Ride Report: Carpinteria to Refugio State Beach 4

Ride Report: Carpinteria to Refugio State Beach

Photo Credit: Mike Stromsoe

It is barely the month of April in 2016 and we have had quite an awesome touring season. I know it is still early to say this, but I think this will be a banner year for the MeetUp group. Ever since we kicked off in February with an epic Ojai trip, which offered both onroad and offroad options, we have been on a roll! March’s trip saw a record turnout of 13 riders who came out from San Clemente to San Elijo State Beach. I thought we just couldn’t possibly top these two trips. Looking back at the activities from the MeetUp event comments, that should have clued me in on how epic this next trip was going to be.

Extra Day

All of our trips have been decided democratically through a poll, so this was no different. We ended up with an April 16th date to meet. The Friday before, 10 of us (and 2 dogs) made it out to Carpinteria for an extra night at the hike and bike location. Most of us decided to dine at the local popular burger joint there called, “The Spot”. The burgers hit the spot to prepare us for a whole day of riding the next day. The campsite was buzzing with people car camping, while the 10 of us overtook the hiker/biker area. There were actually 2 other tents around the vicinity of our site. One was a family of 3 while the other belonged to a guy carrying his guitar around. We never really interacted with them (at least I didn’t).

George treated us to some firewood, and we all gathered around the campfire while anticipating what the next day had to offer. The wind had been the main issue the entire day and continued to kick up in the evening, sending a few of our tents, tarps, and food scrambling to the ground. We did our best to stay warm and grounded. Fortunately, the wind died down as the night progressed. The only thing that didn’t die down was a loud conversation from 3 or 4 guys across the way which lasted until 2:30AM! It was disappointing to find out that these were bicycle tourists like us with no common courtesy for the quiet hours. They were nearing the end of their trip from Oregon and was probably very excited, but they should have known better as quiet hours are sacred time for us campers.

Camping at Carpinteria

Camping at Carpinteria. Photo Credit: Maria Vangilder

Meet & Greet

The morning came and we were up by 8AM. Some woke up earlier than others while some of us maximized their time in the sleeping bag as long as possible. I was part of the early risers. We had our first round of breakfast of oatmeal and coffee. Eventually, we all made it out of camp around 9:30 to visit a local coffee shop called, “Lucky Llama Coffee House”. Their location was right next to the popular “Rincon Cycles” in Carpinteria. We had our second breakfast at Lucky Llama and some folks bought things to accessorize their bike at Rincon Cycles. When it was all said and done, it was meeting time at 11AM. This was when we rode our bikes back to the Carpinteria Amtrak station, which was near the campgrounds.

It was there that we met our 2 newbie riders for the trip, Allyn and Denise, with their newly outfitted red Novara Mazama. The couple has extensive riding knowledge around the area, and they have bike toured with support as well, but they have never toured on their own. This would be their inaugural self-supported ride.

We had another rider, Greg, who was not going to make the 11AM departure, so we texted him to let him know that we were on our way out to Santa Barbara, and he was going to meet us at the Pier when we all visited the “Mother Stearns Candy Co” for fudge. He got there a few minutes before we continued our ride.

Riding with cars on highway 101/1

Riding with cars on highway 101/1

Santa Barbara Tour

We took our group photo at the end of the pier in front of the fountain before heading inland on the famous State Street in Santa Barbara. Our parade of bicycles caused a stir. Random people came up to ask us where we were headed. Some guy screamed to Wesley that he wanted a Surly Long Haul Trucker like his as his dream bike. We cautiously climbed the ascent up State having to stop for red lights at almost every block as local cyclists hop scotched around each of us.

We eventually made a left turn off of State onto Micheltorena Street which took us across Highway 101 on an overpass through quiet residential roads. Right after the overpass, we all hopped on the sidewalk for a sharp u-turn down into another street out to San Pasqual Street. The rest of the ride took us through residential neighborhoods until we reached the bike path off of Modoc Road. We stayed on the path all the way through the University of California Santa Barbara campus where we followed the school’s cycle path into Isla Vista for a much-needed lunch stop.

Hello Highway 101

Everybody replenished their calories, and we all headed Northwest towards our next stop for groceries at the Albertson’s on Hollister Avenue and Pacific Oaks Road. I picked up a few things for the night and the next morning for both Sang Hyun and I. You can tell folks started to run low on energy again as we found the entrance to Highway 101. This is probably the worst part of the trip as a cyclist when you see cars speeding by you and the only thing separating you and them is a 2 feet rumble strip and a white-painted line. The strong ones bolted out front and rode the 9 miles head down as we ascended and descended the hills of the road. Nothing was bad, but each one zapped our energy little by little until we finally saw the “Refugio State Beach” sign stating it was 1 glorious mile away!

Our pace quickened as we approached the exit. We allowed the gentle hill to take us down to Refugio Road where we turned left and climbed into the entrance of the California State Beach. By this time, we were the last 4 to make it to the entrance while the first 9 already found their homes in paradise. Everyone was reenergized and filled with elation when we approached the hiker/biker site which gave us front-row seats to the open sea and a couple of whales spraying water in the sky. Incredible!

Refugio State Beach Hiker Biker Site

Refugio State Beach Hiker Biker Site. Photo Credit: Dani Cole


I was absolutely thrilled to be there. To setup my tent without a rain fly for the night and preparing dinner was marvelous. I eventually grabbed an affordable $.75 shower, compliments of Sang Hyun, to wash off and enjoy the hot shower for 6 minutes. The rest of the night was pure bliss as we chatted it up and told stories to one another. Some folks went to bed early while a majority of us slumbered in closer to 9:30 or 10PM. I was one of the few who stayed up. The moonlight pretty much illuminated the campgrounds throughout the night as the loud crashing waves of the ocean lulled us into one of the most best sleep we’ve ever experienced on a bike tour.

The next morning, I woke up early again and decided to soak in my piece of paradise with some alone time on the beach. I saw the sun peek over the mountains from the east and eventually painted the beach with a multitude of colors before the blue sky illuminated our campgrounds. One by one our group woke up and prepared breakfast. We reluctantly broke down our temporary shelter and packed everything back on to our respective bikes. It was sad to leave such a great environment, but I was also very grateful to be able to finally stay here for a night. Now that we know about this little secret spot, you can be sure that this ride will be added to our list of destinations every year from this month forward.

Dropping Like Flies

The rest of the ride back was uneventful as we all made our way back onto the bike paths of Goleta. We grabbed some snacks from the local 7-11 and followed Allyn, our newbie rider, who graciously ended up leading us through Santa Barbara on both directions. One of our riders, Dale, had reserved a train spot at the Goleta Station at 1:30PM so he peeled off of Hollister Avenue at 11 something. Our group continued our journey on a more direct route that had us back on Modoc Road without riding the bike paths. We ended up on a long downhill at Las Positas Road and then made a left turn to be greeted by the steepest climb of our ride on Cliff Road. We eventually made a right on Meigs Road which turned into Shoreline Drive and took a bathroom break at La Mesa Park. Both Allyn and Denise decided that they were going to move forward without us, so we bid them farewell as the remaining 10 lingered for a few more minutes.

Sunrise at Refugio State Beach

Sunrise at Refugio State Beach

Homeward Bound

The remaining riders of our group had lunch back on the Pier at Santa Barbara. Dani had recommended we eat at the Moby Dick Restaurant, but not dine there. Instead, order it to go and eat outside on the bench. We all obliged and ordered our meals. Everybody devoured their lunch in record time sitting on the side of the restaurant while onlookers checked out what we were eating like a buffet spread. Most people were more focused on the two pups in their respective baskets than to notice us swallowing our food whole.

We rolled off the bumpy pier and back on our way past Santa Barbara. We retraced our route across Summerland and eventually made it back to Carpinteria safe and sound. Thankfully, the cars of people who drove were all there so we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways, doped up on endorphins from the ride. I absolutely cannot wait until we do this again next month!

The Video

Of course, what is a trip without video proof? Here is what our trip looked like. Enjoy!

Come Join Us

To tell you how awesome our trip was and not inviting you would be rude. That is why you are all welcomed to join me and my MeetUp group on any future rides. Check out what we have planned for the future here.


Here are some resource links to help you follow our route to Refugio State Beach from Carpinteria.

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About Johnny Lam

Johnny is an avid cyclist who enjoys bicycle touring as well as anything bicycle related. Johnny has traveled the entire Pacific Coast by bike from Vancouver to the border of California and Mexico. He’s also toured through-out locations in Southern California. Johnny is also a League of American Bicyclists League Certified Instructor (LCI) and also completed the Adventure Cycling Association’s Leadership Training Course (LTC). He is an active member in Los Angeles bicycling community being involved in organizations like the Los Angeles County Bicycling Coalition (LACBC), C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change through Live Exchange), and Bike San Gabriel Valley (Bike SGV) by taking part in ride marshaling, pedestrian & bike counts, and other volunteering opportunities.

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