Monday’s ride was the longest for a single day of our entire journey – 80 miles. I opted for this route over a shorter route for two reasons. First, John Flaherty, owner of Central Coast Outdoors, who graciously shared his routes with me, raved about Foxen Canyon Road. Second, the final destination of Solvang, a Danish-themed town I’d read about in two guide books, appealed to me. The reason I didn’t know was that it was on the California Wine Trail.
When my modest weather app called for strong wind from the north, I was ecstatic. We would have a wind escalator all day! (Had the wind been in our faces, this day might have been impossible to complete.) The truth is, we rarely ride in a straight line. There were long stretches when I sat on my bike and went 25 mph without pedaling. However, when I made a left turn onto Dominion Road, it was into the embrace of a bossy gusty sidewind. That same wind was now trying to lift my bike and topple it over. I struggled to stay upright on the bike as gusts pushed me or parts of my bike in odd ways. By the end of the day, I had a huge knot in my right shoulder from the tension.
This is an agricultural area, intensively cultivated on an industrial scale. Even so, individual strawberry plants are poked through the plastic cover one by one by hand.
Soil moved by plows stirred in the air. I watched it swirl in front of me across the road. The sky was dirty. I wondered if the local farmers had heard of the Dust Bowl.
Something else happened when I made that left turn onto Dominion Road. A fellow in a truck came up next to me and called from the window, “The road ahead is closed.” I was instantly thinking how to replan the route. “You have to turn right on Orcutt Garey Rd.” I glanced at my cue sheet. That was exactly where we were planning to turn anyway. Pheww. Then he said, “It’s closed because of the fire last night.” I was thinking car fire. I definitely didn’t comprehend the significance of what he had just said.
As we made the final descent after the glorious traverse of Foxen Canyon, Mary and Kurt were on the phone to define our meeting place in Los Olivos. Mary asked Kurt if he’d received an emergency alert on his phone. The alert couldn’t have been caused by the tarantula the size of my hand that ambled across the road shoulder. (The first time I saw one of those was in Texas in 2015. I pointed it out to my cycling companions but I was too shocked to get the name of the thing out of my mouth.)
Upon arrival in Solvang, Mary appeared a little panicked. She’s a California resident. She knows the other side of wind, the one that oxygenates wildfires and spreads embers. She pointed me toward the view from our room where I saw a large cloud of pink smoke hanging over the community of Goleta, smack on our route for tomorrow.
Start: San Luis Obispo CA
Partway: Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove
End: Solvang CA (Danish for “sunny fields)
Distance: 80.2 miles
Cumulative distance: 1793.2 miles (87% done; tarantulas and pumpjacks tell me we’re nearing the southern end of our voyage.)
Elevation gain: 3822 feet
Strava track (not available)
© 2021 Lynnea C Salvo