Exploring Santa Cruz: Part 1
There's Something about Buellton

That first event: Solvang Century

Packing for that first big bike event of the year. We’re heading to Solvang, California, for the Solvang Century bike ride, one of the larger organized rides in the state and certainly on the Central Coast.

I survey the items laid out on the bed. Bike shorts and knickers. Check. Riding gloves. Check. Jersey and base layer shirt. Check. Underwear and street clothes. Check. Pair of walking around jeans. Check.

This year’s Solvang Century will see rain; that could put a damper on the event that normally puts 3,000 cyclists on the rural roads of Santa Barbara County. I put my bike clothes back into their drawers.

Change of plans


Because of the weather uncertainty, we won’t bring our bikes with us. That’s too bad. I usually like to do my annual Mission to Mission ride (at least, that’s what I call it): Mission Santa Ynez in Solvang to the La Purisima Mission outside of Lompoc. The 17 mile ride is an easy one over Highway 246 with only one slightly steep hill. The ride is just the thing to wake up my winter-weary legs and is easy to tuck in before the event set-up or on the day after the event.

Living history

The La Purisima mission complex is now a state historic park that has self-guided tours of the buildings and grounds. It frequently hosts living history recreations, offering visitors a peek into life during the 1820s. The grounds has 25 miles of hiking trails as well. The website is www.lapurisimamission.org

On the town: Solvang

Since we aren’t bringing our bikes we can use the time to wander the Danish replica town of Solvang, a tiny Disneyland set amid the rolling wine country hills of Santa Barbara County. During the height of the tourist season, Solvang has horse-drawn trolley rides that take tourists around the downtown area. The tours are led by operators in old world costumes, in keeping with the old Denmark theme of the town.


Because of its location in the middle of Santa Barbara’s Wine County, Solvang’s tasting rooms have some of the best wines from the region. There are also tasting rooms along the roads that lead in and out of town, and there are several other small towns that have tasting opportunities as well: Los Olivos, Buellton, Santa Ynez, Santa Maria.

For more ideas about what to do in Solvang, www.solvangusa.com is the website.

Miniature horses

For families with children there are places to go and things to see that don’t involve sitting through winetasting session. Quicksilver Ranch in Solvang has a herd of miniature horses that you can watch as they do their little pony thing: Eating grass and romping on the massive lawns that cover the grounds. They do look like Disney characters come alive: They’re the size of large dogs and they gaze coyly at you through their shaggy manes in a “Come hither!” manner. The website is www.qsminis.com

Braving big birds

Down the road in the other direction from Quicksilver Ranch, families can stop at Ostrichland USA to watch and feed the ostriches. These flightless birds can grow between seven and nine feet tall and they love to eat. They can be intimidating, so only the brave should feed them. www.ostrichlandusa.com or call (805) 686-9696.


In Buellton, Mendenhall’s Museum of Gasoline Pumps and Petroliana opens a unique window into the past. Visitors can wander past old pumps, gas company signs (remember the Mobil Oil flying Pagasus signs?), and wax nostagic about when gas cost $1.75 a gallon. Seriously, though, the Mendenhall family owns and maintains a serious collection of petroliana (the actual term for gas-related nostalgia). The museum is open by appointment only. If you want to check it out email Mark, mark@mendenhallmuseum.com or call (805) 689-2402.

Click here to read part II about how we actually did spend our time in Santa Barbara County.



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