CHOPPERIN’; Vancouver to Mexico

Becky and Cody ride through three countries in three weeks on crappy choppers for absolutely no reason.

I’ve been thinking about riding a chopper to California my entire life. I’ve pictured the trip in my head thousands of times, even before I owned the bike I have now. I never knew who I’d do it with, when I’d do it or if it’d ever really happen. Thirty minutes ago, I rolled into my driveway after 27 days on the Harley Sportster chopper that took me not only to  Californiabut right through and into Mexico, across the Baja and back up through central Cali.

I didn’t know how long I would be gonefor or who I was going to go with, butI decided to leave the first week of June and be in the LA area for Born Free 10. Over the past couple of months, I was getting my bike ready. I tuned it up, put a tall sissy bar on it and a saddle bag,changed the oil and shook it down on a 600 km trip around Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast. As the date got closer, I started telling people I was going to do the ride and my buddy Cody Kemmet made some moves. He flew from North Dakota to LA, bought a ’56 Panshovel survivor chopper with a big long Springer front-end and rode it to Vancouver. I hung out a couple of weeks with him in British Columbia, and then, we headed South. We hadn’t even got out of Vancouver before my sissy bar almost broke off, Cody got a spare inner tube stuck in his wheel and my front axle nut fell off. As soon as we crossed into the States Cody’s (only) brake broke. It took us a full day to ride about 330 km. Looking back, that was a perfect foreshadow to how the rest of the trip was going to go.

Night one, before the rain storms

Because we had a ton of time and we’d both never done the entire coast from Canada to Cali, we decided to do it right. Right from Northern Washington,we went West. We skipped Seattle, took the two-lane Chuckanut Highway to the ferry and headed towards the Washington coast. Unsure of where we were going to sleep, unsure if the weather was going to hold up, unsure if our bikes were going to start in the morning, and unsureof how long it was going to take us to get to LA, we tookevery day as it came. The Washington part of the ride was amazing, sunny and our bikes were jamming. We bought fireworks, camped on the water and made food on the campfire.

As we cruised into Oregon, our luck wasn’t as good. For three days, we were stuckin heavy coastal rains. Cody’s magneto got wet andhis bike started having some electrical issues. We’d ride as many miles as we could in a day but would eventually get rained out and stay in a Best Western (best hook up ever) or at the house of someone who’d take us in. A womanfrom Instagram whom we’d never met before invitedus to her place in Florence, Oregon. Sheand her family fed us, dried our things, got us reallydrunk and let us sleep in their RV. The next morning, their son took us to work with him at the dunes and let us rip their rental quads along the sand cliffs and the ocean. Thanks,Tucker family, sometimes being rained out isn’t so bad.

Stop one on the Oregon coast, a secret lookout
The start of the Oregon Coast

The sun poked out as we headed towards Northern California. Our mood was untainted andwe were just happy to be moving again. You can’t have the high highs without experiencing the low lows I guess. We hardly stopped that day. We easy-rode through the Redwoods, past the largesttrees I’ve ever seen boardingthe ocean, and up the pass throughHales Grove which is the start of Highway 1. As we coasted down the pass towards the ocean, we switched off our bikes and let our bikes take us down in silence. At the bottom, we drank 10,000 beers and got rested to ride hundreds of miles of twisty ocean front highways for the next couple days.

California Coast – Highway 1

If you’ve ever ridden Highway 1 along the California coast, you get it. But if not, it’s something I think all riders should do in their lifetime. The road twists and turns up above the ocean that is right down beside it. It goes through little fishing towns and up through cliff-high farm landand hairpin curves that make your stomach flip. Cody’s front-end wobbled on every single one of those turns, and my chain slapped my oil bag and tire on every single bump…but nothing could stop us. It was on this road that a deer ran out in front of Cody, who was in front of me at the time. I was messing around with my headphones, soI was a couple ofcar lengths further behind him thanI usually was. He missed the deer by an inch (or I could say the deer missed Cody by an inch). The car heading towards us in the on-coming lane hit the deer head on, andthe deer flew over Cody’sshoulder. It was upside down in the lanein front of me, bloody and broken with its legs flailing around in the airit. It was speed sliding back and fortharound on the road directly in my way, andI instinctively chose to go left to avoid it. An inch to the right and I would have runright into it. It took us three more days to get through California after a stop at Matt Busby’s garage in Salinas, a detour to Big Sur and sleepat Huntington Beach. We had a moment of chill in LA before, andwe decided that yes, we were going to take the trip that one step further into Mexico.

California Coast – Highway 1

Big Sur and the boys

The plan was to ride through Tijuana down the coast and stay at a Best Western in Ensenada. Then we’d ride 300 km across the Baja to San Felipe which is on the East Coast of the gulf. After that, we’d ride north through the desert and cross back into America at the Mexicali border and ride through Palm Springs to Born Free. Easy enough, right? After over 2,500 km, it didn’t seem like that much of an addition to the trip. But those bikes, after already going that many miles, were getting thrashed in Mexico. The roads were crazy…A dog ran head first into Cody’s engine on the highway, my headlight broke off and my front axlenut loosened right off from hitting a death bump. Our bikes were getting hot-hotin the desert stretches. We got heat stroke so bad we almost died. And pieces of Cody’s tire were shredding off, andhis entire rear bearing disintegrated. The whole five days we were in Mexico we had no headlights, drank five gallons of Tequila, slept in hammocks on the beach and tried not to get our bikes stolen. The chopper problems seemed to justadd to the fun down there though. It was paradise when we finally made it to the beach. The whole Mexico trip was a dream. Looking at my bike parked near the water in San Felipe, over 3,000 km from home, was mind-boggling. I couldn’t believe that thing got me that far. Through all the rain, the heat, the beers, the breakdowns, the sand and dirt, the dogs and deer, we made it to our furthest destination.

San Felipe, Mexico

Of course, there’s a whole other side to this story. Questions I will get asked that have an answer longer then I was allowed to type for this article. Some of which will be:

  • How did Cody ride all the way from San Felipe to America with his bearing gone and his tire missing huge chunks out of it?
  • Why did you arrive at the pre-party of Born Free in a Uhaul?
  • Why did you ride into Born Free with Cody on the back of your Sportster?
  • Who did you ride home with?
  • Did your bike makeit back to Vancouver?

Well,those are all just questions that you have to ask me next time you see me in person cus’ I could go on and on with this story.

Last words: I am home and safe even after a wild weekend of Born Free 10 which you can read about in the next couple of pages. If you ever get the chance to ride your dream bike to California and beyond, don’t hesitate. I’ve travelled a lot of places for motorcycling, butthis was by far the best trip I’ve ever done. Get out there and ride somewhere stupid on a piece of shit motorcycle!

Buy now