The memories run deep, hours spent idly watching sea otters using rocks to crack open abalone shells as they floated on their backs above the kelp beds of Jade Cove. Like explorers looking for lost treasure, we’d time the tides and scramble over boulders to get down to the secluded beach and search for polished bits of the elusive green gem in beds of Pacific rocks. We had better luck finding sand dollars along the shore of the appropriately named Sand Dollar Beach. Nights were spent around the campfire feasting on the bounty the divers in our group had brought up that day, spearfished ling cod and samples of the sea otter’s delicacy, fresh abalone, harvested from the ocean floor. Mornings were spent watching hang gliders spinning slow circles in the sky, tiny arrowheads of red and yellow against a baby blue background. Driving down from San Jose to meet my parent’s best friends from Westminster at a coastal campground about half-way between the two was an annual ritual, endearing this magical stretch of California coastline to me at an early age. The memories still run deep.

My love for California’s Highway 1 deepened when I started riding motorcycles. The curves are countless and the scenery seemingly changes around every bend. One minute you’re riding near the shoreline, helmet filled with salty sea air. Five minutes later you’re clinging to the handlebars like a lifeline when wind smacks you in the face as it races around a bend with no guard rails between you and the churning sea 500 feet below. I remember a particularly raucous ride with the Motorcycle-USA crew aboard a Kawasaki Concourse 14 during a sport-touring shootout where we tested the limits of lean angle and pissed off a car or two. Rolling up from SoCal with British Customs and the Why We Ride squad on a BC street tracker provided more memorable moments as the bike was barely street legal and camaraderie levels were high.

I’m not alone in thinking California’s Highway 1 between Monterey and San Simeon is one of the most spectacular rides around. Motorcyclists come from around the country and beyond to take in its breathtaking beauty. This changed though on May 20, 2017, when about a quarter-mile of the highway was buried almost 40 feet deep as a million tons of dirt and rock came crashing down in a landslide at Mud Creek. The coast had been barraged by heavy rains throughout the winter and spring and the hillside ultimately gave way and slammed into the ocean. It took a year-and-a-half for hard-working crews to repair the road, but on January 14, 2019, the full length of Highway 1 had finally been reopened.

Strapping a bag to the back of a 2019 Honda CB1000R was no easy task. There’s no tiedown points, the tail section is small, but with a little experimentation and determination I was able to get my Biltwell Exfil-115 bag strapped down on the pillion for the run to LA. Though it might not be set up for touring, the CB1000R is set up to shred roads like California’s Highway 1. It’s 998cc engine has an abundance of passing power to tap into as the Inline-Four really comes alive around 6,000 rpm, then delivers another solid punch as it approaches 10K. The Showa Big Piston fork is tucked in at a tidy 24.7-degrees and steering is point-and-shoot. The front brakes are progressively powerful without being throw-you-over-the-bars bitey. It’d been years since I’d ridden Highway 1, and knowing I had a well-honed motorcycle to slice and dice its twists and turns with left me eager to knock out the sprint down I-5 between southern Oregon and Monterey, so I cranked up the CB, hunkered down, and laid down the highway miles.

I fought NorCal winds all day by snugging up to the tank, tightening my grip, leaning forward, and staying on the gas. My head got whipped around like a punching bag as crosswinds delivered jabs and crosses as there’s no place to hide in the saddle of the stripped-down streetfighter. By the time I pulled into Laguna Seca my upper body felt like I’d gone the distance in a title fight from holding on to the bike so tight all day. My campsite sat on a wonderful little knoll overlooking the track but the sun had set long before my arrival and the winds were angrier than ever before. The loop was fairly deserted so I moved to a site on the back of the knoll which sat in a little depression. Thankfully the natural lay of the land diverted the wind over me for the most part, but there was no ducking the stronger gusts, so I lashed a tarp over the CB1000R and used it as a windbreak, threw my bed roll behind it, zipped up my sleeping bag and turned my back to the wind. The NorCal banshee stopped screaming about 1 a.m., the calm came, and the stars were out in force. Watching the first golden rays of the morning rising over the hills to the east made weathering the winds worthwhile.

The coastal morning air was refreshingly clean and cool. The Honda CB1000R was averaging about 100 miles before the fuel gauge dropped low so I topped off in Monterey and set out south. Clusters of cars filled every pull-out with weekenders eager to get heart rates up with a spirited hike. Can’t say I blame them. Barrel-trunked Redwoods towered above fern-lined forests. Trails splintered off the road and scenic points provided unparalleled views of the coastline. At Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, people flocked to McWay Falls to watch its waters plunge 80 feet into the Pacific below. Riding through the forest canopy, it’s easy to see why this region attracts artists and writers. But the serene sleepiness I associated with this place in my youth is gone, it’s natural bounties no longer a secret as people crowded into every wayside. In the first few miles I frequently tapped into the 143 horsepower Honda says the CB has, but cars were like the Hydra because for every one I passed, two more took its place. I settled into line because there was no need to hurry and Big Sur is fine like wine and best sipped slowly and savored.

As they say, if you can’t beat them, join them, so like a good tourist I stopped at Bixby Creek Bridge for the obligatory photo op. Its concrete archway is admittedly an architectural wonder, but the winding road beyond it beckoned so my visit was brief. The road follows the contours of the coastline and like the tides has its own ebb and flow. Occasionally there was a break in traffic and for a few turns I was able to give the CB1000R a little gas and lean it over. The tapered handlebar was easy to leverage into turns courtesy of the motorcycle’s upright riding position but as soon as I got into a flow I'd caught back up to traffic. Thankfully the Honda’s middle gears have a broad range of power and pick back up from low rpm without lugging which mitigated the need to constantly shift up and down adjusting to the speed of traffic.

Just past Sand Dollar Beach I pulled over at the trailhead to Jade Cove and chased childhood memories. The path, like my memories, were overgrown but navigable. The surf played a familiar tune though as it crashed against the rocks below. I sat and listened to its song, the melody of rolling waves as they break, the shush of the tide as it inhales sea and sand, the screech of seagulls as they effortlessly navigated the winds above the cove. Sitting off the beaten path, Jade Cove was as ruggedly beautiful as I remembered. I breathed in its bounties deeply and let them sink into the storage banks of recent memory that layer those of my long-term.

While I could have stayed there all day soaking in the sun and looking for sea otters in the kelp beds, I had unfinished business with the CB1000R to attend to. I was eager to see the scar left by the Mud Creek landslide and curious to see how they routed the road. As I approached Gorda, the bars of the fuel gauge had dropped to two and Cambria was still a good stretch down the road. I’ve been known to test the limits of a motorcycle’s range. I’ve also been known to end up pushing more than my fair share of motorcycles, and running out of gas on a remote stretch of California coast had little allure, so I pulled in to top off. The price on the pump was jaw-dropping - $7.39 per-gallon! Granted, I know getting gas to this little station in the middle of nowhere can’t be cheap, but I still couldn’t get over the astronomical price. They know travelers stopping there most likely are in dire need and have no other choice and undoubtedly jack up prices like hotel owners during the Sturgis Rally. I begrudgingly pumped just enough to get me to Cambria and went on my merry way.

And the prize for highest price ever paid for a gallon of gas goes to Gorda! 

Despite it being late summer, the need for repairs is constant and one stretch of Highway 1 still filtered down to one lane. And while I searched for the residuals of the Mud Creek slide, I couldn’t tell the scars of one landslide from another because the hills bare so many. Keeping Highway 1 open is a constant battle, and like ants when you step on an ant hill, we scramble to rebuild the road every time a chunk falls into the ocean. No matter how hard we try though, in the end the winds and rain will always win this battle. But as the sun slid behind the Pacific, images of steep cliffs plunging to the deep blues and glowing greens below burned in my psyche, I continued to ride south clinging to my memories and believing it’s a battle worth fighting again and again.