Southern California has the Rock Store. In the Bay Area, Alice’s Restaurant is the place for riders of all stripes to see and be seen.Located in the coastal range just west of Woodside, at the intersection of highways 35 and 84, Alice’s draws huge weekend crowds of sport riders and cruisers alike who come to show off their machines, grab a beer and ride the twisty mountain roads.
The parking lot in front of Alice’s, which is not the restaurant of Arlo Guthrie fame but uses the lyrics in its slogan nonetheless, is typically packed with all manner of bike – from bobbed-out Harleys to exotic racers and all types in between.
On sunny weekends, bikes spill into neighboring lots and onto the shoulders of the road as people walk among them, admiring the gleaming paint and steel, talking shop or sharing road information.
“Whole bunch of cops down there,” a guy with a leather suit said as he dismounted a Ducati.
“Thanks, bro,” another guy said.
Roads leading to and from are nice but the weekend brings cars. Lots of cars. The peninsula hotspot is sandwiched between San Francisco and San Jose, so even though it feels like wilderness it ain’t.
Inside the restaurant, they’re usually slammed. You can have anything you want, as they like to say, but mostly people go for the cheeseburger. And a beer.
People come from all over. Three Harley guys said they rode from the Central Valley town of Manteca just to take in the scene. Another man and his wife came from Lake Tahoe and were headed south to Santa Barbara.
Then there are the locals. The community of Sky Londa and environs have a hippie past that includes being home to Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. The VW buses have mostly been replaced by SUVs owned by Silicon Valley executives but look closely as you whisk through the woods and you’re likely to spot a yurt or two.
I lingered in the parking lot after eating a bowl of chili (watery, bland) and drinking a Sierra Nevada (cold and excellent). The crowd was thin because of a motorcycle race at Laguna Seca.
A BMW owner from nearby Palo Alto was hawking custom lights that increase visibility but also are considered illegal by the CHP. He bragged that the roads south of Alice’s on Skyline Drive are some of the best in Northern California.
The asphalt is smooth, save a few pavement “alligators,” and there are plenty of sweeping turns, he said.
I came in from the north (I-280 to 92 to 35) and was less than impressed by what I’d seen so far. The roads were on par with Santa Monica Mountain roads leading to the Rock Store but bumpier, narrow and full of cars.
At the man’s suggestion, I headed west out of Alice’s parking lot down 84 toward Half Moon Bay. Took a few nice sweepers before getting stuck behind traffic.
It was more of the same on Highway 1. By Half Moon Bay, the cars seemed to be reproducing and multiplying. Highway 92 east was bumper to bumper almost all the way back to 280.
While traffic dampened the experience for me, I’d say Alice’s is worth a visit, if for no other reason than to eat a meal, ogle bikes and chat with people with a mutual interest.