Monday, January 7, 2013

Ventura to Santa Barbara

Summer Solstice Parade, Santa Barbara, California
Thirty miles is not enough distance between stops, unless that's how far it is to Santa Barbara and lunch is calling. Another of Father Junipero Serra's mission towns (the mission was founded two years after his death), Santa Barbara is famous for its Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and burgeoning wine industry.

The architecture resulted from reforms introduced when rebuilding the city after a June 1925 earthquake. The wine came later.

Although grapes have been a part of the landscape since the time of Serra, modern winemaking didn't begin until 1962. The industry took off in the 1990s and received an additional boost from the 2004 movie Sideways, which chronicles the misadventures of a lost soul from San Diego and his old college buddy, who spend their days stumbling about area wineries.

We are not lost, we are just having trouble finding State Street. The main artery of Santa Barbara eludes us as we zig-zag along tree-laden, one-way avenues, admiring red tile roofs.

An easier way is to ride the Pacific Surfliner here, eat lunch at one of the beachside cafes, and then return home. It takes all day, but as a friend once noted, Telegraph Brewing Company is less than a mile walk from the Amtrak station. What's the hurry?

If you catch the 6:43 train from Solana Beach north of San Diego, you'll be in Santa Barbara by noon. Take the 4:35 train back, and you're home by 10 p.m. Spring a little extra for business class to get a seat upstairs, extra leg room, and free snacks.

But that's a different trip. Now we are driving. After several near misses, we turn a corner and see the wall of people that is State Street. It is closed to traffic because today is the summer solstice and there is a parade. I hate a parade.

Coming to see this is no more a part of the plan than is stopping for salads at D'Vine, but life is full of happy accidents (“Buenaventura”) and here we are. Sandra orders the ahi–perfectly seared, raw in the middle–while I enjoy the more thoroughly cooked but equally delicious grilled salmon.

The parade happens. This is a college town near the beach. Spectators show off tattoos, piercings, and crazy hair. They wear Dead Milkmen and Evil Dead T-shirts. They are beautiful, smiling and laughing and clapping their hands as motorless floats pass.

Participants are no less beautiful. There are roller skaters, pirates, and mermaids. There are giant cartoon animals: A penguin, a pig, a flamingo, an owl that turns its head 360 degrees. There are Brazilian drummers, dancing girls with pink headdresses, marching bands. Who could hate this?

Our tight schedule means we must leave too soon. The street behind us remains in a state of organized chaos, music blaring, people cheering and laughing. The bustle distracts us and it isn't until we are back on US-101, maybe 20 miles north, that we realize we have forgotten something important: Dessert.

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