U.S. 360 Tour III – Day 38 from Grover Beach CA to Lompoc CA (The Harris Grade and an Apparition)

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

46 miles (74 km) – Total so far: 1,918 miles (3,087 km)

The very thought of climbing a series of hills that locals have coined “The Harris Grade” was a little disconcerting. That, together with the legend of an apparition that apparently haunts the hills, was enough to give my tummy butterflies. Let me explain. First, we decided to cut the ride short today due to some logistical camping issues, but also because of the hilly terrain. The early part of the ride today was comprised of gentle inland riding along the Pacific Coast Highway. I saw vineyards, fields of cauliflower and beets, and huge sections of strawberry fields, which by the way planted the 1967 Beatles tune in my head that I could not dismiss all day. We passed through the towns of Oceano, Guadalupe, Orcutt, and ultimately Lompoc.

Psychologically, the ride today was dominated with the thought of what the last few miles would bring – a steep net 1200 ft climb up an ominous sounding hilly/mountainous landscape called “The Harris Grade”, which is a fairly rural road with switchbacks up and over the Purisma Hills just North of the town of Lompoc CA.

We heard that The Harris Grade is sought after by local cyclists who dare to conquer the very steep and curvy grade. Interestingly, locals also say the road is haunted by a ghost named Agnes, who with her daughter were killed in the 1800’s after their horse-drawn wagon overturned on the steep roadway. After 40+ miles of relatively flat riding, we were greeted by The Harris Grade. After 30-45 minutes of climbing and dodging teenagers testing their (lack of) driving skills on the winding road, we reached the summit. It was a bit anti-climactic as it was not as grueling as I had expected, and more importantly, I never saw Agnes, who I hoped might be serving fresh lemonade somewhere along the route.

It’s All Good.

Vinyard near Orcutt CA
Vinyard near Orcutt CA
The Harris Grade near Lompoc CA, before the climb.
The Harris Grade near Lompoc CA, before the climb.
The Harris Grade at the summit, looking down on Lompoc CA.
The Harris Grade at the summit, looking down on Lompoc CA.
The Harris Grade at the summit, looking down on Lompoc CA.
The Harris Grade at the summit, looking down on Lompoc CA.

 

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