2014 5-Chapter Ride - Redwoods & Twisties from Moss Landing to Half Moon Bay
by Paul Thomas
You might say there was a full turnout at this years 5 chapter run. Yes, everything
was well done: from custom Five Chapter T-shirts illustrated by Tom Clark to the
filet mignon dinner. For me the best thing was the two ride routes. They were prepared
by a most dedicated group of riders, all familiar with the Santa Cruz Mountains.
I have never had the thrill of riding these one-lane mountain roads at a good pace
before. Thanks to the road captains Mario and Brian I finally was able to. Good
paving, “twisties” and elevation changes made riding these backcountry roads a real
pleasure. Mario and Brian and the route committee did an amazing job of the route
design. The weather, typical of the Santa Cruz Mountains’ Redwood forest in September
was like nowhere else on earth. The cool, misty, gray sky folded in around the deep
green redwood trees, the tallest over 100 feet. Our vintage iron seemed to take
a shine to this cool mountain air. It was satisfying to push the old “big twins”
around all these backcountry mountain roads for two days of exhilarating riding.
Five of us met at Vince’s house Thursday morning at 11:00 am. Somehow it all came
together, with Ricky driving the van and Danny, Tony, Vince and me on our Harleys.
We rode to a meet up in Woodside, a quick 20-minute trip up Hwy 280. Roger and Dave
were waiting for us by the coffee and pastry shops. Of course we ate some, then
headed out, up onto Hwy 35 and over to Hwy 9 south to the Redwoods of the San Lorenzo
Valley. We stopped for a lunch break in Ben Lomond and started to get familiar with
the mountain folk that live around these parts. Then, we went on to the Cotillion
Gardens Campground in Felton. It was something like a KOA, only privately owned.
Manny and Danny shared a cabin with me. That night’s dinner was at Don Quixote’s
in Felton: a Mexican restaurant that served up hot authentic food with nice servers.
It was very good, much better than I expected.
Friday morning was the typical misty morning weather. We had coffee and rolls and
visited until we left in two small groups at 9:30 am. We rode through narrow mountain
roads with switchbacks and twisties toward Lexington reservoir near Los Gatos, where
we found the sun. Then, we turned south riding toward Soquel. There we stopped at
the Windjammer for a rest and fuel. We left as a group heading south toward Moss
Landing for lunch. We rode the back roads between sandy fields of strawberries and
greenhouses. Several 90 degree turns marked the corner property lines of the farmer’s
fields. We made our way near Elkhorn Slough National Estuary where I saw a great
blue heron taking flight, no doubt scared up by the sound of our motorcycle parade.
We hit a couple spots of bumps and dips and I was glad to be hanging on well enough.
With a little help from the harbor patrol we found the lunch stop: Phil’s Fish Market
and Eatery. The lobster sandwich was recommended, I had that and it was great. The
other seafood looked good too. When we left the lunch spot it was in one big group
heading back toward Santa Cruz through farm fields on the ocean side of Hwy 1.
Strong wind was blowing into our faces and it was followed by a giant black cloud
that opened up on us and started its drenching. Mario pulled into the Vallero Gas
Station for the shelter of the pump island canopies. The rain hadn’t let up, but
we moved on with a revised route to just to get back to the campground. Soon the
cloud passed and the sun came back to dry us out as we headed up the Felton grade
back to Cotillion Gardens campground. That evening Brian Sterns and his assistants
cooked us all up a delicious BBQ steak dinner. After, we sat around the warm campfire
and told stories.
When I first stepped out of my cabin on Saturday, a little sleepy, I could have mistaken
the scene for Christmas morning. The misty air and the ninety-foot tall redwood trees
surrounding the parking lot made our forty or so Harleys and Indians look like toys
under the Christmas tree. Only better, they were the real things. We decided to
gather all the bikes and line them up for a group photo. After many photos were
taken, we headed out in one large group (my favorite way to ride). We rode the twisties
and one-lane roads until we came to the first stop at Apple Jacks, an old roadhouse
that dates back to the 1870’s when it was a blacksmith’s shop. This is mighty old
by west coast standards. It was from before the old logging days when trees were
chopped down to rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire. This building
somehow survived the fog and storms and decades of revelers, to serve us up our choice
of morning coffees and cocktails. We stayed for a good while and I found the time
to look at the tires of the other vintage cycles. Ricky had a nice set of Harley
Dunlop’s he recommended wholeheartedly. I would be replacing mine after the weekend
was over. You see, wet, winding, mountain roads are not as fun on balding restoration
type tires, period. So we left Apple Jacks together heading for the coast again,
finding all the twisties the Santa Cruz Mountains had to offer. A little later we
found a major bicycle race overlapping our route. Well, bikes and cycles can share
the road at the Tour de France so that is what we did. I was glad to have the big
twin to power up those mountain roads. The 40 plus antique motorcycle riders passed
one or two hundred bicycles on the same one lane twisties for the next hour or so
without incident. We finally made it to Cameron’s Restaurant and Pub in Half Moon
Bay and it was just how we like it: no chain store and lots to look at on the walls.
Manny made sure I saw his artist aunt’s statue there called “Bubble Girl.” It looked
cute standing there in the garden by the front door.
After lunch we left as a group back to the campground. When we arrived it was just
about dinnertime. Thankfully Brian Sterns again prepared a most delicious filet mignon
BBQ feast. I could get used to this maybe, the start of a steak dinner tradition.
Later that night, the crowd started to thin out as some of the riders made their
way home. But still the campfire was warm and the stories were fun. Many called it
an early night after a long day. By Sunday morning all the bikes were packed, some
on trucks and some with gear. We said our good byes and headed home for the last
leg of the almost 500-mile weekend, looking forward to the next antique run.