West Coast Magnas
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The WCM Ride To Julian
A couple of us rode down from North CA on Friday to be there for the WCM Motorcycles. It was quite the ride and trip all in itself. You can get some of the side story here.
The Meet Up
The first of the riders cruised into the Del Taco parking lot about 9:05am. The few of us hung out munching rather tasty breakfast burritos and drinking various forms of caffeine until about 9:50. There was a hope that the extra time might reward us with a few extra Magnas, but no luck. Chad, our awesome host, decided it was time to get cruising.
Motoring in the Morning
With bellys and gas tanks bulging, the Magna riders started the ride with a cruise down Hwy 111 - a main boulevard passing through many of the desert towns including Palm Springs. The early Saturday morning traffic was light, the weather was sunny and the temp was warm and comfy.
The Ride Starts Lucky
As we headed out onto Hwy 74, gaining speed into the desert, the road was clear. A ¼ mile from the first awesome long sweep of a turn, a white Honda Accord pulls out and starts putting up the slight incline. You could almost hear the dejected sighs coming from the Magna riders. You could certainly see there shoulders slump. Then an amazing thing happen, the Honda Accord must have seen the WCM gang and understood, for this considerate cager, slowed and pulled to the right to watch us pass. All with a thank you wave!
What an incredible piece of roadway. From the first sweeping left to the blind entrance of the well used "Vista Point", this stretch of well tended asphalt has you in a deep lean to the right or left at all times. With the exception of a couple of tighter twisty like turns, you spend maybe 10 miles in slightly banked long sweeps that allow high speeds with plenty of chances to drag for sparks. Some of the turns seemed to go on so long I would swear we were riding a circle. Or maybe a giant parking structure looping upwards on itself. What a rush.
Two AVI format videos of Hwy 74 - the [ 20 MB ] - the [ 9MB ]
In that entire tens miles, we only came up on one cage. A small pickup that immediately moved to the right to watch us zoom by. Couldn't ask for more.
The Vista Point
When you arrive to the Vista Point, it's on the outside edge of a blind corner. You pick your moment, gun the Magna and veritably "shoot" into the small parking lot. On this day, the lot is packed with motorcyclists - mainly of the HD V-Twin type since they are coming in the 74 (opposite our direction) for the American Heat Rally. But in the VP, there were a few other bikes mixed in; an 80's Honda Sabre, late model Suzuki GSXR, a Victory, a Vulcan, a BMW 1150 R and a few more. Everyone stood around chatting and checking out the view of the curves to come (the ones we had actually just ridden).
The Balance of 74
While not the equal of the first ten miles, the 20 miles of Hwy 74 to the junction at the 371 is a fun road with lots of smooth turns, some nice straights an a few sections of medium twisties. It's a beautiful way to tour the desert hills of So Cal. We spent a lot of time waving to cyclists heading in the direction of Palm Springs. We pretty much road one handed. While we had almost no traffic, there side got kind of backed up. The only down point of this part of 74, there are sections that have a lot of rubber road goo to fill the cracks, making the surface a touch bumpy. But nothing drastic.
The Switch to 371
In the middle of a long down sweeping turn, you hope the banked road to change onto the 371. The ride switches to more straights with longer cruising turns. The surface is in good shape and you can watch the interesting scenery fly by. You can see the calmness of the areas rural lifestyle from the road. And there is an obvious lessening of HDs to wave at.
On To The Hwy 79
The transition to Hwy 79 is almost seamless. The scenery has changed to trees, grass and grazing fields from the earlier scrub and brush of desert. The road is getting smoother and twistier by the mile. As we pass the tiny airport near Warner Springs we're treated to people taking sailplane rides and lessons. There was one guy we were pretty sure was gonna screw it up and land right on top of us.
You can see a visible change in the riders and bikes on the 79. What started as V-Twins with riders attired in black leather, silver conchos, fringed accessories and chrome galore, gives way to V4 sportys in various brand colors and matching one piece clown suits made of leather. The road is twistier with lots of climbs and drops. The scenery and foliage feels like mountains. And the sportys were kind enough to capture the attention of a couple of CHPs.
After a few more twisty miles (and a quick gang pass of a VW van) we arrive at Julian. Okay, confession, not what I was expecting. I had pictured a roadside store with apple stuff, a small gas station, two small competing restaurants and the proverbial small country barn selling antiques. Nope. Tourist town crawling with, you guessed it, tourists. Shops selling; pies, rubberstamps, glass things, candles, motorcycle tshirts (HOG of course), nick knacks, ice cream, stationary, jewelry… and … and… With of course 10 restaurants, ranging from tiny places to large, pizza to burgers to BBQ to Italian to … to … Did I mention crawling with tourists? A nice place to visit.
Rong Branch Restaurant
Waited in the 15 minute cue for our turn at chairs for a meal in the Rong Branch. When we got a seat the service was fast and friendly. Food was good. My BBQ beef was tasty but the accompanying fries were amazingly good - for fries. And of course, we wrapped up the lunch with the Julian specialty, Apple Pie and AP a la mode. Sigh and waddle.
The Opposite 79
We headed out the other end of town, still on Hwy 79. This section of "Highway" dropped us 2000 feet in about 10 miles of tight, banked twisties with great surface quality and traction. After a run in with a (different) slow moving VW van (the things should be banned) in the first mile, we had clear racing, I mean running, to the bottom. Where the road straightened into long sweeps and began to get that desert feel again.
Anza Borrego Desert Park
Hwy 79 bisects Anza Borrego. It's rocky, desolate desert, and it's pretty cool. The road is in good shape and fun to ride. Lots of great turns with ups and downs of quick hills. There is a ton of stuff to see and nothing to see all at the same time. Passed a lot of (and scared a few) bird watchers hanging out at the side of the road.
Half way through the park we switched over to State Route 3 which offered some medium twisties on medium road quality while leading us over some medium mountains into the tiny civilization of Borrego Springs.
The Sand Storm
It was the weirdest thing. The non-existent wind picked up greatly in this trough like valley containing the metropolis of Borrego Springs. Next thing we know were passing through a sandstorm that's cruising through a portion of the valley. If the valley was a 5 lane freeway, and the wind was blowing down all five lanes equally, the sand storm was only in lane 4. Weird ass desert microclimates. We passed thourogh it in less than ten minutes.
Washes, Gullies and really cool landscapes
S2 gave way to S22. It lead us winding through the most awesome moonscape like washes and gullies. The water from rains rushing down the mountains of Anza Borrego and such (we're in true flash flood areas) , create the most amazing miniature canyons. It's like a sea of canyons. S22 drop us on 86 North - at Salton Sea.
Snif, pee eew. The Salton Sea has it's over very distinct odor. It comes from a lake that has no inlets and no outlets. One giant bason of stagnate water. Neato.
The 86 - Yawn
Northbound 86 is a four crappy lanes of crappy asphalt leading through fairly crappy country. The left turn onto Hwy 111 was a blessing.
Hwy 111 to home, Chad's home that is
We motored up Hwy 111, coming up it in the opposite direction back to our meet-up spot. Most of the riders headed over to Chad's, our ride host, house. We rested up there waiting for stragglers that wanted to join us for the American Heat Palm Springs Motorcycle and Hot Rod thingy.
American Heat Palm Springs Motorcycle Hot Rod Weekend
After the rest and collecting extra riders, we started up Hwy 111 again heading for Palm Springs 10 miles up the road. The HD brigade was out if force. Lots of "customs" too. Brilliant moves, like a hit of Nitros on Hwy 111 between stoplights that were 30 yards apart, abounded. There was plenty of attitude riding around.
The show itself was kind of lame. Not much in the way of "hardware" vendors and manufacturers - but plenty catering to the "lifestyle" or "mystique" (read cloths, glasses and jewelry). The three crazy children jumping their 125 two strokes from ramp to ramp 30 ft in the air over asphalt was kind of an interesting show.
The Wrap Up
The group saddled back up and headed to Ruby's for a late dinner. After a nice meal we said our goodbyes and "ride safes" and split up.
A Final Few Words
It was an awesome ride on some killer roads. The ride had something for everyone. The riders and camaraderie was excellent. If you get a chance to ride the these roads, jump on it.
Chad, our ride host, put on an exceptional experience. We want to thank him for his efforts and hospitality. Good job Chad!
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