With Day 1 in the books, we moved on to the second (and toughest) day of our 4-day tour. Even though this day had the shortest mileage, we also had a 26% grade climb at one point and a screaming descent which led us into our destination at Cachuma Lake by night fall. Forgot how we got here? Read about the easiest day of the trip in our previous post.
Ventura to Santa Barbara
I was the first to wake at 6:30 the next morning. I spent the time walking around our campsite and eventually found a path that led to the pebbled-filled beach. It was beautiful to see the sunrise come up from the mountains from the East and cast an orange glow onto the beach. I spent 10 minutes with my own thoughts and mentally prepared for our day ahead. I got back to the campsite to find Sang Hyun awake in his tent.
We were short on water, so I volunteered to pick up a gallon in town. 15 minutes and 2 miles later, I came back with our liquid bounty. Sang Hyun was already packing up and getting breakfast started at a bench. We also had 3 visitors on cyclocross bikes. One of them sped by me on my way back from my water run, so I recognized his bike and orange helmet. By the way, the most predominant helmet color in Ventura seems to be orange. We saw at least 10 people with orange helmets when we were in Ventura on the way there and back. Strange… As I looked down, I noticed there was something else that was orange – my badly sunburned legs. I guess they weren’t really orange, but red. Mistake one, wear sunblock –even in areas that you normally don’t wear any during short bike rides.
By the time we left camp and got back on our bikes, it was already 9:30. We continued on the bike path next to Emma Wood State Park, which took us north towards Carpinteria. We eventually made our way back onto PCH and rode along side RVs after RVs covering the beautiful coast. We continued riding past the first freeway on-ramp of the 101 and rode through some construction sites. There was a bicycle path at the end which eventually led us to the noisy freeway. We anxiously rode the next 3 miles towards Carpinteria. Even though the shoulder had the words “BIKE LANE” painted on them with a stick figure of a cyclist, we were weary of the speeding vehicles who were going 3 times as fast as we were.
We eventually made it out of the 101 into the heart of Carpinteria. I reminded Sang Hyun that this will be our destination on our last night of this trip. We continued to ride through to Summerland and into Santa Barbara. We made it to Stearns Wharf on State Street and decided to have our lunch on the grass while tourists and other overachieving athletes pass by with curious looks. We filled our bellies with tuna sandwich kits, crackers, and veggies.
Santa Barbara to Cachuma Lake
Our next general direction was to ride East, away from the coast and towards the mountain range that separated us from Cachuma Lake. We immediately made our way onto the famous State Street in Santa Barbara. If you’ve been to Santa Barbara, you’re very familiar with this street. If not, it is the main thoroughfare where a mix of small boutique shops, as well as upscale brands like Apple vie for the interest of potentials shoppers on foot, bike, or car.
We rode through the entire west side of town and made it towards the hills. We eventually found a bike trail that led us to Foothill Road. Again, the search for water was on! Strangely enough, the nicer parts of town did not have a water machine. It wasn’t until we got into a sketchy part where we found one outside of a liquor store.
We eventually found the infamous San Marcos Road in which we reluctantly made a right and started the steep incline. It was a steady 9% as it snaked around the mountain pass, and at one point, it went up 26% on a corkscrew road. I almost got off like I did 4 years ago, but I persevered through it. Unfortunately for Sang Hyun, he had to hike up this road for about 2 miles on foot. He will be the first to let you know that cycling shoes are uncomfortable to walk in. By the time I made it to the 154 Highway intersection, I had a good 15 minutes of rest until I finally saw Sang Hyun make it over the last climb.
We made our last connection of the day on the 154 Highway after a nervous “frogger” moment when we crossed the highway on an incline. From there, we had a gradual climb up to the top of the mountain range. It was a steady 10% grade. Sang Hyun was completely out of gas and had to walk up most of the way. There was one incident in which we had to take a break at the shoulder. A huge semi was charging up the hill and was going to take our shoulder to pass some cars, but at the last moment, he saw us and yanked his steering wheel to the left and avoided us by a few feet. I was getting ready to jump off the road. Sang Hyun did not flinch because of exhaustion. He didn’t even realize how dangerous that situation was until our last day riding home where he remembered the look on the truck driver’s face.
When we made it to the top, I waited for Sang Hyun to catch up after 15 minutes. Dusk was setting in fast, and the air turned cool. I pulled on my riding jacket as Sang Hyun joined me again. We stormed down the longest downhill of our trip with traffic to our left. We were going close to 40 mph at times. How were we rewarded? With more rolling hills, of course! I have to admit, I started feeling disgusted with the hills, but didn’t mind them all too much. Sang Hyun, on the other hand, had enough. He ended up walking up the majority of the way until we finally reached the Cachuma Lake Recreation entrance. Boy were we glad because the sun finally set, and we wanted desperately needed showers!
We were having trouble finding the hiker-biker area, as it wasn’t clearly marked, so we had to go back to the general store for directions. Sang Hyun treated me to a Snicker ice cream bar. It was the best thing I had in a while. We finally found our home for the night and quickly pitched our tents, took warm showers, and ate our dinner in the dark. The night turned chilly, and we retreated back in our shelters after dinner and fell asleep from another exhausting, but adventurous day.