The following is a guest spot from Brian with some gorgeous pics to help get us through the winter!
Sometimes an offer is just too good to pass up. So, when a local like-minded cycling/hiking/skiing/beer tasting friend tells me about this great blog he reads and there’s this contest to submit a bicycling photo and win a pair of Tifosi cycling glasses, I started looking through my photos. Having nothing to lose, and a cool new pair of glasses to possibly gain, I started following the blog and entered Robert’s contest. I won, and so thanks are in order to all of you who voted for my image of my bike leaning on a Bucks County covered bridge on a snowy day. And, bigger thanks are in order to Robert for hosting the blog, and the contest.
Summer, 2017…. A childhood friend of mine that I grew up with in southeastern PA is closing in on his 50th birthday at the end of January, 2018. Jon moved to San Diego nearly 20 years ago because he “hates the cold”. For fun, we’d been messaging back and forth about a bicycle vacation to Portland, OR, or some such location, but nothing ever gelled. Then, out of the blue, he sends me an email and invites me to go on a cycling vacation with him to a warm destination and celebrate his milestone birthday with him. Having visited him several times in San Diego in years past, it wasn’t hard for him to set the hook. It is beautiful there, which is why so many cyclists choose to train there year round. We quickly narrowed down our choices to somewhere in Arizona, or maybe try out an all-inclusive 4 day tour with Trek Travel in Solvang, CA. Since it was his birthday, I let him choose and so we booked our 4 day Ride Camp with Trek Travel to Solvang for the end of January into the beginning of February, 2018. We figured it would be nicer to just let someone else handle all the details and that way we’d end up spending less time fretting over minutia and more time having fun on 2 wheels. Jon knows I ride all year in PA, as does he in San Diego and so we knew we’d be fit enough to put in some big mile days together this early in the year.
Some background on Solvang…it is a small city in the Santa Ynez Valley of California, known for its Danish style architecture. The area outside of town is full of hills, vineyards, horse and cattle farms and agriculture. It definitely has a tourism driven economy, and so it caters to showing out-of-towners a good time. We stayed at the Hotel Corque, which was very comfortable for our time there. There are tons of shops and restaurants, a totally awesome motorcycle museum, places to do wine tastings, and Firestone Walker Brewing is only 3 miles down the road in Buellton. Yes, we went there. Mmmmm, beer. Since Trek Travel pretty much handles everything except your transportation to and from Solvang, we just had to drive up from San Diego after I arrived from frigid PA. The package included lodging, nearly all food, bikes and helmets and a Garmin with all routes pre-loaded, two guide hosts to show you around and ride with you, and a Trek Travel support van to refuel from or drop clothes in as the day warmed up. The riding was very enjoyable with high temp’s around 80* every day, along with mostly sunny skies. It was a wonderful mid-winter reprieve for me to go someplace warm, be with my friend, meet some new folks and put in some miles. We rode 4 consecutive days totaling about 165 miles and then said goodbye to our hosts and Solvang. I booked a few extra days to spend back in San Diego with Jon and his family, and so a day later we put in a beautiful road ride through Rancho Santa Fe which included some coast time. My friend Dawn, also formerly from PA drove from Upland, CA to come see me and joined us on the last ride. A good week indeed, as Jon and I ended at just over 200 miles each. I landed back in Philadelphia on the eve of the Super Bowl, and as I drove home to Upper Bucks County all I could think about was how much I wasn’t enjoying driving in the ice storm that fell that evening. It was sunny and warm just a few hours earlier that same day…on the other coast.