Motorcycle Paradise: CA Route 150

Lake Casitas, CA Rt150

Lake Casitas, from CA Rt150

40 miles? That’s all!? Oh, but these are not regular miles. These are 40 miles of heavenly motorcycle bliss for any rider venturing through Ventura County, California. Some of the highlights include excellent pavement, mountains, hills, canyons, mountains, lakes, rivers, valleys, mountains, very few traffic lights or stop signs, excellent food, super scenery, infinite twisties and did I mention mountains? Heck! There’s even an ocean to get things started.

The western terminus of California State Route 150 starts at the Pacific Ocean at its juncture with Highway 101, about 80 miles north of LA, and just south of Santa Barbara — in the seaside town of Carpinteria.

The good times start quickly along this two-lane road, as it winds its way into the Santa Ynez Mountains. After about a dozen miles of continuous up and down turns, and a few hairpin corners, the Lake Casitas Recreation Area bursts into view. Route 150 snakes around the lake, which is a central attraction for picnicking, fishing, boating, biking, hiking, and camping. (The lake was created with the completion of the Casitas Dam in 1959.)

Whether you stop along the reservoir or not, you may be more inspired to pull over about a half a dozen more miles past the water and across the Ventura River. You will be enticed by the small town of Ojai to grab a bite in any of the many cafes and restaurants as the 150 takes you through “downtown.” Nestled in a picturesque valley, the town is noted for art, “new age” influence, citrus and avocado agriculture, as well as a number of celebrities that live and visit here.

As a side note, two primary routes bisect Ojai: The 150 divides the town with an east/west orientation, and California State Route 33 passes through Ojai with a north/south bias. Route 33 is another spectacular motorcycle road, which also begins at the Pacific (in the “city” of Ventura) and heads into the mountains of the Los Padres National Forest. Riders come from far and wide to enjoy each of these heavenly runways to motorcycle nirvana. Both are part of the California Scenic Highway System.

My favorite part of Route 150 is just past the eastern end of central Ojai, locally referred to as “the hill.” The road rapidly ascends from the Ojai Valley into the Upper Ojai Valley as a convoluted, serpentine elevator ride.

At the top, the 150 opens up for a few miles. You can shift through some gears while passing horse ranches and walnut orchards, before heading back into the woods and tight curves. Sulphur Mountain is on your right and under your tires, with Santa Paula Creek leading the way on the left along the winding and gradual descent into Santa Paula for the last 12 miles. By the way, “Sulphur Mountain” is an apt description, as there is a section of this road, just outside Thomas Aquinas College, which notably emits the odorous namesake gas.

This last section of the 150 was closed for a few months in early 2004 after flooding from heavy winter rains washed out multiple parts of the road. The asphalt was re-opened that year with several sections narrowed to one lane and attended by as many traffic lights to control the rural traffic. That did cut down the fun factor, as the only traffic lights or stop signs that otherwise exist along the whole of Route 150 are a few in Ojai, and at the eastern 150 terminus in Santa Paula. Finally, earlier this year (2007) the re-construction was completed. Both lanes are fully opened and it’s smooth sailing again from the Pacific to California State Route 126 in Santa Paula.

This is truly a spectacular, rural, scenic and unforgettable ride. The entire route winds its way up and down, over, around, and in between mountains and hills making for a motorcycle experience that you just cannot ride too many times. It may only be 40 miles long, but no matter where you come from to enjoy it, you will want to ride it again and again and again and again….

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