Today we had our last real climb of the trip, the last time we’ll be above 500 feet. Conversely, that means it was also the last real descent, through Gaviota Pass in the Santa Ynez mountains.
We managed to sleep long enough for the tour bus at the hotel to clear out, leaving no competition in the breakfast room.
We unfolded from our tiny room and headed out of town on Highway 1. We almost immediately saw another cyclist with a bodybuilder physique coming down the other way. Usually we greet other cyclists with a wave or a nod. This one had one hand hanging, clenched in a fist, and seemed to be muttering and/or shouting to himself. The only thing I could make out was, “If I see you again in public I’m gonna kill you.” It didn’t seem to be directed at us, but I didn’t feel the need to draw attention to ourselves. I was happy when we put some distance between us.
The road took a long gentle climb, with a few short drops and steeper rises, without the curviness of yesterday’s Harris Grade. Traffic was pretty light, but it was hot and short on shade. Around us were brown hills with spots of green bushes, getting greener the more up we went. There were occasional farms cut into the hills, and we saw a deer grazing in one.
It took over 15 miles to reach the summit. The climb itself was pretty easy, but the heat takes a lot out of you. We started to see the signs of the end. Less and less terrain above us. An oncoming truck turning off its four-way blinkers. The opposing direction sprouting a second lane. And then, the best sign in the universe, the down grade warning sign.
As we dropped, much steeper than the climb, we could really open up. The straight road left few blind turns to worry about, but enough turns to keep it interesting. It was sad to think that this would be the last big descent, but it was a good one.
The view shifted to interesting rock patterns. Then we merged into US 101, in full-on freeway mode. The sign claimed the end of CA 1, but I’m pretty sure it rises again further south. We saw a tunnel coming up, but everyone, especially Ruth, was disappointed it was only for the northbound direction.
We stopped at a rest area to eat lunch. A large group unloaded onto a picnic table near ours, and started cleaning it with paper towels. Then, I guess somebody objected, so they packed up again, but left the dirty paper towels on the table. Good citizen Anne took care of it for them.
Then it was time for more highway. As soon as we turned the corner to be coastal again, it got foggy. Enough to impede views, but not enough to mess with road visibility. At first I thought it was smoke, but Anne pointed out it was blowing in from offshore.
We’ve spent plenty of time on freeway mode roads this trip, but I think this was the longest stretch with significant traffic. But the shoulder was wide, and exits were infrequent. It stayed pretty flat. When the fog left gaps, we got to see the mountains.
We had originally planned to take a bike path from Refugio State Beach to El Capitan. We decided, with El Capitan still closed due to the Sherpa Fire, to stick with the highway. As we got close, we started to see the areas that had burned just a few days ago. Along the flatter areas, patches of the grass were black. On some of the hills, you could see the fresh wounds, only charred remnants behind, and the red patches of fire suppressant further up. In a few spots the median had burned, but the highway itself didn’t show obvious damage. I caught a few whiffs where the median had burned, but we were upwind, so we didn’t get the campfire smell we got when visiting Santa Cruz during the Bonny Dune fire. That made my lungs happy. We heard some helicopters, but didn’t see them in action.Other than visual evidence, we passed through the Sherpa Fire area without incident.
We got off the highway in Goleta, and went around town on Cathedral Oaks. By now, the fog had cleared. Even though we were close to town, it felt pretty out there. There were orchards in the foreground, and the mountains in the background. To our right grassy hills, then golf course, then airport. A cyclist came up and paced with us for a while to chat.
We turned back into town. We got confused on how to cross back over 101, so walked up a pedestrian access point, which lead to our intended overpass. We hopped back onto the road and finished.
Our hotel room is small again, but this time on the second floor. The first floor is all smoking rooms. I didn’t even realize smoking rooms still exist.