Central California: A Study In Contrast

Central California: A Study In Contrast | RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel

Nature does not always define borders the way humans do. An imaginary line scrawled on some obscure document can define and separate societies, but Earth itself has more dramatic means of doing so.

California is a case study in how, just below the surface, the planet resembles a butcher’s chart of competing land masses.

Arguably, the most conspicuous geologically-defined border in California is the San Andreas Fault. Although most of this 750-mile-long rift is hidden underground, in the Carrizo Plain of central California, you can see it as a ruler-straight crease, resembling a low mountain range.

At the southern end of the fault’s above-ground appearance, it makes a turn east before heading south. This change in direction resulted in the Transverse Ranges and some of America’s most unique topography.

Central California: A Study In Contrast | RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel

Only two major mountain ranges in the U.S. buck the standard north-south orientation, running east to west instead. Those are the Uinta Mountains in Utah and the Transverse Ranges in California. The latter define the state’s topography from Santa Monica to San Bernardino.

Eventually, Earth will likely pull everything south of Santa Barbara away from the rest of California on a continental drift journey together with Baja California. So, for the purposes of this story, I’ll center my journey around the “real California”—from a geological perspective.

Escape From L.A.

Los Angeles is a fascinating and diverse place, but one of its most defining characteristics is the biblical traffic. Blanca, my riding partner, and I intentionally chose to depart Orange County mid-day to reduce the potential of being stuck amongst the sea of cars.

Motorcycle & Gear

2023 Ducati Multistrada V4 Rally

Helmet: Arai XD4
Jackets: REV’IT! Dominator GTX, REV’IT! Sand 4 H2O
Pants: REV’IT! Sand 4, REV’IT! Sand 4 H2O
Boots: TCX Baja Mid, Forma Terra Evo
Gloves: REV’IT! Cayenne Pro, 100% Brisker
Comms System: Cardo PackTalk Edge

Even in the middle of an uneventful Monday afternoon, the crowd of commuters stretched as far as the eye could see. However, we were on a Ducati Multistrada V4 Rally and rallied our way through the throng, thanks to California’s lane-splitting laws.

Hints of the “real California” started popping up as we passed through Malibu and beyond Point Dume. Rustic ocean views directly adjacent to LA were short lived, as the route northward headed inland around the Point Mugu Naval Air Station.

Just as quickly, however, SR 1 joined US 101 for a moment and met the coast again in Ventura.

A detour through the small coastal town is well worth the time. Modern artisan shops and deep history are woven together tightly here.

Peirano’s Italian market and deli is directly across the street from both an archeological dig and the Mission Basilica San Buenaventura, established in 1782. Equally interesting are the small information plaques on the outside of the deli itself—the back half of this building was once the washroom for the mission.

Central California: A Study In Contrast | RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel

Just moments from this spot is the junction of US 1 and SR 33. This is where the southern part of the “real California” loop begins.

The Ambassador City

Santa Barbara welcomed us as if trying to present California’s best face. Some chaotic road construction shortly after exiting US 101 was quickly replaced with a short, scenic ride along the coast and past a wetland preserve.

Soon after, we arrived at the Santa Barbara Inn. A mix of high-end luxury and small-town quaintness would be the theme from here on out.

The pedestrian area on State St has another pronounced mix of modernity and history, with Plaza de la Guerra from the 18th century bordered by a Lululemon and a Supercuts.