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Monday, August 6, 2012

In the Middle of California

Santa Barbara towards the harbor

     So much debate has gone on as to Santa Barbara's geographical position in California. As a North Coast native, I had nothing but scorn for those that would label SB "northern" California, but if you go by population, the San Diego-LA megalopolis definitely shoves SB northward.  It seems to be popular convention these days to call it the "central coast."  That's where I spent 10 wonderful days at the end of July. I was so glad that Maggie could drive me up Hwy 1 from Santa Monica because she had never been in the central coast area before.  It's big wine country, of course, but also has such scenic beauty.  

La Super Rica tacqueria in Santa Barbara

We slogged our way through the traffic of Santa Monica, Malibu and Ventura but had some choice views of the coast in between which made it worth it.  In Santa Barbara we managed to find La Super Rica, a taco stand that was a fave of Julia Childs. The line was out the door but it was worth the wait for both the tacos and the tamales. 

We then drove north on Hwy 1 to Lompoc where we had a motel with a pool that would take dogs because, of course, Roscoe the circus dog was along for the ride. Lompoc gets a bad rap from everyone in surrounding towns. It's not chi-chi like Los Olivos or Los Alamos, it doesn't have the tourist offerings of Solvang, but it does have cheap motels.  However, it's either foggy or windy most of the time so it was a good thing that our pool was overheated because we used it like a hot tub against the cold wind.

     Our evening dinner was in Los Olivos, a very famous wine village since the movie Sideways came out.  We were meeting up with a wonderful friend from Santa Ynez who enjoys visiting with my daughter. Mattei's Tavern is a famous restaurant in an old stage inn that has recently closed for hotel renovations so they opened up a little place near the flag pole (those were our directions to find it) in what originally was a hardware and shoe store so they kept the name - Sides Hardware &Shoes.  Quite wonderful, very crowded, we sat at the bar and enjoyed every morsel. 

     On Sunday, Maggie, Roscoe and I explored the Spanish Mission La Purisma Concepcion which is between Buellton and Lompoc in an agricultural valley that is fast becoming a wine zone - the St Rita Hills area. The mission is tucked into some hills and has a large tract of land that is great for hiking and horseback riding. The buildings were entirely reconstructed by the CCC during Roosevelt's administration and it was a really interesting place to visit.

La Purisma Concepcion

 Sadly, Maggie had to return to Santa Monica and classes at UCLA but we did manage to have a nice morning drive with breakfast in Solvang, a Danish tourist town which I happen to know has an really fine Farmer's Market during the week.  We then drove over San Marcos Pass to Santa Barbara. It was an especially clear day and Lake Cachuma looked spectacular.

Lake Cachuma on San Marcos Pass

I had a great weekend exploring the central coast with Maggie and was sorry to see her drive away from my next stop - Santa Barbara. I will save the next week's adventures for another post.


     Have to say, I was also sorry to say goodbye to Roscoe.  I think we will meet up again later in the summer at Lake Tahoe.

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