Part 1: The trip, the route, and road recommendations
This was my first big trip on my own bike, having taken many trips with my dad on the back of his bikes when I was little. This time, he flew to LA where I live and rented a BMW R1200RT. I took my 05 V-Strom 650 and we hit the road. To get my bike up to snuff I had a thorough tune up by my local mechanic, and added on a few tasty bits and pieces to make the travel more enjoyable. I'll give a brief overview of the trip, with roads recommended, and then review each piece of kit. (EDIT: The trip review got a bit long, so I'll put the gear review in a separate post)
The trip: https://www.google.com/maps/ms?msid=...e378a4c5&msa=0
I think this Google Map link will let you look at the trip route we planned, and even copy it into your own map if you like.
Day 1: LA to Sequoia Natl. Park-
Hot, hot, hot! By far the hottest day of the trip, with temps reaching a high of 103 degrees Farenheit. Not the prettiest day of the trip either, once we got close to Bakersfield. The drive out of LA is actually very pretty, and on a Sunday morning there was very little traffic. We took highways to make good time, and then got a bit turned around and wound up riding through many miles of farmland. You could smell what each field was growing, strawberries, cucumbers, avocados, etc and it was very nice. But so freaking hot! Once we got the hotel just outside the park we were totally cooked.
Day 2: Sequoia to Yosemite.
The park was absolutely beautiful. We rode from almost sea level at the valley floor up to 7,000 feet. As you go up the landscape changes and the air gets much cooler. We stopped along the way for scenic pictures and to look at some of the amazing Giant Sequoias in the park. Some of the trees are up to 3,000 years old, 100 or more feet around, and 300 feet tall. It's really humbling to stand next to something so ancient and massive, especially the General Sherman tree, the largest tree in the world. We took small natl park roads north, including 198, 180, and 41. All of these roads were beautiful riding, but a little slow going. We're talking 15-20mph steep mountain switchbacks up and down thousands of feet of elevation. Add to that mix sheer drop offs and gawking tourists, and these are roads which will definitely keep you on your toes. We managed to make it to the Yosemite Valley Camp Curry before dark, but we did encounter some rain along the way.
Day 3: Yosemite
We stayed in Yosemite for 2 nights and did some hiking around the park. At the end of the day we drove our bikes out to the scenic Tunnel View lookout point, which was just a stunning view of one of the most beautiful places on earth. A must see before you die kind of place, and what better way to do it than on a bike?
Day 4: Yosemite to San Francisco
We went north out of Yosemite on 120, then took it west to 108, then got on Interstate 580 across the Bay Area, over the bay, down through Sausalito, over the Golden Gate bridge (amazing!) and then through SF to our hotel near Fisherman's Wharf. This was another long hot day, and the riding east of the bay area was incredibly windy. From a distance the giant windmill generators looked pretty, but I didn't realize that they should have been a warning that windy conditions lay ahead. Between the wind gusts and the massive truck traffic, I spent about an hour and a half leaning my bike into the wind to keep from being blown off the road. Not the most fun way to ride. Dad on his fully faired RT seemed a little bit more comfortable than me on my Vstrom, but this was really the only time on the trip that the bikes showed a major difference. Other than price, of course.
Day 5: SF to San Simeon
Hwy 1, what more can I say? Other than Dad was majorly sick from bad seafood in SF. (Lukewarm octopus sitting under a heating lamp? Bad idea, right?) It was kind of slow going getting out of SF, including traffic and some construction, but the views were absolutely incredible. From here the directions were simple, Hwy 1 until we get home in LA. We stopped in Santa Cruz for lunch and I honestly wanted to buy a house right there and forget all about LA. It's a lovely small beach town with great people and a relaxed atmosphere. Also with its small amusement park right on the beach and lots of fun activities it would be a great family destination. There aren't a lot of places to stop and stay on Hwy 1 and we didn't book a place in advance. We just figured we'd ride until we got tired and then find a place. San Simeon has a couple big motels and is a natural half-way point between SF and LA. Dad was so sick he fell asleep without even taking his boots off or unpacking his bike, so I let him sleep it off and I got dinner at the local diner. There were people from all over the world, and tons of bikers too.
Fave biker conversation:
Austrian guy with wife getting off a giant Harley: Hey, nice V Strom, I have same bike at home in Austria.
Me: Hey, that's awesome! I love the bike, it's great for traveling.
Austrian guy: Yes, it is perfect motorcycle. But for traveling America, you need this (points to Harley).
Me: Ha, well, alright have a good trip!
Day 6: San Simeon to LA
More beautiful Hwy 1, and no traffic until we got off the PCH onto I-10 east to go home. (Culver City, if you know LA) It wasn't a long stretch on the interstate, but it was jam packed with traffic. Dad didn't want to split lanes on his rented RT with bags (I don't blame him) so it was a hot, slow, ride home. Those few minutes of traffic made me appreciate lonely mountain roads even more. Strangely, except for the last bit, this was the coldest day of the ride. Massive amounts of fog coming off the ocean, and temps dropped to 50 degrees. I never thought I could be that cold in June in California on the beach, but it was brutal. I brought out all the liners to my mesh jacket, my Gore Tex gloves, and a scarf, and I was still freezing. At least it wasn't a long stretch of cold. I have a new appreciate for those of you who live and ride in the NE or anywhere where it's cold. Brrrr not my cup of tea. Dad was fine, with his full fairing, heated grips, and heated seat. He said when I'm old I can have a heated seat too. Can't wait.
See Part 2 for gear reviews!