Our 2nd night of this bicycle tour was spent fending off raccoons from our food pannier. This day also brought on a new level of pain as we climbed up Refugio Road which was a local dirt road that led us back to the other side of the 101 freeway. Frustration finally set in on one of us, but the wonderful tailwind helped change our moods as we pedaled back to Santa Barbara. We even got to eat at a Thai restaurant!
Cachuma Lake to Refugio State Park
I got up and was told by Sang Hyun that he had to fend off raccoons who were sniffing around his food pannier in the middle of the night. Let me further elaborate why he had this problem and I didn’t. Sang Hyun did not want to bring a “tent” per say, as that weighed
slightly more than his footprint, poles, and raincover. Therefore, he was exposed to the weather and other outside disturbances, like bugs and pesky rodents. The weight for me was a good compromise with the peace in mind that I would not wake up to any visitors of the night.
After we had our breakfast, packed up, and bought more water at the general store, we set off heading north towards Solvang continuing on the 154 highway. Our legs were still sore in the morning, but soon found their familiar rhythm as the hour past by. This was about 8 am. The air was crisp as the coolness of fall was definitely upon us.
We made a left turn on Highway 246 towards Solvang and Buellton. The road was freshly paved, and we enjoyed a flat approach to the treacherous Refugio Road. The first 10 miles was the calm before the proverbial uphill storm we were about to ride in. It was so peaceful to be in the moment on this 2 lane road which was lined by old trees and shrubs. This place definitely had a small town feel to it as we passed by cows and horses on the other side of the fence. I almost ran over a tarantula! This was the 2nd time I had ever seen one of those in the wild. The first time was part of my tour with California Coast Classics in 2011 at the same area. It was a rewarding time riding up to the first incline.
Refugio Road was a tough climb…it made the previous day’s San Marcos Road feel like a dream to be on. Not only was the road
composed of loose gravel and a steep incline, we were bothered by hundreds of gnats each time we stopped to take a break. These guys were relentless, a hungry bunch, as they nipped at our faces and arms. Our tires and load were no match for the continuous 2,000+ feet climb up. Both Sang Hyun and I had to take frequent breaks and had to give in to losing balance when our tires constantly lost traction. The last time I was on this road, it was raining so my tires were caked in mud. This time, it was dry and I managed to pedal the entire distance to the top. Unfortunately, Sang Hyun was drained and had to dismount to hike up for about ¼ of the way. His bike gave him some love bites, as his pedals kept jabbing into his calves, as if they were screaming to him, “Get back on and ride me!” He was not having any of that and kept on walking. When Sang Hyun reached the top, he announced his displeasure with a couple of choice profanities. We refueled with snacks and water.
Our next challenge was the steep descent down the other side of the mountain. You would think that would be an easy ordeal – to let gravity guide us. This wasn’t an issue with my bike since I have disc brakes, so I was able to navigate down the hill without any problems. In contrast, Sang Hyun’s brakes started to rub down and experienced trouble
stopping effectively. Again, he was relegated to dismount and walk down. I felt bad for him knowing that this day was definitely the low point of our ride. I waited for him to finally make his way to the 101 freeway before we continued to our lunch stop at Refugio State Beach.
We enjoyed lunch on a beautiful beachfront location with all the trimmings, including palm trees and a white sand beach filled with people enjoying themselves. This was the beginning of the turning point of our trip and our luck would shift in our favor.
101 through Santa Barbara
We paced ourselves as we entered the 101 highway after lunch. As luck would have it, the wind was blowing South, and fortunately, we were riding the wave of tailwind for a good 10 miles into Goleta. The miles passed by with ease as we made our way to the Hollister Avenue exit. From there, we continued riding east until we reach Modoc Road where we stayed on the bike lane through Santa Barbara to Mission Street. We hung a quick left turn and found ourselves at a liquor store. Sang Hyun quenched his thirst with a can of Coke while I refilled our 1 gallon bottle once again. We continued on Mission until we were on State Street again, where we joined other cyclists cruising Santa Barbara. We hopped back on the bike path at Stearns Wharf, dodging tourists and other slower cyclists. Our motivation was to get to Carpinteria before sunset.
Carpinteria at last
Our ride continued on Cabrillo Blvd and onto Old Coast Highway. The miles through East Santa Barbara and Summerland were a blur
as we hustled to our destination. We ran into 4 riders on 2 folding Bike Friday tandems. We had the chance to briefly chat with them at the end of the pedestrian bridge which connected Summerland to Santa Barbara. They were doing a quick tour from Goleta to Carpinteria for the night. We exchanged best wishes and proceeded on. I thought I was way ahead of everyone as I was in the “zone” pedaling towards Carpinteria at a rather quick pace. But when we had to make the next right, I heard the familiar sound of a bicycle behind me. At first, I thought it was Sang who had caught his 2nd wind, but as I turned around, the 4 old folks were hauling ass past me! I was so amazed and humbled. I was either not riding as fast as I thought, or these guys were not as old as they appeared. I can only hope to be as healthy and strong as them when I get to their age.
We finally made it to the Carpinteria State Beach campsite by 6 pm. The park ranger greeted us and pointed us to the hike and bike area. Apparently, we were going to camp amongst 6 other cyclists. It eventually filled up to be about 10 cyclists total for the night, including us. The hike-bike area was sectioned off from the other car camping areas. The ground was very lumpy and we were once again next to the railroad tracks which had trains passing us by every hour or so. We quickly picked an area away from the group of cyclists. Oddly enough, folks weren’t as friendly as I thought they would be. There was a father and son from Germany huddled around the fire pit. There was a french couple riding on their tandem. There was a few single guys riding up and down the coast. One guy was on his way
back to Los Angeles from his month-long ride down from Seattle. He had shipped all his touring possessions so that his last day was an easy ride home.
We decided to treat ourselves instead of eating our last meal at camp. We looked on Yelp and found a local Thai restaurant a few blocks away, Siam Elephant Thai. We shared a coconut based soup and our own individual entrée. This was the most expensive meal on our trip at a total of over $40! We could not believe how expensive Thai food was in Carpinteria. It was a bit too salty for my taste, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless.
We had to get change for our showers and ended up at a Vons supermarket for quarters. Our mission was accomplished, and we pedaled back to a dark campsite. We then proceeded to take turns going to the public showers and guarding our camping spot. Exhaustion overcame us, and we both retired into our sleeping bags for the night.
Total Miles = 60