Dan and Hannah – Images of Carpinteria, California

After loving the month of February in the Santa Barbara area, Hannah and I offer you images in four parts from our stay.

Part One – We had trails at the University of California (Santa Barbara), Jesusita Trail in Santa Barbara, and the Nojoqui Falls near Solvang.

GB 3C even more pacific cliffs

Pacific Bluffs near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus

 

Jes 1C H with book

Hannah on the Jesusita Trail with our trusty Santa Barbara hiking guidebook

Sol 2C H at falls

Hannah at the Nojoqui Falls

 

Part Two – We had our pickleball in Ventura and Santa Barbara

BA 1 PB group shot

The women, men, and kids of Ventura Pickleball

 

PB H at net

Hannah ready to pounce on a short ball on the courts at Santa Barbara

 

 

Part Three – The walks along the Pacific Ocean

BA 3C D and H on pier

 

Carp 4C harbor seal rookery

Harbor Seals at Carpinteria Beach

 

Carp 4 sunset

Carpinteria at sunset

 

HS 4A pier into sun

Early morning at Carpinteria Beach

 

Sol 4C blue heron

Blue heron at Arroyo Burro Beach, Santa Barbara

 

Sol 3C beach below cliffs

Arroyo Burro Beach from the Douglas Preserve

 

Carp 4B another sunset

Carpinteria State Park

 

GB 2B H with warning sign

Surfers Beach at University of California, Santa Barbara

 

Part Four – But truly the best part were the Californians we met

Nancy Rose

Nancy Rose, our friend from Unity of Santa Barbara, and Hannah

 

BA 1B 4 eating fish tacos at snapper jack's

Bruce and Anneli with Hannah and Dan lunching al fresco on fish tacos at Snapper Jack’s Taco Shack in Ventura

 

Kim Drain

Hannah with our neighbor Kim, before heading into the Alcazar Theatre

 

Chinese 2A we four at Bonnie Lu's

Dan and Hannah with our pickleball compadres, Lynn and Mark, over lunch at Bonnie Lu’s in Ojai, just before our Chinese foot massages

 

Roz five of us with sweatshirt

Together for a mini-reunion with Dan, Gerry, Roz, Linda, and Paul, Class of 1966 Fair Lawn (New Jersey) High School

 

Unity of SB

Rev. Larry Schellink at Unity of Santa Barbara

 

Carp 5A Summerland Beach Cafe

Celebrating Hannah’s 70th birthday at the Summerland Beach Cafe with Nancy Rose and Duncan

 

Carpinteria has become a home-away-from-home.

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Dan and Hannah Make a Weak Attempt to Explore Another California Town – Solvang

Hannah and I are just not touristy folks.  Consider this.

Sol disneyland

Disneyland in Anaheim, California, a town where I first taught after graduating from Arizona State

What kind of grandparents are we that we won’t even take our grandsons to Disneyland (California) or Walt Disney World (Florida)?  That would be us.  We are not into crowds, waiting in line, and pricey tickets.  We have our moments of getting it right with Owen and Max, but we’re good if we are not voted into the Grandparents Hall of Fame outside of Orlando.

So, when Hannah and I choose places for us to travel, we opt for out-of-the-way national or state parks or small towns.  When we fly into Los Angeles, we flee north for Carpinteria as soon as possible.  We can’t get out of Las Vegas fast enough when we fly there to visit Utah’s national parks.  Visit New York City?  Not a chance.

Sol 1 Danish house

On Solvang’s main drag

Last Friday, Hannah and I explored the small town of Ojai some 22 miles east of Carpinteria; today we are off to see what’s happening in the Danish-themed little town (pop. 6,000) of Solvang, 45 miles north of Santa Barbara.  First, we are looking for a locals café with booths for breakfast, then chat up some folks, and later explore this walkable town for exercise and then see what happens.

Sol 154

Before Santa Barbara wakes up this mid-February Friday, we sail through town on The 101 and soon exit onto the serpentine mountain route 154, where good drivers and bad go to die.  Strong words, I understand, but it winds through coastal mountains with the occasional passing lane, which tempt drivers to pass recklessly.  We recommend The 101 to Solvang along the coast for you to live to see another day.

Sol Chumash 1

Minutes before we enter Solvang, we pass the glitzy Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, California, which draws card players and slot machine button pushers from miles around.  Too touristy, too smoky, and indeed too depressing with many more losers than winners.  The only way to leave a casino with a small fortune is to start with a large fortune.

Sol 1A H with windmill

A chilly Solvang morning

Arriving in Solvang just before 8A, we are chilled by Arctic 40F temps for our walk around town to find a breakfast place.  An hour ago, we left Carpinteria on the coast where it was 10 degrees warmer.

Sol 1B Danish Bakery

So, here’s our plan when we come to a small town.  We seek out the breakfast spots that we have checked out first online; cafes preferably with booths, coffee at the ready, and muffins or two eggs over easy, home fries, and multi-grain toast.  That turns out to be a problemo in Solvang, a tourist town with over one million visitors per year.  That means one thing – restaurants are expensivo!

Sol 1CC Hans

Dan with Hans

A quick stop in at Paula’s Pancakes (which sounds small time, n-est-ce pas?) shows us a menu with basic breakfasts for $10 and more.   And that doesn’t count the coffee!  Bundled up against the cold, we walk the streets of Solvang for 40 minutes seeing faux Danish shops and restaurants, some where reservations are required; in addition there is a park with a Little Mermaid statue and one of Hans Christian Anderson.  We are so out of our comfort zone.

Sol 1D Santa Ynez Cafe

In less than an hour, we have “done” Solvang as our last attempt at a breakfast place fails.  The Santa Ynez Café offers a Saran wrapped muffin and one cup of coffee that would break the bank.  We can’t leave fast enough as we pick up Subways subs, roll out of town, and skip breakfast entirely.

But things get better.  Motion is lotion.

Sol 2 H at start of Nojoqui Falls Trail

The leisurely Nojoqui Falls trail

Our deliverence comes just six miles south of Solvang in the Nojoqui Falls Park made for families and family reunions.  Wide playing fields, groups of picnic tables with fire pits for large gatherings, Nojoqui Falls is made for Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Arriving midmorning on this Friday of President’s Weekend, we have been promised a modest ¾ of a mile round trip hike with stunning falls that I googled.

Sol 2A rocky creek bed

The rocky creek bed foreshadows what kind of falls lie ahead

Finding the rocky trail, which gently climbs towards the falls, we see no water around the boulders of the creek.  It’s pretty clear that the Google image of the falls is not going to match today’s flow.

Sol 2B H at barrier

Approaching a fenced off area with a sign saying Danger  Do Not Enter, we see that foot prints in the dirt beyond tell another story – few pay attention to this sign.  Unable to see the falls from behind the fences anyway, and rebels that we are, we hike 150’ more to a one-inch trickle coming 80’ down the mountainside.

Sol 2C H at falls

Nojoqui Falls in all its sub-optimal glory

We have no complaints – for goodness sakes we are in California in February.  How can that be a bad thing?  Check out my video of the falls.

Heading back to Santa Barbara by way of the coastal 101 along the Pacific, we have another chance at outdoor redemption – the cliff walk at the Douglas Family Preserve, a public park located on a mesa above Arroyo Burro Beach.  This 70-acre property of undeveloped, ocean-front land was so named because Michael Douglas donated $600,000 to support this land acquistion.

Sol 4C blue heron

Blue heron at Arroyo Burro Beach

Parking easily off Los Positas Road in the late morning, we follow the landscaped trail up to the mesa.  Coming upon Dog Central, we see canines that are catered to with doggie poop bags all along the trail, a doggie wash spa at the trailhead, and dogs off leash and free as dolphins in the ocean.

Sol 3A H at DP bluff

The bluffs of the Douglas Preserve

Up on the cliffs, there are no fences to the beach 60-70’ below.  As in the nearby Channel Islands, the safety guidelines are We don’t have fences, we have common sense.  This morning it works again.

Sol 4 lunch at beach

Lunch at Arroyo Burro Beach with the Channel Islands in the distance

 

Having hiked two miles, we cool our jets at a picnic table above Arroyo Burro Beach where we lunch on our Subway subs and surreptitiously drink cold Dos Equis.  On hard-packed beach sand at mid-tide, we walk for a mile up and back with a light breeze under full sun at 64F.  California Dreamin’ at its best.

Sol 3C beach below cliffs

Arroyo Burro Beach from the cliffs of the Douglas Preserve

As the singer Meatloaf reminds us all that two out of three ain’t bad, we hit the Meatloaf standard today with doubles off the wall at Nojoqui Falls and the Douglas Preserve after striking out in Solvang.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Jesusita Trail in Santa Barbara

Jes weather channel

Let’s be real.  And I’m not proud of this, but…as Hannah and I prep to hike in the mountains above Santa Barbara in early February, I turn on the Weather Channel.  I have no shame.  I want to see how much snow and ice are coming to New England.  I take no pleasure in the dismal winter weather, but…I do smile to myself so no one else can see.

Jes national parks map

Some of the national parks where we’ve hiked

As Hannah and I start 2018, we are in a traveling/hiking transition.  Having hiked throughout the West, in national parks in nearly every Rocky Mountain and Pacific Coast state over the last ten years, we are evolving in our physical activities of choice.  Let me explain.

As we each turn 70, we are pickleballing more and hiking less when we travel.  Have paddles, will travel!  Pickleball, be it Moab, Utah, Beaverton, Oregon, or Eureka, California, has combined our love of being active with getting to know others.

Jes map of trail

Rather than driving, often a thousand miles or more to hike in national parks over two weeks, this year we are nesting in Carpinteria for the month of February.  Not abandoning hiking at all, we still have local trails as well as trails up the coast at Montana De Oro State Park  and Big Sur.  But pickleballing in Santa Barbara and Ventura now drives our bus.

Jes 4 cool jesusita sign

Yet, after three mornings of pickleball this first week of February, we are ready to hit the trail.  Driving north on The 101 for the Jesusita (pronounced HAY-SU-SEE-TA) Trail within the city limits of Santa Barbara, we have one of the few local trails at our disposal.  Many trails are closed since the Thomas Fire (December 2017) and the Montecito debris and mud flows (January 2018), especially some of our favorites in the San Ysidro and Romero Canyons.

Jes 1 H at start

Parking at the Cater Water Treatment Plant at the end of San Roque Road above Santa Barbara, I strike up a conversation with three hiking women to learn from the locals about the Jesusita Trail to Inspiration Point.

Jes 2A view to sea

Jesusita Trail view to the Pacific Ocean

Willing to direct us to the trailhead and describe the first few turns of the trail, the women feel it is a good hike, but they are not buying the inspiring part of Inspiration Point.   True, Inspiration Point has views to the Pacific Ocean, but there are also many spots along the trail with ocean views.  They themselves are all turning around before they get to Inspiration Point.

Jes 2 H on trail

As with many trails in the Front Country of Santa Barbara, they are rocky and climb steeply into the San Ynez Mountains.  The seven-mile round-trip Jesusita Trail with 1200′ of elevation gain fits nicely into our three-hour preference for the length of our hikes. As usual, Hannah leads because (1) she is a stronger hiker and (2) it allows me to focus on photo ops while she blazes the trail.

Jes 1B - cracked mud of trail

Parched trail

 

Due to the drought of the last seven years, the creek bed beside the trail is as parched as a bleached cattle skull in the Mojave Desert.  The trail itself is shaded for the most part with dappled sunshine coming through the trees.  A little more than a mile in, there’s a water fountain with covered picnic tables.  While mountain bikers rest and brag, we motor past toward Inspiration Point.

Jes 1A H on trail beginning

Today is the first Santa Barbara hike for Hannah since her precipitous fall off the San Ysidro Trail just one year ago this month.  (Click here for that blog.)  Though she feels no ill effects from her slide down the rocky ravine that landed her in the ER at the local Cottage Hospital, we are both psyched that today there are no sharp drop offs on this trail; that said, we step carefully on the inside of the mountain trail.

Once past the mountainside McMansions, the trail rises steadily enough to get me breathing heavily.  Hannah seems unbothered on this trail that is very well marked whenever we are uncertain which way to go.

Jes 3 H on switchbacks

Southern California Edison power towers in the distance

Soon, we do the back and forth on the switchbacks up the mountain towards the Edison Road with its high-tension wire towers in the distance.  When we eventually arrive there, it’s just another half mile to the uninspiring Inspiration Point.  But I have not only been hiking but scheming to keep our hike to our three hour limit and have us turn around at the Edison Road at the three-mile point before we get to Inspiration Point.

Jes royal flush

As we approach the towers, I dazzle Hannah with a royal flush of persuasion if we keep hiking: (ten of hearts) that we’ll push us beyond our three hour hiking, (jack of hearts) we’ve been to Inspiration Point four years ago and know it is no big whup, (queen of hearts) we have had inspirational views of the Pacific on the trail already, (king of hearts) we don’t want to be wasted for tonight’s walk to the harbor seal rookery or tomorrow’s pickleball, and (ace of hearts) she just might miss her sunshine at our local Carpinteria Beach.

Jes 4A hearts on Edison Road

At the Edison Road tower, we see the rocks arranged in a heart shaped pattern.  When the universe speaks, we pay attention!  My royal heart flush triumphs as we head for our home-away-from-home in Carpinteria.

The shaded creek trail into the high desert chaparral gives the Jesusita the feel of a forest hike, not some aimless walk in the desert under a blazing sun.  In addition to a heart-pumping workout, we are not in Maine where eight inches of snow blankets our house, our yard, our driveway, the wintery lives of our neighbors, and any dreams of an early spring.

Given that context, this is not just a good hike, it’s a fantastic day on the trail.

Dan and Hannah Explore Ojai, California with an Assist from Penny

Unity of SB

Rev Larry of Unity of Santa Barbara speaking on Collateral Beauty

When we travel, the hikes are cool, the scenery beautiful, yeah, yeah, yeah.  But the best part are the people; whether here in California or elsewhere in the United States.

During our stay on the Central Coast of California, pickleball has been ideal for meeting people in Ventura and Santa Barbara; in addition, becoming a part of the Unity of Santa Barbara connects us with kindred spirits.

Mitch with take out

Mitch

To build further connections, I have a brilliant idea for your consideration.  My best friend from my childhood in Fair Lawn, NJ was Mitch Kaplan.  We played Radburn Rec basketball as sixth graders together, took the buses and subways to Yankees games across the Hudson River into the Bronx, played dice baseball, had our hearts broken by the young women in high school, and even played on the high school tennis team together.

Mitch above waist shot

Mitch

While I moved away to live in California, Arizona, and then eventually Maine for 35 years, Mitch returned to our childhood home in Radburn (section of Fair Lawn) after earning his BA from Antioch College in Ohio and his MFA at NYU.  Despite the distance, we stayed in touch; in part thanks to my frequent visits to see my mom and dad, who for many years still lived across the park from Mitch and Penny’s house.  Which brings me to Penny.

Mitch skiing

Mitch on the slopes, an athletic passion I did not share

Meeting in California, Mitch and Penny later married in Yellow Springs, Ohio with Mitch in a Boston Bruin jersey.  The cliché fits – he walked to the beat of his own drum and orchestra.  As we each approached retirement (he from a successful career as a writer and me after a run as a school and college teacher), golfing together loomed big in our future.

And then, damn it; he died from leukemia and its treatment.  He was 61.  That’s now more than eight years and counting of double bogeys and three putt greens we missed.

Ojai map

Carpinteria is ten miles south of Santa Barbara on the coast

After he passed, I kept in touch with his wife Penny who remained near to their two kids in the East.  Having grown up in Fillmore, CA, Penny came to mind when Hannah and I began traveling to California in winter; I soon realized how close Fillmore was to our month-long condo in Carpinteria.

Ojai 2 D and H with Emma and Theresa at Cafe Emporium

Dan, Hannah, Emma, and Theresa at the Cafe Emporium, Ojai

So, here’s where the brilliance comes in.  (I think you’ll soon see that I’ve checked that box.)  I asked Penny if she had any old (as in dear) friends in Fillmore that might like to have a cup of coffee with Hannah and me when we explore the town for a day.  It turns out she has a high school friend in nearby Ojai (pronounced Oh-hi) and sends me Emma’s email address.

Ojai 2B foursome at Libbey Bowl

At the in-town, just off the main street, Libbey Park

I email Emma, who responds enthusiastically that they are early risers and would love to have breakfast with us this early February Friday.  Encouraged to try the Ojai Café Emporium just off the main drag in Ojai, Hannah and I meet Emma and Theresa in a nook of the cafe.  Filling us in why they like living in Ojai, they tell us of their joy in walking to town to get coffee, the pleasure of being away from the cold of New Mexico, and their love of the temperate climate.

After learning their backstory, I mention, in response to their question about mine, that my first teaching job was in Anaheim, 35 miles south of Los Angeles; it was a short-lived job because the US military was clamoring for a piece of me.  Suddenly, I find myself opening up to two women I just met about the fact that I was conscientious objector during the Vietnam War years.

That said, the government didn’t quite see eye to eye with my self-assessment.  Let me explain how I dealt with our difference of opinion.

Ojai draft lottery

After graduating from Arizona State in 1970, I lost my student deferment; in addition, the Selective Service was no longer giving deferments for teaching positions like mine in Anaheim; I was reclassified 1-A.  That was the first year of the draft lottery, which it turns out I lost in a big way.  Out of 365 dates in the year, my December 27 birthday was chosen #78.  Since everyone from #1 to #195 was to be drafted, my goose was cooked.

Ojai conscientious objector

In the summer of 1970, I informed the Selective Service I would not serve because I was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War.  Basically, my local draft board said, no you are not; you are not a Mennonite or Amish, and anyway you need to be against all war.

Having the right to appeal, I petitioned the New Jersey State Selective Service Board to hear my case.  Fortunately for me, government bureaucracies can work slowly; it took them 10 months into 1971 to decide unanimously (5-0) that I was not a c.o. in their minds.  There is a federal appeal but only if the state board is divided.  So, I waited as an eligible and vulnerable 1-A.

Ojai make love not war

Going to Canada was not an option for me.  Too cold and too faraway.  My resolve was strong that I would never shoot a weapon.  And I waited.  Out of the blue in early 1972, I was reclassified 1-H.  That meant that every 1-A had to be drafted before I would be drafted at all.  Essentially, that meant I would not be drafted.  I never got an explanation why I was reclassified, and I never asked.

With my future noticeably brighter, I got a full-time teaching job in Tempe, AZ in February 1972, proposed to Hannah later that month, and after five years of off and on dating, we were married on July 1, 1972 in East Penfield, NY, at her father’s Christmas tree farm.

Thank you, Ojai ladies, for asking.

After breakfast in Ojai, we walked the in-town Ojai Valley Trail, a former railroad paved for bicyclists, runners, and walkers.  The mountain trails around Ojai have been off limits due to the decimated hillsides caused by the burning brush and trees of the Thomas Fire two months before.

Ojai 3 H on Ojai Valley Trail

On the paved Ojai Valley Trail, which goes all the way to Ventura on the coast

Randomly as we walk the Ojai Valley Trail, I stop what seem to me to be welcoming faces and ask why they like living in Ojai.

The first, a dental hygienist raises her arms out, and beams, the weather.  But she, too, has a story to tell about the Thomas Fire.  After the first flames could be seen in the mountains, all four roads out of Ojai were closed, sealing the town off from the outside.  Scary was her word since she and the other townspeople didn’t know if the fire would come down to their valley to destroy their homes as it had for whole neighborhoods in Ventura the day before.

Ojai 3D OVT

Ojai Valley Trail

Another thirty-something, says she likes the small-town nature (7,400 residents) and the climate.  A gentleman in his 80s adds that he appreciates that the town council wants to keep Ojai the way it is, they don’t have an expansionist mentality.  He agrees it is expensive to live here.  A lower end house in town can go for $600,000.  Ouch, California real estate.

With four miles of in-town trail walking in the books at near 80F, Hannah and I return to 63F Carpinteria 20 miles back to the coast, pleased that my checked box idea produced such dividends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dan and Hannah Mix Pickleball with Chinese Foot Massage

There are big T truths (e.g. one’s religious or spiritual beliefs) and there are small t truths (e.g. one’s personal beliefs).  I have two of my small t truths for you.

Don’t wait for friendship.  Though introverts by nature, Hannah and I roam beyond our comfort zone and make the effort to meet others wherever we go.  Relationships and friendships are possible.

Chinese Yes

Importance of saying yes.  Previously, I would do a cost/benefit analysis in my mind for new activities.  Worth my time?  Would I really like it?  Today, I generally make no calculations, and just say Yes, and sort out the details later.  Let me explain.

BA ventura guys

Dan, John, Leonard, and Rodrigo

Today, Hannah and I swim past our comfort zone into the deep end and drive 18 miles south from Carpinteria to the pickleball courts of Ventura to a place where we do not know a soul.  There, Leonard, the pickleball ambassador, greets us.  Ambassadors our usually genial, welcoming, and supportive, and Leonard is certainly all that.  Then, John steps up, introduces himself, and gets us into a game.

BA 1 PB group shot

Ventura Pickleballers

Throughout the morning, I pickle on the outdoor courts at De Anza Middle School with the guys, among them Bruce, Leonard, Jessie, Rodrigo, Jim, and Mark while Hannah slices and dices with some excellent women players.

Chinese image of loungers

Ready for action at Bamboo Creek Spa

As the morning of play wraps up, Mark says, some of us go to Ojai for lunch and then get a Chinese foot message.  Would you two like to join us?

That would be a quick Yes.

Jump forward to our final outdoor pickleball Saturday during our California month of February away from home.  As exclusively indoor pickleball players back in Maine, we learn of the challenges of playing in the open air.  Rain in the drought-stricken Central Coast is not one of the issues.  In this winter “rainy” season, we have had barely a tenth of an inch of rain the entire month.

Chinese windy palm trees

The winds of California under blue skies

Wind and sun are another matter.  Always checking my Weather Channel app for the wind speeds, I have learned that five to ten mph is fine for outdoor play, with little effect on my game.  Above 10 mph gets tricky and 20 mph is insane.  Being in California, we have the ever-present blue skies.  On one hand that makes for excellent tans for the New Englanders; on the other, hitting lobs into the sun becomes a roll of the dice.

Today, with the wind picking up throughout the morning, games become less about skill and more about dealing with the elements.  Players with the wind must temper their shots while those against the wind must muster all their power to get the pickleball (like a wiffle ball) over the net.  The comradery and sunshine trump the wind, as play wraps up for another Saturday.

Chinese 2B Mark and Lynne at BL

Lynne and Mark at Bonnie Lu’s

Looking to mix the pairs for our drive to Ojai, I suggest to Mark that he drive with me and Hannah drive with Mark’s wife, Lynne.  Just another stepping out of the comfort zone moment for us introverts.  For the twenty-minute drive, which turns into forty because of roadside power line repair, Mark and I learn of our north Jersey connection (he Hohokus and me Fair Lawn [I know it’s I instead of me, but I don’t like the sound and flow of I.) and learn of each other’s families and past working lives (both public school employees, he a business manager and me a teacher).

Chinese 2A we four at Bonnie Lu's

Pre-foot massage lunch at down home Bonnie Lu’s

Once in Ojai, we dine on the king-size sandwiches at Bonnie Lu’s and leave with half our BLT and Rueben for tomorrow’s lunch.

Properly nourished, we four head to the Bamboo Creek Spa in a store front just off the main drag in Ojai.  Learning that there is no talking during the massage, we also only whisper in the waiting area, which makes us three deal with life on Hannah’s terms (she with the hushed voice).

Filling out the registration, we sign-in with our first name, select the service wanted (i.e. foot massage), and decide from 1 to 7 how much hand pressure we prefer on our feet.  Being a first timer and soft, I opt for 3.

Chinese 3 H massage

Hannah mellowing out at Bamboo Creek Spa

First, Hannah and Lynne are taken to a side room, as I trail behind with my ever-present iPhone.  My blog does not wait.  Being as little annoying as possible, I snap and retreat to the waiting area to, well, wait and whisper with Mark.

Mark and I are soon taken to the front room and seated in adjustable lounge chairs with remotes.  In front of each of us are two-foot square ottomans; soon a towel is draped over the lower half of our bodies.  Removing my sandals and socks, I wait.  (nota bene – may I remind you that my socks have played two hours of pickleball)

Chinese 3D D zoned out massage

Soon, a bathroom size waste basket is brought out with warm herbal water in a plastic bag.  The foot soak begins my 30-minute massage ($21 per session seems like quite the bargain).  The theory is that massaging reflex points in the feet restores natural energy flow.  While Mark, a veteran of the foot massage, zones out, a woman approaches to dry my soaking feet and wrap each one in a towel.  She then squirts soothing oil into her hands and let the massaging begin.

Chinese 3C workng on my feet

My masseuse

After two hours of pickleball and a reasonably big lunch, I am ready to nod off, but I have a stronger need to see what she does.  Ever the photo journalist, I take pictures of the masseuse in action.

At times when she is working the sole of my foot, my foot involuntarily spasms as she goes from the front pad of my foot to the arch.  Ever the pro, she senses my tic and continues gently.

Fifteen minutes on the left foot and then fifteen on the right.  Delightfully refreshing, the massage has Hannah feeling that her sensitive and aching feet have never felt better.  Thankful and mellow, we tip our masseuses.

Chinese 3E D and H in waiting area

The look of foot massage mellow

Walking back to our cars with Mark and Lynne, I appreciate the new experience; the feeling of being among new friends made this one of the highlights of our month in February.

Our best experiences are always about the people, which happen more often when we head to the deep end and simply say yes.

 

 

Dan and Hannah Come to Ventura, California for Pickleball Magic

Every so often, Hannah and I talk about the words we’ll put on our tombstones.  It’s not a heavy at all, in fact, ironic and light.  Truth be told, upon cashing in our chips, we will donate our bodies to the Medical School at the University of New England (Maine); ergo, there will be no headstone.  Still, we think what words would capture our legacy.  Recently, Hannah’s latest thought is There.

BA he tried

For me, my latest is He Tried.  Let me explain.

Since coming to California, Hannah and I have been transitioning from a focus on hiking to one on pickleball; as we turn 70, we are focusing on growing relationships over the physical challenges of climbing mountains and hiking to waterfalls.  When hiking, it’s just the two of us, with the occasional brief conversation with others along the way.

On the other hand, pickleball opens doors for new relationships.  At new pickleball venues, we have two to three hours of playing, talking between games, and finding out what we have in common, athletically and individually.  Longtime readers of this blog know of the magic we had in north Georgia with the Yonah Mountain Pickleball Club.  That association led us a pickleball club party and overnights with two couples in their homes.  Click here for that blog.

BA ventura map better

Last year during our February month in California, we played afternoon pickleball in Santa Barbara.   Though we made no connections, I reached out and gave it a shot.  Though I came up empty, one could reasonably say, He Tried.

But this year in addition to pickling in Santa Barbara, we are branching out by playing in Ventura (18 miles south of Carpinteria on The 101) Saturdays on the outdoor pickleball courts at the De Anza Middle School.

BA 1 PB group shot

Ventura Pickleballers with the Mainers

Arriving in Ventura on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, we have a mix of men and women, mostly seniors.  Hannah and I eventually find our level, she with the women and me with the guys.  As indoor players, we are learning to adjust to the wind as well as hitting overheads with the sun in our eyes.

BA ventura guys

Dan, John, Leonard, and Rodrigo on the Ventura pickleball courts

Encouraged and sensing a good vibe, Hannah and I return the following Saturday for more play.  After our two hours, we sit in collapsible patio chairs, shooting the breeze with the other players.

BA 2 ventura pickleball design

Pickleballers Bruce and Anneli with the club logo

As Hannah and I walk from the courts, I spot Bruce and mention how much I enjoy his dinking soft game (i.e. hitting short shots just over the net) and thank him for welcoming us.  Exchanging business cards, we go our separate ways.  Later on the ride home after mentioning my conversation with Bruce, Hannah mentions her play with his wife Anneli, with the summation, She’s good.

With Bruce’s business card in hand and only two and a half weeks left in our stay in Carpinteria, I shoot off an email to add substance to my legacy of He Tried.

Hey Bruce and Anneli, 

Thanks for you all including Hannah and me in your Saturday pickleball games.  It’s been a treat.  We wonder if you and Anneli would like to have a cup of coffee or glass of wine in the coming week or two at our condo in Carpinteria or we’d drive to your place.   Just a thought, no pressure.  Look forward to pickleball again this Saturday.   Dan

(The next day, we get this email from Bruce.)

BA 1 at Snapper Jacks counter

Anneli, Bruce, and Hannah at the Snapper Jack’s counter

Hello Dan and Hannah,

 It is very nice to have you two playing with us while you are visiting California.  We would enjoy an off-court visit. Will your schedule allow a lunch time visit next week?  Since you offered to come to Ventura, perhaps a stop at our office next week followed by a walk into downtown Ventura? We have several preferred spots for fish or steak tacos if you like.   Bruce

It’s always easier staying home, sitting on the couch reading, watching television, or wasting time on the computer or smart phone; there’s no risk.  Ah, but there’s often little reward.  I want more than being homebound and gagged and give it a shot.  Hence, He Tried.

Ten days later, driving down The 101 right on the Pacific Ocean to Ventura, we meet Bruce and Anneli at their office.  Intrigued by his career as an architect, I find his explanation of the houses and businesses he designs fascinating.  Fortunately he has Anneli to run the show as the business manager.  In addition, Bruce volunteers to teach 3rd graders architecture (i.e. perspective drawing).

BA 1A Snapper Jack's sign

Having recommended fish tacos for lunch, Bruce and Anneli walk with us to Snapper Jack’s Taco Shack a few blocks away on Main Street.  Rocking at 1P, Snapper Jack’s is where we’ll have our very first fish tacos.  As you know, when in Rome…

Following Bruce’s lead, I order one soft corn and one crispy flour fish taco with a side of rice and refried beans with tortilla chips to boot.  Already, I am thinking we must bring our grandsons, Owen and Max, here when they visit next year.

BA 1B 4 eating fish tacos at snapper jack's

Al fresco in February with Bruce, Anneli, Dan, and Hannah.

Similar to our walk and talk in twos to Snapper Jack’s, the conversation over lunch flows easily as they are both interested in us as well as share their interesting, active lives.  A cliché works here.  Two hours fly and it’s like we have new old friends.  It’s magic.

Returning to their office, as they do have jobs, we hug good-bye, and part as Bruce says, Thanks for reaching out.  He gets it.  He appreciates the effort.  It’s always worth trying, especially if I am going to earn my epitaph He Tried.

BA 3B H on pier

Hannah a way out on the Ventura Pier

Taking Ash Avenue to the walkway across The 101 to the Ventura Pier and Ventura Promenade at Surfer’s Point at Seaside Beach, we see a lone female surfer, head to toe in a wet suit.  On a windy afternoon, we walk out the pier and celebrate another sunny day during the “rainy” winter season in southern California.

BA 4A D on ventura promenade

Palm-lined waterfront Ventura Promenade

Taking the stairs down off the pier, we have a wide waterfront walkway along the Pacific Ocean with the Ventura Fairgrounds to our landward side.  With the wind up, we are still comfortable in shorts knowing in two weeks winter is going to slap us in the face.  March is still real winter in Maine.

I wonder, were the fish tacos really that good?  Or was it the company while eating the fish tacos the reason why they tasted so good?  I’d go with door number two.

As a long-time believer in Davy Crockett’s Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you, I am content with my epitaph, He tried.

Dan and Hannah Return to Goleta Beach after Fire and Rain

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. – James Taylor

Montecito Thomas fire

Along The 101

It was the most violent rain in 200 years, following the biggest wildfire in state history, on the heels of the most dehydrating and devastating drought in modern county history. The Thomas Fire left the top few inches of the front-country slopes baked and seared into a fine, crumbly powder. The sustained heat cooked the chaparral, coaxing from it a waxy liquid that oozed onto the soil and functioned like a sheet of glass. The rains struck with biblical fury. Six-tenths of an inch in five minutes. Imagine a downhill demolition derby with 10,000 John Deere tractors dive-bombing Montecito, disking the hillsides as they go.  – Dr. Ed Keller, professor of geology, UCSB.

Whoa.  Nothing like a geologist to put the recent natural disaster in California’s Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties into perspective.  Before Hannah and I came to Carpinteria on the Pacific coast for the month of February, I’d been reading about the Thomas Fire and the deadly mud and debris flows in nearby Montecito.

Let me back up and set the scene.

In December of 2017, wildfires blasted the vegetation (mostly very dry brush from years of drought) on the mountainsides above Ventura, Ojai, Carpinteria, Montecito, and Santa Barbara.  Two of our favorite hiking canyons, San Ysidro and Romero, were closed since the trees of these steep ravines were burned to the roots.  The fire was so intense it burned the organic matter in the soil, leaving pulverized dust, providing no stability for a firm trail foundation.

Montecito House

Montecito Mud and Debris

And then it got worse.   On January 9, 2018 heavy rain fell on these hillsides into these same canyons causing mud and debris flows that washed away and knocked houses off their foundations; it sent car size boulders onto the main north/south highgway (The 101), closing it in both directions for nearly two weeks.

As the clean-up continues, our hiking options have narrowed, but we do have an old reliable hike – a mellow cliff walk from Goleta Beach State Park along the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara.  Alas, this area, far from the fires and mud flows, has been compromised as well.  Let me explain.

GB 1 Montecito Mud on Goleta Beach

Montecito Mud comes to Goleta Beach.  UCSB buildings in the background.  Cliff trail in the distance.

Driving 20 miles north from our VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) condo in Carpinteria, we wonder if we will even have access to the parking lot at Goleta Beach State Park.  Over the last month, dump truck after dump truck (100 loads per day) bring the mud (not debris) from the January mudslides.  Though examined for non-mud materials, there is enough bacteria in the mud that swimming and surfing is currently not allowed in the area.

GB 2A cliffs with warning sign

Cliff walk harborside near UCSB

Once the pungent, tree-burned, dark mud is dumped on the beach and pushed out into the low tide areas by bull dozers, the high tides start to work their magic.  Within 24 hours, the tide has washed the mud out to sea, leaving the sandy elements of the muddy soil to replenish the beach itself.

GB 2B H with warning sign

It turns out we are able to park at Goleta Beach, though we and the rest of the public are barred by yellow police tape from walking within 400’ of the mud dumping zone.  Taking to the UCSB bike trail towards campus, we skirt the beach and head for the fenced off cliff trail on the edge of campus.   As expected, there are no surfers off the UCSB point as we weave by the marine technology lab.

GB 3B more pacific cliffs bueno

Cliff walk facing the Pacific Ocean

Climbing stairs to the vista above the Pacific, we see school kids who have come for a nature field trip.  Just two are listening to the guide, and the rest act middle school bored, so wanting to check their phones.  Passing to their inland side, I appreciate that leading field trips with middle schoolers is in my distant past.  When I retired from 41 years of teaching seven years ago, I never looked back.  Greener pastures, hikable trails, and pickleball courts awaited.   Previously we have come to these bluffs on weekends, so it is not surprising to see fewer walkers, students or visitors on the trail.  Click here for our 2016 cliff hike and here for our 2017 hike.

GB 3A pacific cliffs with D

Bomber at the Pacific

Returning by way of the lagoon and then through campus, we see that UCSB students are living the dream, sitting on the student union lawn facing the Pacific in shorts soaking in the sun.  By the way, tuition and fees in 2017-2018 for California residents are $14,409, for out-of-staters it’s $42,423.  Room and board for each of the 24,000+ students is $16, 218.  At this highly competitive public university, the high school GPA averages are roughly 4.10 (they take a slew of AP classes, I’m guessing) and SATs are 600-750.

At the change of classes near 1P, kids on cruisers (one speed bikes) and skate boards, male and female, glide to class on specially marked trails to separate them from the walkers.

Carp 2B D by mud on Carp Beach

Mud comes to the Carpinteria Beach

Returning to Carpinteria for an evening walk on the beach, we see the same pungent dark mud that we saw earlier at Goleta Beach State Park.  Within 100’ of the mud spread, we start to smell a pungent, burnt wood odor; it is overpowering.  Whereas, in Goleta Beach there are no domiciles within a half mile of the dumping, here in Carpinteria the oceanfront condos have the nasty mud lapping near their walls.  To quote the kids, gag me with a spoon.  Check out the video below of the dumping process.

Heading for our condo, we find the town roads are covered with the sheen of dark red mud.  Street sweepers go up and down the streets constantly keeping the dust down and sweeping up the surface mud.

Swimming and surfing here at the Carpinteria Beach is also verboten and will stay so for more than a month.  Like others, we occasionally walk the beach mornings and evenings, but we do not mess with the bacteria-infested mud.  All is not perfect in paradise.  But it is still paradise.

Dan and Hannah Find Their Small Town Dream in California

 

Carp 4 sunset

Sunset at Carpinteria above the harbor seal rookery

Since forever, I’ve wanted to live in a small town.  I dreamed I’d be connected to our neighbors and the community at large.  As Hannah and I both turn 70, we’d like to find a town that is both small and warm in winter, so we can be active outside each and every day.   And let me tell you, we struck gold in California.  Let me backtrack to take you on the journey that led us to this small town of warmth on the Pacific Ocean.

Harry and Hazel in Radburn

My grandpa Harry and grandma Hazel on my mother’s side in front of our house in Radburn.  Circa 1960.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Hannah and I both grew up in the suburbs that had a small-town feel (she near Rochester, NY and me ten miles from the Big Apple).

In the Radburn section of Fair Lawn, NJ where I grew up, there were six houses to an acre, all on cul-de-sacs backed up to a park.  In the Erie Canal town of Fairport, NY, Hannah as the daughter of the town doctor, was known by everyone.  We had small towns in our blood from the beginning.

When first married, Hannah and I bought a home in Tempe, Arizona, the home of Arizona State University.  But we lived on streets where people kept to themselves, often staying indoors much of the time because of the heat.  (Though it’s a “dry” heat, it’s like living in an oven.)  We’d put Molly, then later Robyn in a stroller going up and down La Jolla Drive and never see another person.  This was a dead end in our hunt for a small town.

Carp 1A our driveway in January

Our driveway on Chases Pond Road in winter

In 1982, we got serious about our small town holy grail.  Moving from Arizona to seek the romantic notion of small town living in New England, we settled in the “small town” of York on the southern Maine coast.

But…we bought a house out a country road, some 2.5 miles from the center of town.  Too far to walk to town, we drove to the center of town to find the First Parish Church, the church cemetery from the 1600s, a Cumberland Farms, the York Historial Society complex of buildings, a few insurance businesses, and the York Public Library.  That’s about it.

Come 5P, the town rolls up the sidewalks for the night.  There’s no town green, no restaurants, no park, no community center.  In my mind, York is a small town in name only.

Though we still live in York, I have never given up my search for that small town.  Why even in the early 1990s, we made an offer on a house in Brunswick, Maine, primarily because of its small-town feel.  For many reasons, we backed away from that decision.

Montecito Mud 2 the 101

After the January 2018 mud and debris flows on The 101 in Montecito

And then in 2014, we started to come to California in winter, first for two weeks, then a month.  California has it all!  True there are earthquakes, wildfires, climate change-caused droughts, and mud and debris flows, but it also has progressive politics, towns where everyone can feel safe, and the warmth that allows us to hike, walk, and pickle outside in winter.

Carp 2 H by ping pong table

Hannah at Carpinteria Beach

Then in 2017, we took our grandsons, Owen and Max, to the beach south of Santa Barbara and hit the mother lode of small towns in winter – Carpinteria.

So, what is it about Carpinteria that made this small town so appealing in winter?

First, let’s be real, it’s temperate winter climate allows us to exercise outside in shorts day in and day out.

Carp map of carp

Carpinteria, ten miles south of Santa Barbara

Second, it’s location.  The town of 14,000 residents is tucked between the coastal San Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, a stretch of maybe three miles wide.  There’s little room to expand, which will keep the small in this small town for years to come.

Carp 4A small house

Modest size beach house in Carpinteria

Third, we are not smothered by traffic.  True, The 101 highway away from our beach side of town is California-clogged for much of the morning and evening commute.  But tucked between Carpinteria Avenue and the beach are nine quiet streets with modest size houses (probably less than a 1000 square feet) on streets for us to walk and for couples and kids to bike on their cruisers (one speed bikes conducive to this level terrain and the hard sandy beaches).

Carp 4C harbor seal rookery

Harbor Seal Rookery off the Coastal View Trail in Carpinteria

Fourth, there are out-of-the-way trails to walk.  To the north of the downtown is the Carpinteria Marsh Trail.  In the opposite direction past the boardwalks through the sand dunes of Carpinteria State Park, there is the Coastal View Trail to the Harbor Seal Rookery.

Carp 3 Alcazar

The Alcazar where we watched Super Bowl LII with one hundred other townsfolk

Fifth, we can walk everywhere.  It is less than a half mile to restaurants, the Alcazar Theater where we watched the Super Bowl with one hundred other townsfolks, Albertson’s, the local grocery store, the post office, Chinese takeout at Uncle Chen’s and a Subway and Taco Bell for something quick.  The library is two-tenths of mile from our rented winter condo.  And it deserves an ordinal (a number in a sequence like 1st, 2nd,..) to itself.

Carp 3A Library

Small town Carpinteria Library

Sixth, at the Carpinteria Public Library, we ask about getting a library card.  It’s free, even though we are not residents!  Its similar to the no cost emergency services (i.e., ambulances) in the county.  Last year, Hannah was transported by ambulance after her 25’ fall from the San Ysidro Trail to the local Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for emergency surgery.  When the EMTs were working to save her leg, we learned there is no charge for the county ambulance service.  Here in the Republic of California, services are often provided for all its citizens.

PB H and D and Nancy

Pickleball on the Santa Barbara Muncipal Courts

Seventh, it’s not in the middle of nowhere.  Ten miles to our north in Santa Barbara, we have our Unity of Santa Barbara spiritual community, the Municipal Tennis Courts for pickleball, the Santa Barbara Zoo for visits by our grandsons, Owen and Max, and Trader Joe’s.  Ten miles further is the University of California, Santa Barbara bordering Goleta Beach State Park with its two-mile cliff walk.

Carp 2A H by Carp State Beach sign first day

Eighth, the beach.  Each sunny afternoon Hannah takes her beach chair and reading material to enjoy the delights of Ole Sol. Evenings we can walk the hard-packed sand.

It’s not everyone’s cup of joe, but its the small town in winter that works for us.

Dan and Hannah Love California

Carp 1A our driveway in January

Our January driveway on Chases Pond Road

Up at 3A, I check my tablet computer to learn our 735A Delta flight from Boston to Los Angeles is on time.  I then notice on the Weather Channel that 1-3″ of snow is predicted here on the coast of Maine and it is to start at 3A.  Looking outside, no snow is falling.  Hmmm.  When our friend Adele arrives at 4A to drive us to Logan Airport, there is still no snow.  On the 60 mile, one hour ride south, only once at Logan Airport does light snow fall.  No big deal.

Arriving at Logan, we are on schedule for a six hour flight to depart at 735A.  Cozied into the airport, I notice nothing of the weather outside as I am distracted by Delta’s free Starbucks coffee and my Dunkin’ Donuts blueberry muffin.  Finally, as we walk down the runway I see that there is some serious snow falling.  It’s early in the travel day, we should be fine.

Carp 1 deicing in boston

Hannah captures our plane being de-iced

We are not fine.  Two and a half hours later, we take off after the mandatory de-icing.  Take all the time you need to de-ice.  I want to arrive in LA without incident.

The six hour flight goes quickly thanks in part to the satisfaction of getting a free breakfast and the excellent Battle of the Sexes with Emma Stone.

Arriving later than expected at LAX, we still are off before 2P in our Avis rent-a-car on The 405 and soon to The 101 through urban Los Angeles to Carpinteria some 80 miles up the coast.  LA Traffic?  Not bad on a Tuesday at 2P.  That said, the twelve lane highway is full of cars, but Hannah and I cruise north in the HOV lane.  The car thermometer reads 85F.  It was 23F in York early this morning.

Carp 2 H by ping pong table

Within 100′ of the Pacific Ocean

Arriving Carpinteria by 330P, we unpack and head to the Carpinteria State Beach five blocks away.  It’s 73F and we are reminded of our love of the Golden State.

Montecito disneyland

On Halloween 1970 all the teachers at my Patrick Henry Elementary School were required on a school day to march with the kids supervising them in a parade.

Fact is, I have had a thing for California for a long time.  I took my first teaching job in the Golden State in 1970.  Right out of Arizona State University as an elementary education major, I was drawn to sunny, though smoggy southern California.  The Anaheim City Schools (35 miles south of Los Angeles) offered me a job as a social studies, science, and Spanish teacher of 5th and 6th graders at $7200 per year.  I took the job, despite never having had a single course in Spanish.

Later that year, I moved back to Arizona to start the first ten years of Hannah’s and my married life.  Then, it was 35 years and counting in Maine raising a family and trying to get our acts together.

But it was our one-time York, now California friends, Tree and Scott, who planted the seed four years ago that brought us back to the Golden State.  Over coffee and blueberry muffins at the local Roast and Crumb, Tree mentioned that they loved Maine; but too much of the winter they found running and walking outside a cold, dismal proposition.

Montecito map thomas fire

Santa Barbara is 100 miles north of Los Angeles

It was a Tom Edison moment for me.  That was exactly my first frustration with Maine winters.  Literally, within three days of that December morning, I had made January reservations for a flight to LAX (Los Angeles Airport) for two weeks of hiking up the coast of California.  For every winter since that 2014, we have returned to the Golden State.

SB Pickleball Feb 1

The wildfires came to just the other side of those near mountains.

It’s win/win.  The first win is being in the temperate winter climate of the Santa Barbara area of California.  This February 70s are predicted every day for our first two weeks.  Walking by the beach or before the town wakes up every morning before breakfast in shorts!   Hiking the canyon trails in the nearby San Ynez Mountains in shorts!  Playing pickleball in Santa Barbara outdoors in shorts!  Well, as you might have guessed, that’s the long and short of it.

Montecito snow in Maine

Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine

The second win is we are not in Maine in the winter.  Maine is home and always will be.  But during a recent two-week period, we had brutal subzero cold with a major snowstorm thrown in for good measure; this was by far the bitterest stretch of weather we’ve had during our years on the coast of Maine.  Not a day over 20F and many days well below zero.  Three thousand miles away, Southern California looks mighty good.

Montecito Thomas fire

Thomas Fire with The 101 highway in the foreground

Despite being paradise, the Santa Barbara area has had some tough patches of late.  First, in December 2017, the Thomas Fire (named for the 358 student Thomas Aquinas College near Ventura) burned nearly 300,000 acres, making it the largest wildfire in California history.

Montecito Mud 2 the 101

Four lane 101 highway

Then a monster rain storm on January 9, 2018 sent massive mud and debris flows down the recently denuded coastal mountains and hillsides.  Montecito, a Santa Barbara suburb, was the epicenter of this disaster where 21 died and hundreds of home destroyed.  The major four lane highway (The 101) through the area was closed in both directions for nearly two weeks due to car size boulders, tons of soupy muck, uprooted trees, oceans of mud, and abandoned vehicles in the highway.  Usually, The 101 carries 100,000 vehicles through the Central Coast daily.

Montecito House

Mudslide of boulders in Montecito

Hannah heard from our good friend in Santa Barbara in mid-January before we left.

Hello dear Hannah,

I’ve just been thinking about you and Dan and your upcoming visit.  I thought that I should touch base and just be sure that you have a sense of what things are like here after the recent rains.  Highway 101 is closed indefinitely and blessed Montecito looks like a tsunami went through. 

Montecito Mud the 101

Mud and debris inundate The 101

I do not want to discourage you from coming in any way, but think you should be aware that conditions are not good.  Currently a large section of Montecito has been evacuated again so that they can get equipment in there to clean things up.  They also are continuing searching for folks who are still missing.  All restaurants and food facilities in Montecito and Summerland are closed, due to contaminated water. 

Sending lots of love.  

We were not discouraged.  California here we are!

And one more thing.  I love California because of its overwhelming support of President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012; as well as in the Presidential Election of 2016, Hilary Clinton received 7,362,490 votes and the current president just 3,916,209.  I am among my peeps.

Check out these pictures in the days immediately following the deluge and especially the before and after pictures from the Montecito mudslides and debris flows

Montecito 101 FWY

Montecito mud house

 

montecito side street with pole down

Montecito truck

Before and after

Montecito 101 before

montecito 101 after

Before and after

Montecito butterfly beach before

Before and after

Montecito hot springs before

Before and after

Montecito olive mill at danielson before

Click here to read why another Californian for 30 years who came from Colorado loves him some California despite its wildfires, mud and debris flows, and earthquakes.  It’s an engaging read.

Dan and Hannah with Owen and Max in Santa Barbara

Once a week throughout the year, Hannah and I live the grandparents’ dream and head an hour south to Massachusetts to spend the afternoon with our preschool grandsons, Owen and Max.  In warm weather we have parks and lakes while in winter we turn to indoor fun centers: Loch Ness Fun Center in Chelmsford, Imajine That in Lawrence, or One Stop Fun in Westford.

Ratt map of SB

This winter, we have an entire week of days with the boys since they are coming to southern California to hang out with their Omi and Poppa.  Our plan is to take the boys for daily “adventures” while our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip get some time to hike or head to the beach.

Prior to the boys’ arrival, Hannah and I take in the Carpinteria Bluffs to learn whether this is a place for preschoolers.  With the few seals that we see far below the bluffs, that this is not the active experience we’d like for Owen and Max.   Preschool compatibility index – Not really.

OM Carp boys with bat

Owen and Max at Carpinteria Beach

Though this has been the rainiest February since Noah and his Ark, we have a sunny Sunday to take Owen and Max to the Carpinteria Beach just ten miles south of Santa Barbara.  With our guys, we know they love the filling of sand in their buckets, then dumping it all; then filling and dumping on and on.

OM Carp flying gull at vball

A tennis ball and fat bat as well as a Frisbee keep them on the move.  At the beach volleyball court, they make up their own game of throwing the ball over the net and trying to catch it.  The ocean water in February is fine for surfers in wet suits, but we all are just fine going to the water’s edge.  Preschool compatibility index – Off the charts.

Monday is a day when the rain gods bark, You’ve been bitching about the drought for six years; so tell me, what is your problem when I give you Biblical rains!  On such days, the universe provides the Sea Center on Stearn’s Wharf on the Santa Barbara beachfront for Owen and Max.

OM Zoo skates

Sea Center

OM Pier theater

Pulling onto the half mile wooden wharf itself, we have free parking for the first 90 minutes.  After, it’s $2.50/hour.  You can bet Dan and Hannah will make this an 85-minute visit.  For $7.50 each for seniors and $6 for kids age 2-12, the Sea Center begins with the boys petting baby sand sharks, sea anemones, and star fish. That lasts for about five minutes and then the boys are off.

The movie about sharks and the marine fishing vessel experience hold no interest for our guys.  It’s running around which they love!  As we move to the top floor, a barnacled large gray whale model dominates the airspace; this wows them for a good 15 seconds, and then run they do.

What does interest Owen and Max is the Marine Puppet Theater with stuffed animals such as a gray whale, hammerhead shark, two kinds of turtles, a purple squid, and octopus.  Though they never put on a play for us, they imagine with the stuffed animals, run about, tug over their favorite (the purple squid), and spend more time there than any other place at the Sea Center.

Hannah and I feel that the $27 admission fees are money well-spent supporting the Natural History Museum of Santa Barbara, of which the Sea Center is a part.   But….  Preschool compatibility index – Not so much; it’s a dry place on a misty day, but the place is more for interested adults and school age kids with a marine bent.

Tuesday, when it rains with preschoolers at the cottage, our choices of outdoor activities are limited.  Molly and Tip take the boys to story hour at the Montecito Library.  Later in the afternoon we adults watch The Best of Men DVD (PBS – Outstanding) while Max naps and Owen watches Dinosaur Train.

OM Lookout Point O and M

Lookout Point in Summerland

But by 3P, the sun comes out and we have the chance to give Molly and Tip their daily break (daily bread?).  Lookout Park on the Pacific here in Summerland is just down the hill from our cottage.  Walking with Owen and Max the half mile through town to the beach, we have a playground with a climbing wall, slides, and swings.

The train track gives Hannah an idea from her childhood.  She has Owen and Max put pennies on the track itself to be crushed by the next passing Amtrak train.  The boys are learning the meaning of watched pot never boils.  Eventually distracted, the Amtrak train roars through and delivers in a big way – squashed coins beyond recognition.   Preschool compatibility index – Late afternoon playground time after a day of rain – elixir for the whole family.

OM elephants

Max with the big fellas

Wednesday, the sun comes out and we are off to the Santa Barbara Zoo.  While Molly and Tip hike Romero Canyon in nearby Montecito, we drive the six miles to the Zoo just off the main beach in Santa Barbara.   To save the $7 for parking we park across the street from the Zoo entrance at Dwight Murphy Field.  Tickets for 2-12 year-olds are $10 and seniors get in for $13 each.  Money well spent.

OM gator

See you later alligator

The boys really love running anywhere – this time in a park setting.   Seeing the colorful parrots, the boys’ interest lasts about twenty seconds.  Let’s go is their refrain as Owen leads, Max follows and repeats whatever his big brother says.   They never stop.  We see flamingos, foxes, gibbons, elephants, condors, snow leopards, and alligators.  Surprising to me, Max has a fascination with the zoo map as he points out where we’ll go next.

But the Santa Barbara Zoo delivers in three big ways.  First, there are the lions that perch on manmade boulders at eye level.  Though they don’t roar, that doesn’t stop Owen and Max from communicating with them with their own best king-of-the-jungle roars.

OwenMax O and M with giraffes

Then there is the herd of giraffes.  Regal and stately, they are so much more impressive than what we see in books.   Later we hit the gorilla compound.  At lunch time the gorilla picks at his celery, beans, and lettuce through a grate in the ground, which, I am guessing, is to improve his dexterity and to teach him to eat in a civilized manner.

OwenMax H as trainer

My kind of zookeeper

A mid-zoo playground with a climbing spider web and a hill for sledding down on pieces of cardboard grabs the boys’ attention.   After three hours of running, we and they are pooped.   Preschool compatibility index – You’re in the running for grandparents of the year if you take your grandkids to the Santa Barbara Zoo.

SY 3B T with boys

Owen and Max with their Dad

On Thursday, our Owen and Max activity is hiking the San Ysidro Trail in nearby Montecito, California with their parents.  When hiking with preschoolers, Hannah and I have the one important ingredient today to make this activity fly – parents like Molly and Tip.  This four-mile round trip to a rocking waterfall needs playful parents who can distract their boys when they get weary.

SY2 4A five on trail

Prefall Hannah on the San Ysidro Trail with the Family Rawding

For much of the way, Tip carries nearly 3-year-old, 40+ pound Max in a backpack.  Such endurance is out of my league.  Owen, five in July, walks and runs most of the four miles, often holding the hand of his mother Molly.  Preschool compatibility index – Only try with athletic, vigilant, and relentlessly positive parents.  It’s too much for us alone.  Click here for that blog.

On Friday, we rest as Hannah recuperates from her fall from the above trail the day before.

Grandparents the world over will nod their heads and know that it’s been gold to have five days with our Dynamo Duo.