California by Honda Shadow 600 (Oct. 1997)
(c) 1997 Bruce Clarke

The following is a transcription of a journal I kept while touring California on a rented 1995 Honda Shadow VLX 600 motorcycle. I rode from Los Angeles north along the central coast to Monterey, east to Yosemite National Park, and returning to LA along the same route. The total distance travelled was 1691 kilometres (1057 miles) by motorcycle.

The motorcycle used was rented from Malibu Motorcycle Rental of Malibu, California.

UPDATE: as of July 1999 Malibu Budget Rentals no longer rents motorcycles! This is a big disappointment as MMR was the only place in California that rented motorcycles for less than $700+ US a week. Too bad - I think it's completely ridiculous to pay $100 US a day to rent a motorcycle simply because it says Harley or BMW on the tank!

This journal may be freely distributed so long as it is unaltered. I have recorded my notes in American dollars and Imperial measurement. At the time of this trip, $1 US = $1.40 CND. 100 kilometres = 60 miles; 1 meter = 3 feet; 0 Celsius = 32 F; 20 C = 70; 38 C = 100 Fahrenheit.

I have typed up my notes exactly as I first wrote them. Many of my notes were written late at night by flashlight, so some entries were very terse or used poor grammar. Any questions or comments are welcomed by the writer and can be sent to the e-mail address:

Sat., Oct. 4, 1997:
(Victoria, BC -> Los Angeles, California: by plane)

I flew out of Vancouver on an Air Canada DC-9. Damn these planes are noisy as hell: the plane has the two engines mounted on the fuselage instead of on the wings; the vibration and sound from the engines has my ears ringing two hours after landing in LA. I have trouble understanding what folks are saying to me.

Flying down I noticed some really unusual volcanoes in Oregon; really obvious cinder cones and rippled lava flows. The setting sun caused the cones to cast great triangular shadows pointing to the east. Sometimes I'd see volcanic cones lined up like the bones in a spine.

At 8 PM I check into the Sheraton Gateway Hotel (near the LAX airport) for $88 US.

Sun., Oct. 5, 1997:
(LA -> San Simeon: 230 miles by motorcycle)

I wake up early at 6 AM. Outside it is 70 Fahrenheit and foggy. I pack my gear and catch a taxi out to Malibu Motorcycle Rentals. I should have taken MMR's offer of a $20 ride from the airport; the cab fare is a whopping $38.

The bike I'm renting is a red 1995 Honda Shadow VLX 600 with about 8300 miles on the odometer. The bike seems to be in decent mechanical shape, through the chrome seems a bit tatty for a three year-old bike. The exhaust pipe and tank have a few minor dents and scrapes. The tires, chains, etc. seem to be well-maintained.

The rental cost is $399 US per week. On top of that is $98 US for insurance, $20 for a pair of soft saddlebags, and state sales tax. The nylon bags are Honda brand and are actually very good quality. They're mounted under the passenger seat and include removable waterproof liner. I find I can pack up my Lite Loft sleeping bag, wedge tent, papers, and a few days worth of clothes.

By 10 PM I fire up the Shadow and ride north on the Pacific Coast Highway. For perhaps 20 miles or so I am riding along at the sedate limit of 45 mph next to the beach shore. To my left I see pounding ocean waves with many surfers enjoying the water. On my right are sandy orange cliffs. The sky is overcast and there's enough hazy fog in the air that I have to occasionally wipe my helmet visor clear. I've heard a few locals complaining about how 'cold' it is. When I left Victoria it was 52 F and had been raining pretty much non-stop for a week, so I found the riding conditions to be rather decent actually.

I notice quite a few large hawk flying overhead.

Suddenly Hwy 1 merges into Hwy 101 and I am dealing with three or four lane of bumpy concrete slab. The speed limit increases to 65 mph and there's a surprisingly large amount of traffic considering it's Sunday morning.

I soon find that although the Shadow 600 is comfortable at lower speeds, once you reach 60 mph or more the wind blast is quite uncomfortable. I think this Honda could really use a windscreen. The suspension is poor and transmits the bump of the concrete slab joints, making the ride on Hwy 101 rather harsh. The brake are decent but the front brake has a wooden feel to the lever. Also the 600 V-twin seems a bit low on power, leading to mediocre acceleration. Perhaps the most disconcerting problem is that the footpegs have a fair amount of vibration and are placed at what I find to be a slightly awkward angle; my right foot keep getting shaken right off the peg!

The clouds are gone; the weather is now sunny and 75 F. When I stop for gasoline I find the price to be $1.55 per US gallon, or about $0.40 US per litre.

Unfortunately the turn-off for Hwy 1 at Lompoc is closed for construction so I stay on 101 past Los Alamos and Arroyo Grande. Finally at San Luis Obispo Hwy 1 splits off from 101 and heads to the coastline. Soon the level of traffic dies down some and I am riding within sight of the Pacific Ocean.

Highways have cleaning sections sponsored by various civic groups. One section I saw was sponsored by a local Harley Owners Group chapter. Riding along the side of the road were Harley owners carting bags of garbage on their bikes. In front of me a woman rider lost her little black skull cap and I had to suddenly swerve as it rolled out in front of me. The irony of almost being killed because someone else had to wear a helmet is not lost on me.

Just north of Buellton some twit on a Harley Bad Boy started to merge onto the highway behind me, then passed me on the paved shoulder even though the lane to the left was completely empty. I'm not sure what the heck his problem was.

I realise I am a bit tired and ask a gas station clerk in the little town of Harmony where I can camp locally. She tells me to stop in San Simeon State Park. I do so, pitching my tent for $14 and grabbing a nice hot shower.

San Simeon is the site of a creek flowing into the Pacific. There's a large tidal flat with many sea birds. I throw on a pair of shorts and take a relaxing stroll along the beach. Wave crash in and surf drifts up to my knees. As I walk back up to the creek I see a few large white egrets, sandpipers, cormorants, etc.

The weather is warm and sunny, yet the campground is only a quarter full. Many are Germans with rented RVs. Although it's only 5:30 PM I catch myself yawning and decide to go to sleep early.

I have a campsite reserved in Yosemite National Park on Tuesday and Wednesday. There's a distance of about 300 mile between here and there: I figure I'll ride up to Monterey tomorrow, and then head east through Merced county to Yosemite.

I've found that the 600 gets about 50 miles per gallon but has a very small tank: I have to flip over to reserve at about 90 miles into a tankful.

I realise I haven't eaten anything all day. I'm a bit hungry.

Mon., Oct. 6, 1997:
(San Simeon -> Monterey: 100 miles by motorcycle)

I slept reasonably well in my tent and sleeping bag. The temperature dropped down to only the low 60s or so. The waves crashing in the background lulled me to sleep. I woke up about thirty minutes before sunrise, so I packed up and left just as the sun was rising.

I pass by the Hearst mansion in dry hilly terrain. Soon I reach some very tight hairpins posted at only 20 mph. I stop for breakfast at a little "Whale Watcher" cafe in the hamlet of Gorda. It was expensive but good: $12 for eggs and sausage breakfast. While here I gas up when I notice the sign saying "No gas for 40 miles north of Gorda".

I ride into Los Padres National Forest; the road clings to the cliffsides above the ocean. After many miles of curves the highway turns inland and the roadside becomes more lush and green. Traffic picks up a bit as I pass through Big Sur's scattering of campgrounds and cafes. Lots of trees.

I've had an occasional stop for road construction but only one short stretch of gravel near Gorda.

As the road again passes along the coast north of Point Sur, the terrain has become dry and bare. The wind blowing off the ocean is fierce and it makes it difficult to control the Shadow at time.

I reach the Carmel Highlands and top up my fuel. The gas station clerk tells me that there' not a lot of places to visit between here and Yosemite. He suggests that I spend the afternoon in Monterey visiting Fishermen's Wharf and Cannery Row. I ride into Monterey after doing a short day of only 100 miles or so. After finding a Travelodge room ($73 US) I walk a couple block to Fishermen's Wharf.

At one time this was a commercial fishing wharf but the fishermen have moved over to a larger pier. Now the old Fishermen's Wharf consists of a lot of tourist shops and seafood restaurants. I find the most interesting sight to be all the sea lions, seals, and pelicans swarming around the dock.

I then walk over to Cannery Row. This used to consist of old fish canning plants but is now mostly kitschy antique shops, overpriced trendy restaurants, etc. Still, it is pleasant enough to stroll through, and I walk over to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

It was quite pricey ($15 US) but well worth the money. Various Plexiglas tanks are filled with different types of sea life. I particularly liked the Outer Bay display: this consisted of blue-coloured water tank filled with various jellyfish. Some yellow lights beam down into the tank, lighting up the jellyfish against the dark blue background.

I then walked back through Cannery Row and got some dinner at a Fisherman's Wharf restaurant. I hung out at the wharf and watched some kids trying to surf (and not succeeding very well).

It looks like about 200 mile from Monterey to Yosemite. If I leave early tomorrow I should be there by noon. I watched the weather forecast and rain is supposed to hit northern California on Thursday.

I tried putting a penny in the footpeg bracket to wedge the right footpeg up at a slight angle. My boot now hooks better onto the peg and doesn't slip off anymore.

Tues., Oct. 7, 1997:
(Monterey -> Yosemite: 210 miles by motorcycle)

I check out at 7:15 AM and start riding east. I find my way past Prunedale onto Hwy 156. As I ride through San Juan Bautista and Hollister the road becomes a dry dusty two-laner through irrigated farm country. Just north of Hollister the road becomes a bumpy multi-lane concrete freeway. Lots of tractor-trailers are hauling farm produce. I pass by the San Luis Reservoir into Los Banos. Here I stop for some coffee at McDonald's and then get back on Hwy 152.

The terrain is very flat farmland and the wind picks up, gusting at times. It's annoying but not as bad as on the coast yesterday. I turn north on route 59 towards Merced. Very boring uneventful farm country.

I fuel up in Merced and head east on 140 towards Yosemite. Within about ten miles the terrain becomes hilly. Trees start to appear again and the road becomes increasingly curvy and hilly. I enter the Sierra National Forest and have to stop for gasoline in the 'town' of El Portal - basically a service station/general store/sloppy joe.

The last twenty miles or so to Yosemite Village are very slow - the road is very narrow and twisty with lots of stopped cars full of tourists taking pictures. I stop to pay the entry fee: $10, the same as an individual on foot, horseback, or bicycle. Cars are $20.

When I left Monterey, the hotel clerk told me that it would take only four hours to reach Yosemite. That's true, but he failed to mention that I'd waste another hour riding around trying to puzzle out where the heck my reserved campsite was. (Two months before this I had reserved a campsite for two nights at $15 US per night.) Even though October is in the 'off-season' the campgrounds were booked full. This because there were severe floods back in January that destroyed half the available sites.

Yosemite Valley lies between two opposing cliffs of sheer granite rising up thousands of feet on either side. I pitch my tent in the Upper Pines campground. It's still early in the afternoon so I decide to go hike the newest trail Vernal Falls. The first half goes fairly easily and I reach a foot bridge. Many folks are snapping photos. I look way up to the top of the falls and see tiny white figures moving around. I start hiking further up the trail. At first it's easy and I soon reach a vantage point where I can see the falls much better, but I'm still nowhere near the top.

I keep going and the trail climbs much more steeply now. After a while I reach a better view of the falls. Water falls down the cliff face onto slabs of flat brown rock, then splatters, filling the air with a brilliant rainbow-coloured mist. This view was quite spectacular. I realise I'm still only 80% done. I trudge up to the top and finally reach the Vernal Fall's upper edge. A flat sheet of smoothly worn white granite has channels carved into it. Water streams over and falls off the edge. I look over the cliff and see tiny figures walking on the bridge far below.

I slowly work my way back down the "Mist trail". About halfway down an older man slips on one of the rocks (this is very easy to do as many are covered with sand). Luckily he was wearing a knapsack filled with soft clothing; this acted as a cushion when he landed on his back.

After two and a half hours I finally reach camp and have a shower in the Curry Camp's rather grimy shower room. I then have a surprisingly good dinner of broiled rainbow trout in the cafeteria and head off to sleep. On the way back to my tent I see a bright light shining halfway up the face of the cliffs known as the Royal Arches. At first I thought it was a shiny rock reflecting a car headlight, but then I realised it was a rock climber camping out halfway up the height of 2000 feet or so.

Wed., Oct. 8, 1997:
(Around Yosemite: about 100 miles by bus)

I slept well from 8:30 to about 5 AM or so. The temperature dropped down to about 50 F, and I was comfortable in my sleeping bag.

I got up and by 7 AM started walking to Yosemite Lodge to try and book a guided tour. Along the way I gained a good idea of the village's layout. At the Lodge's cafeteria I eat a couple of pancakes and then looked at the available bus tours. The longest tour runs from 9 AM to 5 PM and costs $45 US. I decide to splurge and sign up.

With an hour to kill I walked over to Yosemite Falls. This is a very easy walk to the foot of a 600+ foot seasonal waterfall. Unfortunately the fall were dry and so I could only see dark water stains running down the cliff face: even so the view was impressive.

I walked back and joined the bus tour. There were about 25 people on a heated comfy bus. Our first stop was the famous cliff El Capitan. (It's the one Captain Kirk is trying to climb in Star Trek V.) We could see several people climbing the 2000 foot face, and noticed several temporary ledges hanging to the face for camping.

Thom, the bus driver, told us a lot of facts about climbing. He tells us that when he asked his climber friends why, they gave him three reasons why they climb:
- because it's there.
- a feeling of accomplishment.
- focusing on the task at hand shuts out every other thought.

This last reason really rang true: it's why I like motorcycling. When I'm riding that's all I think about; no worrying about work, etc.

It was sunny but a bit crisp (60 F). The bus started the lengthy trip on the winding mountain road to Mariposa Grove, site of a giant sequoia tree forest. Once there, we switched to an open air tractor-tram. The tram weaved slowly up the trail in heavy forest of about two miles. As we went up, many of the hikers who choose to walk instead of pay $8 to ride another tram called out jokingly "Hey gimme a ride!"

Along the way an elderly couple waved at us. A we passed by the man yelled at us "Go to Hell!" Thom immediately stopped the tram and asked the husband what his problem was. The man rather rudely insisted that Thom give the elderly wife a ride to the top and offered the $8.

We proceeded to the top and then back down, stopping several times to take pictures and look at the giant trees. They were spectacular.

After this we returned to the bus and then stopped at the Wawona Hotel for lunch. I had a beer and a sandwich, then wandered over to the Pioneer Village. Here several historic buildings had been preserved, including the original Yosemite Well-Fargo station.

After lunch the bus ran up the very twisty road to Glacier Point. Here one sees a panoramic view of the entire Yosemite Valley. Definitely this view was worth the money for the bus. Finally we stopped at Tunnel View for photos before returning to the Valley.

I did some laundry and grabbed a big meal of rather bland beef stew.

Thur., Oct. 9, 1997:
(Yosemite -> Monterey: 210 miles by motorcycle)

I slept well. Just as I was falling asleep rain started to sprinkle down. When I wake up I find out that a winter storm is supposedly coming and that heavy rain with a chance of snow is expected. I decide I had better get out of the Valley while the getting is good. I pack and put on my rain gear. As I start riding west the skies were cloudy and the temperature was about 50 F. When I reach the exit, the ranger tell me that about a foot of snow had fallen on route 120, the eastern entrance to Yosemite.

The ride back through Merced and Los Banos is uneventful. Sometimes I get a few rain drops on my visor but at least it isn't as windy as a couple of days ago. Just 30 or 40 miles from Monterey the rain starts to fall. It's a heavy mist that clings to my visor - I have to keep wiping my view clear every few seconds. I'm forced to pull the Shadow over a couple of times to wipe muddy road spray off my visor. The spray coming up off the road seems to be exceptionally dirty; maybe because this area doesn't get a lot of rain to wash the roads clean very often?

At one point about ten miles north of Monterey, I was riding Hwy 101 parallel to the Pacific. I could feel rain and sand being blown off the beach splattering on me and my partially opened visor (I'd cracked it open to help prevent fogging). At one point I accidentally breathed in some sandy grit and started choking.

Finally I reached Monterey and got a room at the same Travelodge I'd stayed at before. Despite rain falling heavily now, I decided to go walking down to the Cannery Row. I bought a couple of sweatshirt as souvenirs and arranged to ship them home via UPS.

The sky starts to clear up around 3:30 PM. I walk to Fisherman's Wharf and have an excellent Cajun snapper at Rappa's restaurant.

I stop and buy a couple of cheap sponges for a buck and then fill my hotel trash basket with hot soapy water. I then give the Honda a good washing to get rid of most of the road grit and mud. Back in my room, I look over my map and plan to ride to Hearst Castle tomorrow, then camp in San Simeon again.

Fri., Oct. 10, 1997:
(Monterey -> San Simeon: 100 miles by motorcycle)

The weather is mostly clear and about 48 F. I fuelled up and started riding Hwy 1 south along the central coast. The riding along the curvy hillsides is very pleasant and there isn't much traffic. At times I would ride for several minutes without seeing another vehicle.

I enjoy the ride and as the hills start to flatten out I reach Hearst Castle. I pull in this time and pay $14 for a tour of the mansion and $4 for a IMAX movie about the castle's construction. If you've seen the Orson Welles' movie Citizen Kane, then you may know that this movie is loosely based on the life story of William Randolph Hearst. Hearst founded a huge newspaper and film empire in the early part of the 20th century. He used his huge fortune to build an elaborate castle on his 48,000 acre estate in San Simeon.

The tour includes a bus ride up a long winding road to the hilltops. Here we get out and guides then spend about an hour or so showing us through the elaborate gardens, one of the several guest houses, and past the Olympic-size "Neptune pool". We walk inside the main castle and see both the main room and dining hall. Every room is filled with marble fixtures, ornate hand-carved ceiling panels, 17th century tapestries, etc. Much of the artwork has been imported from European castles.

Finally we see the giant Roman-style indoor swimming pool. After this we finally return to the visitor centre at the bottom of the hill. I watched the IMAX movie and found it to be more like propaganda for the "great William Randolph Hearst" than anything else. Save the four bucks for the film, but the castle tour is worth $14.

I get back to my bike in the parking lot around 2 PM. It's very windy but sunny and 70 F. I decide to stop at San Simeon State Park again after grabbing a couple of deli sandwiches to eat later.

San Simeon has a three mile trail loop that I spend an hour or two walking. It's interesting how the terrain changes from salt marshes with egrets and herons to a pine forest full of squirrels and hawks in that short distance.

Tomorrow I will ride about 100 miles or so south of here and either camp or get a cheap motel room. I will ask around and find out where a good place to stay is. (Later) A couple of campers have just told me that the beaches west of Santa Barbara (Refugio/El Capitan) are good but fill up early.

At 6:30 PM it starts to rain: a dark cloud blew in very quickly.

Sat., Oct. 11, 1997:
(San Simeon -> El Capitan State Park: 100 miles by motorcycle)

I get up early on a very cool crisp morning in San Simeon. It rained a fair amount though the night and so my tent is damp. There's nothing wore than packing up a cold, soggy tent.. I hop on the Honda and start riding south on Hwy 1/Hwy 101. The sun is in my eyes but I still make good progress in the light morning traffic. I pass through ranchlands and small farm towns. At Pismo Beach I turn right onto the more scenic Hwy 1 instead of 101. For the next 30 miles or so there's almost no traffic. I ride through an old Mexican-looking town called Guadalupe. After passing through town, the road then has many gentle sweepers and hills. I pass by Vanderburg Air Force base and ride into the town of Lompoc.

I'm hungry so I ask the gas station clerk for advice on finding a restaurant. She tells me to stay on Hwy 1 through town and I'll pass an IHOP and a Denny's. I keep riding and then notice a very plain brick building. It's the only building on that block with any vehicles in its parking lot. There's a picture of a pig eating painted on the side of the building. The name of the place is "Hi's - Let's Eat!".

Intrigued, I pull in and notice that all the car and trucks appear to be local Lompoc residents. I go in and find a large old cafe run by a local family. I have a delicious breakfast of biscuits and gravy with home-made sausage - yum yum! $8 and worth every artery-clogging penny.

I waddle out to the Shadow and ride Hwy 1 through some hills to Los Cruses and merge onto 101 (very bumpy concrete slabs). I decide to camp out one more night and stop at Refugio State Beach, but all the campsites are full. I then move three miles down the road to El Capitan State Beach. It's also full but the ranger tells me to try the privately-owned El Capitan Canyon campground on the opposite side of 101.

I am able to get a tent site for $18 (ouch). I had to park way at the very back end of the campground. After pitching my tent I walk back over to El Capitan Beach. I pass through a grove of trees swarming with hundreds of monarch butterflies.

I reach the beach; it's very sunny and warm, with lots of surfers and swimmers enjoying the sun. After I've walked a couple of miles down the beach, I look back and am shocked to see a huge cloud of black smoke rising from the canyon where my campsite is! As I hurry back to the State park and see that the canyon is filled with flames and smoke - a forest fire has broken out! Thirty foot high flames burn up the dry grasses on the hillsides.

When I reach El Capitan - it's completely deserted. RVs, trailers, tents, bicycles, even cars have been abandoned: the park is now a ghost town. A Toyota Forerunner pulls up and a family (Villi, Eleanor and two daughters) offer me a ride to safety. Apparently state troopers came through with a loudspeaker and ordered everyone to evacuate immediately. Flames have jumped the highway and the far end of the El Capitan campground is burning!

I jump in and we drive out. As we pass the privately-owned campground, we see it is blocked off by state troopers and we can see dozens of fire-fighters working in the smoke-filled campground.

About a quarter mile down the now completely empty Hwy 101 we pull over next to some other campers. It turns out that the family giving me a ride is part of a Girl Scout troop campout. The Hwy traffic has been blocked off in both directions and so 101 is completely empty of cars. The rest of the girl scout parents are having a party on the freeway: they have a card table set up and start offering beer and food while I tell them that my motorcycle is trapped in the burning campground. A passing CHP motorcycle cop tells us that the campground looks burned out.

A huge four-engined waterbomber starts flying overhead, dumping bright red fire-retardant chemicals on the burning hillside. A couple of helicopters are also circling around dumping water on the flames. We can see bulldozer and fire-fighters cutting a firebreak: the fire is now easily 100 acres in size. As we watch hundred of butterflies swarm out of the trees fleeing the flame and smoke.

After a couple of hours the flames seem to be dying down. We ask a passing deputy what the canyon campground is like. She says (direct quote) "Don't listen to those Highway Patrol idiots - all they know how to do is stop traffic!" She then tells me to go to the campground and see what the fire-fighters have to say.

Eleanor and Villi drive me back to the canyon. The fire-fighters say it's safe; they have managed to create a firebreak around the campground. We drive in and see that the fire has completely consumed all the vegetation on the hillsides surrounding the campground, but nothing in the campground itself is harmed! The wind blew the flames from one hill to the opposite side but the fire teams had stopped the flames from coming into the camp itself.

We find my motorcycle and tent are completely undamaged. What a relief! Villi and Eleanor drop me off. At the next campsite over, four people from the San Fernando valley (Kelly, Willy, Candice, and Larry) are joking around and partying. They shove cold beers in my hand and offer me food while telling me that the fire-fighters have told them it's safe to stay but to be ready to leave at a moment's notice. Apparently the fire is actually much worse across the highway at the State park - several tents and trailers have burned.

I spend the rest of the evening sitting with these folk. Another family returns to the next site over. A father and daughter start playing acoustic guitar and fiddle while beers and wine are passed around freely. Meanwhile we watch helicopters and the waterbomber flying just over the nearby hills. It was a very entertaining evening, and I finally turn in around 10 PM.

Sun., Oct. 12, 1997:
(El Capitan -> Los Angeles: 100 miles by motorcycle)

I packed up and started riding around 7:30 AM. Hwy 101 had little traffic and I made good speed. It was sunny and warm. The hillsides are burned black along the side of the highway for at least a couple miles. Soon Hwy 1 splits off from 101 near Oxford. I stopped for breakfast at a Denny's and then ride along the beachside the last few miles to Malibu.

I reach Malibu Motorcycle Rental around 10 PM. I finish off the paperwork and hand over the keys. Total miles rode: 1057. Cost $522 US including all the taxes and what-not.

I ask some questions about the rental business. MMR has two Shadow 600s and three Magna 750s for rent. They get a lot of customers breezing through LA for a day; others are Europeans who will rent a bike for three or four weeks to ride a major tour of the Southwest USA.

The owner (Pat) tells me that since he put up a web page, he gets about 40 e-mails a week asking question; about 5% actually lead to a rental.

Pat tells me that a lot of places in California rent BMWs or Harleys, but they tend to cost a lot more ($700+ US per week). By renting Hondas Pat is able to get at the lower cost market (i.e. folk who just want to rent two wheels and aren't fussy about the name on the tank). Over the last couple of years, only one break-down has occurred. Unfortunately, Pat tells me, many Germans refuse to rent anything except a BMW. He is thinking of getting a couple of BMWs to gain more European customers.

Frankly I wish more places would rent cheaper Japanese motorcycles. There are a lot of places that rent Harley and BMWs for high rates but hardly anyone rents out cheap bikes. Personally I don't give a damn about what the brand is as long as I'm just riding a motorcycle.

I find a hotel room in LA. At the hotel I arrange to spend the afternoon on a guided bus tour of LA. The tour included visits to Venice, Farmer's Market, Mann's Chinese Theatre, and the Beverly Hills area.

I flew home Monday morning. While flying home I got a great overhead view of the whole Yosemite Valley.


Total expenses: Economy round-trip plane ticket - $250 US.
Shadow 600 rental - $520 US.
Four hotel nights - $400 US.
Five camp nights - $100 US
Food, fuel, misc. - $200 US.

I found the Shadow 600 to be an adequate and comfortable, if unexciting bike. I certainly would have no qualms about renting a Shadow again.

California drivers: usually pretty respectful towards me. No major problems.
Speeds: City is usually 35 to 45 mph. Highway is usually 65 mph.
Roads: Generally good condition and well-marked. Major freeways often use bumpy concrete slabs instead of smooth asphalt.
Banks: easy to find bank machines.
Hotels: surprisingly expensive. On average $100 US per night, and it was the off-season!
Camping: $15 per night, and not too hard to find. Make sure to reserve a site ahead of time at popular sites like Yosemite.
Fuel: $1.55 US per US gallon on average. Never a problem to find a gas station.
Food: Cheap and plentiful
Helmets: Mandatory.
People: Very friendly and helpful. Never encountered any attitude problems.
Weather: Generally warm and sunny.

Malibu Motorcycle Rentals: I highly recommended this rental agency, but they no longer rent motorcycles!

Bruce Clarke
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