First of all, did you know that, in the world of a seven-year-old, free breakfasts at hotels are a REALLY big deal? Yeah, neither did I. I mean, aren’t all breakfasts free when you are seven? No matter, though, the free food at both of our hotels was a major bonus for Camryn, so it was a great way to get her out of bed a little earlier than she may have otherwise.
We said goodbye to the Quality Inn in Pismo, with its free breakfast, awesome pool/hot tub situation, and giant mud pit out back, and headed out about 9 on Saturday morning. I stopped at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf because I’d always heard about it, but never seen one. It was fine, nothing to get too excited about. And we made one final stop at the Butterfly Grove in Pismo, which was awesome. The really silly thing about that is, we have a Butterfly Sanctuary here in Pacific Grove (basically, a resting stop for Monarch Butterfly’s on their annual migration) but could I ever be bothered to stop by in the past 25 or so years? Of course not. Everything is cooler out of town. And by the way, it really was pretty amazing. The first thing we saw were two Monarchs who appeared to be…um…well, they were either fighting or getting it on, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t fighting. Camryn thought it was cute that they were “hugging” and we left it at that. Just beyond the Butterfly Grove is a really nice campground (empty due to flooding from the recent rains) and just beyond that is the beach, so we got a nice little stroll in before we hit the road.
The drive to Santa Barbara was really nice, it was sunny, traffic was light, and we came in on the Cabrillo Highway rather than 101, so I got a different view than I would’ve otherwise. I drove in through a canyon, and, even though I wasn’t that far away from home, the difference in the way the place looked- the palm trees everywhere, the flowering trees…I could tell I wasn’t home anymore. It was kind of thrilling!
We were way too early to check into our room, so we went straight to the SB Zoo. I haven’t been to any zoo’s in my life except for the one in Fresno, where I grew up (don’t tell anyone that’s where I grew up!) and it was so long ago, and my memories of it were just that it was SO FREAKING HOT there. This zoo was chill as could be. Perfect temperature, amazing views, not too crowded. Cam and I sat in front of the Gibbons for at least half an hour, watching them groom each other and swing around on ropes. Although it isn’t a huge zoo, it is a wonderful place. We fed the goats, went through the Eew! room (all the scary/venomous/poisonous creatures), played in the kids area where you can make music, slide down a grass hill on cardboard, and climb in a “spiderweb” made of rope, and Cam even did some crafts! We stayed for a very long time. By the time we left, it was well past check in time, and we were ready for a swim.
Our room at the Santa Barbara Ramada was really nice. The pool there was much bigger, and the pool area was much, much nicer, but the hot tub was a lot smaller. We hung out by the pool until we were starving, and then I was feeling lazy, so we just went to the IHOP across the street. Listen, if you aren’t in the mood for pancakes and you aren’t eating meat, IHOP might not be the place for you. Actually, it’s just pretty gross in general. But the service was good and all that, so it was fine. If I would have ventured just a little further down the road, there were several other places that I could have experienced, but I didn’t, so live and learn. We hit the sack early and woke up bright and early for our third day down south.
On day three, after our second free breakfast, we again headed out about 9, and made our way to MOXI: The Wolf Museum of Science and Innovation (I think that’s right, anyway). It got talked up big time on all the travel websites for Santa Barbara, and sounded like something Cam would enjoy, so I purchased tickets the night before, and that was our first stop of the day. Because I am a paranoid freak about parking, we got there super early, but snagged a coveted spot right out front, and, rather than just sit there for 45 minutes and wait, I decided we would take a little walk. Boy am I glad I made that call! We were a block away from Stearns Wharf, and I hadn’t even known. So, we took a nice stroll around the AWESOME neighborhood, down the wharf, and got back to the museum just in time for opening.
The museum was great and Cam had a ball- they have pneumatic tubes that you can put a scarf in and try to watch where it goes in the transparent tubing, to see where it comes out. They have magnets and sound booths where you can make your own sound effects, and more stuff than I could possibly explain (mostly because I don’t really know how to.) The best part was the rooftop level, but not because of all the cool stuff up there- it was the views that I was super impressed with. Man, Santa Barbara is a beautiful city. One of the prettiest I have ever seen.
After a quick lunch at a pizza place next door, we headed to the Natural History Museum, which was offering discounted prices due to construction. This museum was right next to the Mission, and I am so annoyed that I forgot to stop by there. In my defense, after spending hours at two museums, I was just ready to drop, and my GPS took me back to our room a different way, or else I probably would have. Anyway, the Natural History museum was great- in many ways, a lot like every other Natural History museum you’ve seen, although they did have some really cool Chumash relics- like, a TON of them. Lots of little dioramas of daily life in ancient Native settlements, which I found fascinating. I think Camryn was most impressed with the blind owl she got to meet, as well as some type of snake she was allowed to touch (both were alive, and I don’t know the story of either thing).
We left there, stopped by the grocery store for a few things, and headed back to the room for a final evening of swimming. The pool and hot tub were deserted Sunday night, which was great for us, and we stayed out there forever, finally heading back to the room when the wind picked up. We had leftover pizza for dinner, watched a movie, and went to sleep.
Overall, I will say this- had I been alone, or with one of my friends, there are a lot of different things I would have done that I didn’t do on this trip. But the things we did do were PERFECT for a kid on vacation with her mom, and we had a ball. The smartest thing I did was make sure our rooms had a pool and hot tub- if that had been the only thing we did all weekend, Camryn still would have had the best time. She rated our vacation a 10 out of 10, and I got a LOT of hugs and “I love you, mom!’s” while we were there. It was good to be the good guy for a few days, at least!
And now we are home, and I need to recover from my vacation, and find my routine all over again…I can’t wait until it’s time to take another trip!
*** All of these photos are from Google images. I can’t get mine to upload to my stupid computer***