Monday, February 23, 2009

Valentine’s Day in SF and Harleys in the Hills

So for Valentine’s Day, Sophia and I went up to San Francisco. The weather was wet and cold, but we had a great time nonetheless.

On Saturday we arrived at the Orchard Hotel, took a cable car to Pier 39, and warmed up with an amazing lunch of clam chowder and fish and chips at Alioto’s, a restaurant on the pier that’s been in the same Italian family since 1925. Then we walked through little Italy and Chinatown before grabbing a quiet dinner near our hotel. The next day we headed back to Pier 39 and took the ferry to Sausalito, a sleepy little bayside town dotted with quaint cafes, art galleries, and boutiques. After a lazy afternoon of shopping and tea, we returned to the city and took a cab to the Coit Tower, a 200+ foot observation tower with spectacular views of the city. That night, we had dinner with friends at Morton’s. Their Cajun rib eye steak is incredible. Monday morning we grabbed breakfast with Sophia’s friend at Taylor’s Refresher, a simple and delicious burger joint in the Ferry Building. We spent the afternoon with my Aunt and Uncle sipping Rosé wine and watching the sun set over the city. It was a fantastic trip.

This weekend we took it easy. Since I just got my motorcycle license, I decided to rent a Harley Sportster from Eagle Rider and check out the canyons. Starting out near LAX, I cruised up the PCH to Topanga Canyon and Sherman Oaks. After a light lunch with Sophia, I headed out again, blasting through Beverly Glen to Mulholland Drive, Coldwater Canyon, Sunset, and then back home via Beverly Glen.

That night we went to a birthday dinner at Chaya in Beverly Hills. It was good, but a bit pretentious for my tastes.

Sunday morning, I woke up ready to ride. After breakfast I headed up Beverly Glen, cut over to Sepulveda via Mulholland, and then cruised down Sunset to the PCH. It’s amazing driving up the PCH with the ocean by your side and the wind in your face as you carve through the curves. I took a break in Malibu and rode to the upper reaches of the Pepperdine campus, where you can see the curvature of the earth over an endless expanse of ocean. After taking in the views, I snaked up Malibu Creek Canyon, hitting 70+ mph before circling back to the PCH via Old Topanga Canyon. Cruising back to Santa Monica, I passed a
Ford GT, one of the most incredible cars ever built, and a couple Rolls Royces. The Sportster was smooth, responsive, and got a lot of attention. I’m really starting to get hooked on bikes.

After dropping off the rental, Sophia and I grabbed lunch at Royal/T, a tea shop/art gallery where Japanese girls in French maid costumes serve sweet teas and finger sandwiches. It felt like a little bit of Tokyo and was so much fun we had to head over to Giant Robot for more anime action. Another great weekend!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Surfing with sharks and riding Harleys

Saturday I went surfing for the first time in months, but right when I stepped in the water I spotted two leopard sharks hanging out about 15 feet offshore. These guys average about 4-5 feet long, so it's a bit freaky when they're right next to you. However, they're totally harmless and generally try to avoid people, so I just kept on surfing.

On Sunday my brother and I rented some Harleys and cruised around the Temecula wine country. I got a Softail Deluxe, which is a 1500cc bike weighing in at 700 pounds. It was my first time on a Harley, but I was suprised by how easy it was to ride. The power was readily available at low RPMs, but not overwhelming. Shifts were solid with a reassuring clank and the cornering was smooth. I only had two complaints; the vibrations got distracting at 60+ mph and the weight of the bike made for a long stopping distance (I locked up the front wheel and skidded a bit when a light went red on me). That said, the vibration would probably be less of an issue on the Dyna bikes, since they have rubber motor mounts. Stopping distance is down to rider experience. All in all, it was a great day and I can't wait to ride a Harley again.