Days 37-40 California Dreaming

Solvang, CA – San Luis Obispo, CA – Carmel, CA – San Francisco, CA

The time had come to leave the Tyrolean oasis of Solvang and head further north up the West Coast to meet my wife Ali in San Luis Obispo. There, we would be staying at the home of her friends and colleagues, Tom and Alison Mendoza. It felt good, as it always does, to get back on the bike after a long spell.

But as I drove up the coast, some of the damage of the last few weeks started to really present itself. The biggest issue was my windshield. The BMW 1200GS Adventure comes with a more robust windshield than the stock GS motorcycle that I have clearly taken for granted. Because my windshield is now broken and lying flush down, I’m getting the full brunt of the wind as I ride. I find myself having trouble holding on past 80 or 90 miles per hour. Even going 60 mph is far more physically taxing than I realized. It’s causing my helmet to literally lift off my head as I hit higher speeds (don’t worry, chin strap prevents it from coming off but still…). I also had to re-duct tape all of my auxiliary lights to the main body of the bike. My mirrors are also pretty bent out of shape making changing lanes a bit more harrowing than usual.

Because I was looking to make some time, I rode the 101 Freeway North and stayed off the slower but more scenic U.S. 1 which hugged the coast. I met Ali at San Luis Obispo Airport where she rented a car and we went off to see the Mendozas. She was a sight for sore eyes.

I’ll be honest.  There was a little part of me that was definitely apprehensive about spending time with others after I’d been on my own for so long. But as we arrived at the Mendoza’s home, everyone wanted to see the bike (battered as she looked) and hear stories about the trip, and generally made my transition back into civilized society very painless. I found that doing some laundry helped this process along.

That night, we had a glorious dinner on the rooftop of a beautiful house in Avalia Beach where Tom grilled soy garlic shrimp while Ali made her famous spicy guacamole while we all sipped on a crisp rose wine made locally in the Santa Barbara region. Avalia Beach is a tiny beach community in central California that seems quaintly stuck in the 1950s with its boardwalk, pastel homes, and fishing wharf extending out into the Pacific. It definitely worth checking if you have kids, and still great if you don’t. It was a sublime evening, especially with Tom and I smoking my carefully transported cigars, solving the world’s problems puff by puff. And inevitably I found myself slipping into the old “you know, I could live here” trap that seems to affect me wherever I go.

The next day we got a late start and decided to head to Carmel, CA instead of pushing all the way to San Francisco where Bumblebee had an appointment at the BMW Motorad dealership for some badly needed repairs. Coincidentally, the Mendozas were heading to their other house in Carmel, so Ali and I ended up getting a hotel room across the street from them, and subsequently enjoying in a group feast of the best Chinese food I’ve eaten in over a year.

I like Carmel for two reasons. First, it’s a car town, primarily because of the Concurs D’Elegance that is held every year in August at Pebble Beach. To say that the premier classic car showcase in America is breathtaking, is like saying Daytona Beach Spring Break might be interesting to a teenage boy in early puberty. Even after the festival is over, it seems you can always observe a plethora of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, and even the occasional Bugatti on the streets of Carmel.

Second, it was especially nice to see Ali with her co-workers, and observe how much they respect and care for her. Ali has been killing it the last few years at her job, and it’s a distinct pleasure to see someone you love be appreciated and admired for her accomplishments. I’m so proud of her, and it made being in Carmel and San Luis Obispo extra special for me.

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Next morning, we took off in the cool Carmel mist for San Francisco. For the first time since I removed it back in Virginia, I had to reinstall my jacket liner for warmth. I’ll admit I had a small case of the nerves that morning because I somehow got us a little bit lost and was nervous about being late for the appointment at San Francisco BMW. You see, my next stage of the trip was pretty much on hold until the repairs on Bumblebee could be completed. With 4th of July only a few days away and most dealerships closed on Sundays and Mondays, there was some urgency to get the bike into the shop.

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I pulled into BMW and quickly met with Carlos, an AMAZING parts rep who I’d been emailing photos of my motorcycle’s broken sections (a lot of emails). He managed to have most of the parts already ordered so that the repair time would be minimized.

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As I removed my bags off the bike, another 1200GS Adventure pulled up next to me with a husband and wife riding together. I couldn’t help but notice their bike looked like it had some miles on it.

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Them: Ah! You’re from New York! Did you ride all the way here?

Me: [puffing out my chest, cleaning my sunglasses nonchalantly] I sure did. I’ve been on the road about 40 days now. How ‘bout you guys? Where are you rolling in from?

Them: Brazil!

Me: [dropping my sunglasses on the pavement] What? Brazil? Like Soccer Brazil? Carnival Brazil?

Them: Yes. We’ve been on the road for 6 months now.

Sigh. I am such a cream puff.

With the bike now safely on the operating table, Ali and I could now have fun exploring my second favorite city in America and one of the best places to eat. Our hotel was right on the border of Chinatown so I was especially looking forward to having congee for breakfast (my total favorite) which I’d been living without for the past few weeks.

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I also discovered something completely new that sort of changed my life. Kyoto Style Ice Coffee. Oh sweet god in heaven, I have found my perfect morning beverage. Using the amazing Famous Foods web app, I discovered that Tyler Florance’s favorite coffee drink was at 66 Mint in San Francisco.

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A Kyoto Ice coffee takes about 24 hours to prepare as it is created drip by slow drip through a crazy mad scientist glass tube contraption. Because the coffee is effectively cold brewing, it only absorbs the rich nutty flavor of the coffee bean without any bitterness. As a result, 66 Mint only has about 50 cups to sell each morning until they are sold out until the following day. I’ve always been told of the faint fruit flavors that coffee aficionados are able to detect, but have sadly always alluded my taste buds.  However, in this glorious cup of Kyoto coffee I was able to pick up lots of it. No sugar or milk needed. But here’s the best part.

It is the most powerful cup of coffee you’ve ever had.

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I’m known among friends as being a little crazy with my coffee, frequently ordering 5-6 shot lattes at Starbucks. It’s not that I love coffee that much (I don’t frankly), but I really crave the caffeine and being a man of robust build (cough) it takes a lot to make the needle jump for me. Blessed Kyoto ice coffee had my head spinning within about 3 sips. Seriously, it was that strong, but not in any way bitter, chalky, or unpleasant. There was a clear lightness to each sip that made it a delight to enjoy slowly, letting the ice cubes tinkle in your cold refreshing glass.

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Above, New Orleans Ice Coffee on left, Kyoto Ice Coffee on right.

The good news is that I’m starting to see it more and more in other coffee shops now that it’s starting to become mainstream. If you see it, try it. Hoooo-Doggie!

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Next Stop: Napa Valley!

WHAT I LEARNED / DISCOVERED TODAY:

They have great (not good, great) Chinese food in California. Mornings are getting colder. And I wish I could start every morning of my life with congee and Kyoto Ice Coffee. Also, never get cocky until you see the other guy’s license plate.

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