This past weekend Lee and I decided to escape the heat and head to Santa Barbara where we could relish the cool ocean breezes and an air conditioned hotel room. We took our road bikes and mapped out a few routes in the area that would be both challenging and scenic and made a plan to get up early on Sunday to ride so we could beat the heat.
Sunday morning, we got out of bed around 6:15 a.m., got ready, did some bike maintenance, ate breakfast and headed out into the sunny, but cool Santa Barbara morning. We decided to bike from Santa Barbara to Solvang, the little wine community made famous by the movie 'Sideways.' Lee found a back road that took us a majority of the way there but the latter half would have to be on a small highway, the 154, but we figured the traffic wouldn't be too bad.
We rode through the quiet streets of Santa Barbara, making our way to San Marcos road that would take us up and over the mountains into the Santa Ynez valley. San Marcos road turned out to be the perfect road for biking because it was newly paved and devoid of traffic.... and it was steep!!! We biked up and up and up and up... then up some more. It really was the steepest stuff I have ever ridden either on a road or mountain bike... but the views were spectacular. From the top, we could see out over the Pacific ocean and on the other side, the Santa Ynez valley. At that point we had to join the 154 highway on a steep decent into the valley.
We rode on the 154 for about 15 miles, then joined onto another small highway that took us into the tiny, Dutch-inspired town of Solvang. We found a shady park, bought a foot-long Subway sandwich, shared a Coke, refilled water bottles, then headed back onto the highway in the direction of Santa Barbara.
The ride back was difficult, to say the least. It was well into the mid-morning by that point and the valley was good 10-degrees warmer than the coast and it was windy.... and hot windy, at that. I drafted behind Lee on the straightaways and on the downhills, but he kicks my ass on the uphills and not intentionally... also, there was much more traffic than we had planned on and the 154 highway didn't have a very forgiving shoulder for bike travel. Remember that steep decent into the valley that I mentioned? Well, we had to go back up that and it turns out it was a good 8 miles straight uphill with cars speeding past at 65 mph... oh, and there were semi's too. I can't believe how scary it is when a semi goes flying by... you can feel the bike get sucked toward the tires as it passes and all you can do is hold on and keep your bike as steady as possible. I did get hysterical and one point after a massive semi passed me and was within inches of taking me out... it was at that point Lee realized I needed a break.
Lee was great with me during that ride, telling me I was doing great and that I could make it. At one point I had the idea that I would wait at a turn off on the highway and he could come back and get me in my car... that's how hot and tired I was!! Lee kept pushing me forward and eventually we made it back to the coolness of our hotel.
In total, we biked about 70 miles to Solvang and back. The ride itself was awesome but the traffic and the long stretch on the highway made it virtually undo-able. It was, however, great to get out of L.A. and relax in a new place, especially one with air conditioning!
One more thing... we stayed at a hotel that had an outdoor bird enclosure with hundreds of finches flitting about. The enclosure was built around a large tree that had bird houses and bird feeders hanging from its branches and a small water fountain where the birds can drink and bathe. They were fascinating to watch during the day as they hopped around on the ground, flew from branch to branch, and preened themselves. At night, it was so cute to see them all snuggled up with one another, eyes closed, feathers puffed out for warmth. I stood there for a few minutes marveling at their little features - their orange beaks and spotted feathers. It was heart-warming. Seeing and appreciating the simple things in life always seems to put things back into perspective... seeing the beauty of nature somehow helps me realize what is important in life. Maybe someone reading this can relate.