Well, I guess in reality, things just don’t change much no matter where you go. I was lucky enough to get away for a couple weeks in Florida to break the winter doldrums .. and wouldn’t you know it, the “spring break” and “bike week” traffic was pretty much the same as a busy 405 through Orange County heading into LA. It just confirmed my suspicions for many years now .. that there’s just too many people cramming our cities and highways and the floodgates are still open! I’m hard-pressed any more to get any sort of “service tech” who isn’t located in the Philippines or India .. let alone have “English” as their primary language .. but that’s pretty much the way I’ve found it anywhere I’ve gone for YEARS now. So I’ll spare you my soapbox rant today with the firm belief that you all know “where I’m coming from”. Sometimes a rock is just a rock .. no matter how hard anyone tries to disguise it. Collect enough of them and it just weighs you down .. and swimming no longer becomes an option. Just “treading water” is the miracle skill we’re all trying to perfect now .. and with that understanding, I think I have us all on the same page once again.
On the other hand, however, I duck away from “reality” for a short spell and what happens? A passenger plane with nearly 300 people on board completely disappears and an entire country has all but “vanished” itself, creating a disaster in its wake for the world to contend with. Another country creates an entirely new television station and dedicates 100% of its air time so that masses of its people can forego work and become addicted to watching a man plead “innocent” to filling his girlfriend full of lead through a locked bathroom door. Absolutely nothing surprises me anymore. Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco said “ideologies separate us .. dreams and anguish bring us together”. But I think Mark Twain hit the nail on the head when he said “let us consider that we are all insane .. it will explain us to each other .. it will un-riddle many riddles.
Is it any wonder that we prefer to get on our Iron Horses and just ride? The wind blows and our thoughts are amidst the clouds .. no distractions .. only the demons that reside between our ears to keep us company and contend with .. and if you’re the least bit like myself, sometimes that even stretches the limits of my capabilities. And if you have no idea where you’re going .. any road will get you there! But more often than not .. there is a destination .. or a place you’ve heard about and always wanted to visit. Once you’ve arrived .. it’s also a place you’re drawn back to again and again.
Speaking of “rocks” .. one of those places that snagged me is, ironically, called “The Rock Store” .. and I hope that one day it finds its way to the top of your own bucket list. Though it may be our “destination” when my Slovakian brother, Tomás, and I would have the urge to get away from the Newport/Huntington Beach coast and head to the mountains .. the “fun” was actually getting there. The Rock Store itself is actually a restaurant in Cornell, California, in the Malibu Canyon. Actually, it’s located between the Malibu Canyon and Las Virgenes Rd, halfway between Malibu and Calabasas on the Mulholland Highway. Its one of the most famous motorcyclist and biker hangouts in the world with a challenging twisty, winding scenic mountain roadway with breath-taking views. Nearby ranches are the homes of Pamela Anderson, Harrison Ford and many other “elite” LA stars.
Tomás and I would often meet up with a few of our riding partners (Ruben, Little Joe & Petr) to take a day and do an entire loop with nothing in mind but to enjoy the day. At times we would reverse the loop just to gaze the spectacular views from the opposite perspective. The scenic road that takes us up through the mountains is called the Backbone Trail, with several “pull-outs” for taking lifelong memorable photos. On one of the marking signs by the roadway (tagged, unfortunately, by some of the many punks and gang-bangers who also make their way up the trail) is the following presentation:
“The Backbone Trail winds up and down ridges, canyons, and valleys from Will Rogers State Historic Park on the east through Point Mugu State Park on the west. It takes hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers through dry chaparral, riparian woodlands, and wildflower meadows — all just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Los Angeles.
The trail serves not only as a passageway for people but as a migratory and foraging corridor for wildlife. You might see lizards and salamanders moving about the rocks or spot coyotes and hawks patrolling the lands and skies for prey.
Here and there the trail also presents clues to the area’s diverse cultural heritage. Look for evidence of early cattle ranching and remnants of settler’s homesteads.
On clear days, the peaks and ridges offer delightful panoramic views of the interior valleys, Pacific Ocean, and Channel Islands. From rocky peaks to sandy beaches, the Backbone Trail ties together the natural and cultural features protected within the national recreation area. Enjoy.”
From another scenic location called “Range on the Edge” is a mapped sign, which identifies the many mountain ridges, elevations and distance away. A few of those are the Simi Peak and Ladyface Mountains; Santa Monica Mountains (20 mi. & 1,798 ft.); Santa Ynez Mountains (44 mi. north toward Santa Barbara); Sandstone Peak/Boney Ridge (16.5 mi. & 3,111 ft.); San Rafael Mountains (50 mi.); and Topanga Peak (37 mi. & 6,367 ft.).
Without boring you any further with Geography 101, my point is this: that from this long and beautiful winding ridge you can see for miles on clear days. Some days, you see nothing but a soft blanket of clouds below. It’s interesting, that so close to the Pacific Ocean the elevation shoots skyward, often times from the edge of the PCH and inland for miles. Many of these mountain ranges surround the coastal cities from LA to San Diego and actually protect these populous areas from weather moving westward from the desert areas. Unfortunately, that’s also why these areas get so little rainfall each year, and the “Santa Ana winds” coming from the east across the Mohave Desert is what intermittingly cranks the heat up into the 90’s in “winter”. But for the pure pleasure of a biker, the Pacific Coast Highway practically hugs the coastline the entire length of California. And that ride is worth a trip to the west coast!
Back to the Rock. After WW II, Ed and Veronica (Vern) Savko moved to Southern California from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. They stumbled across a building, made entirely from volcanic rock, which had been a stagecoach stop in the 1910’s. They purchased this “Rock Store” in 1961 and created a small town grocery store out of it. As the years rolled by, many changes were taking place in the town of Cornell and California in general. The growing population of Cornell forced the development of major roadways connecting Mulholland Highway to the Pacific Coast. As people started flocking to this area, more and more people started taking notice of this little town store. Not only were carloads of people stopping for cold refreshments but motorcyclists also began pouring in from all directions. They were drawn to the windy canyon roads and, of course, the opportunity to really test their riding skills. As more and more people began frequenting this pit stop, it became a landmark institution for the avid motorcyclist community. It now has a reputation as one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of southern California, and a regular hang out for the “who’s who” of the motorcycling world.
On any given weekend, there are usually hundreds of bikes and any number of regular “celebrities” who frequently drop bye. There is always the interest of Jay Leno and “what’s he going to ride up on today?” as he enjoys bringing up any one of his latest toys to show off. Arnold Schwarzenegger often pops in for a bite to eat, as well as Matt LeBlanc, Lorenzo Lamas or Tommy Lee. As for my friends and me, we prefer to ride up in the middle of the week when there’s little traffic and absolutely no problem finding a parking space or wait times from the kitchen. The old gas pumps even still read 37.9 cents a gallon!
There’s another great little place just up the road at the intersection of Sierra Creek Rd. and Kanan Rd. called the “Rustic Canyon General Store & Grill”. It has a great patio area, good food and the right ambiance and character to suit a biker. There’s always a reason to stop in and nib around.
If we head north out of the Rock Store, we can follow the road all the way down the mountain and back out on the PCH near another infamous hot-spot called Neptune’s Net. It’s right on the coast across from a well used beach area and it has an outdoor patio that extends the length of the building. Most days it’s quite the “scenic view” .. and if nothing else it’s a great place to have a late afternoon bite or a refreshment before we head south again into Malibu. Following the coastline by Santa Monica Pier and all the way to Seal Beach, where another infamous biker bar called “Mother’s” will also have a bunch of bikes lined up along the PCH. Often times, many of those riders were also seen at the Rock Store or Neptune’s Net. It just makes for a very satisfying day with good friends and a great ride.
The only sobering thought that snaps you out of your perfect ride is when you’re riding and pass the spot where Paul Walker was recently killed in a stupid, senseless accident. And on that note .. let me remind each of you just how fragile and ultra thin that thread of life actually is. Maybe a bit more fragile to the motorcyclist .. without a “cage” to help protect you .. but “life” is deadly, especially if you are truly “living” it and not just counting off the days and existing. Spring is here, and there will be more and more traffic out there trying to take you out .. and that’s just the way you have to look at it, like it or not. We live the life we choose .. and on two wheels every decision you make is literally “life or death”. I do care about you .. so choose wisely.
Until next time .. ride smart .. ride safe
and the Adventure continues …