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February 17, 2007

A few weeks ago, I was listening to Jimmy Buffett on my iPod. This is a dangerous activity; it pretty much always results in some sort of crazy road trip.

I started out looking for Margaritaville restaurants but quickly realized that the only one nearby is in Las Vegas, and my wallet really couldn't take a third Vegas trip within four months. Not quite willing to give up the "boat drinks" theme, though, I found a tiki bar website and decided on the Bali Hai restaurant in San Diego. And, y'know, since I'd be in San Diego anyway, why not go into Mexico? And why not drag Diana into my craziness? And thus a plan was born.

We met at Diana's at 7:30am on Saturday and slabbed it down to Jerry's Restaurant in Hollister for breakfast. I'd eaten at Jerry's in 2003 on my solo desert trip and I was pleased to see that the Jerry's tradition of talkative patrons held true. After some lively discussion of my hair amongst the group of older men sitting together at the counter, a couple of them came to sit with us to ask about our Garmin GPSs and talk about our trip.

Highway 25 from Hollister to Highway 198 was gorgeous -- wide open sweepers, bright blue sky, bright green hillsides, and very little traffic.

Hwy 25 Hwy 25 Hwy 25

Unfortunately, most of the photos I took from the bike are blurry because of the vibration of the F650GS's single cylinder engine. Silly thumper! You can still get a good sense of the landscape, though, so I still uploaded them. :)

Highway 198 from Highway 25 to Coalinga continues to be one of my favorites. I love the colors and the scenery, plus the road is gently twisty.

Here's a still frame from a movie I took along the road:


After Coalinga, we hopped on southbound Hwy 33, which parallels I-5 through the San Joaquin Valley. As with many roads in the central valley, it passes by a disproportionate number of state prisons and mental hospitals. Hmmm.

The landscape along Hwy 33 is barren, but I rather like it. Some sections are utterly desolate; others have orange groves or vast fields of nodding oil pumps. We passed an historical marker with no real way to park to photograph it, so I continued on.


As we entered McKittrick, seismic teams had strewn cables across the road every 100 yards or so. Ba-dump. Ba-dump. Ba-dump, for 10 miles into town.

In 1900, this little town was named for Captain William H. McKittrick, son-in-law of the land owner. Prior to that, however, this Southern Pacific terminal was named Asphalto, which makes me really unnaturally happy.

Hwy 33

We stopped in sleepy Asphalto...sorry, McKittrick... for lunch around 1pm. We tried the McKittrick market first, but their grill was closed -- luckily for us, since we then discovered Mike & Annie's Penny Bar, in the old McKittrick Hotel. The hotel hasn't rented rooms in over 30 years, but the cafe is open and ready for business. The food was good and the decor even better -- newspaper clippings and historical documents on the walls of the cafe...and then the Penny Bar in the back. 1 million pennies, glued to every possible surface: floor, walls, bar, pool table. So much fun!

Mike and Annie's Penny Bar in McKittrick, CA Mike and Annie's Penny Bar in McKittrick, CA McKittrick, CA

We continued south on Hwy 33 to Maricopa, where we turned east to get to I-5. The landscape was desert now, with huge Joshua trees scattered amongst the sandy soil.

Hwy 33

This was my first time on the Grapevine section of I-5. I didn't know that there was a town called Grapevine at the foot of the pass, named for the wild grape vines that early explorers and settlers had to hack through on the journeys westward. It wasn't very windy as we crossed Tejon Pass, and soon we were at the intersection of I-5 and Hwy 138, which we took into Lancaster for gas. This is an unfortunately very boring section of road, and I was actually happy to get to I-215 to head south on an interstate.

grapevine_stillframe1 grapevine_stillframe2

It grew dark as we rode through San Bernardino, and other than some traffic mess just south of Riverside, I-215 was clear and smooth.

We decided to call it a night in Escondido, but to our dismay, the first two hotels we tried were booked solid! It turned out there was a hockey tournament in town for the long weekend and, despite my insistence that I was a hockey player and therefore we deserved a room, there was no room at any of the proverbial inns.

Technology to the rescue! Our GPSs (both Diana and I have the Garmin 60CSx) have lodging databases, and we sat in the parking area of the Comfort Inn and brougt up all of the hotels in Escondido and our cell phones. Full, full, full. Finally, Steve at the Howard Johnson said, "well, we're full need a room?" Yes, I assured Steve, that was why I was calling him. "Well, try the Escondido Palms Inn. Tell 'em Steve at the HoJo sent you."

Steve did not do us wrong. Not only is the Escondido Palms Inn a very nice and reasonably priced hotel on its own merits, but it was sandwiched right in between a cafe/diner for breakfast and an excellent Mexican restaurant, Hacienda de Vega, for dinner.

Hacienda de Vega in Escondido, CA

Saturday's stats: 491 miles

Saturday's map

On to Sunday....