So for Spring Break
this year, we headed on up to Santa Barbara for a few days – and not just because I'm using it in my TrolleyWorld
Santa Barbara is only about a hundred miles away from us so the drive took just a couple of hours, about a third of it along the coast. The city itself is fairly small – Wikipedia gives it a population of just ninety-thousand or so and slightly less land area than Pasadena – and it is nestled between the ocean on one side and mountains on the other on what (mostly) flat land there is between the two. A handful of smaller towns are along the coast with it, but basically it is cut off from the vast majority of California by the Santa Ynez mountains that surround it.
[If you wanted a pretty good place to survive a S.M. Stirling Dies the Fire
or ISOT-style disaster, Santa Barbara would be
such a “pretty good place” – its own reservoirs supply water (gravity fed), it has a smallish total population, a surprising amount of farm land near it, plus seafood resources, plus the Channel Islands to expand to/use for food right off the coast with literally ten times the land area you have on the mainland. Plus oil
. Added bonus: Close three roads going through two narrow passes and an even narrower strip between the cliffs and the sea and you've completely cut off the area from any invasion of outsiders...well, unless they have boats]
The city itself is almost completely done in Spanish colonial revival style – with a smattering of Victorian, Craftsman, and other style homes. This is mostly due to them putting in some tough building regs following an earthquake in 1925 that destroyed a lot of the city. There are also tough regs against billboards and “obtrusive” signage for businesses. This is both good and bad: Good in that it make for a very pretty town, Bad in that if you don't know where something is – or at least, have a decent GPS system – you might not be able to find it. That tastefully designed small sign saying “Starbucks” on the side of that Spanish colonial building is easy to miss while you're looking at the tastefully designed small sign saying “Chase Bank” on the Spanish colonial across the street, next to the tastefully signed “McDonalds” and just down the way from the tastefully signed “CVS”...
...you get the idea. If you actually live there, it's probably not a problem (after a while). But if you're a tourist (like us and thousands of others – it is
a big tourist town) it's easy to get lost (the overly fancy font on the street signs doesn't help). The streets themselves (even the “main drags”) are almost all narrow, two-lane roads and the blocks – at least in the older sections of town – are all almost perfect squares, which just adds to the “one place looks just like another” air.
While in Santa Barbara, we checked out a lot of the town, some places to eat shown on “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives,” the zoo (tiny but nice – it has California Condors in it!), historical buildings (especially the Courthouse – “Most Photographed Building in America” – and, for me, the train station), saw the mission (which looks like they tried to glue neo-classical features onto a classical adobe building – and, yeah, that works about as well as you think it does) walked Sterns Wharf, and generally enjoyed ourselves.
All the while noting that “Psych's” Santa Barbara is even more
nothing at all like the real one than we originally thought...
While on Stern's Wharf, we were surprised by a pelican just flying up and plopping down next to people, quite unconcerned. It then started begging bait fish from the guys fishing. And you know, they're a goofy looking bird...right up until you notice that this is a big
bird, and its long, floppy-looking bill has a big, sharp, raptor's hook on the end of it, nearly an inch long...
On our last day, we headed about eight miles up highway 154 to “Cold Springs Tavern.” It started as a stage coach stop back in the 1880s, offering a place to stop, stretch and get something to eat for travelers between Santa Barbara and the towns inland and north of it, and basically hasn't changed all that much since. The buildings themselves are a hundred and thirty year-old log-cabins, a fireplace heats the tavern, and actual kerosine lamps light the place. The whole thing sets in a notch of deep, surprisingly moist (for Southern California) forest alongside the old road and about a mile away (at its closest) from the newer highway.
Very cool. And the food ain't bad either.
Anywho, I don't know how much if any of this will end up in TrolleyWorld's Santa Barbara – though I noticed that my description of downtown matched the real one I hadn't seen yet pretty well (except for the colors – almost everything in this timeline's SB is in a light beige rather than the multiple colors of TW's version. I think my version would be better
, mind, but what can you do?).
Being able to stand on Stern's wharf and look out at the islands that play a large part of RoC and the Sea
was really cool, though.
“I'd say go and put some toothpaste on it, but you'd look at me as if I was nuts.”
with the show!
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