Get Out of Town!
A Santa Barbara Weekend Escape
October, 2020 - Issue #193
courtesy of shutterstock
courtesy of shutterstock

We lingered on our hotel balcony in Santa Barbara long after the sun dipped below the distant hills. The orange sky shifted to purple as fading daylight made way for emerging stars.
The sunset was not especially dramatic. The lingering moment was something to savor. Simple, quiet beauty free of COVID-19 concerns.
That wasn't what brought us to Santa Barbara - an attempted escape from the pandemic and its attendant worries. The weekend was to relish summer's freedom before resuming the kids' hectic school and sports schedules. But Santa Barbara shared reminders that simple pleasures offer respite from COVID's uncertainties.
After all, how bad can things be when you're holding a cup of McConnell's? It has to be the smoothest, most flavorful ice cream around. Sure, you wear a mask and line up along the State Street sidewalk to place your order at the door. But that inconvenience melts away with the first spoonful of seasonal Boysenberry Pie.
"Even Sunday brunch serves as a welcome reminder of the way things used to be. Yes, you might need to wait for a table or make a reservation - and you must wear a mask while being seated. But from there, just relax in the shade, savor an almond milk latte and ponder your NEXT INDULGENCE."
And what's a more effective social distance strategy than stand-up paddleboarding? On Saturday, we made our way around the harbor, cruising up and down the channels to admire the power craft and sail boats moored along the docks. We paddled under the commercial pier, with wafting fish odor and diesel fumes signaling our arrival to the working side of the harbor.
After an hour of paddling, we returned to the launch ramp. A portly harbor seal lounged on the bait barge, like an old man on his stoop watching the parade of neighborhood traffic. In this case, it was kayaks, paddle boards, jet skis and weekend sailors. None wore masks.
In our wanderings, we found a beach ideal for paddle boarding. Known as Hendry's Beach, or Arroyo Burro Beach, it features a sizeable parking lot, a short walk to the sand and mellow waves that made for an easy launch.
With so much to see, you quickly forget that you're not wearing a mask. Below us in the dark green water, clumps of sea grass swayed with the rolling swells. Kelp lay along the surface, leaves dragging along the bottom of our boards like fingers. Silver squiggles of small bait-size fish darted to either side as we paddled north along the shoreline.
Santa Cruz Island stood stenciled on the horizon, barely visible through the morning haze.
Inland, thunder heads swelled above the mountains, mushrooming into puffy towers of white cotton candy.
We weren't padding hard, but soon grew hot. There was no breeze to speak of and the sun was high overhead. Finding a clearing in the kelp, we slid off our boards and into the water for a cooling dip.
Even Sunday brunch serves as a welcome reminder of the way things used to be. Yes, you might need to wait for a table or make a reservation - and you must wear a mask while being seated. But from there, just relax in the shade of swaying palms on Goat Tree's patio at the corner of State Street and Mason, savor an almond milk latte and ponder your next indulgence.
April chose the healthy protein frittata - be sure to add guacamole - served in a cast iron pan. But I went all in: lemon ricotta pancakes dressed with blueberry jam and a side of crispy, thick-cut bacon.
We saved the simplest pleasure of all for last. In a town with so many dining options, we opted for a Sunday afternoon picnic at Shoreline Park. Perched on the bluffs north of the harbor, it offers a sweeping vista of the Santa Barbara Channel.
Parking our chairs and cooler under a shady tree, we indulged in a late, leisurely lunch. We lingered, enjoying the gentle breeze that carried away the heat, along with any thoughts of the pandemic.
Eric Harnish lives in Castaic.

A Santa Barbara Escape
Avania Inn

McConnell's Fine Ice Creams

Goat Tree
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