California Flying

The Santa Ynez Valley

December 1, 2001

Pastries, glider rides, world-class golf, live theater, and a comfortable resort cluster near a small town that seems to have been imported from Denmark. Solvang, as well as the small towns of Los Olivos and Santa Ynez, offer myriad attractions in the Santa Ynez Valley. Located on an elevated plateau east of Lompoc, the area is served by the 2,804-foot-long runway of the Santa Ynez Airport.

Ninety-two nautical miles northwest of Los Angeles International Airport, the Santa Ynez Valley is a bit off the beaten path for most pilots. It's too bad, because even a one-day visit will have the captain and crew wishing for more time to explore and experience the local attractions.

Flying in

Windhaven Glider Rides ( www.gliderrides.com) launch from — and land on — the short dirt runway immediately to the right of the approach end of Runway 26. It's possible that both a glider and a powered airplane would be on approach for landing at the same time. For this reason all powered airplanes are required to fly the traffic pattern on the mountain side (south) of the airport — that means left traffic to 26 and right traffic to Runway 8 for powered airplanes. Gliders fly the pattern on the non mountainous (north) side of the airport. The most common prevailing wind is from the west and the windsock is midfield on the mountain (south) side of the runway. Noise-abatement procedures require a turn to a heading of 210 degrees as soon as possible after taking off from Runway 26.

The airport office is open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. and can supply local weather conditions. ("Has the marine layer fog lifted yet?" is a typical query.) Pilots should call 805/688-8390. There's a 24-hour self-pump fuel island, and Airport Manager Susan Gambara invites visitors to camp on the grass in front of the airport office and partake of the nearby showers free of charge; although there is a modest overnight parking fee.

Visitors who would rather be pampered in western ranch-style comfort will want to stay at the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort. Playing 18 holes on a private golf course, trail riding on one of the 100 horses on the ranch, or fly-fishing in Alisal's spring-fed lake are a few of the resort's attractions.

Alisal is set on 10,000 acres of unspoiled countryside and boasts more than 50 miles of riding trails. For more information, visit the Web site ( www.alisal.com).

The horse whisperer

The Santa Ynez Valley is horse country. A few miles west of Solvang, on the north side of a ruler-straight stretch of High-way 246, is Flag Is Up Farms. This horse breeding and conditioning ranch is home to Monty Roberts, who developed the unique, nonviolent Join-Up technique of breaking horses described in his book The Man Who Listens to Horses and popularized in the fictional novel The Horse Whisperer. The ranch is open to visitors every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit the Web site ( www.montyroberts.com).

East of town a turn to the north on Alamo Pintado Road leads to Los Olivos. A former stop on the San Diego to San Francisco stagecoach line, this small Victorian village boasts more than 30 historic sights that are featured in the Los Olivos historic district walking tour. Walkers will also find art galleries and antique shops along the way. For more information, visit the Web site ( www.losolivosca.com).

On your trip back from Los Olivos to Solvang, don't be surprised when you come upon a pasture of 30-inch-tall horses. You've arrived at the Quicksilver Miniature Horse Farm. Visitors are invited to stop by any day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information call 805/686-4002 or visit the Web site (ariel.syv.com/qsminis).

Transportation

Fly-in visitors can arrange for rental cars by contacting Sunwest Aviation at the airport (805/688-2437). Yellow Cab can also provide transport services (805/688-0069) as can Serenity Limousine Service (800/939-5466). The Santa Ynez Mountains form the southern boundary of this valley, yet the valley is fairly flat so travel by bicycle is easy — although Highway 246 west of town is often quite busy. Both Dr. J's Bicychiatry (805/688-6263) and Surrey Cycle Rentals (805/688-0091) can provide bikes for touring the area.

The airport is located across the highway from the town of Santa Ynez. Three blocks into Santa Ynez is the Santa Ynez Historical Society Museum and Parks-Janeway Carriage House. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The carriage museum features moreCthan 35 different horse-drawn vehicles including stagecoaches, surreys, phaetons, and others. One unique attraction in the museum is the "Anderson Special," an automobile built in 1903 by a local blacksmith. Artifacts ,epict the Chumash Indian society and early twentieth-century ranch life. For more information, visit the Web site ( www.rootsweb.com/~casyhsmc/).

The Chumash are the Native Americans who occupied the Santa Ynez region before the Spanish explorers arrived. Located one and a half miles to the west of the airport is the Chumash Casino. Call the casino at 800/728-9997 or visit the Web site ( www.santaynez.org).

Lake Cachuma

East of the airport at the head of the valley is Lake Cachuma. This large lake is well known among bird watchers. The Santa Barbara County Parks Department offers two-hour nature cruises on a 46-passenger observation boat throughout the year. From November through February is an especially good time to book seats ($12 for adults and $5 for children) because eagles nest around the lake. Call 805/686-5050 to reserve seats, or visit the Web site ( www.sbparks.org) for more information on the park or the cruises.

Performing arts

In addition to all the outside activities, fine weather, and fascinating local attractions, the Santa Ynez Valley has its own wonderful brand of homegrown culture. The Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts (PCPA) stages plays from June to October in Solvang at the outdoor Festival Theatre. Located in the center of Solvang, this 700-seat theatre is a local treasure. In the early 1970s, the board of the Danish Days celebration in Solvang asked the PCPA to stage Shakespeare's Hamlet during the festival. The staging was so well received that members of the community pitched in and built the theatre. For more information on PCPA, or to view the plays scheduled for 2002, visit the Web site ( www.pcpa.org). Many of the local motels listed on the Solvang Chamber of Commerce Web site ( www.solvangusa.com) offer PCPA packages that make it very easy to enjoy a play during most visits.

These are only a few of the many attractions in the Santa Ynez Valley. There's one more thing of note to serious golfers — 15 miles west of Solvang on Highway 246 is one of the best public golf courses in California.

La Purisima Golf Course is so good that the USGA held the final six rounds of the professional qualifying school there a few years ago. And it's a real bargain — tee times are pretty hard to get on weekend mornings but during the week they're readily available. Start your round in the morning; after about 10:30 a.m. the winds start up and the course gets a lot tougher. Call 805/735-8395 for tee times.

Fly down to the Santa Ynez Valley soon. There's plenty to see and do.


E-mail the author at steve.ells@aopa.org.