Central California Winter Motorcycle Ride

Mike, Guenevere, and Kevin in Carmel Valley

Mike, Guenevere, and Kevin in Carmel Valley

As the sun brightened the sky on this crisp January dawn, we rose with adventure on our minds. Kevin and I dressed and ate our usual oatmeal breakfast, eager to head out on two wheels. He, astride his Kawasaki Ninja 250, and I, on top of my sexy Honda Hawk NT650, left the house heading to Joyrides of Monterey. Joyrides is a very cool company offering rentals of classic Ducati motorcycles. The plan was to meet up with Rich and Mike (of Joyrides) for a 2 -3 hour ride in Monterey County. Greetings and a quick tour of the shop lead way to the commencement of our journey. Joyrides is located in Ryan Ranch off of Highway 68 near the Monterey Airport and from there we headed east on Highway 68 to Los Laureles grade. Having grown up in Monterey, I am familiar with this twisty 6 mile hop from 68 to Carmel Valley and was eager to lean into it. On this sunny Saturday it did not disappoint. The only thing holding me back were my guides, Mike and Rich, in front of me. Understandably they were taking it slow to gauge our experience levels (I had mentioned to them that Kevin was a new rider). While I raced on the heels of our leaders, Kevin took it easy, while staying in sight. At the bottom of the grade we turned left to head southeast on Carmel Valley Road. After we passed through Carmel Valley Village, the roads became less familiar to me, as I hadn’t been this way in many years and never on a motorcycle. The warm familiar smell of the Valley filled my nose as we swooped past oak trees and dry grass; ancient memories filled my mind of past trips down this road. One stark detail that kept my mind on the road was the poor quality of the asphalt, perhaps Kevin and I are spoiled by being Oregon riders, because since riding together we hadn’t come across any roads that showed this much wear. While the geometry of the road was excellent, and my favorite type of riding, the patchwork of different colors and textures in the surface kept this motorcyclist on her toes. I thought in my helmet that Kevin was really getting to see how changes in road surface feel on a bike, and how this was great experience for him.

Joyrides Monterey

Hanging at Joyrides before our ride.

We stopped at the end of the valley around where the road morphs from East Carmel Valley Road into Arroyo Seco Road. This brief stretch allowed Rich to conduct some on the fly maintenance, as his brake fluid had been leaking out of his master cylinder. A quick round of tape for the rim and over the cap and off we rode. From this point on the trip became unfamiliar to me. I had been this far out the valley only once or twice before. We continued to twist around the rolling hills until taking Elm Avenue to the right down the hill leading to a small one lane bridge over a river bed. After the bridge, Elm Avenue lead us through dry, barren looking, grape vineyards. A ninety degree turn onto Central Avenue took us closer to Hwy 101 and eventually we jumped on heading south. We took the first exit, Jolon Road, and stopped at the gas station for a pit stop. Drinking water and trudging around in my boots, I was able to stretch out my legs and back, my bike keeps me hugged and leaning over the tank ready for action. Kevin asked Mike how much further and his answer of ‘half way’ made me realize the intention to go all the way to Paso Robles, which I had heard them mention the evening before, but I sure didn’t think we could get there and back in 2 – 3 hours. Kevin seemed game to keep going, so how could I refuse. I also knew that Kevin didn’t know how much further it was to our lunch stop.

Back on the road heading south down Jolon the speeds increase as the curves lengthened. The landscape, an ever changing shade of brown, became spotted with oaks trees and the occasional driveway leading to a large ranch. We passed deer foraging, birds fleeing our exhaust noise, and horse corals. Eventually, we came to a four way intersection where we turned right, taking out path ever more southward. This turn onto Interlake Road took us parallel along the south side of the San Antonio Reservoir and connected us to Nacimiento Lake Drive, where we took a right again, climbing back to back 180 degree curves over looking Nacimiento Dam and then down along the dam itself. With this view and our slow cruise across, it became painfully clear how in need of rain California truly was. The sides of the hills shone a cleared beige where the water used to cover the earth, keeping grass and shrubs away. Cars parked near the water line sat well under the previous water level. Not long after passing the dam, the road changed its name to Godfey Road, and funneled us on to 24th Street in Paso Robles. Again following our leaders, we turned right onto Spring Street and made our way to City Park. Mike and Rich already having a lunch spot in mind took us to Artisan on 12th Street across from the park.

The restaurant, dressed in dark earth tones, had large half circle leather like booths large enough to accommodate four motorcyclists with helmets and jackets. The environment was upscale, and I had high hopes for the menu. I’ll have to confess here that I am a bit of a foodie elitist, and I have some dietary restrictions which usually require me to create my own meal at most restaurants. Artisan’s menu, lengthy as it was, boasted many meat-centric dishes, as well as hand made pizzas, none of which I can eat, or even have interest in. After my recent travel to Seattle, I figured I’d ask if they had any gluten free options or substitutions, I had some amazing GF pizzas up north. Alas, the waitress informed me they didn’t not offer anything specifically for the gluten intolerant. I chose my items carefully ordering the persimmon salad and asked if it was possible to get a side of quinoa, since I noticed it coming with a different dish. The Chef agreed to do a side of quinoa, though they informed me the kitchen was out of persimmons, and asked if dried figs would suffice. I begrudgingly agreed.

Our lunch conversation ventured away from motorcycles and on to food due to my ordering of an unusual side dish. We covered favorite food, on which the boys all agreed ketchup, ice cream, and mac and cheese are in the top five. By the end of lunch, I had everyone try a bite of the excellent quinoa, which was flavored with what the waitress named Herbs De Province.  Upon further inquiry, the main ingredient in that spice medley was Tyme. It was fabulous, definitely my favorite side of quinoa I’ve had yet (okay, yes, I do frequently order quinoa as a side). After an excellent lunch, we walked back out into the warm winter sun and prepared to head home. Our lunch being quite late, I’m guessing it was around 3PM when we left, Kevin and I were eager to head back. Neither of us had packed clothes for the smaller temperatures of night.

Protecting from the wind with more layers.

Protecting from the wind with more layers.

The very dry looking vineyards

The very dry looking vineyards

Back on the road, with the goal of home in mind, we picked up the pace. A quick stop to fill my tank, as my bike has fairly short legs of about 120 miles, was the only thing in our way. We went back up the side roads that brought us here while taking a quick stop on the side of Central among the vineyards to attire ourselves for the dropping temperature, as well as the strong head wind. Lucky for me, Mike had an extra long-sleeve shirt he lent me and it helped tremendously. We backtracked up to the small one-lane bridge, where we turned right to head north on Arroyo Secca Road rather than going back through the valley. This took us up to Fort Romie Road, later turning into River Road and running along the east side of the hills, but west of Highway 101. Once on this stretch, the hills protected us from the chilling wind and my tendency toward shivers eased. We stayed on River Road to Highway 68, where it becomes Reservation Road. Stopping in Marina for pit stop, and to part ways with Mike and Rich, Kevin and I hurriedly straddled our bikes and raced for my Mom’s house.

Having put Kevin to the test, his first all day ride and lots of curves to navigate, I feel safe saying he is turning into an excellent rider, I am very eager to get him out there some more. Of course, on our return to Portland, we discovered the cooler temperatures not to our liking after the 67 degree day we enjoyed in Monterey Country, a few days later the temperature went even higher! Alas, now winter has hit Portland heavily, at least 8″ of snow, freezing rain, and now finally the forecast predicts rain for the foreseeable future. I apologize for the delay in posting this ride, but due to The One Motorcycle Show, I became super busy trying to finish paintings in time.

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