Having just secured a Heritage Softail Classic from EagleRider, a Harley Davidson renter in San Jose California, I was on my way to US 1 and the scenic California shoreline.
Before I began my adventure, I wanted to make a tee shirt run, and jumped on the freeway for the quick blast down 101 to Morgan Hill and the House of Thunder Harley Davidson. The blazing 95 degree sun that lit Silicone Valley that day had yet to impose its will on the entire coastline. As I traveled south toward Morgan Hill, a looming, dense fog bank grew in the closing horizon, and I hoped that it would dissolve before I reached that point in my journey.
At the House of Thunder I got more than a great tee shirt. A man with a 2007 Heritage Softail Classic was inquiring about my ride. After sharing with him that my Harley was a rental and what my plans were, he offered to take me through the mountains to the coast. While this wasn’t my mapped out route, what’s an adventure without strong doses of the unknown? I gladly accepted.
A few side streets from the parking lot of the House of Thunder, and we were following Watsonville Road to route 152, Hecker Pass Highway. I was quick to appreciate why my tour guide chose this route.
Hecker Pass Highway is a narrow road that twists and turns its way over Mt. Madonna. The surrounding landscape is a combination of stunning vineyards, farms and forest. Since I was still getting used to the Heritage Softail Classic, which is (obviously) bigger than the ’06 Sportster I have garaged at home, it was a challenge at times to take in the scenery and keep up with my speedy tour guide along this mountain pass.
As we reached the peak, I was afforded a quick look to the valley below before beginning our descent. Dotted with farms and country roads, the town at the foot of the mountain seemed unspoiled by time. Second was the gear of choice, keeping the bike from rapidly accelerating down the southwest side of Mt. Madonna toward Wastonville.
It was on the outskirts of Watsonville that I thanked my tour guide and per his instruction, followed route 129 to US 1.
Traveling south on US 1 I felt like I had landed on the set of a History Channel special. All around me, and as deep as I could see, were produce farms, with armies of migrant workers laboring to excavate varieties of vegetables from the earth. I thought to stop and take a picture, but not wanting to be disrespectful to people trying to make a living, I keep moving toward Monterey.
It wasn’t until Marina California that US 1 began to hug the coastline, trading farmland for sand dunes and ocean. By the time I reached Monterey Harbor, the sun was starting to win it’s battle with the fog, adding a reflective shine to the picturesque landscape.
Fisherman’s Warf sits at the base of a mini-peninsula which is outlined nicely by 17 Mile Drive, Sunset Drive and Ocean View Blvd, making cruising around the shoreline and the plethora of world class golf courses a breeze.
After spending time taking in Monterey, I back-tracked up US 1 for Santa Cruz. Being an aviation fan, and knowing that municipal airports have some of the best restaurants, I visited the Watsonville Municipal Airport for some awesome Mexican food and a cool window seat overlooking the tarmac.
With a belly full of Burrito, I continued my ride north for some sight seeing around the Santa Cruz area, before grabbing Highway 17 northeast through the mountains and back to San Jose. If you’re new to the state and have the opportunity to explore the California mountains and coast by motorcycle, don’t pass up the chance. If you’re a resident of California, I hope you appreciate your daily commutes as much as I enjoyed taking it all in for the first time.