Tagged: Santa Clarita

Santa Clarita to Moorpark: the Metrolink Open-Jaw Ride

As my month-long stay in Southern California drew to a close, I felt motivated to ride once more before returning to the late-January version of New York City, where cycling can often be an unpleasant experience. A couple of days before I left, I mapped a ride for my last full day in town.

Map: Santa Clarita to Moorpark

The ride started at the Metrolink station in Santa Clarita, followed the roads along the Santa Clara River west to the Ventura Harbor, and looped back east to finish in Moorpark. The start and end points took advantage of Metrolink’s generous bicycle policy that allows passengers to bring bicycles on to rush-hour, peak direction trains, and also the idiosyncratic schedule of Metrolink’s Ventura County line. The forty-minute ride from Vincent Grade to Santa Clarita costs only $6 for the morning segment, but in the afternoon, the Ventura County line only sends its LA-bound trains from Moorpark.

Also, at 92 miles, the ride is tantalizingly close to a century.

Metrolink Open-Jaw: Santa Clarita to Moorpark

There’s a lot of different terrain covered in this ride:

Santa Clarita to Castaic Junction. This segment goes through the suburbs of the Santa Clarita Valley through Saugus and Valencia along the bicycle paths lining the Santa Clara River.

Castaic Junction to Fillmore. For nearly 20 miles, you ride along the wide shoulder of CA-126, through the heart of the Santa Clara River valley. Looking at the Strava heat maps, it certainly looks to be a popular cycling route in the area. There are mountains on either side, a few rolling hills as you wind along this route, and plenty of farms in the distance.

Apres Hallows Wedding Ride to Santa Clarita

Fillmore to Santa Paula. Most of this ride happens on Bardsale Avenue and South Mountain Roads. I enjoy this particular stretch because not only do you ride along the Santa Susana Mountains and Santa Clara River, you also pass alternating patches of oil fields and citrus groves that are vital to the regional economy.

Apres Hallows Wedding Ride to Santa Clarita

Santa Paula to Ventura on Foothill Road. This stretch of road includes a significant amount of climbing but comes with the reward of sweeping views of the Ventura-Oxnard basin, the Pacific Ocean, and even the Channel Islands. It was one of my favorite sections from the New Year’s Day Kickoff Century ride.

Kicking Off 2016 with a Century

Ventura to Port Hueneme on the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route. After passing through downtown Ventura, you ride on very flat roads that comprise the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route from the Ventura Harbor to PCH (CA-1) just north Point Mugu. As you follow the coast, you pass a number of marinas and other signs of coastal living.

Metrolink Open-Jaw: Santa Clarita to Moorpark

Port Hueneme to Camarillo. South of US-101, this segment includes more farms. My favorite moment was riding on Santa Rosa Road next to a vast field of cilantro that I first found by smell.

Camarillo to Moorpark. This final stretch of the ride, north of US-101, goes through the suburban terrain of Santa Rosa Valley and Thousand Oaks rising over Las Posas Hills, overlooking the Tierra Rejada Valley, on Moorpark Road before descending to the Simi Valley and the city of Moorpark.

This particular ride took me significantly longer than I had expected. It had rained the day before, and there was a lot of debris on the road. Over the course of the day, I had three flat tires, including two on a ten-mile stretch between Santa Clarita and Fillmore. Also, since the construction on CA-126 I encountered last April continues, I had to dismount and walk my bike on the soft, muddy shoulder for about a mile. There was no room for me to pedal with automobiles traveling about 60 MPH zooming past me. I estimated that I lost about 90 minutes due to these setbacks.

I arrived at the end of the ride just after 4:00 PM, in time for Enegren Brewing to open its doors for the day and with plenty of time to catch the 4:57 PM train from Moorpark.

Metrolink Open-Jaw: Santa Clarita to Moorpark

But I didn’t have to rush. My mother came to meet me, and we took our time driving back from Ventura County.

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!

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