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Bike and Hike; Santa Barbara; One Horsepower Ford; San Luis Obispo; Rodents!; Morro Bay; Grizzly Academy; Stonehenge?

While at Port Hueneme, we took advantage of nearby Big Sycamore Canyon near Point Mugu for a mountain bike ride. One of the folks we met along the trail mentioned that “There’s a hill at the end; be prepared.” Here we see Biker Chick pedaling up a steep grade on “the hill”, which was really a small mountain to us flatlanders from Florida. Fortunately the path had widened to a paved road for the final push, making it less exhausting than trying to bounce over rocks and roots.

Your Faithful Correspondent is pointing at the road up the hill we just completed. You may notice that there are no coffee shops, convenience stores or even ice cream parlors up here. One lady we met was bitterly complaining that the governor had even shut off the water faucets on the trail to save water. (More on Governor Moonbeam in my next post…)   

The trip back to the car was highlighted by meeting this group of families and friends of people with cerebral palsy and wounded veterans in wheelchairs. A local mountain bike group and the Ventura County Sheriffs support the event, including a picnic at the beach, following a two-mile hike on a fire road that turns into a dusty, rutted dirt path, but the smiles on the faces of kids and adults alike was awe-inspiring. We watched wheelchairs being pushed, pulled and lifted through sand deep enough to almost stop our mountain bikes, but instead of complaints, we only heard laughter and giggling. 

As we rode carefully past this sheriff’s truck with the passenger’s mount walking alongside, Suzanne asked the uniformed driver why he was using a horse to push the truck. He replied with a chuckle, “It’s a Ford, do you expect anything less?” (This comment will undoubtedly amuse my good friend and Battleship IOWA shipmate Dale Hilliard, who works at a Chevy truck plant in Indiana, although I know he secretly wishes it had been a Toyota; dream on, Dale.)

Having had way too much fun in Southern California, we relocated up the coast to Santa Barbara, setting up camp in an Elks Lodge RV park in nearby Goleta. We first did a driving tour of the area, including the upscale town of Montecito, where homes of the Hollywood Glitterati abound. Our recon also included a hike in the hills above Montecito, where Hiker Chick decided to do some trailblazing, mostly uphill. Here we see her at the summit, where I finally got to catch my breath.

On the way down, we saw these beautiful, tiny wildflowers. Okay, floral researchers, name those buds! In spite of the ongoing drought, wildflowers are blooming everywhere we go, marking the hillsides with scattered riots of color against the brown and russet brush, dirt and rocks.

In addition to lots of running and biking opportunities, Santa Barbara was also an “Admin Stop”, where we could catch up on email, paperwork and trip planning. Internet was solid for a change, with our cell phones being used as hotspots, rather than picking up Wi-Fi from the RV park. You might guess that our monthly cell phone bills are pretty high, and you would be correct. (I think we are members of AT&T Wireless’ Platinum Preferred Abnormally Hi-Usage Customers Club.) 

The last item on our to-do list in Santa Barbara was a bike ride along the coast. Unfortunately, the bike trail wasn’t as long as the one we rode in Huntington Beach, but it was still nice to ride along the shore again. The down side was the large number of bums… oh, sorry, the politically correct term is “homeless gentlemen”… camped out in shoreside parks. Unlike during the Great Depression, when “If you don’t work, you don’t eat” was the watchword, today taxpayers (I think that means you and I) pay for endless summers for tens of thousands of able-bodied, working age males who prefer not to burden themselves with the “W-word”. But I digress…

The next leg of our summer tour took us up the coast to San Luis Obispo, where we are staying at the Camp SLO RV Park, on a California National Guard base. Our Dachshunds Rudy and Gretchen have given our new campground a 5 Star rating due to the permanent residents, hordes of ground squirrels that have hundreds of burrows nearby. Here are three within 20 feet of the coach.  Gretchen will sit in the window of our coach for hours gazing longingly at the rodents below, patiently awaiting the opportunity to go outside and chase the little buggers back into their burrows. 

Doxies were bred to hunt badgers and rabbits, and they will cheerfully go down a hole after their prey, so keeping them on lead in this area (or anywhere except a fenced-in doggie park) is absolutely mandatory.  We joke that the puppies’ amazing sense of smell around here must be similar to our walking into a pizza parlor, magnified 100 times.  

The weather is getting chilly, with lows in the high 40s at night and only in the 60s-low 70s in the afternoon. We are now wearing fleece sweaters, and occasionally down jackets. My Lovely Bride is seen here trying to stay warm on the boardwalk at Morro Bay, a handy harbor of refuge on the Central Coast for transiting small boat mariners. 

Morro Rock is a 581 foot high volcanic plug, a remnant of an ancient volcano from the Oligocene Period, and its age has been carbon-dated to about 23,000,000 years. The rock is primarily dacite, a felsic intrusive igneous rock similar to rhyolite and andesite. (I know that helps a lot… is there a geologist who speaks English in the house?) The only groups allowed to climb Morro Rock are native Chumash tribal members, for their annual solstice ceremony, and, much to the angst of the Chumash, members of a competing tribe, the Salinan, who celebrate the time when Hawk and Raven destroyed the two-headed serpent Taliyekatapelta, as he wrapped his body around the base of the rock.

San Luis Obispo (Spanish for St. Louis the Bishop [of Toulouse]) is located approximately midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and is actually called SLO Town. It is well known for being the first town in the world to ban indoor smoking in public buildings, and second for the frequent drunken campus riots and looting of liquor stores held by Cal Poly students, the latest about two months ago. We are happy to be on the National Guard base with soldiers in battle gear and Humvees driving around. There is also a National Guard-sponsored Grizzly Youth Academy, not for young bears, but for at-risk teens, both male and female. It provides a nine-month program to help kids from all over California focus on improving their lots in life, and we were very impressed by talking to one of the sergeants and two of the young men who will graduate in about a month. There are 36 of these charter schools around the country, and they have an impressive 92% success rate. Now that is something to write home about!

Finally, I have to share a photo that our dear friends Sharon and Joyce sent us. We had asked them to take our car out every few weeks while we were gone and neighbors Bob and Jan were away, and we received this photo and this cryptic note: “Just got back from Stonehenge. Ava (our Toyota Avalon) drove like a charm– druids say ‘hi.'” 

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