Hop Li and Riding the Local Mountains

Eating dim sum and then heading off to the local mountains for a quick ride is a great way to spend the day, especially if you can get away midweek, as I recently did.

What is “dim sum,” you might ask? Well, dim sum is a selection of various Chinese dishes that are sold in small steamer pots that are brought directly to your table. There is an incredible selection of seafood, pork, and veggie items, and all of them are very tasty!

One of my favorite places to go for dim sum is “Hop Li,” which is located on Baldwin Ave just south of Huntington Drive in Arcadia. Hop Li is a very traditional place-the servers don’t speak English, so you do a lot of pointing and smiling, but no worries, it’s all good. My favorites include the har gau, a rice paper wrapped shrimp or scallop, and the pork dumplings, cha sui bau. Absolutely delectable! 

Excellent Dim Sum in Arcadia
Excellent Dim Sum in Arcadia


Har Gau and Chun Fun, with hoisin sauce, Chinese mustard and tea
Har Gau and Chun Fun, with hoisin sauce, Chinese mustard and tea

One of my favorite local rides is to ride the CA 39/Azusa Canyon to Glendora Mountain Road loop.  This loop takes about an hour or so, and features great canyon riding.  So, stuffed with dim sum, I hoisted myself onto our R12RT and headed east out of Arcadia to the 210 fwy and the Azusa ave. offramp. From here I headed straight north on Azusa (CA 39) into the canyon.

A View up Azusa Canyon
A View up Azusa Canyon

During midweek, Azusa Canyon makes a great ride. Abundant twisties and great views abound. There is virtually no traffic and little law enforcement, but be careful as recent rains wash rocks and mud onto the road occasionally.

After cruising up the canyon you can cross the bridge to the East Fork and follow it through a couple of small river communities and onto Glendora Ridge Road. GRR is extremely twisty with very steep drop-offs. Use extreme caution, as going off the road here would have catastrophic consequences!

Twisties Galore!
Twisties Galore!

Eventually GRR intersects with Glendora Mountain Road, which you can head east toward Mt. Baldy, 12 miles away, or you can drop west, eventually exiting the mountains in Glendora. As it was getting late, I chose to ride towards Glendora and home.

Again, more superb riding, but I was saddened by the recent damage done by the “Morris Fire.” Our drought has left the mountains explosively dry and it seems the fires are getting worse every year…

A View of Azusa Canyon and Fire Damage
A View of Azusa Canyon and Fire Damage

30 minutes after turning onto Glendora Mountain Road, I was rolling out of the mountains and nearing my house. Great Chinese food and incredible mountain roads. What could be better on a Wednesday afternoon?


A Windy Weekend on the So Cal Coast

If you plan on coming up to Ventura to spend a couple of days meandering the book stores, second-hand clothing places, and the incredible beaches, you should plan on staying at the Bellamagiore Inn. Located on California and Main, the Bellamagiore has old world charm, first class service and very nice rooms. In addition, a great breakfast comes with the price of the room.

Our favorite is the salmon bagel sandwich. Fresh salmon, cream cheese, onions, capers, and a fresh, crunchy bagel is a great way to start the morning.

For lunch, we suggest Taqueria Vallarta on west Main Street. It’s a hole in the wall, but the “Caldo de Res,” a Mexican vegetable and beef soup was wonderful, as were the lengua tacos. Taqueria Vallarta is inexpensive, and the food is terrific. Give them a try next time you are poking around Main Street in Ventura!

Delicious Soup!
Delicious Soup!

After a nice overnight stay we cruised up thru Santa Barbara and over CA 154 to Solvang, a touristy, yet fun replica of a Danish village. Excellent bakeries, and LOTS of restaurants. Give Paula’s Pancakes a try, or continue west to Buelton, CA and Ellen’s for incredible Danish pancakes! Superb…

The food was excellent, and so was the cruising! Due to the threat of rain, which never materialized, we took our “other” open air machine, our 2006 Nissan 350Z.

Our Nissan 350Z
Our Nissan 350Z

Regardless of the ride, the roads are wonderful. Take CA 154 north from Santa Barbara and visit Cold Springs Tavern before you head down past Lake Cachuma. Windy roads, little traffic, and beautiful blue skies make this short ride a great motocycle destination.

Cold Springs Tavern
Cold Springs Tavern

Maybe we’ll see you at the Bellamagiore next time!


Twisties and Treats in the Local So Cal Mountains

In the 1940s it must have been one tough drive to get to the Mountain Top Cafe near Wrightwood, California!  Of course, the coffee was a nickel and you could get a hamburger for a quarter.  Now, times have changed.  The prices are a bit higher, the service, views, and food are all still excellent, and a shiny, powerful BMW motorcycle whisks me here in style, comfort, and speed!    Last weekend I found myself riding around the mountains a few miles behind my house and I happened upon the Mile High.  Typically, I was hungry, so in I went for breakfast….

And, I am glad I did!  First, the Mountain High is a cozy small place with an inviting fireplace at one end of the building.  Almost immediately Robin took my order-the usual eggs, hash browns and bacon.  My usual benchmark for a great egg breakfast is the cook’s ability to cook the eggs the way I like them, which is over medium.  The eggs were perfect, as were the bacon strips and the crunchy, delicious hash browns!  On a scale of 1-10, I’d rate the breakfast a solid 9 because of the hospitality, quality of food, and preparation.  The Mountain Top Cafe is easy to find:  from Interstate 15 go west on CA 138 toward Wrightwood.  You’ll see the Cafe at the top of a hill at the intersection of CA 138 and CA 2. I highly recommend you stop here and have a bite if you are out sight-seeing, visiting Wrightwood, or maybe going skiing.  Enjoy!

The Mountain Top Cafe, Home of Great Cooking!
The Mountain Top Cafe, Home of Great Cooking!

After filling my tank, I fired up the Beemer and headed up CA 138 in search of some good twisties.  A short ride out of Wrightwood I found Los Angeles Co Rd N4, which provided 16 miles of twisties down to the desert floor.  It was particularly beautiful, especially with the fall colors:

Outside of Wrightwood, a Golden Road
The roads around the local mountains are terrific!  Here are few pictures of my wanderings along with a bit of commentary.  Enjoy!
BMW pencilGettting ready to head into the mountains…the RT is an awesome touring machine…understated, powerful, and comfortable, it is the ideal choice for devouring miles!
Curve into ValyermoHeading down from Los Angeles County N4 there are many high desert roads to choose from….this one swoops down thru some delicious twisties into the tiny town of Valyermo.
There are some pretty cool things to do in Valyermo…for example, you can go to Crystallaire Soaring Center and take a sailplane ride, or even go up to the Abbey to check out the bookstore and the art center.  Very fun!
Only in So Cal can you surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon!  I stopped in at Mtn High Ski Resort to check out opening day.  There were many happy skiers and snow boarders enjoying 55 degree skies and lots of fresh, man made snow!
I think the diversity of the Angeles Nat’l Forest is unbelievable…the views, the roads, and the restaurants in the area are  all very satisfying!  Here are a few more pix highlighting my day ride through the Angeles mountains…
Unfortunately, the recent fires have left many acres scarred.  Over the hills the fires reached incredible temperatures, turning the ground cover into burnt twigs and ashes.
On a lighter note, you never can tell what you’ll see when you ride your motorcycle through the local mountains.  These “TeleTubbies” were trying to gain the attention of passing motorists on CA 18 in order to raise money for their church and an upcoming field trip.  They were energetic, fun, and very serious about their mission.  I hope they were successful!
And that, fellow riders, was my day in the Angeles Mountains.  The Mountain High Cafe was great, the roads were incredible, and as always, the people I met were unforgettable.  See you on the road!

“Whoa Nellie Deli”

Happy Summer days, everyone!  If you find yourself cruising along the backbone of California’s high sierra, the “Whoa Nelli Deli” in Lee Vining is aVERY worthy spot!  Located inside the Mobil station, the WND offers gourmet dishes such as seared ahi salads, incredible half-pound hamburgers, and delectable mango-garnished fish tacos.

W ho would expect find to find juicy steaks, fish tacos to die for, and a great glass of wine in a gas station??  Certainly not me!

The food is awesome, and so is the view.  It’s great to find a picnic table outside the Deli and gaze out over Mono Lake and the great Eastern Sierra.  We sat  and drank a creme root beer while the storm clouds crested the summit and blew over the lake.  Very nice!

WND is easy to find….go to the intersection of US 395 and CA 120 (Tioga Pass), go west(towards Yosemite) about 4oo hundred yards and you’ll see it!


A Tale of Two Breakfasts, and some Great Roads!

“….it was the best of times; it was the worst of times…” Well, actually with apologies to to Charles Dickens, the ride last weekend was the best of times. I was in search of a little mental refreshment, so Jennifer said, “Why don’t you go for a long ride?” Well, I didn’t need much more encouragement than that, so by 6:00 a.m. on Saturday I was gassed up and rolling for points north and west.

My goals were simple: One, I wanted to check out two of my favorite breakfast places and publish them on my blog, and two, I wanted to ride some long miles in places were there is little traffic! For any motorcyclist who lives in the LA environs, that is a worthy goal!

The BMW R1200RT is a master at eating up huge miles at high speeds. And so the adventure began as I shook off the damp, chilly, coastal air for the warmth of the deserts. I sped north on Interstate 5 past the sprawling suburbs on my way to CA 166 in the Central Valley.

I never get tired of the vista as I make my way north past Frazier Park; suddenly the mountains fall away, and the Great Valley, breadbasket to the world, spreads out in patchwork lushness in front of my spinning wheels! What a panorama!

CA 166 between Interstate 5 and CA 33 is a 22-mile razor-straight run right into Maricopa. It was hard to keep the bike near the 55 mph legal speed limit, as I sped past countless vineyards and new orange groves. I loved seeing the new groves. Could it be the dying petroleum industry around Maricopa has discovered agriculture? If so, perhaps it could mean new life for this tiny town, which is, by all accounts is nearly dead, starved by a lack of oil production.

Miles through the Oil Country

I downshift quickly past the big Shell station and turn right onto CA 33. The street is dusty and hot, with deserted buildings stretching past the tiny police department offices. I slow down, because amongst the decay exists a bright spot, known as “Tina’s Café.”

Tina’s is an awesome little place, full of local atmosphere. The walls are covered with displays of all sorts, from dolls to pictures. It is the kind of place the touristy corporate restaurants try to emulate and fall short, for so many reasons… Getting off the bike and stretching, I say hello to the old men eyeing me from the benches in front of the café. They smile and ask some questions about the RT: “What kind of bike is that?” “Looks fast, to me!” and the most common question, “I didn’t know BMW made motorcycles!”and on we go for a few minutes of delightful conversation.

Excusing myself, I go inside. Tina recognizes me because I’ve been here before. As usual she sings softly to herself, and laughs easily.

I am a breakfast eater. In fact, after a good breakfast, I can usually go the rest of the day without another full meal. Tina delivers on the great breakfast! The eggs are cooked perfectly to my liking, the bacon is thick and juicy, and the hash browns are extra-crispy, just as I like them. It’s probably a good thing Tina’s Café is a three hour ride from my house, or I’d probably have to rent some space at the cardiologist’s office!

One of the Best in the West!

Tina and I share some conversation and I tell her I must come back for dinner. She laughs and says I am missing out! After saying goodbye, I waddle out and throw a reluctant leg over the saddle, eager for a great ride.

CA 33 stretches out before me for seemingly endless miles. The oil rigs look like dinosaurs as their enormous beaks seek their food deep under the earth. The riding is wonderful! The road goes on and on, as I smile under my helmet, grateful for high speed, good food, and the thrill of the adventure ahead! I cannot help but think of my cousin Lonnie, who was a wildcatter up here on the oil rigs. He died way too young, the victim of an aggressive skin cancer…but I am sure he was watching and smiling as I sped through the places he lived his life!

Downshift and begin slowing about five miles out of Coalinga and avoid a California Good Drivers’ Certificate. Coalinga is a quintessential Central Valley town; a small town atmosphere, mom and pop stores, and agriculture is king. I stop for gas at the Chevron which has a great little deli which is worthy of its own write up. Not this time, as I’m eager to blast west on CA 198.

CA 198 is a tremendous moto-road. It races, dips, and twists through the coastal mountains to US 101. Local riders must have an absolute blast up here; pay attention; there are a few technical spots at the beginning, but for the most part it’s a delightful romp through the mountains.

Eager for more adventure I point the big BMW south to Jolon Rd which eventually takes me into Fort Hunter-Liggett. Since FHL is an active army base, make sure you have your DL, proof of insurance and current registration. If you have these documents you can ride Naciemento-Fergusson to CA 1.

A Tranquil Setting on the Base

To describe Naciemento-Fergusson wreaks havoc on this writer’s puny literary skills. The road defies description in that it is a singularly beautiful hour’s jaunt to the ocean. Tall, rugged mountains, huge redwoods, narrow switchbacks, majestic oaks, soaring hawks, and coastal fog clinging desperately to the rugged, golden-brown hillsides-it’s all there for you. Summer Coastal Fog along Big SurThere is nearly zero traffic here, butcareful on the many blind curves. There are no guardrails, and the ocean is a long way down! Make sure your bike is in great condition and is full of fuel too!

Once you empty off of NF Road, you have the choice to ride north toward Big Sur, or south toward Ragged Point and Hearst Castle. I flipped on my left blinker and headed south to lodging in San Luis Obispo…even though the ruggedness of the Big Sur slowly recedes in my mirrors there are many, many miles of incredible coastal beauty to still see. Check out the elephant seals, visit Hearst Castle, and go to the scenic little town of Morro Bay if time permits.

By 5:30 p.m. I was feeling good but tired. I pulled into the Motel 6 South in San Luis Obispo for a quiet night. I slept like a rock all night, no doubt dreaming about the roads I’d ridden and the food I’d eaten!

Naciemento Fergusson Road

Not much of a ride tale for Sunday since I just planned on riding south on US 101 to home. However, breakfast at Zaki’s was a treat. Zaki’s is located on Los Osos Rd at US 101, right next to the Am Pm Mini Mart. Well worth checking out!

“Zaki’s Golden Waffle” has been in business for about a year, and their reputation for serving awesome, hearty breakfasts is beginning to spread! While the building’s exterior lacks a certain curb appeal, it hides the tasty treasures one finds inside!

Zak, the owner is a great guy who truly loves his customers and good food! He greets every customer with a smile and a handshake. Zak is legit, and when you walk in you know you are a friend!

The food is tremendous. I suggest you go straight to the waffle, egg, and bacon combo. Fantastic! The waffle reminds me the ones my mom made; crispy and golden on the outside, and light doughy on the inside. Zakis is one of the few breakfast places around that cooks my eggs exactly as I like them, which is over medium. The yolks are slightly runny but the whites are firm and nicely seasoned. Ditto for the bacon. Not burned, but crispy . This great meal will set you back about 11 bucks if you leave a generous tip; and it is so big you can easily share it with a friend and still leave full!

Zak, the owner of Zaki's Golden Waffle

And, to top off the package, the coffee is hot, the cup is always full and the waitstaff follows Zak’s lead by being cheerful and very attentive in a down-home way!  Here’s a pic of Zak…say hi to hm when you stop in..

When in San Luis Obispo, “Zaki’s Golden Waffle” is a must-stop breakfast place. If you are disappointed in your meal, you can buy me lunch!

Thanks for coming along, and see you on the road.