Having once witnessed a daylight launch of a NASA space shuttle (by accident almost) as well as a failed Boeing Titan III launch both while businessing and vacationing in Florida, the attraction to see another launch gets under the skin a bit. For those who have not, an up-close experience of a large government projectile launch is something to see, hear, smell, and feel. Really makes you proud to see some tax-dollars turned into fireworks. Really.
We began our day at 06:30, or for us civilians....zero-dark-thirty in Temecula, and took the requisite number of major freeways into Santa Monica, where we headed north towards Malibu, Santa Barbara, and the greater Lompoc area. The Coast Hwy through Santa Monica and Malibu was at this early-ish hour relatively traffic free and a pleasure to drive.
We continued into Oxnard and Ventura, and head up the coast towards Santa Barbara. It was threatening rain, we soldiered on, hoping to stay ahead of the precipitation. Along the way, my trusty GTS hit a long overdue milestone of hitting 10,000 miles. I've had this scooter since 2006, in fact it's the FIRST GTS sold by the now defunct Vespa of Riverside....and I would likely have hit that mark sooner were it not for an everchanging constellation of other scooters which always seem to come and go around my GTS, robbing it of some well deserved use. It is my favorite scooter. Anyway, I was pleased to pull over, record the moment forever, and look for a baggie to cover my GPS with, cause now it has begun to rain! Done, so off we go.
We stopped on a roadside gas-station in Summerland Ca., to wipe off a bit, fuel-up, and re-group. I begin to grouse at a couple in a Jeep, parked and preventing us access to the gas pump...they were doing EVERYTHING but fill the Jeep. While we waited, I hear a crunch-crash sound, and mention to Pat that "someone just hit something". We finish our fuel stop, jump back on the freeway to see the accident which I heard previously, stopping all forward freeway progress from exactly behind the gas station we just left. Perhaps the Jeep peep's inconsideration for our time, actually saved us from being right in the thick of that wreck? We both later marvel at that chain of events.
We make our way into an ever moister Santa Barbara, and decide to get of the freeway, and figure out our game plan. This included re-wrapping the GPS to protect it from the rain. We decide the scenic route, Hwy 154 through the mountains would be nice...this route is known as San Marcos Pass, features some great elevations over Santa Barbara, great smooth pavement, and moderate sweeping curves to enjoy. I highly recommend this route.
We head up towards Solvang and Lompoc and as the road just starts to get interesting, the traffic slows down, and there is a southbound Mercedes 430, on it's roof apparently the victim of too much speed, on too moist a road. The skid marks told me the car crossed into oncoming (OUR lane) of traffic, hit the berm of the hillside, and rolled over. ANOTHER accident missed, through our own dumb-luck by a mere few moments...was it the GPS re-wrap, or the few moments Patty spent admiring a young ladies' puppy while we prepared to continue? We'll likely never know...and it really doesn't matter.
Our "side-trip" on this, based on a missile launch window (remember the missile?) of 0301~0901 Sunday. Yes, thats 3:01 AM in the dark, to 9:01 am, pancakes and eggs time...leaving today, Saturday for travel and a trip to the Solvang Motorcycle Museum. http://www.motosolvang.com/
The museum charges a VERY reasonable 10 bucks a head, is small but very tidy, and chocked full of an ever-changing variety of bikes, which are NOT behind thick ropes, but rather squeezing into and between the many bikes is the appropriate and accepted way to enjoy the displays. Without boring (continuing?) you with the lurid details of each and every bike there on this particular day, I am posting a small sample of pictures, and will note that for me, the main point of interest in this museum, is to note the variety of ways the same engineering challenges are addressed by different makes, from different nations, and different generations. For instance, the number of ways to drive an engine's valvetrains, suspend the rider's seat, activate brakes and clutches, etc. all seem endless when you appreciate the detail differences on the many varietal motorcycles they had....
The Motorcycle Museum is worth the trip alone to Solvang, then there's the town's famous authentic Danish bakeries.....but that's for another report on a completely different forum! We spent about 2 hours at the museum, and that seemed to be just about the right amount of time.
Well, that whole missle part of our mission was next, we rode approximately 20 miles further to Lompoc, to dry-off a bit and relax in our room. The road between Solvang and Lompoc, is peppered with beautiful flower fields which were spectacular on this moist, August afternoon. We couldn't help but stop, but we were in need of rest, food, and a fresh baggie for the GPS!
Upon arrival at our ho....er, motel in Lompoc we reconfirmed with the clerk, and others that the flight window was 03:01 ~ 09:01 and we were told the "the Air Force wants to stick as close to the beginning portion of the launch window as possible" and it was generally interpreted that the missile would launch at or near 3:01. AM. In the morning. Nightime. In the dark. We were told that the best viewing location, would be the flower fields at the edge of town....some several miles away. OK, we'll pre-ride to see where we'll stake our claim, in the middle of the night. When we normally sleep.
The plan is set. Walk down to the all-you-can-eat Chinese Buffet, turn-in early, wake-up at 2 am, gear-up, and scoot to the edge of Lompoc, to the flower fields for best viewing, take some incredible launch shots, and be back asleep like babies by 03:30 am.
Well, standing on a semi-soft shoulder, on a darker-than-dark country road in the middle of the night when we normally sleep was weird. What was weirder was the complete lack of the expected Superbowl-sized crowd of other nerdy "Missile-watchers" to keep us company. We had plenty of time to reflect on our middle-of-nowhere solitude as 03:01 turned into 03:45, 04:00, 04:30 and....then the launch site went dark! Good News! I thought. They "always" kill the lights nanoseconds before lighting that fuse....well maybe minutes beforehand. Maybe the last 30 minutes?
Then the realization hit....maybe they scrubbed" the launch? Besides, it's almost sunrise, we're tired, and remember that buffet I mentioned? Back on our scooters, and back to the room.
Well, we awoke about the normal time for us....in time to take full and complete advantage of the free breakfast feature found in most mid-range lodgings. The buzz in the dining area was that the launch had NOT indeed taken place. I knew it! Wise decision on our part to call it quits at the uphill side of 5 am....aw shucks, maybe next time.
We check out, gear-up, re-wrap the GPS as it was sprinkling still, and decide to head to Los Olivos Ca. It's on the GPS, and freshly in the news.
The town of Los Olivos is just as picturesque and quiet as anyone could imagine. The one-laner to the ranch is about 9 miles in, past numerous cattle lands, and horse properties. These properties are huge, and my GPS told me I was "there" at 5225 Figueroa Mountain Road (thanks Len for the on the fly address Google) well before the gate or any sign of civilization appeared. My guess is that as soon as we crossed the property line, it prompted me I was there, but we kept riding till we found the entrance. We were met with a young couple in a cage, the guards, and us. We chatted for 10 or 15 minutes, and headed to the highway back to Solvang, the San Marcos Pass, Santa Barbara, etc.
We made our way back to the flat coast, and jumped off the freeway earlier than normal, for a scenic ride into downtown Ventura. A few moments off of the coast highway, we were passed by numerous ambulances, police cars, etc. head north ONTO the highway with lights, sirens, etc. Come to find out, moments behind us, a small plane landed on the same freeway we just exited, and was hit by 3 vehicles. Another possible crisis averted! Dumb luck smiles on us yet again!
We enjoy the rest our journey through Ventura, Oxnard, and into Malibu, where some seafood would hit the spot....and we knew just the place to get that. Well, Sundays at Neptune's Net brings out the Security and Parking Conductors, and they seemed to feel instructing us to park our brightly colored Vespas smack in the middle of a sea of Harleys apropos, many belonging to "real" bikers, the kind with parole officers, and many simply belonging to weekenders wearing leathers....proctologists and accountants by day...you know the type.
Well, it's family-style seating at Neptune's Net, the couple we sat with, a VERY Harley-ish pair and nice, noticed us, and the man told us "I have a scooter too", and he wasn't kidding! No issues there, just some great Ceviche, and interesting people-watching....and the joy of being the ONLY Vespas there, and having ridden quite a spell to eat there. Good times.
Our trip home from Malibu in Sunday traffic wasn't as pleasant as it was in the wee hours on Saturday, headed up....but thankfully was just as uneventful as the rest! We logged 522 miles, visited a great motorcycle museum, saw some beautiful flower fields, visited a pop-culture destination, and enjoyed some great scooter riding. What more could we ask for?
I wholeheartedly recommend the Solvang Motorcycle Museum, Neptune's Net, Los Olivos, and the San Marcos Pass to anyone looking for some interesting scooting destinations.
For me, the missile launch will have to wait for another day....and in the grand scheme of things a few extra moments waiting for another patron at a gas-station, or convenience store, anywhere...won't seem like such a bother again.
⚠️ Last edited by gogogordy on UTC; edited 30 times