Just imagine it: You’re coasting down a hill, wind in your hair, sunset over you shoulder as you whiz down the road with five of your friends. No, it’s not the pitch for a cheesy Super Bowl ad (I’ve seen better, and frankly I was a little disappointed this year), but rather a little excursion you can have along the waterfront in Santa Barbara.
Near the corner of Cabrillo Boulevard and State Street is a mass of brightly colored, shaded vehicles with pedals. Technically they are called surreys, but most people just refer to them as “those big bike things.” They can seat between two and nine adults depending on the model and are a bundle of fun if you can convince your companions to pedal at the same time.
The idea of spending part of your day pedaling around the waterfront may not be your idea of a fun time, especially when considering that you probably already spend a large portion of your day pedaling around Isla Vista. However, the monotony of riding a bike becomes much more exciting when you throw five of your friends behind you while you attempt to drive a veritable bus with pedals.
As you cycle up and down Cabrillo (sorry, the surreys are confined to the bike path), you might be surprised at what you find. If you get sick of struggling along with your ridiculously uncoordinated friends you can cross the street to spend a little bit of time exploring Chase Palm Park. Along with the playgrounds and bike paths through the park you may stumble upon one of the less obvious attractions on Cabrillo: the carousel. If you feel particularly adventurous you can take a five-minute break from your synchronized pedaling and hop on one of the spinning and bobbing wooden horses that you used to love so much as a kid. Even if you don’t, at least stop to consider how cool it is that the city owns its own carousel.
The company that rents surreys in Santa Barbara is Wheel Fun Rentals, a franchise of a relatively large company that reaches across the country. Originally I had planned to rent a Vespa, as I had never had the chance before, and a group of friends and I thought it might be fun to explore SB in a pack. Unfortunately (and contrary to several Web sites), Wheel Fun doesn’t seem to have much in the way of powered vehicles, so those looking for a more high velocity adventure will have to look elsewhere.
The price of a surrey rental may seem prohibitively expensive: $35 for a double (6 riders) for one hour, and $45 for a triple. But it’s actually fairly reasonable when you split the tab between all of the riders. The single and double surreys even get a second hour free, although if you want to rent the triple for two hours you’ll have to shell out an additional 40 bucks.
The whole surrey rental experience is relatively simple: take friends, choose a surrey based on size, plop down cash for rental, pedal back and forth, return surrey, high five friends. It’s a low stress, relatively inexpensive way to spend a couple of hours hanging out and people watching from the relative safety of a four-wheeled bicycle with a fringe roof. With midterms coming up and a ridiculously pleasant February upon us, it may be time to take a break and hang out in an Italian bicycle made for two, or four, or six, whatever you decide. The surrey may not rank up there with pizza, pasta, and the pope (Italy’s main exports), and the experience is definitely not the most thrilling or exciting in Santa Barbara, but it is Italian, and who doesn’t love Italian stuff?