USA 2016 – Day 3 – Morro Bay to Ojai

Today we headed inland to discover ranches, hot climate vineyards and an amazing road through forested mountains.

The thing about motorbiking is that you have a fair bit of time to think, and so I’ve remembered a few things I forgot to mention about yesterday.

First of all, it was pretty hot riding through Big Sur, we started layered up (not sure if this is proper English but it’s a term Gary and I use to manage temperature changes) and then we stripped down a bit to almost complete summer gear (ie no linings in the jackets or trousers).

As we cruised along the main coast road, I noticed that all the side roads into the National Park were closed and there were several fire trucks hanging out at the sides of the road. Then there was the sight of water bombing helicopters doing their thing, picking up water from the sea and then heading inland, a Huey and a Skycrane. I am guessing there were fires or risk of fires, I didn’t spot any but it was a little hazy which often indicates smoke.

That was the main thing, although I may think of more.

We left our cheap, but comfortable, hotel in Morro Bay and headed south along the main freeway towards Santa Barbara. Today started out foggy and on the cool side, so much so that I had to stop and add a layer to my outfit.

At Santa Maria, we did the mandatory fuel stop then headed inland (east) along the Cuyama Highway. Almost immediately the temperature started to increase, it’s difficult to know by how much but it quickly became really hot, at least by 10 degrees Celsius. We then stopped and stripped right down, removing all extra layers and liners.

As we continued inland, along a climbing winding road, we passed a series of large wrought iron gates announcing the entrances to various ranches, ahead of long dirt roads winding up into the hills. I suspected that this was the country of the late Michael Jackson’s Neverland, turns out it’s not on this road but not far away on the other side of the hills.

One of the many set of wrought iron gates along the Cuyama Highway

Eventually, the road straightened out with arid plains banking the highway, in the distance, we could see rugges looking hills covered in very little scrub. We passed North Fork Cattle Ranch (yes, it was really called this) which stretched for miles along the road and included extensive planting of what, I guess, is a new vineyard.

We saw farm workers picking produce in the midday sun and felt their pain a little as the temperature soared and we heated up, sensitive to the elements as we are on the motorbikes.

New vines at North Fork Ranch


The Cuyama Highway

Our next fuel stop was Cuyama, a dusty settlement in the middle of the wide desert valley. I met a Syrian attendant in the gas station and then we moved the motorbikes to the Burger Barn, behind the gas station where we enjoyed rustic beef burgers and chatting with the two ladies running the place.

The awesome Burger Barn at Cuyama


Cuyams Gas Station

After lunch, and the chance to cool down in the air conditioned diner, I changed into my new Dianese fully vented motorbike trousers (bought in San Francisco) and we continued east along the valley.

We turned onto route 33 and started to head south again, with the road became more winding and mountainous. This stretch, all the way to Ojai, is a motorbiker’s dream, sweeping corners, tight corners, surprise bends (our term for where the road tightens up unexpectedly) and dramatic views over the valley we had left and the hills to come. Just beautiful.

We stopped several times to take pictures and once to change the GoPro battery. The road was practically empty, I wondered why it is there but I am glad that it was.

As we neared Ojai, we rode through a couple of short tunnels, it was as if the road builders had given up their mighty feat of finding a way through the mountains using winding roads and just decided to bore a hole through the mountain.

We arrived in Ojai, a tidy attractive town with Spanish/ Mexican style architecture, found our motel and discovered, to our delight, complimentary wine and snacks were served between 5 and 7. Also the pool was heated and ready for our attention. We partook of both, obviously.


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