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Old 09-06-2012, 10:15 PM   #1
DistantHorizon OP
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The Santa Barbara Escape with photos

The Santa Barbara Escape

Living in Long Beach, surrounded by the endless ocean of concrete and energy that is Los Angeles County, can at times overwhelm a person’s sanity. While it seems that most of the natives here have managed to gain comfort and understanding within its electric embrace, I have found that for a country boy like myself it is necessary to escape the trappings of the big city on occasion and find solitude among the open expanses of elsewhere. Unfortunately the rigors of everyday life have recently kept my itchy feet firmly cemented to the South Bay, and with great effort and very few hairs left upon my weary head I was finally able to match schedules with my wife and take a trip to the lovely town of Santa Barbara.

So why choose Santa Barbara as a getaway, considering that in both looks and entertainment value it differs only slightly from our current residence in Long Beach? For starters, it isn’t Long Beach. I would have been willing to fly to the moon and spend my time breaking rocks with deranged prison inmates so long as it took me away from home, and it seemed to me that Santa Barbara would satisfy this simple requirement with room to spare. In my experience sometimes a mental break must be preceded by a physical one. The second reason for choosing Santa Barbara is because it isn’t a very long drive, giving us plenty of time to enjoy a relaxing Tuesday without fighting the usual weekend tourists and still be back for previous engagements the following afternoon. Lastly, I had been told that Santa Barbara was actually a very fun place to be; kind of like Venice Beach without the hippies. With most of the students from UC Santa Barbara home for the summer, we thought it would be the perfect escape.

Taking with us only enough to satisfy our needs for a single night, namely the clothes we had on plus a bathing suit and something to sleep in, my wife and I slipped into armored riding gear and hopped on to our BMW 1150RT touring motorcycle without delay. Although we had planned on leaving after most of the morning traffic had dissipated along I-405, our desire for escape got the better of us and we started our simple adventure too early; quickly meeting a wall of stop and go commuter traffic that was mostly just stop. Two hours and thirty miles later we finally broke free from civilization, exhausted and hungry, and were awarded for our efforts with beautiful views of sapphire seas and hillsides almost completely untouched by man along the ever winding Pacific Coast Highway; the stress washing from my aching mind like rainwater with every mile we traversed.

By the time we made it to Point Mugu State Park I was already in the process of trying to figure out how it would be possible to live along this stretch of seashore forever. If it weren’t for the difficulty of satisfying my secret addiction of double-stuffed Oreo’s without returning to town I’d be there right now, living under a lean-to built out of a leather jacket and using my motorcycle for a backrest. Apparently this desire wasn’t original however, for every now and then the cliffs would dissolve to beaches where tired RV’s had lined up like dominoes and spilled their innards of chairs, surfboards and BBQ’s upon the earth with no apparent coordination. Although I sped by too quickly to get a detailed image of the people that occupied these dirty caravans, I am certain they all had smiles on their faces.

These wonderful sights blew past us in what seemed like the blink of an eye, and soon we were traversing a forest of streetlights that knew only the color red deep within the heart of Oxnard. At the three hour mark of our ride we finally met Highway 101 and were rewarded with our first opportunity to stretch the legs of our motorcycle and see speeds greater than 60mph, although for legal purposes I won’t confide just how far above that number we actually reached. Let us just say that after hours of traffic, curves and red lights, speed limits no longer held any sway over us. A short time later we finally rolled in to our destination of Santa Barbara, saddle-sore from stock BMW seating but otherwise in high spirits.





While booking our hotel room online two weeks prior to our trip I spent very little time counting amenities or reading arbitrary reviews posted by people with ridiculous names like ‘spankmonkey113.’ All I really cared about was the price ($160 a night, the lowest I could find but still quite high for someone as cheap as myself) and its proximity to both the beach and the local Zoo; two attractions that will never let a traveler down in a time of need. With a belief that the ultimate goal of any vacation should be the exploration of any and all nearby attractions and not the hotel room itself, I’ve always considered a hotel satisfactory so long as the bugs within it don’t have a taste for blood and none of my luggage got swiped by the cleaning lady before we left. That said, I can’t say enough for the wonderful hospitality offered to us by the Inn at East Beach. Frank and his caring staff welcomed us with open arms, fed us a delicious continental breakfast, and even made sure to have our room ready a full 6 hours before the normal check-in time so that we would have somewhere safe to store all of our gear while we enjoyed our trip at the zoo. If you are ever in Santa Barbara I highly recommend this small but well run hotel.




We spent almost four hours among the creatures of the local zoo, the most wild of them being the hundreds of screaming children closely followed by weary mothers who seemed to desperately need a strong drink or perhaps a tranquilizer. Although small by most standards, we found the Santa Barbara Zoo to be fun and well worth the price of admission. We then went back to the hotel, took a dip in the pool followed by a short nap, and eventually made our way to Stearns Wharf for dinner and drinks. The 140 year old wooden pier itself was cool to see and walk across and the view from it was beautiful, but we found that the shops and restaurants were nothing spectacular. Perhaps we have become spoiled by the much closer Santa Monica Pier, but we had a “been there, done that” feeling most of the time. In the end we decided to call it a night rather early and were sound asleep by 10:30.




We woke the next morning in time to have the aforementioned breakfast at the hotel and hit the road by 8:30. With very little traffic on Route 101 to slow us down we spent most of our time cruising at or above the speed limit, a novel concept for someone who spends most of his freeway time on the infamous I-405, and were back at home within 2 hours. All in all it was a nice trip although we wish it could have been longer. It was our first two-wheeled ride together lasting more than a half an hour, and fears that my wife would get bored sitting on the back of the bike for so long proved to be unfounded. On the contrary, since returning from Santa Barbara she has already rummaged through half a dozen travel books and decided on our next trip, although until I can make it to the custom seat shop and have the stock BMW seating upgraded to something more comfortable than the concrete slab currently installed, I’m not agreeing to anything.

For us Santa Barbara proved welcoming, peaceful and slightly cheaper than I had expected. It probably isn’t the town you’d want to drive half way across the continent just to see, but if you are ever in the area it is definitely worth the visit. With great weather, cool beer and kind people, what else could a traveler ask for?

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Old 09-06-2012, 10:22 PM   #2
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Nicely written! Even better with the pics!

Excellent getaway with Mrs. DistantHorizon!
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Old 09-07-2012, 09:22 AM   #3
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Yeah, took a while to figure out how to post pics. It was my first ride report and I had to get a photobucket account, upload everything, and figure out which of the 4 url's photobucket provides was actually the correct one. Naturally it was the last one I tried, but before that I hit the post button rather than the review button. What a PITA.
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Old 09-07-2012, 09:30 AM   #4
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Nice, thanks for the pics, we are planning on going over there in the next month or so, to take the kids to the zoo, also heard there is a nice ''castle'' themed park over there, with bridge crossings and stuff like that, need to find out where it is.

Did that zoo have a picnic section for eating food brought from home?

I wish we could do it on a bike too ,
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Old 09-07-2012, 04:45 PM   #5
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You should ride up into the mountains above Santa Barbara to Cold Springs Tavern next time. It's an old stage stop. I haven't been there since '85, but I believe it's still open. Looks like a great getaway you had with your wife as it was.
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Old 09-07-2012, 05:21 PM   #6
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We used to enjoy taking our boys to that zoo when they were younger. I thought it was a perfectly sized zoo to enjoy for a few hours and Santa Barbra is always a nice place to visit.
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Old 09-09-2012, 09:10 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 150ron View Post
Nice, thanks for the pics, we are planning on going over there in the next month or so, to take the kids to the zoo, also heard there is a nice ''castle'' themed park over there, with bridge crossings and stuff like that, need to find out where it is.

Did that zoo have a picnic section for eating food brought from home?

I wish we could do it on a bike too ,

Yes, there is a very nice section over by the Lion exhibit that has several grassy lawns and benches to chill out or have a lunch. The zoo also has a jungle gym for kids, and as you can see by one of the pictures you can pay a couple bucks and hand-feed the giraffes.
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