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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

On the Road Again

Our random road trip was a success! We made it to Santa Barbara on Sunday with a whole afternoon stretching out in front of us and headed to the beach. It is a beautiful beach with big green mountains framing everything and a long, fabulous wharf that has restaurants and tchotchkie gift shops. Unfortunately, we hadn't really planned on it being Southern California's approximation of cold, and hadn't packed accordingly. I had a blazer, but Brandon had nothing but his short sleeved tee shirts, so we ended up buying him a souvenir sweatshirt on the pier. Then we had a bread bowl of clam chowder to warm up, and I can honestly say that it is the ONLY clam chowder I have ever enjoyed. It was made all the better by the fact that we kept having to threaten a fearless seagull to keep him from stealing our bread bowl right out from under us.

Our next adventure was finding a hotel. Unfortunately, the quaint little hotel we'd read about in the guide book was full up, so we spent the next half hour or so driving around Santa Barbara looking for a place to stay. We ended up at a place called The Lemon Tree Inn which looked promising. It had real lemon trees out front.

After snagging a map from the hotel lobby, we headed downtown. Downtown Santa Barbara felt a bit like the Champs Elyssee -- all manicured trees and posh shops -- but it did have a bit of a small town feel to it as well. We meandered along the street doing our usual "What do you want to eat?" "I don't know what do you want to eat?" until we got to the end and Sharkey's bar. Feeling that we were up for a little grease and alcohol, we went in.

Sharkeys is kind of like a sports bar with about three dozen TVs hung on every possible surface of wall all around the room. They have a pretty extensive food menu, but you order everything at the bar. So, Brandon had shrimp and lobster enchiladas, I had lobster tacos, and we both ordered margaritas. Much to our surprise, it was two-for-one happy hour, so we both ended up with two very LARGE margaritas. The food was good, as were the drinks, and there's a station with as many chips and salsa as you can eat, so we were ok. We watched bull riding and motor cross and got really really toasted. It was fun.

We stumbled back to our car and back to the hotel (it wasn't that far, honest) and sat up in bed and watched Hotel Rawanda on Showtime. It was pretty damned depressing, but a very excellent film.

Unfortunately, the Lemon Tree Inn did not live up to our first impressions. The bed was uncomfortable, the windows in the bathroom would close all the way, so it was cold, and it faced the street, so it was also quite noisy. We didn't sleep all that well, and when we got up in the morning, we realized that the shower would either do freezing or scalding but nothing much in between, and it vacillated between the two at random. Joy.

But we more than made up for that with breakfast. After reading a bit of the menu in the in room magazine, we headed back downtown for breakfast at the Tupelo Junction Cafe. The food was excellent and different enough to be really kind of exciting. I had a breakfast scramble with spinach, caramelized onions, tomatoes and Gouda that came with really excellent banana nut bread, and Brandon had poached eggs with some sort of really neat jumbalia type stuff that had chicken and andouille sausage and lord knows what else in it, but it was quite good.

After stuffing ourselves, we headed up into the hills, past the Santa Barbara mission, to the botanical gardens where we spent a really nice couple of hours tromping around looking at all the pretty plants. There was also a really cool sculpture called "Toad Hall" made entirely out of (some living, some cut) pussy willows. Very very cool.

After the botanical gardens we took the scenic route up to Ojai, hoping to see the miraculous view that Frank Capra cast as Shangra La in the film "Lost Horizon," but unfortunately, the scenic turnoff where you could actually stop was blocked off by what I think was a film crew. Maybe they're remaking "Lost Horizon..."

Staying on our scenic backroads, we made our way back to the freeway and back into town. I've got loads of pictures to upload, so expect some picture spam in the next couple of days!

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