Thursday, November 20, 2014

From SLO To Oblivion In 100 Miles

Welcome to Part II of my epic (they're all epic aren't they?) journey from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara - nearly completing my quest to bike every mile of  the California coast.  When I last left you, dear readers, I had just rescued an elderly damsel in distress from her precarious perch in a "Youth" Hostel bunkbed.  I was out the door and on my bike and zipping past the Amtrak station mere minutes later, soon reuniting with my old friends, the PCH and the Pacific Coast Bike Route (often, but not always, one in the same).  Of course, on this, particular, quest, my old friends are forever fresh and new since every pedal-stroke introduces me to an as-of-yet never before biked (by me) stretch of pavement.  SLO seemed to be just waking up as I biked through the morning twilight, cars (and bikes) becoming more numerous as the minutes and miles passed and teachers, students, and other locals headed off to classes and jobs.  Didn't they all just wish they could be as free as I was to just spend the day in the saddle?

Before I knew it, SLO was behind me and  I was back along the coast, coming into North Pismo Beach.  Couldn't resist just one more double-shot of espresso as I passed this great little coffee shop overlooking the ocean:

Then it was steady pedaling through the quaint, funky, town that is Pismo followed by a morning traversing farm fields that reminded me a lot of biking through Ventura County -- long flat stretches through coastal farmland.  These stretches had a couple of climbs built in, though -- one a short, but steep climb from the fields back to the coast and a stretch of massive sand dunes.  The 1 then headed back inland and eventually merged with the 135 near the tiny town of Orcutt with faster traffic, but a wide shoulder and an awesome tail-wind.  I was hitting 30 mph without having to kill myself!  Before long, though, it was the only real climb of the day -- two miles of switch-backs through a pass leading to a longer, fast descent to the crummy town of Lompoc -- a series of fast food restaurants seemingly filled with impatient drivers who acted as though they'd never seen a bicycle before.  Really didn't like the vibe here -- filled my water bottles at a McDonalds and pedaled on.

Luckily, the best part of the ride awaited -- 20 miles on Rte 246 through the rolling hills of Central California wine country.  With that great tail-wind still with me, I could imagine the peloton around me as we whizzed past the vineyards on the Tour of California.  Always nice to get to the 60 mile point of an 80 mile ride and feel a surge of power (even if it's the wind providing the power).

Before I knew it, I was at mile 80 and at my destination for the night, Buellton -- home to many of the areas wineries, but, of even more interest to me, two of the most prominent breweries.  Before getting to my hotel for the night, I pulled into Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, which is one of the few breweries north of Oceanside (besides Russian River, of course, and Lagunitas) making beer on a par with San Diego's best.  The Lizard's Mouth is tremendous -- and they also make an incredible saison.  On top of that, their head brewer IS The Dude!

That's right, not A Dude, but THE Dude!  He was moving around too much for me to get a live picture, but he looks just like he does in the above, posed, shot.  Too cool!  Unfortunately, the brewery was a week away from opening its long-awaited kitchen, but it was still a great place to end a long ride -- with a nice beer garden out front and lots of cool hop-heads inside and out.  Plus, it would have been a shame to ruin my appetite before hitting brewery #2 later on.  

Next, it was off to the Comfort Inn, chosen for its proximity to Brewery #2 and the fact it had washers and dryers (crucial to my mode of travel).  After a much needed and deserved shower, I popped the day's bike gear into the wash (to ensure dry clothes to change into at the end of the next day's ride) and headed across a bridge crossing the 101 to the Firestone Brewpub and Tasting Room - an enormous beer hall, with gourmet food and pub grub, reminiscent of the Stone Bistro (minus the gardens) in Escondido.  The carne asada nachos were definitely the thing to get and I had a great evening watching Monday Night Football and discussing the California beer scene (as a whole) with the regulars at the bar.  Heaven.  Must have been my reward for rescuing that little old lady!

Looks like I pretty much spent all my karma in one shot, though, as the next day turned out to be quite the disaster.  I rose before the sun again (as usual) and partook of the waffle-maker at the complimentary lobby breakfast (love those things!).  When light came, I headed back down to the 246 and started biking straight into this view:

Wow, I'm squinting again just looking into the picture -- as were all the drivers coming up behind me -- not good.  I've heard too many stories about cyclists getting nailed by cars during early morning commutes into rising suns that made them invisible.  So, I pulled off and hung in a coffee shop for about an hour, until the sun didn't seem to be directly ahead of those of us traveling east.  No big deal, but not a good sign for what lay ahead . . .

(End of Part II -- Next:  What lay ahead)

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