Welcome To Sunny California

Yesterday was the complete opposite of the day before. The weather was warm and sunny, perfect for a day of motorcycles.

Carolyn wasn’t feeling well, so I met up with Reuben on my own. A lifelong LA resident, he knows the area like the back of his hand. He’s also great at leading a ride, making sure no one gets left behind. I had Google Maps running on my Apple CarPlay unit, but I really just followed him.

We split our way through traffic to the Pacific Coast Highway. Although I never got to ride my Honda Pacific Coast 800 that was named after this road here, I’ve now ridden both bikes I’ve owned since here. Without my even telling him, Reuben also fulfilled one of my goals for this visit, to see the Pacific Ocean again. I haven’t seen it since leaving Oregon this past spring, and I’ve been in the desert for months, so I was overdue for seeing some water again.

We missed the turn for Topanga Canyon Boulevard. There were absolutely no street signs marking the intersection off the PCH. Reuben suspected this was done on purpose to reduce traffic from motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts like us. However, after turning around and coming back to the traffic light, being behind a Toyota GR Supra and in front of a Mini Cooper was a good sign that we were back on track. Off into the Santa Monica Mountains we went.

I don’t have pictures from this area, though I had my GoPro running. I should be able to snag some pictures later from the hours of footage I’ll have to go through. It was absolutely beautiful, but my focus was on the ride, as it needed to be. Beyond the endless curves and hills, the recent rain had eroded dirt and rocks onto the road surface. It had been mostly cleared, but we still had to be careful of slippery spots, so we set a brisk but cautious pace. I’m still learning how to handle my V-Strom in the corners, too. I’m most impressed with its performance, which is exactly the level I’m looking for — not too slow, but not too fast, either. Reuben, who rides a Yamaha FZ1, razzed me for not getting a V-Strom 1000, but the 650 is really all I need.

I recognized Mulholland Highway, another road I’d heard of before. We ended up at the Rock Store, which is actually a restaurant, and a famous biker hangout for everyone from biker scum to Hollywood celebrities. The Los Angeles Times referred to it as “one of best-known biker pit stops in the world” and the “Mecca of motorcycles.” Unfortunately, it was closed, so we could only check out the outside. It has a fascinating history.

Honestly, I don’t even know exactly where we went after that. I was just following Reuben and enjoying the ride. We ended up crossing the mountains back to the PCH over an extremely tight, twisty section that I took in second and even first gear. We came around one curve on the downhill side, and bam, there was the Pacific Ocean ahead of us. We stopped along the ocean for a while and took it all in.

While we were there, Carolyn texted us that she was going to an event that night with the Litas, a well-known women’s motorcycle group with an active LA chapter. That would encourage me to opt out, but she told me I should come along and check out the Bike Shed. The event didn’t start for a few hours, but Reuben decided to take me there early.

This was the view from our dinner table, which we shared with a beautiful BMW airhead. Bikes are scattered all over the place, with a separate room dedicated to locally built custom bikes. There’s also a gift shop, hair salon, and tattoo parlor, all under the same roof. It’s a pretty neat place, one I could see myself hanging out at regularly if I lived here. (Oh, and don’t worry about the large mug of beer. I knew I’d be hanging out here for hours until after the Litas event, so I was fine to ride by then.)

Carolyn had said Ghazaleh, another of last year’s crew, would be there. So I deliberately did not tell her I was there and gave her a big surprise. While I didn’t crash the Litas’ event (I’m the wrong gender for that), I did meet a few of them. They seem like a really fun group, and well worth checking out if you’re a woman rider.

At the end, I followed Carolyn back to her place and fell asleep very quickly next to a poor, neglected Lister. It’s rare that I can leave him for so long and know he’ll be safe, but what safer place is there than a trusted friend’s house? I’m on vacation, so I might as well enjoy my freedom while I can. Carolyn was even kind enough to feed him for me. Okay, so she fed him when he became an angry loud terrorist because it was past dinnertime. Still, I appreciate it, and my awesome LA friends in general.

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