By John Parker
Well folks, that's it ... The first annual SoCalSTOC New Years Day Ride is completed.
I left the station at around 7am and cruised up the coast on PCH (Pacific Coast Highway - US1) through the beach
communities of Santa Monica and Malibu with the golden rays of dawn cracking over my shoulder. The temperature
was an Oregon Spring-like 44 degrees as I motored north on PCH with the azure Pacific to my left and the emerald
cliffs of the Malibu Alps on my right. A few hardy souls were braving the 49 degree water to get in their 1-1-05
surfin' at Topanga Beach and Malibu Cove. I was riding the big Lipizzan STallion today. I made the choice the
morning before when I left for work at 4am in a mild SoCal monsoon. The ATMC Katoom was the obvious choice for
the deluge I knew I had ahead of me on that morning commute, and it would also turn out to be the wise choice for
the mucky road conditions I would find on today's Santa Monica Edelweiss.
I turned off of PCH at Latigo Canyon and began the 866 turns in 9.9 miles that makes this segment of tarmac a cyclist's favorite. I have ridden this road as part of my daily commute for the past 15 years that I have been assigned to the Crash Crew at LAX, so it could be said that I know it very well. I can literally visualize every inch of this road as well as I know the racetrack at Laguna Seca. Yet, on this run, I would be riding at a much reduced pace. I knew that the past week's storms would have left numerous "surprises" along my route this morn'. The 7+ inches of H2O that visited the area since my last ride through a week ago had indeed put some challenges in the path of the silver KTM. By the time I had navigated the serpentine track to the top of Latigo Canyon, shot the short section of Kanan Road, and dropped the 4 miles of corkscrew switchbacks down Mulholland Highway into Seminole Hot Springs to The Rock Store, the gnarly Pirelli Scorpions had proved why the Austrians had fitted them to the long legged 950. Through running streams of silt and gravel, and around clumps of hillside and boulders, the KTM tracked straight and true as it carved a route with the precision of a surgeon's scalpel.
I rolled into the damp parking area at the Rock Store and immediately spied Don Huntley's ST1300. I pulled into my usual parking spot at 0815, and as I climbed down off the KTM's lofty perch and removed my Schuberth, I was greeted by Gunnar Reed and his lovely wife Trish. Who rode in from Simi Valley aboard their Silver Honda. Alas, due to the well reported treachery of an evil cager, it was their Silver Honda Cage and not the beloved "Silver One." Happy New Year pleasantries were exchanged as we walked into the "Store" and found Don waiting for us at his "usual" table. Jeff Bertrand arrived on SThenia shortly thereafter, and we all had a great breakfast and wonderful chat. Trish and Gunnar are expecting their first child and are rightly very excited. After b'fast we kicked a few tires and wished Gunnar and Trish our best for the New Year and their upcoming "big event." Hopefully we'll see them in San Luis Obispo for WeSTOC X. The timing looks close :-)
I led the way on the first segment of the day's ride with Don and Jeff in tow. I set a moderate pace north on Mulholland, down Kanan Rd, and onto Latigo Canyon to retrace my path of 2 hours earlier. The downhill ride is a completely different beast than the uphill way, but the AM's reconnoiter served me well as I already knew the locations of the "surprises" that nature had left on this piece of motorcycling Nirvana. The precisely timed power pulses of the two big 4" pistons throbbed up through the seat of the big Lipizzaner as I twisted the throttle from one apex to the next turn-in all of the way down the canyon to PCH. At PCH I pulled off the road and switched off the engine. I took in the peaceful ambiance of the shimmering Pacific Ocean as the morning sun danced on its mirror-like surface all of the way to the distant horizon. Shortly my repose was interrupted with the unmistakable turbine-like whine of two STs as they approached from the mouth of the canyon. It is quite easy to hear the common lineage of the 1100 and 1300 "Torque-Monster" engines.
Don took the lead now, and he led us on a very pleasant ride up PCH to Kanan Road. The more heavily traveled Kanan had much less nature "surprises," and we were soon turning west on Mulholland Highway. We motored away in the opposite direction of the Rock Store, soon turning off onto the "ST Road" of Encinal Canyon. Encinal is one of my favorite rides on the ST as it consists of 8.7 miles of high speed sweepers, each with perfect radius and banking. At the bottom of the canyon we found ourselves once again at PCH.
Jeff took the lead this time. Don dropped in behind him, and I lined up in the sweeper slot. Jeff led us north on PCH past Decker Canyon. At Leo Carrillo Beach he expertly guided us up the canyon on Mulholland Highway. You may remember hearing the name Mulholland Highway several times before in this report. That is because Mulholland is the backbone road of the Santa Monica Mountain Range and is the terminus of many of the canyon roads that rise up from sea level to the "nosebleed" heights of the Malibu Alps. Leo Carrillo Beach is the northern terminus of Mulholland. 50 miles to the east it ends in the hills above Hollywood at Cahuenga Canyon Blvd., near Universal Studios. At the crossroad of Decker Canyon, I moved up to the slot position directly behind Jeff. Riding in close formation with Jeff is like going home. I have been riding with Jeff for nearly 9 years and thousands of miles. We know each others moves like an old married couple. Err, MOTORCYCLE riding moves that is :-) We made quick work of the highly technical switchbacks of the hwy23/Mulholland section and carved up the remainder of sweepers back to the Rock Store and beyond. At Encinal Canyon Rd we began passing a seemingly endless string of sports cars going in the opposite direction. There were all manner of Porsches, Ferarris, Corvettes, Miatas, and even a vintage Cobra roadster. The parade lasted for the next 4 miles; almost to the Rock Store. Jeff led us on past Cornell Rd, Malibu Lake, and on through the high speed sweepers of Malibu Creek State Park. 4 miles east of Las Virgines Canyon Road, Jeff routed us up Stunt Road. This is one of the most technical of the Malibu Alps' twisties. We stopped where Stunt ended at Saddle Peak Rd to reflect on the day's adventures and take a few photos. From this vantage point it is possible to see the mountains and valleys for 30 miles to the north and the vast Pacific Ocean south for 50 miles, past the precious jewels known as the Channel Islands.
I picked the lead for the switchbacks back down Saddle Peak and Tuna Canyon to PCH. Jeff dropped in on my six and Don on Jeff's. There are dozens of twisting downhill turns on this road that rival the "Corkscrew" Turn 8 at Laguna Seca for stomach-in-the-throat excitement. The KTM handles this stuff easily with the deftness of a 600 sport bike. The big "dual sport" has surprised many "super sports" in its young life. At PCH we continued North. Traffic was getting much heavier now that the New Years revelers were waking up and going to the beach for the holiday. I led as we passed through Malibu, past the surfers at the creek, and the movie stars in their exclusive "colony." Soon we motored by the magnificent green lawns of Pepperdine University at Malibu Canyon Road. We cruised along the bluffs overlooking the sugar white sands at Corral Beach. A right turn onto Latigo Canyon Rd. took us on our final group ride for the day. This was my third trip over the "Serpent" today, and I was in the "zone." As usual, there was no traffic on this SoCal favorite, and the Katoom's taught, precise WP suspension and 100 hp big twin "thumper" made effortless business of the twisty ribbon of sticky tarmac. All too soon we were at the top. We said our goodbyes and wished each other another round of "Happy New Years" and went our own ways home. Happy New Year indeed!