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.
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.