Vail Daily travel: Santa Barbara by bike |

Vail Daily travel: Santa Barbara by bike

Betty Ann Woodland
Daily Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily/Betty Ann Woodland

It seems that many Vail-area residents have caught on and are taking offseason trips that satisfy the soul. Many have flown off to far-flung locations including Spain, Italy, France and even Alaska for their get-out-of-dodge excursions, but sometimes you can find all that you need a little closer to home. That magic place for my husband and I started at Santa Barbara’s Hotel Oceana in early September and ended a week later after a stay in the quaint Victorian Santa Ynez Inn and a stop at Fess Parker Resort, all part of a Trek Travel Santa Barbara Wine Country Trip. On the recommendations of friends, we entrusted our care to the capable and attentive hands of Trek Travel guides as we embarked on a bike tour through the famed wine country.

From the Central California Coast to the Santa Ynez Valley, from the glistening, gleaming Pacific shoreline to the golden, rolling hills covered in gnarly oak trees, Santa Barbara County and beyond are a delight for the senses. Add in an ample amount of local flavors, including farm-fresh organic and sustainable cuisine, and a handful of taste-tempting wineries, and you can get hooked on this place. What made it all the more appealing is we earned our meals by biking 20 to 60 miles per day on country lanes, bike paths and hill climbs, all with the expert guidance of Trek Travel guides. It was a trip of a lifetime in part thanks to our professional and thorough guides, Rusty Robinson and Mark Thomsen, who took turns showing us the way on the bike and driving the support van during the five-night, six-day trip. Both guys were extraordinary people who had easygoing manners and attention to detail all at once.

That’s likely because the guides undergo rigorous training. While at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge event in August, I met a former Trek Travel guide who is now an attorney and she joked, “Trek Travel training was more challenging than law school, at times.” Our guide on the Santa Barbara Wine Country Trip, Thomsen, was a co-trainee of hers and taught her how to change flat tires on the fly and other feats.

The picnic lunches the men prepared and executed were filled with heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil and loads of locally harvested olive oil, all delicious and aesthetically pleasing, as well. Dinners were a sensory treat for the palate and mind, with hearty courses and conversation.

One of the many highlights of the excursion was a stop at the San Ysidro Ranch in the Montecito foothills.

“Guests are drawn to this legendary hideaway for its blend of exquisite natural beauty, romantic heritage and classic luxury. Myth and legend mingle in the fragrant gardens, where Vivien Leigh and Sir Laurence Olivier exchanged vows; in the setting of John and Jackie Kennedy’s honeymoon retreat,” according to the resort description on More recently, Julia Roberts and Danny Moder honeymooned there, staying in a rustic-yet-elegant bungalow.

The Stonehouse Restaurant at the San Ysidro Ranch wowed our tastebuds off the charts with pan-seared diver scallops with truffle potato risotto and parmesan-crusted halibut with gnocchetti and artichoke. Other standout restaurants in the area were Trattoria Grappolo, Dos Carlitos and Seagrass Restaurant. You really cannot go wrong in this resort community, where the standards are very high, much like we are accustomed to in the Vail Valley.

There comes a certain amount of bonding on these trips, whether it is on account of braving long rides on the bike, coping with whatever life and nature dole out for you in a week’s time, or just spending quality time with good folks over excellent food and wine. We were treated to some exceptional company, camaraderie, stories and connections. Friendships were made, and there will likely be a reunion of sorts, especially since Vail is a frequent destination for the group.

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge will return to Colorado in 2012 from Aug. 20 to 26. Mark your calendars, and stay in town for this exciting epic event. Let’s hope that Vail is a repeat host town for the Pro Cycling Challenge because if that is the case, the event will be coming through our backyard again. It is quite certain that Trek Travel will design a bike tour to follow the Pro Cycling Challenge that will be on par with their Tour de France trip.

“Trek Travel is really plugged in to pro cycling,” said Mike Meholic, with Trek Travel. “We guide at all the classics – the Giro, Tour de France and the spring classics – and have access and relationships to teams and riders. We are the official operator at the Tour de California, and the guests love that one. These are really complex trips, and we take care of all the details.”

Visit Trek Travel’s website for details on how these race trips play out, including stopping at bistros with private viewing, catered meals, televisions and VIP treatment.

Keep an eye out for the announcement on which towns and cities will host next year’s race at http://www.usapro

Happy travels and trails during this, our offseason. Refresh and revitalize for another great ski season in one of the most beautiful and outstanding places on the planet – our backyard.

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