Tim Lopez is the rhythm guitarist and vocalist for the Grammy-nominated band the Plain White T’s, which released their latest album, American Nights, in March. While filming the NBC reality show Ready for Love in 2012, Lopez was matched with Jenna Reeves. After more than two years together, Lopez, 34, proposed to Reeves, 26, in December. The couple will be married Saturday in Santa Barbara, California.
I love the movie The Hangover just as much as the next guy, but I’ve been to Vegas many times, I’ve had my share of overpriced bottle service in dubstep-filled clubs and I’ve woken up with splitting headaches, just to do it all again the next night. Instead, what I wanted from my bachelor party was an adventure. Something I would remember forever, something introspective and a bonding experience with my friends and groomsmen.
That’s exactly what I got. My friends and I rented four Triumph Tiger 800 cc motorcycles from EagleRider out of Portland, Oregon. Over five days we rode them 1,333 miles through forests, across rivers and down the coast to Los Angeles – just in time to get a marriage license and get ready for the rehearsal dinner.
Riding down the West Coast has been on my bucket list for a long time. The trip did not disappoint. My experience was one of sensory overload. The sights and smells of the Pacific North and Southwest are beyond beautiful, with anywhere between six and 10 hours of solitude per day inside a motorcycle helmet to collect and expand your thoughts about life, marriage, work and friendship. Chase that with a few hours, a few beers and a lot of laughs in cheap hotels hanging out with your friends and you’ve got my ideal bachelor party.
We started day one at a breakfast spot called Gravy, and eating every last bite of what appeared to be a dozen eggs mixed with sausage and bacon all topped off with delicious gravy, we ventured off from Portland, Oregon in 100 degree temperatures.
We rode through the Tillamook State Forest, a stunning landscape of trees, hills and rivers and finally shot out onto the coast and joined the 101 highway. From there, we rode the coastal road down to Coos Bay as the temperature dropped almost 50 degrees and we arrived shivering to our hotel just as the sunlight disappeared. That night we ate very mediocre Mexican food within walking distance because it was the only thing open at the time (and after 250+ miles on a bike everything tastes a little better).
Day two began with a big breakfast at The Pancake Mill, a local favorite for homestyle breakfast looking out over the timber yards. We set off in a drizzling rain which quickly subsided and opened up to blue skies. This was one of our shorter days on the bikes, so we stopped often to take in the sights and roadside attractions – and drank a lot of coffee along the way. When we pulled into Eureka the sun was still up, so we threw on board shorts and hopped in the hotel hot tub. We finished the day at Lost Coast Brewery for some local beers and good grub, and at around 11 p.m. we walked back to the hotel full of food and exhausted from the miles.
Day three was the most ambitious. Before leaving town we fueled up on coffee at Black Lightning Motorcycle Cafe. We exchanged photographs of the bikes we owned and we’re building, bought some souvenirs and took some photos. Then we headed off through the towering redwoods, along pristine roads stopping to climb the fallen giants.
My friend Dean had read about a 17 mile scenic dirt road, and so we left the pavement. This proved to be a lengthy and challenging venture. Seventeen miles turned into 2.5 hours of dusty fire roads, steep and windy paths and stream crossings.
After considering the idea that we might be lost in the wilderness we finally made it back to civilization and entered the town of Redway. We slammed down some lunch at a small burger spot and headed for the Golden Gate Bridge. With the sun dropping below the horizon we snapped our selfies and set off for my brother Ryan’s place in San Jose. Arriving after dark and having logged 10 hours on the bikes we were sore and exhausted but stayed up to catch up with the best man.
Day four started with a quick ride over the fast-paced and winding 17 into Santa Cruz for some breakfast and coffee at Cafe Brasil and then on to meet up with some friends and to talk motorcycles before hitting the streets again. Heading down the Pacific Coast Highway, we passed through Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur and Morro Bay. All absolutely stunning beach towns with gorgeous cliffs and wildlife. We saw zebras and elephant seals near Hearst Castle, gray whales breaching out at sea and elk strolling alongside the road.
The roads through here require constant attention as they are extremely winding, often windy and are bordered with sheer cliffs that plummet hundreds of feet to the ocean. Once the twists in the road finally subsided the highway opened up into one long straightaway where the guys and I decided it was a good time to go ton-up (an old phrase for breaking the 100mph mark, usually on old bikes).
We shot down the coast to the city of Lompoc where my pal Kevin M grew up and were treated to a home-cooked tri-tip dinner by his parents. We stuffed ourselves, then said our goodbyes and packed the bikes with firewood and sleeping bags and headed for Jalama Beach to set up camp for the night. There we stoked a bonfire, smoked cigars, told stories and connected over our experience on the ride. Falling asleep came easy to the sound of the waves crashing on the beach. Surprisingly we all awoke shockingly rested considering the dirt mattress.
Day five we opened our eyes to a beautiful and warm sunrise, took the time to take in the ocean air and then packed up camp. Breakfast was a beast of a breakfast burger at Jalama Beach Cafe right there in the camp site. Our next stop was our hometown of Santa Barbara for some coffee at The French Press, where we met up with some friends on the way through to show off our wheels. Then we shot down the 101 to Oxnard where we rejoined the PCH and headed into Malibu, California.
If you don’t already know, Malibu is home to one of the best burrito spots in the country. Lily’s Malibu was the food highlight of my trip. Lily herself greets you as you walk in and she seems to know half of her customers by name. We scarfed down massive carne asada burritos and then headed off toward Santa Monica, where we have just enough time to grab a few photos before ducking into terrible traffic on the way to return the motorcycles.
All in all I believe we all grew on the trip, both as individuals and as friends. There were moments of transcendence. Moments where I had to stop just to absorb how happy I really was, knowing that I was about to marry a beautiful woman, share a lifetime with my best friend and just how lucky I was to meet her with a now rejuvenated soul. This ride did that for me. I am at ease and elated, and feel like I may spill over. What a great way to begin.