Los Padres National Forest Ride

The Los Padres National Forest, in Southern California, has become one my favorite places to ride. I first did this last September with To...

The Los Padres National Forest, in Southern California, has become one my favorite places to ride.

I first did this last September with Tony, but just did this again last weekend with Tom. It's not just the roads, but the scenery, that makes this always makes this area a joy to ride through.

The ride starts in Santa Maria, and heads east along Hwy 166. It continues to Cerro Noroeste Rd, to Mil Portrero Rd, then a stop in the town of Pine Mountain Club for a rest at the English Pub. Then continuing down Mil Portrero Rd to Cuddy Valley Rd, and then south on Lockwood Valley Rd. Lockwood Valley Rd takes us all the way to Hwy 33. We take Hwy 33 south to Ojai, and then Hwy 150 east to Santa Paula.

But Tom and I didn't get to do the same route that Tony and I did last September. As we prepared to leave Santa Maria in the morning, Tom had trouble getting his Honda Sabre 1100 started. It seems the battery wasn't getting charged. I tried push starting him about five times until I ran out of breath. A guy driving by helped us get it jump started.

Heading east on Highway 166 offers some beautiful scenery combined with wide sweeping curves paralleling the Cuyama River as it winds through Chimney Canyon. About 20 miles later it ascends up and out of the canyon and stretches through the Cuyama Valley. On your left is the Caliente Range while on your right are the Sierra Madre Mountains.

We stopped at the Mobil Station in the town of New Cuyama. Tom said to me, "This is God's Country!". The stretch of Hwy 166 that we rode through is largely desolate except for an occasional herd of cattle here and there.

You will want to top-off your gas tank at New Cuyama because there are very few gas stations on the route we were traveling. There is a Texaco station in Pine Mountain Club, but last September we discovered the station had no gasoline. There's a station in Cuddy Valley, but I don't know if they have gas. There is also a gas station in Ventucopa (on Hwy 33), but it was hard to tell if the station was operating. Either way, the operator of the Mobil station here in New Cuyama said this was the only station selling gas between here and Ojai.

Tom had to shut off the engine to fill his gas tank, and that had us worried if he could get it started again. Nope, it wouldn't start. The gas station operator had jumper cables and we managed to find someone to help us get it started.

We had to make a decision at this point to take the same route that Tony and I took last September (outline in blue on the above map). We were running short on time because we burned too much time in Santa Maria trying to get Tom's bike started. We decided to shorten it by taking Hwy 33 south instead to going out to Cerro Noroeste Rd.

Highway 33 from the intersection of Highway 166 to the intersection of Lockwood Valley Rd is all straight road. But it's not a boring ride by any means. The scenery again is stunning. The puffs of clouds in the sky illuminated by the sun, combined with the damp ground from the evening's rain made you want to take in deep breaths to clear out of the smog from your lungs.

Eventually Hwy 33 ascends into the mountains and becomes very twisty. Keep your eyes open for a California Condor floating in the skies because this is where they release them to the wild.

Tom and I pulled our bikes over to the side when we spotted an excellent place to view Lockwood Valley and Pine Mountain in the distance.

The road winds its way down the other side of the mountains and follows Sespe Creek through Sespe Gorge and Wheeler Gorge. These gorges offer views of rock walls that shoot up from the sides of the road. This is a very popular stretch of road for bikers, you'll find more bikes than cars here.

In between the two gorges we came across an accident scene with a helicopter blocking off the road. A biker took a curve too hot and lost control. His bike appeared to be mangled wreck in a ditch. Paramedics hauled him out and flew him away. A reminder that no matter how skilled you are, you have to respect the road.

Highway 33 continues descending down through some very twisty road and into the town of Ojai. On a weekend, Ojai is invaded by bikers of all types. Tom and I stopped at a sandwich shop to rest. He tried to leave his bike idling, but it died out. We found someone to jump start it for us.

The final journey into Santa Paula takes us west along Highway 150. It's only about 15 miles to Santa Paula from Ojai. As expected, Highway 150 carries a lot more traffic, even though it's still a twisty two-lane route through the hills and valleys.

As you ride through Santa Paula on Highway 150 (10th street), take note of the bronze statue of two Japanese guys riding motorcycles right at the railroad crossing. As the story goes, it was in 1928 that these two had witnessed the St. Francis Dam breaking above the town of Santa Paula, and jumped on their bikes to warn the people below.

I would have liked to spend more time in Santa Paula, but it just wasn't to be. The California Oil Museum is one place I'd like to visit next time. And it looks like there's lot of great places to eat there as well.

Here are my photo albums of this ride...

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