Between Oxnard and Los Angeles the mountains once again close in on the ocean and the Pacific Coast Highway clings to a narrow strip of land which often perches just above the ocean but here and there is fringed by beautiful beaches .. and homes to the rich and famous at locations such as Malibu below......
Tuesday, 1 January 2008
Ooh... L.A. L.A.!
The last day of 2007 saw Mark cycle from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles along the stretch of transverse coastline described yesterday with many glorious beaches to his right and mountains rising steeply from the coast to his left. East of Santa Barbara and to the north of the Pacific Coast Highway, the Santa Ynez mountains come close to the ocean squeezing settlement and communications into a narrow coastal plain. Much of the high ground is covered in "chaparral" - a scrubby drought resistant vegetation (similar to the 'maquis' of Mediterranean Europe) which is very prone to the wildfires which frequently threaten the Californian coastal communities.
...where Mark would have cycled past Cher's front gate(right) and the front gates of countless other stars who live in 'gated' communities in Malibu.
The view below of La Conchita from the ocean shows how steeply the land rises from the coast.... The steep slopes, combined with 15 days of heavy winter rain and an underlying impermeable clay and shale layer, combined to produce the slide. The top layer of soil became so saturated that the slope 'failed' and sent millions of tons of mud, soil and vegetation onto the settlement below. An impression of the ferocity of the slide can be gained from this dramatic piece of amateur footage....
Where the coastal plain broadens, such as here at Carpenteria just east of Santa Barbara, there sems to be an immediate 'scramble' for land with settlemment and agriculture cramming into the available hectares. Much of the farmed land is under glass which may seem strange given the climate of the area. However, as in many parts of southern Europe, greenhouses not only extend the growing season into the cooler winter months but also help to conserve water by controlling the loss of moisture through evaporation. The nature of the intensive farming in the region is well described here by the Carpenteria Chamber of Commerce.
Avocados make a significant contribution to the agricultural economy of the region and are the inspiration for a major festival held in Carpenteria each year (click poster to link) where, amongst many events, there is the inevitable search for the largest avocado!
A short distance beyond Carpentaria, Mark passed through the small settlement of La Cochita which hit headlines around the world two years ago because of a mudslide which claimed the lives of several people...
Safely past la Conchita, Mark's journey towards LA will have had only one stretch where the mountain backdrop receded some distance from the coast. ...This is the Oxnard plain, built up by alluvial deposits from the Santa Clara river which reaches the coast at this point. The high quality soils and favourable climate combine to produce one of the most fertile agricultural areas in the world. The plain is particularly noted for strawberries which (like the avocados of Carpenteria!) inspire their own festival -the annual California Strawberry Festival!
The last day of the year brought Mark to Los Angeles where it would seem that they were waiting for him!