Loveride

Text: Derrel Whitemyer • Photography: Derrel Whitemyer

Sunday morning at Glendale Harley-Davidson's 19th LOVERIDE the crowd is so tightly packed we're on a first-name basis. Twenty-four hours ago I took farm roads, not freeways, south from Monterey to Los Angeles. Most of these frontage roads were built over stagecoach runs profiling the land's natural features. Conversely, hopping one of the major freeways to Los Angeles gets you to the LOVERIDE faster, but then you miss the many attractions of the landscape.

Storms left Saturday's corners wet and the Carmel Valley Road was no exception, with some gravel runoffs added to keep me mindful through the twisties. Exiting the southern end near Arroyo Seca placed me on farm roads to King City. From there I was forced to endure a couple of Intrastate 101 miles before turning onto Jolon Road. Its series of winding curves led me, in about forty-five minutes, past Fort Hunter Liggett, Lake San Antonio, and Lake Nacimiento.

Paso Robles, a good gas stop, and Hwy 46 heads west for the ocean. Scrambled eggs at Pismo Beach come with a side of showers with droplets the size ofgrapes. They bang off the restaurant window and dare a run for the Bandit. The white garbage bag I tied to the seat cartwheels down the street.

The squall ended, a ten-minute run down 101 to Hwy 166's turnoff brings me into sunshine. Above the city of Santa Maria, I turn east and follow Hwy 166 along the Los Padres Forest foothills all the way to Hwy 33's junction leading to Ventura. The next two hours treat me to some of the best riding in California.

In Ventura I take Oxnard Boulevard westward. This close to Los Angeles you can't avoid traffic but you can avoid freeway driving. It's a longer spin to the Coast Highway but much more scenic and definitely a lot less stressful.

That night Branscombe Richmond and his wife Lei hosted a pre-LOVERIDE party featuring some of Indian Motorcycles newest models. I stayed two hours, drooling over Chiefs, Spirits, and customized Scouts, and headed for my son's house and bed. Tomorrow demanded an early start.

Tomorrow is today and I'm elbow-to-elbow with the press gathered at Glendale Harley-Davidson. LOVERIDE coordinator Annet Peairs graciously granted a pass to photograph the beginning of the ride and, wandering around, I did more looking than photographing. A convenient bench in the corner drew my tired legs to it. Moments later, Lorenzo Lamas folded himself onto the same bench. Great minds must think alike.

In the course of our short visit I discovered he's an avid swimmer who loves to surf. I already knew his love of motorcycles started when he built his first Shovelhead chopper, but surfing!? Hearing where I came from, he offered to mark my map with an alternate path home, part of a route he'd taken on his Softail Deuce from Vancouver, Canada. On hiatus from his TV series, "Immortal," and wanting to unwind, he said of the ride to Los Angeles, "It was a good way to catch up with the wind." His route from Hollister south became my return trip north from Lake Castaic.

Once the officials told us to get ready to leave, I sneaked my little 1200 Bandit into the pack about three rows back from the lead Harleys and when they start their engines I can tell mine's running only from the gauges.

The 50-mile trip from Glendale Harley-Davidson to Lake Castaic goes by quickly. People on overpasses wave arms, American flags, and flash the occasional moon. Just before the end of this ride, I veer from the pack to park outside, my goal being to hear some Sheryl Crow songs and leave. I'm under no illusion I'll make it home before dark following the Lamas way, so leaving early becomes a given.

Lorenzo's route has me climbing Castaic Canyon Road north past Castaic Dam. Well-kept, it soon becomes Ridge Route, a road that's been upgraded without losing any of its curvaceous personality. Just after Sanberg you'll turn left onto Pine Canyon Road and head north for Gorman. Gas up, there's not much to be had beyond. In the descent past Gorman, Pine Canyon changes back to Ridge Route, Mountain Park, and then to Cuddy Valley Road. It's the only way to go until you turn north onto the West Side Highway.

Lamas left me with one caveat: "Watch out for valley fog." And that's exactly what I found. Passing Taft with the Caliente Mountains on my left, everything's on schedule. But on Hwy 58's halfway mark to Paso Robles, I crest a small hill and enter a fallen cloud that's so close to the ground my light bounces back. From what I can see, it covers the rest of valley. But it's still light out and ghostly foothills sprawl in the distance.

Immersion in fog is like going underwater. First your visor gets wet along with your leathers, space becomes an opaque distortion, and the mist closes round. Damp enters the bones, and the light dims to the point where my Bandit's bouncing bulb is the only source showing the way.

My head finally breaks free, a vision of bodiless flight - and it's enough like the opening scene in "Renegade," with Lorenzo emerging from the mist on his Softail Custom, I had to laugh. This emergence, a poor facsimile, profiled one soaked-to-the-skin, glad to be back in the sun Bandit rider.

From Paso Robles, Indian Valley Road becomes Peach Tree Road paralleling Hwy 101 to Hwy 25, which takes me home to Hollister. And by that time, moonbeams and starlight had taken over.

[My thanks go to Lorenzo, for sharing his ride home, and to Annet Peairs and Branscombe Richmond, for inviting me to cover the LOVERIDE. It's a wonderful charity raising millions of dollars for Muscular Dystrophy research.]

RIDE SAFE