Last week Ben and I were in San Francisco for some meetings, so we decided to stay over the weekend to catch a stage of the Tour of California (ToC) and do some riding of our own. We made Santa Barbara our home base and here’s how the weekend unfolded:
THURSDAY: After our meetings, we flew from San Fran to Santa Barbara, where we were picked up by my bro-in-law, Stephen (a.k.a. “Lawman”). Lawman flew to SB earlier in the day and had already picked up our rental bikes and checked into the hotel (nice!). We were all tired, so we grabbed some pizza and hit the sack early.
FRIDAY: We got up early and rode about 30 miles in the hills of Santa Barbara. At 190 lbs. each, Lawman and I are built more like sprinters than climbers, so we suffered a bit. Ben, on the other hand, is about 40 lbs. lighter (and rides 10,000 miles a year) so it was an easy ride for him.
Kevin and the Lawman feeling the burn
after 1,000 feet of climbing
After quick showers, we drove to Solvang to watch Stage 5 of the ToC, which was an individual time trial. We got to watch the world’s best cyclists fly by at 40-50 mph. It’s an amazing sight.
Lance Armstrong nearing the finish of the time trial
SATURDAY: We headed to Solvang to ride through the wine country and retrace the time trial course. We rode in the Santa Ynez valley where the movie Sideways was filmed. This was easily the best riding I’ve ever done — the roads were smooth with minimal car traffic and the scenery was picture-perfect. After about 45 miles, we stopped for lunch at the Los Olivos Cafe and had a fantastic meal (thanks to Lance Armstrong for the recommendation via Twitter).
After lunch, we rode the time trial course and gained a whole new respect for pro cyclists. Levi Leipheimer, who won the time trial stage, averaged almost 30 mph over the 15 mile course. When we got on it, we were surprised at how much climbing it had — to average that kind of speed is just unimaginable.
All in all, we did about 64 miles on Saturday, with probably 4,000 feet of climbing. To my surprise, I felt stronger and stronger through the day and actually felt much better when we finished than when we started.
SUNDAY: After breakfast, we drove to the top of Gibraltar Road, about 5,000 feet above the beaches of Santa Barbara. This would be an epic climb on a bike — maybe next time. On the way down I couldn’t resist jumping out of the car to take a look at some of the rock climbing routes on Gibraltar Rock. After that it was straight to the airport for our flight home.
All in all a great trip, although all three of us were anxious to get back to our families. Thanks to my wonderful wife Megan for giving me another weekend to play — I owe you big time!
NOTES ON SANTA BARBARA: One of the reasons I like to take these weekend trips is that I’m on a quest to find the best place in the U.S. to live. When I get the chance, I like to check out places like Flagstaff and Ouray and Santa Barbara that frequently make “top 10” lists.
Well, I have to say that Santa Barbara comes pretty darn close to perfection. For starters, take a look at the weather:
Exhibit A: Perfect temps year round
Exhibit B: Lots of sun
Secondly, Santa Barbara is beautiful, with lush green mountains meeting the ocean. And with a population of around 100,000 and a large university, it’s about the right size. Since SB is a fairly educated and affluent community, the shopping and dining are great.
Finally, SB is an outdoorsman’s paradise. The running, hiking, and cycling are world class. The sandy beaches of the pacific ocean at your doorstep. There’s also rock-climbing — although it isn’t world class (this is why SB is almost perfect).
Of course I’m not the first person to recognize these things. That’s why the median home price is about $1 million — expensive even by California standards. The quest continues…