Bug Turns 15: The Road Trip to Nowhere, Part 2

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Wow. I have so much to say about my last post. I did beat myself up a lot about writing that. I’m learning and you are learning with me. I’ve struggled with anxiety for a long time but I thought it was normal. It’s not until recently that I’m realizing that not everyone experiences the world the way I do. One of my defense mechanisms is to apologize for everything under the sun so that no one can come at me unexpectedly and make me feel bad about something I’ve done. I overthink everything from everyone’s perspective (often reading my own writing over obsessively, imagining how other people hear it in their heads).  It can be a real drag but it’s just something I do and I’m learning that I don’t need to do it. It’s going to take me a long time to overcome probably. I’m a people-pleaser by nature and I hate any kind of confrontation. So let me just smooth over everything! Crazy, I know. So that said, I had (and maybe still have) a lot of anxiety about sharing this trip. I feel like I have a target on me and some troll is going to find my weak spot and shoot an arrow right under my scales into my heart. It’s happened. But I need to be brave. I love sharing. I love sharing my pictures and my experiences. Describing the magic in a moment is my favorite kind of writing.

Before I continue I’m going to talk about the worst moment in Part 3 of this trip so if you are waiting in suspense I’m sorry. I will have to make you wait another day. And now that I’ve talked it up so much it will probably be anti-climatic so let me apologize for that too! Blah!

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That night we pulled into Santa Barbara. I love Santa Barbara and it seemed like a good place to stay based on past experiences. I was so relieved to find that it was actually very easy to find a hotel that was open. I’ve visited the Kimpton properties in Huntington Beach before so when I saw that The Canary  had vacancy we jumped at the chance to stay there. I love Kimpton properties. They are always so clean and chic. No, we are not made of money and it was pricey to stay there BUT it was Bug’s birthday present so we did not skimp. And the Kimpton Canary did NOT disappoint.  The staff waited on us like we were queens. They even sent up sparkling water and small packages of cookies and gummy bears with a birthday wish for Bug. It was so sweet!

The only problem was that our suite was right underneath the hotel roof pool! Yes, that picture you see of the pool was right over our heads! Talk about freaky. I don’t know about you but all I could think about was the pool falling through the roof onto my head! And there was a high-pitched whining sound, probably a pump for the jacuzzi. At first we didn’t notice it, we were so in love with the room but then as things got quieter and we prepared to go to bed it become more and more of a problem. I have trouble sleeping because of worries already. The pool noise was really hard to block out.

So we called the front desk and they moved us to another suite on the other side of the hotel that was just as beautiful! We were spoiled rotten.

We settled in with our hummus, pita chips and farmer’s market snacks and made it dinner while Bug hooked her phone up to the streaming tv and we watched some terribly inappropriate show. It was awesome.

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The next morning we woke up bright and early. We took a few photos in our photogenic hotel room filled with morning light.

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Bug drank her sparkling cider she is so obsessed with and then we headed out in search of coffee for me and another great breakfast experience.  I don’t know if this is normal or if I am passing on an eating disorder to my daughter but we love a good foodie moment. We get all warm and fuzzy remembering the great breakfasts we’ve had in different places. We definitely don’t grab a granola bar and eat to live. We live to eat great food.

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Even during a pandemic Santa Barbara has plenty of options for great food. We asked our concierge for a recommendation and then headed off to the Cajun Kitchen right up the street. Have you ever had Cajun juevos rancheros?

The next challenge was where to eat our delicious breakfast. All the outdoor eating areas are shut down, naturally. Then we had a brilliant idea: let’s eat on the roof! Santa Barbara parking structures are known for their rooftop views. Bug’s dad and I used to frequent them often to get our bearings and take a few photos. So we drove to the top of a building and set up a picnic in the parking lot. It might look kind of silly but there weren’t really any parks nearby that we felt comfortable in and this spot was super sunny and nice and totally deserted. We spread out our trendy tapestry, added our sleeping pillows and had a fabulous breakfast picnic.

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It was perfect.

Except there was a homeless guy on the street below us bellowing in pain. That’s Santa Barbara for you. Wealth everywhere and a huge population of mentally ill homeless people. It’s really really sad. The pandemic is probably only making it worse. Everywhere we went there were homeless people wandering aimlessly. I was so sad for the guy in pain. He was rolled up in a fetal position crying and yelling. We wanted to give him some of our food (we had plenty) but he seemed really scary and violent so we gave him a wide berth.

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After breakfast we packed up our little picnic and got back in the car and headed for the coast. We took a quick detour down to the beach. We watched the skaters in the skate park on the boardwalk for a bit and then wandered down the deserted Santa Barbara pier. I did feel guilty for being out in such a well-known tourist spot. It did seem unfair that we were out enjoying the ghost town that is Santa Barbara these days while everyone else hunkered down at home.

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The sun was super bright so we took a few photos and then got back in the car ready to hit the next spot.

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That spot was El Capitán State Beach. We drove down a gravel road through a wooded area and at the end of the road we were greeted by the most lovely little rock-and-stick-covered shallow beach that wasn’t that crowded at all.  We quickly learned that it wasn’t crowded because it’s not that comfortable to lounge on a rocky stick-covered beach but it was soooo pretty!

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The sun was out in full-force so we set up a little shelter with our tapestry and made a little camp. I wished we had brought our pillows with us as I moved my butt around to avoid the pokey-ist of sticks but if propped up against a log just so, you could enjoy the beautiful fresh air and mist from the crashing waves. It was pretty enough to paint!

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And so I did of course! That’s the fun of these stops with no plan or schedule. We have all the time in the world to paint! We don’t need made-in-China souvenirs to capture our memories when we can capture our own with my handy dandy little makeshift water-coloring kit. I was in heaven.

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Bug seemed pretty content too.

I keep a parasol in my car because I am that photographer who knows it will come in handy for shade AND photo-opportunities.

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Have parasol, will pose. :)

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Lots of “us” photos.

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We stayed until I finished my painting and then packed up again to head north. Every time I say the word “north” it makes me want to sing the North to Alaska song. Why do I even know that song? It’s something from my childhood and super catchy.

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We took a detour up the 101 towards Solvang and stopped to take a few photos of some emus on the side of the road. If you look really close you can see them. I guess during normal times when there is not a pandemic going on you can actually get close enough to the emus so that they don’t look like bushes but that part was closed, of course. Mental note to visit that emu farm someday.

When we got to Solvang I started to realize that this trip was probably a mistake. Solvang was so crowded.  People were everywhere eating ice cream and wandering the shops. It was too crowded to stop. We did stop but we quickly realized it wasn’t for us. Of course right about then I realized I neeeeeeeeeded to use the restroom but there wasn’t a public restroom anywhere. Long gone are the days when you can pop into a Starbucks to find a clean empty restroom. What a nightmare. We drove all over trying to find a place we could stop but nothing seemed safe. Finally we just decided we would head north to the next town: Pismo Beach. There’s got to be something there…

And that is when things got even worse.

Bug Turns 15: The Road Trip to Nowhere, Part 1

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I labored about whether to write this post for a long time. While only a few days have gone by, I’ve sat and worried about it endlessly, the hamster wheel in my head spinning like the hamster is a crack addict.  I really wanted to share this big-deal-trip but I felt like it was also an embarrassing mistake. I am deeply ashamed. I was afraid to talk about it for fear of being lambasted for naively ignoring the governor’s travel ban. It was stupid. We shouldn’t have gone. We were incredibly careful and incredibly lucky but at the end of the day I don’t want to traipse around with my white privilege like people are not dying from a horrible disease.

But then I talked to my therapist (I have a therapist now!) (more white privilege that I’m ashamed of) and she said, it’s my story. This is where I tell my stories. If I lose friends or future business contacts because of some dirt that can be dug up on this blog then maybe I don’t want those friends or business contacts anyway. I am fully going to own my mistake and write about why we shouldn’t have gone. But I also want to share the special parts. It was an amazing trip with my daughter. It was her birthday party that she couldn’t have and you know how I always go over the top with birthdays. So it’s a bittersweet story but it’s my story. I am ashamed that I acted irresponsibly and I will pay the consequences. I will also try maybe unsuccessfully to defend my bad choice. But I made it and we made it back and I think we are going to be okay. Hopefully wiser for our mistakes. So please don’t let the pretty pictures glamorize a bad decision. This was irresponsible of me and I regret it. I am also incredibly grateful that we were able to be safe.

There. That’s it. A huge heavy weight on my conscience.

When we left for our trip we never intended to go more than 200 miles. That was the point: a road trip to nowhere. Our plan was to get in the car and head up the coast and stop at every little silly thing we could find that wouldn’t be infested with people. That meant nature and funny photo opportunities that nobody else would be looking at. Bug is her own person now with her own instagram account and she creates her own content just like her mama. I can’t say I’m not proud of her creativity. Social media has it’s many faults but creativity is not one of them.

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Our first stop was a farmer’s market on the way to the coast. Back when we used to live at the beach, Bug and I would visit the Farmer’s Market every Saturday. It’s such a strong memory for both of us. I’d buy a three-pack box of raspberries and Bug would eat them before we even left the market. She loved the Farmer’s Market. From riding in the front-facing Bjorn to stroller days to riding her own tricycle…the market holds a super soft spot in our hearts. It’s really sad that we don’t go anymore but where we live now we don’t even think about it. We live in a super boring suburbia that has no central gathering places like a farmer’s market. Of course we can drive to a few that are actually nearby but we don’t because we don’t even think of it. Out of sight out of mind I guess. This is something I intend to change. Farmer’s Markets are great. They support the local farmers, there’s fresh healthy food and it’s just a good family outing. Of course we haven’t been going anywhere since Covid started but now that farmer’s markets seem to still be open with precautions maybe we’ll put them back in our schedule. Note to self: go to Farmer’s Market.

We bought some hummus and pita chips, a three pack of berries (of course!) and some snap peas and carrots for snacks. We didn’t have a way to wash them so we just hid them in our cooler for later. Then we headed off to find our favorite breakfast: Zinc!

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Yes, we are those basic beetches. I mean, how can we not be? Do you see that work of art that is avocado toast up there? Everyone should eat avocado toast! I told Bug that we are really spoiled. When I was a kid we got cereal or toast but never gourmet avocado toast on the regular. This is definitely the good life. Bug had an iced green matcha latte and of course I had a regular latte. Basic Beeches through and through.

After that we hit up another favorite spot for Bug’s favorite sandwiches and sparkling cider for the road.

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Then we drove. Basically we sat in traffic all through Malibu and Santa Monica. We took the long route and didn’t mind. We had no schedule and no place to be. Of course I was a little worried about where we’d stay that night without any reservations but Bug forced me to be optimistic. What could go wrong? Worst case we sleep in the car. Um, we could get murdered? said my usual over-operating worry brain. We did pack sleeping bags and my back windows are pretty darkly tinted so it could be work. I do know a few campgrounds that are usually open so we could get by. I was just worried. Like I always am. But I didn’t need to be. There are a lot of hotels open and they are super happy for customers because business is slow and they are hurting. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Next stop: lunch in Zuma. I had planned on stopping in Santa Monica and maybe swinging on those really big swings on the beach near the boardwalk but it was way too crowded. If there was no parking then we weren’t stopping because crowds are NOT for us. Even before the pandemic I hate crowds so it was a no-brainer that we’d avoid them now.

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Zuma was beautiful. There were people out but no crowds. The breeze was also pretty strong so it felt like if there were any germs around, they weren’t sticking around long. They were blowing far out into the sea to be cleaned. So we sat and we ate our sandwiches and talked about turning fifteen. I’m so proud of this big kid.

She’s tall now. She often stands next to me and says things like, “Mom, you are so small!” It’s refreshing. I like being small. She’s still a few inches shorter than me but she is definitely adult-sized now. It’s a funny thing that happens. I often tell her that I wish I could keep a version of her at every size. I miss that wobbly three year old who would tear down the sidewalk and throw herself into my arms for a hug. I miss the floppy pigtails and songs about hotdogs. I even miss the scared years when she’s talk about her worries incessantly and hated going to school. I’m so proud of her and how she overcame. She’s strong and independent and opinionated and smart. She’s everything I ever dreamed of and so much more. I knew I’d get a quirky kid but I never dreamed she’d be this perfect.

Next up: Santa Barbara and the horrible, no-good, terrible business of finding a bathroom in a town full of covid-partying morons. I know that’s harsh. Not all anti-maskers are morons in fact many of them are doctors and seem pretty smart. But for someone who has anxiety and has become a germaphobe because of the pandemic, you can kind of understand what it’s like for a worrier like me to see a crowd of drunk people NOT social distancing. Anyway, more on that tomorrow!