Every year it gets harder and harder to buy gifts for my friends and family. Gift cards and money seems to be the fit for most birthdays and Christmas presents, but it always seems so impersonal. Cloud 9 Living offers memorable experiences as gifts and you can find something for everyone from grandparents, to newlyweds, to kids! Cloud 9 helps you pair a hobby or new adventure with the right recipient for a gift that is more than an obligation.
We recently took a road trip with some family for a couples’ getaway to the Santa Ynez Valley just northwest of Santa Barbara. The area is known for it’s wine country and we were celebrating the end of summer! The husbands love to mountain bike and us ladies like to go wine tasting, so we created the perfect gift experience with the Wine Country Cycling adventure, it was the best of both worlds! A perfect wedding or anniversary gift, it makes for an ideal day of cycling, wine tasting, and delicious food!
Right in downtown Solvang we found Dr. J’s Bicycle Shop where we would start our 4-5 hour journey beginning about 9am. Here you will meet your guides, get your Specialized hybrid bike fitting and discuss the route and plan for the day. The guides measure your height and find the best bike for your ride along with ensuring your seat is comfortable (I asked for two cushioned seat covers half-jokingly but I did get one). During this preparation, water bottles are filled, helmets are secured properly, and a lesson on gear shifting is helpful even for those experienced bikers.
Remember I said us women love our wine, we are not cyclists. But, don’t worry, the route is customized with the guides to fit the your riding ability ensuring the best time possible. We started our ride right there at the shop. Through residential areas and then a bit on the highway, we were always sticking together as a group with one guide at the front and one at the back. The road was paved the entire trip and was basically flat. Riding past vineyards, horse ranches, and scenic mountains, the guides shared knowledge of the area and allowed each rider to chat and share as well. There was open communication about how we were feeling and we were reminded to stay hydrated throughout the ride. If any riders were slowing down, a guide would remain at the back of the pack to keep an eye out, but never were we pushed to keep up.
In Los Olivos, we stopped downtown to fill our water bottles and take a break. We then headed down Figueroa Mountain road that had a slight incline. The weather was warm so we all kept at a good pace. The scenery was stunning! Some clouds came out of nowhere and dropped a 2 minute sprinkle on us that helped cool us down, then the sun and heat was back. After a few miles about half of us took a break while the other half just went a bit further down the road to stop at the entrance of what was once Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch! Checking in with the husbands, who are used to biking up in the mountains on narrow paths and often at a faster pace, they were just fine. This ride was made for couples to enjoy together, no racing, no competing, just relax and enjoy the surroundings!
When you have a slight incline one way, that means a bit of downhill on the return trip. Giving our legs a break from pedaling plus the wind in our hair made for a joyful ride back to Los Olivos!We made a stop at a local olive oil tasting room for some samples of flavored olive oil and balsamic vinegars. Then it was off for a few more miles before our lunch. Included in this experience is being served a gourmet picnic lunch tableside overlooking a gorgeous vineyard. We arrived at Blackjack Ranch Vineyards and Winery and gorgeous it was! The remarkable tree along the highway can’t be missed with the old truck beneath filled with wine barrels. Here we were treated to wine tasting atop a bar made from bowling lanes from a old alley nearby. The Chardonnay was cold and crisp and hit the spot after our near 22 mile ride! We purchased a bottle to enjoy with our fantastic, healthy, and replenishing lunch! Salads, fruit, meats, cheeses, and a most delicious plate of desserts! What a way to round out the day. We were here about an hour’s total and hopefully not too stuffed to make the short ride back to the bike shop. Just in case someone gets pooped out along the way, a truck is available to take the back and you back to the shop. The whole experience was completely worth it! It was so neat to mix my husband and my favorites to make a memorable day for both of us. Exercise, exploring, eating, drinking, and together with friends is just icing on the cake! Some energy, an appetite, comfy shoes, and some layers is all you need for this amazing day trip in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley.
Thanks to Santa Barbara Wine Country Cycling Tours for a great day! To learn more about Cloud 9 Living and their amazing experiences, visit https://www.cloud9living.com/.
Our experience was hosted, all opinions and gratuities were on our own.