This is our first time in this area; we came here for 2 reasons – 1) it is more north than we were in 29 Palms (hence closer to our goal of AK!) and 2) to visit with Jo & Ben! They drove to see everyone in Quartzsite, but we hadn’t really spent any significant time with them since FL in Feb 2014.
We left the brown of 29 Palms and headed for the central CA coast. Santa Barbara is north of LA and south of San Francisco. We went out of the way a bit to avoid the LA area completely, and I have to say, the route Ben helped us with worked out great! I am going to tell you the whole route, which I usually don’t do, but we didn’t sit in even a little bit of traffic, so some of you may want to avoid LA with your rigs on your next trip in that direction. We traveled west on RT 62 into the town of Joshua Tree and turned right (north) onto RT 247. The road is only one lane each way, but in good condition. One area was quite steep, I was looking at my phone and I just happened to look up and WHOA! I swear it was like a roller coaster, I could not see the bottom of the hill! VERY steep! I just wish I had my camera aimed so I could have taken a pic, but by the time I thought of it, we were more than half way down. We drove through a few small towns, and the scenery was amazing! We then switched to RT 18 west, going through Apple Valley, Victorville and onto RT 138 through Palmdale. We then took RT 14 toward RT 5. We got on RT 5 North and then RT 126 West toward Ventura, where we hopped on RT 101 North. We then got onto RT 154 and took that into Cachuma Lake. We didn’t slow down except for a few minutes on RT 5. I was so excited to see GREEN! And, the OCEAN! WATER!
We would have loved to stay at the park they are in (Flying Flags) – but WAY over budget for us! So, after a lot of research, including Jo & Ben checking it out in person, we decided on Cachuma Lake State Recreaction area. It’s about a 20 minute drive from Buellton, which is where they are, not too bad. It is a beautiful location and park, but not being used as much as usual. The lake is way below usual levels and it evidently isn’t as pretty as it once was. I can tell that a bit, as the water isn’t just a little low – it’s a lot low – at about 10% of capacity. You are reading it right – 10% capacity! CA has been in drought conditions for years and Ben read somewhere it would take 13 years of 130% of “normal” rain amounts to correct the current situation. Wow! There is a marina here at the campground, but not enough water to take a boat out.
Jo and Ben are both traveling nurses, and work full-time. Their usual contract time is 13 weeks, then they move on to a new area. They work with an agency, letting them know their preferred area, then take it from there. Sometimes they get exactly where they want to be, other times a compromise needs to be made.
Our first night, they brought over yummy chicken, potatoes and carrots cooked in her Instant Pot, used in slow cook mode. So easy! We talked probably way later than we should have, considering Ben had to work the next day, but it was great catching up in person!
We have done some great day trips since arriving! Actually our first full day, Jo was off and we walked around the small quaint town of Solvang.
Another day the four of us drove into Santa Barbara and walked around town, including Stearns Wharf and a dog beach that Jo & Ben take their Malamute, Peyton, to. Bill and I took our sneakers off as we walked along in the sand. What a gorgeous day it was! It felt good to have sand between my toes again! The only negative was there was something icky in the sand that got all over the bottom of our feet that we needed to clean off (as best we could) before putting socks back on. We are speculating that it is some sort of residue coming from the oil drilling rigs that are off-shore – YUCK!
Stearns Wharf was very nice and we had a difficult time choosing which of the numerous restaurants to have dinner at. We used TripAdvisor and Yelp, but also took into consideration personal recommendations from friends of Jo & Ben’s, from their campground. Ultimately we went with Moby Dicks. The food was good, the service was ok – they just didn’t have their act fully together. We started with fried calamari – which was good – I don’t usually like that. I had lobster bisque (instead of a salad) – it wasn’t the best I’ve had but far from the worst, and shrimp and crab cakes (brought one home!) for my dinner, Bill and Jo had the salmon with pecan cream sauce – and they both cleaned their plates! Ben enjoyed his spicy seafood Diablo. The best part was the view (we were out at the end of the pier!), as we could look out at the water from our seats. Of course, the company is what really made the whole thing special!
We didn’t even look at the dessert choices b/c earlier in the afternoon, we had ice cream from one of the places on the pier. The prices were a bit higher than usual, at $5 per scoop, but the scoops were HUGE!
We walked around downtown Santa Barbara for awhile, going into the little shops. It is a really nice town, had a nice mix of coffee shops, kitchen stores, clothing stores, full restaurants, etc. One place that caught Bills eye was the Reagan Ranch Center, which we didn’t have time to see that day, but decided if we had time another day – we would come back.
On the way back to Lake Cachuma, Ben suggested we stop at this local tavern we had passed on the way down to Santa Barbara. We all agreed it sounded like fun so Bill turned into Stagecoach Rd. We parked on the side of the road and walked down the street. The Cold Spring Tavern was a very cool find! They had a live band playing in the tavern, and right next door they served a very eclectic dinner menu that sounded like a place we would love to go to!
The day we were going to spend touring Los Olivos, we started the morning with breakfast at Pea Soup Andersens, a local fav. While Jo, Ben and I enjoyed usual breakfast goodies, Bill had an endless bowl of pea soup! Yes, for breakfast! He really liked it and had half a second bowl! The portions were so big I brought home half my hash browns and half my corned beef hash. The entire meal was delicious!
What a great little town Los Olivos is! We walked all around the town, going into some of the shops. One that was especially interesting was JWoeste, it sold all sorts of decorative lawn items.
We also tasted some wines. Some were really good, but I cannot bring myself to spend that much on a bottle of wine. I like the $20+ bottles but not that much more than the $8 bottle. Does that make me cheap? Frugal? Probably, but I’m ok with that. We did have a very interesting conversation with one of the winery owners though. He was basically explaining to us how there was a study and people who don’t like bitter tasting things have more bitter taste buds, and they generally don’t like drier, less sweet wines, nor do they like foods like Brussel sprouts or broccoli, and use more creamer in their coffee. People with less bitter taste buds like red wines with more tannins and are drier. I thought it was very interesting. I have no idea if there is any truth in it, but it made for interesting conversation.
Afterwards we drove out to another winery, one that Ben likes a lot, Zaca Mesa. He ended up buying 5 bottles, but he got a great deal – 2 of the bottles were buy one get one free – and get this – it was b/c there was a smudge on the labels! He was quite happy with that!
We also visited a brewery, Firestone Walker Barrelworks. Bill and Ben both sampled some of their beers. Bill described the beers as strong (between 8 snd 25% alcohol!) and intense in flavor. This is b/c the beers are barrel aged, which is very unusual. The samples were 3oz each (they had 3 each), Bill said he couldn’t have drank any more of them.
Pismo Beach was our last day trip with Jo & Ben. We had breakfast before we left and packed a cooler with some guacamole and chips to snack on and water. It was another beautiful sunny day. Our first stop was Butterfly Grove. Jo & Ben had been there before, back in early February, and saw hundreds of Monarch butterflies. Sadly, we didn’t see nearly that many, only a very few were still hanging around. Even without the butterflies, it was a beautiful walk out to the ocean beach.
We also stopped at Dinosaur Caves Park. The guacamole and chips tasted really good as we sat on benches overlooking the ocean. We even saw otters playing! I tried to get pics, but they move too quickly and we were too far away.
Monday, Bill and I decided we needed a day off, well not off, just at home. We had some chores and planning to do, so we hung out. Jo & Ben came over for dinner and we watched a movie, Spotlight. It was pretty good, we all enjoyed it, along with the popcorn Bill made.
Our last day, Jo & Ben both had to work, so Bill and I headed back to Santa Barbara on our own. We both wanted to see the Reagan Ranch Center. It is free, except we paid $1.50 for parking.
We stopped for Chinese food on our way to Jo & Ben’s. Jo gets home about 5, Ben not until 8:15. We visited until about 10, and then said our “see you in Alaska!”‘s.
We very much enjoyed our time in Santa Barbara, and especially with Jo & Ben.