San Luis Obispo CA to Santa Barbara CA, Dec 3-6, 2020. With one weekend tour under my belt, and then discovering how easy it was to use Amtrak to get you and your bike to a starting destination, I mapped out a route from San Luis Obispo to Goleta CA with a layover in Lompoc CA. Once again, I learned that designing a route is a lot different than riding one.
Highlight of the tour was the Amtrak ride from Union Station Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo on the Pacific Surfliner. Amtrak has bike racks inside the last car, so I simply rolled my bike on and then navigated my way back to my first-class seat. First class is the way to go in my opinion. Included in the ticket was a snack box and complimentary glass of wine. Service was outstanding, despite the fact that COVID restrictions were still in effect. I had selected a hotel a short bike ride from the SLO train station where I spent the night before starting the journey Friday morning.
The route I designed utilized back country roads versus the always-busy Highway 1. This took me southwest through Pismo Beach, Guadalupe and Santa Maria. From there I had chosen to ride the Harris Grade Road which was a direct route into Lompoc. It was a fantastic route, very little car traffic and passing through quaint towns and farmland. I’m rolling along, enjoying 70-degree weather and fairly smooth pavement when my route abruptly ended at a locked security gate.
I discovered there was no way around this gate, and I couldn’t understand how a winery could close off what seemed to be a public road. There was a keypad that could be used to summon someone on an intercom, but despite trying this button repeatedly, no one responded.
So now I have to reroute. I’m not lost. I know where I am, and I know which direction I need to go to get to Lompoc. I use my iPhone to assess my location and next steps. I would need to backtrack slightly and then enter Highway 135, navigating two lanes of highway traffic, to then exit 135 and get on Highway 1 (aka Cabrillo Highway at this point). Which I managed to do, and then was confronted by multiple steep climbs on Highway 1 heading west towards Lompoc. I had specifically designed my route to avoid Highway 1 and the climbs by utilizing Harris Grade Road, but I was stuck now, gritted my teeth and pedaled on. This is why it’s called “adventure” cycling.
Lompoc is the home of Vandenberg Air Force Base, where I made a left turn to head to my hotel. I was using Google Maps for turn by turn now, which worked out fine, and arrived at the lodging as the sun was setting. The hotel is known as O’Cairns Inn and Suites, and it’s one of the best hotels I’ve experienced. Even with COVID restrictions I was able to get a drink at the bar and have dinner delivered to my room. I totally recommend this hotel.
Saturday was bright and sunny, typical weather in this part of California in December. I had breakfast and then prepared to pack up my bike and ride. Coming out of my room I dropped my helmet and broke the action camera mount that I used for videoing my rides. So now I have no way to mount my action camera to my helmet, and I have no way to mount it on my handlebars. Then I remembered I had a tripod with gumby-like legs, and I was able to fix it somewhat reliably to my handlebars. It was now past 10:00 am and I had planned on a lot earlier start.
The route I had planned sent me out of Lompoc on backcountry roads with very little traffic and plenty of farmland scenery. I wound my way on Highway 246 through Buellton, then Solvang, and then Santa Ynez where I would ride on Highway 154 for a few miles before exiting onto Stagecoach Road, an off-the-beaten-path that would eventually take me by the Cold Spring Tavern, where many years before my future wife and I went on our first date.
Once again, riding the route was vastly different than designing the route. I had failed to consider the elevations and switchbacks on Stagecoach Road that I encountered. Also, there was so little traffic that the thought of my bike breaking down on this road might leave me stranded. That’s when a little panic starts to creep in. I can’t go back. I can only go forward. My Edgewood doesn’t have the kind of gear ratio I needed for these climbs. I was down to my lowest gear ring and largest cassette cog, but I still had to hike-a-bike to continue forward. Turns out I could walk faster than I could pedal.
Eventually I made it to the Cold Spring Tavern, elevation about 2,200 feet. I was fatigued from the ride, somewhat emotionally tired from panic attacks due to the seemingly endless number of switchbacks, and the fact that it was late in the day and the sun would be setting in an hour. I still had some additional climbing after Cold Spring, but eventually I reached the top and prepared to head downhill. Elated that I had completed the climbing, I stopped at a viewpoint and asked one of the visitors to snap my picture.
I made it into Goleta as darkness fell. I had chosen Goleta because it was a smaller station stop for the Pacific Surfliner, had more affordable hotel rates, and was a short bike ride from my hotel. Sunday morning, I rode a short distance to the Goleta Amtrak station and boarded the Surfliner for the trip home.