22.8 mi / 9.4 mph / 1086 ft. climbing
Home: Bill and Jan’s house via WarmShowers
We’d decided to take the offshoot to visit the Danish-themed town of Solvang, found ourselves a WarmShowers host there, and even plotted a good idea of a route back out. So the only thing left to do was decide how to get there: the empty but probably-bumpy and no-shoulder farm road, or the busy, smooth-shouldered state highway. The former was the bigger “risk”, with higher potential upside and downside, while the latter was the “safe” option.
Just as I’ve spent way too long typing about this, Rett and I probably spent way too long talking about it. Going slow gives us time that a lot of bike tourers don’t have, to think about what would make us the happiest, but I feel like lately we’ve been spending too much time trying to optimize that happiness (and this is coming from someone for whom optimization is one of the primary drivers of my behavior).
Anyway, we finally settled on the farm-road route (Santa Rosa Rd., following the Santa Ynez river upstream through its winding, narrow, but flat-bottomed valley), and it was great. Definitely a bad road surface (made tolerable by the almost-total lack of cars), but surely better than the state highway. Probably. Maybe. Um, I guess we’ll have to take the state route to truly know which was better.
It’s the first time I’ve been reminded of our Carnation Valley outside of Redmond, a favorite day ride for us. Though the Santa Ynez Valley had fewer cows, and a lot more vineyards. I was curious what the vines in this further-south part of California would look like compared to the Napa vineyards almost a month earlier. Answer seemed to be that the time of year is a bigger factor than location, as there were a lot more bare vines, and the reds that remained were more burnt. Still some great fall color in December though!
We returned to the state highway at Buellton, where it was guarded on each side by endless columns of giant old pines, with horse ranches beyond. While that made it about as pretty as a busy road could be, it was still a busy road, reminding us that we rarely have a chance to escape them in this region. But, we were unlikely to see an ostrich performing a fan-dance for us on the country road like we were surprised and confused to see on the screeched-to-a-halt shoulder of the state highway, until we remembered seeing “Ostrichland” on the maps.
We got to Solvang relatively early, where Bill and Jan were kind enough to welcome us into their house, so we could quickly get settled, drop off the bikes, and go explore the town.
In Washington, we had Leavenworth, a German-themed mountain town to draw in the tourists, so it was interesting to compare it to Solvang. Only at the moment of writing this did I learn that the guys who themed Leavenworth got their idea from Solvang, so now it perfectly explains why Solvang felt so much bigger, better, and more lived-in. They’re both still pretty artificial, but Solvang at least has genuine Danish roots, and the illusion is much more complete. And Rett and I really love places that take us to another time and space (e.g. Renaissance Faires), so Solvang definitely scratched that itch.
As frequent eaters of gas-station “Danishes”, our first priority was to get some cheese Danishes. The first, from Solvang Bakery, was excellent. The second, 20 minutes later, from Olsen’s, was slightly different, and also excellent. No clear winner, except over their gas-station (distant) cousins.
We walked over to Hans Christian Anderson Park, through a lemon-tree-filled residential neighborhood of the first non-themed buildings we’d seen. On the way back, we ran into our host Bill, volunteering at the Lutheran church’s food bank: generosity toward strangers is clearly something in the Ziglers’ blood!
Then some sausages and Euro-lagers at a beer garden (where our dainty 6-beer flight felt silly in a place where we should have been swilling liter-sized beers), a visit to the Hans Christian Andersen museum above the bookstore, some Christmas shopping by Rett, and then dinner at a….Mexican restaurant. Hey, all the “Danish” places were too much money for poorly-rated food, while the Mexican place, off in one of the many alluring tunnels through the buildings, still had a Euro-village feel to it, especially when we ordered our pitcher of beer to get remedy that beer-garden fail.
Then it was back to Bill and Jan’s house, where Rett started the laundry and had a good talk with Jan, while I worked on our bikes in Bill’s better-than-a-bike-shop garage (which also housed a Miata). We’d had clicking noises coming from our bikes on every pedal stroke for weeks, and while I’d been slowly working through potential fixes and eliminating possibilities, nothing I could find time to do on the road had yet solved them, and I had been thinking that I might have to give up and spend a bunch of time having a bike shop look at them (and probably not solve the problem either).
Only when Bill had asked on our arrival if we needed any tools or anything did I recall that bike maintenance is often a big bonus of a WarmShowers stay. More time and better tool access than even a bike shop! But that wasn’t even what mattered in this case. It was Bill’s wisdom and experience that saved our sanity: within 10 seconds of looking at our bikes, he checked the pedals (a part that wasn’t even on my radar any longer), said the bearings were loose, and that would be a great place to start. On top of that, bearing-adjustment is one of the few areas of bike-repair where I have very little experience, so he passed down a lot of hands-on knowledge there, which will serve me even beyond the pedal adjustment. Which seems to have silenced the infernal clicking! Going to bed, we were already so thankful for the roof and beds and the welcome from (former) strangers, but letting us ride forward click-free doubled our gratitude!