I was back on the Central Coast in February giving some exercise to a new car that I actually purchased, my Mini Cooper S Countryman, which regular readers of this website will remember that I ordered in December and received in February.

This time it was north from San Diego through LA and straight to Ventura, which I used as a base for a few days. The nice thing about the region in and around the Santa Ynez mountains is that everything’s a couple of hours away. My first foray was back up CA-33, which I had taken southbound in August.

Heading north was just as fun: through the tunnels, hairpin curves (I didn’t even try to count this time),  past my August access point, Lockwood Valley Road, and on to CA-166 west, the Cuyama Highway, named for California Highway Patrol Officers Irvine and Stovall. As twisty as CA-33 is to the south, Cuyama Highway is mostly smooth and straight as it goes through the Cuyama Highway. These are beautiful grazing lands, with cattle fattening in the California sun.

As close as we are to Los Angeles, it’s fortunately out of commuting range and there’s not much here. My lunch was a packaged sandwich at the hardware store in the town of New Cuyama. Not sure if you’d even call this a town; it’s a settlement where the good folks that work on the ranches have their homes and get the mail. Vehicles appear to be mostly working pickup trucks.

Leaving the valley, the highway starts to twist and turn through the rugged mountains and the Los Padres National Forest. The National Forest lands cover many of the peaks and less-developable areas in the three counties, Ventura, Santa Barbara and, to the north, San Luis Obispo. This was just a delightful drive, with green hills, fog and drizzle, a cozy coast day. The road ends up in Santa Maria, one of the main towns in the area. From there, it’s about an hour and 45 minutes south on US 101 back to Ventura.

Route and Info

Distance

  • About 140 miles from Ventura to Santa Maria.

Difficulty

  • Easy to challenging. Parts are straight as an arrow; other areas have hairpin turns in canyons.

Directions


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Explore San Diego County's backroads, beaches, mountains and deserts with Joyride Guru® and award-winning author Jack Brandais. Make them your San Diego day trip.
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