California’s Central Coast and the Rides of March Scooter Rally 2019:
As a lover of all things coastal, I am grateful to live in California: a state with shores that lovingly hug the Pacific Ocean, stretching some 840 miles long from North to South. While NorCal has its cliff beaches and SoCal its balmy boardwalks, California’s Central Coast region continues to capture my attention.
As a vintage Vespa enthusiast, one of the best reasons to visit the Central Coast is the annual Rides of March all-vintage scooter rally. Since 1989, the event has drawn hundreds of participants from California and beyond. For coast lovers like me, it is a double-whammy weekend with scenic scooter rides on rolling hills along sunny Pacific beaches.
Visit the Central Coast’s website for a free downloadable map of the region
Friday afternoon, with my yellow 1981 Vespa P200E El Banano loaded into Murciélago, my black 2005 Honda Element, I left Sacramento about 1:00 p.m., taking Interstate 5 South towards Los Angeles.
About ninety minutes into the drive, I stopped in Santa Nella at Pea Soup Andersen’s, one of two locations in California (the other is in Buellton, near Santa Barbara).
I visited this place in memory of a sweet friend who passed in 2004 and always loved “casual American dining establishments,” this one famous for its split pea soup and eclectic windmill out front.
Approximately four and a half hours after leaving Sacramento, I arrived to an uninspiring hotel in an ideal location, unloading El Banano just in time to join some scooterists for a quick ride to the historic Madonna Inn.
If you’ve never viewed magnate and entrepreneur (d. 2004) Alex Madonna’s famous motor inn, it is a structure suspended in time with themed rooms, crushed-velvet lounge areas, and huge pink-and-green neon sign. Many travelers agree The Madonna Inn is a must-see attraction when visiting the Central Coast.
On this night, the parking lot of the Madonna Inn looked especially nostalgic as nearly 60 colorful vintage Vespas and Lambrettas lined the area along the valet carport, with many featuring expressive crests, emblems, mirrors, and extra lights.
As twilight crept in over the hills, the brilliant neon light cast a warm glow on the vintage bikes, creating a scene reminiscent of the Rat Pack days in Las Vegas.
About 8:00 p.m., scooterists mounted their bikes and headed out for a 30-minute night ride to downtown San Luis Obispo, where they then parked stylishly in front of the infamous Frog and Peach Pub.
Visit the Rides of March website for details including the weekend itinerary.
Early Saturday morning about 130 vintage scooters and their riders gathered at Black Horse Coffee where they received pre-purchased rally packs that included wristbands, patches, t-shirts and other swag in a nifty tote.
The 100-mile ride twisted through the hilly streets and open stretches connecting Atascadero, Paso Robles, and Santa Margarita – with a brief, 8-mile stint on Highway 101 – before ending at Biddle Regional Park in Arroyo Grande for a barbecue, raffle, and yes, more tote bags.
The Sunday morning ride departed with noticeably fewer bikes than the day before and was a treat for Central Coast lovers, winding through the glorious dips of scenic Prefumo Canyon. Arriving at a vista point, riders posed for photos with Morrow Bay and towering Morrow Rock clear in the background.
The group continued to the Port San Luis Pier, which offered breathtaking views of Avila Beach, including deep aqua-blue waters, fringy kelp beds, silty tide pools, and a few fat sea lions. The gorgeous area surrounding the pier is definitely a memorable visage of the Central Coast.
With a final stretch to Pismo Beach, a frontage road offered relief from jammed traffic inching towards sunny shores. Splitting lanes along the main street, drivers were courteous and yielded to scooterists, with the exception of one woman in a convertible, who cursed loudly at the group, dangerously looking back as she sped away in frustration.
After a day near beaches and bays, Sunday’s seafood dinner was an easy decision. The oysters available were from the Washington coast, a delicious bounty enjoyed by firing up the grill, melting some butter, and dashing on hot sauce. Finally, the sun disappeared over the horizon, marking the end of 2019’s Rides of March Scooter Rally weekend.
The morning of April 1st, as California honored civil rights activist Cesar Chavez’s birthday (b. March 31st, 1927), I headed out on the return journey to Sacramento. Driving along Highway 101 the scenery changed magically before me: from sandy beaches and palm trees to pine forests and agricultural plains.
Passing meadows covered in bright flowers known as the Super Bloom, I reveled in the beauty of this glorious coastal state. I said a quick “Gracias a Díos” (thanks to God), turned up the salsa on the radio, and drove onward beneath the warm California sun.