San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara
From San Luis Obispo the route cuts inland and you are given a couple options with how to proceed. As you head inland, the marine layer that’s been providing a moderate temperature for most of the trip quickly evaporates. For those wishing to split this section into two days, you can ride from SLO to Lompoc and eat really bad tacos, and then pedal to Santa Barbara the next day. As I pedaled the more eastern route, temperatures cruised up into the 90s and only the occasional oak tree provided respite.
To make the passage from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara in a day, I rode on the east side of 101 through rolling hills, climbing and descending in and out of valleys filled to the brim with vineyards. This route is longer, more remote, and in some ways more rewarding. Riding through quiet valleys, the winged denizens of the oak woodland and vineyard landscape fly about, bluebirds and flycatchers catching insects on the wing. Occasionally, as I rode by I even intrigued my feathered friends enough to perch atop a trellis and watch me ride by. Along this back road route it was easy to get lost in thought and let my mind wander. The day was rolling along like a well lubed chain, but as the sun began to hang low in the sky and I was approaching mile 90--the ridge that had been mostly a distant horizon all day was now right in front of me. I had seen on the two-dimensional google maps, San Marcos Pass, but I hadn't really spent any time investigating.
"Well" I thought to myself "there is only one way out here...up". The backroads I'd been on all day terminated at the junction with Highway 154, and now in the shadow of the pass I started a grueling ascent. The grade itself was a bit strenuous, but what made the ride really trying was sharing the road with cars driving freeway speeds, on a narrow, basically shoulder less road. Oh and the bridge crossing up there, with a nice 6% up and good distance, just about used up my last nerves for the day. I was nearing 100 miles, 8 hours, and the hardest part of the day was right in front of me.
In those moments, I hunker down and think about my pedaling and breathing. I imagine what’s at the top, and what snack I'd treat myself with if I made it through. Little things like that provide much needed resource in times of adversity. The pass started to level out and the horizon opened up, I turned off for Old San Marcos Road and was instantly greeted with a view of the Pacific, Santa Barbara below, and a wide expanse of blue green water. Even oil rigs in the distance was a sight for sweat soaked, sore eyes. What happened next was the beautiful quality of all passes and climbs, what goes up must go down. It was a twisty, curvy, breathtaking descent...with a big ocean and golden melty sunlight bathing the surface of everything. The descent took 20 minutes, and in that window the days last light extinguished. Santa Barbara invited me in and I gladly accepted, oh the ups and downs of bike touring.
- Pacific Coast Milestones -
- FROM: Bonny Doon, CA
- DOB: 1999-11-30
- OCCUPATION: Adventurers
Genesis Moment and Inspiration for your Trip?
We have biked the entire Pacific Coast already, and it may seem odd that we are doing it again. Along the last journey we met a screen printer and fellow bike tourist named Justin who had ridden the Pacific Coast route over five times. When we first heard this we thought he was crazy – there is so much out there to explore! But he went on to explain, and ultimately convince us – that not only is the ride experience different every time due to weather, new companions, older selves, etc; but traveling known roads you can come back to the places that really impacted you, and try the alternate routes you had to pass over last time. The ride just gets better and better because your relationship to the trail is what frees you to explore more deeply. When you know that there is a taqueria and clean water only ten miles away you are more likely to actually stop and jump in the roadside lake that otherwise remains unexplored….
Have you Traveled by bike in the past?
Matt and I live in a Tiny Home deep in the mountains above the town where we work and our daily commute requires a year round touring set up. At every moment we have to have everything we need for the day – heavy bags full of produce, a down jacket, bike shoes and sandals, water for the day and a lunch, the list goes on. We have a daily relationship with loaded bike travel!
Matt has been bike touring since he was 17, and set off on a very aggressive pedal across the country on ACA’s Sierra Cascade Route and Northern Tier Route attempting 5,000 miles in two months. After making it all the way to the ACA headquarters in Missoula, Montana and earning his ice cream he was hit by an SUV just east of Missoula and heli-evacuated to the nearest hospital. That accident, which snapped his leg in half and exploded his bicycle is what “saved his life,” as he says. Through the long recovery process he learned to slow down and his relationship to bicycle touring, which had formerly been focused on mileage and destination, is now more focused on the slow and simple pleasures of the road.
Kate has been biking to different ice cream parlors all over California her whole life but didn’t start her first multi-day bike travel until she met Matt. They have been on two bike tours together, one big, one small. On the first one, she had a small heart failure in the mountains of Big Sur and had to bike eight miles of steep uphill to get to cell service. She learned that she has a mild heart condition, and biking is good for it. That “adventure” has been a similar inspiration in her relationship to biking and using her body as a means of excursion – a long journey in patience and thankfulness for the incredible feats that a body can perform!
What is your goal for the route?
Sunshine, lakes, ice cream, back country, rain forest, hot springs, tacos, aged cheeses, and so much laughter.
What do you hope to get out of this journey?
A more intimate understanding of and connection to the Pacific Coast. An opportunity to reconnect to the folks we have met along the way – a real rarity of this type of travel! A relationship to the brands that we use and care about – knowing the people who are making what we are using. We want to live each day 100% fully.
What’s in my bag? List four things that you could not live without (take a photo of each on a neutral background)
Little journals Kate made, Book of poems by Mary Oliver,Our friend’s homemade Organic sunscreen, Rechargeable boom box for pumping James Brown on the climbs
- Pacific Coast Milestones -