Does Kevin Cameron still have to change tires? I mean, riding your choice of the latest bikes to Laguna Seca for World Superbike weekend, followed by a Pirelli-sponsored track day Monday, is a dream come true for any motorcycle person, but maybe you don’t want to see how the MO sausage is made. Pirelli wanted us to mount up its new Supercorsa TD (Track Day) tires ahead of time, and they drop-shipped me two sets. Two sets because when Troy couldn’t make the ride this year, I volunteered my son Ryan to ride the Ducati Supersport in his place. Ryan was, to say the least, excited.
Ducati dropped off the Supersport at my house, and I immediately recognized changing its tires wasn’t gonna be so easy without the 55mm socket that frees it rear wheel. Harbor Freight’s right around the corner, no such luck. My MotoGP Werks pal Chris had the tool but was in Germany… My principles won’t allow me to just take the whole bike to the dealer.
But I had to ride to Carson the next day anyway to swap our BMW R1250RT for my bike of choice, the S1000R, and I learned from Sean Matic that he had the tool, at his buddy Jamin’s shop not too far away on Sunset Blvd. (Wrench Motorcycle Service). So, I blasted up there on my new R (what a great city bike), said hello, got a lesson from a mechanic about which way to turn the 55mm socket (The MV Agusta has the same big nut securing its rear wheel, but it turns the opposite way of the one on the Ducati.) – and then the mechanic and I realized we knew each other from previous lives at Willow Springs 20 years ago, but we’d both aged too much to be recognizable – Tom Sera. So nice to see old friends in unexpected places. In unexpected bodies.
Next I had the telephonic pleasure of comparing prices to have tires mounted among several dealers and shops, nearly all of whom were disgruntled to mount tires not bought from them.
The BMW was straightforward enough. The Ducati’s rear tire should be a snap with that one-sided swingarm – right up until you discover you have to remove the two tailpipes to get the wheel out of there. Then I spent a couple of hours scratching my head figuring out how the ABS sensor on the front wheel had moved to the opposite side, until I figured out the tire mounter had moved a thin spacer to the opposite side of the wheel. Duh. Is this too long of an intro? It took me most of two days to mount two sets of tires.
We blasted off at 6:15 am Friday morning from the Santa Ana digs to meet the others at the Frazier Park Flying J, where there used to be a nice sit-down restaurant with snappy waitresses but now there’s just a Wendy’s. Whatever. Gassed up, we’re free of the city at last and rolling up Frazier Mountain Park road through crispy-smelling pine forest.
Virginia Woolf said it’s the waking that kills us. For us MOrons, it’s the video that kills us. Unpacking and setting up tripods and cameras and mic’ing everybody up really kills your drive when you’re trying to make time, but thankfully we had to be in Monterey by 8 pm for the big Ducati unveil/party, so we couldn’t shoot everything along the way. Highway 58 was still there and excellent as always. In Paso Robles it was 105 degrees as almost always, and then it was cold and windy, as nearly always, that last 80 or so miles to Monterey. I love it.
I’m not a golfer, but sometimes I leave it playing on the TV as soothing background scenery. Ducati unveiled the new bike right where they played the US Open a couple weeks ago – Pebble Beach. Business must be good.
In the motorcycle world, if you needed a character to play God, or maybe Yoda, Kevin Cameron would be perfect. Comparing notes re: the state of the world with him as the sun set on the fairway at Pebble Beach, and the wine and finger foods flowed, wouldn’t be a bad afterlife at all. I remembered my old dream of roosting the course on a CR500 Honda with Meg Ryan on back. Alas, that will probably never happen; she’s no longer returning my calls.
We Ubered back to our Airbnb digs around midnight, a nice guest house behind an estate right off Highway 68 only a few miles from Laguna Seca. Plenty of room for all five of us, but the single bathroom got a workout. I could’ve had a top bunk, but there was an excellent couch on the front patio, so I slept under the stars all four nights, with nobody to complain about my snoring except the cows next door. Lovely. Light dew in the morning kept my facade naturally hydrated.
Jonathan Rea won on Saturday, Chaz Davies won Sunday – and poor Alvaro Bautista is victim of one of the most stunning collapses in moto-history. After a commanding lead early in the season, the Italian crashed out twice at Laguna Seca – following two prior disastrous weekends – and now trails Rea 433 to 352 points. According to a Ducati insider, though, Alvaro remains upbeat, saying it’s still “mathematically possible” for him to roar back and win the championship. Bless his heart.
The MotoAmerica races were better; way to go Toni Elias and Garret Gerloff, who finally won his first Superbike race.
I’d watch them race tricycles around Laguna Seca, for me it’s a sacred place. They won’t let me back into the Defense Language Institute, on the Presidio of Monterey, which was the first place I lived away from home. It used to be an open Army post; now there’s concertina wire and armed guards and German shepherds to keep me out. But they’ll still let me up onto the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca – a place I first sat upon to watch Eddie Lawson win the 1988 USGP.
Saturday night there were plenty of motorcycles on Cannery Row when we went into Cooper’s Irish Pub for dinner and a pint, and I was going to shoot pics when we came out. Sadly, the bikes were all gone by that time. Sorry.
The real excitement, though, was the Pirelli track day on Monday. Ryan Burns had been practicing for weeks on a (car) video game, and it was both Ryans’ first crack at Laguna Seca. Even Brasscannons and I still get excited like little kids at the chance to ride around Laguna – a perfectly groomed paradise, clear skies, temps in the 70s… pinch me.
Also, we MO VIPs got the chance to rub shoulders in the pits and on the track with Randy Mamola, Ben Spies, Jake Zemke, and a host of luminaries…
On our way home the next day, a guy at a gas stop eyeballed us in our leathers and balled-up Pirellis and wanted to know who’d won? I had to admit it was yours truly, but a blast was had by all. Ryan Burns claimed to have been hanging with me and Ryan Adams when I was on the Duke 790, but in the last session when he was poised to make his move, the low-fuel light on the Tuono came on just as he was about to enter the track. Drat! Better luck next year, kid.
Brasfield’s Duke 790 was outgunned on the track, but I got past him on a borrowed V4 Panigale when he was riding my BMW. Does that count?
Tuesday morning we were up with the chickens, literally, and after a few hours of packing and eating and, ahhh – what were we doing? – were headed south down California Highway 1. Of all the places I’ve been so very fortunate to ride around the world, I don’t think I’d trade Highway 1 for any of them.
The video, however, must go on, and after quite a few stops Sean Matic shot his full, final measure in the fading light in the quaint little beach town of Cayucos – 245.4 miles north of Casa Burns. I knew it would be a long day, but…
As soon as we climbed the entrance ramp to 101 South, a giant low-hanging full moon filled our faceshields. I hit the button to put my grip heaters on high, set the cruise control at 85 mph, and kind of wished I had a little more windshield. It was pretty dang chilly. Pretty, pretty chilly… so I pulled into Los Alamos only 70 miles later not for gas, but because our pal Jimbo lives there, and would put us up for the night if we needed it.
Ryan Adams said he was so cold in his perforated Rev’It suit that he was trying to bloat his body as much as possible to plug the holes and keep air from coming in.
Ryan Burns can be a delicate flower, and I asked him if he was cold? Should we stay here for the night with Uncle Jimmy?
“No, I’m good. I’m having fun, let’s keep going.”
I did not expect that. Everybody added a layer or two and soldiered on, and when we got past Point Concepcion and back to the ocean half an hour later (where I thought it would get even colder), the air temp rose about ten degrees and it was in fact just about as perfect as motorcycle rides get, rolling along under a big copper moon reflecting off the dark Pacific waves. For the first time, I was using my new Cardo communicator system to listen to music. Fly me to the moon, let me soar among the stars, etc., all the way home. All five of us in our own little worlds, together.
The beauty of our late arrival was that there was no need to lane-split across LA to get to our Orange County homestead. The kid and I hit the Del Taco drive-through, clinked Carlsberg cans upon our arrival home at 12:30 am, waited for our synapses to quit buzzing for about an hour – and slept like logs. I think the kid will remember this weekend when he’s sat atop the Corkscrew 30 years from now. I like to think I’ll be there, too, in one form or another.