Giving Thanks, Motorcycle Style | “Camarones a la Diabla”
Being motorcycle riders puts us in the category of being a bit unorthodox. Most of our friends transport themselves in automobiles and wouldn’t dream of abandoning two of their wheels and their protective cocoon. Well, maybe they do dream about it, though probably not in the same way we experience it.
For most people, the holidays are a time for family gatherings. Well, when it comes to that, I remain in the unorthodox category.
I suspect many of you have great memories of gigantic family holiday gatherings, with relatives coming from far-flung locales to assemble around the dining table. My holiday experience was quite different—our nuclear family was made up of three people, and we generally spent it on our own.
That system worked especially well when we started camping and I started riding dirt bikes. There was no way I’d prefer to be stuck with a gaggle of cousins I didn’t know or relate to, rather than being out on a four-day off-road binge in the Mojave Desert. Our holidays were as much fun as they could be, and we had a nicely tight-knit family that got along great.
Since then, I’ve stuck with the holidays are for motorcycling philosophy. Sure, if you live in a climate inhospitable for two-wheels in November and December, you have my sympathy. When I rolled the 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Glide out of the garage on Thanksgiving Thursday morning, I was facing perfect weather for motorcycle riding.
The ride itself was uneventful, yet memorable. This time of the year, the desert can be a fairly nasty place for street bike riding due to high winds. Thanksgiving 2017 was nearly still in the desert, so I took it as an invitation to ride the length of historic Sierra Highway from the Newhall Pass at the top of the San Fernando Valley to the curious little town of Mojave.
In addition to Reefer City (not what you might think), Mojave is home to the Mojave Air and Space Port—which includes implements for futuristic space travel to a creepy parking lot for commercial aircraft with passed expiration dates.
Sierra Highway is Mojave’s Main Street, and there are still parts of it that will take you well back into the 20th century. Mojave is getting updated, so enjoy its history while it’s still there. Hint: Mojave doesn’t yet have a Starbucks.
From there, I took Highway 58 east over the mountains toward Bakersfield. Now a freeway, the 58 passes along the edge of Tehachapi, which does have a Starbucks or two. I noted of a parcel off the freeway that the people of Tehachapi are considering turning into a motocross park—I like the idea! The Street Glide’s cruise control proves both effective and intuitive.
As I dropped down from the higher elevations, the temperature warmed up again—not that it was really cold in Tehachapi. It might have dropped into the 60s, but the Street Glide’s fairing did a fine job of protecting me. I have been on that road when it’s snowing, so I wasn’t complaining.
I peeled off at California Highway 223, also known as the National Purple Heart Trail, which runs by the Bakersfield National Cemetery. As I rode by, I silently gave my thanks to those who have earned it.
Hoping for a meal in Arvin, I was disappointed to see almost every restaurant closed. Sure, I could have ducked into McDonald’s for a bite, but it was Thanksgiving and I was hoping for something more interesting.
I turned north at California Highway 184 and set off for Weedpatch (again, not what you might think). There, I found what I was looking for. On the south side of town is La Mina—Tacos y Mariscos!
There were only a couple of families there as I walked in, so I pretty much had the place to myself. I looked over the menu and decided to forgo the tacos in favor of the mariscos! Let’s just say the Camarones a la Diabla was a sound selection, if not strictly traditional on Thanksgiving afternoon.
A pleasant route though the southern Central Valley of California and the mountains of the Los Padres National Forest took me back to Los Angeles. As with any motorcycle ride, I returned a bit more thankful than when I left.
Photography by Don Williams
Story from the December 2017 issue of Ultimate Motorcycling; subscribe for free.