This is the fifth in a series of articles about living with and riding a California Vintage from Moto Guzzi. The previous one is here.
Some work days are better than others…
I found myself halfway to Santa Barbara from my Northridge home, off Seaward Avenue at the Starbucks where I normally stopped and had a cup of coffee before continuing up the coast. Some friends that I met in the morning were talking about their day, and I was sitting there thinking that I really didn’t want to go to work, but I knew if I went home, I would be painting, sawing or otherwise saddled with the responsibilities involved in fatherhood, matrimony or the restoration of a mid-century modern home that had already worn out my favorite table saw.
I’m sitting here smelling the ocean breeze, thinking about the ride up north to Santa Barbara and cranky about the fact that I had to turn the California Vintage back to the company in the next day. This sucks. I really have come to enjoy this bike and I wanted to take a couple more rides on a favorite stretch…
DUH. Time for a Mental Health Day.
I said goodbye to my friends and decided to head south and get down to the PCH, and ride until I felt the need to be responsible again. Would that get me to Ventura? Who knows, maybe San Diego! So the journey starts, on the perfect bike for this occasion, the Moto Guzzi California Vintage, with me at home on this wonderful machine and riding down the 101, taking Rice Road South with a full tank of gas, headed to the beach.Winding my way south-west towards the water where the Pacific Coast Highway waits, I felt the Guzzi under my floorboarded feet. The perfect drone of the engine, the torque easily pulling me around slower traffic and the sun obliquely shining on my face. Perfection. My arms are perfectly relaxed, and my ride easily flows through the left and right hand turns at intersections, deepening lean angles as I skate under left turn arrows and the reward of salt air, crashing waves and a quiet weekday ride along one beautiful stretch of road.
The Guzzi always gets waves from other riders. Other riders pull up to me at lights and say that they’ve been following me to see what kind of bike I’m on. Other’s just give me a thumbs up. The Guzzi puts me in the company of other big cruisers, but the subtle differences in the bike only get noticed by riders that spend time on their bikes and know about bikes. “Weekend Warriors” don’t really know anything about Guzzis, and I don’t know if they would like them if they did. People that ride know about Guzzis. I have yet to come across someone that really qualifies as a Rider, in my subjective mind, that doesn’t respect the brand or have something nice to say about it. If you get a “what is a Moto Guzzi?” question, it’s going to be from someone that really doesn’t know about motorcycles, even if they own one.
The weather along the ocean was everything I had hoped. Clear, still cool and just a touch of fog over the water, slowly receding away from the coast. I hit the coast at Hueneme (pronounced Why – A – Name – EE), and turned south. The road undulates and curves, and only the occasional Motor Home or tourist impedes my progress, but plenty of passing lanes offer me solace. The only thing I watch out for are people making U-Turns in front of me as they pull away from the beach. This is an unfortunate and frequent occurrence along this stretch, and anyone on two wheels should be vigilant.
I’m looking for a place to stop, but I just can’t bear the thought. I want that perfect picture for my California Vintage. That shot that says “this bike is in it’s element”. One that says “California, 1967”. I see beautiful coast, but the light, the framing, etc. Nothing is right. After about 30 minutes, I come upon Neptune’s Net, a California Riders’ institution, and decide to get some water, take a break and talk up the Guzzi if anyone asks (after all they’re letting me ride this bike for FREE!!! I want to tell people what a wonderful sumbitchin’ cruiser it is — hmm. Maybe they’ll be so grateful that they’ll GIVE me one — just so you know, they didn’t…).
If you don’t know about the Neptune’s Net, it’s located at the PCH end of some of the best canyon carving roads in the United States, just west of Malibu proper. It’s a road house that caters to the rider. On weekends it is so jam packed that there are people to help you get your ride parked in a special area just for bikes, which represents about 70% of the parking available. Today being a weekday, there are only three or four bikes parked out front. I put the Guzzi in a place of prominence thinking I might take a picture here, and decide to get some water and a frozen custard cone, and check my email to see if anyone had noticed my absence yet.
Good custard, well hydrated and no news. Bliss. I walk out to the parking lot and think about taking a shot. A couple of guys on very nice Harleys have parked close by. They come up and ask “is that your Guzzi?”. Riders. “Yes”. They proceed to tell me the History of Moto Guzzi V-Twins as they know it — and they’re pretty good! I tell them about my ’72 Eldorado, and they nod knowingly. They ask me how it rides. I let them sit on it. “Wow, it’s light!”, “I’ll bet this thing handles!”, “Low Center of Gravity”….
And then… “How does it sound?”…
I fire it up. “Like a small block!”, I tell them. “Hell Yes!”, they respond as I rev it a little, then shut down. “Doesn’t sound like other V-Twins!”. I responded that Guzzi always did things their own way, and they agreed that their “cred” was deeper than other latecomers. The next bike they buy may not be a Guzzi, but they had a positive experience around seeing one, and I hope that they consider the brand before their next purchase. I think they will. Exposure to Guzzi in a real-world, rider-to-rider environment, habitat-specific, is, in my opinion, the way to sell this particular bike. It’s such a great ride, there should be thousands of them on the road.
Hopping back on, I rode along for another half hour, traffic through Malibu being what it is, and stopped at Duke’s for lunch. I decided at that point to head back through Topanga Canyon. One of the more mellow-twisted canyons in the area, it was a relaxed ride back to my Northridge abode. My wife was there. She had bought two gallons of paint…