Last Thursday, I boarded a bus in Oakland and started my all too brief Southern California vacation. The bus took me to San Luis Obispo, where I boarded an Amtrak train that hugged the coast on a ride down to Goleta, a suburb of Santa Barbara where my buddy Alan Ponder lives. Goleta is the home of the University of California at Santa Barbara, and possesses a lovely beach and some spectacular views from the high ground ridges common in the area.
Alan is one of the several readers of my blog more science-y than I am, and acts as a fact checker for no monetary gain, a situation for which I am abundantly grateful. He was also my host in Santa Barbara, so my debt of gratitude is growing even greater.
While the calm harbor of Santa Barbara is a lovely city in its own right, the inland Santa Ynez Valley can also boast spectacular beauties of its own, such as the Cold Spring Arch Bridge. If I had a digital camera and even a sliver of the photographic talent of my blog buddy sfmike, I would have my own pictures from my trip, but since I have neither I must use pictures from the Internets. The eastern boundary of the Santa Ynez valley is the Coastal Mountain range, which is tall and rocky and craggy compared to the rolling hills of the same range I see every day in the Bay Area, but inside the valley are little foothills that are round and soft, and covered in lovely geometric patterns of vineyards, orchards and the occasional field of flowers. It is nearly impossibly picturesque.
In the heart of this lovely locale is the town of Solvang, which proudly proclaims the Danish ancestry of it founders. Solvang is the kind of place that gives "tourist trap" a good name. Alan and I walked around for several hours, but we only laid our money down in the bakery, where I naturally had to get a danish, and at a chocolate shop. This was money exceedingly well spent. Any non-diabetic visitor to the Santa Barbara area cheats themselves without cause if they fail to visit Solvang.
After snacks in Solvang, we went to a wine tasting room in Los Olivos, a town made more famous by the recent independent movie about wine lovers called Sideways. After visiting one of the wine tasting rooms - and honest to Lenny, we only visited one - we had lunch at a cafe that gave a suggested wine with the sandwich I ordered. I didn't take this picture, but this is very close to the table where Alan and I sat. I also ordered a red wine, which adds to the realism in this picture which I again must say I didn't take.
That was a very good lunch.
Friday evening, we wandered along State Street, a several block stretch of downtown Santa Barbara with numerous shops, restaurants, movie houses and bars, not unlike Shattuck in Berkeley, but with a lot less panhandlers. There was even a boardgame store, which I wandered into just as a browser, but was happy to see a good selection of recent German board games. I chatted with the owner, a very friendly and knowledgeable fellow with a British Isles accent that might have been Scottish. "When I saw where your eyes were scanning, I knew you were a nerd." He said to me. I took this as a compliment.
We had a bite to eat and finished the evening in a pub where we watched some Olympic coverage, including the phenomenal Michael Phelps, and more to my taste, the excellent athlete and sa-mokin' hawt American softball pitcher Jenny Finch. I know that at my age, I would have no chance to hit her fastball unless I bunted, but I honestly don't think I could hit a pitch of hers if she rolled it up to the plate. My eye would not be on the ball.
After a breakfast Saturday morning with Alan and his brother Stuart, Alan and I wandered the Santa Barbara beachfront for a few hours. Alan waited at the train station with me for my afternoon ride down the coast to San Diego, and he repeated a line of John Rhys-Davies from Raiders of the Lost Ark, a line Alan first said to me many years ago when I visited him in Macon, Georgia when we first met.
"Already I am missing you, my friend."
I know the feeling. Thanks for being my host, buddy. I'll never forget this trip.