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Cruising to San Diego’s Comic-Con

Tuesday, October 18, 2011
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 www.comic-con.org for more information.

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

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
Cruising to San Diego’s Comic Con
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Biker Bites: Dining as a Destination
Cruising to San Diegos Comic Con
Bikers love to eat. Whether it’s a convenient excuse to pull over, take a break and eat a burger, or a matter of much needed fuel to keep our senses sharp, motorcyclists often find themselves bellying up to the dinner table. And for motorcycling’s hungriest segment, Baby Boomers, dining has become a destination.

Considering a biker’s biggest road expense aside from accommodations is food, it’s puzzling why more editorial attention isn’t paid on where to eat. That isn’t the case here, where we know the importance of a tasty meal. San Diego offers excellent dining diversity, dishing up everything from sumptuous seafood and gourmet steaks to tasty turkey burgers and homemade fries. Go ahead and take a big bite:

The FleetWood
A rousing base camp for Comic Con or pre- and post-San Diego Padre tussles, the FleetWood is a quirky mix of sports bar and fine dining. From ping-pong to bottle service, this venue has something for almost anyone.

We experienced elegantly presented and tasty dishes and cocktails. The Chili Brown Sugar Ribeye with House-Made Tater Tots, Peppercorn Sauce, with Green Beans ($29) was a standout; Crème Brulee ($6), was the perfect finish. 

639 J Street
San Diego, CA

The Fish Market Restaurant
Whether you consider yourself a grazer or a three-square meals type, you’ll relish this seafood. The menu adjusts daily with seasonality and availability.

The Fish Market serves it up just-caught fresh, courtesy of their own fisheries. Everything from both kinds of chowders to bounties of shellfish and fish filets, sushi and sashimi tempt. Salads, pastas, side dishes, burgers, and steaks round out the fare. Quality service, atmosphere and cuisine are standard. 

(multiple locations throughout the San Diego area)

Burger Lounge
Burgers of all stripes, healthy grass-fed beef, luscious turkey, quinoa, and salmon are masterfully prepared and accessorized with farm-fresh fixings, then nestled in fluffy buns.

Chicken tenders, glorious salads, fresh cut fries, and onion rings are all presented in a memorably tasty form. Forever etched on your brain, you’ll pine for these savory flavors like a rock star for a supermodel. The Coronado location is one of those fine Sunday putt spots, near the beach and away from the hustle and bustle of the inner city. Sit outside and watch the upper middle class walk by. 

La Jolla, Hillcrest, Kensington, Little Italy, Gaslamp/San Diego, Coronado

Café 1134
This charming Coronado mainstay will give you a sense of the local, relaxed vibe. Friendly faces greet you from behind the bar, serving up coffee, teas, espresso, wine and beer, pastries and bistro fare. Dine in their interior main floor and loft areas, or al fresco. The café also offers a nice vantage point ideal for eyeing the meandering tourists, usually headed for the historic Hotel del Coronado nearby. 

1134 Orange Ave.
Coronado, CA 92118

Sally’s Seafood on the Water
Chef de Cuisine, Sarah Linkenheil, and Sushi Master “Kaz” Kim have made this one of San Diego’s finest restaurants. The waterfront view is ideal for a menu boasting seafood, with steak, lamb and chicken hearty options.

Sally’s offers tantalizing lunch and dinner menus, with breakfasts on the weekends. The outstanding cuisine brings in the locals and tourists alike. The resort is fortuitously placed between the San Diego Convention Center (Comic Con central) and the popular Seaport Village. Sally’s offers three-hour validated parking, a nice little savings of about 25 bucks.

Every bite of sushi & sashimi was the height of freshness and beauty. We were equally pleased with the Half Maine Lobster Paella ($36) and the Chili Crusted Maine Diver Scallops ($31). For a special treat, try their incredible dessert menu. 

One Market Pl.
San Diego, CA 92101
619/232.1234; 619/358.6740

Bice Ristorante
It’s always a good sign when there’s a bunch of bikes parked out front, right? Motorcycle enthusiasts not only frequent Bice, but many of the staffers are bikers.

This joint lends itself to impressing a date, with its swanky décor, extensive wine library and accolades that make the chef’s momma proud. A nod is given to the local and seasonal ingredients. Elegantly presented pastas and seafood dominate the menu. Scrumptious desserts make this eatery a special spot to pause after strolling the Gaslamp Quarter. 

425 Island Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101

JSix Restaurant (at the Hotel Solamar)
This highly pervasive trend to serve ‘sustainable’ and ‘sincere’ food could make JSix its poster-child. Chef Christian Graves puts his own spin on what has also been called, “conscious, coastal cuisine.” The idea is to save the Earth by growing locally and dishing up organically.

Edible borage flowers dotted my salad of organics and cheese, a feast more for the eyes than the palate. Various meals are offered, but as the sun sets, this place and its floral relief ceilings glow in ethereal light, creating a romantic ambience well suited for the dating or wannabe-dating crowd.

The restaurant’s distinctive cocktails use basil and other herbs from JSix’s rooftop garden, and an assortment of palate awakening stimulants. If indulging or getting lucky, the plush Hotel Solamar’s check-in is just steps away, or you can catch the nearby trolley. 

616 J St.
San Diego, CA 92101

House of Blues San Diego
Praise Jesus and pass the biscuits and gravy. If you want some of that good old-fashioned religion served up with your southern fried chicken and shoofly pie, the House of Blues’ popular Gospel Brunch will satisfy your appetite and feed your soul.

The hearty, southern fare gives you the energy for what’s next: a rousing, bible thumping, old-timey dose of singing, dancing and preaching. Even the hardcore biker pagans in the audience were moved to whooping and hollering and praising. The minister almost had even me converted, until he told us how small his earthly problems appeared while looking out over the vast ocean from his multimillion-dollar beachfront home. 

1055 Fifth Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101

Brigantine Seafood Restaurant
I’m putting the spotlight on their Coronado and Del Mar locations, due to Comic Con and Opening Day. There may be no better place to start the Del Mar Racetrack Opening Day pre-racing party than the Brigantine, which overlooks the horse track. Ladies dressed in their hottest finery play a game of sexy peek-a-boo from beneath giant, floppy hats, Bloody Marys in hand. The vibe is convivial and offers to share appetizers frequent. Some patrons can’t pull themselves away, and never make it to the track. 

(multiple locations)

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