Days 28-30 Westward Ho!

Kingman, AZ – Santa Barbara, CA

610 miles

Leaving Kingman this morning, I had a spring in my step and giddy anticipation in my heart. Today, I would cross the border into California! Even though I had plans to head north to Oregon and Washington, there is something symbolic about reaching California and being able to finally lay eyes on the Pacific Ocean.

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After crossing the border, it dawned on me how unbelievably WIDE California is. We all have a good sense of how long it is. But as I headed west, I was discouraged to have my GPS tell me that my long awaited West Coast margarita would still be another 5 hours away.

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The impressive Mojave Desert dominated the landscape as I rode towards Barstow, CA. It was also one of the first times that I got a little worried about my fuel supply. In an effort to cover distance, I was really trying to limit my stops once I got moving. But as I blew by one exit with a Shell Station, I saw the next sign indicating fuel wouldn’t be available for another 60 miles! I had a range of about 80 miles left so it wasn’t life or death, but if I made wrong turn somewhere (admittedly pretty hard to do on an Interstate, but still) things could get pretty spicy in the desert.

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The normal way to the coast would have been looping far South to the 101 Highway, and taking that North to Santa Barbara. But at this point, I’d had my fill with long stretches of I-40 and was looking forward to kicking it hard on the tight twisties. Instead, I decided to head straight for the coast (literally) and traverse the Los Padres National Forest.

To get there, I still had to cross straight across Death Valley, and saw endless miles of oil country and remote industry. So much of our collective imagery of California is limited to the narrow coastal regions. The interior of the state is simply massive, dusty and sparse (at least in the southern part).

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Finally, I arrived at Frazier Park and stared up at the mountain and its switchbacks that lay ahead of me. The goal was to cross over the summit pass and follow Route 33 to drop into Ojai. At the time, I had no idea how high I would be riding (6,500 feet – starting from less than 1,000 feet) and how radical the road would be. It was really aggressive motorcycling nirvana, and it was fun to push the envelope a bit getting the bike to lean way over in the turns.

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However, as you can see in the photos, the steep drop off discouraged any Evil Kenevil fantasies I might have harbored. Fun, but sincerely scary at parts.

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But what struck me most was the intense greenery. After being in the desert so long, it was so cathartic to cross over the top of Pine Ridge near Ojai and drop into an entirely new micro-climate. The temperature instantly dropped about 15 degrees as I felt the full blast of cool Pacific chilled air, unfettered by any mountain ranges.

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The foliage and semi-tropical flora lined the winding roads making me feel like I was riding through a garden. It just felt plain luxurious to be motorcycling amongst palm trees and cypress after all the barren dusty roads.

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Everything felt different and new.

Ironically, after passing through Ojai to hook up with the 101 North for the last 20 miles to Santa Barbara, I received my very first glimpse of the flashing sea of the Pacific Ocean. Ten seconds later, I was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Welcome to California.

But it felt like a huge accomplishment to be riding alongside the ocean for the last few miles. The span of distance I’d travelled was starting to hit home for me.

I did it. I crossed the country by motorcycle.

The blue Pacific and its sumptuous white beaches felt like a reward for making it halfway through my journey. The bike has taken some hits, and there have been some highs and lows, but the trip overall has been glorious and nourishing. I’m so happy to be here in California and spend the next few days with one of my closest friends.

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Now, where’s that margarita…?

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