Wednesday, May 10th, 2006 – Distance travelled 586 miles

I love musical references and, weirdly, a lot of the ones contained in these notes are from songs by “The Eagles“. However, to break that mould, according to the singer Albert Hammond, “It never rains in Southern California” and, although I had been told that was not the case in the north of that State, it was already hot and sunny when I paid my bill and set off to travel even further north.

Unaware that, because of a still unrealised single moment of carelessness the day before, I was about to waste (at least in a theoretical sense) an entire day, I located Highway 1 which I knew would hug the coast all the way to San Francisco.

It was a picturesque route, even if it was a bit slow. The sun beat down and the Pacific, which under the cliffs seemed somehow to be an even bluer shade of blue than in the preceding days, stretched away west until it merged seamlessly with the sky. Try as I might, I could not discern the line of the horizon. It was quite windy though and, with my visor up, I could sometimes hear the waves crashing against the rocks somewhere far below me.

After a couple of hours, I came to San Francisco and Highway 1 switched to Highway 101 to cross over the famous Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge was absolutely rammed with traffic and I wondered if those people that crossed it regularly still appreciated its sheer grandeur. For instance Prague, where I live is spectacularly beautiful but this has never seemed to pall on me or become ordinary. I wondered whether any those drivers still looked across the bay and realised just how lovely it is. It had actually become quite hazy and to my right the city was gleaming in the sun through what might have actually been fog over the water. The spooky former prison, the island of Alcatraz, which sits in the middle of the bay, was scarcely visible at all.

Once over the Golden Gate bridge, I had to ignore the signs for Highway One as I was already some way north of my next destination which was Death Valley.

I had seen from a map in a service station that, just ahead of me, at San Rafael, there was a causeway across the water to the northern suburbs of San Francisco at Richmond, from where I could head south and inland. I pulled onto a scenic overlook, intending to snap the Golden Gate. But to take a picture, you need a camera and, despite unpacking my entire luggage I could not find it anywhere. Travelling as light as I was, there were not exactly any hiding places and it definitely was nowhere to be found. I am not one to panic, there was no point, it was, after all only a camera, but to lose all the pictures would have been a tragedy.

Because I had no camera, the image above was NOT taken by me – but it did look VERY similar to that, take my word for it.

As you do, I tried to remember when I had last used it and to visualise the last time I had seen it. Also, as you do, I drew a blank. Maybe, I thought, I had left it in the motel in Monterey, I took out my ‘phone and the bill and called the Monterey Pines. They were polite and helpful, but they did not have it. The more I thought about it, the more I could not remember taking any pictures the previous day. There had been nothing that had really cried out for it on the way down to San Diego or on the long drag back up the highway to Monterey. On impulse and more in hope than expectation, I called my motel in Los Angeles, the Manhattan Inn on Sepulveda Boulevard. I confess I had found it a bit drab and not especially welcoming, but I was informed at once that my camera was indeed in the reception there. I thanked them and promised to come back for it. It was over 400 miles away, but what the hell.

As planned, but with a certain degree of extra urgency, I took the crossing over the bay to Richmond. The causeway was an impressive feat of engineering and, together with the famous (and ominous) prison of San Quentin which lays near on a headland near the coast at its start, would have made a good picture. What a shame it was that I did not have a camera …..

Across the bay, I took Route 580 heading south along the shoreline with the university suburb of Berkley on my left. The melded into the Route 580 as it passed through Oakland, the birthplace of the Hell’s Angels and I held to that route until I came to San Jose without having to ask anyone if they knew the way there.

Then, I continued south on Route 101, which I had shunned earlier that morning. This was not the fastest way, but I deliberately kept to this route until I came to the smaller Route 156, near San Juan Batistuta, where I branched off to ride through and, at least see, the small town of Hollister. Hollister is famous for a riot that took place there during a motorcycle rally in 1947 which was used as the basis of the iconic film, “The Wild One” which starred Marlon Brando. I used a stock photo for illustration.

Homage paid to my internal “Wild One“, I then continued on Route 152 all the way to Highway 5 which I followed all the way back to Los Angeles.

Having been there before, I located the Manhattan Inn (3301 N Sepulveda Blvd, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266) fairly easily, despite the fearsome early evening traffic. I reclaimed both my camera and my old room. Then, not being one to ignore sound advice from the Police, rode the Harley (instead of walking) down the Boulevard until I came to Grunion’s Sports Bar (1501 N Sepulveda Blvd, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266) which I remembered passing by on my trip south. It was quite a way, but I was on two wheels and, having been in Oakland and Hollister in one day, I was feeling pretty much the “outlaw” !! The food was superb and made the ride down there well worth it !

Another long tiring day ended and, having revised my initial poor impressions of the Manhattan Inn, I dropped gratefully off to sleep in about 5 seconds.