ADV and the overland Oracle 'Statdawg' produced another welcoming home, this time in the form of Stephen and Sharon at their magical home in the redwoods near Santa Cruz. Another contrast, camping to hot-tubbing with margaritas. Char and I spent a couple of relaxed days in this idylic forest hideaway. Stephen providing both hospitality and entertainment, with adlib bursts of song and an alarmingly detailed account of exactly how Sharon came to be pregnant. Never a dull moment Stephen, already looking forward to the return visit in June.
I've been nursing a growing enthusiasm for electric vehicles, and this interest took me down the road from Steve and Sharon's place, to Scotts Valley and Zero Motorcycles.
Here Jeff took a considerable chunk of his day to give us a full tour of the Zero premises, from design and sales offices to assembly and warehouse. We both found it fasinating.
There was a really positive feel to the whole organisation, a great buzz that this was part of the solution rather than the problem.
I was then treated to a brief test run, first on the Zero S (street bike) and then the Zero MX (dirt bike). The electric motorcycle ride is a world apart from the motorcycling we are used to. So close to silent in operation, that Jeff and I were able to conduct a conversation at normal talking volume as we rode through the town traffic. No clutch or gears. No distinguishable torque curve, just a constant smooth go.
The performance isn't going to leave you speachless, and the range is still going to put many people off. As may the price tag; at $7,000 to $10,000 they are no cheaper than a nice new dualsport bike.
But.. There are government incentives; lucky Colorado residents can get a $5k tax break for buying an EV. They're extremely cheap to run. Zero recently held a 24 hour electric bike enduro event in which the teams collectively covered over 5,000 miles. The electricity required to charge the batteries cost about a hundred bucks.
There are alse very few parts that make up the machine, and very few consumables. No oil or filters to change, no spark-plugs, no valve adjustment, none of the routine maintenance required by an internal conbustion engine.
Lovely ride down from Santa Cruz to a reassuringly expensive campsite at Kirk Creek (what is it about American camping!? For a few dollars more you can get a motel). We woke to find racoons had trampled all over the bike, and it smelled like they'd urinated in my boots.
As we were riding south we passed beaches of Elephant Seals making big fat blubbery love, and little fat blubbery babies. Well worth the pause to take photos.
At our expensive campsite we met fellow motorcyclists Ted and Jennifer, who first gave us bags of food and then offered shelter at their home at San Louis Obispo.
We had a great couple of days being lovingly accepted into another family. Ted gave me a hand with beemer maintenance, gave me beemer spares, helped in any way he could. I can't figure out why or how we've been treated with such generosity and trust by so many poeple.
Some folks hold a pretty dim view of Americans, but I have been blown away with the love we've been shown here. It pains me to know that this just wouldn't happen in England.
See you again in the Summer Ted, it'll be a pleasure to spend some proper time with you and enjoy some of the riding around SLO.
And that's when we found our favourite road in the United States of America. I say found, but we were given it. Stopping in Buelton we stumbled upon the fantastic 'Firestone Walker Brewing Co', another fine example of excellent American beer. Run by an Englishman, but that's by the by.
Anyhoo, David the Englishman hooked us up with Tony the Englishman, who invited us to stay, on condition we ride the long way to his home in Santa Barbara. I've mapped it on google HERE.
It was magical. We took all day over the 40 some miles of mountain hairpins and stunning panoramas. Stopping to cook by the roadside, stopping to make tea, stopping to admire yet another beautiful view.
Tony and Elizabeth kindly took us in to their home for a couple of days (do you see a pattern emerging here!?) and refused to treat us as the hobo's that we are. Instead we were fed on fine wine, cold beer and delicious food.
Tony and Liz played a fairly pivotal role in getting the film 'Fuel' off the ground and onto DVD. They too have an increasingly interest with alternative energy, which made for some great discussions.
Heading into town we met a great group of folks to have a celebration drink for Erik's birthday. Evan Minogue and Erik Wright run the wonderfully off the wall bicycle shop in town, 'The Wheel House'
So here we headed under cover of dusk, to pick up the conference bike (pictured above centre). Complete with 7 passengers we peddled our way through an evening of bemused onlookers, to the pub. A fantastic machine indeed, grossly inefficient and expensive, but admirably wild.
A good night, many thanks to all.
Turning our noses up at $30+ a night caming fees, we started a search for wild camp spots. Instead we found Karen the kind Park Ranger, who led us back to her house and let us camp in the garden. I can just see this happening in England.
We walked the Baywatch beach, then rode south and set up home in the cheapest motel in San Diego. Cooking in the bathroom out of fire alarm range. We timed arrival with the heaviest rainstorms in over a decade.
Next stop Mexico. We've been warned of warzone-esque border regions, banditos that'll knife you for your flip-flops, and a police force that's more cause for concern than reassurance.