Very few stretches of asphalt can compete with the Pacific Coast Highway in California. From top to bottom, depending on what county you’re in, takes a few different names and number designations, but for nearly 556 miles there’s nothing but unbroken, continuous beauty. And we’re not talking monotonous, slumber-inducing 500-plus miles of pin-straight road work. The PCH follows almost every undulation and wrinkles California’s coast has to offer, which is why, given southern California’s penchant for round-the-clock sunshine, it’s one of the most idyllic locations for a springtime motorcycle ride.
The tricky part, then, is not whether you should go for a ride up the PCH, it’s deciding where to start. Over on the east coast, that would mean trying to pick a starting point somewhere between Baltimore, Maryland, and Savannah, Georgia. So, the day’s ride wholly depends on how far or how south you decide to start. However, taking into consideration the views will be gorgeous no matter where I set off from, the next factors then became food stops and surrounding topography, just off the main stretch. Good coffee was a must but more importantly so were rolling hills, canyon switchbacks and oceanic overlooks. And, considering that, touring in and around Malibu on an Indian Scout — a bike with a cruiser-sport standard-type multiple personalities — was the only choice.
10:30am: Kicking off the morning at out over the water at Malibu Farms with black coffee and a hearty egg sandwich fueling me until noon made the most sense. The late morning start, with a cool ocean breeze doing its best to calm the ever-warming, rising sun set the tone for the rest of the day. It’s hard to argue against leaving a view of the Pacific, sipping fresh coffee with the relaxing sound waves lapping under the pier, but there were canyons to carve and more coffee to be had in the hills just over my shoulder. 11:45am: Only a few miles north, up the PCH is El Matador State Beach. Not only is it good for the view and a little relaxation, the ride from Malibu Farms to El Matador was the perfect warm up on the Indian before I hooked a right off the PCH and into the hills.
The grandness of the PCH doesn’t come from the highway alone. Sure, the ride along the highway is a sight to behold unto itself, but the surrounding geography of any given reason is enough to pick an area, like Malibu, and go exploring. If you want to stretch the legs of your car or motorcycle, in this case, and Indian Scout, the canyons just off of the PCH are the premier destination. However, the crown jewel, and likely the most famous stretch of any road in the area is Mulholland Highway. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70’s, he likes of Steve McQueen could be found flogging whatever sportscar he fancied that day, but today motorcyclist seems to rule the roost. 1:00pm: If you’re not familiar with the area, just passing through, the Rock Store might seem like a hidden gem. Entirely to the contrary, the stone and wood stop-off is a snapshot of a bygone era, but still attracts motorcyclists and fellow canyon carvers from all around to act as a waypoint, rest stop and rider refueling station. 1:30pm: And just two minutes up the road from there is The Old Place, where you can grab a hearty oak-grilled steak sandwich, that should hold you over for the rest of the day.
It’s all too easy to get lost in the canyons above Malibu for a day, going turn to turn, grazing your bike’s pegs on the asphalt as confidence rises. On any other stretch of highway and slithering offshoots, it attaches to, it may seem like a daunting and worrisome experience. However, in the web of asphalt that ties the southern California canyons to the ocean via the PCH, getting lost is almost the goal. Because after a cup of coffee and three or four turns in and you’ll never want to leave.
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