California Coastline

Text: Alfonse Palaima • Photography: Alfonse Palaima

Imagine the Pacific Ocean crashing against the rocky coast of California’s northern half, a ribbon of asphalt longer than a day’s ride drawing the line between the land and the sea, and you’re on your way there right now. Your flight is booked, your motorcycle rental is all lined up and your status updates updated. But where do you sleep?

You’ve got the company of your good friends and reservations at some of the area’s best restaurants. But how do you know which hotel is going to be the best one? Online reviews tend to go both ways – “we loved it, we hated it” – leaving you without a clue, until now. Especially in the remote locations we travel to, it’s hard to tell which hotel to choose when booking in advance. You don’t want the most memorable part of your ride to be the sore back you got the first night out, that’s for sure.

Introduced this year, after 65 years in business, the Best Western hotel chain, touted as the world’s largest (family) hotel chain, has instituted a new and democratically elected nomenclature to help you choose the right experience for your dollars. We’ve planned this tour to experience a range from the standard Best Western hotel to the Best Western Plus and Best Western Premier, while experiencing possibly the best the West Coast has to offer a rider: the Pacific Coast Highway and the adjoining wine country.

Some might call a ride like this their honeymoon; others may call it their Sunday Ride. Either way, the coastal twisties north of California’s “other” capital city, San Francisco, toward the Oregon border is a must-see for any rider. And checking all the high-end boxes on the wish list will lead you on a tour through nearly a dozen counties, ripe vineyards, redwood groves, coastal bluffs and a dizzying array of culinary delights.

Gathering a group of friends from different cities can be complicated, with layovers, flight delays and time zone changes. So when we get together, we often group up the night before our rental pickups start, as a buffer for any such mishaps in travel. With our tour starting in the Bay Area, a night’s stay close to the airport is handy, although if you want to see the city of San Francisco itself, you’ll have to hop on public transit or hire a car, as the airport is 15 miles from the city. That doesn’t stop us from beginning our moto-grub tour tonight, however. And with coastal bliss on our wine-soaked minds, tomorrow’s ride can’t arrive soon enough!

Our tour is a clockwise romp, dotted with a frequent-flyer mindset in regards to lodging. Travel by motorcycle tends to be more economical, leaving more cash for better meals and better accommodations. Taking advantage of the seasonal point bonuses at the Best Western hotel chain, we’re racking up future free nights along the way. In concert with the Harley-Davidson/Best Western Ride Rewards program, each night’s stay at one of the 2,200 nationwide Best Western locations (4,000 worldwide, 1,200 of which are “rider friendly”) gives us points we can turn into free nights, gifts or even airline miles. Besides, who doesn’t want a welcoming face, special motorcycle parking and a hot tub to soak in after a long day in the saddle? All part of the package.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the January/February 2012 back issue.