Quick Getaway to Santa Barbara

We’ve always enjoyed spending weekends in Santa Barbara, especially at the Montecito Inn once owned by Charlie Chaplin.

Magic of The American Riviera
Emma gets the best deal at the Santa Barbara Hotel, evaluates many weighing price, location and reviews.


Road Trip!

A three-day getaway.

Kind of a staycation.

Santa Barbara. It just doesn’t get any better.

Another of Emma and Steve’s awesome empty-nest adventures searching for reunion destinations.


This time a celebration of three Scorpio birthdays.

Santa Barbara, California

Three empty-nest couples converge on the “American Riviera.”

  • One couple visits twice a month staying Thursday through Monday each time.
  • One couple lives in Santa Barbara year round.
  • And, we visit our son, post-breakup and move-out-of-Huntington Beach rental.
Orange County’s Beach Towns

In Santa Barbara he’s renting a room  while working remotely from an Orange County technology company headquartered in Irvine, California.


Three of us have “Scorpio” birthdays. And, only the good stuff applies.

“Beneath a controlled, cool exterior beats the heart of the deeply intense Scorpio.

Scorpios On the Loose in Santa Barbara

Passionate, penetrating, and determined, this sign will probe until they reach the truth.

The Scorpio may not speak volumes or show emotions readily, yet rest assured there’s an enormous amount of activity happening beneath the surface.

Excellent leaders, Scorpions are always aware. When it comes to resourcefulness, this sign comes out ahead.

Strengths – Passionate, stubborn, resourceful, brave, a true friend.

Likes – Truth, facts, being right, teasing, longtime friends, a grand passion, a worthy adversary. 

Dislikes – –Dishonesty, passive people, revealing secrets.”


Emma and not-a-Scorpio Carol plan the trip.

Santa Barbara Hotel

Emma gets the best deal at the Santa Barbara Hotel, evaluates many weighing price, location and reviews.

She quickly eliminated eight profiled on John Dickson’s Santa Barbara Hotel Lodging Guide.

  • Avania In – One block from the oceanfront, beaches and harbor.
  • Inn By The Harbor -Spanish Colonial Tradition near the beaches and yacht harbor.
  • Lavender Inn by the Sea – lavender gardens and two blocks Stearns Wharf and bike path
  • La Quinta Inn & Suites – Boutique hotel on historic State Street
  • Harbor View Inn – Boutique resort hotel across street from West Beach
  • Brisas del Mar, Inn at the Beach – Santa Barbara classic villa two blocks from harbor
  • Pepper Tree Inn – on 5 acres of tropical gardens
  • Hyatt Santa Barbara – Historic resort, built in 1931

Not-a-Scorpio Carol and her Newport Beach husband stay in Montecito, at a cottage they rent on an estate, twice a month to be near their married daughter and their grandchildren.

The only thing we Empty Nesters live for.


They leave from Newport Beach traveling on the Interstate 405 and US Route 101 on Thursdays after 7 pm and don’t return to Orange County until Mondays after 10 am to miss the majority of traffic.


Google shows us details about our 148 mile road trip which if all goes well lasts for 2 hours and 33 minutes.

Give or take, don’t you know?

On the road to the American Riviera.

Feeling Willie Nelson in our bones.

We can’t wait to hit the road.



Top two highway driving songs on my playlist.

One of America’s hits, “Ventura Highway”

About a month earlier we weren’t able to attend an “America” concert at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano with our friends. And we missed a visit to the Newport Beach house they’re currently renting after building and selling a spec home in Shady Canyon.

“Ventura Highway” theme for the Road Trip (vs. “Horse With No Name” about which decades earlier my mother grilled me about the meaning of the lyrics.)

Dewey Bunnell from back in the day

Dewey Bunnell, according to Wikipedia, explains:

“I remember vividly having this mental picture of the stretch of the coastline traveling with my family when I was younger. Ventura Highway itself, there is no such beast, what I was really trying to depict was the Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 1, which goes up to the town of Ventura.”[

Next up?  Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty.”

Jackson Browne’s Open Road Anthem

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels —

Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields.

In ’65 I was seventeen and running up 101

I don’t know where I’m running now, I’m just running on …


Great.  Just great I need to crank back on Jackson’s song.

We’ve planning a trip to Italy in a year with another couple.

Emma updates Elle on what she learned from other friends about recommended tips and ideas

Typical South Coast Regional Traffic

Traffic defines the boundaries of every day bubbles- traffic to and from Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura and finally Santa Barbara counties

Expected traffic traveling north in Los Angeles on the 405.

Mulholland Drive
  • LAX airport congestion.
  • Up the incline past Westwood, the Getty Center, and Skirball Cultural Center to the crest at our old exit Mulholland Drive to Emma’s parents former home on Tobin Way,
  • The 10 to Santa Monica

    View from the Getty

Emma gets an update from her younger brother. We admired their refrigerator on our epic, awesome empty-nest adventure in Dillon, Colorado.  And trekked to Cathedral Rock while swatting mosquitoes away.

They recently returned from a trip to Australia having briefly met David for a quick lunch and stopover before moving on to New Zealand.

David had been in Australia and left the same day to Bali

Wait, what, not on this section of the freeway.

Smooth sailing turns into unexpected parking lot bumper-to-bumper as we turn into the Ventura Freeway (101) from the 405.

Exit signs we expect to miss in a blink of an eye

The irritating kind at exit signs for Moorpark around Thousand Oakes.

We normally expect traffic when the Ventura Freeway drops  into the valley at Camarillo and Oxnard on its way to Ventura.

The kind of traffic that encourages In-and-out slalom lane-switch drivers

The kind of traffic that encourages your driver to space out and lose track of just exactly where you are.

Isn’t this the two-lane just south of Santa Barbara?

“Wait, have we already driven through Ventura or are we still on the way to Ventura?”

And, wait what’s that up there ahead?

Lights flashing.

Traffic moving shrinking from two lanes down to one lane – actually half in the slow right hand lane and half on its shoulder.


  • Two fire trucks.
  • An ambulance.
  • Two California Highway Patrol cruisers and maybe a motorcycle cop.
  • One small car crunched like an accordion.

Another flipped up and balancing on its side with the bottom blackened where everyone can see the drive train and muffler and motor.


Karma caught up to a slalom lane-switcher?

“How long, maybe 5 minutes or 15 minutes, will it take before drivers resort back to their bad old habits of trying to get ahead of everyone else?”

Earlier I had fantasized the two-lane portion of the 101 was actually that section leading into Carpinteria and maybe Summerland and maybe Montecito – near the Olive Mill Road exit – at the southern border of Santa Barbara.

Ventura, California

Rincon is tucked slightly off Highway 101 between La Conchita and Carpinteria.

The neighborhood of La Conchita has suffered from large landslides in the recent past that have wiped out homes and even killed local residents.

Rincon County Beach

The worse of these was the tragic slide on January 10th 2005 when a huge rain-caused side killed 10 residents.

Carpinteria’s home to ten beaches alone.

But, no.

Turns out we were just south of where the 101 grows multiple lanes – maybe 3 or 4 – but who’s counting.

More waves. More lanes. Less Traffic.

It’s that section where everyone can drive 70 miles per hour while spreading out and while looking out the drivers side window to absorb the surf pounding the beaches bordering the Pacific Ocean.

Wave Break at Rincon

Later, we discovered that’s exactly where our son drives to surf.

There and north of Santa Barbara is where he can more consistently find surf-able waves.

Surf’s Up?

So, over the years we’ve driven through Santa Barbara many times on our way up the Central Coast to Cambria and less frequently to Big Sur.

Historic Montecito Inn

We’ve always enjoyed spending weekends in Santa Barbara, especially at the Montecito Inn once owned by Charlie Chaplin.

Stearns Wharf

Usually we spend time at Stearns Wharf or the Funk Zone, but not a lot of time on State Street.

Which is what triggered an argument.

About directions.

As the driver usually, I’m involved.

Not this time.

Time to reconsider arguing with Siri.

Emma kept telling Siri, “No.”

That’s not the exit we should take.

I’d drive on to the next exit.




And, then this.

“Oops” the apology to Siri.

“Yes, ok you were right all along.”

We arrived at 2pm a little too late to stop on the way for lunch and a little too early to check in.

Santa Barbara Hotel

Santa Barbara Hotel

We’re cheap travelers.

So once Siri directed us on what seemed like a convoluted route involving a maze of one way streets we first drove past and then returned to Valet Parking on a side street.

The Valet attendant asked if we live in Telluride, Colorado.


Part Two:  Hotel Santa Barbara’s Grand Tradition

Part Three:  Night TRAPs – Walk. Drink. Eat. Groove.



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