...... previous day next day ......
Big Sur Santa Barbara

7th August 2010

Running Out of Campsites only to Land in the Middle of a Santa Barbara Fiesta

    After my usual breakfast, I was dragged over to my neighbour's picnic table and plonked down with a Mexican breakfast of fried potatoes mixed in with scrambled egg. I protested that I had already eaten, but my protests were ignored. I thanked them profusely and sat down with the chap I chatted to the night before, and his son. I also met his wife and a hoard of little boys and girls who were hurtling off on bicycles.
    They needed two pitches for their gear which consisted of a trailer and two pick up trucks. However, they were going to lose one of the pitches this morning, and none were becoming available, so they too had decided to move south. They knew it was going to be difficult to find anywhere, but if it came to it, they would just drive back home to San Diego.
    We chatted about Mexico, and he put it to me that if I could earn $7 per day in Mexico, and at least $10 per hour in the US, would I want to stay in Mexico. Point taken. He pointed out to me the corruption in Mexico, and even though the country had tremendous potential and the people would like to make a go of it, the powers that be were reluctant to loan money to businesses, and hence nothing got off the ground. Time and time again the money available for such loans would disappear with those in charge of it when they moved on elsewhere. I probed him on the drug problem in Mexico, which he accepted, but he responded by saying that a man with 20 acres of tomato fields was not making any money since there was no demand, but once he swapped to marijuana, he was making a fortune because the demand was there just over the border. In my travels, I hadn't really noticed any drug, or drink related issues. This took us on to his domain, he was a probationary officer in San Diego, and he was overloaded with young people stealing in order to finance their drug dependence. He saw the blunt end of it, how wide spread the problem was, and how little was being done to educate the kids not to meddle with drugs.
    The problem was not getting any better in Mexico since money bought the bad guys out of jail. He said that it was turning that way in the US now too. Indeed there was a move afoot to put celebrities and the likes in their own jails so that they wouldn't cross paths with the rough crowd. The chap felt strongly that that was wrong, and I agreed too. But money talks in this part of the world.
Grover Beach
    Time was running out, we had to be out of the campsite by 11am, and the chap had all sorts of things to attend to, what with eight bikes and a pile of kids, so I thanked him and his wife again for breakfast, and left them to it. I headed down to the beach just to get a flavour for what Grover Beach was like; expansive, sandy, a car park, becoming crowded, and then hit the road south.
    My plan was to head down Highway 1 and then turn off along Highway 154 to find a campsite near Lake Cachuma. The road south from Grover Beach passed through agricultural areas, and the well watered crops seemed to be thriving. Occasionally there would be gangs of Mexican workers out in the fields adding that extra manual labour touch to the scene. When I reached the lake, which was in a mountainous region, I trawled all along the perimeter, and even up a canyon in the Ynez Mountains, but all sites were full. I carried on along the 154 and found nothing. In desperation I dropped down into Santa Barbara and inquired about campsites at the visitor centre. They made it clear from the onset that most places were full. The lady produced a sheet of campsites within a 30 mile radius, and started crossing out those that she knew for certain to be full. I then crossed out those that I had also found to be full. This left two. The sheet had phone numbers for the sites, so a couple of quick phone calls established that all campsites were full.
    I knew that if I were to head off in the direction of Los Angeles, it would only get worse, not that it could get any more worse. I pondered the issue for a while, and had to admit to myself that my great plan of getting all the way through to my meeting up with my son next Thursday, using camping alone, was about to fail. It would be stupid to start spiraling out to 100 miles or more just to find a campsite, so I bit the bullet and found a place to stay in Santa Barbara.
    I got the last single room in the place I was staying, and I booked it for two nights. The place appeared to be run by an Indian lady. She needed my UK address for her paperwork, and seemed over the moon when she found that I was from Ipswich. It turned out that she was from Leicester, and her husband used to deliver fruit and vegetables from Birmingham to Ipswich on a regular basis. Once again, oh what a small world we live in.
Fiesta Dancers
    State Street seemed to be the main thoroughfare of the city, so I took a walk up it. Within 200m I came across people in a party mood, and soon came across lots of activity, particularly gangs of young women lurching along the pavement who seemed slightly worse for wear. Bars were spilling out onto the streets, restaurants were brimming, pavements were packed, confetti covered the ground, and dance and music were everywhere. I thought surely this can't be typical, there must be a special event on.
Packed State Street
    I learnt that on the first weekend in August, Santa Barbara had a Fiesta, and I had turned up in the middle of it. The place was buzzing, full of colour and sound, vibrant, lively, what I would expect of a fiesta. It was a total contrast to what I had become accustomed to up in mountain country.
Fiesta Time Painted Eggs
    I decided to walk up the street and its numerous side streets and just soak up the atmosphere, rather than dash about and take in all the sights, museums and art galleries. That set the pattern for the rest of the day, or what was left of it after my aborted campsite searching exercise.
    There was a fair amount of heavily armed police presence around the area. I guess with an alcohol fueled youth influx, a few problems could be expected. In the evening I noticed a few drunks being accompanied by the police, and some drunk drivers had been pulled over. Despite all this, the party carried on even more so.
    In a square to one side a stage had been erected and bands were performing their stints. One such band I watched was Alistair Green and the Slowhand Band. The type of music played can be gleaned from the name, but for the uninitiated it was all Eric Clapton music (slow hand clap). They were brilliant, and had people rocking about on the square. I am a fan of Clapton, so I was in my element. I stayed until the last encore, before heading back to my hotel.
Each of These Steaks was Enough to Feed a Family
    Near to where I was staying, I heard yet more music from a live band, and went to explore. This band were good too; blues and soul. There I got chatting to a charming lady called Marcia, who had asked me to dance. She was an extremely interesting woman, who like me, was retired and widowed. Marcia originally hailed from Chicago, but moved to California many years ago because of the climate. She had enjoyed a chequered career, and was now diverting her energy into art and geology, and was also passionate about music and science.
    I mentioned how I had enjoyed the geological story that I had come across in America, particularly the folding back of time from Bryce Canyon, to Zion Canyon and down to the Grand Canyon, all via the Great Staircase. Marcia had collected mineral samples from mine tailings, and used them as inspiration for some of her abstract work.
    She waxed lyrical about her love of art, and the types of oil paintings she did. Her work was not just limited to canvas, but she also created shaped wooden bases for her painting, and the odd items such as a carpenter's saws also served as bases. Indeed she had a very varied approach to her work, which perhaps kept it fresh for her. Her art must have been good since she was managing to sell it all.
    Marcia checked her watch, and it was now past midnight; we had been talking for over two hours. I hadn't notice the time fly by, and neither had she, but she had to get back and take her dog out for a walk. She gave me her card and told me to pop around and see her artwork if I was passing by Carpinteria, 14 miles south of Santa Barbara. We bade each other goodnight and she was gone.
    I had really enjoyed her company, she was an interesting and charming lady, and as I walked back to my hotel, I smiled as I realised that that was the longest single continuous conversation I had had with a woman over the last six years.
...... previous day next day ......
Big Sur Santa Barbara

Uploaded from Hotel State Street, Santa Barbara CA on 08/08/10 at 10:00

Last updated 8.8.2010