Here’s the continuation of my coffeeneuring in 2013, with part one here. It was nice to complete this run in a new city, as last year’s trips took me around the Washington, DC area. My new home base has proven itself a fine land for coffee adventuring thus far.
Visit to Handlebar Coffee Roasters on Saturday, November 9th
128 East Canon Perdido Street, Santa Barbara, California
Ride distance: 14.7 miles
This place is uber-hip and serves delicious coffee. The patio, tucked in an alley and open to the cafe counter, is small but welcoming, and on this particular weekend afternoon happiness seemed effortless. It’s amazing what a space for enjoying the art of coffee can do for the neighborhood.
See? The art of coffee.
I wanted to do a quick write-up on what it’s like to volunteer with the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition (SB Bike) since we’ve had a great time working with this organization over the past couple of months. SB Bike is involved with bicycle advocacy work and is an incredible part of the community here. Bici Centro is the leg of SB Bike that operates as a community bike shop, teaching people how to fix up their bikes and refurbishing donated bikes. You can volunteer or work on your own bike during the Bici Centro open shop hours. Volunteers share their know-how and almost every tool you might need is on hand.
There are other ways to volunteer as well: joining in advocacy efforts like working towards new bike lanes; checking bikes at the valet for Santa Barbara Bowl events; educating youth about bike safety; and helping out at various special events listed on the SB Bike calendar.
Last weekend, SB Bike was out at the first (annual?) Santa Barbara Open Streets event, tabling with information about bike resources and advocacy in Santa Barbara. Open Streets is a worldwide project – modeled off of the weekly Ciclovía in Bogotá, Colombia - to close streets to motorized traffic for a day and take in the pleasure of people-powered movement. Bici Centro was also set up at Open Streets, helping with quick mechanical fixes for riders.
This weekend, SB Bike hosted a volunteer appreciation barbecue in its backyard space. SB Bike loves its volunteers and definitely made us all feel recognized – with live music, great food, bike-related giveaways, and a fire for all to gather ’round. This is a great city for cycling that’s only getting better. If you want to get involved in the cycling community in Santa Barbara, check out the website for the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition at www.sbbike.org.
Currently I’m very much in the exploratory stage of settling into our new home: learning best routes to get around, acquiring a sense of how things are oriented, and seeking out the best cafes. This last point is helped along by my friend Mary’s annual autumn Coffeeneuring Challenge, which inspires many utilitarian cyclists around the country – and perhaps around the world – to bike to seven different coffee shops by Sunday, November 17th and report back, well-caffeinated. Any reason for riding bikes and sipping coffee is fine by me, so here are my first four rides.
A great weekend trip up north to Big Sur, a scenic part of the central California coast where I had last been on the bike trip with Adam. It was definite change to see things from inside a car, with the tight curves of the Pacific Coast Highway passing in a blur. I was both pleased to see other cyclists enjoying this beautiful stretch of coastline and anxious about how little space they really had on the road, with a constant stream of fast-moving cars and motorcyclists enjoying the drive. To be honest, I’m not sure I’d ride the PCH again on a bicycle, at least not on a busy weekend.
Big Sur is an interesting area. The first time we passed through we couldn’t figure out when we were actually in Big Sur. The signage seems to disagree on what bounds the region. There’s a little community that calls itself “Big Sur” toward the northern reach of Big Sur, but the region continues quite a bit further south along the PCH. The shift in landscape is very apparent as you leave Big Sur, however.
We hiked through stands of coastal redwoods and set up a miniature tent city at our site. With the decreasing daylight, we donned headlamps and finished cooking dinner into the darkness. We consumed close to twenty heads of garlic in one meal (almost 2 heads of garlic per person). An early start that morning, a good uphill hike, and 10 o’clock quiet hours meant we were all in our tents with plenty of time to sleep off the long day.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is a great choice if you’re looking to camp in the area. It’s popular but large enough to accommodate hundreds of people, and offers hiking trails in walking distance of your site.
In the evening, we took time out to admire the stars. You can see so many out there.
The quality and abundance of produce here is staggering. The first time we went to the neighborhood farmers market here was eye-opening. So much grows here, and availability of certain fruits or veggies depends less on following the seasons than it did back east. In DC, we shopped much more seasonally: the market only ran from May to November, and what you could purchase was highly dependent on what was available that time of year. At the Goleta farmers market, I found not only peaches, berries, tomatoes, kale, squash, meats, and dairy, but local dates, figs, nuts, and honey, as well as many, many vegetables I couldn’t identify.
Did you know there are many varieties of avocado? I had no idea. The flavor varies: some are nuttier than others, some grow much larger, some are rounder while others are more pear-shaped. One of the many avocado vendors this morning gave me three free avocados when I paid for mine. That’s something you wouldn’t get at the supermarket.
It never registered in my mind that in Washington, DC, it’s just not as easy to get fresh, local produce without going out of your way. The produce stocked at the supermarket is shipped in from hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away. The farms represented at the DC farmers markets came from further away than you’d expect, too. The Washington, DC metropolitan area is growing too urban for farms – look at how much Loudoun County, an exburb of DC located about 40 miles from downtown, has shifted from its historic roots as a farming community – so they’re located further out in the rural parts of Maryland, Virginia, or Pennsylvania. And produce is much more expensive in DC. In Goleta, many of the farmers market vendors are from within Santa Barbara County, and at least one of them (Fairview Gardens) only has to drive their produce two miles to bring it to market. Most of the farms are right in Goleta or Santa Barbara. You can get fifty-cent avocados or a huge bunch of kale for a dollar at the regular supermarket. We’ve been eating well.
But that’s an inevitable difference between being located right in the middle of a huge agricultural area versus being on a more built-up coast. Besides the people, whom I miss above all, there are other things I prefer about DC living:
- The abundance of Asian supermarkets in the suburbs. We have small Asian markets in Goleta and Santa Barbara, but they’re overpriced.
- Our favorite Ethiopian takeout place, Zenebech Injera in Shaw. Washington, DC has the largest concentration of Ethiopians in the U.S. and Ethiopian food is some of the best affordable cuisine around.
- All the neighborhoods in DC – and parts of Arlington – are only a few miles away. Things are much less dense here, and it seems like a lot of the places we go to are in suburban-style shopping centers. Going through busy parking lots on a bike is the worst.
I’ll surely miss the crisp autumn weather that should be approaching DC soon. Even the winter holds fond memories of getting bundled up to ride to work in the dark, with only my thoughts and a bright beam of light leading the way, and the sudden comfort of leaving the outside freeze and entering a heated building. Everyone here tells me I won’t miss winter. I think it’ll depend on reading the more subtle cues that mark the passage of seasons here.
I love arriving at a new place that welcomes visitors with a sign that goes beyond the standard highway sign. They show off local pride and give you a sense of place that helps you distinguish it from any other town. Small towns in America often plaster their claims to fame on their welcome signs, ranging from the modest (Twin Bridges, Montana: “The Small Town That Cares”) to the baffling (Alexandria, Minnesota: “Birthplace of America”). I looked that one up later.
Many towns, of course, merely describe their physical location. Portland, Michigan, for example, calls itself the “City of Two Rivers,” which I suppose you won’t argue; it sits at the confluence of the Grand River and the Looking Glass River. Some towns pay respects to the local fauna, which I like to think may be more abundant than the people there. This could be the case of Norwalk, Wisconsin, “The Black Squirrel Capital of the World.”
Others were amusing to me when read in succession. We were welcomed by a sign to Fargo, North Dakota: “Gateway to the West” only to find that a few days of riding later we were in Mandan, North Dakota: “Where the West Begins.” I guess the gateway to the west is positioned two hundred miles east of where the west actually starts. It goes to show you how flexible place boundaries are depending on who you ask.
However, my favorite small town claim to fame may have to be the welcome sign for Marion, North Dakota: “Why Not Stop & Stretch” – simple and self-effacing. And a perfect suggestion if you’re cycling through.
The past few weeks, I’ve been getting to know my way around Goleta and downtown Santa Barbara by bicycle. There is a lot of cycling infrastructure in place, including prominently marked bicycle routes – such as the Cross Town Route, Foothill Route, or Coast Route – as well as bike lanes on many of the local streets.
As a newcomer to the area, I’ve found the Santa Barbara County Bike Map to be a great resource. It helps me decide to take one route over another based on availability of a bike lane or continuity with a signed route. It also shows a bit of topography, which is useful when you’re trying to avoid strenuous climbs, of which there aren’t really any between Goleta and Santa Barbara unless you detour into the foothills. (Or if you’re seeking out climbs, as some are apt to do.)
My commute has been cut from a 15-mile bike ride to a sub-2-mile ride, making it a bit too short, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to fit longer rides into my schedule. We’ve been asking around and local cyclists have recommended a few fun rides for us to try out sometime: the climb up the old San Marcos Road, the climb up Gibraltar Road, the ride up to Lake Casitas and Ojai. Can you see a theme here? We’ll definitely be getting our climbing legs living in California.
Here’s our summer bicycle tour, by the numbers. We like to keep tallies of various things that help us remember the good times along with the bad. Feel free to ask about details!
4,651 miles bicycled
131,138 feet of climbing – almost 25 miles of elevation gain
88 days on the road
53 nights of camping
19 nights staying with friends and family
12 nights with Warm Showers hosts
3 nights at a hostel or motel
12 rest days
5 days of riding with high temperature of at least 100°F
61 miles on an average day of riding
25 miles ridden on our shortest day
88 miles ridden on our longest day
10 pounds lost per person over duration of tour
93 pounds, weight of Adam’s bicycle fully-loaded
80 pounds, weight of Crystal’s bicycle fully-loaded
8 flat tubes
3 tires worn out
3 chains replaced
1 bottom bracket replaced (Adam’s)
1 faulty cleat screw (mine)
Generally our biggest trip expenses were lodging and food. Tent sites at campgrounds were more expensive until we hit the coast, when hiker/biker sites for $5 per person became abundant. We weren’t paying rent at the time, and the entire trip cost us less than we normally spent on Washington, DC rent.
$47.36 spent per day, or $23.68 per person per day
$15.93 average cost of camping for two
29 ounces of cooking gas used
9 batches of bagels baked
11 jars of peanut butter eaten
17 waffles consumed – and countless pancakes
43 scoops of ice cream enjoyed
150 beers drank
1/2 loaf of bread stolen from camp by raccoons
63 showers each – hey, we were usually camping
32 ounces of sunblock applied
4 awesome cyclists met on Muskegon-Milwaukee ferry
4 thunderstorms – all in Montana
2 test rides on fellow cyclists’ rigs
Our bike tour that took us across the country from Washington, DC and down the west coast came to a close yesterday, as we picked up the keys to our new apartment. We’re now living in Goleta, California, which is home to UC Santa Barbara and a short bike ride into downtown Santa Barbara.
We’re going to miss the life of bicycle touring: meeting new people everyday and striking up conversation everywhere, juggling the tasks of keeping ourselves fed and our bikes running smoothly and our devices charged, falling asleep exhausted to the lingering scent of our fellow travelers’ campfires. I almost feel spoiled now by electric light, the ability to turn on a faucet for clean water anytime, and a fixed roof over our heads. But I’m thankful for it, and I don’t think I’ll take these things for granted again.
Living on the road for three months has taught me to think on my feet and be flexible with our plans. It’s shown us that it’s possible to cover huge distances through our own strength and perseverance, that each epic journey is composed of small efforts stacked up over time. It has also reinforced my impression that most people are good. Friends, family, and even family of friends that we’d never met before took us in graciously and became our connection to home. And our friends back home never stopped sending their encouragement. With a lot of time to think while pedaling for hours daily, every kind word was repeated over and over again. I missed you all.
I often told people we met that we were moving by bicycle so that we would have the time to see everything in between. Traveling a distance by bike really shrinks it to human scale. DC to Pittsburgh felt like a long trip, then it wasn’t. It became a gravel trail, a week of camping, and a few inspiring conversations. When we entered Montana, we were amazed at the claim that crossing the state east-west was comparable to riding from New York City to Chicago. But for us it was really two weeks on the bike riding through gorgeous scenery and staying with wonderful folks who took us in before they knew us. That’s what travel does: it makes a place comprehensible, personal, and, for a short time, yours.
It’s a bittersweet feeling as our trip comes to a close. We’re trying our best to savor every moment, while looking forward with anticipation to our next stage in life. We tell everyone we meet we’re almost there, and each new day brings us nearer to Santa Barbara. Now we look at our destination on a map and it doesn’t seem so far, especially compared to how far we’ve come already.
Over the past few days, the colder coastal weather has been slowly warming up, with more hours of sunlight with each passing day. We stop often, to watch seals play or have a roadside snack or talk to other travelers. Bike paths are becoming more common, and we appreciate each one. Yesterday we passed huge strawberry farms with busloads of migrant workers listening to the radio as they worked in the heat of the day. Dusty roads greeted us with the aroma of strawberries. I saw my first field of artichokes – never imagined the plants looked the way they do. It’s nice to be out learning about the world first-hand.
We’ve had several big climbs that reward us with big vistas. Big Sur was a nice climb. A passing road cyclist cheered our effort. A morning climb today between Gorda and Ragged Point was a perfect start to the day, which is warming up quickly. The first half of the day is usually still blanketed by the marine layer, though. We have to run our headlights and taillights to be seen while riding, as we can barely see the road ahead of us ourselves.