In the realm of paved American thoroughfares, there are iconic names that speak to the character of specific places. New York City has the bold and lively spectacle of Broadway, as well as the nefarious shenanigans of Wall Street. There’s the pursuit of musical fame on Beale Street in Memphis and the seemingly endless party of Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., is the pavement of our democracy, and the barren desert of Nevada turned into a luminous gaming town, birthing Las Vegas Boulevard. Running through the center of the country are remnants of Route 66, a two-lane symbol of American freedom. On the west coast, there are Pacific Coast Highway and Hollywood Boulevard, a street paved with countless broken dreams.
However, there’s another stretch of asphalt in the City of Angels, a close cousin to Hollywood Blvd. It proffers a longer, more diverse tale of glitz and glamor, exemplifying the city’s excesses, as well as its seedy underbelly. Riding this legendary thoroughfare rewards you with a moving tabloid of the audaciousness and extravagance, the callousness and cruelty, the beauty and charm that is southern California. It’s called Sunset Boulevard.
Although Sunset Blvd serves as catalyst to many motorcycling adventures, standing as a gateway to the sublime California coast and the famously twisting backroads of the Santa Monica Mountains, it’s not necessarily a “motorcycle must” like, say, the Tail of the Dragon. In fact, save for but a handful of miles of gently winding road at its western reaches, where its four lanes dead-end into the Pacific Ocean, Sunset Blvd is more a state of mind, an entertaining sojourn through the soul of Los Angeles.
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Sunset Blvd transitions through some of the world’s most exclusive neighborhoods, through the heart of the dream machine of movies and music. It stands as a barometer to struggle and success, with lavish living at one end and tent cities at the other, a surreal 22-mile collage of contrasts.
The sun has set on Topanga Beach in Malibu. Diehard surfers brave the cold of the Pacific in the gathering dark, hoping for one last good ride to finish the day. Sunset Blvd starts here, at the ocean. Night has officially begun, and there’s a full moon. The Harley-Davidson Pan America is cranked over to begin this nocturnal trip.