Mel and I decided to play hooky from work last Thursday, and we talked our friends Louise & Gnugent into going on a bike ride with us up the California coast from Ventura to Carpenteria.
It was an ABSOLUTELY SPECTACULAR day. We could not have picked a better day to play hooky from work! The sun was out, the sky was blue. On the way up the coast, we even saw a pod of dolphins frolicking in the waves!!
These pictures aren't great - you can barely see fins popping out of the water. It's because I didn't bring a camera with me, just my cell phone. But we pulled over to the side of the road and just stood there watching them for awhile. As many times as I've ridden up this coast, I've never once seen anything but surfers. So this was exciting. A couple other cyclists pulled over with us and said that sometimes you can see whales too. So I'll definitely have to plan some rides when the whales are moving north!
We texted my brother Georgie, who lives in snowy NY, a picture of the coastline asking if he didn't wish he was playing hooky to go on a bike ride....
He responded: "I hate you". I sent him a note back that it's always nice to feel the brotherly love.... I'm sure it's not fun being taunted by your little sister while you're at work and she's engaging in your favorite past time..... ha ha.... That's what little sisters are for, right?
Louise, Mel, Gnugent, and I headed all the way up to Carpenteria. That's the farthest I've ever ridden up the coast - about 16 miles from where we started. You couldn't ask for a lovelier ride, except the part where we have to merge onto the freeway for a few miles. That part is SCARY! And we rode past La Conchita - the community that had the tragic landslide a couple of years ago that buried houses and killed a family. It's spooky. People still live there, so it looks like part ghost-town and part kitschy beach community. I had no idea when that happened how close it was to where I live.
Once in Carpenteria, we stopped at Tony's - a little hole-in-the-wall Italian place that Louise knew about. We split a salad and ravioli. I have to say, that might be the best meat sauce I've had since the last time I went to Vince's in Ontario! (Vince's is famous - if you're out in the Inland Empire, you must try one of their locations! But now I say, if you're in Carpenteria, you must try Tony's!)
Anyway, the salad was nothing special, but meat ravioli with their meat sauce - as Rachel Ray would say.... YUM-O! We practically licked our plates. Good thing they gave us garlic bread (which was also yummy - very thin crisp slices) to sop it up with.
Pleasantly satisfied, we headed back out on our bikes to find a Salt Marsh that Louise had read about. Conveniently, she had a map loaded on to her cell phone, and we realized that from Tony's, it wasn't far away. So we headed down the street, turned the corner, and there we were! The Carpenteria Salt Marsh Reserve turned out to be a lovely spot. Bikes aren't allowed out onto the reserve, so we hope we weren't breaking too many rules by walking (not riding) our bikes in (there was nowhere close by to lock up). There are some informational signs and a nice area to just sit and take in the scenery, which looked like this:
It doesn't look like much in a cell phone picture, but there was a stream running through - at the time we were there, the tide must have been coming in because the water was running away from the ocean and toward the mountains. We saw 2 egrets, a heron, and several hawks fly and land in the area, and just sat and listened to the sound of waves, birds calling, wind, and just quiet. It was such a lovely spot! We thought it would be a great place to bring a picnic lunch to. There were also signs that told about the geology of the area, wildlife, etc. So it would be an educational outing for kids too. It's not a huge area, at least, not what we saw, but soooo worth the trip.
We reluctantly turned around and headed back south down the street we came up. The street dead-ended at a campground, and we thought it might be nice to ride through there as it was right on the coast. There were some lovely views from the campground also:
This first picture was taken when riding over a bridge from one side of the campground to the other. Such a wonderful view of a river emptying out into the Pacific Ocean.
The campground dead-ended and we had to hoist our bikes over some railroad tracks to get back to the road out of town, but it was another side trip that was definitely worth it!
Reluctantly, we headed back out of town - a few miles on the freeway then back to the relative calm of Pacific Coast Highway (which is also not that calm - but much better than the freeway). It was mid-afternoon, the sun was still out, the sky was still blue. A perfect day to revel in God's creation. As Louise put it - it was like a whole vacation in one day.