Tagged: Santa Barbara

That Time I Rode a Bike Eighty Miles from a Wedding

Last month, I travelled to California to attend two weddings—one for Nicole and Tom, and another for Jason and Jamie. Both couples are friends who live in Southern California.

The first wedding, though a worthwhile affair, involved driving from Los Angeles for about 230 miles each way to the Central Coast–town of Paso Robles. As someone who doesn’t care for driving much anymore, it was difficult to pilot a car for two four-hour one-way drives.

For the second wedding, I changed my approach. I would do no driving. Instead, I took Amtrak from Burbank to Santa Barbara on the day of the wedding with my California-road bike in tow. After spending the night on a friend’s couch, I would return to the LA area by bicycle. The morning following the wedding, I sucked down some coffee, a calorie-rich breakfast, and a couple of Ibuprofen tablets before riding eighty miles to Santa Clarita. From there, I planned to catch a direct Metrolink train back to the Antelope Valley.

Trip 4503358 map full

This would match the longest ride I had done on the west coast. It’s not NYC-to-Montauk, but it’s still a long ride, especially after partying at a friend’s wedding.

From the Sea to the Desert

The first thing about traveling from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita is that the entire trip is actually along an easterly heading. Most everyone who drives a car thinks that Ventura is south of Santa Barbara because one takes US-101 South to get there. But between Point Conception and Point Mugu, the Pacific Ocean is mostly south—not west—of the California coastline, thus the trip is just as much east-west, as it is north-south.

The second thing about this trip is that there are two possible routes to take to Santa Clarita.

  1. Via Ojai. This route is about 90 miles and is very hilly with about a mile of vertical gain. It includes a long eleven-mile, thousand-foot ascent before descending, almost as long and as steep, into the Santa Clara River valley just east of Santa Paula. When I mentioned this route to a friend, he referenced Greg LeMond, which turned me off to this option because of the requisite effort. Had I not been at a wedding the night before and carrying about 15 pounds of stuff in a backpack, I would have taken this route.

    Instead, I went…

  2. Via Ventura. This route is about 80 miles and is very flat. The route more or less follows “southbound” US-101 and then continues along eastbound CA-126. Taking this route gives a rider a taste of several Southern California terrains, including the sea, the desert, and the ‘burbs.

This route starts along the section of US-101 named “Pacific Coast Highway” and, because it is along the seashore, also appears to be one of the most popular bike routes in the region.

Apres Hallows Wedding Ride to Santa Clarita

This stretch of the route ends in downtown Ventura, where you will come upon a quaint main street, appropriately called “Main Street.”

Apres Hallows Wedding Ride to Santa Clarita

After downtown Ventura, I stopped by a little burger spot to get some lunch. I hear you can get things “animal style,” which isn’t as gross as it might sound.

Apres Hallows Wedding Ride to Santa Clarita

As I waited for my food at In ‘n’ Out, I found two other cyclists who were more or less riding the same route—in reverse, from Chatsworth to Santa Barbara. They had some mishaps in that they were fighting a headwind the entire way—which was my tailwind gently pushing me east—and even had to escort a friend whose tire blew out back to a train station. I pitied them at first, but then I reminded them that the story of cycling is a lot better when someone asks, “how are you two holding up on this ride?” and respond with, “Great, but there were three of us when we started.”

After Ventura, the route traverses through some quintessential Southern California terrain: citrus groves, oil fields, and the banks of the desiccated Santa Clara River.

Apres Hallows Wedding Ride to Santa Clarita

The terrain completes its transition to desert as the elevation increases and approaches Castaic Junction, where CA-126 connects with I-5, north of Valencia.

Apres Hallows Wedding Ride to Santa Clarita

Apres Hallows Wedding Ride to Santa Clarita

As I approached the last ten miles of the route, I came upon two stretches of CA-126, just west of Castaic Junction, that had no shoulder for me to ride.

Apres Hallows Wedding Ride to Santa Clarita

I bypassed the first stretch by jumping over the barricade and riding on hard pack. But the second stretch was just a ravine: I had to “take the lane” on a road where cars regularly speed at 60-70 MPH. It reminded me of riding on Tyburn Road in Morrisville, Pennsylvania during my inaugural Cheesesteak Century where I had to sprint and merge onto a highway with big trucks barreling towards me.

Tyburn Road in Morrisville, Pennsylvania is an awful place to ride a bike.

Tyburn Road in Morrisville, Pennsylvania is an awful, awful place to ride a bike because it’s a heavily potholed highway. Yikes!

East of Castaic Junction, the route heads south and is essentially suburban as you ride through California’s eighteenth largest city. For seven miles you’ll ride past industrial parks, shopping centers, and overly planned subdivisions to ultimately arrive at the Metrolink station at Santa Clarita.

Apres Hallows Wedding Ride to Santa Clarita

This might not be the most arduous ride, and judging from the Strava heat maps, it’s not the most unexplored route to take. But if you’re looking for a direct way, low-traffic route to get between Santa Barbara and Santa Clarita, this will do just fine.

Santa Clarita to Oxnard and Santa Barbara via CA-126

Until I was in high school, all I knew of Santa Barbara was that Michael Jackson and Ronald Reagan both lived near there and that it was the setting for a long-running soap opera. But one day, in my junior year of high school, a friend and I drove from the Antelope Valley to Santa Barbara for a day trip out of the high desert. Once we arrived, I was struck by remarkable differences in topography—desert versus beach, 2000-foot elevation versus sea level—but also by the drive. It was a much longer drive than I had done to that point: my parents didn’t really drive very far so most of our car trips were about an hour long and almost all contained within Los Angeles county. Driving over 100 miles, through two different counties, seemed to me then as extraordinary as biking 100 miles across state lines seems to me today.

A good portion of the drive from the desert to the sea is on CA-126, between Santa Clarita and Ventura. That road has undergone a lot changes since the mid-1990s. The thirty-two mile stretch between Santa Clarita and Santa Paula was more or less a one-lane country road, but today, it is a nice two-lane byway with a wide shoulder. Over the years, I noticed cyclists riding on this road, and at the time, it seemed crazy that someone would ride a bike that far, but as you know, I’m that crazy now.

On New Year’s Day, I hitched a ride with my mom to Santa Clarita and then biked fifty-odd miles to Oxnard for a friend’s New Year’s Eve dinner.

Santa Clarita to Oxnard via Santa Paula

It’s been atypically cold here in Southern California and on New Year’s Eve, it was downright chilly and windy. Fortunately, that wind was at my back for almost the entire ride and, to make matters even better, the ride is almost entirely downhill.

Santa Clarita to Oxnard: All downhill

My first stop was in Fillmore: a town that I kind of hated driving through because it forced me to slow to a pokey 40 MPH and even stop when I would inevitably come across a red traffic light. But on a bike, Fillmore was an oasis.

Santa Clarita to Oxnard

There are a bunch of places to stop and eat there, although I am convinced I picked the one that was the most expensive serving the most forgettable food. After eating a BLT, I headed back out on the country roads of eastern Ventura country, surrounded by citrus groves in full bloom. For whatever reason, as I rode through those roads, I kept thinking of two quintessential movies about the roots of modern Southern California: Chinatown and There Will Be Blood.

Santa Clarita to Oxnard

The next town on the route was Santa Paula, where the CA-126 turns into a freeway. At that point, I did something I had never done before: I rode through the town of Santa Paula, where I found another decommissioned gas station. This one however was not abandoned by adapted into an auto repair shop.

Santa Clarita to Oxnard

The rest of the ride was along Telegraph Road all the way to Ventura. The road runs parallel to the old railroad that ran through the Santa Clara River Valley, suggesting the strong historical connection between railroads and telegraph lines.

I arrived in Oxnard for a dinner with a few friends, and then to cap off the night, took a train to Santa Barbara for a New Year’s Eve party with some very old friends to, as they say, ring in the new year.


Santa Barbara obviously means a lot more to me today—both good and bad—than it did twenty years ago, when I associated it with two 1980s American icons and a soap opera.

Happy New Year!

The above link to Amazon is an affiliate link. If you buy something that link, I will earn a commission fee.

Labor Day Weekend

Much like I did last year for Labor Day Weekend, I had the pleasure of going to Southern California for a long weekend, which ended up for a couple of reasons a little longer than I had originally planned. The weekend was pretty relaxing, in fact, but there was a few things I got to do.


My dad had been wanting to buy a camera for a few months now since his existing point-and-shoot was insufficient for taking photos of the nephew. On the Saturday, we drove down to the Fairfax district to Samy’s Camera for a little camera shopping. He settled on the Canon EOS 60D, the kit with the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS UD Zoom Lens and the very popular Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. We got to try out the camera right away, taking photos of my nephew at his home in Sylmar but also in Santa Barbara, where I was interviewed for the KCSB Documentary, currently in production.


As I’ve traveled to visit my family over the last couple of years, I’ve resisted renting a car and relying on the Southland’s somewhat limited transportation system. To get to Santa Barbara, my dad and I took Amtrak from Union Station, which we had to drive to reach, to Santa Barbara, on both the commuter-like Pacific Surfliner and the Coast Starlight, akin to a more canonical passenger rail. It was a first for both of us.


The trip was also memorable because it was the first time since I left home for college that I saw my mom for two consecutive weeks. She was here for an eight-day span, from August 23 to August 31, extended because Hurricane Irene had cancelled all flights in and out of New York for an entire weekend. The following day, I boarded my flight bound for LAX, and I saw there until I left on Tuesday, September 6.

The above links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you buy something through those links, I will earn a commission fee.