Day 1 – Getting to Santa Barbara


5 May 2019 in California, Some Infidelity

The first ride of the season is a journey of acclimatization. You are reacquainting yourself with your bike, and with riding in general. You are shaking out the cobwebs, finding equilibrium and generally embracing the rhythm and balance of life on two wheels. As a general rule, then, starting out on an LA highway just before Friday rush hour on someone else’s motorcycle would at the best of times be considered unadvisable.


And yet that’s pretty much the position I found myself in.

Yesterday, I wrapped up what can only be described as a marathon of work. This morning, I flew from Toronto to Los Angeles. I disembarked the plane, stepped into a cab, identified my designation and received the withering stare known to frequent flyers everywhere: “Really?That’s as far as you want to go?!? I navigated the taxi stand for three hours for that?!?” And yet. I’m not walking, and that’s my destination, so yes. Yes I do.

Somewhere down there is Tahoe. There is an epic road leading south and west. I want to ride it someday.

Renting motorcycles is always an interesting challenge. There aren’t many organizations that do it, for starters. And you never know QUITE what you are going to get. Sometimes that relates to specific model. And sometimes that relates to just how old—and in just what quality—the bike you ride will find itself.

For this ride, I was renting from EagleRider. Which has positives, and it has negatives. The positives are that they are owned by a major motorcycle manufacturer (Harley-Davidson), have a surprising number of rental locations, and as a result are one of the very few places that will do a one-way rental. Especially a one-way rental from Los Angeles all the way to Seattle. The downside is that they’re owned by a major motorcycle manufacturer (Harley-Davidson), which means their more prevalent bike of choice is, well, a Harley.

Arriving at EacleRider. Still in a good mood at this point.

They do rent other bikes, though. Including BMWs. Which I’m known to have a predilection for. And so—all the way back in January—I booked a BMW R1200RT. And, while it costs a little more, EagleRider will even let you guarantee your selected model. (This is known as foreshadowing; there will be more on this important detail very soon).

EagleRider definitely channels the whole Harley vibe. Everything is black and orange and classic rock. It took a little to get served (you literally had to sign up on a clipboard first). But eventually I got helped, and we looked up my reservation. And then the rental agent says, “Yeah, some bad news. We don’t have the bike you booked. So we’ll have to get a little creative here.” Which prompts the query of exactly how creative we will need to become.

Apparently they had some issues with customers not returning bikes on time, or crashing them. There was a BMW GS that was due back about 5pm (it was 1:30pm when I got to the rental place). Or we could go out back and see what was there. So we went out back to take a look. And there were Harleys. Lots and lots of Harleys. It was suggested that a Street Glide might suit my tastes. Which would be an entirely incorrect assumption.

There were also, however, two BMWs there. Waiting to go. And I asked about them. To be told that they were booked by people that had paid to reserve the specific model. I pointed out once again that I, too, had paid to book the specific model. Except that neither my reservation, nor my confirmation email, had this vital piece of information on it.

To the rental agent’s credit, though, he did engage in some serious thinking out of the box to figure out how we might make my ride work. He suggested that I take a Harley for now, and that he’d call up to San Francisco and have them hold an RT there that I could pick up as I went through. Except San Francisco didn’t have any RTs. And South SF didn’t have any either. And checking back with the first SF location, because he was pretty sure they were there, they confirmed that they DID have them, but they were on a truck heading for Los Angeles. Getting in around midnight.

Further creative solutions involved meeting the truck along the way. Or the truck dropping a bike off at my hotel, and picking up the one I took. And then I asked, “Well, if you’ve got four RTs coming in tonight, why can’t you give me the one you have now that isn’t supposed to go out until tomorrow?” This got a bit of hemming-and-hawing, and mentions that “we don’t know what condition the bikes are.” But eventually they decided that they would take the odds that at least one of them would be rentable (there were four, after all) and gave me the bike.

Packing for a motorcycle trip is always interesting. It’s a balance of what you need, and how much space you require. I knew that the RT saddle bags hold about 33 liters each (which actually translates to about 10″ x 11″ x 19″ of space). Which is really not a lot. And the challenge was that I had to fly with everything that I needed, and—because it was a one way rental—everything (including my carrying bag) needed to be able to be carried on the bike. One 60 liter duffle stuffed within an inch of its life was my basic solution to this conundrum.

Packed and ready. Finally. Time to hit the open(ish) road.

Things duly squared away (which was made infinitely easier by the presence of an unexpected top box) I proceeded to hit the open road. Given that rush hour was looming, I wanted to be on my way as soon as possible. Me and the bike started rolling at 2:30pm. The freeway on-ramp was a half-mile away. And so began my first ride out of the season.

I can say with quiet certainty that my first ride of the season didn’t actually involve me getting out of second gear for about the first hour. Rush hour starts early in LA. Or, more to the point, traffic never stops. Pretty much from the time I merged onto an epic freeway, I was in stop and go traffic. So less rhythmic flow, more chronic creeping forward.

Once we got far enough away from LA, things picked up a bit. And then they slowed down. And then they picked up. And then they slowed down. By the time I got to Camarillo, I was a good 1.5 hours into the ride, and it was saying I had 45 minutes to go. 45 minutes later, I had 43 minutes to go. It didn’t get much better.

Total travel time to Santa Barbara from LAX was just under 3.5 hours. The distance is less than 90 miles. Entirely by freeway. I have no idea how people live here, and do this every day. At the end of my ride, though, was an awesome B&B (the Cheshire Cat Inn). And a very good friend (that would be Breton). And a glass of wine (a delightful unoaked Chardonnay). In the garden. While we enjoyed a glass (or two, or three) of wine, Breton and I caught up on several months absence, and plotted our coming days.

The Cheshire Cat Inn. A delightful oasis at the end of the day.

I think I need more wine…

A great place to relax and unwind.

We had a delightful dinner at a nearby restaurant. It started with a spectacular martini (tequila for Breton), moved on to more wine, and featured some of the most entertaining service I’ve had in a restaurant in some time. By the same token, I think we were among the more entertaining patrons she’s had in some time. So that worked quite well all around. A delightful stroll back to the B&B, and Breton and I went to crash in our rooms, to dream of rides to come in the days hence.

Here’s to another day of riding tomorrow.

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