Mountain Mist

Date: April 18th, 2017

From/To: Santa Barbara, CA/Los Olivos, CA

Daily Mileage: 50 miles

Total Mileage: 2745 miles

Conditions: Early rain showers, turned overcast, eventually partly overcast in the late afternoon. Minor winds, high 60s.

It may seem strange but I still haven’t been in the ocean. If you ask why, I’d probably give you a response that would leave you unsatisfied. “I haven’t had time… the beach was too far away… I got distracted… etc.” The truth is I’m not done yet and setting foot in the ocean, that’s the finish line. I might’ve finished the continental crossing, but the ocean is my last moment to hold onto. It’s something to look forward to, a prolonged satisfaction.

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Todays trek, from Santa Barbara, CA to Los Olivos, CA.

I wasn’t in a rush today, especially after factoring in the downpour that took place throughout a majority of the morning. I hung around the house folding laundry, organizing my gear and planning the next trek. Steve was already out on calls by the time I woke up but Shelby was around the house. She made me a delicious egg and avocado croissant and made sure I was all taken care of. She connected me with one of her friends in Los Olivos named Michelle. Their daughters played volleyball together and they had become close through that relationship. She passed along my story to see if they could host me for a night. She told me they lived on a beautiful property with lots of farm animals, I’ll get to that later. The rain subsided around noon and I reassembled the rig and prepared to leave. Shelby packed me a brown paper bag lunch consisting of a roast beef, cheese, avocado and tomato sandwich on wheat bread. The mother instincts are hard to pass up, she made sure I had everything I needed before heading out. I can say with certainty that I now have a second mother out here in Santa Barbara! After saying goodbye to Shelby I started off towards Los Olivos.

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A last minute photo op with my second mother before I left. See the resemblance?
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Lime trees to the left and vineyards to the right. I’m finally in wine country!
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As I made my way into the Southern Coast Mountain Range, I climbed through mountains covered in clouds, through a misty rain that persisted throughout the morning.
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I saw a heavy climb approaching as I neared a mountain pass, I decided to stop just before it for lunch. I enjoyed the delicious sandwich Shelby had made for me and continued on.
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Ahead of me was a short tunnel through the mountains. As soon as I reached this tunnel the sky cleared up within a matter of minutes. The rain stopped, the clouds vanished, and I was left with a beautiful sunny California afternoon.
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From 101 heading inland I took the Old Coast Highway through some back county roads leading to Los Olivos. At first I was skeptical because the roads weren’t in great condition but the views were amazing and I knew I could get back to 101 without much trouble if I needed to. 
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Here’s some ag, short for agriculture. Remember that.
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Black Beauty’s counterpart.
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I passed through a town named Solvang, located about 10 miles from Los Olivos.
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You may or may not have heard of this town before, I came across it without knowing anything about it or history behind it’s creation.
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Located in the Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang was founded in 1911 by a group of Danes who traveled west to establish a Danish colony away from the harsh winters of the midwest. 
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The city offers people a taste of Denmark in California with many bakeries, restaurants, merchants, and other services all oriented towards Danish culture.
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As I rode through town I felt as though I had traveled back in time riding down the streets of Copenhagen. 
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I would recommend this place solely based on the bakeries. I had to cut myself off after sampling some of the most amazing pastries I’ve ever had.
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My go-to was a “French Waffle,” a sugarcoated breading encased with whipped cream and strawberry jelly. I figured I could get away with it after all the biking I’ve been doing. Normally I’d be out of luck.

I spent at least an hour biking around town. I couldn’t get over how authentic the Danish town felt and appeared. It was a short scenic ride from Solvang to Los Olivos. I arrived to Michelle and Jourdi de Werd’s house around 5PM. It’s hard to describe a place so beautiful. They live off Foxen Canyon Road just outside of the Los Olivos town center. The land is covered in beautiful vineyards and estates, it was an amazing ride through the rolling hills. The de Werds have a guest house and a cottage on the property in addition to their home. I immediately fell in love with the property upon arrival. As I pulled up to the entrance, I had to punch in a four digit code to open the driveway gate. The gate had two metal sculpted horses on it, as it opened the two horses split apart welcoming me onto the property. I rode down a winding road past hills and fields of wine vineyards and grass. I made my way past a barn, the guest homes, and up to the main house where Jourdi and Michelle were getting reach to head out. Michelle had a meeting to attend from 5-7ish and Jourdi was dropping her off. They told me I could explore the grounds and see all the animals for now. They quickly showed me where I’d be staying in the cottage, a small cozy house with everything I needed and more!

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Jourdi and Michelle own four horses, all of whom are relatively old, around 30 years old. Michelle told me that they still ride the horses even at such an old age, they’ve taken such good care of them that they’re still healthy and strong enough to ride.
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They were split into two pastures connected by one side. The view from their backyard windows overlooked the pastures, beyond that were vineyards and rolling hills.
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Jourdi grew up riding horses, Michelle grew up without even owning a pet. They came from different backgrounds but both decided they wanted to have animals. 
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In addition to all their farm animals, Michelle and Jourdi have six dogs, five of them were rescue dogs. They certainly care about animals, and Michelle has developed a reputation around town as a provider for animals in need of a home. There’s never a dull moment around the property! (Photo credit: Michelle)
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Jourdi’s favorite animals on the farm for one simple reason, they produce something of use. I can’t argue with his logic there.
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The hen seen here is laying eggs in the chicken coop. Once the eggs are laid they’re incubated in a separate area to provide favorable hatching conditions. 
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In one pen I found two white geese. They reminded me of my days as an intern at LSI Solutions back in Rochester. There was a white goose there that would always attack me in the parking lot when I was heading into the building for work. Ever since those days, I’ve never liked geese. They’re aggressive and easily threatened, I like to keep my distance.
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The goose screech AKA fingernails on a chalkboard.
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A friend of Michelle’s had baby goats a few years ago and wasn’t sure what to do with all of them. Michelle took two of them giving them a home on the property. They were very friendly, following me everywhere I went around the pen.
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The cottage I stayed in. I called it my nook, very cozy.
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My favorite part of the property was this trail leading up to a hilltop where an artificial pond was. 
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The gateway to the hilltop. It looked like something out of a painting.
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Climbing the hilltop.
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From there you could see a full view of the surroundings. I made sure to spend plenty of time taking this view in before heading back down. 
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I asked Jourdi why the pond was placed up there. He told me they live too far away from town to have access to the fire hydrant pipeline. As a result they needed to create a source of water in the event that any fires start on the property. The water is also used to warm the grape vines during the colder parts of the year when the occasional frost occurs.

Right before he left, Jourdi had mentioned that I could use the white pickup truck parked next to the guest house. He’d left me the keys and told me I could use the car to run into town and take care of any errands. I was surprised by the level of trust he had, I figured Shelby must’ve put in a good word for me because that was quite a privilege to have. I unpacked, showered, and decided to head back to Solvang after exploring the grounds for a while. It was a fifteen minute car ride to Solvang. When I arrived I noticed much of the tourism had died down because many of the shops and restaurants closed around 6PM. I found one of the few restaurants still opened and had a Danish style meal consisting of pork sausage and meatballs. I didn’t hang around for long after dinner, I wanted to get back and spend some time getting to know my hosts. They were such interesting people and I wanted to learn more about them. When I arrived back to the property around 9PM I made my way over to the main house to meet Jourdi and Michelle. They were preparing for a late dinner and set a place at the table for me to join. We sat around a small table in their living room which was illuminated by a fireplace with a real burning fire. Our conversation was both informative and entertaining. Jourdi and I spoke for a while about the education system and our thoughts on the current and future outlook of public education reform. It was an interesting topic for me because I’m soon to be teaching in a low-income community. Jourdi had a lot to say about his thoughts on the matter which made for a great back and forth dialogue. From his point of view the education system is set up almost systemically within communist framework because everyone is paid and treated equally. Traditionally, there’s no reward for teachers who perform well compared to teachers who are less motivated. The other problem is that young enthusiastic teachers come into the world of education with hopes and dreams of improving the system, only to be ridiculed by “old school” teachers who have been around for a while, and suddenly look bad in the eyes of leadership when someone tries to make better a flawed system. It’s a tough place to be, but it’s truly about making progress, and it won’t happen overnight.

Michelle and I spoke about my background, my cause, and I shared some stories about my journey. It’s always great to reflect on my experiences and pass along many of the lessons and stories that I’ve accumulated throughout this trip. I was happy to spend some time with Jourdi and Michelle this evening. Before we parted ways for the night they mentioned they would be traveling to LA for most of the day tomorrow and that I was more then welcome to say another day if I’d like. I was once again astonished by their hospitality. Here I was this complete stranger two days ago, and now I was welcomed into their home and given privileges far beyond anything I’d expected from a host. I felt at home during my stay with the de Werds, I decided that staying another day wouldn’t hurt considering my lackadaisical approach to the remaining days on this trip. I wasn’t in a rush to go anywhere anytime soon, why not stay another day? I could use the rest after such a restless period of travel over the last few weeks. I slept easy that night knowing I had nothing to worry about the following day.

Enjoy The Ride,

-Matt

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