Take a drive baby up the coast, Highway 101

California roadtrip 2016, here we go!

The Mann was hired for a couple of photo shoots in San Diego and Napa and I decided to keep him company during the road trip in between.  We arrive in San Diego and he got straight to work while I planned our route, got snack supplies and found a spot for lunch.  Being in San Diego, fish tacos were a must and Lucha Libre in Mission Hills was well rated and just around the corner from the photo shoot.  Lucha Libre offers gourmet tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, dogs, fries and Lucha masks.  The shop is small and full of colorful and wrestling-themed decor.  Anchorman is on the TV.  They have a gold “Champion’s Booth” that you can reserve a day in advance.  You order at the counter and then find a seat in the dining room or the small patio outside.  We both got the Undefeated Seafood Tacos:  shrimp vs. fish.  The shrimp was good but the fish was the clear winner.  The unsung hero was the soda fountain and it’s perfect labels.

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With one shoot down and full bellies, we hit the road.  We drove up the coast, through LA and then picked up the PCH in Santa Monica.  Traffic was light and the views were perfectly Californian.  We listened alternately to Rebelution Radio, punk bands from California and Bob Saget’s book, Dirty Daddy (which was surprisingly poignant).  We arrived at our first stop, Santa Barbara in the late afternoon with enough time to do a bit of exploring.

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Since we had to stick to a tight budget, we booked through Hotwire’s Hot Rates and were delighted to wind up at the Harbor View Inn.  If you’re not familiar with Hot Rates, here’s the skinny: it’s similar to Priceline.  You select the neighborhood you want to be in, minimum star rating and other amenities but are not able to select the specific property.  Hotwire negotiates significantly discounted rates with hotels, but preserves their anonymity, hence you only find out where you’re staying after making a non-refundable payment.  We like to #beslightlyadventurous, especially when staying in a spot for just a night and have not been disappointed yet.  It actually became a fun part of planning the trip… we research area hotels and bet on where Hotwire would land us.

We checked into our room, which was spacious, clean and right across from the beach.  We had a ground level patio that I wish we had more time to use but time was limited and we hit the streets to get a taste of Santa Barbara.

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SB was not what I imagined.  I was expecting a smaller LA, with lots of wine.  It was nothing like that (ok, there WAS lots of wine).  It was laid back, very mellow, with cute shops, restaurants, art galleries, wine tasting spots and even a couple of breweries.  We opted for wine, since we’d never done a California wine tasting before.  The lovely gentleman who checked us in at the hotel recommend Pali Wine Co. and we were very pleased with his recommendation.  The tasting room was very cool and industrial and had a small patio to hang out in.  We hung out at the bar and sampled everything they had to offer, which was primarily Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.  Their winemaker, Aaron, came over with a plate of grapes from their vineyards and we chatted with him about picking grapes with his toddler and wine in general.  My only complaint was that there weren’t any food options and all those tastes added up to a solid buzz.  Our favorite was the 2013 Mourvedre by Tower 15 (Pali’s partner).

Looking to work off the booze, we headed to Shoreline Park,  Stearns Wharf, the marina and finally Eladio’s, the restaurant at the hotel for more fish tacos.  The hotel grounds are well cared for (even during the current construction) and even feature a little garden with cabbages, peppers and herb used by the restaurant.  We sat out on the patio, watching the world go by under the twinkle lights.

The next morning, we checked out early and drove around sleepy, foggy Santa Barbara.  We planned to spend most of the day driving up to Santa Cruz but wanted to catch at least one more site in SB, so we stopped at the Old Mission.  It was not yet open, but we walked around the grounds and took in as much as we could.  The fountain out front was built in 1808 and features a carved Lion’s head that is said to be the oldest public sculpture in California.

Wishing we had more time, we hit the road again for what turned out to be a breathtaking, emotional and surprising drive.  Stay tuned for more!

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