Dave’s Harley Ride Round California

Hi, I’m Dave Saunders and I live in East Garston but right now I’m living my dream on a 2,000 mile Harley cruise around California starting in San Francisco then riding down through the coast to LA and on to San Diego and then north via inland routes, through Yosemite, on to the redwoods on the border with Oregon then and back down towards San Francisco on the northern section of the Pacific Highway.

We left San Francisco later than we intended at 11am on Saturday morning, as it took a couple of hours for my friends to complete the paperwork for their Harley rentals. In doing so we made two significant errors. The first was riding through the day in record-breaking temperatures of up to 124 degrees. Secondly, we headed towards the coast and the Pacific Highway on the first day of the Labour Day holiday weekend. This is the equivalent of our bank holiday weekend, and just like in the UK on a hot holiday weekend, all the roads were stop-start, nose to tail traffic rarely exceeding 5 mph!                                         

After taking 4 hours to do 30 miles we eventually gave up and headed towards Bakersfield about 120 miles inland looking for a place to recover. Luckily we found the Buckhorn Motel and diner where we arrived at 11pm dehydrated and exhausted.

After a good nights sleep and a decent breakfast, we headed into the mountains towards LA. The roads were a joy with few cars and absolutely stunning scenery, it was another very hot day but by covering our faces and travelling a steady 55-60 mph we found it tolerable. After a wonderful stretch of road along the Pacific coast, we pulled into LA for a couple of days of luxury at a hotel just off the Sunset Strip!

LA’s Santa Monica beach is beautiful but also man made! Apparently, as the city became the hub for the burgeoning movie industry, the city council decided to build a large pier jutting out from the city’s rocky harbour. This encouraged wealthy people and celebrities to sail their yachts to the city to further establish it as the West Coast powerhouse. Charlie Chaplin was the first person to land his yacht at the peer. 

Unfortunately, by building the peer they changed the tidal flow patterns to such an extent that sand very quickly started to build up in the harbour. For the next 10 years they tried to use dredgers to keep the harbour clear, but it was a losing battle which they eventually decided to give up. The wonderful amenity beach is the result!

Apart from visiting various parts of the city used as backdrops in many famous movies, I wanted to visit the Chinese Theatre which is known for the foot and hand prints of famous movie stars. This one I particularly liked because not only does it contain the foot and hand prints of Roy Roger, but it also includes the hoof prints of his faithful friend ‘Trigger’. I like the feel of LA with its mainly low-rise development and long avenues lined With immensely tall and spindly palm trees. Afterwards, we headed east towards the Mojave desert.

Leaving LA, we headed into the Mohave and the Yucca Valley. Incredibly hot but very beautiful. Surprising variation in colour in such a barren landscape. We stopped off at the Joshua Tree Inn. This has been the scene of a huge amount of rock n roll mayhem. In particular the legendary drug fuelled sessions involving Keith Richards and Gram Parsons (the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers etc). One such session ending in the death of Gram Parson through an overdose in room 8. His shrine in the garden is still visited by music fans from all over the world.

From the Mojave we rode up to Yosemite, a complete contrast. Words like ‘spectacular’ and ‘majestic’ don’t do it justice. Massive granite walls tower in every direction with cascading waterfalls falling into the forest below. A truly awe-inspiring place. Great for me as I managed to sneak in a classic rock!

Coming next: the casino madness of Reno followed by spectacular hospitality and lasso skills at a cattle ranch in Graeagle.






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