Rising up from the urban sprawl and ascending into the mountains, the Angeles Crest Highway serves as Los Angeles’ backdoor stairway to heaven. There is no faster way to escape the city and get out into something real then by way of this road. And as you travel through its twists and turns, along natural contours, you start to shake loose the rigidity of the grid and begin to feel human again.
For myself, riding up the Angeles Crest is a rejuvenating ritual, a therapeutic detox from the frenetic daily-routine of city life. While any time of day will do, I find heading out early in the morning – preferably at day break – maximizes its restorative qualities. On this particular morning, my girlfriend and I were heading up the road just as the first rays of light started to warm the clouds overhead.
The marine layer had come in heavy that night and socked in most of the valley, but as we rose in elevation the coverage started to break apart. Soon we were riding with white clouds churning beneath us and blue skies spread out above us. Thanks to some recent rainfall this winter, the hillsides were looking more vividly green than they have all year. All this, combined with the crispness of the morning, had a rather refreshing affect on us, as if we were drinking in the fresh mountain air.
What’s great about the Angeles Crest is that it doesn’t lead anywhere in particular. There are a variety of turn-outs, picnic areas, and hiking options to explore along the way, but it lacks any real attraction that could be considered a “destination.” At its very end is Wrightwood, a sleepy little town centered around a seasonal ski operation, but more often than not people on the Crest tend to congregate at Newcomb’s Ranch, a perennial biker bar positioned halfway through the mountain range.
Being the only restaurant on the entire road, Newcomb’s has become the de facto gathering point for drivers, riders, and cyclists alike. Up there, all one can hear is the stillness of the forest with the occasional sounds of an engine roaring to life or powering down. It’s a nice enough spot, good to stretch out, have some coffee and eggs, and talk with other fellow travelers, but everyone knows its real appeal is the road you take to get there.
After an hour or so of taking in the scene, the second half of the journey begins to call. The ride back down must be made. The path we used to escape the city, must now be retracted in reverse. While at times I am reluctant to return, I always come down the mountain with a lighter heart and a cleaner mind then when I started up it.