I had an amazing opportunity this month to take my first Trek Travel trip. I chose to travel to Santa Barbara with Joe O’Gorman a friend of mine and regular Saturday Shop Ride attender. The week was spectacular and included 215 miles of riding, 17,000ft of climbing (there were less avid climbing options throughout the week), 3 Vineyards (that we went to, there were several additional ones we passed), 2 amazing hotels, 3 sensational guides and 20 fellow travelers to share it with.
Our trip began on October 15th in Goleta, CA. We flew into Santa Barbara Airport and stayed at a Best Western with an amazing coffee machine that made great hot chocolate. We explored a bit (6 miles of walking) and walked to the beach to enjoy 70 degree weather for as long as we could. We had dinner at a great local restaurant and prepared to meet our group on Sunday in Santa Barbara. We arrived at the Hotel Oceania and met up with two of our Guides Shannon and Matt, as well as the other 20 members of our group. Everyone hit it off right away and we began our journey to La Fond Winery outside Santa Ynez. We arrived to a beautiful picnic set out for us by our third guide Rustin. We ate a fantastic lunch, took part in a wine tasting, were fit for our bikes and set off for our first ride. Our first day was a short shake down ride to make sure our fits were right and we rode to see a beautiful waterfall and then on to the Santa Ynez Inn. The hotel was amazing with a bathroom with heated floors and steam shower, a fireplace, robes and slippers. I know that is a lot of information, but I was really impressed. The first night we had a social hour and then a fabulous dinner at a local Italian restaurant. The conversation for the night revolved around who was going to accept the challenge of riding Mount Figueroa the next day, a climb used by pro teams to train.
The next morning we woke up and had a wonderful breakfast and walked out to our bikes. Our water bottles were filled and the tires were pumped up by our guides, pretty sweet. We all met up for a route briefing, we were told that we would have a chance to ride by Neverland Ranch and the guides asked who was up for the challenge of The Fig. The group got quiet and Joe and I raised our hands, we had accepted the challenge. The group hopped on the bikes and we all rolled out together. There was beautiful scenery on the way out of Santa Ynez. We rode for about 14 miles and we reached the base of Mount Figueroa. To get to the summit of the mountain, yes I did say summit, you have to ride for 10 miles with very little respite at an average gradient of 9.5%. We met Rustin at the Trek Travel van fueled up and turned towards the climb. Three others joined us, but after the first two turns uphill two turned back, only Dave from Michigan was with Joe and me on the Fig that day. Joe rode that climb like a champ most of the climb he rode well in front of me. The landscape was very pretty, but the concentration it took to ride up the steep road made it hard to stop and admire it. The first 2-3 miles were filled with sharp switchbacks and also a dirt road climb. We received our only break after we crested the end of the dirt road, and had a quick downhill to the true base of the mountain. Joe was still riding strong ahead of me as we began the 7 miles to the top. Let me preface the rest of the climb story by saying that this was the hardest ride I had ever done, we gained about 5000ft of elevation in 11 miles. We rode for the next few miles in the saddle, out of the saddle, and off the bike. Joe and I met up at the final turn up the mountain. We trudged on and at every turn I figured, hoped, that it was the top. Finally I saw a gate at the top of the mountain, the road kicked briefly to 17% and then leveled off at the top. I had reached the summit! I waited for Joe and we took a picture to celebrate our victory. Dave followed us a little bit later. The descent was probably about as challenging as the climb. It was an extremely bumpy road with very tight turns and no guard rails. I kept thinking to myself how on earth do pro riders descend so fast. After a few miles we stop at a ranger station and filled up with water and continued on down the mountain. My hands and forearms were completely wrecked by the time I got to the bottom of The Fig, but the road smoothed and flattened out and Joe and I sped to town, passing Neverland Ranch along the way. We barely noticed it, all we wanted to do was get to a restaurant to get a beer and a burger. We rode up to Los Olivos and saw the bikes parked from the rest of the group and headed inside to let them know that we made it in. The food was good, the beer was better!
Tuesday morning came extremely early. We went out the night before and had a great dinner paired with wines at the restaurant next to our hotel. We had another day of climbing ahead of us, about 3000ft. Everyone in the group accepted the challenge and we road together through some beautiful country to Fess Parker Winery. Our picnic lunch was prepared by Shannon, the food and the wine tasting following the ride was great. Joe and I headed back to the hotel and called it a day after about 13 miles more, Rustin provided a wheel for me to chase and we were back in soothing our muscles in the hot tub in no time. Our last night in Santa Ynez was spent hanging out at an amazing Mexican restaurant with great Margaritas and then on to Mavericks Bar for drinks, shuffle board and Karaoke, yes you read that right.
Our last day in Santa Ynez came to soon on Wednesday morning, we dressed to ride, but first had to drive back to where Joe and I began our week in Goleta at the State Park by the beach. Our ride for the day was along the coast into Santa Barbara. First things first I needed to make a stop at In n’ Out Burger, a ritual for me during trips to California. I did a search for restaurants in my trusty Garmin 800 and it lead us straight to burgers and shakes. The Garmin did tell us it was only 3 miles, but really it was 5 yet it was worth every pedal stroke there! We finished up took a picture or two and rolled back to our starting point and on to Santa Barbara. The ride down the coast was was a nice change from all the climbing we had done so far, most of it was downhill and a cruise to downtown. We arrived at our new hotel, The Fess Parker Doubletree, and after getting cleaned up went out for a great dinner on Searn’s Wharf. We watched the sun go down and all the boats coming into the harbor. Not a bad way to end the day.
Thursday got us back to climbing, we had scheduled around 4000ft of climbing to get some better views of Santa Barbara. Unfortunately there was heavy cloud cover, but the ride was fun none the less. After a week of asking Joe for directions, I was too lazy to read my cue sheet, we had a little separation and I took a wrong turn. I really wanted to do some extra climbing any way and I got to race a hiker up a super steep hill, you will have to ask me in person who won. After Rustin came in the van to come get me and take me back to where I should have turned it was a great descent back down into town. We had a picnic at a park across from an old Mission. The meal was prepared by Matt and it included some fancy cupcakes to celebrate my birthday which was very much appreciated. We finished up lunch and all road back to town together. We dinner our last night of the trip we had an extra special treat, dinner at John Burke’s house the owner of Trek. Unfortunately he wasn’t there, but I can say that I had my birthday party at the owner of Treks house. It was a bitter sweet night since it was our last one in California together as a group, but we had a wonderful time.
Friday was a whirlwind for Joe and I. We woke up early and with a few of our trip member took one last ride around Santa Barbara. It was a great way to end the week. We said our goodbyes and took our shuttle to the airport. Early Saturday morning we arrived at Dulles and met up with our shop ride at 9a.m. Saturday, that might have been a mistake. The trip was amazing the people we met, especially our guides were great. The routes, the scenery and the wine was hard to beat. Joe and I are already trying to figure where we will go with Trek next. Trek Travel offers trips of all ability levels and all over the world. Do you want to come with?