DISTANCE. SPEED. TIME :: Day 5 & 6: San Francisco – Garberville – Winchester Bay

DISTANCE. SPEED. TIME :: Day 5 & Day 5: San Francisco – Garberville – Winchester Bay

Text: Praveer (Driver)

Pics: Sunny (Rider)

SF-Garberville-Winchster Bay

The Golden Gate bridge was indeed a high point in the trip. And we moved to our Motel in San Pablo post that only to leave early to ride back to the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). Even though we know what was lying ahead was cloudy and chilly weather. But still we had to get next to the ocean for the next part of the ride. And so we did riding almost 400 kms only to reach Garberville and stay at a motel owned by some Mr. Kamlesh Bhai.

Day 6 was supposed to have the same fate as Day 5 as we rode next to the coast and did again almost 400 kms and reached Winchester Bay a small town on the coast with a small harbor.

Winchester Bay

Now I want to cover these two days in a different way. Not the regular travelogue from here to there and what we saw but something different. I want to talk about the relationship between Distance. Speed. And Time. In the context of the roadtrip and our travels. And you will find in the end that all of them are so deeply related that no road trip is complete without them.

DISTANCE

America is famous for its strict enforcement of laws and that is exactly what they do. Distance is dictated by two variables of speed and time. And in America both speed and time are inversely proportional. The speed is not more than 65 miles maximum at any given part of the road (barring in some states where we are not riding). And it even slows down further as the moment you enter a town you are required to slash your speed to not more than 25-30 miles. And also come to a complete halt at all crossings. This is why we have been limited to covering only around 400 kms everyday.

Overtaking is a strict no no and overspeeding can fetch you a fine of upto 500 dollars. So covering long distances one needs to have patience and time because speed will not do the thing for you.

Long Long Distances and a trademark of an American roadtrip

 SPEED

Now contrary to the above point there was a section of our ride on Day 4 where we got to push the limits of both the bike and the car on an amazing twisty road. And this road is just before Stuarts Point on the PCH and connects the inland. Its not yet spotted by highway patrol so the bikers and drivers use it to test their skills on the curves. Its 45-50 kms of sheer bliss through forests, lakes and smooth tarmac. And I pushed the AMG to my limits and found it one of the most exhilarating drives yet in my life. I shouldn’t mention this but I was doing triple digits for a short section of the road on the curves and the car surprised me with its traction control and handling. I mean it is a dream when the drivers seat locks from the sides and holds you tight so you don’t move around on the curves. And there was Sunny on the Diavel which I know for a fact loves the curves as well.

The Devil and the God's Chariot

 TIME

So we can covered distance and speed now lets look at time not in terms of our travel but in respect to what we are seeing when we travel. I have four words for you THE AVENUE OF THE GIANT. Before reading on I think you should google this and read about one of the most amazing parts of the PCH. This is a 50 kms road just off the US 101 highway and boasts of its redwood trees each dating atleast a couple of thousand years in time. These trees are huge I mean big enough to let a car through the trunk and yes we did. And when you spot a location on your ride that has been around for so many thousands of years you start asking yourself this one question :

Are distance and speed really that important because time does win over everything else in the end.

 

The Avenue of the Giants

Riding in the Avenue of the Giants

Mist at Winchester Bay

The AMG at Winchester Bay

On the Big Sur

Riding the Big Sur on a gloomy day

More riding

At Big Sur's Cliffs

 

 

Express Update: Completed 3000 kms

Text: Sundeep Gajjar (“Rider’)

Completed 3000 kms in the trip. As the ‘Rider’, I have to admit, I was blown away by the AMG CLS 63′s performance, especially on the corners. This is the first ‘high performance’ car that I have driven. Drove it 1200 kms in all sorts of traffic, highways and ultra narrow and sinuous roads. Coming to the Ducati Diavel. 160 Hp and the fantastic looks leave nothing to be desired for. And it leans like a superbike, well almost. Thanks to the ‘Driver’ Praveer Kochhar , for his wonderful company.

Today we did 540 kms: Winchester Bay, OR to Packwood, WA.

Overlooking Mt. St. Helens

Half Way to Seattle!

Today's Route - 400 kms

 

The weather on the West coast has been confused and cold. Sometimes its misty, sometimes sunny. Its really messing up with our photography plans. We are right now in a small town of Winchester Bay and looking to reach Seattle by day after early afternoon.  Here is a pic from today while we upload the blog!

Car chasing the Bike!

“East is East, and West is San Francisco”~O.Henry

At the Golden Gate Bridge

Text : Praveer Kochhar

 

Pictures : Sundeep Gajjar

Many photos have been taken by cell phone while on the road. The good ones are taken using Canon cameras. And the best ones will be in the xBhp Magazine October Anniversary Issue. ;)

 

Well more about the headline a little later in the blog first up lets begin where we left off. In Oakhurst just on the foothills of Yosemite National Park. The United States is an outdoorsy country, people are hiking, fishing, camping, boating, riding and doing all that can be done outdoors. Its fascinating to see how brilliantly everything is laid out for them, with camping stops clearly demarcated, facilities like bathing rooms, barbeque stations, washing machines put out so you can actually live in the outdoors. And we are but experiencing a little bit of that by being on the road for almost 12 hours everyday.

Light Breakfast for Diavel, heavy lunch for the CLS

 

Spot the Devil!

The Devil walks over water

 

So it started from Oakhurst at around 1030 in the morning and after much debate the decision was taken to ride/drive to San Francisco. I personally wanted to go to this city just to see the Golden Gate Bridge. Its like folklore when you have heard stores seen pictures and countless movies that feature San Francisco, XMEN, Milk, Day after tomorrow and countless other movies. And also to see the trams and the streets that almost run in to the sky as its built on 7 hills. So we left Oakhurst on Highway 46 which was a nice winding road with me pushing the AMG on the corners and getting surprised at the amazing traction control this car has. Its like its been mounted on rails, I took a couple of corners at 95kmph and it was as if I couldn’t do anything to make this car slide. There were lakes on the way with the strong California sun shining. After around 80 kms we left he hills only to discover some amazing flat ground with Golden grass and roads that looked like out of a country song.

 

 

 

Windmills on rolling golden hills

Sunny getting ready to deal with some curves

On the Road with the Diavel

Almost like a shark's fin, ready to prey everything on the road with 500+ horses beneath - the CLS 63 AMG

Another shot at the Driver

 

Kept riding until we left the beauty of the countryside and reached the cities just before Modesto to have out lunch at the famous Taco Bell. It was around 3pm and we were yet to decide on the place to stay. So Sunny got on with his laptop and trip advisor to figure out the place to stay while we fed ourselves some Burritos (I like the way it sounds). San Fran was about 160 kms and we decided to swap the vehicles so it was not my turn to tame the Diavel and Sunny to plug his iPhone and listen to some of his favorite tracks on the Harman Kardon.

 

Role Swap

Sunny, the rider, in the CLS.

Praveer, the Driver, on the Diavel

 

 

 

I want to write a bit about riding on the Freeways in the US. I mean they are fast and 6 lanes on each side but the thing that is most scary for a biker are the cross winds. I mean they are so strong in places that they push the bike off course and there were times when I was doing around 120 and the bike would get dragged on the sides. Well we rode without a stop till San Francisco and it go cloudy, colder and windy as we went along. We entered Oakland and then took one of the 3 bridges that connects San Francisco with Oakland and got a first look at this beautiful city.

 

On the Highway

Long, very long traffic jams en route SF

 

In SF Traffic!

Cool dude on a Harley near SF

 

 

We had decided to go to Mt. Davidson (a small hill in the middle of San Fran) but because of the clouds we decided to head straight to the Golden Gate bridge. Which was I guess the high point of this trip so far.

 

GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

 

 

 

So we got on with the job and spent a couple of hours shooting around the Golden Gate Bridge. Soon an American friend of ours who had visited India recently with his wife and toured Uttarakhand on Pulsars (Tom and Terry) joined us and waited patiently as we wrapped up our days work. We went out to dinner at this really old (but now newly built) café called The Cliff House. Which they say is more than a 100 years old. Wrapping up dinner by around 10pm it was time to head to the Hotel in San Pablo around 40 kms from the Café. And I was in charge of the Diavel in this windy almost 12 degrees weather. And so we reached in a not so popular neighborhood of San Francisco. And it was time to crash and that is exactly what we did.

Me, the Driver, in SF

The Golden Gate bridge at dusk shrouded in mist

 

 

So now our route for the next day is planned thanks to Tom and his insight into some great roads that we can cover. Its time to say adios and we will see you tomorrow.

The Route for today, courtesy Google Maps

 

 

 

Day 2 & 3 : Aug 17th & 18th : LA – Big Sur – Carmel – Oakhurst – Yosemite

Text: Sundeep Gajjar

Photos: Many photos have been taken by cell phone while on the road. The good ones are taken using Canon cameras. And the best ones will be in the xBhp Magazine October Anniversary Issue. ;)

Aug 17

We finally started out from LA at 9 AM. Me on the Diavel and Praveer in the CLS. It was cold and overcast. There is a strange kind of mist in the mornings which lasts upto 11 AM when the sun begins to shine through. We hit the much hyped Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), No.1 to see what it was all about.  I was prepared for dull riding because I had noted in my repeat trip around NZ in 2010 on a Suzuki Bking that coastal areas look best under blue skies and sunshine and they look absolutely awful and gray under overcast. Thats of course because the water is blue as its reflecting the color of the sky than anything else. Plus riding is always a pleasure on sunny days. So yes, it was dull. For a while. Until the sun came out and the mists cleared. Suddenly everything became beautiful.

The PCH runs, for a lot of part, hugging cliffs on one side and the mountains on the other. There were fast moving low hung clouds which added to the drama. It reminded me of NZ and The Great Ocean Road in Australia. However this look somehow much more massive in proportions  - from the vast sea to the high cliffs marking the boundaries of the roads. We had our lunch in a place called Lompoc, on the PCH. Here we met the owner of the restaurant who admired  the Diavel 360 degree for quite a while before coming up to us to say that this was the first time he saw one of these and that he was quite impressed with the looks at least. He also had a Ducati 999 of his, therefore only a Ducatista can understand the thrill of riding a Ducati. The Driver meanwhile could only participate passively as we discussed motorcycling. :D During our lunch the owner suggested us that we do the famous Big Sur (a part of the PCH where the Santa Lucia mountains rise abruptly). The Big Sur extend from 400kms north of LA to 135 kms south of San Francisco. He also suggested that we do Yosemite National Park, which was actually inland and would be a sort of detour. A lot of people and books had suggested Yosemite as well, hence his suggestion fell in place and turned into a conviction of sorts. So today (August 17th) we made it via Big Sur to a town called Carmel by the sea after trying various other places on the way. All motels and hotels were full. It seemed that all the US was on the move, holidaying. After a lot of hunting we finally found a Best Western hotel in Carmel, which by the way was a very beautiful town. And very chilly too.

I Shot the Sherrif somewhere on the Big Sur

To reach Carmel I had to ride through thick fog at 9 PM in th night on mountain roads. It was more difficult than I thought. Why, read on below. The quality of US roads. So far. Has been disappointing. I didnt think I will ever write it like this. But the roads in LA were quite bumpy, with cracks and repairs. There were good roads  as well but the bad ones shone through more often. And then there was the Big Sur. It is a landslide area alright, but the quality of the roads was decent at best. I was afraid of taking a fast turn lest there was gravel, cracks and sometimes even potholes on the road. No the US quality that i had been fed with so far. The roads in Australia and most parts of Europe were much better than here. So far.

The Big Sur (Courtsey Wikipedia)

Anna Hazare making headlines, even in Los Angeles Times second page!

Sunset on the Big Sur

From LA to Carmel

Aug 18The next day saw us wake up in a VERY chilly and overcast Carmel. However the whole town was draped with a party atmosphere as lots of vintage cars showed up, in all shapes and sizes. And thats when I also spotted my breakfast and lunch for the day:

One for breakfast and the other for lunch !

After that sumptuous breakfast we hit the road again after a quick refill. Onwards to Yosemite! It was VERY chilly. But as soon as we started going inland the weather changed abruptly. The skies cleared giving way to a clear and bright sky. The temperature skyrocketed to decently hot. The landscape became a painting golden rolling hills under a  blue sky and with me enjoying every bit of it!

To Yosemite National Park

And here is when the Carminator was first sighted:

The Carminator : Annihilates all things on four legs, including 535 horses! More on www.driverVSrider.com!

The Carminator!

This is how the Carminator picture above was shot by me using a Canon 5D and the 14mm 2.8.

The road from Carmel to Oakhurst (a town 20 kms before Yosemite) looked like Maharashtra in summer with all its golden rolling hills.   It was quite hot in Oakhurst when we reached there at 4 PM. In 15 minutes we checked into our Comfort Inn hotel and set out again to Yosemite which was another 150 kms return ride. Yosemite was a great place to ride with the tall trees and the sinuous roads. Truly a motorcyclist’s delight…If it not were for the tourists teeming everywhere. I was a little disappointed, for the lack of photo opportunities with the vehicles as well as the crowd. All said and done here was one more place checked out of the must see list. But I hope the rest of the trip shows us better!

Riding in the Yosemite

At Yosemite

At Yosemite National Park, Dusk.

Aug 18th Route: From Carmel to Oakhurst and Yosemite

Express Update: Day 2 : LA-Carmel via Big Sur

Did approx 550 kms yesterday. Took us more than 12 hours because of the speed limit on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) and the any photo stops that we took.

I rode the Diavel for most of the duration today, except for approx 75 kays where the Driver wanted to feel alve again and hopped onto the bike (actually I wanted him to do so, to experience life without cruise control ).

Talking about cruise control – the AMG had one and we figured out how to use it. With just a touch of a lever in transforms into a high tech gizmo with detects what in front and back and automatically applies brake and accelerates. You just have to keep steering it in the right direction. As if the automatic wasn’t  enough! ALong this was a seat massager, side seat turn support, and ten thousand other electronics working in the background.

The Diavel was mindblowing, all the time I rode it in sports mode with Ducati Traction Control set to 1.

Here is a pic from yesterday (actually India’s today):

 

First Impressions :: Unites States of Amexico

Text  : Praveer Kochhar
Driver Status :: Up since 6 am and currently its 12:30 its has indeed been a long day.
Rider Status :: Slept last night at 2:30am and got up at 7:45

Every new place evokes the same emotions in everyone, we compare, convert and comprehend what is happening around us. That is how the DAY 1 of this trip has been. It was supposed to be a ride into the sunset running along a beach with some soulful music playing in the Harman/Kardan 12 speaker system of the AMG. But instead it was a day full of unexpected twists, delays rendering us back to the same hotel we checked out in the morning to set out on our sojourn.
Some pointers on what we learnt today about the US :

1. More Mexicans than Americans. And almost every signage is translated in Mexican as well.

Walk in line people. This place tells you everything that you need to do and how you need to do it!

2. While trying to get a technical problem solved have patience and if possible use your own Indian techy Superpowers to help them find a solution.

This is when you think you can solve the problem yourself!

At the AT&T store while the Driver tried his best to explain the technicalities of the issue to the AT&T team the rider takes a break from the action.

3.The bikes might be cheaper here but the service surely isn’t

This is how much it costs to get your bike serviced. But you know what they will do a full service within 1.5 hours as well.

 

4. Toys’r'us. Of action figures. Scale models and well Laser Tags.

4. The ride starts tomorrow. For sure!! And we are ready.

Our machines are set. We are set. The rubber is set to be burnt.

A brand new Diavel goes well with his brand new all leather Ducati Riding jacket!

As far as I am concerned wont want anything more than this. Or maybe just the speed limits taken off.

 

My 2 cents on the AMG.
Anyone of you who has been on a rollercoaster would know what exactly it is to be inside an AMG. Its the same amazing amount of torque with some very very advanced features. The car has 4 modes to adjust its suspension, 4 modes of performance driving, an in built navigation system, Automatic overtaking alarms that notify you in case there is someone in the blind spot. It handles like its been pasted on the road. And sounds better than a superbike (though the rider would surely debate about this). I am looking forward to taking this monster of a car outside the city and the traffic and experience it on the open road. So more very soon now that we are connected with the T Mobile 4G internet. Phisshh.

Here’s me the Driver signing off for the night. Exactly at 01:20am in the morning. Just 6 hours for take off.

Day 0 : 15th Aug : Around LA : Universal Studios

Text: Sundeep Gajjar

First of all, Happy Independence Day to all Indians!

Today I completed 150 kms with the AMG CLS 63 in LA itself in less than two days! This has given me a whole new level of experience with long and powerful cars. Driving in a big city like LA is mostly advantageous to a relatively inexperienced person like me. A high level of precision is required by the rules and people on the road which dont leave their resentment unexpressed lest you make a mistake, like the Driver (Praveer) and the test driver (Anurag) found out in these two days! Thankfully, Mr.Rider, did not make a mistake yet with the car despite his relative lack of experience with them!

Anyhow, today we would find out why US of A and Hollywood is so deeply programmed into many hearts and minds across the world. And we were to to do this by visiting Universal Studios which was voted for against Disneyland (and thankfully so!).

At Universal Studios Hollywood

I did not know what awaited me. I drove the CLS 40kms from our motel to the Universal Studios Hollywood preferred parking, which was choc-a-bloc with cars despite it being a Monday (and 15th August is not the Independence Day for US either!). It was a popular destination indeed, a lot of he crowd seemed Mexican, while we could also spot quite a few Indians including a gentleman from my building! A small world indeed!

Universal Studios, Hollywood is a huge huge facility. Actually it’s one of the older functional studios cum theme park in the world. Lot of the movies that we have seen were shot here. We got ourselves a Frontline ticket which costed double of the standard ticket, but we recovered our investment quickly as we discovered that it saved as at least 3 hours in queue waiting time! Yes, there were bucket loads of people from all parts of the world who wanted to have a feller of what it is to be doing stuff in Hollywood!

By the end of our day we discovered why Hollywood is what is, and why Americans are so good at selling, thats because, well they are GOOD at selling! You name it and they can sell it. However things these good, get sold by themselves anyways.

We began with the Universal Studio Tour on a bus. It took us through lot of movie sets and stuff which we have seen in movies. In was incredible to see lifesize sets being built and inspired from different localities of the world right here in one place. From Jim Carrey’s home in  Bruce Almighty to Jurassic Park’s vehicles – we saw it all! And of course then there was the De Lorean from Back to the Future and the Fast and Furious cars.

Mr Bean's Car!

 

 

A scene being demoed in front of us with the Fast and Furious Cars

 

The Driver Posing with a Fast and Furious movie car

And the rider (me) posing on Arnie's HD just outside the Terminator 2 ride.

The rides were absolutely INCREDIBLE. Most were 4D, meaning you have synchronized real world effects (motion, water, air and smell) with sound, video and 3D. It has to be experienced to be believed – Terminator 2, Shrek, Simpsons, Jurassic Park, Waterworld etc.

The Simpson's Ride was the best after Kind Kong 4D

The plane from War of The World's set!

Anyone wants a NYC cab in LA?

The Waterworld has to be one of the best action shows around in the world!

The crowd at the Waterworld show, and thats just one stand out of three!

 

 

 

After a long day we can back to the motel. Tomorrow I will be collecting the Diavel and the roadtrip will commence!

The faceoff will begin (and yes I bought that cool mask on the right, the one which the Driver is wearing)!

Driver Vs Rider

Day Minus 1: Sunday Aug 14th: Hollywood in a Mercedes!

Day minus 1 saw us reach Los Angeles, the CIty of Angels, Hollywood’s Basecamp, world’s entertainment capital. We landed here after a 16 hour long tiresome journey via Dubai from Delhi in an Emirates flight which kept chasing the day until we reached LA in the morning after starting from Delhi at 10 PM, gaining a day in our life. All the while i was wondering how much technology had developed that it could help stay a thousands of tonnes airplane afloat for so long and so high, yet how fragile it was that a bird could send it plummeting to its doom.

Talking about tech and machines, after a long wait in the immigrations queue and getting through the oversensitive and insecure US system we met the gentleman holding a Mercedes Benz placard. ‘This was it’, I thought. Praveer, the driver was seemingly happy to see him, while I, the Rider, would have to wait until Tuesday to get hands on the Ducati Diavel.

The gentleman from MB led us out of the arrivals, and within couple of minutes the AMG Mercedes CLS 63 was standing in front of us!

A video of the CLS 63 entering into the airport the first time:

We loaded all our stuff (a lot of it) into the car and the Driver took his first few turns on it and was feeling confident enough. The first stop was ou Motel in Gardena where we unloaded our stuff and then headed to Hollywood where we took a customary picture with hundreds of other tourists coming in the middle of the road to get a picture of themselves and that iconic sign that they have been seeing since childhood in all sorts of movies!

 

It was a plush neighborhood alright!

Then my phone rang, and to my surprise it was Anurag from Delhi, my co rider and mentor. We had done The Great Italian Roadtrip on two Ducatis in 2010. He was also in LA and just a couple of miles away from us, what a surprise!

We soon fixed our meeting point at Madame Tussauds on Hollywood Boulevard and after having a good lunch at Barn Fresh Mexican Food we made rendezvous with the ex-Ducatista, Anurag. The Hollywood Boulevard was speckled with all sorts of characters from the  movies that we have been exposed to since childhood -- star wars, Shrek, Transformers -- it was quite amazing, the whole atmosphere.

 

 

Then there was the Walk of Fame along 15 blocks of the Hollywood Boulevard having 2400+ stars dedicated to people in Hollywood who have made more than a mark. I spoted Shrek and Bruce Lee amongst others.

 

 

Can you see something familiar in the photo below!

We then dropped Praveer, the Driver in this saga, to his friend’s place in Orange city after visiting a big motorcycle accessory shop in Fullerton. Traffic on LA freeways was generally heavy (dont know because it was a Sunday).

Post that I had a quick bite at a Taco Bells (one of the tons of fast food establishments in US) with Anurag and then he drove the CLS to the Hilton in Pasadena, where he was staying in his business trip.

Now it was upto me to get the CLS back from Pasadena to my hotel in Gardena which was around 50 kays away. In the morning I had driven the CLS for about 30 kays too. All in all i it was a terrific experience riding driving a 500+ bhp car. I was a little jittery in the beginning. It is not easy for a person who has just 3000 kms odd experience driving cars (and that too sub 100 Hp India in our no-rules Indian roads) to transition into a driver with clinical precision taking on the traffic in LA downtown and the LA freeways with a Left Hand Drive to boot! I managed to do the task and I was happy that I had crossed my first 100 kms on performance cars. But this was indeed the beginning compared to the 250,000+ kms riding experience that I have. After all I am a Rider not a Driver!

Tomorrow,  maybe Universal Studios!

Anurag driving the CLS