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Camping California: On Two Wheels

Finding a patch of Grass and a Jacuzzi in Solvang, CA

By Gary Koz Mraz and Sponsored by Butler Maps
5/9/2012


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We ride because we like to be outdoors, and camping fills that bill.  But like any respectable biker, I also enjoy a cold beer while soothing my tired muscles in a hot Jacuzzi after a long ride.  Writing/riding for a living, it suddenly dawned on me that there are hundreds of camping options in California that vary from a patch of sand on the beach to luxurious campsite living. Camping offers affordable accommodations and amazing locations. Whether travelling solo or with a group, we will scrutinize each destination and highlight several options, providing rider friendly tips and reviewing motorcycle friendly camping gear.

 

 

Solvang California

Our first camping excursion takes us to Solvang. Crowned one of the 10 most beautiful small towns in the west by Sunset Magazine, it dates back to 1911 when Danish-Americans traversed the plains from Iowa. They established Solvang (Sunny Fields) adjacent to the Santa Inez Mission already 100 years old then. This kitschy little town looks like a set from the Sound of Music. Danish delights abound on Main Street such as beautiful blonds in pigtails, wind mills and traditional culinary cuisine of Frikadeller and Aebleskiver, (don’t ask).

 

The well travelled Highway I54 north from Hwy 101 in Santa Barbara connects to Rt. 246 into Solvang.  OR, for the more adventurous among you, follow a Butler’s map PMT.  Butler’s maps also map roads they call Paved Mountain Trails (PMTs): Technically, these roads are paved but can be a rough in places; remote and genuinely twisty with stunning views that give welcome excuses to take a break. Boy did I find a fabulous PMT to Solvang: Forest Route 512N/East Camino Cielo. You are definitely not clocking 65mph. In fact, you may not see another vehicle here for the entire 18 miles. It’s basically a one way, “technically paved” road but let me tell you it’s a truly unique and enjoyable ride.  Taking this road either way is truly an experience but riding back towards Santa Barbara is preferable because of the spectacular views heading westward. 

 

As soon as you reach SR154 north, only a mile or so, keep an eye out for Stagecoach Road to The Cold Spring Tavern.  It began as a stagecoach stop in 1865 and the physical structure has been protected ever since by its owners. The Road Gang house where the Chinese road gang bunked when they built the toll road and Ojai Jail are still here. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and have live music every weekend Fri, Sat & Sunday. There are always riders here and it’s very motorcycle friendly.

 
 

Camping California Part 1: We have three campsite designations:

“Dirt Cheap” The most inexpensive we could find and we don’t mean a free overnight stay in a Wal-Mart parking lot (which they allow, by the way).

“Garden Variety” Good camping options, good amenities and price.

“Lap of Luxury” All amenities PLUS.

Dirt Cheap: Los Prietos Campsite. 3505 Paradise Rd. Santa Barbara CA 93105: Coming from the north or coming from the south on Hwy 101, turn east on Hwy 154, go east for 10.8 miles and then turn onto Paradise Road (only goes one direction), go 3.5 miles to the campground. The campground has 37 family campsites complete with picnic table, barbecue and fire ring.  $19.00 per site and 60% of sites are reservable with others being first come, first served. For more information visit http://www.recreation.gov

Season dates are March 1st 2012 to Oct 14th 2012

 

Yurts on Lake Cachuma

Garden Variety: Lake Cachuma is open year round and is just 9 miles outside of Solvang.  All single family campsites are first-come first-served with more than 400 campsites. Operated by the County of Santa Barbara Parks Department, they offer tent, trailer and RV camping at Lake Cachuma.   The campsites are also only $20.00 per day off season and $25.00 April 1st to September 30th with premium lake view sites $35.00 year round.  You'll find a fully stocked general store, gas station, coin laundry, and hot showers.  For recreation there are lake cruises, the nature center, fishing piers, and hiking trails. The Marina is open year-round and sells bait and tackle, fuel and fishing licenses. It also boasts a terrific snack bar & grill. The Family Fun Center includes a swimming pool, video games, miniature golf, and snack bar, and is open daily during the summer.

A cross between a tent and teepee, yurts are something very unique. The yurts at Cachuma Lake feature platform beds that sleep 5 to 6 people, a lockable door, inside lighting and heating, and screened windows in the wood and fabric siding. Set on the bluff with access to the lakeshore, the view is spectacular. Currently there are only 3 yurts at Cachuma Lake, which may be reserved year-round up to 6 months in advance. Fees range from $60-$85 per night depending on yurt size.

Flying Flags Resort and Campground

Lap of Luxury: Voted best large Park of the Year in 2005, Flying Flags is champagne living on a beer budget. Open year round, it offers a pool, Jacuzzi, snack shop and everything is well kept and manicured.  The hot tip here is, not only do they offer secluded single spaces for individual camping, but they can also accommodate large groups in a huge tent which they provide and set up.  For only $69.00 per night you can arrange for a four person tent completely set up with inflatable air beds, refrigerator, microwave, and heater. Plus, riders can park their bikes right by the tents. In fact, all the ground is hard packed and easily accessible on motorcycles.  Just bring your sleeping bag, clothes, toothbrush and you’re done. Within walking distance of Andersons Pea Soup, you can spend the days riding and the evenings by the campfire or in the Jacuzzi…this in my kind of camping. They even offer larger 6 and 8 person tents for only $99 bucks a night.

 

For those who want a rustic cabin feel, they have several cabins that sleep four to six people and there’s even more upscale camping at Flying Flags! Their luxury cottages are literally apartments with bedrooms, bathrooms, lofts, a kitchen and a living room. In addition is an outside deck, fire pit and picnic tables that overlook the adjacent hills. Again, motorcycle parking is right next to the cabin and all the amenities are right nearby.  Ranging from 99 bucks per night up to $150.00 during peak season, it’s an unbeatable deal. They only have three cottages and these are in high demand so early reservation is key for one of these babies.

 
 

From Solvang, you’re a short ride to Santa Barbara, or head north to Cambria and Hearst Castle. Did I mention Cuyama Highway 166 to the 33 to Ojai?  It’s a great place to settle in and take day rides.

 

While you’re here, visit the Solvang Motorcycle Museum. Virgil Elings, owner of the Museum, came to Santa Barbara to teach Physics at UCSB. In 1987, while on sabbatical, Elings co-founded Digital Instruments which became the world’s leader in the design and manufacture of Scanning Probe Microscopes; the first scientific instrument to actually ‘see’ individual atoms. Virgil has been collecting motorcycles for two decades and his museum is downright amazing.  They house over 130 beautifully restored motorcycles of all makes.  Plan at least an hour gawking, gaping and glaring.  Every time your eyes move an inch to the right or the left another astounding, perfectly restored relic of motorcycle history dazzles you.  For a nominal $10 dollar charge, the museum is open weekends from 11am to 5 pm, or and you can call and arrange an appointment.

At these prices and all of these amenities, this makes for a no-hassle riding weekend. Roll in on Friday after work, settle in and relax in your fully functional pre-set up tent. On Saturday, you’re touring the mountains and oceans spending your money on fun stuff. Return to your comfortable, secure campsite for a Jacuzzi, cold beer and a barbecue dinner.  On Sunday, have a leisurely breakfast at Cold Springs Tavern and scenic ride home; no hassle or worrying about breaking camp and carrying gear. For that matter, it sounds like a great week-long getaway (yes, you can rent a 4 person tent at Flying Flags for an entire week for only $410 bucks)

The maps show expanded views of every gold section, providing great detail at a scale most maps don’t give you. On top of that, things like elevation profiles and written descriptions make sure no detail is left behind. Butler also integrated QR codes on all their maps. Scanning these codes with your smart phone will quickly link you to recommendations on place to sleep and eat in addition to some great video content that will help you plan your ride. 

 

 

Sometimes the motorcyclist mantra of “never pass gas” falls short, especially when distance touring.  The REDA gas can is a true life saver. Designed to fit in the rear recess of a saddle bag, it takes up little space but solves a LARGE problem. A must-have for any serious road warrior, and imagine how good it will feel to be able to aid another fellow rider.  It’s only $29.95

  Custom made to fit in motorcycle saddlebags 

  VAPOR PROOF - Zero emissions - No fumes

  Spill Proof container and spout - liquid tight seal

  Holds approximately 1 Gallon - EPA & CARB certified in all states

  Fits right & left side bags (can dimensions: 6" W x 7" L x 10.25" H)

  

   www.butlermaps.com Butler Maps

  http://www.rockymountainrec.com/camp/padres/losprietos.htm  Los      Prietos

  http://www.countyofsb.org/parks/parks05.aspx?id=13440 Lake  Cachuma

  http://flyingflags.com/  Flying Flags Resort

  http://www.coldspringtavern.com/index.html Cold Spring Tavern 

http://www.motosolvang.com/ Solvang Motorcycle Museum

 

 

 



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