Riding the Angeles Crest Hwy

The Angeles Crest Hwy is a 66 mile stretch of highway that links the Inland Empire, west of interstate 215 and LaCaῆada Flintridge in LA County. The Crest, [Hwy 2] was closed in 2009 due to the Station Fire. This fire was the largest fire in modern LA County ever recorded, and the 10th largest blaze in Modern California history. The fire burned 160,577 acres between August 26 and October 16, 2009 destroying 209 structures, including 89 houses. The Station Fire was deemed arson killing 2 firefighters when they tried to escape the flames, plunging their fire truck down a cliff.  The Hwy reopened in November of 2009 for a short time, but mud and rock slides in early 2010 forced a portion of the highway to be closed again from 2 miles east of the I-210 junction to 14 miles east of LaCaῆada. It reopened on June 3, 2011.



 The Station Fire

The history of The Crest is interesting; and was originally intended to be a fire road. Construction began in 1921.  20 years later, in 1941, due to the Second World War work ceased.  The road was built by prison labor and finally resumed in 1946, opening in 1956.


Construction of the Crest Tunnel

Construction of the Crest Tunnel

With a summit of 7903 ft at Dawson Saddle, The Angeles Crest is one of the highest roads in the State of California. On a clear day, the views over the Los Angeles basin from the Mt. Wilson Observatory are stunning.  On the day of my visit, Catalina could be seen as well as ships along the coast.

The Angeles Crest Hwy also is known for being one of the most dangerous roads in California, followed by the Ortega Hwy that links the Inland Empire with San Juan Capistrano in Orange County.

The LaCaῆada Flintridge Patch wrote last year: “According to data from the CHP’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, 164 motorcycle-involved collisions occurred on Route 2 from Starlight Crest Drive to state Route 39 in Los Angeles County between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2008. Among the collisions, eight were fatal, seven of which were the result of unsafe speed. Of those, speed was the primary collision factor for 98 of the accidents. “


The Crest is an array of sweeping curves and turns with beautiful views that require the driver to keep his eyes on the road every second.  Areas of rock and gravel are inevitable as we soon found out on our ride this past weekend.

The Ride

Thomas and I put out an invite to our friends to join us for a day of riding on the ACH.  We were joined in Menifee by 22 bikes on a beautiful sunny fall morning.  Riders were all eager to tackle The Angeles Crest, for several, despite having lived in Southern California, for many years have never traversed this mountainous road. Jim Arnold of Fullerton, California wrote after the ride.  “Thank you so much Darla. I’ve lived here for 60 years and this was my first trip on Angeles Crest Hwy. It was great!”

Our first stop was the Grizzly Café in Wrightwood.  We rumbled in right on schedule with 33 hungry riders ready to eat and start our day.  Leo and his staff did the best they could to get us all seated and served. While service was a little slow, it was expected in this tiny mountain café.  We were later joined by several others that met up with us there, including Ernie Unland who rolled up from the west side, for a total of nearly 30 bikes and 40 or more riders. The food at the café is awesome and the wait staff is stellar.  Even with such a large group, no one got flustered. An A+ for sure!


The Angeles Crest Hwy

Even though The Grizzly was packed to the rafters with a bunch of hungry bikers, we still managed to eat and get out on schedule, gas up and roll out.  That alone amazed me…

The condition of the road was not as good as it had been on Thomas’s and my recon mission at the end of September. At that time, CalTrans was already in the process of chip sealing it for the winter season.  However, three weeks later several miles were completed.  This slowed us down a bit, and that’s not such a bad thing, unless you’re a crotch rocket who isn’t happy if they can’t drag a knee going 80 through a 40 mile an hour curve. The muttering and grumblings are all over the WWW about the poor road conditions due to the chip seal.

Roughly 10 miles into the ride, one of our riders hit a rock punching a hole in his crank case. Luckily, he didn’t go down and made it safely to the side of the road.  Eventually he nursed his ride down to Newcomb Ranch.  Instead of sitting around for the next hour and a half, several of us headed up to Mt. Wilson Observatory while our new friend Ernie, offered to head to his home at the bottom of the hill to pick up his truck and ramps to pick up the disabled bike, which was decided to be the fasted way to get it down the mountain.  Another rider, Evelyn kindly left her bike behind for Steve so he could get back to the IE and finished her day riding pillion with Howard who had come up from San Diego.

About six riders headed back to the ranch after our cruise up to the observatory to check on the situation and help load the bike. Ernie then hauled the bike back to Temecula that very night, roughly a 200 mile round trip for him.  Before this day, none of us had met Ernie Unland.  He had just become a fan of Stories, Lies and Biker Dives, and asked me if he could meet us for this ride, which as he put it. “…Is in my back yard.”  We could not have been more blessed to have a man of such character and kindness to be with us on this day.

Rides are often challenged with one issue or another.  But you do what you gotta do to meet that challenge head on.  You regroup, as we did with drinks at Newcomb’s and figure out the next move.  Everyone made it safely down the hill and home thanks to the unselfish acts of others.  And while the ride didn’t end up as it was supposed to, everyone had a great time none the less.


So many folks came out for this ride, from Arizona, San Diego, The OC and all points in between.  The weather was about as perfect as it could get for mid October.





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