Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

Road trip: San Francisco to Santa Barbara

August 11, 2013
Can you believe we fit all our stuff for 10 days on there?
Day 1: San Francisco to San Simeon (215 miles)

One of the biggest challenges of motorcycle travel is the lack of space. For our 10-day trip to southern California, we had to fit everything we needed — including clothes, tools, cooking gear, tent etc. — on the motorcycle. We have two side bags and one back bag, and we bungee as much as we can on the rear rack. This trip we made a significant improvement to our gear set-up by upgrading our sleeping bags. The bulky bags we bought in Argentina took up roughly 29 liters; our new Mountain Hardwear bags take up just 12 liters — that's less than half! The other reason we were able to fit everything we needed: we were going south. The expected highs for the first seven days of our trip: 59, 72, 72, 70, 68, 102, 102. We left behind our fleeces and down jackets, hats and gloves, and traded them for sundresses and sandals.

The only problem: we forgot about the so-called San Francisco "summer." Half an hour into our ride, it was cloudy, misting and cold and we were both shivering. We pulled over at a gas station and put on every layer we had — long underwear, jeans, rain pants, and the thermal and wind layers in our jackets. And then we drove and drove, knowing the sun had to come out sometime. When we finally caught a glimpse of it, I yelled into our headsets, "The sun!" Ben thought there must have been a whale or something given how excited I sounded.

We buoyed our spirits with a stop at a roadside stand with delicious cherries and made it until Monterey, where we stopped to warm up with coffee. Now at this point, I was pretty pissed at the weathermen, who said it would be "mostly sunny" in Carmel. By mostly sunny, they must have meant, "not a single ray of sunlight in the whole sky."

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

We took a more leisurely trip through this area back in November, when we stopped in Monterrey and Carmel for a whole day. This time we were just passing through, but we still needed to eat and I wanted to see the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, which had been too crowded last time. It was just as crowded this time, with cars allowed to enter only when another car exited. But … we are not a car. We're a motorcycle and we were ushered right along and just told not to get towed. Triumph #1 of motorcycle travel. (As a bonus, we didn't even have to pay the entrance fee because we were camping at a state park that night.)

Triumph #2 of motorcycle travel: check out our "parking spot."
This seagull prompted a discussion about what kind of animal we would want to be. Ben wanted to be something industrious, like a beaver or a seagull. I was more worried about getting enough sleep and not being eaten by predators.
We enjoyed our standard roadside lunch of bread, cheese, dried apricots and nuts (with the cherries as an added bonus) and then checked out the local wildlife. The park docents had set up telescopes for viewing the sea otters, seals and sea lions that live just offshore. Sea otters, apparently, have no fat on their bodies. They have fur to keep them warm (which made them a prime target for hunters who wanted their pelts), and as such are totally unappetizing to sharks. Seals and sea lions on the other hand are quite blubberous and make a delicious meal.

We got back on the bike for the stretch from Carmel to San Simeon, which is considered one of the most scenic routes in the whole country. People come from all over the country and the world to do this drive, and we were lucky enough to be doing it for the second time in seven months. And not only that, it wasn't even our primary destination — just the road to take us there.

Ben finally escaped the slow cars and we enjoyed the turns and the view. Just before reaching our campground, we stopped at the Piedras Blancas elephant seal lookout.

After observing the seals lying in the sun and sleeping, I said, "I think I could be seal." Ben replies, "You would make a great seal."
Day 2: San Simeon to Santa Barbara (135 miles)

Ben often talks about a few of his favorite places from his 2006 trip around the United States: the McMenamins in Portland, the central square in Santa Fe, Penn and Teller in Vegas and the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. After all that hype, we knew we had to stop at Hearst Castle en route south.

William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan built the castle, which he referred to as "the ranch at San Simeon," over 28 years, from 1919 to 1947. The finished product showcased 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways. It included an airstrip (to ease the arrival of Hollywood guests) and a zoo (which housed antelope, zebras, kangaroos, giraffes and even polar bears). We took the "Upstairs Suites Tour," where we saw Hearst's private quarters, the library and the guest suites.

View from the gardens toward the Pacific Ocean. The fog was inescapable on the coast for the first few days of our trip.

My favorite part was definitely the pool.

A second pool, for good measure.

The rest of the ride wasn't that eventful. We struggled to find somewhere to eat lunch after the BBQ place we wanted to go to had a four-hour wait (four hours!). We ended up at a roadside burger shack that reinforced just how much we've grown from our childhood selves. All we could think about was how much we wanted vegetables. Ben enjoyed the stretch of 101 between Santa Maria and Los Olivos and we cut across the Santa Ynez Mountains to our campground.

We unpacked and I sunbathed for a bit, enjoying the true warm weather that we don't often get in San Francisco, before heading down to Santa Barbara for dinner. Interestingly, about one-third of the way there, as we descended from the mountains, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees. We sat on the beach for a bit, enjoyed some Mexican food for dinner and then crawled into our tent in the dark.

- Steph

Next up: Mulholland Highway

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