The hotel I stayed at in Santa Maria was pretty nice. It was designed to be eco-friendly. It had sensors that detected when you entered the bathroom and would automatically turn on the light. Unfortunately, the sensor did not notice when you went the other way to turn the light off. So, it basically acted like your kids. Turn on the lights when you enter, but don’t turn them off when you leave. The hotel offered Continental breakfast, which meant dry cereal, juice, and tiny muffins. I had bought a milk the night before. I grabbed 2 bananas from them and hit the road.
I knew I would have 2 major climbs today. The first would be on the way to Lompoc, 24 miles away. The second would be from Lompoc to the ocean, another 21 miles further. The first 10 miles were relatively easy out of Santa Maria until I turned onto a smaller road. Harris Grade Road led into the fog covered hillside. I knew from the map that it had lots of curves and some switchbacks, so I suspected it would be tough. It didn’t dissapoint me. Fortunately, the traffic was light and I had 3 different rear lights and at least one front flashing light so no one would miss me. I didn’t catch all the details, but near the top, I just missed a minor accident between a motorcycle and another vehicle. Over a 6 mile stretch I climbed more than 800 feet. Details of the ride summary are here. It was a quick, downhill glide into Lompoc.
As one of my warm showers hosts once told me, Continental breakfast is for people that don’t eat breakfast. I had a real breakfast at a family diner in Lompoc.
After leaving Lompoc, I eventually made my way back onto Highway 1. I knew the grades were not going to be as severe as the first climb. The total height was going to be similar, but stretched over an uphill of 11 miles, rather than 6. The traffic was light and there were minutes where I wouldn’t see anything but mountains, river valleys or some occasional cows.
Near the top of the climb, I saw a figure far ahead. I thought it was someone walking, but as I got closer, I noticed he was pushing uphill on a skateboard! Chris was making a second journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles in support of his friend. I didn’t learn all the details of how he travelled, got lodging, handled the hills and terrain, etc. because we were soon joined by another biker.
Matt was also on a joy ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. What surprised me the most about Matt was the bike he was riding. Some people think I am crazy for traveling on an all carbon road bike with panniers and a rack. Matt was on a track bike! A track bike has only one gear (a second if you take off the wheel and reverse it). It has no brakes! Like a tricycle or a unicycle, there is no gliding per se. When he wants to glide down hill he has to get his feet and legs out of the way of the pedals because they keep spinning. Furthermore, when you’re going downhill like we were about to do, the pedals are going be spinning proportionately to the speed of the wheels. I said my goodbyes, crested the hill and was soon going 28 mph downhill. I stopped a few times on my way down to take pictures of the landscape. At one of those pauses, Matt came zooming bye. He shouted to me and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He had his feet tucked on the down tube and the pedals were spinning at a dangerous speed. If he let his legs slip, he would lose a knee or the lower part of his leg.
At the end of the downhill, as we were approaching the coast near the town of Las Cruces, I could see Matt up ahead in the distance. About 5 miles down the road at the Arroyo Hondo Vista Point, I was pulling in as he was pulling out. We talked some more and explained how he travelled on the track bike. I learned that the way he brakes is to bend his leg backwards and put a foot to the rear wheel. He showed me the wear pattern on both the tire and his shoes. Good thing he had an extra set! His girl friend had dropped him off in San Francisco and would be there when he got to LA. After that, he would have to find employment to fund the next adventure. We both agreed that you need to do things like this while you can!
I set up my little tripod to take a picture of Hidalgo, me, and the ocean together. I was just packing up, when a young couple pulled up to take some pictures. I asked them to take one of me and Hidalgo, since they could do a better job. As we talked, I learned they were from Belgium. She was a lawyer and he was an agricultural engineer. They had taken time off to tour from the San Francisco Bay area down the coast to Ventura. They would eventually turn inland and head for Yosemite. They mentioned that they had seen Chris several times on their journey south. I gave them my card so I could send pictures I had taken of them.
They made it out on the road ahead of me. I couldn’t believe how fast they were going. They continued to put more distance between us, until they pulled off the road. There was a clearing and I stopped there, too. They had seen whales from the road and decided to stop and take a closer look. Sure enough, there appeared to be orcas feeding on something. This time, I took off first and was able to get a couple of shots of them coming uphill that I could hopefully send to them in the future.
Without steep climbs and some tail wind, I felt like I was flying down the coast. Along the way, I saw Chris again. Even though I had made a few stops, I couldn’t believe how much ground he had covered. I asked him how he managed to stay alive on that steep downhill that led to the ocean. He just said, ” I’ve been a professional skateboarder for 35 years!”
It was a very pleasant, strong finish to the day as I pedaled along the coast toward Santa Barbara. My official stop was actually in a hotel in Goleta. As I reflect back on today, with mountains on my right and ocean on my left, I met some fascinating people in unexpected places. They each seemed to be placing a high priority on collecting experiences over possessions. I could understand how they feel.
The Lone Rider