Words: Aaron Twite
Images: Aaron Twite, Iris Viol, Chris Theis, International Motorcycle Shows
San Mateo is about a 2-day drive from Atlanta. The plan is to do the San Mateo IMS and stay out west for the Long Beach IMS. This means I need to pack accordingly. I load all my tools, spare parts, spare tires, oil change and cleaning products from Motul and K&N, banners, tents, riding gear from Scorpion, my clothes, and of course the bike. As I am getting the Kawi ready to load I make the wonderful discovery of a broken subframe. Of course. The day I plan on leaving I'm stripping the bike down and welding the subframe. I throw the bike in the van and head out for California on zero sleep.
Four hours into the drive and I have to sleep. A four-hour power nap in Nashville gets me on the road again and I blaze the mountain roads through Tennessee to a brunch stop in Memphis. Perched on the Mississippi River, Memphis is a benchmark on the drive west. I stop for a food and coffee recharge at Cafe Eclectic, then launch a mega-assault on I-40 West!
From Memphis it's a 1000 mile, 14.5 hour drive to Albuquerque, NM. Cruising through Arkansas, Oklahoma, and the Texas pan handle I watch the trees disappear, gradually giving way to rocky cattle lands, wind turbine fields, desert landscape and finally the Sandia Mountains overlooking Albuquerque.
After a 4-hour sleep session in the K-Mart parking lot it's time to finish this journey. Through the Arizona desert, up the mountains near Flagstaff, and down into the California desert. Approaching LA provides more mountain driving before entering the flat wine country, and then finally into the Bay Area. Time to slip into a coma in the hotel.
Friday morning I arrive at the venue. It's raining. I unload the bike and check the riding area: seal-coated asphalt, lots of painted lines and standing water are all the ingredients for disaster. No matter, good times will abound! This show I will share the aquarium with four time XDL champ and factory Yamaha rider Bill Dixon and Red Bull rider Aaron Colton. This will be a good one!
Friday night it’s show time. The rain lets up enough to tease us before letting loose. We do two shows in the rain. At least it's consistently wet. We ride fairly conservatively until the Motul Drift Battle. Drift theory is fairly simple, throttle throttle, throttle. This gets really interesting on the painted areas. The loss and gain of traction through the transitions of painted and unpainted areas make the event extra sketchy, and fun! Overall the first night of shows is good to go. No incidents in spite of the inconsistent conditions.
Let's talk about the weather in the Bay Area. Throughout the weekend the sun shows up and gives us hope of dry conditions, then clouds open up and soak the surface at the last minute. We manage the standing water with squeegees. The two dry shows are glorious. Rain or shine the crowds are amazing!
The Saturday shows are decidedly more aggressive. After time on the slick surface we gain confidence and give it to the audience. The drift event sees stand out moments of over-aggression. At one point Bill hangs a drift out too far, scrubbing all speed and crossing my line. Consequently, I smash into the side of Bill's R6 at full throttle. Awesome. Colton isn't exempt from the carnage as he high sides a turn, decks the barricade and nearly downs the Red Bull arch! It is a fine illustration of the razor edge precision required in a motorcycle drift event.
Throughout the shows we keep reminding Bill Dixon that this isn't a real competition. He doesn't care. Every event he is trying to win so hard it leads to a minor “incident”. In the K&N Circle Challenge Bill and I are two of the fastest. In XDL competition it is often Bill and I facing off in the finals. Although this is only a demonstration, Bill and I are spinning as fast as we can! During one demonstration Bill cyclones his way into a barricade, breaking one of his front brake rotors. Awesome! I finish the show alone while Bill scavenges a rotor. Luckily the guys at Galfer graciously give Bill a set of new rotors. He's up and running by the next show.
We finish the weekend strong and even get a dry show on Sunday! Great crowds, great venue. Everyone helps tear down, clean up and load out. I head back to the hotel to relax and plan for a day in San Francisco.
San Francisco! Just up the road from San Mateo, I take this opportunity to explore this city on the bay. With only one day to see what San Fran has to offer, I jump in the van and beat the streets covering as much ground as possible!
I start the day wandering downtown, through the Mission District and Chinatown, past Fisherman's Wharf, and eventually stopping at the touristic hotspot on Lombard Street. I pause for a few pictures and watch traffic carefully navigate the twists down the steep decline.
Back in the van I make my way up the 101 towards the Golden Gate Bridge. No trip to San Francisco is complete without exploring the views of this iconic bridge. Crossing the bridge I journey up into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Here I catch fantastic views of the bridge and Pacific Ocean.
The pinnacle of the Recreation Area is Hawk Hill, known for it's famous views, old military fort, and bird watching. What interests me most about Hawk Hill is Conzelman Rd, which becomes a one way, winding avenue of fun slicing down the coastline. Seen in several car commercials and a popular cyclist hot spot, Conzelman Rd is a must-ride for any two-wheel enthusiast.
Back in the city I head over to the last scenic spot of the day, Twin Peaks. Overlooking San Francisco from the south I see the downtown area, bay, and the bridges linking the Bay Area. If the view isn't enough, the road up makes for great fun!
The sun has set and it's time to find some food. After a Facebook poll of San Francisco restaurants, I meet my old friend Guru at a place called Nopa. Described as new Californian/Mediterranean food, Nopa is outside of the tourism sphere and indeed seems to be locals only. Perfect. Great food to end a great day.
My time in the Bay Area is short and sweet. Motorcycles, sight-seeing and great food make for a perfect adventure. So far California has treated me quite well, and I am looking forward to the next stop in Long Beach!
Don't forget to catch the XDL Street Jam live feeds online every Saturday from the IMS events! Feed times and links can be found during the IMS events on my Facebook Fan Page: www.facebook.com/AaronTwite