It started early. So early, I strapped on my headlamp as Kona and I headed to the ridge.
I didn't have time to wait for dawn but the fresh morning air didn't need light.
After dropping Kona off at home, I made the hour and a half drive North to Santa Barbara. Fog drifted on and off shore, flirting with hillsides before running away.
I'd rather not sit in a car but ocean and mountain views somehow drown out the traffic hum.
I was on my way to visit friends. One of my friends just bought a road bike and we were on a mission to break it in.
Three of the group were off for wine tasting in the nearby valley and I seized the chance to "plan" a ride through the vineyards with my cycling friend and her new bike. The area boasts not only acres of grapes but miles of rolling hills, little traffic and no traffic signals. It's a cyclist's dream and the reason why professional teams frequent the area for training.
We were off, surrounded by a crisp, summer landscape.
Rows and rows of grapes cheered us on.
Our bikes rested as we explored.
We flew down a road with a genlte downgrade, stopping when a field caught our eyes.
We continued on, cutting up a canyon that would lead us towards our starting point. The canyon climb was sustained and, more than two hours into our ride, became a grunt-fest.
While I'd ridden in the area before, I only had a vague idea of how long our route would be, or what would be the conditions of the backroads I chose.
After some gravel stretches, more climbs, a "two mile" section of freeway that turned into eight, and four and a half hours later, we made it back to our car.
I gave my friend a high five, trying to read her face. This was her third bike ride. Ever. I worried that she might not only hate me but never want to get on a bike again. I breathed again when I saw her smile ear to ear.
I felt the same way.
We joined the wine tasting crew for dinner in town. We ate at a restaurant with Old West decor. My stew was served out of a cast-iron pot. The dim light and a roaring fire made me feel like I was sitting around camp after a day working in the woods. It was like a step back in time. Of course, being bone tired, sun crisped and salty from the day's ride only added to the spirit.
It was the perfect way to end the day.