A perfect November Sunday: motorcycles, a Southern California mountain road, and a great group of people. It started with a 6.30 a.m. rendezvous at the Motorcycle Industry Council’s office in Irvine. MIC communications director Andria Yu had arranged for “key influencer” Katherine Helmetag (it’s her magnetic personality) and me to ride Kawasaki motorcycles. Katherine loves small-displacement sportbikes, so the Ninja 300 ABS was her choice. I climbed aboard the capable and comfortable Versys 650 LT. And Andria rode the Indian Scout, a powerful and nimble cruiser.
Our first stop was in nearby Aliso Viejo, where we met Peter Meade, national sales manager of Schuberth North America, a provider of premium helmets made in Magdeburg, Germany. On his BMW GS1200, Peter led us out of the coastal fog that blanketed the Ortega Highway (Route 74). Suburbia ended at one last stoplight, and we climbed into the Cleveland National Forest, catching a whiff of camp breakfasts. After the summit we stopped at The Lookout, a biker hangout with a view above Lake Elsinore. Then we came down from the mountains into historic downtown of Temecula, and Peter treated us to a tasty breakfast at the Swing Inn.
Peter had another treat in store afterward, too, leading us through the Temecula Valley to Doffo Winery. Besides the 15 acres of vines, the Doffo family has a big collection of vintage motorcycles. Our host Damian Doffo, son of founder Marcelo, showed us how water is added to aging barrels without adding oxygen, which he said is “the enemy of wine.” And he showed off the collection, which includes a Ducati F3 and host of other well-remembered and nearly forgotten bikes.
By now we had been joined by Katherine’s friends Suzie, Richard, and Teri, who live in the area. On their Triumph adventure bikes, they would be leading us over Wilson Valley Road and Route 371 (Cahuilla Road) to Aguanga, then northwest on Route 79 to Interstate 15. In other words, we wouldn’t know where the hell we were.
Sizing me up as the likely troublemaker, Teri said the route was “twisty and technical” and she would be riding sweep and wanted me right in front of her. Was it my remark about a Ducati? There ensued an hour of amazing scenery and giggly roads. And I’m still wondering about the balanced rock I saw among the boulders. Finally reaching the freeway, we fueled up and thanked our local guides for revealing so many wonders.
Peter now took us back to Lake Elsinore and over the Ortega Highway. At the end of an exhilarating 200-mile day, we bade him farewell in Aliso Viejo, then brought the bikes back to the MIC. As I told Katherine, I’ve done a lot of foolish and embarrassing things on motorcycles but none on Sunday. Motorcycles demand skillful handling, and continual improvement is required of the rider. When you do it right on a day like ours, the feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment are hard to match.