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Santa Barbara Day Trip--Wine, Gold, and an Italiano at Nielsen's

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It's been a month since I got back from New Zealand and already I'm tired of wearing studs on my boots just to walk to work. Last week I negotiated a reunion with my winter waka (AKA R11R) under the ruse of a visit with my folks in Santa Barbara. Mom and Dad were fine, thank you, and, as always, don't seem to mind my hopping on the bike as much as possible.


The recent heavy rains had just about quit when I arrived and already the hills were bright green and the sky very clear from the usual haze. This day trip on familiar favorite roads is always a great ride and I stopped to take a few more photos than usual to bring you along too.


To set the scene, these orange and lemon trees keep the bike company when I am away




The Santa Ynez mountains behind Santa Barbara are an imposing backdrop for the city. A 2 lane but major highway (CA 154) runs from the city over the mountain through San Marcos Pass to the Santa Ynez valley beyond. This road is OK but has fairly high traffic loads and is good if in a hurry. I'm not today, and much prefer and recommend the OLD San Marcos Road which is accessed off Foothill (Cathedral Oaks Blvd) about a mile west of where 154 crosses Cathedral Oaks. The turn in at the signed San Marcos Road looks like an entrance to a subdivision, but within a half mile the road narrows and climbs steeply with sharp twists almost straight up the mountain. Halfway up the views open up




and near the top where San Marcos runs into 154 (about 3/4 way up the hill) a look back shows how good this is to ride




Just before San Marcos joins 154, at the right hand turn, there is a green steel gate on the right. I walk around it and find a trail through chapparal in bloom




which ends at a knob overlooking the coast here from Isla Vista to downtown Santa Barbara




You can also see the old san marcos road on the right and the edge of 154 on the left.


Turning back to the road I cross 154 on to Painted Cave Road. This view is looking across 154 from san marcos rd to the painted cave road straight ahead




This road climbs through sandstone formations and becomes essentially one lane with a few steep hairpin turns that will challenge any rider to stay completely within his/her side of the lane. The road follows a small canyon through the trees past the non descript Chumash painted cave site and past the small community of Painted Cave to join East Camino Cielo. A right turn here will result in a fine ride back down the mountain to Santa Barbara, but I'm headed over, so turn left towards 154 as it goes through the pass. This view is from Camino Cielo looking over to the Santa Ynez valley just above the junction




At the junction of 154, I have the option to cross straight ahead and follow Stagecoach road down to the valley. This is a fine road mostly in forest and passes the well known Cold Springs Tavern, a local biker spot where much chrome and leather are on display every weekend. I turn right onto 154 today as on this very clear day the views are better from the bigger road. As 154 descends to the valley it passes the Lake Cachuma reservoir and a number of ranches before crossing the Santa Ynez river. Just beyond the bridge is a marked turn to Solvang, a tourist friendly Danish kitsch town. After passing the Chumash Indian Casino, and just before hitting Solvang proper, I find Nielsen's market beside Alamo Pintado Creek on the right. A quick turn in there, park under a tree next to the creek. The woman at the deli counter fixes me up an Italiano (black forest ham,dry salami, provolone, pepperoncini, lettuce, tomato, herb garlic mayo, sourdough roll). I haul out my chair and have a nice lunch by the creek. A couple of years ago I saw a deer down there, but none today.


After Nielsen's I take Alamo Pintado Road towards Los Olivos, another local touristy town, this one faux French style. To avoid the town itself, I don't take the right hand marked turn to Los Olivos, but continue straight ahead and come to 154 crossing. Straight ahead is one of the little gems of Santa Barbara County, Foxen Canyon Road. I cross 154 and for the next 15 miles am riding in sport touring paradise--scenic,twisty,no traffic, good road surface (mostly).




There's a lot of wine business along this trail




And one of them is familiar to us old timers who remember Davy Crockett




He's done well in the hotel, real esate, and wine business.


There are also a number of cattle ranches in the area. This is a beautiful spot from Zaca Mesa with Figeroa Mountain in the distance.




Off in the middle of nowhere there's a beautiful chapel sitting above the road




The chapel of San Ramon built of wood in the 1880s is designed to look like one of the classic adobe style California mission churches. Inside is a real working chapel, but I wonder where the people come from way out here.




At Sisquoc (doesn't that sound like a J.R.R. Tolkien creature?) the road runs through the large produce farms surrounding Santa Maria. I go on to US 101 on Betteravia Road, and take the "interstate" north. California Rte 1 does run through here, but in this area is not very scenic, so I opt for speed and follow 101 north past Pismo Beach. The road then climbs off the beach and heads inland to San Luis Obispo. but I turn off at the Los Osos exit before SLO. I head for the town of Los Osos and the coast. I find the road to Montana de Oro SP running along the coast south and enter a forest of eucalyptus




This very fragrant and cool road is through a former commercial eucalyptus plantation. The road ends at the State Park and what a peaceful gem it is. The park is a former cattle ranch and the original ranch house is the office now




Right in front of the ranch house is the pocket beach




The 5 mile drive along this coast gives the feeling what it was like 100 years ago--and the road's a great ride too.


I head back through Los Osos and take the South Bay Road toward Morro Bay and turn off into Morro Bay Park at the sign. Near the Natural History Museum a nice view of the bay and "rock" open up




The rock is a volcanic neck and there are several more that can be seen in the area sticking up over the less resistant landscape.


Time is getting along, but I decide to continue north on Route 1 past Morro Bay towards Cambria to check out one of my favorite roads in this area. I turn off Rte 1 at the first Cambria exit--Main Street, and follow along until the Santa Rosa Creek Road apears on the right. This narrow and fairly rough 2 lane road follows the creek through and over the coastal mountains. This is all farm country and mustard is in bloom everywhere




You don't need a GS to run this road but patience will be rewarded






The sun is getting low in the sky as I exit the Santa Rosa Creek road and head for Paso Robles and US 101. An hour and a half or so at speed on the big multilane and I'm back in Santa Barbara. Hope you enjoyed the trip.

P.S. If interested, the panoramas look better from the smugmug site--they can be enlarged etc. www.dhb.smugmug.com


Kia Ora,


Edited by dhb

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I covered much of the same territory on a recent trip, but without the sunshine and clear skies you enjoyed. In contrast, I was traveling north to south under mostly overcast skies and frequent rain. Temperatures weren't so warm either.


Nice photos. Mine are mostly non-existent because when I wasn't trying to stay dry I was thinking about how useless any photos I DID take would be. Granted, a certain amount of rain imagery can be interesting, but sunshine is usually a necessary counterpoint for an effective photo essay such as you have done.


There's always next time, and now we all have the added benefit of your observations! Thanks for the post.

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Great photos-Foxen Canyon is one of my favorite rides too!



Steve in So Cal

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Man David, you have this ride tale thing figured out thumbsup.gif Another nice writeup!


Why don't you come down and document El Paseo for us. We'll probably still have an extra bike for you. welcome.gif

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Outstanding report!


Nice panoramas too.



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