We breakfasted at the wonderfully-named Bogies café where the owner was delightful, he was quite a character. Apparently one of the guys from Santana used to be a regular, so much so that people forgot he was a celebrity and he became ‘just another customer’.
Don and Kim then took us on a tour of the area. It was really nice to be chauffeured around by people who knew the best places to go and were able to give us all the little bits of information you would never get from the tourist books. I’m afraid we didn’t help much with the itinerary. They were very considerate and asked where we would like to go but as we didn’t know what was around we really didn’t know. They did a grand job and we all had a good time, we even visited somewhere they’d not been to before but more of that later.
Kevin has always liked Johnny Cash’s music and one of his favourite albums is a live performance in San Quentin jail. We didn’t realise where the prison was until Don pointed it out. He took us right to the entrance and it was too good an opportunity to miss. We were relieved we weren’t all arrested for taking the pictures, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been so easy in the UK. It was a bit weird having all this security right next to a nice residential area but no-one seemed phased by it.
We didn’t notice the little side road that takes you high above the Golden Gate bridge when we were last here (I suppose we were a little pre-occupied with getting rally photos) but again Don and Kim’s local knowledge was invaluable. We drove up a tiny windy road that soared above the bay and were rewarded with fantastic views of the bay and the bridge. The America’s Cup was in progress and we were able to see one of the yachts manoeuvering. It didn’t look like there were any other boats competing though so we weren’t really sure what was going on. Don explained the winning country is able to change the rules for next time which led to some rather dodgy rules being set up in the past that favoured the Americans. America, represented by the New York Yacht Club, held the cup from 1857 until 1983 when it was successfully challenged by the Royal Perth Yacht Club from Australia. Somehow they found a way to work with the new rules and still arrive with a competitive boat.
Back down at sea level and further round the coast we spotted something interesting – it looked like a missile. Sure enough it was, a Nike missile.
Between 1953 and 1979 the United States Army built and operated close to 300 Nike missile firing batteries in the United States. These have been decommissioned and the site, SF-88, is being restored as a museum.
It was really interesting. The guys who showed us round were all involved with the missiles when they were active and gave us a good insight into what it was like working at one of these sites. Don said he’d been thinking about taking this tour for some time but had just never got around to it.
Don is a keen sailor and took us to his club for dinner. It was lovely sitting looking out at the sunset. We were lucky though, we’d just finished our meals when the whole area was plunged into darkness by a power cut. They seemed used to this happening as candles were soon produced and we ended the evening with a candlelit drink.
We were up reasonably early as Don had suggested going to Alice’s Restaurant, a local biker haunt, for breakfast. That sounded good to us. He had some lovely biking roads up his sleeve to show us and we followed him as he led us through the fog over the bridge, through the back-streets of San Francisco and into some beautiful country lanes (well, US versions of ‘lane’ which are a bit bigger than the UK version). We’d never have found the roads he took us on and would probably have just gone straight down the coast.
Alice’s Restaurant is tucked away in the middle of a forest down a small windy road. It was named after an Arlo Guthrie song by a previous owner, Alice Taylor, but is not the original Alice’s Restaurant from the song. Their catch-line is ‘you can get anything you want…at Alice’s Restaurant’. We certainly got what we wanted which was bacon/sausages, eggs (over easy), hash browns and orange juice. Oh yes, Kevin also bought a tee shirt. We often come back from holiday with armfuls of tee shirts but he’d been really good, apart from the IBR shirt I think this was his first of the trip.
The car park had a mixture of cars, push bikes and lots of motorbikes. Unusually for the US it wasn’t all Harley’s. There were all sorts of bikes: old, new, British, German, Japanese and American. On the other side of the road was the section where the lads on their sports bikes congregated. They would go off in small groups and you could hear them zooming round the bends having fun.
After breakfast Don led us a bit further, past the piece of land Neil Young owns, then turned right to go home while we went left down the coast towards San Diego. Thanks Don and Kim for being wonderful hosts and guides.
Our plan for the next two days was to have a slow wander down the coast but it was foggy again and really busy. We were travelling on a major coastal route in the middle of the holiday season so we weren’t really surprised by the traffic. When we were here in January 2008 we drove all the way down the coast in bright warm sunshine, stopping where we wanted, and saw very few other vehicles. We’d always wanted to ride it but this just wasn’t living up to our memory. Couple this with the warm, friendly, pull of Paul, Mary and their house and the eventual result after about about 150 miles was “Paul and Mary’s is only 400 miles or so away, shall we go straight there by the most direct route?” coming through the speakers. “Good Idea” I responded. We knew Paul was out of town with their daughter Erin but hoped Mary would be there and not too shocked we were a day early. Turning east away from the coast we headed towards the I5.
We finally arrived in Carlsbad, happy to be there but sad this meant the end of our trip. It had been a long time since we left here at silly-o-clock in the morning to start our epic adventure but it had gone so quickly, too quickly.
We thought we might spend a couple of days riding round the local sites but once we were off the bike found ourselves sleeping and relaxing, catching up on news and writing up the blog as we were running a couple of weeks behind.
I did find time to conduct an experiment using all due scientific rigour. Kevin wasn’t sure if his newer (it’s hardly ‘new’ after all those miles), lighter in colour Klim jacket really was cooler than the older black one or if he’d just become acclimatised to the heat. I wondered if my Halvarssons jacket was cooler with or without the Outlast liner. Halvarssons claims the liner makes it cooler but I was sceptical so I shoved a couple of ice cubes in each of four plastic bags and put one in each of the Klim jackets. I then put another bag in one leg of my Halvarrsssons trousers and wrapped the final bag in the Outlast liner before putting it in the other leg. All the garments then went on to the patio under the Californian sun. I checked them after 30 minutes but little melting had taken place. After another 30 minutes I could see the differences. No experiment is valid without peer review so I showed Kevin the bags and he agreed with my findings. The bag in my trousers with no liner had least ice in, the one wrapped in the Outlast liner had more so it appears to work. Both Klim jackets had the same amount of ice in, more than either of the Halvarssons, so the colour appears to make no difference. You heard it here first!
On Thursday we dropped the bike off in Los Angeles ready to be shipped back to the UK. While there we met a couple of guys who were picking up a car that had just returned from the Goodwood Festival of Speed – the Hemi Under Glass.
Kevin was asked to park the bike in a spot that was a bit tight. Good job he’s used to filtering as the car he squeezed past was apparently worth $20m! There were some very nice bikes and cars there.
On Friday we visited Thomas in La Jolla. Thomas had been in contact with Kevin and recommended some of his favourite roads; we enjoyed them too. We drove into the town and after a couple of circuits found an empty parking space then wandered down to the restaurant where Thomas had made breakfast reservations for us all. “What’s that smell?!” It was pretty acrid and turned out to be a large colony of pelicans and cormorants that had made their home on rocks just below the restaurant (and lots of residential and other properties). Last time I was in La Jolla I didn’t notice it and Thomas said it had only really happened over the past couple of years. A barrier was built to prevent people walking on the rocks after someone was injured diving from them and, undisturbed, the birds’ numbers have increased dramatically with inevitable consequences. We had a nice breakfast indoors and it was funny watching people choose to eat outside then change their minds once they got there.
Thomas has built this eccentric walkway and tree house. Unfortunately a neighbour complained to the council and he will have to take it down unless he can get a structural engineer to say it is safe.
When we got back from Thomas’ we had a quick change then it was off to San Diego for a concert. We caught the train and had about an hour before Mary finished work and picked us up. San Diego has a lovely old-town and we wandered round there for a while. There is a Sheriff’s Museum which was very interesting. We enjoyed finding out about the plethora of (deactivated) guns they had displayed and the first Sheriff who was apparently also the founding father of the Californian wine industry.
The concert was in a brilliant location, just by the sea front and outdoors without a drop of mud in sight. The two artists we saw were Buddy Guy still going strong at 77 and George Thorogood, still going strong in his tight jeans at 63! Before being asked if we wanted to go to the concert I’d never heard of either artist (Kevin knew of Buddy Guy) but all the Americans we spoke to knew them and said we’d enjoy it; we did. It was interesting being in an American audience which is much more demonstrative and vocal than a typical English one…at least in our experience – perhaps it’s the type of gig we usually go to.