The long ride to the Santa Barbara coast

Day 30, Oceano to Refugio State Beach, 76 miles

It’s already 9am, I’m just leaving the Rock n’ Roll Diner in Oceano. There’s such a long boring ride ahead. Hard to get going, thinking this way. But I especially don’t relish this particular ride of the whole coast. In fact, I’ve cheated around it the last couple tours. Caught the Amtrak from SLO to Santa Barbara. Not today.

I’m leaving town, riding from Oceano along the dusty, mud pocked highway, bordered with agriculture. Climb the steep hill to Arroyo Grande, then descend past the Phillip 66 refinery which gives the air here the odor of burning tires. Along through Guadalupe, a Mexican town in California, every shop a taqueria or Mexican store, most with bars and gates to lock up at night. All these Mexican workers, who will harvest America’s dinner, if the Trumpeters have their way.  Who will bear the exposure to toxic chemicals used on the fields. The politics of the day is so grim.

I debate two routes ahead, follow Route 1 through Vandenberg and Lompoc, or stay on 135 and follow 101 down through Beulton. I decide the latter, having ridden both in the past. I forget how bad 135 is, for several miles connecting to 101 at Los Alamos. Maybe taking 101 the whole way wouldn’t be that bad. Once I’m on the freeway, I don my headphones and listen to music and David Whyte’s poetry.

The miles are passing quickly, as I’m enjoying a strong tailwind. But it is such a long ride, and nearly 80 degrees. Still summer in Southern California. I think of the chilly Fall descending on my home town. I’m just beginning to look forward to it again. But not ready to give up this extended heat. Not yet. I descend into Beulton and stop at Andersen’s Split Pea, a cultural anachronism, yet also a family tradition from the earliest days. Seems like stepping out of time when I enter.

I’m glad to leave this strange town, head back onto the freeway. A long climb through a narrow pass, then a rapid descent to the coast again. I climb past Gaviota and fly along 101 the last few miles to camp. I reach Refugio Beach just as the sun is setting, and feel the euphoria of the marathon ride setting in. Phone calls with friends and my beloved are reassuring, as is the lull of the surf, just across the road from the hiker biker site. This is one of the most beautiful camps along the coast. I’ll sleep well tonight.

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