The Gem, Not Quite Hidden

The Gem, Not Quite Hidden

Long before I moved to California, it stood as a mythic destination for me. My first attraction to California arose out of skateboarding in the 1970s. Dogtown, a locale hidden somewhere within the great wilds of Los Angeles—I really didn’t understand where Santa Monica was—stirred within me an urge to go west. Just what I might be chasing, just what that coast might unlock within me, I understood on an unconscious level. A few years would pass and I moved on to music as my next great love, playing drums in a succession of rock bands. As I began to read about my favorite formations, certain destinations turned up repeatedly, London, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco. That one state might have such a disproportionate influence on music intrigued me. From the psychedelia of Haight Ashbury to the studio scene of Hollywood, and even the sheer unlikeliness of Frank Zappa’s home base in the San Fernando Valley, California was home to more different musical dreams than London and New York combined.

There’s a distance between our ideals and reality, what we want and what we need. Hollywood and Golden Gate Park remain, for me, curiosities. Attractions in a way that can only be described as touristy, for my presence there—when it happens—isn’t one integrated into the fabric of my life. However, I’ve learned that other parts of California fit me like a favorite pair of shoes.

IMG_9274One of the more breathtaking views from Montaña de Oro State Park. 

My first trips to the Central Coast of California were all for cycling. I began with the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, added helping after helping of the Solvang Century, and tacked on a few races for good measure. The place beguiled me, seduced me with the power of a new perfume. The attraction was as obvious as it was subtle. First was the simple fact of its less crowded roads, which made any riding more pleasant. Then there was the diversity of terrain; it was possible to find opportunities for flat rides, great mountainous adventures and completely overdose on rolling hills that would make a Dutchman burn with envy. I’ve explored Solvang and Buellton, Monterey and Pacific Grove, Ventura and Ojai, and while I’d ridden some in San Luis Obispo, it was the spot that seemed to hold more promise, more need for exploration than the others.

I recently took my family to Cambria to dig a bit deeper into its cycling treasures. Normally, when I’m up that way I either stay in San Luis Obispo or Paso Robles. This time, I wanted to be right on the coast to give my family access to the beach and put me a short distance from a diverse range of riding.

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  1. Full Monte

    Ye be of good fortune to have skateboarded in the year MLXX. It was my plot in life to have joined Malcolm, King of the Scots, in his raid of England that year. Lost the tip of me finger to an English archer’s bodkin, I did. Could be worse. Was wearing a kilt at the time.

  2. kurti_sc

    Nice. Thanks for providing the intrigue. I’m sometimes in the Sylmar area (1 – 2x per year). I have no idea where to consider riding. It all has ‘potential’ but all looks way too congested. I may just have to try a bit further north…

    1. Author

      Kurti_sc: Drop a note next time you are out here. I can make a few suggestions. Maybe even hook up for a ride.

  3. Aaron

    I first moved to California in the summer of 1990 as I landed a gig at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I quickly discovered what a slice of heaven it was as I had to good fortune to land there for a short two years. Not only was the trail running spectacular, but the road riding was great, and the trails were plentiful. Some day, I’ll live there again; and Montaña de Oro State Park will be back in spitting distance. I ache for it. Hopefully the secret is safe with the readers of RKP, as we don’t want it to become overly crowded.

    P.S. be prepared to come into contact with poison oak, it grows like weeds out there.

  4. Hoshie99

    Shhhh! Don’t let the secret out.

    I discovered road cycling as a sophomore at Cal Poly and made the collegiate team as a junior. The area is perfect for cycling if you know where to go and has a long standing cycling culture.


  5. SusanJane

    SLO is an interesting place. Sort of in the middle of these huge urban areas. It reminds me a little bit of Chico which is also relatively isolated. SLO is hardly flat being stuck in the hills and not far from the ocean. Chico has tons of flat and a bit of hills. The problem with both is a lack of jobs. There’s good reason why some pros choose the wine country with plenty of flats, hills, steep “hills”, open farm land, ocean over that way. The pros with family who need jobs can do the commute to the Bay Area where there are a few more jobs. So I think your secrets about SLO are safe… at least from more residents, just watch out for those tourists with bikes stuck on the tops of their cars.

  6. Dave

    The pot pies at Linn’s… Heavenly. Whenever I take the family that way we eat there. Been going there since before it burned down and was rebuilt. The fruit pies are pretty special too.

  7. Adam

    Sold! I’ve added it to my list of places to go on a road trip early next year when my sister visits from Australia. Probably won’t have a bike to ride but it looks worth it. I’ll keep the secret.

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