Days 31 – 36 The Glamorous Life

130 miles
Santa Barbara, CA – Solvang, CA

I’m now half way done with my trip. Wow. It feels very odd to write this, yet also an accomplishment.

I spent the weekend in Santa Barbara with Jonathan doing some hiking, tasting some Central Valley wines and generally recuperating from the 4,500 miles I’d ridden so far. There were apparently over 7 weddings being held at the hotel during our stay and frustratingly, none of my exciting tales of harrowing cliff side riding or camping in the rough wilderness of KOA campgrounds elicited even the slightest of favorable responses from the forlorn bridesmaids that occupied the hotel bar. Sigh. Time to get back on the road.

In the meantime, some real world responsibilities were beginning to pile up in my absence, and I needed to find someplace to hang out for a few days while I did some writing work and also waited for my wife to join me for a few days in California.

I left Santa Barbara in the late afternoon and rode north with no particular destination in mind. Around 7 p.m., I figured it high time to find some shelter. I’d been been staying in Holiday Inn Express hotels when I haven’t been camping so I started my search by looking at the two closest ones to my location. There were two that were equidistant; one in Lompoc and the other in Solvang.

I pulled over to a rest stop and figured it was a good idea to give each hotel a call to check on availability as well as get a feel for each location. The woman manning the front desk at Lompoc indicated that they were located at the regional airport with the town center being a short drive away. Here’s my conversation with the lady at Solvang:

Me: Hi! Do you have any availability for tonight?

Chipper Lady At Solvang Holiday Inn: We sure do! Come on over.

Me: Umm…wow, thanks. I might just do that, but first is there anything to do right around the hotel?

Chipper Lady At Solvang Hotel: Our hotel is located in the middle of Solvang. All we do here is shop, eat and drink a lot of wine.

Me: Done! I’ll be there in 7 minutes,

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Solvang, it turns out, is this totally delightful little town that is modeled after a small Danish village. As you can see the entire place looks like a cross between Disneyland and Oktoberfest. Even riding into the town I got a good feeling as I passed an ostrich farm (my favorite meat in the world – shut up if you haven’t tried it) as well as The Hitching Post, the famous restaurant in Sideways where Paul Giamatti shouts, “I will not drink Merlot!”

Clearly, I needed to have my first dinner at The Hitching Post.  In addition to enjoying a delectable filet, I was presented with my first roasted artichoke which required detailed instructions kindly provided by the young lady sitting next to me at the bar. Turns out, I like artichokes!

The next few days were spent at my keyboard at one of the countless coffee shops and bakeries in town. I had so many Danish cookies, fruit berry turnovers, and chocolate croissants that I have come to resemble Augustus Gloop from Willy Wonka. But the weather has been perfect, and the town conducive to writing so I really can’t complain.

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As an added bonus, my friend Randall who was kind enough to host me in Houston was passing through California and he and I and his whole family got to enjoy lunch together, feasting on Danish meatballs and herring (the kids said no f-ing way and ordered spaghetti and red sauce).

The Danes who settled Solvang did so because it was reputed to have some of the best weather in all of California. All I can say is that getting a few days out of the saddle in their wonderful (albeit slightly touristy) town has been a little slice of heaven and a very pleasant discovery.

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WHAT I LEARNED / DISCOVERED TODAY: Driving without a plan continues to offer great results and memorable surprises. I loved walking around Solvang and feeling like I was suspended in a little pocket of Europe while I contemplated the trip past and going forward. Loved stumbling on this fun little town. Also, I need to lay off the pastries. I only have one riding suit and Velcro has a breaking point.

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