It was an exciting prospect to be heading for the sea, and our first glimpse of the ocean since leaving New Orleans. Therefore, we chose a route from Fresno which would take us straight across to the coast and from there we would drive south to Santa Barbara.
The road from Fresno undulated its way through lowlands and highlands, leaving us marvelling yet again at the ease of driving in America. There were many farms, which went on for miles, with placards declaring that water meant food, and which were no doubt political points about requiring more government funded water storage solutions. Somehow you don’t necessarily think about California being ‘dry’, but it certainly is, and the vast plains of agriculture need irrigation help by harvesting and storing each drop of rain.
We joined Route 101 happily following the coast when the result of drinking too much water along the journey necessitated a stop, which in turn gave us our first close up of the sea. (That was after the loo stop!!). Pismo is very much one of the more rugged areas of the Californian coast but there were seats along the cliff top for watching the sea birds who inhabit the huge outcrops of rocks.
But there were still some miles to go to Santa Barbara and to get there we soon had to turn inland and cross a range of mountains. That was really interesting. There we were in the Californian sunshine yet driving towards cloud which seemed to be coming further down the mountains as we climbed ever higher.
It was surreal to slip right into those clouds as we climbed, fully expecting to come out of the wet shrouded scenery as we descended into Santa Barbara. Not quite. The clouds lifted, for sure, but grey skies prevailed and after almost three weeks of wall to wall sunshine and intense heat, we found ourselves at one of the richest and most famous resorts in California on a cool, cloudy late afternoon. Not swimming weather for sure, so time for research into restaurants.
It just had to be fish, or seafood, but anything else would be almost an insult to a town with its own marina and fishing port. Brophy Bros Restaurant and Clam Bar felt like the place to be. It overlooked the marina, it was next to a large car park, so how difficult could that be to find. Well, quite difficult, but of course it was mission accomplished and we enjoyed the best fish and chips you could find anywhere! From a pair of Lancashire lasses that was quite a compliment. A stroll through the marina was followed by a more determined walk back to the car when we remembered we had ‘restricted’ free parking. Then we were off to find where the beautiful people might hang out when not on the beach. Certainly they were not along the ocean front and the one way streets threw up many a challenge in our search for a potential alternative hang-out… the shops. By the time we found them, because we don’t give up on a challenge, they were closed or closing. It wasn’t that we wanted to buy things, merely to understand what made Santa Barbara so famous for being “rich and famous”, so we were neither deterred nor disappointed. The names on the stores told their own story – we got it!
More coastal fun tomorrow as we head for Santa Monica.
Carolyn’s Curios and Curiosities
There are times when coincidences are odd. Being allocated Room 101 in Fresno, we headed for our penultimate Staging Post at Santa Barbara via… Route 101! Makes you wonder – well, makes me wonder!
After a decent breakfast, we loaded the car and set off South West for the coast albeit 254 miles away.
What a journey… through sun-soaked prairie, past grazing cattle, vineyards… all parched because the drought hitting California. More signs pleading for more dams to be provided to enable irrigation for better food production. We had enough fuel for most of the journey today but had noticed that fuel prices have risen during our Road Trip. We bought a gallon for less than $2 in New Orleans (about 50p/litre!) but is now $4+ at some ‘Gas Stations’ in California. Clearly, some of the cost differential is related to the prevalent Saudi/Iran issue and some to the increased cost of living further West.
Hills became mountains and, once more I thought back to the early settlers with their belongings on a wagon. As we ticked off the miles at 65/70 mph, they would have done in a day what we did in about 10 minutes. Such courage and determination from them and one can only imagine their feelings of joy and relief as they reached their ‘Promised Land’. Even one of us – not me – squealed with delight when she saw the sea. Somehow, the Pacific Ocean holds a different appeal to the Irish Sea at home.
Before we got to the sea were more mountains. This time their tops covered with cloud. Ominous, we thought. We drove into the cloud and our previous almost cloudless, brilliant blue skies disappeared. Santa Barbara didn’t have sunshine and the temperature, which had been 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit now dropped to below 80! We know that 80°F is more than acceptable in the U.K. but…!
Santa Barbara seems bigger in area than I imagined for its c.100k population but when we eventually found the city centre, it looked an interesting combination of Spanish/Mexican architecture. But, we were here for the beach! However,… it was cool, a little dull and less than enticing. So, undaunted, we drove around the city after a pause at Shell Beach with so many seabirds and found a well-regarded seafood restaurant next to the Yacht Club. Fish and Chips for Kath and Clam Chowder and House Salad for me. Both meals were excellent and, as we’d missed lunch, “filled a hungry hole” very satisfactorily. Another enjoyable day with Santa Monica tomorrow.
(As a footnote, we passed a sign for Los Osos… too many Os and Ss somehow. 😈)