Golden Gate Therapy

Story by Jeff Davison// Photos by Jeff Davison
April 23 2024

Rediscovering California’s Pacific Coast Highway.

It had been 15 years since I found myself suddenly divorced and carrying a 30 kg bag of Quikrete on my chest. Back then I had turned my attention for the first time to motorcycling, and to a cross-country odyssey in particular: Wouldn’t it be cool to ride my new-to-me Suzuki Marauder 800 across the Golden Gate Bridge? And maybe heal a little?

Life and recovery began taking me places I could not have foreseen, much less orchestrated including, over time, a new partner, a larger family, and the tiniest involvement in the motorcycle industry. To now be retracing my journey up the Pacific Coast Highway felt both a little triumphant and entirely different. This was part of a long-term test ride of Suzuki’s V-Strom 800DE, an all-new adventure steed, and I was awash in gratitude.

Sunny skies saw me rolling north through Malibu, where I ogled the towering palms and savoured the salty air. The PCH hugged the scenic coast, but because a row of expensive homes with expensive views left the rest of us nothing to see but their expensive garage doors, I detoured east at Pepperdine University.

Ocean Comfort to Canyon Heat

Malibu Canyon Road twisted and rose rapidly from sea level to 300 metres as two jubilant riders on sports bikes blew past me, trying to scuff their knee pucks and leaving me far behind. The increase in elevation, however, was not enough to offset the lost ocean breeze, and temperatures leapt from a balmy 24 C to a blistering 36 C. When I arrived at Saratoga Hills, I turned west on Highway 101.

Highway 101 and Highway 1 (the PCH) are sometimes synonymous and sometimes do their own thing — you’ve got to be paying attention. Mercifully, the road led me back to the coastal breeze near Ventura where precipitous hills were covered in lion-coloured grass, random live oaks, and cottonwoods. Oil rigs perched like miniatures on the ocean’s horizon.

Near larger cities, 101 was often six or eight lanes wide, and I relished the freedom of lane splitting. While I wasn’t as bold as the California riders, I still enjoyed a smug feeling of superiority as I traced the dotted line between cagers hopelessly trapped on a clotted artery. En route to Cambria, Morro Bay offered views of iconic Morro Rock and was a great place to watch sea otters play.

Learn From Others

On a recommendation from Jamie Elvidge in a Motorcycle Mojo article (“19 Secrets of California’s Southern Pacific Coast Highway,” July 2018), I set out to challenge Santa Rosa Creek Road. Radius, camber, pitch (not always the right ones), erosion, repair, gravel, and guardrails (or rather, their absence), were all factors to be faced on a random and repeating basis — and all reasons to keep my eyes riveted to the road. Gosh, it was fun!

I came out the other end onto CA-46, a much more mannerly byway with plenty of relaxed corners. Pristine pavement flowed like butter through…


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