Take the A Train
Into the station swept a blast from the past - a cab with acres of hood and trunk (bonnet and boot) and a cheery hail for anyone wanting a ride. I knew my hotel could only be a few minutes walk away (in some direction) but I had had enough for the day and took the lady cabbie up on her offer. My wheelie went in the trunk and I plopped myself down on the expanse of white leather covering the rear seat. As soon as I opened my mouth to give the hotel name, the cabbie asked where I came from, then became concerned about my lack of luggage for someone traveling from New Zealand. I explained about my tour, the changed train schedule, my onward plans, etc.
As expected, the ride was a short one and took only a few minutes. However, when we pulled up outside the hotel, the cabbie switched off the engine and started to organise my life. Over the next half hour she grilled an AMTRAK agent on her cellphone about my onward travel options, told me of all the Santa Barbara transport systems and tours I could choose from tomorrow, then while I checked in at the desk, she sorted me out a range of brochures from the information stand. Dusty the cabbie was a gem that every traveler should find at the end of a long and weary journey. Thanks Dusty!
After that great intro to Santa Barbara I trundled my wheelie away to my room at the back of the hotel and collapsed for the night.
This morning the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office featured on CNN - they had Michael Jackson wiggling around on the end of some pedophile charges. Anyway, time to try out Dusty's plan for the last day of the year. I breakfasted, checked out and went to the station where I discussed tickets and was told that what I had would be good for local train #796 that evening (in case the infamous Train #11 was late again) and checked in my wheelie.
To get an overview of the town I walked down State Street to the beach and carried on out to the end of the pier. If this day was anything to go by, winters in California are certainly no hardship. The sky was clear and blue, there was no wind and the temperatures were positively balmy. From the end of the pier there was a great view of the town with the hills stretched behind as a backdrop.
Back at the entrance to the pier I joined a trolley tour with Mark as driver and host. He took us first into the lower village of Montecito where we goggled at the mansions of the rich and famous - ranging from Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle to Fess Parker and Oprah Winfrey. The tour took us back past the zoo, through the middle of town and up to the Mission where we had a short stop so we could wander around and take our piccies.
The next leg took us back into town past a beautiful old courthouse building, bazzars and the railway station - great places to follow up on, so when the tour ended, that is where my feet led me.
On my way back through town I came across a photo shop having a sale and ended up buying myself a roll of glossy inkjet paper 33 feet long. I have a great panoramic picture at home (of Bryce Canyon) that needs more length than the 23 inch paper I currently have. Finding this paper inspired me to collect a few more scenes for turning into panorama's - you know - take multiple pictures, then stitch them together into one long (or tall) eye-popper.
When I eventually got back to the station and asked about Train 11, the clerk just shook his head and said to hop on the #796 (which originated its journey one stop up the line and could be relied on to be on time.) True to form it arrived within a minute of schedule, so all aboard, the train pulled out of the station ...
... and as the sun sinks slowly in the west, so it is that we say a fond farewell. If you are ever in this part of the world, a visit to Santa Barbara should be on your list of places to go, people to see, things to do. A great place for a stopover.