Monday, February 14, 2011

Wednesday, February 2, through Sunday, February 13, 2011: Near Santa Barbara:
We made the 198-mile trip from Menifee to (near) Santa Barbara, with no problems. There were high-wind warnings from the Highway Patrol and overturned semis in places we went through, and we felt some serious gusts, but decided to just slow down and tough it out. And we made it.

We landed at Rancho Oso, a Thousand Trails preserve at which we have stayed on several occasions. It’s a beautiful park, deep in a canyon in the Los Padres National Forest, about halfway between Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez, and near Cachuma Lake, without, however, cell phone service available, and only unsecured internet service. But we cope.

We came here at this time because Becky has her annual retreat at the Bacara Resort and Spa, a super-spiffy place on the coast in Santa Barbara---about 45 minutes from the RV park. She spends two days there every year with her buddies from the Organization of Women Executives.

I dropped her off at Bacara at 2:00 pm on Friday, and picked her up at noon on Sunday---in plenty of time to get back to watch the Super Bowl (which I enjoyed immensely). On the way to Bacara on Sunday, I listened to some of the festivities on the radio from the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, celebrating what would have been the 40th President’s 100th birthday. It was fun to relive a part of his era through the presentations. A highlight of my life was spending three days in Washington attending his first Inaugural in 1981. It was a very special time.

On the way back from Bacara, we stopped at a nearby park (whose name I never knew) where they have a Monarch Butterfly sanctuary. The butterflies come every October and leave every February. There are zillions of them in the trees.

In an attempt to preserve my sanity, Becky arranged to board Ramsey while she was at Bacara. We took him to the Buellton Veterinary Clinic (which includes a nice boarding facility) where we had boarded Daisy five years ago. Daisy and I enjoyed the short break from the frenzied pace when Ramsey is around. Ramsey’s body language on his Monday return suggested that he was glad to be home.

On Tuesday, we hit a couple of wineries in the Santa Ynez area. First was the Buttonwood Farm Winery---the one we “tasted” in Pasadena a couple of weeks ago. The winemaker, Karen Steinwachs, whom we had met at the tasting, was there, but quite ill, so we were not given the promised grand tour as the result. We did get a free tasting, though. Their wine is very nice.

At Karen’s suggestion, we also went to Rusack Vineyards, very nice but quite pricey, and Beckmen Vineyards, whose wines were not impressive and whose tasting presentation was less than informative, but whose location was lovely. Becky flashed her Bacara room key, which entitled us to free tastings at the last two wineries. Whee!!!

We had lunch at the Los Olivos CafĂ©, a local favorite that was mobbed (Doesn’t anyone work any more?) where we split a pepperoni pizza and, of course, some wine. I realized that it was my first pizza since we returned from Italy nearly four months ago. It was yummy.

Thursday was a scattered day, with our first stop at the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center in Ventura. The park consists of the five islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Santa Barbara, and San Miguel, all of which can be reached only by air or boat) located off the coast in the Santa Barbara channel, but the Visitor Center is located onshore at the Ventura Marina. (Otherwise no one would ever go there, I guess.) We had interesting conversations with the rangers.

Then we had lunch at the Brophy Bros. Clam Bar & Restaurant at the marina. I had cioppino, which was yummy---as usual. When we left, one of the locals was perched on top of our truck.

Then we stopped by the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara, so Becky could see what changes have taken place since she graduated in the early ‘70s. We took our bikes and rode through the campus---like so many of the students. What a mob scene. The campus is, I think, an unattractive hodgepodge architecturally,

but you can’t ignore the beautiful location---right on the ocean. And somehow the air was beautifully clear today and the islands stood out magnificently.

On Saturday we had dinner at the home of Becky’s second cousin, Jean Hawthorne (and her husband, Nat) in Santa Barbara. Becky hadn’t seen Jean in decades. We heard all manner of family horror stories, and had a wonderful time as the result. They are neat people.

On Sunday, we hit a few more wineries (Firestone, LinCourt, and Bridlewood). Each of them was special in one way or another. And the last two tastings were free since we are such special people (and because Becky still had her Bacara room key). We topped off the day with an early Valentine’s Day dinner at the Cold Spring Tavern in San Marcos Pass. It’s a very old, famous, and crowded restaurant, the remnants of a former stagecoach stop. We had a delicious dinner (filet mignon for Becky and swordfish for me). It was a nice way to end this sojourn at Ranch Oso.


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