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Venturing Through Ventura On California’s Gold Coast

As the virus continues wreaking havoc on travel almost everywhere, biking close to home seems to be one of the best alternatives. With that in mind, we decided to do some pedaling around our hometown. Over all, Southern California is extremely bike friendly, but some places are friendlier than others.

We love Los Angeles, but aren’t big fans of fighting traffic on two wheels and feeling like we might wind up like a bug on a windshield at any given moment, so the urban sprawl isn’t our first choice when it comes to pedaling along the Pacific shore.

Luckily, just a few miles up the coast there is a very different story in the quaint beach town of San Buenaventura. The name even means good luck.

Known simply as Ventura, this is what California dreamin’ is all about, we could almost hear “let the sunshine in” playing on a loop while we rode along the promenade.

This section of the Pacific Coast Bike Route, which runs some two hundred miles from San Luis Obispo to Malibu, skirts right along the waterfront. No doubt all two hundred of those miles have a lot to offer, and we love to ride, but casually, not crazily. We were glad the city’s picturesque downtown is only a few blocks off the trail.

We certainly didn’t want to miss the sights, so we began with the mission, one of the earliest settlements in the state.  Mission San Buenaventura was founded by Franciscan Father Junípero Serra in 1782 as part of Spain’s colonization of North America.

Water from the nearby Ventura River was brought by aqueduct and soon a town grew around the mission compound. After becoming part of Mexico, and then the United States, Ventura was incorporated as a city in 1866.

Set on the hill above the mission, the stoic City Hall building overlooks Main Street below. Built as the courthouse over one hundred years ago, the majestic structure now stands as a landmark, especially after the incredibly close call it experienced during the catastrophic Thomas Fire late in 2017.

Everyone wasn’t so lucky, the hall survived, perhaps from a bit of the good fortune that the city’s name invokes, and Father Serra’s statue in front was also unscathed, along with the Municipal Art Collection, featuring one hundred works by seventy artists.

We found more local art on our way back to the beachfront while passing under the Highway 101 overpass on Figueroa Street. Murals on both sides of the bridge portray life in this neighborhood, known as Tortilla Flats, before the freeway was built after World War II.

In an effort to preserve the once vibrant community’s history, Marybeth Hanrahan and Moses Mora Hanrahan captured the stories and lives of people who were displaced by the road project.

Back at the seaside, we took the opportunity to actually get out over the water on the pier. The original Ventura Pier was built in 1872 but, like most everything that spends much time in the ocean, it has had to be rebuilt several times.

Once upon a time steam ships docked here, carrying passengers and cargo up and down the coast, but roads and rails made them obsolete. The current version (fourth or fifth depending on who’s counting) is purely for pleasure, and only dates back to 1995 when its predecessor was destroyed by a storm.

Following the bike route a few miles down the coast took us to Ventura Harbor. As we mentioned before, we love to ride our bikes, but we are not the intense, passionate sort of cyclists who deck out in lycra and go on epic, marathon rides.

That meant that after meandering many (Really? Many? OK, OK, a few.) miles we were ready for some refueling. One might say our cycling style could be described as bike to table.

That is one big reason why we were so excited to hear from prAna when they offered to provide clothing for our excursion. These pants and tops are not only more than comfortable enough for riding, they are good looking enough to get off and walk into a seaside café.

Another good reason is that prAna uses sustainable materials such as hemp, organic cotton, and recycled wool. This means way less energy, pesticides, and fertilizers go into creating every outfit.

Having consumed a bit of the bounty of the sea, we were ready to see some of how it got to us. The marina is the home port for about a thousand boats, many which comprise Ventura’s commercial fishing fleet.

Every day dozens of vessels head out in hopes of bringing back the delicacies we seafood lovers crave. But we were also reminded that this is sometimes dangerous work, so we paid our respects at the Fishermen’s Memorial Arch.

Artist Michel Petersen, known as Michellino, created the tribute by making plaster casts of real fishermen and incorporating them into her ceramic monument.  We were so intrigued that we looked it up and found this informative and fun article on the making of the monument.

It certainly doesn’t hurt to be aware of where our food, and clothing for that matter, comes from.

Check out more exciting articles about traveling during COVID:

America The Beautiful: Adventure Travel In The Time Of Covid-19 Part 1 by Rebecca Merrell

Rockin’ And Rollin’ Down Route 66 by Gypsy Nesters

Have Road, Will Travel: Cross Country Travel Tips by The Manopause Team

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Gypsy Nesters
Gypsy Nesters
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