The Quail Motorcycle Gathering 2016

Article And Photos By: J. Ken Conte

Originally Published In The October 2016 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” I have had many motorcycle trips that were all about the destination. Burn daylight, haul ass as fast you can and get to where you’re going so you can . . . I’m just not sure what. This year, I planned a trip up the coast with my good friend—and head R&D guy at ARCH Motorcycle— Ryan Boyd. We had taken a great trip several years back in Colorado after he finished building my rigid, and we always talked about doing a follow-up. I had hoped to get to it back in October, but life got busy, and the next thing I knew it was winter. I love planning my way out of winter. One of the events I’ve been attending for a few years now is the Quail Motorcycle gathering in Carmel, CA. Ryan and his wife were expecting a baby in September, so I said we’d better get that trip done or it might be a while before we could do another one. I’d been meaning to write a test-ride article on the Indian R Chieftain, and this seemed like a good opportunity. (I will have several follow-up reviews of the Chieftain in subsequent issues.)

I’d taken the same route to the Quail the last few years, up the coast on the 1. This year we decided to break up the ride and stopped for lunch in Santa Barbara at a mediocre grill on the beach that just happened to have an old-school bathhouse associated with it. Needless to say, we had an entertaining lunch people watching. The trip out of Santa Barbara was great— we had our trusty Butler Motorcycle Map of Southern California and took the scenic route along the shore, which ended up on Marina Drive. We hit a gorgeous shortcut on Via Tranquila, a beautiful, winding tree-lined street that twists through Santa Barbara— definitely worth checking out. We headed north, and I really started to enjoy the Chieftain. I started pushing the bike, and we rolled on some other suggested routes, including a road outside Lompoc heading toward Cambria: totally desolate, but in a stunning, green, throttle-wideopen kind of way. With the roads undulating and twisting, I got that sense of freedom and communion with the surrounding beauty that I believe motorcycling is all about. That night we pulled into Pismo Beach and stayed at a hotel on the beach frequented by a local celebrity who keeps a goat in the back of his car—not a pygmy: a full-sized Billy Goat. It’s worth seeing. Ryan and I enjoy a good meal, and although many eateries register as “great” on Yelp, one stood out: Giuseppe’s. Although the timing of the food was quite off, the quality made up for it. If you stop in Pismo, definitely go to Giuseppe’s and try anything on the menu. We called it an early night because we needed to make the final push to The Quail in the morning.

I enjoy an early morning ride almost as much as an early morning in the woods. It clears the head, everything seems slowed down and the light always seems perfect. We only had a couple of hundred miles to go, so we took some scenic routes, including one to Avila Beach. What a great little dead-end road—so welcome. It didn’t take you anywhere, but I will definitely be back! The ride up the 1—starting in Morro Bay and through Big Sur— is some stunning ocean-side riding. We stopped to see the elephant seals outside Big Sur and were astonished at just how many there are. I am not sure why looking at those lumbering giants is so interesting, but we definitely took a few minutes to drink in the sight of thousands of beasts sunning themselves on the beach and scurrying back and forth to the water. We could have pulled off every half-mile for stupendous views and points of interest, but we held off and concentrated on the highway. The meditative concentration required to navigate that coast is not to be missed. We arrived at the Quail with blue skies, temperatures in the low 60s and an immense sea of green grass chock full of motorcycle history. I can’t go into all the bikes—there were nearly 400 of them. Typically, I just walk around and look at a few bikes, get pulled away by an industry person I need to speak with and then carry on. This year I had the pleasure of walking it with Ryan. He has an eye for the technical that I just don’t have. He sees and points out things and ARCH Motorcycle took the opportunity to display it’s new single-sided swingarm in mock-up. There were opportunities to visit with some of the sport’s most-famed racers, including Don Emde, who was signing copies of his new book Finding Cannonballs Trail, and threetime AMA Superbike Champion Reg Pridmore. The 6-hour event was packed with bikes, personalities and products that would have any enthusiast begging for another day.

That night, a casual dinner at a steakhouse on Cannery Row was in order courtesy of the fine folks at ARCH Motorcycle, and we decided on another early evening so we could get maximum miles in the next day. Thanks to Butler Motorcycle Maps, the ride back was one of the best I have ever had in a single day. I know I sound like a shill for them, but I’m not. We followed the inland route, going down Carmel Valley Road, with a slight detour to catch some twisties on Cachagua, then on to G14 to Paso Robles. The rollercoaster-like road, dotted with abandoned houses, was very different from the lush farmland we’d come up through, but it was a welcome throttle up. After Paso we hit the 101 to the 58 and along the Temblor Range, an amazing road full of great scenery and some amazing pavement. We had a choice at that point: hit the highway, head south and be home for an early dinner—or eat up some more asphalt. We turned again to our trusty Butler map, and it revealed a great road (33) through the Los Padres National Forest, out of Maricopa into Ojai, that Ryan had previously ridden. The flowers were in bloom, and it was as if they had lined the road just for us. Up until Ojai we had seen very few vehicles, other than the participants in a vintage car rally—I consider that a win.

I spent the rest of the trip back to L.A. pondering the great roads and great company of the weekend. I realized that those getaways with a true friend are essential, and over the ensuing days—riding the 1,500 miles back to Colorado on my own—I knew I’d reflect on the journey and the experience, my own solo adventure on the Indian Chieftain, which I was now becoming very fond of, and wouldn’t be worried about my destination—I’d be too caught up in how I got there.

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