We have reached Southern California. Finally, on the 39th day of 43, we experienced the pleasantly warm sunny weather we had imagined for the whole trip. This was also the first day of flat terrain — not a single noteworthy climb. The Pacific Ocean was in view nearly the entire day from clever trails, bike lanes, and roads seamlessly connected together.
We traversed the lands that were once the domain of the Chumash people who thrived on the rich resources of sea and land.
They used natural tar seeps to seal their boats.
The Chumash homeland is now occupied by oil interests and people who enjoy the warmth and beauty of this piece of coast. One such person is the man who we met at the end of Stearns Wharf before leaving Santa Barbara, who called the end of the pier his office. Born and raised in Catania in Sicily in Italy, he swept his hand lovingly across the view of his current home. He roped us into hearing his life story by holding up his phone and asking if any of us had left it there. In a very broken English and Italian with no Sicilian dialect, he told us how he’d made his way to becoming a restaurant owner in Santa Barbara. He belted out some opera strains in a masterful voice, the first music we’d hear today. When I asked for more, he said, “That’s what my customers wanted — more!” Not another note came out, but he shared the entire tale of how he retired.
He knew it was time to sell when a civil engineer friend told him a bridge would be built that would take foot traffic away from his restaurant. A potential buyer looked at his profitable books and asked why he’d sell. He feigned that he had allergies and had to go back to Italy. A quick cash sale ensued. The end of the pier where he snagged fish and tourists became his new office.
I had heard one could see the tar pits in the sand used by the Chumash in the town of Carpinteria. We searched for them on a trail high up on a bluff that passed a muster point for oil workers coming and going from seven or eight oil rigs we could spot off the coast. We asked a man who looked comfortably local where the tar pits were. We learned his entire livelihood story with the better and worse oil companies that extracted oil offshore. We never found the pits but we enjoyed another cluster of seals sunning by the oil company pier.
The short ride in great weather with coastal views kept our pace slow until we reached the Ventura County Museum where I knew about a display representing Chumash culture. We drummed and struck chords on instruments in an exhibit.
After the brief but substantive museum visit, I switched into high gear in anticipation of reuniting with Ryan Martinez, one of the core seven riders on my very first long distance bike trip in 2015. The day before that trip started, Ryan had gone for coffee in the Hummingbird Cafe in San Diego where Allen Giese held our pre-ride meeting. Allen’s introduction intrigued Ryan. The two men talked and Ryan joined our group with less than 24 hours to prepare. He left a job, a girl, and a band on a dime. He added young vitality and strength to our group. When we reached the continental divide, he jumped up and grabbed the sign and dangled from it. He and Casey, another young rider, always added another challenge to each day’s ride, like hiking to the top of whatever hill was nearby.
In Texas in 2015, we visited Ann and Gerry, friends of Ed, another rider. They made us pizza from scratch. Ann was taking ukulele lessons. Ryan picked up her ukulele, never having touched one, and played his heart and ours out.
Remembering Ryan and the ukelele struck a chord. Our wonderful new support driver, Mary, brought her ukulele among her tiny bit of luggage. I had to get Mary and Ryan together for music-making. Ryan drove 4 1/2 hours from San Diego to see Brenda and me and meet our current cycling team. At my request, he brought his guitar. After Thai take out dinner in the spacious living area of our hotel room, and lots of catching up conversation after six years, Mary declared it was time for music. They melted our hearts and fed our souls with duos and solos until way too late, given our long ride into Los Angeles tomorrow. We wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Start: Santa Barbara CA
End: Port Hueneme CA (a military town)
Distance: 46.4 miles
Cumulative distance: 1871.2 miles (91% done)
Elevation gain: 971 feet (FLAT, finally!)
© 2021 Lynnea C Salvo