August 24 – September 6
The drive up to Jalama Beach County Park took a little over an hour as we turned off Hwy 101 onto Hwy 1, then left on Jalama Road for the 14-mile drive into the park. Later in our stay we’d ride our bikes almost the length of the road, but for now were content to eye the scenery as we drove up and over a section of the Santa Ynez Mountains.
The land near Jalama Creek was once a Chumash Indian settlement named “Halama”. In 1943, 23.5 acres of privately-owned land was donated to the County of Santa Barbara by the Atlantic Richfield Oil Company, and thus, the park was formed. It is buffered to the south by Hollister Ranch and its 14,400 acres (58 km2) which continues to be privately owned, making it one of the last remaining undeveloped coastal areas in Southern California. To the north lies Vandenberg Air Force Base whose host unit, the 30th Space Wing, which manages Department of Defense space and missile testing programs, and places satellites into near-polar orbits from the West Coast.
When we arrived at the park, we checked in with the ranger who assigned us to a campsite out in the open among a similar grouping of sites. It was pretty bleak looking and to add to its lack of appeal, two campsites over some folks in a trailer were playing music that sounded like country meets Metallica at a volume that would be hard to ignore.
We couldn’t imagine listening to it day and night for two days and so Joanna walked over to the ranger booth and returned with a new site assignment, one at the southern edge of the campground, directly across from the ocean with only one line of campsites to impede the view.
Dinner that night was a simple affair of canned soup and fresh bread we’d picked up at the market. We fell asleep to the hypnotic sounds of breaking waves and the rippling of the tent as the ocean’s breeze around and through it.
The next day we took off on the bikes to ride out and back on Jalama Road, our goal to get to Hwy 1 before turning around. In the end we wouldn’t quite make it all the way as we were concerned about running out of water, it being quite warm.
But we did manage 25 miles out of the planned 28 with a total of nearly 2,600 feet of climbing, a good effort that brought us back to camp ready to eat.
And eat we did, heading straight to the Jalama Beach Store at the north end of the camp, parking our bikes, grabbing cold drinks from the cooler and each of us ordering a ‘famous’ Jalama Burger and a serving of really good fries. This burger is really good and made better when one has worked hard for it, the perfect ending to a good day on the bikes.
We spent the rest of the day and evening reading in camp and relaxing. Our camp neighbors, two young ladies from the Carpinteria area, like the folks we had moved away from the day before, wanted to share their music with us. Fortunately, it was easy to listen to and after some time they left to spend the evening down at the beach, leaving us to the quiet is one of this isolated park’s nicest features.
We had planned the next day to break camp early and drop in on husband and wife, Rich and Tony, who we knew from my days at UCLA, they having moved from Los Angeles to Arroyo Grande. We figured we’d stop in and say hi, then head up the road for a long weekend in Oakland with Jessica and Kris. Packing up went smoothly and as we prepared to depart right on schedule at 9am the Highlander had a different scenario in mind and refused, for the first time in our history with it, to start.
Not sure how to jump start it (the battery is actually located in the back of the car) I walked over to the set of pay phones and called AAA on their toll-free line and was advised it would be about an hour for the truck to arrive. I then call Rich to let him know we probably weren’t going to make it. I should have used quarters for this five-minute call as the credit card charge came to $25, a hard-earned lesson.
Two hours later the flatbed arrived, and we soon learned how to jump the car, as there is a junction box under the hood that connects to the battery. The car started with the jump, but the driver suggested that he tow us into Lompoc to ensure that car would make it. And so he loaded it onto the truck, we climbed aboard and took off for Toyota of Lompoc, enjoying a nice conversation all the way into town.
The friendly crew at the Toyota dealership went to work diagnosing the car with an estimate of $130 and any additional charges if they discovered them. Pretty hungry by now, we walked across the street to Taco Loco and split a Chili Relleno and combo plate of Enchilada, Crispy Taco, Rice and Beans. Along with a couple of drinks the total came to $18, a nice price for decent Mexican food.
We returned to the dealer and hung out until we were advised the car was ready. It turned out the battery had just been run down, a first for us given how much we’ve used the car in camp to listen to music and charge our devices. We were given a clean bill of health and best of all, advised that the service was complimentary, and we didn’t need to pay.
And so, all we lost was a bunch of time and were very lucky that the outcome had been so positive. The one downside of the delay is that it put us into the Bay Area on the I-880 at rush hour, adding almost an hour to the drive. The memory of Jalama will stay with us though and I’m sure we’ll be back there in the future, a little slice of pristine coast. And those burgers. I’m getting hungry just thinking of them.
Hollister Ranch: http://www.hollister-ranch.com/
Vandenberg Air Force Base: https://www.vandenberg.af.mil/
Toyota of Lompoc: https://www.toyotaoflompoc.com/
Taco Loco: http://www.tacolocolompoc.com/