We met Tony over at Ellen’s Pancake House again for breakfast and although the oatmeal the day before was really good (with plenty of raisins, brown sugar, and walnuts to mix in) I went for two slices of French Toast and Joanna attempted to finish the Monte Cristo, a special of the day. Her sandwich was huge, thick slices of ham with cheese, between two slices of bread, fried on the griddle in French Toast batter. We’d take half of it back to the room and eat it a day or two later.
Our route for the day would be an improvised one, Deborah and Heather thinking they’d figured out a way for us to ride up Avenue of the Flags right next to the Hotel and continue north until we’d reach a Hwy 101 intersection that would link us to Zaca Station Road and thus to Foxen Canyon Road. This turned out not to be the case and a mile or two up the road we hit a dead end that required us to double back to a place where we could cross the highway, looking carefully in both directions for a break in the traffic so we could do so safely.
Fortunately, this section of the highway has a wide shoulder that provided us with enough distance from the speeding cars to feel comfortable pedaling up the road. We arrived at the offramp for Hwy 150 and Zaca Station Road and where they split just off the highway made our way up the valley that the road runs through as it parallels Zaca Creek.
Soon enough we hit the junction with Foxen Canyon (Andrew Murray Vineyards is here, we’d visit later that day for a tasting) where we made the right turn to head up the steep hill that would lead us to great views of valleys on either side, both west and east. Regrouping at the top for a picture, we then enjoyed a nice smooth pavement downhill to eventually arrive at the outskirts of Los Olivos.
At this point we decided to extend the ride by a few miles to ride up Figueroa Mountain Road five miles to the gates of the Neverland Ranch. Best known for being the home and private amusement park of Michael Jackson from 1988 until 2005. Jackson left the ranch in 2005 shortly after his acquittal on child molestation charges and never returned, although he still maintained ownership of the property until his death in 2009. His estate was put up for sale in 2015 and in December 2020, after several price drops, billionaire Ronald Burkle purchased the property for $22 million.
At approximately 2,700 acres, the ranch was originally named Zaca Laderas Ranch and was renamed Sycamore Valley Ranch shortly after it was purchased by property developer William Bone in 1981. In 1988, the ranch was sold to Jackson, who renamed it after Neverland, the fantasy island in the story of Peter Pan. Jackson’s first encounter with the ranch came when he visited Paul McCartney, who was staying there during their filming of the “Say Say Say” video in 1983. According to La Toya Jackson, Michael’s sister, he expressed interest to her in someday owning the property at that time.
The property included three railroads: one 3-foot narrow gauge named “Neverland Valley Railroad”, with a steam locomotive named Katherine after his mother and two coaches. The other was a 2 ft narrow gauge, with a C. P. Huntington replica locomotive made by Chance Rides. There was also a custom-made private electric train that was purchased by Jackson for his own children, Prince, Paris, and Blanket as well as a Ferris wheel, Carousel, Zipper, Octopus, Pirate Ship, Wave Swinger, Super Slide, roller coaster, bumper cars, and an amusement arcade.
We turned around and rode back to Los Olivos for a coffee stop at the Corner House Café, returning to Buellton for a burger to split at The Habit and then to Pea Soup for some down time (Tony did his laundry as he was heading north the next day) until it was time for dinner, which would be across the highway at another local favorite, Firestone Walker.
When we arrived, it was chilly out with a stiff wind blowing in from the west and so, when presented with an option to eat inside, we took a chance and found ourselves in a large booth nicely isolated from other diners in a large room. Joanna and I would split an order of the reliably good fish and chips and consume a couple of classic drafts.
We joined Tony the next morning at Ellen’s for breakfast, Joanna managing one of the largest cinnamon rolls in the history of that treat and I gamely tried to finish a substantial special of the day, the Machaca Scramble. Needless to say, I failed. When finished, we bade farewell to Tony and having already packed the car, we took off for home with the intent of driving on Gibraltar Road, a climb the others do on their bikes. At 4,000 feet of gain in less than 10 miles it seems much better done in the car.
Out of Solvang we took Hwy 150 and after passing Lake Cachuma and climbing almost to the top of San Marcos Pass, we turned off at Stagecoach Road to check out Cold Spring Tavern. Established as a stagecoach stop in 1865, it was originally known as the “Cold Spring Relay Station” and served as a horse changeover and meals break station.
Adelaide Ovington, a former actress and writer, purchased 40 acres surrounding the Tavern in 1941 for $2,000. She said, “I want to buy that door and whatever comes with it!” Adelaide ran the Tavern alongside her daughter, Audrey Ovington, until her death in 1972 and Audrey was the sole proprietor until her death in 2005. Wayne and Joy Ovington Wilson, third generation are the current owners.
For the time being only open on the weekends we just walked around the exterior and then climbed back in the car to head up to the summit of the pass and Camino Cielo Road, which we would drive its twisting contours for many a mile. It’s quite desolate up there and turns often present one with either a dramatic view of the coast, a steep edge dropping off to doom, or both.
We kept driving and I began to worry that we’d somehow gone the wrong way and might have to backtrack all the way to the 150 when we came upon a junction with Gibraltar Road, which splits off to the left into the backcountry and to the right to continue down into Santa Barbara. Relieved that were on track we enjoyed the white-knuckle descent, watching as any number of cyclists passed us on the way up.
We finally reached the suburbs of town and found our way to the 101 and a trouble-free drive back home. We closed out another weekend with friends in a fun place to the visit, beer drinking, wine tasting, good food and some challenging but good miles on the bikes. The group will return in October and if we are in town, we’ll be back as well. Until then, happy travels!!
Neverland Ranch: https://www.forbes.com/sites/keithflamer/2021/12/28/billionaire-buys-michael-jacksons-infamous-neverland-ranch-for-22-million-bargain/?sh=33caa2534780
Cold Spring Tavern: https://www.coldspringtavern.com/