Summary – day 19 – Buelton to Ventura (Tuesday 13 September)
Posted by Mike
Estimate: 65.5 miles, actual: 69.81 miles
Avg. speed: 13.6 mph
Cumulative distance: 1,415.96 miles
Woke up to puncture #10! (Mike, rear – not sure of cause – but a fresh hole in tube, rather than a mis-repair). The tyre had gone down overnight. I generally have a rule with inner tubes: three strikes (patches) and it’s out. So this particular inner tube was jettisoned and replaced with a new one. Then on to a good, hearty breakfast of muesli and fruit with Joe. Carol had left earlier to play golf, she’s quite an accomplished player by all accounts – well Joe’s account, actually. It was a shame to miss her this morning though – no picture of her unfortunately or any opportunity to say “thank you” again in person for our lovely dinner last night and for hosting us.
Joe needed to do some errands in Solvang, so after breakfast we rode in together. He on a Raleigh! We passed an ostrich farm: Ostrichland USA, Joe told us that one ostrich egg is equivalent to 18 – 24 chickens’ eggs and they’re available to buy. We weren’t tempted, there’s no room in our panniers!
We mooched around Solvang for a bit and bumped into Joe again! We were looking at the Danish pastries, (of course). Joe recommended that we try aebleskiver, a Danish delicacy available in several of the restaurants. Supposedly invented by some Dane back in history, aebleskiver are like a waffle or a pancake, but formed into a round, about the shape and size of a tennis ball and must be cooked in a special pan with ball-shaped hollows in them. The name rather suggests that they would have apple inside them … but they don’t. They were served with powdered sugar sprinkled over them and topped with raspberry jam. Matthew was offered ice cream with his, which he (too) readily accepted. I asked for a plain one … little knowing that this would mean mine would arrive without any sugar or raspberry jam! So in the picture is my ‘wholesome’ aebleskiver, Joe’s conventional aebleskiver and Matthew’s extravagant aebleskiver. Sums us up, really, I think.
We had a chance to talk some more with Joe while we ate. I mentioned cycling past the Vandenberg air force base yesterday evening and seeing the NASA plaques at the entrance. Joe said that satellite-carrying and other types of rockets were launched about once a month in the middle of the night from there. All the houses around shake and the windows rattle. If they get out of bed to look out of the window, they can see the rocket flame arcing through the sky. This sounds like a rather thrilling thing to watch to me!
Solvang has been a host town in the Tour of California for several years now and there was a really nice cycle-friendly vibe to the place. Lots of posters in the shops and restaurants advertised the Tour of California. Many people were riding around on bicycles and the town has a really good bicycle store, where we bought a spare inner tube. The bicycle shop had window displays with pictures and souvenirs from the Tour de France – excellent stuff. The store owner was away cycling – it’s Solvang’s centenary and he was leading a group anniversary ride from San Francisco back to Solvang.
Solvang reminded me a bit of München or Salzburg, quite a lot of tourists and all somewhat fake and unreal. We picked up some pastries and left Solvang at about noon to head for Santa Barbara before finishing up in Ventura, down the coast.
It was searingly hot as we headed out of town, even the wind was scorching. Joe had warned us that there was a big climb on the way to Santa Barbara. I thought, “Surely not, we’re heading to the coast.” Guess what? He was right (of course) and there was a HUGE UP AND OVER CLIMB to negotiate. It was just past Lake Cachuma in the Santa Ynez Mountains and through the San Marcos Pass on Highway 154. As well as being long, we were sweating buckets, as it was the middle of the day. To make things even worse, there was another super-scary bridge to negotiate. The Cold Spring Canyon Arch Bridge – a mere 370 m (1,214 ft) long and 128 m (420 ft) from the ground, (it’s a popular suicide spot apparently – 54 and counting and no-one has ever survived). I was not going to take a picture, I refused to look left or right, I just kept my head down and focused on the road in front of my wheel. Here’s what it look like:
Half-way up the climb, puncture # 11 (Matthew, front). To be honest, we were glad of the respite. We couldn’t actually find the hole in the tube, but the tyre was definitely soft – so we put in a new inner tube and continued upwards. Once at the top we were greeted with a sign that read: descent 8 miles at 6%. F***k! (Obviously the bit after the full-stop back there wasn’t actually on the sign, although perhaps it should be). As luck would have it, a sheriff’s patrol car was descending at the same time as we were, so all the other drivers were behaving themselves and not speeding past us around the bends. There were some really incredible views down to the sea with Santa Barbara in the distance, along the coast and around the Los Padres national forest.
We made it to Santa Barbara, which is an exquisite town. Loads of people on bicycles, nice Spanish-colonial style buildings, an attractive pier, a waterfront cycle path, lots of runners, three good looking bicycle shops and some lovely cafés in shady courtyards and squares. We decided to stop for lunch!
Garmin was playing up today, so he only routed us to Santa Barbara, then I turned his routing off because he wanted to send us back into the hills on a 45 mile jaunt to avoid the section of Highway 101 south of Santa Barbara that we can ride along because it has a cycle lane running beside it – although Garmin doesn’t seem to know it. We followed a well-marked coastal cycle route out of Santa Barbera to Carpenteria and along a beautiful stretch of waterfront to Ventura. There were at least a dozen other cyclists out on our route, on training rides. It’s been amazing to notice how many more people are out riding since we came to the southern part of California. We passed another ‘ghost bike’ though in memory if another fallen comrade.
We arrived in Ventura at about 6.30. The Pierrepoint Inn is 100 years old and in a lovely wooden building with views out to sea, (across the very busy Highway 1/101). The gardens are exquisite and the receptionist told us that the same gardener had worked here for 50 years!
The Pierrepoint Inn is unfortunately let down by its restaurant. We cleaned ourselves up, came down for dinner and saw that there was nothing on the menu for vegetarians. Not a thing! And we’re in California not Texas. We asked if the chef could rustle something up … “I’m afraid not.” Said our waitress. “Sorry, we get this problem a lot.” I replied: “Well there’s a lesson there somewhere for you”.
The waitress suggested that we try a local restaurant in the town for dinner. It was just around the corner and it was called Zack’s. She was sure they would have food that was suitable for vegetarians. So off we went.
As it happened, the suggestion to eat at Zack’s was a really good one. The food was lovely and we had a really nice evening. Shortly after we arrived, we started talking with the couple on the next table. They had overheard us discussing our cycle ride today and they asked us about our journey. They told us that they’d met Mark Beaumont when he was cycling from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. Apparently Mark was staying on the same campsite as they were and they shared a beer with him. Good for them for helping out a fellow long-distance cyclist! It turns out that Roy and Lorissa were real genuine and knowledgeable cycling fans – they were at the restaurant to celebrate Roy’s birthday. They’d worked for a mortgage company in the past, (before all the economic mess – but they kind of saw it coming – it seems that lots of people in the banking and finance industries knew about the high levels of unsecured loans and unsustainable debt). They got out of that world and now worked as artists, living about 4 miles from Lake Cachuma, (we’d cycled past it this morning). They always go to watch the Tour of California and they’d even been to Europe just to watch the Giro D’Italia. We spent the evening chatting with them about cycling; in two years they’re planning to go to the Tour de France … maybe we’ll see them there, that’d be wonderful! Matthew said it was as if our cycling friend back in Bristol Andy Herbertson had turned up and was sitting on the next table, which was a nice thought.
After dinner and back to the hotel. We were still a little hungry, so Matthew went to find some chocolate and asked at reception. They didn’t have any, (what’s wrong with this hotel?!). The receptionist, (who I thought had already taken a bit of a fancy to Matthew as he’d knocked $10 off the bill for keeping him waiting for a couple of minutes when we checked in), offered Matthew some doughnuts for free! He’d been given these doughnuts by his ‘friend’ who owns a bakery, but he said that he didn’t really like them and usually gave them away to the old folks. Well, we certainly had no scruples about taking food from the elderly, so we enjoyed them over a cup of tea before taking to bed, happy in the knowledge that Matthew’s status as a fully fledged member of the Symonds’ clan (donut lovers) has been restored in his brother Philip’s opinion.
Next stop, Los Angeles – we’re just a little bit nervous about cycling there … it’s carmageddon!