Top 10 Best Things About Riding To Laguna Seca

John Burns
by John Burns

This is merely my subjective list of 10 good things, but there are really no bad things about riding those few hundred miles from MO’s SoCal headquarters to the Monterey peninsula; blasting over a few mountain ranges, making time up the spine, toasting the coast. Mother Nature pulled out all the stops in the scenery department, the weather’s perfect, we wangled six great bikes (more on them next week). The fact that it’s a World Superbike and MotoAmerica race weekend is really just a bonus.

10. Not so many eager LEOs lately

What with policing not being the most popular profession lately (how quickly we changed from post 9/11), and as a result of there being fewer California Highway Patrol officers on the road, you can now use more of a modern motorcycle’s performance to and from Monterey than you safely could in the old days. In the ’90s, yours truly averaged four or five tickets a year and more court appearances than Judge Judy’s uvula. Today, we’re able to maintain speeds on the interstates and on California’s backroads that render the state’s high-speed rail system unnecessary. Something’s changed: When you do encounter the rare CHP in the outback, he seems to look right past the radar readout and on to the next donut shop (a long ways away), correctly reasoning that a nice cruller beats whipping a Uey and chasing down six morons on motorcycles. Maybe the ticket-writing quota system (which never existed!), is no more now that the state is in the black. Thanks Governor Moonbeam!

9. Stopping for gas

Someday we’ll miss it, when all our motorcycles are powered by tiny fuel cells that’ll go 10,000 miles on a charge. The Iron Butters of the group will consider it a challenge to do the nearly 400 miles from MO central to Monterey non-stop. Luckily the MO crew has no Iron Butters at this time, just a bunch of dudes who need to stop every 100 miles or so to sniff gas fumes, swill Gatorade, wolf a Moon Pie, and exercise their vocal cords. Mathematically, If I’m able to gas up and go when I’m alone in 10 minutes, I guess I should be happy with any six-man gas stop that takes less than 60 minutes.

8. Modern motorcycles

We take for granted that the only thing we need to stop for is gas. Things we don’t have to stop for include: tickling our carburetors, kick-starting our bikes, patching tubes, re-setting our points, pulling spark plugs to keep from bending connecting rods because the GSX-R’s vacuum petcock let gas fill up the cylinders, bumpstarting the Ducati because its heat-soaked starter can’t quite turn it over. Motorcycles are boringly reliable, just the way we like it really.

And when we did have a problem with our Suzuki’s rear tire on this run, Anthony Wheat and Brandon Covarrubias at Cycle Gear San Luis Obispo graciously stayed open late to get us a new Dunlop Q3 mounted – above and beyond the call of duty.

7. The Roads

Here I put a new twist on the obligatory Bixby Bridge photo by leaving out the Bixby Bridge (which was the first cool thing I visited in California when the Army sent me to Monterey all those years ago). Now I’ve been up and down the Golden State enough times that certain stretches of road, outback intersections, and even certain large shade trees bring up vivid memories of rides with vivid people. The permanence of those things juxtaposed against the passage of time, the progress of motorcycles, and the absence of some of those people, makes me count on my fingers how many years I may have left? I can’t remember a lot of things, but I always remember that one sharp right on Highway 1 where the wind kicks up like crazy as soon as you come around the point and threatens to blow you into the Pacific. Motorcycles keep us young. Carpe throttlem!

6. Male Bonding

Living to tell the tale of those 8 million curves, exposure to harsh elements, cheap hotels and road food brings us together like few other experiences and reminds us we’re all the same, really – even the advertising guys, like our own lovable Reid Douglas seen here imitating an agapanthus. Unlike some of our competitors, the sacred wall between MO’s editorial and advertising departments is seldom breached. The ad guys may stay in better hotels than we do (instead of in the same bed), but we’re all in the same boat on the road. In fact we’re swapping boats at every stop to bring you the best possible comparison. No need to thank us. Too bad none of the female staff wants to bond with us also. Maybe next year.

5. Eating and Drinking

The former, early and often. The latter, only after the bikes are parked of course.

The “Big Gun” at Restaurant 1833 in Monterey is a delectable inflammatory concoctenation of bourbon, coffee liqueur and OJ, with the triple benefits of making you healthy, awake and no longer giving a damn. The Verticalscope mothership will not pay for our beverages, but it does pay for our food. Hence…

4. Being there

To me and many of my ilk, Laguna Seca Raceway is not just a magical destination but also one of the few Great Places to Go in California that doesn’t suffer from TMP, too many people. I feel bad for the organizers since the crowd was obviously sparse again this year. For those of us who attend, though, that means watching Andy Murray win Wimbledon on the telly Sunday morning before rolling out to the track about 10:30 am, and still not getting caught in traffic. Alternatively, the hill above Turn 6 only requires you to roll out of your tent to watch world-class motorcycle racing, and there were only a handful of campers up there too. The Corkscrew is but one hummock over… you can see the Pacific from up here and feel the ocean breeze; it’s actually a park with a racetrack going through it. Speaking of watching TV, the fact that you can also hear it makes me weep with happiness that I’m not at Daytona or Sturgis having my life saved by loud pipes 24/7.

Aprilia’s Claudio Corti tunes his sickle; Nick’s dad Earl strolls by with some calamari…

3. beIN Sports

Listening to the guy WSBK hired to natter on constantly, ignorantly and really loudly in the Paddock Center only increased my appreciation for beIN Sports’ MotoAmerica broadcast team of Greg White and Jason Pridmore. Greg’s learned to restrain himself over the years; Jason might be the single best motorcycle-racing commentator I’ve ever listened to, offering up actual information and original insights instead of hoary old platitudes, mostly in a soothing, Captain Sully voice, and not a trace of the stream of verbal diarrhea which afflicts so many. Massive kudos to beIN for carrying World Superbike, MotoGP and MotoAmerica all on one channel that’s available from most cable providers. You can stream it, too.

2. Motorcycles

And plenty of ’em. Ducati Island has grown from a bikini atoll to a land mass we’ll soon be disputing over with China, and Ducati North America lined up a bunch of its biggest hits. All the other major (and a few minor) manufacturers had their wares on display too of course.

Too bad Yamaha couldn’t get us a new FZ-10 in time for our ride up (and next week’s six-bike nakeds comparo). No sportbike needs a naked version of itself worse than the R1. And it would’ve been the only one with cruise control.
Grom stunter Ryan Sandoval wows the next generation.
It’s not just fast, it’s stupid fast…

1. Evolution of Sean’s hair

Something mysterious is going on inside the size XL Shoei of our loquacious leader Sean Alexander. No, I mean something on the outside of his skull. At first his carrot-top mop was taking on a Devil’s Tower Close Encounters look. Later it appeared to be a man-bun in the making, possibly an homage to the new Euro-style Nick Hayden. By day five, however, having drawn upon the life force squeezed out of three Japanese liter-bikes (and two Italians and a Brit), Sean’s locks had gone full rogue chonmage, and it was samurai squeegee time. Hai! That Shoei has a helluva ventilation system apparently, its own internal cooling tower. Well, you know what they say: Cool heads prevail. Here’s hoping for another excellent ride next year.

John Burns
John Burns

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4 of 12 comments
  • Starmag Starmag on Jul 14, 2016

    Both the BRP and PCH challenge you to decide whether to race or take in the scenery because they are spectacular for both.

    I'm sure you guys managed to Duke it out without Kevin, but somehow I don't think it will be as hip as usual..

    I was going to ask who's hair-brained idea this was until I saw those final pics.

  • 12er 12er on Jul 15, 2016

    So you did make it up to fox hill and Blackbear Diner...