The group of Lompoc cyclists who gathered in front of the Home Depot Friday morning set off to follow a tradition more than 25 years old.
Unless it rains, members of the Lompoc Valley Bicycle Club can be counted on to meet for a weekly ride to Buellton with a singular goal in mind: reach Mother Hubbard's Restaurant for breakfast.
Bob Grant is the vice president of the club — a position he guesses he's held about 15 times in the relaxed club focused on enjoying the open road with friends rather than titles.
"We're not a racing team," he said. "We don't leave anyone behind. It's more of a family club."
Joining Grant on Friday was president Bob Petty, Ed Edman, Bob Lawrence, Pete Moeller and Larry Michels.
The group laughed at the motivation to meet at 8:30 a.m. to ride to Buellton on a cool, misty Friday morning.
"Food!" Moeller beams.
"All our rides either end with a meal or at the halfway point," Grant smiled.
The question of why they choose not to leisurely drive to a group breakfast is almost dismissed as not even a consideration. The experience of riding together is too good to pass up.
The group has another regularly scheduled ride on Wednesday nights that starts at La Purisma Mission. And during monthly meetings they decide different routes for weekend excursions.
But the biggest adventures take them out of the state and even the country.
"We've toured Oregon about eight times," Grant said of the club. "We went to San Diego and then took the train back a few times. Our go-to, easy four-day ride is from Half-Moon Bay (in San Mateo County). We get transported up there and ride back to Lompoc."
Several members of the club have ridden across the country or even pushed themselves to do three centuries (300 miles) in a day.
Their appreciation for the sights and sounds of the surrounding environment keep them pedaling.
Michels said one of his favorite memories outside of the Lompoc Valley was when he and his wife rode through Zion National Park in southwest Utah.
"It was fantastic riding down into the valley through all the beautiful vistas and the mountains," he said. "It's awesome."
But a story that makes him smile as he shares it was his first 100-mile ride with his then 12-year-old daughter.
"When we got back to the parking lot, she said, "I've only gone 98 miles, Dad,'" he recalled. 'Let's keep going around the parking lot.' She went around until she got 100 miles."
Moeller rode across Iowa in a massive event called RAGBRAI that involves 10,000 people spending seven days on the road to cross the state.
"On the one hand it's a rolling party but they claim it's the second greatest thing to happen to Iowa after corn," he laughed.
Lawrence will soon be heading up to British Columbia, Canada to ride in Jasper National Park. He also does annual rides in Colorado with a group of about 30 people.
"The scenery is incredible," he said of Colorado. "It's a great way to see the country."
As much fun as the group has on adventures throughout the state and beyond, they are quick to point out how ideal the Central Coast is for their sport/recreation activity.
Anyone who drives around the area is likely to see bicyclists on the side of the road. Bike lanes are plentiful in towns and cities and there is a variety of challenging routes from which to choose.
"In the springtime a lot of people come out here to ride from places that are still cold," Petty said. "Santa Ynez Valley and Lompoc Valley are destinations for them. We meet them a lot of times Santa Rosa Road."
When Lance Armstrong was competing for Tour de France yellow jerseys he was often spotted training in the Central Coast, Grant said. If you know where to look, he added, you can find professional teams training.
"A lot of people come here," Michels said. "Tejay Van Garderen, who competed in the Tour de France, trains here and we see him a lot."
The area also draws people who enjoy getting on their bikes for the same reasons that appeal to the Lompoc club.
"We meet other riders on the road all the time and periodically we stop and talk," Moeller said. "Sometimes you stop and help because they have mechanical issues. Sometimes we give them suggestions of where to ride around the area because they may be from any part of the world."
The group plans to stay on the road for many more years, appreciating the views and meeting new people.
"This is something you can do for life," Lawrence said. "We're all in our 60s or more. And we can do this for a lot longer."