The Pacific Coast Highway, or Highway 1, is said to be one of the best motorcycling roads in the world. The All American Road, selected as such by the US Department of Transportation, was voted as one of the ten best drives in the USA by Americans, and is one of Readers Digest’s Most Scenic Drives in America. We spent the last three days of our Wild West tour riding this road from San Francisco down to Los Angeles, and it was amazing riding.
From San Francisco we hugged the coast all day, stopping to walk on the beach a couple of times (very important for a sea-side lover like me). It was much cooler than our riding up to this point, and with some Californian sea mist creeping onto the cliff-side road at our first stop we all put our linings back into our jackets. I was too chicken to take a dip in the Pacific, but I went paddling in my motorcycle boots; LincsGeek demonstrated how chilly we were – I can’t believe we found 20 degrees Celsius cold! It’s amazing how quickly you get used to the very hot dry heat of the desert. We even started stopping for a morning coffee; we tried a handful of little independent coffee shops that served great coffee and cakes for very little money, it’s a shame that chain coffee shops have taken over and charge so much for a cup.
It was only 20 degrees Celcius!
Lunch was at Whale City, a bright blue and yellow café overlooking the Pacific Ocean where you are supposed to be able to see whales in the ocean below. We didn’t spot any but I had a slice of traditional American apple pie that was simply the best apple pie I’ve eaten for years; it was deliciously sweet.
The route was simple, no need to turn left or right so it was just a case of sitting back on my Fat Boy and enjoying the road, the scenery and the smell of the sea air. We were on the cliff edge the whole time, winding our way along the coastline with the Pacific on one side and some towering mountains and rolling hills on the other. Every now and again we would come across a town – we rode through Santa Cruz and various others before arriving at Monterey where we were staying overnight. It was early afternoon so we had plenty of time to explore the city.
Monterey is a very old town in California – it had the State’s first theatre, public building, public library, publicly funded school, printing press, and newspaper. Now it is better known for its beautiful bay and opportunity to see sea-based wildlife in the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was the aquarium we headed to, knowing we would be in for a treat, so we stepped on the free trolley bus headed to the other end of town.
The aquarium is huge, a really good facility with lots to see. There were sea otters playing with tubes and artificial kelp, penguins building pebble nests (well, failing to build pebble nests, so much so that those who had gathered to watch this particular tank cheered when Mr Penguin managed to get one particular pebble on top of the pile after dropping it many times), massive sea bass and tuna fish (I didn’t realise they were so big!), an old sea turtle, some gorgeously lit jelly fish and ugly octopuses. We spent a couple of hours mooching around watching the various exhibits and learning a bit about the sealife that is found in the Monterey Bay area.
View of the Bay from Monterey Bay Aquarium
Having chosen the chain restaurant route in San Francisco, for dinner we headed onto the old pier – Fisherman’s Wharf – for some traditional clam chowder. Each restaurant had samples of their chowder on offer at their doors, so I made my way along the row trying each one before deciding on which restaurant to eat in. We ended up in Old Fisherman’s Wharf, a 50 year old family run restaurant, where we ate extremely well and had a great evening. The town was really lovely; much less busy than San Francisco but equally as nice. You probably couldn’t spend a week in Monterey but it’s definitely a place to stop at if you’re riding the Pacific Coast Highway.
The following morning we continued along Highway 1 from Monterey to Pismo with more mountains on our left and the Pacific Ocean on our right – cove and creek after cove and creek. It was a seascape-lover’s paradise, I smiled all day and I think the same can be said for every other person in our little Eagle Rider family. The road was winding with lots of switchbacks and we had loads of fun leaning our lolloping Harleys into the bends and standing them up again before almost instantly leaning them the other way, over and over again. It wasn’t fast but it was great riding. There were bridges across deep valleys, huge redwood trees, and a quite beautiful Condor that swooped down over the bikes as we went long. How Loli managed to get a snap of it I’ll never know! Next time we do this I think I’ll give in and buy a Go Pro or similar camera so I can get video and photographs as I ride – we’d decided against it due to the expense and wondered if we’d ever actually edit the footage, but I think I’ve now decided it’s the next bit of kit I’d like. We stopped at Big Sur for Coffee and Rocky Point for lunch, after which the road opened out and became wider, straighter and faster.
One of the highlights of the day, of the tour, was stopping to watch the Elephant Seals for a while – absolutely huge and incredibly noisy animals that are so much bigger than any of the Grey Seals we’re used to seeing at Donna Nook or around the British coastline. They were being very active on the beach, growling, snorting, dancing and fighting. There was a long line of them sunbathing on the edge of the water, and I loved how as the tide came in a bit they all moved up in unison keeping their line very neat. The seals seem to spend a lot of time fighting each other, an I’m sure they could easily do a lot of damage to a human, but we were well back and behind a fence. It was great to see animals like this in their natural habitat rather than in a zoo or sealife centre, just doing what they normally do. The viewing area was very busy, obviously a very popular place to visit, and quite rightly so. If you’re in the area this should be on your list.
From there it was another 50 miles or so of more awesome coastal road and its accompanying views to Pismo Beach where we stayed at the Sandcastle Inn right on the beach. Another lovely seaside town where there was an opportunity to take my motorcycle boots off, put my flip flops on, and wander along the beach and get the sand between my toes. I took the opportunity to go paddling in the Pacific Ocean too, which was rather special despite being a bit chilly and very windy.
The Sandcastle Inn in the Centre, SeaVenture Beachfront Resort on the right – Pismo Beach
That evening we were treated to dinner in the hotel next door by Eagle Rider. Sadly this meant it was our last night on the Wild West tour, with just one more day of riding before we had to hand our bikes back and head home. The food in the SeaVenture Beachfront Resort top floor restaurant, overlooking the sea and palm trees, was really excellent, and the company was pretty good too. Our small second-week tour group had really got to know each other and we spent the evening chatting about bikes, home, holidays, and anything else that came up.
Our last day of riding started with a stop in Solvang for coffee and pastries, but not of your usual Californian variety. Solvang is a little piece of Denmark in the USA, with Danish shops and restaurants and even the unmistakable architecture of that part of the world. We sat outside a fantastic café with amazing and real Danish pastries, not quite believing our surroundings. Quite surreal.
From there we rode some more of the Pacific Coast Highway back towards Los Angeles. At a fuel stop one member of the group (who shall remain nameless) realised they had left something behind at our Danish stop. Jeff looked up the phone number, called the bakery and then rode back there to fetch it whilst the rest of us carried on, following the support van; there’s service for you! As we got closer to the enormous city the traffic got more dense and things became a little more stressful. We stopped overlooking Malibu Beach and rode through Santa Monica before heading towards the airport where Eagle Rider are based. We rode those last ten miles with mixed emotions: it was very hot and traffic was terrible so we were looking forward to parking up and getting off the bikes, but at the same time this was the last riding of the tour – and that was quite sad. We had enjoyed such an amazing trip, we didn’t want to give the bikes back.
Our bikes with the support van in Malibu
Our tour group for the second half of our Wild West adventure – we had a great time with some great people.
All good things must come to an end, so once we’d signed the bikes back in at Eagle Rider LAX and had been transported back to our hotel, we headed to the Sports Bar to meet everyone and reminisce one last time before we all headed our separate ways and to our different countries. A quick drink turned into dinner, becoming facebook friends, and promising we’d meet up again sometime. We can say whole heartedly that choosing this Eagle Rider tour to help us explore the Wild West of America was absolutely the right decision – it was the motorcycling adventure we wanted with the added luxury of not having to worry about anything along the way.
Read the Wild West Series
- Part 1 – Going Guided
- Part 2 – Fat Boys and Softails
- Part 3 – The Hottest Place on Earth
- Part 4 – Movie Set Scenery
- Part 5 – We’re All Going on a Bear Hunt
- Part 6 – One Day in San Francisco
- Part 7 – The Sea is Still There