MO's Trip To USGP 2007
MO Staff Invades Monterey
Shortly after the long-awaited launch of MO:2, which was only a couple of months after I was hired, we finally began to make plans for the future beyond the next week or two. Was there an important event coming up we should cover?
So, with less than a month until the biggest motorcycle racing event in the country, we hastily made arrangements to get the Three Musketeers of MO (Fonz, Pete and myself) up the coast of California to the idyllic seaside town of Monterey for the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at the fabulous Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca racetrack.
As you’d hope from a trio of lucky bastards like ourselves, we arranged an interesting group of test bikes for the ride through some of the twisting California roads that are legendary. We made sure to hit Cali Highways 33 and 58, which are riotous in their own right, but the money shot of roads is undoubtedly the magnificent Pacific Coast Highway that runs along the Pacific’s edge right into Monterey.
The weekend went off without a hitch, and the event was blessed with perfect weather conditions. Bikes, bikes, bikes. Bikes were everywhere, enveloping the Monterey Bay area from the acres of streetbikes in the fields of Laguna down to Cannery Row at the ocean’s edge. And let’s not forget about the glorious, mind-melting cacophony that erupts from the new 800cc MotoGP bikes.
On a personal note, this trip gave me the opportunity to really hang out and bond with my new brothers at MO: Pete and Fonz. Now that I’ve gotten to break bread with them and get to know them a bit better, I can say that MO’s readers should feel lucky to have these guys *as *your virtual friends. Their words (and a fun photo gallery) follow.
– Kevin Duke, Editor-in-Chief
Ridin’ With Fonz
Third time is a charm. Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca hosted the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix of racing for its third year this past July, and we MO-rons were there to see the sights and walk the walk.
Because we’re hard-asses - you know how journalists can be - we had to show everyone how cool we are by riding to Laguna again this year. You might remember our trip two years ago, when we tested some budget supersports. This year was no different. We don’t ever rest to watch the races – we pile on the action and events so as to keep you MOfos happy.
So we got back in the saddle and rode the 1000-mile round trip aboard some air-cooled Twins. You’re going to have to guess which ones while you wait for our report to come together. Let’s just say there’s a battle between a U.S. breed and European steeds.
What I can tell you is that our ride was terrific. This was the first time we’d take more than three hours to squeeze in a trip from SoCal to the Monterey raceway. We moseyed on up through Ojai and Route 33, stopping for lunch at the Deer Lodge. We tried to draft some local babes for the contest, but they got shy right quickly.
Joyfully, the web-based moto-mag merger (with Duke coming over from another dot-com) brought together a great team of riders, as well as a knowledge base of some great roads. My old and beloved MO hadn’t ever ridden the unencumbered 54-mile stretch of the 166 west of New Cuyama. The pavement is bedazzled with flecks of eye-catching silver and there’s not one business park, freeway interchange or traffic signal. It’s rare in this state to go so long amidst the twisties without interruption. In the desert, there’s plenty of long boring drones, but who gets excited by them? Nice stuff. Thanks, Kev, for the new roads for my book.
After that necessary slice of bliss and a gas stop in Santa Maria, we regretfully had to skip the usual stop at Jockos because we had a room and some local brew waiting for us in San Luis Obispo. I like this town, as a visitor. It’s a college town with plenty of watering holes and pretty things to look at no matter what day of the week you pass through. Look for the Frog and Peach Pub, but when they tell you to leave, it’s time to leave. Ask Kevin how we know this.
Day two on the road left us to focus squarely on the good stuff: the Pacific Coast Highway from Cambria to Monterey. Skipping Morro Bay, we hopped westward along Route 46 instead - yet another freshly paved local road with great ocean vistas and scattered shade trees. More gas in Cambria and we’re now within a tank’s reach of the Monterey Bay… with a million curves between here and there.
If you’ve got the time and you have the interest, the Hearst Castle is along this stretch, as is the Henry Miller Museum. But to hell with educating ourselves, we’ve got curvy roads to tackle and parties to attend. “We’re on a mission from Gawd.”
For a bike change and a leg stretch, you’ve got to take a minute to stop in the one-horse town of Gorda. A seasonal whale watching hub, this town is nearly as big as the four-letter word “town.” Barely big enough to house all the passing bikes and charm it possesses, this cluster of cafes, gas pumps and hotel rooms is home to a truly unique barista we’ll call ‘the Wacker.’ You’ll surely want to stop by and say hello after you see what he showed Pete.
Pete Takes a Whack at the Whacker Bike
"It takes all kinds," is what we thought after seeing the Whacker Bike. We sauntered into a humble little espresso bar in Gorda that was operated by a somewhat eccentric barista brewing up mochas, cafe Americanos and espressos. But he was more than just some latte jockey in between jobs. He was a do-it-youselfer wizard.
"The tinkerer/owner claimed that he's put over 3,000 miles on the bike and has gone through about six rear tires."
His chosen method of transpo is the "Whacker Bike," a bicycle converted to motorized means of moving, powered by most of a weed whacker and various odds and ends he fabricated to make it function properly.
The tinkerer/owner claimed that he's put over 3,000 miles on the bike and has gone through about six rear tires. It all seemed a bit rube-ish until he pulled on the tiny two-stroke's recoil to make the smoky little noise-maker sputter to life. He climbed on and before we knew it he was down the drive in the blink of an eye. The world needs more ingenious, two-wheeled devotees. He made believers out of us.
"The Grand Prix race at Laguna Seca is most definitely the U.S. Mecca for motorcyclists in July."
If you don’t already know how awesome the 100-mile stretch of the PCH on California’s coast is, then climb out of your hole and Google it. Then ride it. There’s no room in this report for a coastal tour, but you really should see it.
The Grand Prix race at Laguna Seca is most definitely the U.S. Mecca for motorcyclists in July. The pinnacle of two-wheel racing makes its only stateside stop of the MotoGP tour. Next year, however, Indianapolis is on board, so you East Coasters will be able to feel the rush of seeing one of the greatest races on two wheels. Formula One will not be returning to Indy next year, but I’ll be there with my birthday hat on to watch the motorcycles run. The Red Bull Indy GP drops on September 14, 2008, Fonzie’s birthday. Please end all beanie babies to my address in Belize.
This year in Monterey I did a lot of walking, up and around the twin peaks between Turn 5 and the Corkscrew and across the Great Plains of vendor row, as well as through the labyrinthian shell game called the pits – both AMA and GP. Above all the racing hubbub and celebrity spotting (I can take only so much of Fabio before I start to think he’s following me), the most exciting thing I’d see was a geek toy for your favorite camera aficionado - me.
While hanging around the Pashnit.com booth talking to the Tims about their upcoming tours, Tim Ennis of MotoCam360.com showed me a gadget I need to get my hands on – literally. I don’t even have a name for it, nor does he, but it will make multiple video cameras recording to one source a snap, all while riding the motorcycle. I can’t wait!
As usual, there were hot chicks in the grandstands and in the vendor booths, and you’ll see those in the photo gallery and the video. And if your wife or girlfriend catches you with your computer screen filled with bikini-clad booth girls, er, I mean ‘salespersons,’ you can blame me if you think it would help.
And, yes, someone one won each of the races, with Casey Stoner dominating the GP, although the first-lap collision between the two strongest American hopefuls, Nicky Hayden and John Hopkins, was a downer for the American crowd. The results are here and here, in case you still haven’t found out. Along with the headlining GP race, there were also two classes from the AMA Superbike series, down a couple from last year. Together with several stunt shows, it was still a full schedule of action for the spectators. Pete begs to differ.
When Monday morning came around and our hangovers were quelled by coffee and Cap’n Crunch cereal, we packed up our steeds and made the long haul back to L.A. We blazed a path down the PCH before heading east at Cambria and onto one of Duke’s fave Cali roads, Highway 58. The sun was setting on our backs as we sliced our way over Cerro Noroeste, blazing a path towards home, enjoying the long way home.
I hope you all had as much fun as we did this year in Monterey. See ya’ll next time.
Early reports had attendance at this year's Laguna Seca MotoGP down from last year (143,020 for the three-day total, smaller by about 2000. –Ed). Quite frankly, that's perfectly okay with moi. I didn't attend last year because of the swarming masses from the 2005 event. And everything I heard about last year's heat had me feeling 10-feet tall with my own good judgment.
But this year I gave it another try. I was able to get a good deal on a pair of everything I needed on eBay: general admission, grandstand and paddock passes, all less than a month before the race.
The highlight of the weekend for me was attending the invite-only party that Yamaha threw at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Being able to rub elbows with just about everyone in the industry and Yamaha racers present and past was a special treat I'll cherish for some time to come. Seeing Fabio there was damn entertaining too!
In the end I'm glad I went again this year. Not so much for the rather boring racing, but more so for the experience of taking my family and enjoying the trip as part of the general citizenry (well, not completely, as I had access to various industry parties and VIP tents... sorry!). Being able to walk around the pits, vendor row and various track locations without feeling like I had to keep track of every split second of racing was nice.
Although located a bit out of the way, general parking (i.e. not at the track) was located in a deserted parking lot where a big group of large buses were ready to shuttle attendees to the track. Just park, get on the bus and forget about battling traffic at the track. Awesome!
Maybe I'll go back again next year, or maybe I'll go to Laguna and Indy... Yeah, that's the ticket.