Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

Riding In Paradise

There is a genre of books that I like to call "Wandering Biker Travelogues". You won't find them listed at Barnes and Noble or on Amazon under that category. In fact I'm not sure exactly where you'd find them listed. But these books tend to find me -- friends buy them as gifts or I come across them. One of the best, if not the best I've read, is called "Freedom's Rush -- Tales From The Biker and The Beast" by a guy named Foster Kinn.  You can find it here: I read this book last year and dropped him an email as the book reminded me much of my writing and what I'd like to do for a similar book of my travels, and I thought I'd ask how he got it published. If you like my blog here and my writing, you'll like his book as well.
He was kind enough to write back and we exchanged a number of emails late last year and this talking about writing and riding and my photography and such. And since he lives in the LA area and I'm wintering in Palm Springs, once the spring weather came in we figured we should meet up for a ride.  As I was planning to head to the Central California coast this week anyway, it just seemed now was the perfect time. So early Monday morning I headed out from Palm Springs to meet up with Foster up in the mountains North of San Bernadino in the town of Wrightwood so we could ride CA-2 otherwise known as Angeles Crest Highway, a road he raves about in his book.
Unfortunately the first 80 miles was on awful SoCal freeways -- West from the desert on I-10 through San Gorgonio Pass with the wind trying to blow me back into Palm Springs the whole way, then up I-210, I-215, and I-15 into Cajon Pass. I exited off near the summit and rode up to where CA-2 turns off and headed into Wrightwood about 45 minutes before our scheduled meet up at the Grizzly Cafe in the center of this small town. It was warm in the desert but got rather cool as I dropped out of the pass and started climbing into the foothills of the mountains so I was glad I had the jacket on.

Foster and his buddy Vic were a few minutes late, but we sat and enjoyed a nice breakfast at the Grizzly before heading West along  the Angeles Crest road high in the Angeles National Forrest. I have to say this is one amazing road -- and one of the best motorcycle roads ever. We reached a high elevation of 7,901 feet at one point, as the road winds along the tops of the mountains overlooking the Los Angeles basin.
We rode past a few derelict and abandoned little ski areas with one or two lifts and no sign of snow, and the entire route was pretty  much on the edge of the mountains with amazing drop offs towards Palmdale on the North or the LA Basin on the South. We stopped at Newcomb's Ranch about mid way along the route for a drink and a break, before heading out and climbing up the road to Mt. Wilson -- a 5700 foot high peak topped with an observatory and a vast array of TV and FM broadcast towers for the Los Angeles area and overlooking Pasadena.  Apparently on those clear smog-free days you can see downtown LA.  We couldn't today, but he pointed out where it should be down in the thick brown haze. From what Foster says Newcomb's Ranch is packed with bikers on the weekends in the summer -- but it was just the three of us yesterday and a handful of others this quiet Monday morning.

The road is virtually one continuous curve -- like a bowl full of spaghetti noodles, and the sun was out and the temperature in the high 60s, and there was no traffic. In his book Foster calls this "Paradise". And all to soon we came to the turn-off for Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road, which he calls "The Road To Paradise."  I couldn't argue with that. This was a glorious downhill run with broad sweeping curves as we dropped quickly down from 7000 feet to sea level.

The next thing I knew we were climbing again though, this time up Little Tujunga Canyon Road -- yet another road with nary a straight section on it. We climbed all the way up to Bear Divide -- a ridge with an array of microwave towers and an abandoned ATT Long Lines relay station as well as a California Fire Department camp. The view back down towards the San Fernando Valley was amazing.
It's hard to believe that this kind of fantastic riding can be found within just a few miles of the vast megalopolis that is Southern California and Los Angeles.  I'd gather that 98% of Angelenos don't even know these roads exist. All told I put on 215 miles on the bike, and all but 80 of it were on these mountain roads -- high above and hidden from Los Angeles, but literally only spitting distance away. For someone like Foster who lives in this vast sea of humanity and cars and smog and freeways, it's easy to see why he calls these 130 miles of climbing twisting roads "Paradise".

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