With the launch of our brand new cycling tours in California, exploring on two wheels has never been more exciting. Will Hide takes a trip through wine country and discusses why padded bicycle shorts are an absolute must...
You can thank me later, but I have three words for you that are going to elevate your next holiday to a whole new level.
'Padded bicycle shorts'.
If you are going to hit the saddle on one of Grand American Adventures' brand new California cycling trips, no matter how well-padded your posterior, there’s always room for a bit more cushioning.
Believe me, I know. Even a...cough cough...well-honed athlete such as myself needs a bit of help now and again. Padded bike shorts may look a bit like a cross between tight gym pants and an adult nappy but when you get off your cycle at the end of day one and rush towards that well-earned beer, you won’t care.
A cycling holiday like this can be a trip in itself if you only have so many vacation days left at work. But it’s perhaps best enjoyed as a bolt-on before or after time spent elsewhere in the USA: maybe a long weekend in Los Angeles or San Francisco first to soak up the American spirit and get over a bit of jet lag?
The new cycling trips pass through two areas of California that really show off the Golden State at its glorious best: one along the Pacific coast, and another through bucolic wine country. Both are areas that really allow you to explore the laid-back west-coast spirit that’s famous all over the world, and the great news is that whichever you do, both include a massage at a local spa to knead your knots and loosen your limbs.
Heading north from LA, not far from the Los Padres National Forest, you’ll come to cool coastal towns such as Santa Barbara, with a chilled, almost-Mediterranean vibe and a gateway to some great beaches. There are some awesome dining options there too such as Loquita tapas bar and Lure Fish House for excellent seafood.
Continuing on, you’ll pedal inland past farms and vineyards of the Santa Ynez Valley up to Santa Maria, which hides a secret…the best barbecue in the West, which is handy as all that pedalling means you can eat what you want after forty or fifty miles.
In fact Santa Maria-style barbecue is such a 'thing' that it was copyrighted back in 1978. It’s usually accompanied by pinquito beans (no, I’d never heard of them either), green salad and – just when you thought it was all sounding quite healthy – a grilled baguette dipped in melted butter. San Luis Obispo, settled by the Spanish in the 1700s, is another interesting town to nose around.
The second route option is take the six-night wine country tour north of San Francisco in Napa and Sonoma (aka “Slow-noma”) counties, where you’ll see everything from vines to giant Redwood trees. In Bodega Bay you can cycle where Alfred Hitchcock shot some of his scariest scenes in The Birds, while in Calistoga you pause in the area that’s known for its geothermal activity.
And at Healdsburg and the Russian River you can check out what has become known as a foodie destination in its own right, attracting plenty of San Franciscans at the weekend. Sunshine Roasters have a fantastic spot for coffee in Forestville if you need a pick-me-up.
Either way, you’re going to see a part of the country in a way that most don’t, get a bit fitter along the way, and eat and drink some of the best food and wine that America has to offer. I can definitely say cheers to that!