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Al Fresco Dining; Mission Santa Barbara; Gov. Moonbeam; Hearst Castle

One of the nice things about staying in campgrounds is getting to eat outside (a) when the weather is nice and (b) when the CG provides a decent picnic table. The stars do not always align to make this a daily event, but we try. Here we find My Lovely Bride admiring the grilled chicken, sweet potato and salad we threw together ($29.95 per person in town, most likely, and wine not included) for a few bucks at home. 

We are also closer to nature when we are in campgrounds, since many are located near woods, lakes and meadows. We would otherwise have missed watching this family of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) out for an evening stroll, had we been in our house watching TV. 


While in Santa Barbara, we dropped in at the mission, founded by the Franciscan order in 1786. The capilla (chapel) is shown here, and below are a few images from the cemetery and garden. Known as the Queen of the Missions, Santa Barbara is a solemn place, and just walking around for an hour allowed us to feel some of the history and religious dedication that permeates this holy site. (Joyce, thanks for the loan of your wide angle lens for most of the shots on this page.)

This tiny grave was that of a young boy, only 29 days old when he died in 1866.

I love California, especially the mountains and coastline. Dedicated readers know that I poke fun at several states, Minnesnowta first of all, but you can’t knock California’s weather… well, except for the ongoing drought, and some locals here might say that isn’t the fault of any human being, except maybe all those nasty conservatives in Flyover Land driving RVs and SUV’s. (Whoops, I qualify on all three of those counts!) But just so you know, one of the problems with water here is that the population of California has doubled since 1975, but because of the state’s protection of a few tiny fish and snails, there haven’t been any new reservoirs built since then to store water for times when it doesn’t rain enough. Like now. So hundreds of millions of gallons of precious water are allowed to run from the mountains into the sea unimpeded, and Jerry Brown, AKA Governor Moonbeam, wants to institute a $10,000 fine for any citizen wasting water. (Of course, it might not apply to Hollywood glitterati, but this is California, after all.)

We were personally impacted by Governor Moonbeam’s declaration of a state of emergency for water usage when we visited Hearst Castle, the opulent palace (is that redundant?) of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. We walked into the entrance and saw signs stating that the restrooms were closed to conserve water, and that visitors should use the porta-pottis lined up in the parking lot. 

Okay, so we marched over and found that all 25 honeyhuts were locked with padlocks. “Sweetheart, isn’t that interesting? Can you hold it for four hours?” Seems the state of California had closed the toilets and forgotten to provide the staff of the state park with keys for the porta-pottis. (Does anyone remember the bureaucratic incompetence of the old Soviet Union? Methinks the People’s Republic of  California may have imported some administrators and planners from Moscow…) 

Also known as Casa Grande, Hearst Castle itself was very impressive. As the great man said, “I would like to build something up on the hill at San Simeon. I get tired of going up there and camping in tents, I’m getting a little old for that. I’d like to get something that would be more comfortable.” Judging from the front door, it looks like he got his wish…

While the outside of Casa Grande appeared magnificent, the interior rooms were quite understated… well, maybe if you lived in Versailles or Buckingham Palace. We actually found most of the castle dreary, and decided that if we ever had half the money in the world, our castle on a hill would be more airy and bright than Hearst’s.

The outside swimming pool was closed for renovation (we hadn’t thought to bring our swim suits in any case), but the Roman columns are the real deal. Hearst didn’t spare any expenses on this place.

Suzanne found the indoor pool even more interesting. If there hadn’t been a guard there, she might have gone in for a dip. 


I convinced My Lovely Bride not to get arrested at Hearst castle by promising to take her to an overlook on the Pacific Coast Highway, California Highway 1. The coast here is striking, and we would have driven up to Big Sur, but coaches larger than 30 feet in length are generally not permitted on that section of highway, which has numerous hairpin turns and narrow sections. 

This was our last look at the Pacific Ocean for awhile. The next leg of our journey would take us inland, up to Paso Robles, where we would meet some friends for lunch and maybe stop in at a vineyard or two for some wine tasting. “Oh, are there vineyards and wineries in Paso Robles? Who knew?”

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