Santa Barbara, CA

December 27 – January 17, 2015

After descending multiple CRAZY mountain passes from frozen Yosemite, we happily arrived to the outskirts of Santa Barbara. There was one point during our mountain driving craziness when a bicyclist, not a motorcycle but a human powered bicycle, passed us! Really, that happened. At one point, I was feeling sort of unsafe because there was a huge drop off cliff out the side of my window and a sheer upward cliff on Wade’s side.  Further we couldn’t see the road because we were turning a 70 degree corner at 7 % grade and the road was a two way road, but really a one lane road, so I said to Wade, “Please slow down.” He replied, “No way, I am NOT being passed by a bicycle!” Needless to say the bicycle passed us. We were going 45 mph so he must have been going ~55 mph. No worries though, we took him on the climb back up.   He was never to be seen again.

We really did have a great 3 weeks in the Santa Barbara area. We were only twenty minutes from the Danish hill town of Solvang, so we spent many days exploring the quaint shops, eating delicious Danish pastries, and drinking beer. We also thoroughly enjoyed its farmer’s market and local restaurants. Did I mention we ate a lot of cream puff pastries? Well, we did! We may have shortened our lives with sugar but hey you only live once. At least it wasn’t high fructose corn syrup.

We celebrated the New Year in laid-back RV style. We didn’t go to any all night hip (expensive) California nightclub parties. We just enjoyed our RV resort and New Year Rocking Eve on the Telly. Of course there was some champagne, wine, and local brews around. As it is the first time we were on the West coast for New Years Eve we were looking forward to the 3 hours after the NYC ball dropped to see what the West coast does for its celebration. We were VERY disappointed when we learned that they do not show the ball drop live, but in fact just show you the NY show 3 hours late. Come on California, you can do better than that! By the way can you believe that it is 2015?

Since we were so close to Pasadena we really thought about braving the crowds and going to watch the Rose Parade. However, after talking to some locals and looking at the weather report (freezing temperatures) we decided it wasn’t necessary for us to leave at 4 am on New Years Day to watch a parade. Instead we could visit the floats the day after the parade! They display all the Rose Parade floats for 2 days following the parade in downtown Pasadena. We happily drove the 2 hours to Pasadena on January 2 and we were not disappointed. The floats are absolutely amazingly beautiful and they smell good too. We were not the only ones to skip the parade and go to the float viewing, so we marveled at all the creative work with thousands of others. It was well worth it though. I hope our pictures do them justice.

We did spend quite a few days in downtown Santa Barbara. This really is an upscale lovely beach town. The oceanfront and pier are a people watcher’s paradise and the State Street shopping district is fun to window shop in. Unfortunately, we don’t have new clothing and accessories in our budget. There is also some fantastic food in Santa Barbara. We indulged in the farm to table restaurant, the Fork and Finch and we also found an inexpensive wood-fired pizza haven. There is a trend on the West coast of make your own wood-fired pizza restaurants. Think, Subway but with pizza instead of subs. So you walk through the line and pick out all your toppings then 3 minutes later it comes hot and steamy out of the wood fired oven. Delicious! We ate at Persona Pizza too many times to name in our 3-week stay. We also found hip breweries so we could continue supporting the local community. Another favorite stop for us in Santa Barbara was the biweekly farmers market. The fresh produce was plentiful and we delighted in eating vine-ripened tomatoes in January.

Another mission we had while in the greater Los Angeles area was to visit some of Yogananda’s ashrams. Yogananda is a brilliant sage from India, famous for his autobiography, Autobiography of a Yogi. If you haven’t read this book, you should. Anyways he came to the West in the 1920’s and spent the majority of his time in California. So we visited one of his home in Hollywood, which has an amazing view of downtown LA and the ocean beyond. We also visited his crypt in the Forest Lawn Cemetery. By the way his crypt is just down the hall from Michael Jackson’s. We also visited the Lake Shrine, which is near Malibu.  The Lake Shrine consists of a small lake and a houseboat, which is where he also resided for some time. It was fun following in his footsteps.

California is known for all its historic Catholic Missions, so we also indulged in this spiritual quest. We explored the ones in Solvang and Santa Barbara. However, our favorite was Purisima Mission State Park. This is the most extensively restored mission in California, so it was like stepping back in time. The Civilian Conservation Corps helped restore it in the 1930’s and they did a remarkable job. You can walk through everything from the two chapels, living quarters, kitchens, outhouses, and barnyard. In fact they still have many farm animals including pigs, mules, long horned cattle, and sheep. Admiring the adobe structures and walking through history makes for a memorable day.

Our last adventure was to visit Hearst Castle and the San Simeon elephant seal colony. It was elephant seal breeding season, so we were lucky to see all generations from the newly delivered pup, adolescents, breeding females to the massive males.   We even watched several males protecting their beach from other on-lookers. Elephant seals are truly remarkable and so big!

Reluctantly we left the elephant seal colony so we could make our tour time at Hearst Castle. Talk about extravagance! The view is jaw dropping and the opulence in the castle and gardens is unbelievable. We happily spent the afternoon pretending we were wealthy or famous guests in this magical place. Can you believe no one wanted to buy this property in the 1950s so the Hearst family ‘gave’ it to the State of California? Well, maybe a tax write-off was part of the deal. Either way, I am very happy that it is now a place for all to enjoy.

That wraps up our 3 weeks in the Santa Barbara area. I did forget to mention that our RV resort was also a Dude Ranch so we, especially Wizard, had fun watching the horses, cows, and crazy chickens during our daily walks.