Editor’s Letter – January 2023 – Happy Holidays! [Commentary]

Editor's Letter - January 2023 - McDonald's

While most people think of the holidays as a time to be with friends and family, I have other ideas. With everyone roasting chestnuts on an open fire or crowded around the TV to watch someone run around with a football, the streets of Los Angeles are (relatively) empty. As someone who prefers motorcycle riding to the dominance of the calendar, holidays mean it’s time to saddle up and go riding.

Urban Los Angeles can be an arduous ride on a motorcycle, turning the most fun thing in the world into drudgery. With the traffic tamped down, the magic of a sprawling metropolis is irresistible.

My holiday rides are a longtime tradition, though one that has begun to lose its luster in recent years. With the increasingly diverse population of Los Angeles less likely to celebrate Christmas, many of them are out on the streets going who knows where. I, of course, am going wherever the front wheel points me.

Editor's Letter - Januaary 2023 - Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic

For 2022, I mixed it up a little, going out on Christmas Eve day. I have done that a few times with memorable results.

So, I hopped on a Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic this year. Built on the Softail platform, it has a comfortable seat, bags, and a windshield. The thermometer was pushing 80 on Christmas Eve, so I didn’t need wind protection during the day. Still, I was glad it was there in case I stayed out past sunset, as the temperature starts dropping fast—even in Los Angeles.

One of the great things about riding the Heritage Classic is the positive attention it draws. Just a few minutes into my ride, I get a “Nice ride!” at a red light from a guy sadly stuck in an automobile—one of many throughout the day. Other motorcyclists are out, and enthusiastic signals are sent and received. We’re always all in this together.

Editor's Letter - January 2023 - Port Los Angeles

I stuck to the main boulevards for the ride—never touching a freeway for over 100 miles. I know that sounds like torture to some riders, but I loved it. My ride took me from the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains to the Port of Los Angeles, with plenty to see and enjoy along the way.

Having skipped lunch on my ride—I always find it hard to stop—it was starting to get late on Christmas Eve day, which meant fewer food choices.

I was cruising down a familiar part of Pico Boulevard when suddenly, I saw a burger place I had never noticed—odd, but it happens. Hard enough on the brakes to involve ABS, I dive into the parking lot of Tom’s No. 5, which has a sign proclaiming its allegiance to Chili Burgers and Chili Dogs.

Typically, I avoid any burger joint named Tom’s, as they’re trading on the Original Tommy’s at Beverly and Rampart—tsk, tsk. However, I was hungry, and it was time for food, even if I was cheating on Mr. Koulax.Editor's Letter - January 2023 - Tom's No.. Five

The place looked authentic enough, and the menu barely mentioned chili-derived dishes—so far, so good. I order up my go-to, which is a patty melt. This one featured two quarter-pound patties. I wanted some variety, so I got fries to go with the patty melt, even though I had no chance of eating it all.

The gentleman taking my order was amiable and enthusiastic. After a few minutes of checking my email, the order was ready. As expected, it was delicious, and there was far too much for me to eat, even though I was hungry. Fortunately, the Heritage Classic’s bags were large enough for half a patty melt and half an order of fries—the ultimate doggy bag.

After eating, I headed northwest on the wonderfully wide San Vicente Boulevard—a rare diagonal in Los Angeles.

Soon, I find myself next to a kid on a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R at a red light at San Vincente and Fairfax. He looks at the H-D and expresses in no uncertain terms how much he likes it. I smile and give him a thumbs-up while admiring his ride. The light turns green, and I thought I’d show him what 114 cubes of torque were up to.

Leaving him in the dust, he immediately retaliates, wheelying by me about a half-block later, and almost depositing himself on the median strip when he drops the front wheel—but that’s beside the point.

We ride together at a good clip down the deserted street as we head toward ritzy West Hollywood. When we come to a red light at La Cienega Boulevard, he does the best stoppie he can—not bad, but not steady. I point at him to get his attention, and then give him a rigorous thumbs up. He loves it—I could see the smile through his full-face helmet.

He peels off on La Cienega while I make my way to Beverly Hills, into the Hollywood Hills, and onto Mulholland Drive as the sun sets. By the time I get home, it’s dark, and I’m one satisfied motorcycle rider, though a bit chillier than when I started.

Happy Holidays, indeed.