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3/7/2019 to 3/15/2019 Ocean Mesa CG, Goleta, CA Highlights: Santa Barbara; Solvang; Santa Ynez/Lompo


Ocean Mesa Campground in Goleta California was a cute little campground that was on the expensive side - $114 per night but was the only campground in the area. Our “premium” back in meant it had more privacy than the pull throughs and other back-ins. It was up against a hill with a path that provide great views of the Pacific and sunsets of course.

The top of our silver Airstream is in foreground. There are also yurts to rent. The Channel Islands are i the background.

It is here we met Tom and Linda – who retired, bought an Airstream and started full-timing like us. We hit it off immediately and have become friends ever since – including coordinating a couple camping meet up spots in California and Wyoming.

We couldn't stay longer at Ocean Mesa because they were booked up for a vintage RV rally at the campground. We enjoyed seeing them pull in and set up. We talked to one neighbor who said he has a couple vintage trailers and that is what he does - goes to vintage rv valleys. Each rally has a theme and this one was the 60's. Hence he had his site decked out with hippie beads etc. A neighboring site had a sign that said "Free LSD" which was crossed out and said "out".

Waling path on hill behind our campsite.

The nose of our pickup at our campsite is peeking out on the right

Sunset over campground.

Santa Barbara

This is the nicest, most upscale, cleanest, California coastal we have visited. It ranks up there as my favorite small city. The main shopping strip is State Street that ends at Stearns Wharf and the beachfront. A long walk along Shoreline Drive will take you to many parks and beaches.

State Street, Santa Barbara

View of the beach end of the pier from our lunch spot

Lunch is always better with a cocktail and a view of the ocean.

Views from the pier

The Santa Barbara Pier

Our visit coordinated with an antique hot rod drag race event. A great deal of fun!

Mission of Santa Barbara

This “Queen of the Missions” (for it's size and beauty) was built in 1786. It is one of the better missions to visit in California. There is a great self-guided tour giving you the freedom to visit at your own pace.

This is where the mission laundry was done!


In the course of this trip we visited several wine areas – Napa, Sonoma, Russian River, Temecula in California, and the Willamette Valley in Oregon, to the Finger Lakes of New York. Napa is by far the most famous with due reason. But, I'd say we had the most fun in the Santa Ynez Valley around the towns of Sovang, Buelton, Lompc and Santa Ynez. Maybe because it was here that we really started to get our wine education. That and it was very peaceful – we were pretty much alone everywhere except in the shopping/tourist district of Solvang. The countryside was beautiful – especially between Los Olivos and Sisquoc on the foothills of the mountains in the Los Padres National Forest.

Lompoc and the Wine Ghetto

We went to Lompoc after reading about the Wine Ghetto. This is a collection of single floor buildings expanding outside of a two block section of town. Any number of parking lots amidst them will let you walk to and stumble back from more wine tasting rooms than you could do in a weekend.

I must also point out that the drive from our campground in Goleta (just north of Santa Barbara), to Lompoc is as nice a taste of California as you can get. First, US1/101 has wonderful views of the Pacific as it hugs the winding and elevated coastline - passing Refugio State Beach and a simple pull off aptly named Vista Point. The road turns inland at Gaviota State Park (more on it later), and rises through the a canyon where Route 1 (the Cabrillo Hwy), splits from 101 and rises steadily up for a few more miles. The hill top views of grassy fields and woods is very nice. If you are interested in any my roadway descriptions on any trip, I highly recommend just opening Google maps and doing a street view. You can get an accurate idea of what it is like.

The first winery we visited was hosted by the most informative and interesting wine guide we met on our trip. And! He was also the owner/winemaker, Steve Arrowood. It didn't hurt that his Montmar wines were among my favorite. He really broke away our nervousness for going into any future wineries.

Steve showed us a map and pointed out all the vineyards that his grapes come from. We learned that he, like many wineries, source their grapes from other vineyards. What we didn't know was that he gets allotted specific sections of a vineyard. He differentiates himself by taking the time to visit and tend to the vines. He stated that many big wineries just don't spend the time or effort.

Steve told us how some of the vineyards he uses go into some of the most expensive wines in the world. He took us behind the small counter and showed us the aging wine in barrels in his modest building. He also pointed out the courtyard (formerly a parking lot), where he has parties and tastings. We just loved Steve, his helpfulness, and his wine. Montmar is our recommended must stop in this area.

This is one of the wines we tasted and bought from: “Our 2014 Bentrock Pinot is from our dedicated 1 acre block of clone 777. Located on the far western end of Santa Rosa Road and hundreds of feet above the road the clay and sandy loam soils are well drained. Our block is on the edge of a canyon and is wind swept ensuring struggling vines and tiny yields. This wine was gently destemmed then cold soaked for 4 days and fermented with gentle punch-downs. Aged in all tight-grained French oak barrels with 35% new for 22 months.”

Other wineries in the Ghetto are Fiddlehead, Palmina, Ampelos, JCR, Dan Kessler, Sandhi, and Bolshoi. I'm sure there are several more and there are others are just blocks away such as Tyler, Brewer-Clifton, and Longoria.

Fess Parkerand Rancho Sisquoc

Foxen Canyon Road took us between the vineyards of Fess ParkerandRancho Sisquoc. It was a great experience at Fess Parker winery as he was one of my childhood heroes and I really enjoy his wine. There were photos of him as an actor and as a family man behind the tasting bar. Our server told us that the winery is run by Fess' son and that Fess was a great guy – down to earth and very friendly to staff and visitors. Wish we could have met him! The tasting room is large though there were only a few other people there when we visited.

Fess Parker Winery

From there we went to Rancho Sisquoc because of reviews and the fact that it was out of the way – which gave us the excuse to see more of the area. We passed other highly rated wineries along the way that would have been nice to visit like Zaca Messa and Foxen.

It was a couple miles down a dirt road to Rancho Sisquoc and we were the only tasters there. Next to the tasting room is the owners farm house. Can't get a more personal experience. Wines were in the better half of the wines we tried.

Photos of Foxen Canyon Road between Fess Parker and Rancho Sisquoc

How's that for an idyllic farm house?

Looking west returning into the valley.


Solvang is nestled in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley and offers a unique experience. The town features a shopping district distinct by it's Danish-style architecture and culture. It is a fun day trip and is reminiscent of the German-style town of Leavenworth in Washington state.

To get to Solvang, one turns off US-101 in the town of Buelton and passes The Hitching Post, home of the “World's Best Barbecue Steaks” and featured several times in the movie Sideways. Sideways is a sometimes hilarious, sometimes hard to watch story of two guys visiting wine country as a bachelor party weekend staring Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church. Hard to watch in that Giamatti often seems self destructing and the bridegroom Church is hell bent on having a last fling. We brought the DVD of the movie with us on the trip and watched it shortly after visiting. Great fun.

The Old Mission Santa Ines The link below has a great summary of the missions. An excerpt is:

“Santa Inés Mission is the 19th of 21 California missions established by the Franciscan Fathers. Padre Junipero Serra founded the first 8 missions beginning with mission San Diego de Alcala in San Diego in 1769. These missions were established by the Spanish crown which controlled the secular activities of the Catholic Church in Spain and its territories. Together with the military, Spain could establish a presence in California and protect this territory from Russia and England.”

Wind Caves at Gaviota State Park

Gaviotta State Park offers rocky coastline access with not much beach area. It is a good enough stopping spot (parking and rest rooms) while driving, but not a great coast walk or day-use beach. However, there is a really nice trail to a series of wind caves and more extensive hiking trails.

Goleta State Park

Starting on the trail - wind caves are near peak on the top left. The open trail on the hill was extremely hot and steeper than it looks.

Looking up to the wind caves

Looking up to the wind caves

Looking OUT of the wind caves. Goleta State Park in right foreground at train trestle.

Channel Islands in distance.