Tuesday, 13 January 2015

San Diego

By Mark

After Adam dropped us off at the bus station in what seemed like Little Mexico we waited patiently for our bus to arrive, within minutes we were bored of this charade and were already missing the bikes. Over an hour late we boarded our bus (we were the only non-Mexicans on board) for San Diego where our next ADV rider host was awaiting our arrival. After a long bus ride for the distance we were in San Diego. Our host Keith came to pick us up at the terminal.

Straight away he had us sightseeing, driving up around through the suburbs in his big bad arse Ford F350. It was dark when we arrived so Keith thought he should show us the Christmas lights that have been a favourite for the locals to visit for many years. My word - they were over the top! I am sure that they could be seen from outer space. They do not only put up lights here but they also make Christmas themed displays in the windows of their house, like something you would see in a department store. It was so busy navigating the busy streets so we decided it was time to head out for some dinner at one of the many local Mexican restaurants.
Sitting down to dinner with Keith we got to know one another well and quite quickly as he likes to talk. After dinner he took us back to his humble abode, a 36 foot cruiser docked at the San Diego Yacht Club. What a great place to stay, we had access to the hot tub, sauna, swimming pool, bar and restaurant and gym (not that we ever used the gym). The best thing was the view, every morning waking up on the water was awesome, I could not get sick of that. The mornings were always still and calm and the sunsets were just as impressive.

Over the coming days we started to get a bit of a feel for San Diego, I really liked the whole laid back feeling to the place, especially around where we were staying and Ocean Beach. We went to check out the front of SeaWorld to see if there were many people rallying out the front but it was quiet and free of protesters. After the release of the movie Black Fish, SeaWorld has seen a massive decline in visitors to their parks around the USA where Orcas are being kept in very small confines. If you want to know more click here.
We had access to a couple of bicycles that Keith loaned to us so we also rode around the bay area, through the city and also Balboa Park which had some beautiful buildings and gardens. We also went to La Jolla where Keith showed us around the gorgeous coast line, parts that were lined with seals and Elephant seals. The tour finished of course with a few cold beers.

Our Christmas was a quite one, we were still with Keith and had been invited to one of his friends homes for lunch and meet up with some others later for dinner. Keith and I started pretty early with a couple of beers before we walked up to EJ's house who was holding the get together. Andy his wife put on an incredible spread which we gladly tucked into, including a few more cold ones to wash it all down with and not to forget dessert. EJ was a great guy, a 51 year old professional paddle boarder who puts many a young guy to shame out on the water, he also builds custom paddles for a living and he gave us a tour of his setup that he has in his garage. After a chilled afternoon hanging out with Keith's mates we headed out to dinner with Rick, Tamara and Rick's two kids Mo and Matt. We were still so full from lunch that we just had a snack for dinner and a few more beers. There was not too much drinking involved as I had been invited out to the desert the following day to go riding with Keith, Rick and his two kids along with another of their friends and his four kids. It had only been about one week since we had said goodbye to the bikes but I could not wait to throw a leg over a bike again, especially a dirt bike.

I woke to a stunning sunrise on the boat on Boxing day, Keith and I shot off early to get out to the dessert which was roughly a two hour drive away. When we showed up everybody else was already there. In total there was close to 15 bikes including quads to hoon around on. Most of the bikes were mini bikes for kids but there was also a Yamaha banshee quad, a YZ250f and a KTM200exc and of course Keith's WR250. I had a ball on the banshee hanging out sideways everywhere I went, it was so much fun but really I needed to be on 2 wheels! After a quick spin on the WR250 I got to throw a leg over the YZ250f, boy was that fun. It had been so long since I had been on a dirt bike, let alone one with no panniers or all that other unnecessary stuff. I did only have jeans, hoody and cons on so I had to take it easy but the bike begged to be ridden hard so I gave it some and the smile just got bigger on my face with every twist of the throttle. We were not alone out here though, being the day after xmas everybody had made their way out to try out their new xmas toys. Wow, was there some money out there. People were showing up in huge RVs, huge pick ups with toy haulers as they call them here. Luckily enough there is plenty of space to ride and not have problems with other riders, the same can not be said for Glamis dunes just down the road.

We also had the chance to get out onto the bay of San Diego for a bit of light sailing, I mean light because there was not much wind which made for easy sailing all the same, there was quite a few people on board so many hands to do the hard work and well my hands were left free to drink some rum!
The time had come to part ways with Keith and head onto our next hosts, a younger couple than us who also ride and are part of ADV riders tent space. Funnily enough Keith said to us before we left that if we had any problems we could always call him and he would come get us and we could stay with him. So we met up with Anthony and Chelsea and they were a lovely couple if not a tad quiet. The next few days saw us heading around a different part of town, but by foot now. There are many cool places all over San Diego but we were now staying in enemy territory, the mighty hipsters were in high numbers here and well it was not a place for me to want to stay to long. As nice as our new hosts were it was so difficult to get any conversation going and with our time up here we called Keith and asked if we could stay with him until we left San Diego. Thankfully it was not a problem and the following morning he was parked out front ready and waiting in his big truck to take us back to his cosy boat.

Straight away we felt so comfortable being back in his company, the conversation flowed freely and it was all smiles and happy times, even more so knowing we had another chance to get out onto the water which Sanne passed up after a few too many beers on New Years eve. It was also a quiet affair. We started the night drinking with Keith on the boat and I cooked us all dinner before meeting up with some more of his friends on their yacht before later crashing the yacht club's new years shindig. It was funny to see how quick the place emptied out after midnight, the oldies just could not take too much partying and we stayed out until about 1.30am.

Well Sanne did not miss out on too much on the boat. It was a nice day out on the water but the wind was dead and we were meant to be participating in a friendly race. There were no shortage of others out on New Years day and in total about 50 boats were going to compete. We were the last to leave after some problems on the start line and by the time we got up the bay the decision was made to pull out and go eat and drink. I like that idea much more.

Sadly our time was drawing to a close so we made the most of it with a ride over to Sunset Cliffs to watch the sunset for our last night on the coast. It was just what we needed to wind down our past twelve days. We were so lucky to have gotten into contact with Keith and all his friends that all made us feel so welcome. Keith is such a great guy and we so hope to see him in Oz in the future, if not I am sure we will be back to crash on his boat again in the not so distant future. For now we have horses to attend to.

Chilling out looking over Sunset Cliffs, San Diego

Surfs up in OB

This big guy was hanging out around the local fisherman waiting for a little fish

Downtown San Diego

USS Midway, retired aircraft carrier

Balboa Park

Could not ask for a better view, and this was taken from the boat we were staying on

A few seals hanging out in La Jolla

The surf was going off on Christmas eve, here a few body surfers taking advantage of it

It's a hard life but someone has to do it.

La Jolla coastline

Ahhhh, sunshine

Hanging out at San Diego Yacht Club

Keith's boat

Sunset from our boat on Christmas eve

Sunrise from our boat

Desert riding time

My first ride on a Banshee and it was fun, I must say I prefer 2 wheels

I think it's this way back

This is  a sign we came across in the desert for the Mexicans crossing the border into the USA illegally

Time for some sailing

Sanne with our awesome host Keith

Not a bad day out on the water to take in the city skyline

And we are sailing

Enjoying a meal with Keith on his cosy boat

Sunset Cliffs

Friday, 9 January 2015

LA LA Land

By Sanne

We left Nicole's house on a grey, rainy morning. Then a few miles down the road the sky seemed to be clearing up a little and we silently rejoiced. Then all the skies opened up and it started raining like there was no tomorrow... We were on the freeway and the rain was so heavy that the water couldn't drain off fast enough which resulted in us riding in water several inches deep...on a freeway. This was fairly unpleasant riding conditions and it was one of those times where you just think to yourself: Why oh why am I on a motorbike when I could be sitting in the warm, DRY confines of a car?! It sucked, no doubt about it. And this was our second-last day on the bikes on the entire TRIP! Surely if there was a God, he would have granted us some nice weather to finish on, but evidently there is no God or if there is he is relentless!

We eventually made it to the coast and the Pacific Coast Highway and started heading south. By then we were pretty much drenched and the rain barely stopped. Under normal circumstances we would have probably called it a day and found shelter in a motel but we really didn't have any time up our sleeves as we had to be in LA to clean the bikes before shipping them. Despite the weather we did however still manage to get some good views of the rugged coast and the road, all the while thinking how great a road this would be to ride...in the summer! We had decided to stay in the the same town that we stayed in on the way up, San Simeon and the closer we got the heavier the rain came down. By now we were already riding in the dark and the last 10 km's before town we were being blasted by the rain so much that it felt like the whole Pacific Ocean was coming in upon us. We could barely see a thing; the only thing we had to guide us in the right direction was the tail lights on the cars in front of us, and even they were hard to make out because of the heavy downpour, however the cars were soon pulling over on the side of the road because it really was that impossible to see anything to drive safely. It was by far the most rain we had experienced on the entire trip...and all that on the second last day! We arrived at the same hotel we had stayed at before, drenched and in need of a hot shower and dry clothes.

The next morning we set off for Los Angeles and the weather gods seemed to be more forgiving than the previous day so we rode most of the stretch without rain. We stopped in at Solvang, a small Danish city founded in 1911 by Danish settlers who wanted to establish a Danish colony far from the midwestern winters. It was funny enough to see a Danish-looking town with its very specific architecture and all , buuuut I really was there for one reason and one reason only: liquorice! As I am a liquorice addict and seeing as the only good liquorice in my opinion can be obtained in Denmark or Holland I have been severely starved of my vice for a long time. And whenever a shop calls themselves Danish it is usually very far removed from anything actually Danish. So I was skeptical when I walked into the candy store "Ingeborg's". However, to my surprise it was almost exactly like stepping into a candy store in Denmark. Except the prices were highly inflated and so I had to limit what I could purchase and bought only a few items which I carefully selected as this was my Xmas present!

Then it was on to LA and then the fun started; riding down the road I all of a sudden feel my rear tyre wobbling and getting out of shape and I quickly pull over and realize my tyre is completely flat. Great! The 2nd puncture on the ENTIRE trip and I get it on the last day of the trip! It was already late in the day and we still had about 100 km's to go so we (and when I say we I mean Mark - come one, I give credit when credit's due!) quickly replaced the tube with a new one and jumped on the bikes again. Our plan was to follow the PCH all the way down past Malibu but a few km's down the road we were met with a Road Closed sign. Awesome! Now we had to backtrack quite a way out to the freeway which was heaving with traffic and of course it was already dark by now. We stayed on the freeway for a while, then got off it and onto a road that took us over the Santa Monica Mountains. It was a great, windy road and would have been even better in daylight so we could have actually seen something, but it was small and barely any cars on it and we were much happier just being away from the freeway. Then, as we are descending down the mountain towards Malibu incident 2 happens: my rear brake is gone. Like, completely gone, nothing. This had happened once before, a week prior in Death Valley but we had somehow got it working again. Now here we were on a mountain top outside LA in complete darkness and with no back brakes. I had to ride with just my front brake to the bottom of the hill where oddly my back brakes returned. Hmm... Christine at her best! We are still no wiser as to why it did that; could have something to do with the cylinder...? Anyway, we were now officially in Malibu back on the PCH and we rode along the coast through the beach suburbs of Santa Monica and Venice; our old friend the rain had by now returned, just to make sure our very last km's on the bikes were nice and memorable! We passed LAX and arrived at Adam's place in El Segundo sometime in the evening. Adam was yet another ADV Rider who had been so kind to host us. This was to be our first time sleeping in a garage! Because living costs are so expensive in LA a lot of people live in garages converted into apartments. Adam's place was cozy and had everything we needed and he even gave up his bed for us and went to spend the night at his girlfriend's.

The next morning was cleaning the bikes time! Before we got started though we decided that we would go for a 'short' ride up to Malibu and back, seeing as we had come in late the previous night and not seen a thing. On the map it really didn't look that far from where we were so we figured we could go for a quick blast up there and come back in a couple of hours and then start cleaning the bikes. Well, it might not have looked that far on the map but we clearly hadn't taken into account how spread out LA is and how much traffic is on the road... It took us two damn hours just to get to Malibu! At least the weather was nice.

On the way there we stopped in at Deus Ex Machina in Venice Beach. We had been to the Deus showroom in Bali and had met the owner and they had been really good to us, sending a guy out to find a battery for my bike which took him several hours and they only charged us for the cost of the battery (our post about that here: http://handfulofthrottle.blogspot.com/2011/10/deus-ex-machina.html) So we were really looking forward to checking out their showroom in Venice Beach. Well...was that a disappointment. Deus Ex Machina, Venice Beach is surely where hipsters must come to die. It was not so much a motorcycle store as an allround hipster scene. The store was full of pretentious hipster douchebags who all looked like they had never been atop a motorbike before. But you could kind of understand their confusion - it didn't look anything like a motorcycle store. There was maybe three bikes in there, only one of them for sale, the rest of the store was apparel, and I'm not talking motorcycle apparel here, just hipster fashion, oh and not to forget - skin care products for men! I mean, seriously? I have yet to meet a straight man who cares about toners and moisturizers let alone someone who would buy them at a motorcycle shop. It was a confusing place, half store-half cafe and all these self-proclaimed cool kids (who again I'm sure do not ride motorbikes) hanging out, drinking mocha-frappe-latte's while updating their Instagram with an impossibly cool photo of said latte, hashtagging like crazy. I was half surprised not to see anyone typing away on an old-fashioned type-writer (they all had mac's) but there was definitely no shortage of hipster beards. I'm pretty confident to say that we were the only motorbikers in the store and yet not a single person approached us to ask if we needed anything or even acknowledged our presence. Our un-hipsterism must have been an offense to them and a stain on their uber-cool space. Or maybe they took one look at Mark and decided that he was probably not going to buy any skincare products. I have never in my life felt quite so snubbed before and this by people 10 years my junior. Anyway, we both found it kind of hilarious the whole pretentiousness, and we departed the store, sorry space, and vowed to never, ever step foot inside that horrible place again.

Once in Malibu we rode up the mountain road we had come down on the previous night but we really didn't have the time to spend around here as we had to get the bikes to the shipping warehouse on the Friday and this was Wednesday and we had a big job ahead of us to clean the bikes. It also would have been cool to ride further along the coast in Malibu but as it was we turned around and rode back to El Segundo, stopping on the way to take photos of the coast line and Malibu beach houses (although the real nice ones are mostly hidden away so no celebrity spotting!) We didn't get back to El Segundo until mid-afternoon so we got stuck into hosing the bikes down and cleaning them. We did that for a few hours until it got dark and Adam came home. Adam then took us out for dinner at a local restaurant Rock & Brews which is owned by the guys from KISS. It was a pretty cool place which lots of nice beers and thankfully they had veggie food!

The next day we spent ALL day cleaning the bikes religiously. The reason for our obsessive cleaning is that when shipping the bikes back to Australia, they have to be immaculately clean, like new. The Australian quarantine is very strict and if they find a bit of dirt left on the bikes they will steam clean them and charge $175 per bike for doing it! So we worked very very hard to clean them the best we could, taking many parts off in order to get to hard to reach areas. We think we did a pretty good job, I seriously hope we did anyway! Time will tell... Friday morning we finished off the cleaning and borrowed Adam's pick-up truck to take them to Schumacher Cargo's warehouse. There we said goodbye to the babies and were given a little tour around the warehouse which was full of bikes and cars - lots of them expensive and vintage - Elvis' old limousine was even in there. This made us feel a bit more reassured that it was a well-established company to go with, unlike the arseholes we chose to ship with in London! It was kind of sad and weird saying goodbye to the bikes but it didn't really feel like it was the end of the trip (even though it is). I guess since we'll still be using the bikes for transport when we get home and still will be travelling a little bit on them in Australia, it's not really the end...right...??? Or maybe I'm just delusional and don't want to think about going back to "reality". God, don't you just hate that word??? Reality. Pfft! Give me illusion any day I say!

Since the bikes were now at the warehouse and we had spent all our time in LA cleaning, we really hadn't seen any of the city yet (apart from hipster central Douche Deus). So Adam was so kind to say that of course we could use his car to drive around the city as he was usually using his bike everywhere he went. So on the Saturday we drove up to Venice Beach, parked up and walked along the famous promenade along the beach all the way to Santa Monica pier. We sat and watched the skaters, surfers and freaks and weirdos (of which there are a-plenty here!) Venice Beach seems to be a melting pot of freaky people which makes it a great spot for people watching. We even saw a bearded lady there and a werewolf...and I'm not even joking!
From the 90-year-old bodybuilder pumping iron at Muscle Beach to the eclectic street vendors where you can fish for a bag of weed, this place is really something else! Definitely worth a visit if you're in the area. We walked back along the canals set a few blocks away from the beach.

Next stop was Beverly Hills where we definitely felt out of place! Driving up Rodeo Drive in Adam's old beat-up truck with rust holes we were definitely the Beverly Hillbillies alright. All the cars around us were either Lamborghini's, Ferrari's or some other fancy car costing a fortune. Very flash area indeed. Then we went to Hollywood and cruised down Sunset Boulevard, past famous bars such as The Viper Room (where River Phoenix OD'd), Whiskey a Go Go and The Rainbow (where apparently Lemmy from Motorhead is a regular at the Keno machine!) Unfortunately we didn't have the time to say hello to Lemmy, maybe another time. We did the touristy thing of checking out the stars on Hollywood Boulevard and saw Alan from The Hangover posing with a baby. Kind of weird.

We then drove up to Mulholland Drive to get a view of the city. By now it was already dark so couldn't get a good photo of the Hollywood sign but we did get a good photo of LA by night. We then drove west on Mulholland all the time wishing we were on our bikes as this road is very windy - perfect for a motorbike! Oh well, next time... We took a wrong turn somewhere on Mulholland and realized after a while that we were in fact heading north, not west. We eventually made it back on the right track but now we found ourselves on the dreaded 405 Freeway which even though it being a Saturday night was as busy as was it peak hour.

The next day we said goodbye to Adam, our brilliant host, and left for San Diego. We weren't too sad to see the back of LA. It is a complete clauster f**k. Too many people, too big a city and it takes forever to get anywhere. The City of Angels...well, I didn't find it to be that exactly.

The Pacific Coast Highway

 The rain clouds were chasing us all day

Ecstatic joy that I found actual Danish liqourice

Loser, I know...

Puncture with impeccable timing!

The road over the Santa Monica Mountains leading down to Malibu


Adam's garage in El Segundo

Busy at work!

Bye bye babies!

Venice Beach

Lots of surfers in the line-up!

Venice pier

Skaters at Venice Beach

I want his shoes

The "Green" Doctors

Baywatch anyone?

Mark at Santa Monica pier

Selfie time!

Route 66 ends here

Mark refused to pose as Mitch so you only get the car

I on the other hand posed as Pamela (except I'm missing my swimsuit and two other biiig assets!)

The Venice canals

Rodeo Drive, baby!

Julia Roberts fans might recognize the Beverly Wilshire Hotel from Pretty Woman

Street in Hollywood

 Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard

The Chinese Theatre, Hollywood

It's Alan!

LA seen from Mulholland Drive

Saying goodbye to our great host Adam!