April 16 – 19
As the pandemic begins to subside (as of this writing both Joanna and I are fully vaccinated) we can begin to pursue a more aggressive travel agenda, one that will fill the second half of 2021 much as we did in 2019 after our move back to Los Angeles. We did manage to sneak in a few short trips last year and our fall bike weekend was one of those. Cycling is the one activity that helped us survive our constrained lifestyle. I managed close to 6,000 miles on the bike and Joanna followed closely behind, so a weekend with friends riding bikes just feels good.
To celebrate our newfound freedom and to recognize a significant birthday for me this year (I can’t seem to stop the aging process) I got a new bike, a Trek Domane SLR 7, a sweet machine that will likely be the last bike I ever buy. It was one of those rare purchases where each use confirms the wisdom of the purchase. This is a great bike to ride.
We set out for Buellton Friday morning and arrived at Pea Soup Anderson’s Inn, our usual lodging in the area and discovered that Tony, on the road for the past month or so on his BMW motorcycle had already arrived. Not long after, Heather and Deborah showed up and after unloading bikes and gear, we were ready for our first ride of the weekend.
That would be east of town through Solvang and out to Happy Valley and then battling some headwinds as we made our way to Los Olivos where we stopped at the Corner House Café for coffee before returning on Ballard Canyon Road, a moderate 28 miles and a good start for all of us.
We’d hit the café two days later as part of our Sunday ride, and found their coffee, pastries, ice cream and solid food to be tasty as well as reasonably priced.
After some jacuzzi time and a bit of happy hour in the late afternoon, we all made our way to Figueroa Mountain Brewing, a regular stop on the circuit for us. Along with a few beers, Joanna and I split the Santa Maria Tri-Tip Sandwich and the Bacon Mac and Cheese. The sandwich this time around (as compared to our last visit in October) was much improved with the inclusion of the sauces that had been missing before. Both portions were large enough that we barely made a dent in the Mac and Cheese and it would feed a hungry Tony later in the weekend.
Our ride the next day, Saturday, would be longer and more challenging a 48 miles, not necessarily from a distance perspective but due to the windy conditions we’d encountered the day before, magnified in intensity as we’d be riding closer to the coast. To get ready for it we met Tony across the street at Ellen’s Danish Pancake House, a popular place with a long history in the area. Portions are large, flavorsome, and moderately priced, factors that would bring us back the next two mornings. I had oatmeal that day while Joanna selected two eggs and a bagel, forgoing the pastries offered back at Peasoup.
After breakfast, we rode east from the hotel into Solvang and then turned south on Alisal Canyon with a brief stop at Alisal Guest Ranch and Spa, where Ron, a friend of Tony’s, works. He would join us later that day for dinner. The ranch operates on a modified American plan with breakfast and dinner and an array of recreational activities included in the nightly room rate which start around $600 a night and go northward from there.
From there it’s a moderate climb that leads into a broad valley and a connection to old route 1 which led to another climb that brought us to Hwy 101, where after a long downhill we turned off on Hwy 1. This brought us to a three-mile climb of nearly 1,000 feet and from here it would be downhill for the next 14 miles, all of it into a cold cross wind that meant one had to pedal as much as if they were still climbing.
We finally arrived at Santa Rosa Road which would take us east the last 18 miles, a gradual incline of 200 feet made easier by the brisk headwind we’d been fighting now working in our favor. Here we would encounter the one downside of riding in this area, that is the bad pavement one finds on the rural roads. Rutted, and full of bone rattling bumps, hands, arms, and shoulders ache at rides end from the near constant pounding.
Back in Buellton we lunched at the Taco Bell near the hotel (Heather’s first ever experience with that fast food legend) and then spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing until it was time to head back over towards Figueroa Mountain Brewing for dinner at Industrial Eats. Featuring an in-house craft butcher shop, they are known for their pizzas, sandwiches, and creative appetizers.
Joanna and I would split a Fennel Sausage, Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil wood fired pizza, a Bahn Mi (Crispy Pork, Pickles, Herbs, Hoisin, and Sriracha), and a bottle of Italian Red wine from Montalcino. The pizza was delicious although the fennel was muted and the Bahn Mi was not presented in the traditional fashion so that was a bit of a disappointment, but the sandwich itself was excellent. And what can you say about any red that comes from Montalcino? The tab came to $72 including the tip, of which $30 was for the wine, so all in all a reasonable dining experience expense wise.
Sleep came easy that night preparing us for our next couple of days, one of riding and the other exploring Gibraltar Road in the car, a notorious climb out of Santa Barbara. We’ll cover that in our next post.
Pea Soup Anderson’s Inn: https://www.peasoupandersens.com/
Corner House Café: http://www.cornerhouselosolivos.com/
Figueroa Mountain Brewing: https://www.figmtnbrew.com/
Alisal Guest Ranch and Spa: https://alisal.com/
Ellen’s Danish Pancake House: https://www.yelp.com/biz/ellens-danish-pancake-house-buellton
Industrial Eats: https://industrialeats.com/