One Day in Santa Barbara, this Happened…
“I think we should get gas,” I say.
“If we stop for gas we’re not going to make it,” my fiancé, Tom, tells me from the driver’s seat of our car. “We’ll make it.”
I peer over from my perch on the passenger seat to look at the speedometer. It looks pretty close to empty to me, but I shrug. “If you say so.”
We had just arrived in Santa Barbara, California for a long 3-day weekend. Since there is a whole lot of wine tasting and exploration on our agenda for the weekend, we are trying to hit Solvang, a little Dutch-inspired town 20 miles north of Santa Barbara, tonight. Solvang houses the tasting rooms of many of the Santa Ynez Valley’s wineries and we are hoping to try a couple before they close as it is already late afternoon. We leave the city center of Santa Barbara and begin driving up and into the sunlit green hills surrounding Santa Barbara to the north.
And continue to go up and up as we round curves paved into the hills.
“Hmmm,” Tom grumbles. “I wasn’t expecting the drive there to be this hilly. We’re using up a lot of gas getting up it.”
I lean over and hit the info switch on the steering wheel, lighting up the current gas mileage and miles remaining before we are stranded.
“It says we still have 30 miles to go before running out of gas. We’re fine,” I say, settling back into my seat to enjoy the views.
“Except we’re going to go through that really fast because of the incline,” Tom replies.
“Great,” I say flatly and then gesture at the surrounding area consisting of a lot of trees and rocky ledges. “Doesn’t look like there are going to be any gas stations between here and Solvang. I told you we should’ve gotten gas! Maybe we should turn around.” I cross my arms bitterly, knowing the day’s drive from San Diego was making me irrationally crabby toward Tom, but not being able to help it.
Tom shakes his head. “I think we’ll be fine. We just need to get to the top and then we can coast down the other side.”
“Okaaaay,” I say, unconvinced. We have dinner reservations at the highly-rated Bouchon restaurant in Santa Barbara later tonight so I’m hoping he’s right and us running out of gas doesn’t make us stranded and miss those reservations.
A few minutes of me anxiously keeping my eye on the gas mileage, which has rapidly dropped to 20 miles, pass and then Tom sighs. “Yeah, I don’t know how much longer this hill is going to go. We’d better turn around.”
I frown in disappointment. “That’s probably wise. But we can go to Solvang another day right?”
“Of course.” He smiles his “please don’t get mad” smile at me as he pulls onto the shoulder and maneuvers the car back around on the narrow road.
We head back down the hill, both of us feeling bummed that there would be no wine tasting tonight. Once back in Santa Barbara, we fill up with gas at the first station we see and head onto our hotel – the Hotel Mar Monte, located off of Cabrillo Boulevard across from the ocean. We check into our room, a spacious, well-appointed oceanview room and I flop onto the bed. Then decide that was a bad idea as it’s my favorite type of hotel bed, downy and plush, with big, soft pillows.
“Don’t fall asleep,” Tom sternly reprimands.
“What are we going to do?” I pout, still a bit annoyed that if he’d just filled up the car before we’d left Santa Barbara we’d be sipping Pinot Noir in Solvang right now.
He glances out the panoramic window. “Looks like the sun’s about to go down. Why don’t we go to the beach and watch the sunset and then come back and get ready for dinner?”
I grin. I’m a sucker for a sunset. And he knows it.
I pull on my Uggs and a beanie – this was January and despite the moderate temperature now, I knew it would get colder as the sun disappeared into the horizon – and we skip across the street. Well, I skip, Tom walks behind me and shakes his head in amusement at how excited I can get over watching a simple sunset. We settle onto the beach just as the first colors of purple and pink begin to etch their way across the sky.
Two minutes later and I know this is not going to be anything close to a simple sunset. The sun is setting behind the curve of the coastline, casting the hills in a dreamy dark contrast to the blinding light of the sun above it. The sky has added yellow and orange to its pink and purple color palette and above the water there is hardly any blue left at all. As the sun sinks lower, it casts a hazy glow over the entire coastline, basking the sailboats and small ships bobbing in the ocean in an eerie shimmer, as if they’re ghost ships hiding behind a magic veil, waiting to come to shore.
“Oh my God,” I say breathlessly. “This may be the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen. I’m not kidding. I think it even beats Santorini.”
Even Tom, who is not as much of a sucker for sunsets as I am, seems in total awe by this display of Mother Nature at her finest. He puts his arm around me and gives me a kiss on my forehead. “Glad we missed Solvang now?” he teases.
I snuggle into him and laugh. “Yes, thank you for not stopping to get gas.”
The weekend is off to a wonderful start thanks to our sunset surprise.
Editor’s Note: Since this day in Santa Barbara, the Hotel Mar Monte has become the Hyatt Santa Barbara – the beds are still just as comfortable.