Rolling along en route to Paso Robles, CA.
Our local weather is routinely terrific-to-spectacular, making the area a motorcyclist’s nirvana. And for weekend getaways, we motorcyclists hold distinct advantages over those who travel by car. There's the freedom that comes from the wind in your face while rolling along, for example – from this comes a visceral, instense exhilaration.
For this particular getaway, Paso Robles is my destination. I crank up my bike and get ready to hit the open road.
Choosing a way through L.A.
Heading to Paso Robles does mean transiting Los Angeles, which is a pain. No matter what route you choose, there will likely be traffic congestion.
After years of experience, I have learned routes to avoid the most significant areas of trouble. Route 73, the toll road also known as the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor, lets me avoid the I-5/I-405 junction in Orange County. It's a picturesque road, rolling through a succession of hills. At the north end, I come out on I-405 in Orange County.
Persevering, I simply gut it out on I-405 until turning west on Route 101 to follow the coast.
With Ventura finally in the rearview mirrors, the ride turns pleasant. Route 101 to Santa Barbara, with the Pacific Ocean on my left, is one of my favorite sections of a trip north. Santa Barbara provides a good opportunity to stop, refuel, eat, and stretch the legs a bit as well.
Wineries are a common sight on inland highways near Santa Barbara. (Thinkstock.com)
Continuing on Route 101, the road winds inland and away from the ocean views. I started out wearing a heavy leather jacket to provide warmth, as well as protection in the event of an incident. But as temperatures climb, I stop and remove the jacket. After packing the jacket securely onto the bike, I also apply a fresh dose of sunscreen. (A word about sunscreen: it serves as an adhesive for the dust, dirt and other crud flowing in the air as I ride along. At the end of a ride, hot water, soap and a soon-to-be filthy washcloth are definitely needed.)
Taking a gulp or two or three of water, because riding in the environment is dehydrating and there isn’t a safe way to drink water while riding a motorcycle, I remount my iron horse and aim north.
At San Luis Obispo, I continue on Route 101. Away from the urban areas, this route is just right for motorcyclists. Cruising along, I feel at one with the environment – including the drivers of cars and trucks taking this way north. It may be imagination, but just as I'm more relaxed, so they also seem to be. The aggressive, cut-you-off, every-man-for-himself drivers all too frequently encountered on the San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles freeways must have stayed on those thoroughfares, because it just seems to be a saner group of motorists on this road.
The all-important pit stop
The plan is spend the night in Paso Robles, so I start thinking about someplace to eat. While on these road trips, I make it a point not to stop at any of the national chains to eat. (Actually, my son has taught me to avoid the fast food chains.) I take the time to hunt out the mom-and-pop type places, where the food is usually better, service superb, and prices reasonable. I've found that one good sign a place meets these requirements is a lot of pick-up trucks in the parking lot.
Riding into Paso Robles and turning off Route 101 west onto 24th Street, pick-up trucks and the sign for Big Bubba’s Bad to the Bone BBQ catch my attention. My mouth immediately starts watering, so after checking into the motel, I walk over. Late afternoon changed to early evening. Soaking up the relaxed atmosphere and country western music, I enjoy a terrific meal of BBQ chicken, coleslaw, corn on the cob, and a couple of Buds. An all-around great spot.
Traveling by motorcycle allows me to take in the feel of the country and observe some real natural beauty. Case in point: Route 46 East from Paso Robles as the sun was rising the next morning, rolling through the open countryside as the sun lent the terrain a golden glow. Postcard-like examples of why California is the Golden State.
With sparse traffic, cool temperatures, and a comfortable bike, rides like this are hard to beat.