Riding Along the Coast


After a windswept journey down the freeway and a twisting follow-the-leader dance down the local highway, we finally arrived in Oceanside. My husband and I had reached our 1 ½ hour sitting limit on our Road King, so we pulled into a small park facing a tiny neighborhood beach to stretch our legs. Bacon smells, from the snack bar, competed with the salty ocean tang. It was the same beach from our summer vacation, but transformed from a crazy quilt of beach chairs, umbrellas, and towels to an open expanse of sand. Even the sea gulls seemed more relaxed as they floated slowly overhead. The parking lot was half empty, with surfers wiping down their boards getting ready to leave.

We munched our granola bars and drank our water bottles dry. Motorcycle cruising always makes me thirsty. We laughed about how leather chaps keep you warm except right in the front. Maybe we should have worn thermals. After discussing our route, we zipped up jackets, donned helmets and gloves, and headed on our way.

Instead of riding the freeway all the way down, we decided to take the coastal route to San Diego. Leaving Oceanside’s shops and cafes behind, we passed over the lagoon and into Carlsbad. Restfulness was replaced by traffic– cars, bikes, and people– in the bustling village. Waiting at traffic lights, we could hear many languages in the crosswalk. Tourists wore tee shirts and shorts in defiance of the cool December weather. Surfers passed us, barefoot with their wetsuits pulled down to their waists. I shivered in my leather jacket.

Finally the traffic lights gave way to the road overlooking the coast. The cadence of smashing waves and glistening foam accompanied us as we rode south. Sometimes the road came so close to the water that I could feel the salt spray splash up under my helmet. My view to the right was brilliant blue, turbulent blue grey, and sparkling white. I pushed the button for my sun visor to flip down as it became painful to look into the ocean’s gleam.

The road turned away from the beach and started to climb into sandstone hills. The ocean was hiding us now, behind hotels, restaurants, and luxurious homes. Then suddenly the road dipped down and the vista of the Del Mar race track and the beach spread before us. As we sped down the hill, I could see dogs running in the surf with their masters following.

The road was our roller coaster and it quickly pulled us back up into the hills again. This time when we roared down, it was into the salt marsh and wide open beach area near Torrey Pines. The craggy cliffs bristling with crooked trees beckoned us, and we flew up into their embrace. Soon we were in the midst of a coastal forest, savoring the fragrance of pine. Hotels and hospitals covered the hills, offering retreat and healing.

Regretfully our road led us back to the freeway where we were going to make up some time and end up at Old Town San Diego. Traffic was light, perhaps due to the Christmas holidays. The hills still surrounded the road with tall spreading trees and dark green bushes. In contrast to Torrey Pines, this landscape was not natural but carefully nurtured and shaped by landscape artists’ hands.

Finally, our exit approached, and I nudged Frank to remind him. We came off the freeway near the transit center, a maze of trains, buses, and trolleys ready to move the masses into the crowded downtown areas of San Diego. Old Town was right on the edge, and still maintained a small town feeling. The sidewalks were narrow and steep, the brick and wood buildings tall with narrow windows. Signs indicating historic locations drew tourists into old school yards, wagon barns, and candle shops. Guitar music and booths packed with striped ponchos, leather purses, and Day of the Dead sequined skulls tempted visitors.

After finding a parking place, we stopped and peeled off the layers of leather that had kept us warm on the trip. Looking around, we decided we should lock up the helmets. When Frank discovered we forgot the key to our lock, he asked the nearby flag shop if they could hold our helmets. They kindly agreed, and we were reminded again of the friendly nature of San Diegans.

As we walked stiffly across the street, we entered Old Town and headed for our favorite Mexican restaurant. Smells of tamales, carnitas, and beans led us in the right direction. The hostess seated us on the patio, next to a crackling fire pit, and we talked about the ride.

About circling sea gulls, glittering surf, laughing vacationers, and towering pines. The roller coaster road we never would have experienced had we driven down by freeway. We knew we might up with sniffly noses and sore hips tomorrow, but it was a small price to pay for an adventure.

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