Thankful for the families that we’re born into and the families that we find. Thanksgiving is a favorite time for me, a festive holiday centered around food and family. The past couple years have been tough in that I haven’t been able to spend Thanksgiving with my family, missing out on the mornings catching up with cousins and the hours spent cooking up a feast of Korean and American comforts. But we’ve been fortunate on the west coast, too, welcomed by friends to their dinner tables and making a little community of our own out here. This year we were invited by friends to join in on their new tradition of taking a Thanksgiving bike tour, and I can’t imagine a better way to have spent the long weekend.
We started at the Metrolink station in Palmdale, California in Los Angeles County at the edge of the Mojave Desert (in the Antelope Valley, or just ‘the AV’ as I’ve found). This was the meeting point for the group to start our ride, as most of us were coming with our bikes by train from the Santa Barbara and Los Angeles areas.
Once we all convened, the route took us past Elizabeth Lake via Elizabeth Lake Road and Lake Hughes Road. Lake Hughes Road is gorgeous riding, descending through the valley in the Sierra Pelona range with sweeping views of the landscape and fairly minimal car traffic. It goes down past Castaic Lake then spits out at Castaic Junction, which with its build-up of chain restaurants and fast traffic is a bold contrast to those rural roads.
We took to the 126 past Castaic, which has a medium-sized shoulder with lots of debris on a fairly fast thoroughfare shooting west through the area. It was a little too loud and narrow to make for pleasant riding with a group, but was a fairly fast route back towards the coast. The road improved significantly once entering Ventura, which I’ve always enjoyed riding through on bike. From Ventura, it was familiar riding on familiar ground back north to Santa Barbara.
Group Bike Touring
Group bike touring is something I’d never really done before this weekend. For most of my prior touring it’d be me and Adam and occasionally one or two others. We were a ragtag bunch made up of some of us with many previous bike touring miles and others who’d never ridden more than ten miles in a single ride before, which meant exchanging a lot of stories and tips throughout. Super special kudos to Alex, who breezily rode with the front of the pack the entire time on his first-ever bike tour – on a mountain bike with jury-rigged panniers to boot.
Highlights from the ride:
- Touring with 12 people! Occasionally logistically challenging, but basically a roaming party the entire time. Mostly ended up splitting up into two or three smaller groups on long stretches of riding, but what a sight to see when the group was all together.
- Our Thanksgiving dinner was potluck style, with the added challenge of cooking everything either over the campfire or over small backpacking stoves. (And of course carrying everything in with us by bike.) Cooking this way made it a course meal out of necessity, due to the limited number of pots and cooking space. So it’s fair to say we had something like a ten-course feast, including two full salads, green bean casserole, spaghetti squash, turkey and veggie sausages, stuffing and gravy, lentil soup, lots of pie, and spiked Mexican hot chocolate.
- Rode, in fine form and full touring style, through the Santa Paula Christmas parade on Saturday morning. We warmed up the crowds travelling in the reverse direction of parade travel and through the groups warming up for the parade itself (which was yet to begin). One of us emerged on the opposite end with extra holiday flair on his bike.
After all this, I’d highly recommend getting together a bunch of friends to go bike touring as a group. It’s a great bonding experience and fun to work through the unanticipated logistical or navigational challenges together.
If you’re in the Santa Barbara area, there’s a bike overnight event organized annually by the SB Bike Coalition called ‘Tour de Tent’ which sounds like a great first dip into traveling by bicycle – description of last year’s ride here. I haven’t attended before but a few others on this trip had done it in the past. I also love this part of the ride description: “The theme is that overnight touring by bicycle is wildly fun, surprisingly easy, and both socially and environmentally progressive.” Agreed 100%.