#45 of 52 Taco Story/Azusa Canyons Hwy 39

This ride may make the top five of the 52 Taco rides listed in this book. On the way to Pepe’s Tacos you ride through a beautiful section of Route 66; by Azusa, a mere 40 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Pepe’s Tacos is on the corner of a one way heading downhill from the nearby mountains, Sierra Madre Street and San Gabriel Avenue, Azusa, California. I would say today that Pepe’s is more about the ride destination than the journey. Pepe’s can be considered the start point of today’s taco ride.

Christmas is just four days away; yet this morning I awoke to 45 degree temperatures. Approximately thirty minutes later I exit the 60 freeway at Azusa, and it has already warmed up to 72 degrees ; by the end of my ride, four hours later, the high was 83 degrees. A beautiful Christmas in sunny Southern California.

You know you are close to Pepe’s when you see other eatery choices like Inn N Out for hamburgers, Jersey Mike’s for sandwiches and even oriental food dining.

If you arrive in the area early and are now hungry, it’s best to eat now. You will ride through this area again on your way back down the canyon.

Or, if you are hungry atop the canyon, stop at Crystal Lake Cafe; they are located at the Visitor center at Crystal lake.

State Road 39 or Beach Boulevard or Gabriel Canyon Road are all one in the same. Even though it shows up on google maps as a through road it isn’t. You cannot drive or ride any further once you reach the end.

All I want for Christmas is a case of Mexican Coca Cola under my tree. – Pepe

Now, I will say one thing about riding a new BMW 1250 GSA; and that is that no matter what stress levels anyone has before this ride, when you throw your leg over that new Corbin seat, and start riding up the canyon, every bit of stress just magically begins to melt away.

The magic of the moment is what I’ll now call it as I effortlessly glide around each turn after turn after turn. Unfettered views all around and as I continue to climb the weather remains the same but, the forests beauty becomes more pronounced.

That beautiful big boxer engine just hums in perfect harmony. I probably haven’t said this enough before but m, I love this Gordo bike of mine.

My bike is perfectly at home in the mountains just as easily as it is below in the lowlands.

Sometime ago State Route 39 used to be an important north-south route into the Angeles National Forest, traveling up from Azusa up the North Fork of the San Gabriel River, skirting the big peaks like Mount Islip and South Mount Hawkins before meandering to Crystal Lake and the Angeles Crest Highway at Islip Saddle.

A four mile stretch of road south of the Saddle has been closed since 1978, due to fires, mudslides, and erosion. On the ride up the first stretch of water you encounter from the road are the Morris and San Gabriel Reservoirs. The San Gabriel Canyon OHV area is a great place to go off roading if you are so inclined. The cool part about OHV riding this area is that you cross the Azusa river on more than one occasion.

On my way up the twisties I encountered a solo rider on a red sport bike. He appeared to be pushing it pushing it down hill. I signaled to see if he needed help and he waved me on. On my way back down, quite a considerable distance later, I encounter the same rider now stopped. His front windscreen and various broken hanging parts told me all I needed to know. I offered to ride alongside him but, he cut me off saying he’d rather not draw anymore attention to himself.

Taco Reviewed: Pedro’s Tacos

One star is considered poor; two stars is good, three stars is very good, four stars is great, five stars is excellent!

1. Scenic Historic Location – 5 stars Historic Azusa and the San Gabriel Canyon Area.

Fairly subjective and a wild card rating

2. Value – 4 star – tacos are good and cheap.

Value for your money.

3. Food Flavor and Texture – 3 star

4. Food Presentation – 3 star- picture is worth a thousand words here.

5. Service, Setting and Cleanliness – 4

Cleanliness is also considered a strong factor as we are in a Covid year.

The last 4.4 miles of SR-39 that intersects with SR-2 (the Angeles Crest Highway) at Islip Saddle, reaches an elevation of 8,250 feet at the highway’s highest point.

Back in 1961, San Gabriel Canyon Road, took drivers through towering gorges, dark canyons and above raging rivers, connecting with Angeles Crest Highway. San Gabriel Valley residents used to be connected directly to the Wrightwood ski resort. A rock slide during the winter of 1978 took out a large portion of the highway, tumbling into the valley below.

Recently, minimal repairs made to the closed roadway allows emergency vehicles, such as fire trucks, access to the southeastern Angeles from Highway 2 and from Crystal Lake north to

You can still access Highway 2, via the Pasadena 210 Freeway, or the Inland Empire cities via the 15 Freeway.

Recommended Riding: Solo ride your first time and ride during the week if you can.

Purchase your tacos and drink and move to the park across the street, relax on a bench and enjoy. To go orders only on account of Covid-19.

Merry Christmas,