Cycling The Pacific Coast Daily Travels

Daily Travels: El Capitan State Beach, CA to McGrath State Beach, CA

The Ride

Route: Follow the Bike Route Signs & Stay Close to Shore

Distance: ~90km/56mi

Weather: Mid-20s, Mostly Sunny, Moderate Crosswinds and Tailwinds

Total Climbing: ~270m/885ft [Much Flatter Terrain After Gaviota State Park]

The Rest

Breakfast: Granola & Banana

Lunch: Nada          Dinner: Ramen & Spices

Snacks: Clif Bar & Kit Kat Bar      Beverages: Water, Coffee

Previous Night’s Sleep: 10:30pm to 6:30am [8 hours]

Previous Night’s Accommodation: El Capitan State Beach

Flatter, Livelier, Easier [Still Beautiful]

Following one final climb after Gaviota State Park, the route flattens considerably. Hillviews remain prominent [see below], but there is a sufficient flatness beside the shore to fit a busy highway, parking lots, beaches, and, at times, bike paths, without forcing the route over any notable climbs. With another friendly tailwind for much of the day, I rolled into the easiest ninety kilometres I could have envisioned. Only my desire to begin slowing down with intention, to soak in the beautiful scenery and weather rather than sweat through it, stopped me from pushing much further.

Beginning on the outskirts of Santa Barbara, the route feels more dense and busy. With every beach, RVs and cars and people line extended stretches of the highwayside. In some moments, I longed for a demanding climb along a quieter road, to escape the anxiety of a vehicle door suddenly opening in my way. Alas, these scenes are a part of the trip, too. They demand a different form of connection and trust with my surroundings. An altered sense of awareness. Less wilderness, more buildings. Less openness, more density. Less quiet, more sound. I needed a solid chunk of miles and time to adjust to these changes.

But, man, beauty is everywhere. More people to connect with on the beaches and bike paths. More stories and hellos. And, the stunning scenery remains prominent; I need only a little more energy to feel through the noise and crowds to notice them. As I sat on a quiet shore at McGrath State Beach to watch another sunset, I felt a notable sense of peace, a meaningful connection to this world. After returning to the hike or bike campsites for a solid conversation with six other cyclists, including my Belgian riding buddy, I felt a peace in another form, another kind of meaningful connection. Beauty is everywhere.

Two Quick Hits & One Not-So Quick Hit

  • Perhaps the most appreciated perk of rolling into more pleasant weather: riding in sandals. I’ve officially retired my socks and cycling shoes on this trip. I can’t over-exaggerate my love for open-toes travel.
  • State Street in the city of Santa Barbara is a memorable scene. Great architecture, plenty of shops and restaurants, and a lively-but-not-too-busy vibe. An urban spot I’d be interested in exploring again. I stopped at a cafe for a coffee and an REI [the American equivalent of MEC] to buy a much-needed splint for a broken tentpole.
  • In Ventura, I rested outside a McDonald’s to utilize the free Wi-Fi. [Quick aside to this not-so quick hit: the Wi-Fi at McDonald’s has been the most consistently fast and reliable out of every free provider along the way. Noticeably better than Starbucks and Safeway. For all their fast-food faults, McDonald’s offers great internet service!]. During many breaks on this trip, I’ve left my bike unlocked and packs unaccompanied. But, always, I carry my handlebar bag, which holds my passport, wallet, and money. At this McDonald’s, I did the same, as always. As I prepared to leave, I placed my handlebar bag loosely atop my packs on the rear rack. Then, I began to ride my last stretch of the day, and I didn’t stop for twenty kilometers. When I arrived at McGrath State Beach, my chosen destination for the evening, I reached to find cash inside my handlebar bag, to pay the attendant for a hike-or-bike campsite. Suddenly, I noticed my handlebar bag wasn’t there. Oh, no. In a brief moment of panic, I assumed my passport, wallet, and money were still sitting at McDonald’s, enjoying the free Wi-Fi twenty kilometres back. I looked up and around in anguish, loathing the thought of riding all the way back to retrieve these essentials. The attendant tried to console me. I wasn’t having it. I was quietly stewing and livid… As I glanced back to prepare for my return to McDonald’s, I caught a glimpse of the rear rack. I noticed my handlebar bag, still resting loosely atop my packs. Oh, wow. For twenty kilometers, with every bump and turn, it hadn’t fallen off. My passport, wallet, and money were still there. I laughed maniacally and reattached my handlebar bag to its rightful place. I exclaimed to the attendant how fortunate I was in that moment. She smiled and told me to remember this lucky moment during my next unlucky one [I’d lose a shoe the very next day…]. This not-so quick hit is a part of my effort not to forget this fortune.

Pictures of the Day

Beginning in Santa Barbara, there are far more opportunities to avoid highwayside riding. For lengthy stretches between Santa Barbara and Ventura, I enjoyed pedaling on dedicated bike paths with the neverending beaches in clear view. Kudos to the Coastal Trail!
Mid-day break on a rocky beach. With the hills and cliffs now further from the shore, roads and paths can run on flatter edges beside the ocean. Easier riding, no doubt.
Peaceful end to the day at McGrath State Beach, just south of Ventura.
Hey there, ol’ friend.

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