Early on a Saturday morning, my husband and I stood outside our Goleta home and stuffed the last of our camping gear into a bike trailer. Dan and I double-checked the supplies in the panniers on my front rack, readjusted our 22-month-old’s helmet, and snapped a photo to commemorate the occasion. Our destination was Carpinteria State Beach.
How does one motivate an almost-two-year-old for 50 miles of biking in two days? The same way you’d motivate yourself: gluttonous treats. When Alden saw the chocolate chip granola bars earlier in the week, I told him they were a special snack for our bike trip. “Go bike-trippin’!” quickly became his refrain, accompanied by urgent pointing toward the door.
There’s no arguing with a toddler. “Let’s do it!” Dan and I agreed.
Setting Off: Cruising down Hollister, the warm sun felt good on my back, but I was a little nervous. Alden is an active kid who loathes car travel. How many hours could he sit still in his bike seat?
In an effort to keep our little guy engaged, we began pointing things out to each other: a heron, ducks, a backhoe. One of the wonderful things about bike touring is the pace. There’s time to notice subtle changes, in landscape and climate, that drivers zoom past too quickly to experience.
We took Patterson to the coast path, catching a cool breeze flowing in from the ocean. Alden was content to watch the passing scenery and we settled into a rhythm.
We paused mid-way, at Shoreline Park, to eat snacks in the shade and let Alden play on the swings and slides.
Back on the road, my muscles were starting to feel weary. Had we trained enough make it to Carpinteria without total exhaustion? Would we have to call one of our friends to rescue us from the side of the road?
Twenty-five miles may not seem far. Plenty of people run that distance. But they’re probably not singing Old MacDonald with every step. Being under constant threat of mutiny or torture-by-tantrum we had to pedal quickly, but still reserve enough energy to chase those fresh, springy toddler legs around the campsite.
Passing through Summerland, we heard the telltale whistle blowing and an enthusiastic, “Train! Amtrak train!” was heard from the back of my bike. I turned to catch a glimpse of our boy’s sweet smile and sparkling eyes. We watched together as the Pacific Surfliner chugged alongside the ocean.
With about 15 minutes to go, Alden grew restless and found his own creative outlet: pulling Mama’s shorts down for the amusement of both himself and passing motorists. Embarrassment is a small price to pay for family harmony, and we all rolled up to the kiosk at Carpinteria State Beach smiling, and mostly dressed.
Being There: Boasting the “World’s Safest Beach,” a great playground, and lots of restaurants and shops within walking distance, Carpinteria State Beach is perfectly situated for families traveling by bike.
We spent several hours playing in the surf and sand at the beach, and on the equipment at Tomol interpretive playground. We picked up a new bedtime book at the The Curious Cup, an independent bookstore. Our little train enthusiast was delighted to find railroad tracks running behind a fence near the back of the campsite. We had a clear view of the passing trains from our sleeping bags. Alden didn’t sleep well. Fortunately, he is the world’s coolest kid, so we forgive him the many (many!) sleepless nights.
Heading Home: Despite the lack of rest, we got an early start in the morning, beating the prevailing headwinds that tend to pick up in the afternoon. We stopped at the Santa Barbara harbor to stretch and play, then cranked our way slowly up Cliff Drive, up Las Positas, and down Modoc to connect again to the coast path.
As we made our way into Goleta, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude. Thankful for a husband who volunteers to pull the trailer and doesn’t complain when I throw in extra books and toys. Thankful to live in this beautiful place, where hopping on a bike to bicycle in the sun and sleep in a tent beside the ocean is a possibility. And so very thankful for a sweet, adventurous little co-pilot to share these blessings with.
We arrived home tired but happy, and full of wonderful memories of our family’s first bike trip. And we’re already daydreaming about the next one.
Biker Basics at Carpinteria State Beach
* Check in at the kiosk at the front entrance to obtain your camping permit.
* The hike and bike site is only open to those traveling by bicycle or by foot.
* Sites are provided on a first come, first served basis.
* The cost is $10/person per night.
* There is a two-night maximum consecutive stay and a ten-night annual max.
* Use the food boxes provided, those are some brave raccoons!
* Bring your own soap for the bathrooms, and quarters for the shower.
* The facilities at the campground are clean and well maintained. Please do your part to help keep them that way.