August 27, 2016 5 min read
Escape from Alcatraz.
We were feeling the blues of our foggy, windy, and cold San francisco summer so we hatched a plan to escape. It had been a while since the sun kissed our skin, and we were feeling the need to visit some friends down south. We threw together an idea for a road trip, and packed our bags. First stop was in Santa Barbara to visit our friends over at Stinner Frameworks.
After arriving in Santa Barbara that evening we thought it would be appropriate to warm up our legs after the drive. After some Strava research we landed at Refugio Road, which starts at the ocean and heads straight up into the mountains. What could be better than tons of climbing after sitting in the car all day?
Ready for a little adventure, we kitted up and started up this unknown road.
About three quarters of a mile from where we parked, the road shoots upward. It continues up, and then a little more up, and then further and further up. Maybe not the best 'openers' for hitting the Gibraltar climb the next day...
Along the ride there are mansions and small estates sprinkled on the hillside, windmills and power lines too. We were told later that a US president once habited a residence up here and that secret service agents might have spied on you as you made your way up. The road eventually makes its way to an observatory and some radio antennae. We stopped to take in the scene, sip a few beers and finally feel a solid summer breeze.
The sun was setting and we had to head back down the way we came. Cue the part of the ride where the tourists take way too many sunset photos on our way down. We're not used to all this golden light and epic scenery so we stopped a million times. When the sun dipped below the hills, we started our real descent. And what a descent it was. You never really think about how steep a hill is until you have to go down it.
Brakes were hot, tires were slipping, and our hands were numb from clutching the brakes on our entire way down (no wonder the climb was so hard). It was dangerous, it was fun, it was the perfect way to start the trip. Now it was off to eat and get some rest before the Gibraltar the next day.
In the morning we woke up to crisp air and 60 degree temps and fog. Wait, what?! We came to Southern California for some heat! What was this 60 degree nonsense? Never-the-less we had to get going, so hit up the continental breakfast at our hotel. Matt had some stage racing flashbacks after seeing the hotel waffle machine, and Justin had a moment with a goose with an Elvis haircut and we packed up the van and headed over to Stinner HQ.
The crowd started rolling in and we hurried to get our bikes ready. Matt had the good fortune of riding a Stinner demo bike. They got him all set up on a steel steed with blue graphics (very Ornot) and we set off for a quick coffee stop at Handlebar Coffee. Once there, we met with another huge group of guys pregaming with caffeine. The Stinner guys then schooled us on what a coffee stop means in Santa Barbara. As opposed to the quick, get it down and saddle up practice of the Bay Area, Santa Barbarians take it a bit slower, catch up with friends, and make sure everyone is satisfied before continuing on the ride. We thought this might have been a sign that the rest of the ride might be just as casual.
A couple zig-zags through the neighborhood and then on the Gibraltar proper. We shed our vests because the heat has quickly turned on, and it doesn't stop the entire day. We set off up the hill with about 20 guys (and a gal) in tow. Images of Powless sprinting up these roads ran through my mind. The grade kicks up almost immediately and we set into a pace, their pace.
The Stinner group was no joke, this was not to be a casual ride. The employees alone (The Man Stinner himself included) were enough to get the pace going, not to mention they brought some young horsepower, and some old-man power as well. We moved quickly up the hill to our first stop "halfway" at the 'no shooting' sign.
From there it was another bagillion feet of climbing up some of the most beautiful hills we'd ever seen. The pavement was butter smooth and I don't think a single car passed us. Looking out to the west you could see just how far we had climbed and in how little time.
By the time we topped out, the sun was scorching. Most of us were out of water, but all of us were having a good time. We waited for a regroup and then started making our way through the rollers, and then down. (Whats with Santa Barbara and hairpin turns? We didn't get above 35 on the way down but it felt like we were hauling the entire way.) There was a quick euro style stop at a random neighborhood water spigot and then we were on the bottom cruising back to HQ.<
The group that made it back hung out in the shop for a while and chatted. A lucky few landed some free gear, and we bid a farewell to Aaron and some others that had to get back to real 'work'. Our buddy Mark led a little tour of the facility, showing us the inner workings of the operation, and some of the newest bikes being churned out.
Then, like clockwork, there was talk of burritos. We saddled up again and pedaled towards college-town for SoCal style refueling. Back in the sun, we sipped on Corona and scarfed down fresh mexican food while laughing at the extreme commuter action unfolding before us.
We will, without a doubt, be back in Santa Barbara to visit again. The weather, the riding, the people and the food were all worth the drive. Thanks to everyone coming out for the ride, and to all the guys over at Stinner Frameworks for being so welcoming and helpful. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Road Trip coming soon.