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Lane-splitting through twilight city streets during our ride to Los Angeles (BC to Baja 8)

Orange tile roofs and white stucco are signs of Santa Barbara's Spanish heritage which compliment the colours of my KTM 1090 Adventure R

I shouldn’t be too picky when it comes to a camping breakfast, but finishing off the previous night’s bottle of ‘white’ isn’t a suitable substitute for oats, bacon, or hash browns. We can’t take it with us on our ride to Los Angeles, so I decided to offer it to our tenting neighbor, after all, isn’t it a crime to waste wine in California?

Our ride south never really had a plan outside of maintaining a general compass bearing of between 150 and 200 degrees at all times—that means south(ish) for those that don’t speak compass geek like Neil. Nevertheless, life can be unpredictable, and shortly after riding away from Canada, we received the sad news that a dear friend of ours had unexpectedly passed away.

Renee, a long-time family friend, and her family live in a suburb of Los Angeles. A beautiful woman, a wonderful wife and a mother of four. They had very kindly offered to look after us for a night as we passed through LA towards Mexico, but instead of meeting her for dinner, we concluded our ride to Los Angeles just in time to attend her celebration of life. We made it 20 minutes into the service by taking full advantage of the ability to lane-split (filter) in California, which is illegal in Canada. I’m so grateful we were able to arrive just-in-time to pay her husband John, and his family our respects. After the ceremony, I saw so many family members that I hadn’t seen for so long, piles of unexpected hugs filled my heart with joy even on this sad day. A couple of hours passed, and it was time to say goodbye. John is such a warrior, an amazing Father, full of strength, we’re lucky to call him our friend. I wish I could have spent more time with him.

Motorcycle camping poses additional challenges for those that need to do their hair in the morning. Karen made it look easy, it wasn't.
Motorcycle camping poses additional challenges for those that need to do their hair in the morning. Karen made it look easy, it wasn't.
There are signs of tiny hitch-hiker paws all over the bikes in the morning on our ride to Los Angeles, California
There are signs of tiny hitch-hiker paws all over the bikes in the morning on our ride to Los Angeles, California

It was now the middle of the afternoon, so Neil and I decided to do some touristy things before finding somewhere to stay. I have always wanted to visit the Hollywood sign and see the big billboards on Sunset Boulevard. Neil quickly Googled ‘the best place to see the Hollywood sign without a hike,’ and apparently, the top recommendation is Home Depot’s rooftop parking lot on Sunset Boulevard. 

Travelling while riding motorcycles is so much fun, but one of the few downsides is security. All of our stuff is right there for anyone to steal; camping gear, clothing, tools, electronics. Everything is on display and easy pickings for the wrong person. On the one hand, the bikes give you immense freedom to travel and explore, but on the other, they bind you to their side. It’s impossible to go for a leisurely walk to explore a location when we’re constantly worrying about losing all of our camping equipment and dirty underwear.

Palm trees line every street on our ride to Los Angeles, California
Palm trees line every street on our ride through Los Angeles
Santa Barbara motorcycle ride selfie

Our ride to the rooftop parking lot of Sunset Boulevard’s Home Depot took us past the gated community of Bel-Air, through the beautifully manicured streets of Beverly Hills (90210), and down the corridor of mile-high billboards at the foot of the Hollywood hills. I feel like I’m in a movie, scenes from consuming hundreds of hours of American television shows, such as the Fresh Prince and 90210, as a teenager flash before my eyes. I am in absolute awe as we turn off the Boulevard into Home Depot’s parking lot. My 90210 daydream paused as we tried to understand why this place is so highly recommended. After a moment of scanning through the Depot’s chaos of orange shopping carts, reversing traffic, and pickups loading 2×4’s, we noticed a parking ramp curving it’s way up to the rooftop and hoped the answer lay up there.

With dusk approaching, we rode up the ramp and immediately ‘the sign.’ This place is fantastic, an empty parking lot with a clear, unobstructed view of one of California’s most iconic sights. Yeah, it’s not as picturesque as if we’d taken a hike into the hills to see the Hollywood sign, but it’s a perfect plan B, considering we’re tied to the bikes. Thank you, Google reviews and Home Depot for making my day, I’m in love with this place.

With dusk approaching this rooftop car park presented a perfect view of the Hollywood sign without the hike.
With dusk approaching this rooftop car park presented a perfect view of the Hollywood sign without the hike.
motorcycle tour through the streets of Los Angles, stopping at the Hollywood sign

“Babe, let’s take a break and hang out for a bit,” Neil said while stepping off his bike and taking off his lid. So we took a few minutes to take in the sights and sounds of the bustling street below us while watching the giant Hollywood letters turn pink as the sun slowly set.

 

It was dark as we rode to our hotel through Los Angeles in the dark. I asked Neil over the intercom to try to avoid Compton if he could, “Ahh, ugg, okay, I don’t know where that is” was all I got in reply.

 

Whether remembered from iconic movie scenes or from playing Grand Theft Auto on the Playstation, we’ve all seen those brilliant LA sunsets and deep dark shadows. I thought they were augmented, colour enhanced in some way for dramatic effect, but they’re not. I’ll never forget this 20-minute ride to Los Angeles’ southern streets, headlights piercing through the darkness as we weaved our way through the traffic and emerging nightlife. The sky to the west was a vast carpet of brilliant orange and pink, contrasted sharply by the silhouettes of hundreds of 30-foot high palm trees looming above the darkness of the streets. A beautiful movie scene of our own making that I’ll never forget.

We reached our hotel, checked-in and unpacked the bikes in the dark. A quick wardrobe change and we were out again hunting for dinner. The pink sunset had disappeared, replaced by a vast blanket of darkness pierced with the flashing lights of dozens of airplanes circling above us, each patiently waiting it’s turn to land at LAX, one of the US’ busiest airports.

We weren’t in the best part of town for restaurant choices, but two blocks down from our hotel was a bar, which was no doubt lined with chatty bar stools waiting to bestow their worldly opinions onto us as we washed the events of the day down with a glass of wine.

Sitting at our usual seating selection ‘by-the-bar,’ we kicked the evening off with a Moscow Mule, which our socially awkward, 6′ 4″ tall bartender created by combining four shots of vodka and half a can of ginger ale. The cheap ginger ale lacked the kick of a Jamaican ginger beer, but the double concentration of liquor somewhat made up for it. Buzzed after a couple of sips, I decided that this unruly mule needed diluting with a splash of soda water.

Stage 7. San Simeon, California (CA) to Los Angeles, California (CA). Stage total: 257 miles, ride total: 1562 miles
Stage 7. San Simeon, California (CA) to Los Angeles, California (CA). Stage total: 257 miles, ride total: 1562 miles

The food we ordered and finished was terrible. Still, we were hungry, and there weren’t any other choices within walking distance, so I decided to dilute the four shots of vodka and wash away the taste of dinner with a glass of white wine. The barman had an open bottle from an event earlier, so kindly served me the rest of that, on the house, which went some way to make up for the shitty fare from earlier. We chatted with our new bar buddy for a while about our looming border crossing. He was this tall, big-bearded white guy in his 60’s who used to live just over the border and frequently traveled back and forth. Our conversation with him yielded some excellent advice for Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada, all the while awkwardly avoiding any eye contact with either of us all night.

The bar closed relatively early, but with nothing else to do in this part of the city, we headed back to the hotel. I planned to write a blog post in bed, but exhaustion from the hot freeways, lane-splitting, the ceremony of life, hurried sightseeing, and that Russian mule kicked in, and I quickly fell asleep.

The sun setting behind us as we ride to San Simeon, on our motorcycle adventure from BC to Baja.

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One Comment

  1. Carol Barnes

    As always, excellent writing. You are definitely an easy read and I look forward to seeing more of your adventures!

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