Race to the Border

Project 2012: Day 263

Day Ten

This is it. The final day to get to the Mexican border and finish what I started.

Border to border down the Pacific Coast.

Last night, my wonderful hosts, Wayne and Diane, shared their incredible touring knowledge of California. They’ve toured both by bicycle and motorcycle, and our route planning was interspersed with, “remember when we stopped here” or “this was a great road, we should do that again.”

By and large the consensus was to avoid the LA to San Diego urban sprawl, and from Santa Monica head inland on Route 2 to the Angeles Crest. Because this added over 100 miles to the journey I decided to leave early, so after another amazing (& healthy) breakfast of fruit, cereal, and homemade blueberry muffins, I was off at about 7:45. Earliest departure for the ride.

Actually, Wayne noticed my helmet had a couple of screws missing (no comments about me thank you very much) and opened up his machine shop to find some replacements first.

When I say machine shop, I mean this puts Bunnings, Mitre10 and Home Depot to shame.

Home of the Rich and Famous

The first cruise was my last down Route 1, which despite the warnings about traffic, actually left me feeling slightly wistful. There is a part of me that wishes I’d just hugged the coast all the way to the end. But 140 miles of traffic lights didn’t sound like fun either.

Despite the smog, the traffic, and the crazies, you can see why some people live in Malibu and Santa Monica. The sunrise was spectacular and there is about 30 miles of beach, all with surfers. This is entirely different to the Sydney coast where you have bay after bay. It’s literally a looooooooong beach all the way to the Santa Monica pier.

I actually have family whom own a house on the cliffs in Malibu, perhaps I should’ve stopped there for the night. Although I’m not sure how much claim I could make after not seeing them for 42 years…

As Malibu eases into Santa Monica, the traffic started to build. By which I mean it was solid metal all the way into town. Now you can legally split lanes in California, and most bikes do. Fast. Also, the drivers are totally considerate and will actually move their cars to widen the lane. I’ve rarely experienced drivers that even realise there’s a bike coming down the traffic, let alone move out of the way anywhere else.

I can say that maneuvering the GS, complete with bash bars and panniers, between the cars was interesting to say the least.

The Pier

Many places have a pier, Brighton in the UK, Santa Cruz up the coast, but Santa Monica has the king of piers. This thing has a fairground on it. It would be a shame to come all this way only to ride past without stopping.

Now I pulled into the car park, only to be told by the attendant that motorbike parking was the same price as a car. $8!! Outrageous!!! Even if I didn’t take a car spot. In fact when I wanted to share a spot with another motorbike, the attendant wanted to call security on me. Seems I should deny another family a parking space when I could just as easily park in the corner somewhere. No amount of listening, logic, or influence worked. The rules were the rules and his badge rendered him (at least I think it was a him) incapable of logical thought. Sigh.

So I parked my bike and wondered up the pier dressed entirely appropriately for 75F (25C) seaside weather. Calf high black touring boots, cordura, armoured, black touring pants, and my black kevlar jacket. Mad Ozzie.

Now I’ve been on Santa Monica Pier before, so this wasn’t about discovery, just about chilling and enjoying the warmth after Washington, Oregon, and NorCal. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to have my portrait done.

The Sprawl

Next was the fun to navigate out of LA on Route 2, which sounds much easier than it actually is. The Route follows Santa Monica Boulevard out towards Rodeo Drive and Beverley Gardens, but then does this on-freeway, off-again, on-another-freeway dance through the outskirts of the city.

Before that is about 10 miles (at least it seems like it) of lane splitting, traffic light filtering through the LA sprawl. There’s just no getting away from from the immensity of the LA population.

The Crest

Finally the road opens up to the Angeles Crest, and the temperature rises to about 94F (37.5C), and you’re on perfectly smooth, tarred, twisties. I say perfectly smooth, you do have to watch for rocks and gravel, along the whole road, which keeps the speed down somewhat. I hit a rock and nearly wet myself as the front wheel jiggled.

About midway on this 61 mile ride is Newcombs Ranch. The local biker watering hole. Great sandwiches, and it looks like they have great beers – sigh. Still I got chatting to another rider, who turned out to be a dentist (must be a dentist thing), and owns a Black Multi 🙂

I really miss Lucia.

Riding along the crest was just phenomenal. On a Monday, there is simply no traffic. Well, maybe negligible traffic. There were 2 cars, and 2 bikes all the way until Wrightwood at the end of the ride.

But apparently all good things must come to an end. And the end of the Angeles Crest as I joined the 138 then the I15 was a metaphor for the end of this tiring, yet relaxing time heading down the coast.

The Furnace

It was still about 115 miles to San Diego, and as I headed SW someone turned up the heat. Both literally and with the traffic. At the bottom of the mountain the temp got to 102F (44C), which at 90 mph was like riding into a blast furnace. I’d stopped melting & started to roast. Unlike the PCH there is no respite on an interstate. Just 8 to 12 lanes of traffic driving insane speeds, and nowhere to stop.

Then there’s the road surface. It’s mostly cement, with all sorts of ridges & ruts. After a while you get used to the bike snaking, but never fully comfortable.

The Border

It seemed the Interstate would just never end. An interminable ribbon of slippery cement into hell. But finally the exit signs turned to Spanish, and before you new it, it was 2 miles to the border.

I headed down the International Border lane and slipped into the (gated) U-Turn lane. The moment had arrived. Everything I’d been preparing, planning, and riding to achieve. The southern end of America. I’d started with Vancouver Island in my mirror on the Olympic Peninsular (part of Canada), and 11 days, 10 nights, ~2600 miles, 16 refills, and 3 Peperoni sticks later, I could see into Mexico.

Of course it was time for a shot.

Or not…

The Customs Protection Border Guard wouldn’t allow me to take a photo. As with the Santa Monica parking attendant, it seems logic wouldn’t prevail. Apparently I could be anybody. Even a terrorist. I politely asked what terrorist would hire a BMW motorcycle in Seattle, then ride for 10 days, to take a “selfie” at the Mexican border. What would be the point, or potential threat. Just as politely (well not really) I was asked to “move along.”

This is not the border you’re looking for.


Now I did actually have my helmet cam on, and recording, but by the time I pulled off 2 miles later at the first services in America, there was no battery life. So I’ve no idea (yet) if that worked or not.

So dear reader, you’ll just have to believe that I actually made it to the border. The picture you see is the very helpful flag posts at the nearby Best Western (cropped)

Check another off the Bucket List…

…now, for the highest motorable road in the world (Himalayas) 🙂 or the Spine of Africa or Cape Horn or …

Catching Up with the Past

About 30 mins up road in San Diego, lives one of my really close friends. We’ve been friends since our teens in South Africa. Since we were proving that actually the engine on a Mazda 323 isn’t as smooth as the Nissan Skyline, and you can shorten a Yellow Mini, but not without having to carry around extra bottles of water to refill the radiator.

So my final night staying with old friends before riding the bike it’s final couple of hours to the Motoquest Longbeach office.