  Yet more may still be waiting to be discovered.  Whatever your motivation, Make Life a Ride.

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 the southland.