Cruising to San Diego’s Comic-Con

October 18, 2011
J.Joshua Placa
J. Joshua Placa
Contributing Editor|Articles|Articles RSS

J. Joshua Placa is the former editor of Cruising Rider magazine. He freelances for a number of moto publications and has contributed to national travel and adventure magazines, as well as major dailies. Whereabouts unknown, Placa is rumored to be holing up in a clapboard desert shack, chopper chained to his pet coyote, Stinky, and comfortably hiding from the Vatican.

Cruising to San Diegos Comic Con
Our freelancing contributor braved San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter during Comic-Con while testing the merit of Suzuki’s M109R Limited Edition.

In our eternal quest for a particular place to go, most motorcyclists have sampled mountain, beach and desert destinations. Any before unseen back road or boulevard, no matter how distant or bumpy, will get our throttle wrist twitching. Some brave the abominable wilds of the Yukon, the Amazon’s sweltering jungles, or the lonely, ceaseless Texas prairie in pursuit of fresh adventures.

I prefer something more civilized, something with more creature comforts such as man-eating monsters, pathological villains and good guys who heroically and so melodramatically dispatch them back to the horrible hell from which they came. This is San Diego during Comic-Con, a mega-convention featuring Horror and Sci-Fi’s most celebrated creators and their loony, fanatic followers.

Teeming masses of wannabe do-gooders, vile villains, merciless monsters and other dark denizens of graphic novels and twisted writers’ imaginations were drawn to the historic Gaslamp Quarter like zombies to brains. For four freakish days in July, the city was transformed into a celebration of all things out of this world, the diabolical best our nation’s finest nerd-minds could devise.

Wandering herds of costumed characters and caped crusaders spilled out of the San Diego Convention Center, parading, primping, pimping, growling, posing and becoming the hero or mad monster they adore most. Film premiers were everywhere, and as I rode a mighty Suzuki M109R Limited Edition down potentially crime-ridden boulevards and scary alleys, ready to rescue damsels in short dresses, I knew Captain America had nothing on me.

Cruising to San Diegos Comic ConCruising to San Diegos Comic ConCruising to San Diegos Comic Con
Everything from mallet-wielding barbarians and ghouls to the heroes that overcome them – welcome to the craziness of Comic-Con!

Reality is kind of tough to deal with these days, so an escape into a week or so of adrenalin-wired make-believe feels just like what the witch doctor ordered. Having a hero or two, or even an angry super villain with serious childhood issues, on our side doesn’t hurt. The asphalt-eating M109R rocketed about town with menacing grace. For a few summery days in this lovely seaside city, I was Motorcycle Man.

Modified motorcycles have become curious inventions of vivid imaginations in recent years. Artful metal fabrication has reached unprecedented heights, drawing on surreal dreams, childhood toys, comic book heroes and our darkest nightmares. None of this was more evident, or appropriate, than at this out-of-this-world fantasy fest. Rolling amid the trikes built to look like starships, ‘flying’ cars and the walking comic book characters dressed to kill, the Suzuki took its rightful role as magic carpet – albeit bound to an earthly street, a minor inconvenience to a leathered crusader.

Cruising to San Diegos Comic Con
Our self-appointed ‘Motorcycle Man’ put the Suzuki M109R to good use while navigating San Diego’s cramped corridors. 

Hero machines past and present have headlined Comic- Con, such as the Bat Bike from Batman: The Dark Knight, Captain America’s 1942 WLA Liberator, Ghost Rider’s smoking V-Max as well as otherworldly two-wheeled contraptions for Men In Black III, Tron, some kind of sidecar rig for The Adventures of Tintin, a rocket ride for Priest, the Green Hornet V-Rod, and, of course, where would we be without the TV rebels from the Sons of Anarchy? It’s all enough to make a Sci-Fi geek’s rubber Klingon head explode.

Other bikes best not left to the hands of mere mortals could be seen stationed around town. These machines are suited for super villains, state troopers from outer space, super heroes, anti-heroes and the odd speeding werewolf or blood-drunk vampire. Aside from eyeballing the crime fighting and intergalactic extreme machines on display, motorcycling is a great way to get around a dense Earth city.

Riding around the congested Gaslamp district with thousands of event goers was a breeze aboard the M109R we temporarily purloined. While civilians in overcompensating trucks, big-ass SUVs and clumsy

Cruising to San Diegos Comic Con
Nothing says ‘macho’ better than a motorcycle. 

automobiles had to park as many as 20 or 30 blocks from the action and pay $25 for the privilege, sitting the Suzuki down on its kickstand was never inconvenient, and even better – it was free.

The city buzzed with activity which included: Star-studded premiers, public parties and underground parties; a Super Hero Pub Crawl, complete with secret locations; and a massive Zombie Walk, where hundreds of weirdoes marched in full makeup and red corn syrup throughout the city, turning the mild metropolis into a dystopia of nerds gone wild. Some women’s costumes were so ‘pre-decayed’ and shredded to near nudity that being a member of the flesh eating dead didn’t seem so bad – once you get past devouring the same old thing day in and night out.

For a change of pace, Del Mar Racetrack, set in a seaside village about 20 miles north of San Diego and the Comic- Con madness, is a bucolic escape. It was built by old school Hollywood elite, a partnership that included Bing Crosby, Pat O’Brien, Jimmy Durante and Oliver Hardy.

Cruising to San Diegos Comic Con
Opening Day at Del Mar Racetrack offered a perfect getaway from the flesh-eating zombies of Downtown San Diego. 

Reportedly, Crosby personally greeted fans at the gate when the track opened in 1937. Opening Day has been a Del Mar tradition ever since.

It appears all Southern California celebrates the third Wednesday of July. In the spirit of the Kentucky Derby but so much sexier, waves of foppish men and fashionably hot women come by bus, limo, motorcycle, sedan and on shanks mare dressed in their most alluring finery and topped off with floppy hats of beguiling style. What better place to ride a graphic novel-worthy motorcycle than a 1940s-style racetrack?

There seems a natural kinship, even a kind of cross species attraction between iron horses and hay horses; so much so my elegantly chapeau’d passenger and I were invited to the Matthew Chew Racing Stable at Del Mar. Both thoroughbreds shared a mutual affection, which had absolutely nothing to do with the sweet carrots and apples we were sharing.

Comic-Con, it seems, captures that certain sexy something, a heady mix of carnal posturing, sweaty sex pheromones, animal hides, bare skin, high heels and a playful, irresistible call to adventure – be it on the road

Cruising to San Diegos Comic Con
Much like Superman without his cape, our Motorcycle Man was left feeling powerless when it came time to return the Suzuki M109R LE.   

or a galaxy far, far away.

Perhaps a common thread runs through bikers, princesses, vampires, super do-gooders, super bad villains and even the ravenous, rotting dead. We are all menacing creatures of peril, addicted to adrenalin and a weird, unspoken primal urge to break free of reality. Nothing wrong with wanting to fly half-naked into the wind, or occasionally munch a few measly brains, is there?

The Suzuki M109R LE is an empowering ride, the kind of bike that can turn the average, mild-mannered motorcyclist into a street hero. Returning it made the fantasy do a deflating ‘poof,’ sort of what Superman must feel when he stuffs his cape back in his gray suit, throws on the goofy glasses and goes back to the grind at the Daily Planet.

Comic-Con reconvenes July 12-15. Visit for more information.

Del Mar Opening Day 2012 is unofficially scheduled for the third Wednesday in July. Visit

Biker Friendly Accommodations
Cruising to San Diegos Comic Con
The 1906 Lodge
I have never before wanted to stay in a room more than just to grab some rest and shower. That’s changed. Seventeen unique, gorgeously appointed rooms and suites make this a new, sparkling jewel in what is considered the ‘Crown City.’

Located within walking distance to famed beaches, seaside boutiques and contemporary cafes, the property is certainly befitting the biker who appreciates the pristine and shiny. The property is racking up high praise on travel review sites, and deservedly so. The staff, gourmet breakfasts, daily wine and cheese in the parlor, spa-ahhh tubs and (motorcyclists will lick their chops over this) a state-of-the-art, secured, underground garage. Now that’s the lush life.
1060 Adella Ave.
Coronado, CA 92118

El Cordova Hotel
Swashbuckling, anyone? It’s easy to imagine rollicking swordsmen being in their element here. Traditional Spanish stucco archways, awnings and shutters, red tile roof and bougainvillea petals floating lazily onto the Spanish tiles. Guests are quickly transported into their own Roman Holiday as they present your keys, and I’m not talking about those tacky plastic key cards.

Are you the type who has some special ride tucked in your garage? You know, a little retro, sporting mileage and the patina of a lovingly maintained machine. These accommodations are like that, clean and classic.

This 40-room inn, built in 1902 as a private residence, features a courtyard-enclosed heated pool, whirlpool and barbeque area. In-suite kitchenettes are provided in the charming accommodations. Modern amenities, such as the flat screen TVs bring the hacienda up to speed.

The friendly and efficient staff and excellent location make this boutique hotel a favorite. It’s in the heart of the village, just a short walk to one of the best beaches in America, the historic Hotel del Coronado, and main thoroughfare, Orange Avenue. On property, there are 12 shops and three restaurants.
1351Orange Ave.
Coronado, CA 92118

The Italian B&B
San Diego’s Little Italy is a frenetic hub of transportation. By sky, land and sea the conveyances never cease coming and going. For an up-close eyeful of a Boeing 747, for example, just stand on the corner of Kettner Boulevard outside the Harley dealership. Every few minutes, jetliners fly in so low you can see the smile on the pilot’s face. Vespas zip by, trolleys clang and motorcycles rumble down Little Italy’s main drag, India Street.

We packed our earplugs and good humor, and nestled in at the Italian B&B. Restored and reopened in 2010, this four-room inn is located in the heart of Little Italy and just up the hill from the waterfront and near downtown San Diego.

Attracting an international clientele which included a Danish couple, two Norwegian youths in for Comic Con, Nor Cal honeymooners and our raggedy selves chatted over yet another incredible breakfast. The fun innkeeper, Mary Trimmins, has a custom chopper and a formal culinary background, which we tasted with every delicious breakfast bite.
2054 Columbia St.
San Diego, CA 92101

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