Sunday, April 28, 2013

Saturday in Beautiful San Diego

After my Saturday morning tour of Vespa Motorsport, I took T.C.'s advice and decided to see Point Loma. But first, when I entered "Point Loma" in the GPS, the first option to pop up was Point Loma Yacht Club, which is on the harbor, not on the point. So, I rode out past the waterfront airport along the bay shore, which reminded me a little of Honolulu's Magic Island.

San Diego Harbor waterfront is a great place to walk, bike and fish while admiring the yachts, cruise ships and aircraft carriers.

San Diego enjoys unmatched access to transportation. Downtown has trolley's, Amtrack trains, an international airport, cruise ships, yachts and freeways. I was surprised to see a railroad crossing right in the middle of the business district. By comparison, Honolulu seems more difficult, smaller and limited.

Still, I'm told all those transportation options create massive traffic jams in downtown San Diego. Sounds familiar.

The San Diego skyline makes a nice backdrop for a Saturday afternoon outing.

I did a little more research and found the Point Loma National Monument on the GPS and found the right road out to the Cabrillo Lighthouse and Fort Rosencranz National Cemetery.

The view from the Point Loma Visitor Center is outstanding.
The choice of the top of Point Loma as a lighthouse site was unfortunate. As you can see, it is hundreds of feet above the ocean and the marine layer of fog, which made the light useless in challenging weather. Hence, it was decommissioned and another lighthouse was built on the shoreline below the bluff.
The lighthouse has been restored and furnished with authentic nineteenth century furniture and equipment true to the era when it was in service.
The staircase up to the light makes an interesting picture.
The top of the tower is sealed off, but the lamp can be seen through this grate. There is another Fresnel lens on display in an adjoining building for visitors to examine up close.
Fort Rosencranz National Cemetery, like Honolulu's Punchbowl, is a beautiful and serene spot.
Not as famous as Arlington or Punchbowl, Rosencranz has an impressive number of graves.

In the past, when friends visited San Diego, they always came back with pictures of the Del Coronado Hotel, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. So I braved the bridge out to Coronado Island, which you can see in the distance in the first picture at the top of this post.

Coronado Island and the hotel are both beautiful, but on a sunny Saturday afternoon, the place was choked with traffic, like Kalakaua Avenue on a Friday evening in Waikiki. I snapped a picture of the iconic hotel, did a U-turn and headed back over the bridge.

I saw the famous gabled roof of the Del Coronado, but this is the best photo I could get of the hotel without finding a place to park. The island was packed with visitors.

It was almost 3 p.m. and I'd missed lunch. I went looking for a Subway with Garmin's help. On the way, I found the perfect place for a Hawaii boy to dine.

I've decided to low-carb my way out of five or ten pounds on this trip. Finding a low-carb meal at the L&L can be a challenge. What a place to start, eh? I opted for Kalua pig and cabbage with green salad and a glass of water.


Scooter nirvana -- a visit to Vespa Motorsport

At about 10 Saturday morning, I visited Vespa Motorsport -- better known to us in Hawaii as This post is for my Honolulu "scooter buddies," as spouse Mary refers to y'all, since the Scooterwest web site has evolved into the parts lifeline that keeps our Vespas alive and running.
High-Speed Wobble will get back on the road after this, but I know my fellow Vespa owners will enjoy seeing what and who is at the other end of the website and phone when we're looking for parts, accessories and advice.
The Wee looked anything but wee next to the used scoots parked at the curb outside Vespa Motorsport.
The dealership is on Pacific Highway north of the city and the airport in an area not unlike Honolulu's Nimitz Highway in Kalihi.
Although the used scooters parked outside are a mix of Stellas, Kymcos, Genuine Buddys and Vespas, the space inside the showroom is mostly brand new Vespas.

I hoped to see Max, the owner and contributor who has visited us on Oahu, but he doesn't work weekends anymore. Instead, I introduced myself to T.C. Millan, the sales manager, who was running the showroom. T.C. offered to give me a tour and we spent at least a half hour talking story and exploring 17,000 square feet of Vespa paradise.

T.C. Millan first showed me where the sales department takes phone orders. Motorsport is now the largest supplier of Vespa parts in the country, he said.
Tires? They have tires. Lots and lots of tires.
The parts department is crammed and mufflers ended up hanging over a doorway. "I'm always worried one of them will fall on my head," T.C. said.
Obviously a sales guy, T.C. Mugs for the camera in the service department, where a vintage shifty was getting spruced up.
The classic vintage air-cooled, two-stroke power plant is elegantly simple. It also makes the scooter lean to the right, since it's not centrally mounted. Smell that blue smoke?
The poster-size version of Motorsport's Vespa racer logo.
Despite the dealership's 17,000 square feet of space, Vespas are packed in everywhere -- even up in the rafters.
The immaculate service department.
Kevin answers service and parts questions.
This is the lair of Scott William Jones, Esq., the Web monkey who keeps updated and online.
T.C. says he's been selling more and more Vespas in Hawaii. His markup is less than the local dealer's and Motorsport can ship a scooter from San Diego to Oahu for $549. The biggest hassle was working out the title and registration issues with our beloved DMV.
Lots of 300 Supers, with a Piaggio Beverly down at the end of the lineup.
The showroom, looking the other way. It's easy to believe Motorsport is the country's largest Vespa dealership.
Of course, they also stock lots of Vespa apparel and accessories, such as this nifty t-shirt.
The classic hoodie.
A stylish leather jacket and Vespa helmet combo. Motorsport sells the stick-on chrome Vespa logos -- if you like the look you can glue one on the lid you already have.
This looks cool, but I'll bet wrestling a 650 Burgman with a sidecar around the twisties is a challenge.
This Bonneville is T.C.'s personal ride. Clearly, he's a man of good taste.
Finally, T.C. reminded me that the big, annual Amerivespa rally will be in San Diego this year in June. Got some miles saved up? Try book your ticket now while seats are available.

Heading back to Chula Vista after a day touring the city, harbor, Point Loma and Coronado Island, I passed a new, white 300 Super on I-5. The rider, dressed immaculately in black-and-white leather and helicopter pilot helmet was hunched over the bars and doing about 55 mph while cars zoomed by at 70. He certainly could have gone faster, but he looked like an accident waiting to happen.

As much as I love my Vespa GT200 and as good as it is on two-lane roads and city streets, if you have to use the slab, the V-Strom is a better way to go.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Through the desert among the Harley folk

This has been an exasperating day for me as a Blogger client. Google, Master of All Things in the computer universe has updated its blog templates. That's a good thing, unless you've been using the same template for four years and would be quite happy to use it four four more -- happier still not to have to repair the damage with a slow WiFi connection on the road.

Anyway, High-Speed Wobble looks different now -- not too jarringly different, I hope. I'll have to make a few more changes, but not until I can have a broadband connection.

Wednesday, April 24, I awoke in my room at South Point Casino in Las Vegas and began sorting things out. There was gear I left stored on the bike and gear I brought with me. Too much gear.

The first task was to pack a duffel bag with things I could do without. Daniel, who'd been vacationing in Las Vegas with his wife, came by with his van and help me schlep the duffel to a Mailboxes store and ship it to my sister's in Maine.

I set up Old Blue in my room at the Casino and sprayed it with Scotch Guard. I hope this will repel the rain I expect in the east.

With that done, it was time for some fun and a trial run to make sure the bike was running well. So, after lunch Dan and I rode out to Red Rock Canyon, about 12 miles west of the city. Besides impressive rock formations, the canyon has interesting desert wildlife: burros and tortoises.

Red Rock Canyon visitor center reserved some prime parking spots just for Dan and me.
Captain Slow and his caution sign.

Dan admires a herd of Harley Davidson precursors.

The canyon attracts plenty of hikers and bicyclists, so the speed limit makes it a leisurely ride. Still, there's plenty to look at and it was worth the trip.

Before riding back to town, we stopped at Bonnie Springs Ranch, which is a somewhat run down tourist attraction, but has a colorful, funky bar and restaurant. We each had a beer, called our wives, admired the peacocks, watched the ducks race each other through the turtle pond and used the men's room, which features a claw-foot bathtub urinal.


The bar at Bonnie Springs Ranch, near Red Rock Canyon, has a few hundred dollar bills hanging from the beams.

Watching the local TV news Wednesday night, I'd seen a story about a big motorcycle rally in Laughlin, Nev., about 80 miles south of Las Vegas. It was underway and ran through the weekend. I told Dan and he decided to ride with me to Laughlin. Then, he'd turn around and I'd keep going to Joshua Tree.

We gassed up, got on the road by 9:30 and hit almost every red light in Henderson. At about 11, we stopped at a combined casino/convenience store/gas station/Subway in Searchlight, Nev., which Dan said was Sen. Harry Reid's hometown.

Dan's home away from home -- his freshly painted camper van -- and the trailer home of the Buell and Vespa he keeps on the mainland. South Point Spa and Casino is in the background.

The place was hopping as packs of motorcycles wheeled in for fuel and supplies. There was plenty of black leather, long hair, tattoos, bare skin, loud pipes, wallets on chains, club patches, chrome and women in tight pants.

"I can see where this is going," Dan said. The Laughlin River Run was going to be strictly a Harley cruiser crowd event. "I think I'll head back," he said. "See you back in Honolulu -- ride safe."

Bikers gather in Laughlin, Nev. for the annual River Run rally.

They say "loud pipes save lives" but just in case, you can add some
mega-speakers to your bagger -- only 85 horsepower but 135 decibels.

The latest from Sons of Anarchy Jewelers.

There are lots of bad-boy patches to sew on your leather club vest.
In case you're hankering for a label...

Clothes for clubbing come with a handy place to carry your piece.
The high-end clubbing vests have shoulder holsters sewn in.
The Indian motorcycle is back, made in Minnesota and Iowa by Polaris Industries. In many ways, it's more "Harley" than a Harley.

The new Indian show bikes are gorgeously detailed.

Eat your heart out Louis Vuitton.

Can't be seen off the reservation without leather-wrapped grips and crash bars.
The Indian style was set long before the company went broke in 1953. A restored bike from that era was on hand -- yes that knob is the shift lever.
Custom wheels are a popular after-market upgrade.

If all your friends have custom chrome spokes, you can go with white, set off by candy-colored spoke nipples.

Or, select a set of these hand-engraved rims. They go for $1,000 apiece. Add spokes, hubs and tires and the price tag climbs to $2,500.
This guy still has that thousand-yard stare that says "Drop and give me 20."
From Laughlin, I headed southwest toward Twentynine Palms as riders flowed in across the desert, one or two at a time or in packs.

U.S. Route 66 no longer connects Chicago with Los Angeles. It was dropped From the U.S. highway system in 1985 after Interstate highways bypassed it, including this section near Amboy, Calif.

I camped for the night in the desert at Joshua Tree National Park, pitching my tent next to the campsite I had last June. There were many more people in the campground on this April night, when it was still cool.

The moon was full. I rode down the hill to the town to get dinner and coming back the GPS went dark, signaling sunset. The road wound up through the park, an other-worldly landscape of strange rock formations and spiky cacti reaching their twisted arms skyward, silhouetted by a huge lunar disc.

This is a special place. My neighbor, an old guy about my age from San Diego, warmed a can of beef stew on a propane burner propped on the tailgate of his pickup and said, "I come up here every chance I get."

A group around the next big rock were drinking beer. My neighbor said he thought they might mean trouble -- meaning noise -- but I heard mostly kids running and climbing on the boulders with flashlights.

The moon set near dawn at my campsite in Joshua Tree National Park.

I dozed off about 9:30 and woke at 1:30 a.m. There was someone outside my tent. In fact, there were two young men who chose that hour to make camp, start a fire, drink some beer and have a jovial, but not quiet, good time. They were just 10 yards away.

Not wanting a confrontation, I tried to wait them out. By 2:15, with no sign that they were going to quiet down, I decided to clear my throat as loudly as I could -- just let them know I was there and awake.

It worked -- sort of. They quieted down a bit, but kept talking for another 20 minutes until I cleared my throat again -- even louder this time -- and they packed it in.

The two noisy campers had invaded the campsite of my neighbor from San Diego, who had slept in his truck. I woke up at 5 a.m. when he started that truck and noisily left the campground. It was early, but I figured I might as well get moving. I didn't really want to meet the jerks who'd disrupted the neighborhood at 1:30. I made no effort to be quiet breaking camp.

The rising sun painted the eerie landscape with color.

I had ridden east toward the rising moon coming home from dinner and rode into the setting moon at sunrise on my way to a breakfast burrito at McDonald's in Yucca Valley, where I met two seasoned bikers on immaculate Harleys who were on their way to join the gang at Laughlin. We got to talking and I mentioned my rude awakening at Joshua Tree.

"I'm not a fan of guns," I said, "but after seeing those concealed-carry vests at the Laughlin rally, the thought crossed my mind."

"Yeah, that happened to me once, too," the smaller dude said. "It was about two in the morning and these guys showed up and set up these big speakers and started blasting their music. I pulled out my .38 and launched a round -- but it didn't make any difference. I don't think they even heard it.

"I don't carry anymore though."

I asked them if they knew the area and could suggest a good motorcycle ride to San Diego.

"Sure, I-10," the big one one said.

I said I was avoiding "the slab" and was looking for an interesting two-lane route over the mountains. I got out my iPad, launched Google Maps and asked about California Highway 371.

"Yeah, that road has good scenery, but it's curvy as a bitch," he said.

The road snakes its way into the mountains from Palm Desert.

From Yucca Valley, I rode through the huge wind farm outside Palm Springs, where the roads have names like Dinah Shore Avenue and Frank Sinatra Drive, to Palm Desert, where I got some gas and struck up a conversation with a dapper old guy who came up and said, "Nice bike."

He told me he rode motorcycles, too -- in fact, he still had a four-cylinder 1978 Honda 550, a real classic, and a dirt bike. "I don't take them out anymore, though. I'm 94 and I know if I drop it I won't be able to get it up."

I took the twisty road up over the mountains past Mount Palomar, down through some pretty valleys where desert turned into green farmland and stopped at the Lake Henshaw Resort for lunch.

Lake Henshaw isn't the prettiest body of water, but after two days crossing the desert, it was a nice change.

The fresh cream of mushroom soup and soft taco special at the Henshaw Resort was a treat.

From Lake Henshaw I travelled through Escondido. Traffic got heavier and red lights started cropping up every half mile. Just as I got fed up with the stop and go, a freeway on-ramp appeared, I hit the slab and droned on into San Diego and Chula Vista, where I checked into Motel 6.

It's not plush, but at $49 a night and with no tax tacked on, Motel 6 was cheaper than the San Diego KOA campground, had an en suite bath and shower, air conditioning and electricity. There's even a push-button telephone.

I spent the afternoon running errands and editing photos and walked to dinner at the Black Angus next to the motel, which lists total calories next to every menu item. Steak has a ridiculous number of calories and even a Cobb salad has 1,200. So, I ordered a house salad, grilled chicken and broccoli.

The chicken was mealy and dry, but I was hungry and managed to finish it. The waiter asked if he could remove my dish and I said yes, "but you know, that was really terrible."

The waiter left and in a minute a man in a dress shirt and necktie appeared and asked about my meal. I said, "I'm not much of a cook, but I can grill chicken better than that."

He said they'd comp the dinner, but I'd have to pay for my glass of wine. I said I appreciated the gesture.

On my way back to the motel, I passed this sign in front of the Denny's restaurant, which had a full parking lot and busy dining room:

I'm glad I didn't eat at Denny's.