Santa Maria


Honey in hand from my impromptu beekeeping, I rushed back to my car (no parking ticket for the confusing multi-colored curb!) and headed to Santa Maria.

My uncle (mother’s brother) and his wife live in Santa Maria, and I was excited to have more than just a fly-by with them.  (They are not on Hwy 1, which was my original road/goal for getting down to Santa Barbara.  It seemed my time with them would be limited to a few-hour stop as I flung myself northward at the end of my southern sojurn.)

I arrived during the dinner hour, and they were so sweet to keep things warm and eat with me!  I got to meet their roommates, Tony & Chuckie, two younger guys.  They have a sweet little “family!”  In the a.m. I rose early with my uncle to chat with him and share some oatmeal.  He works at the Vandenburg Air Force Base, so he’s off early every morning for the long drive.  I squeezed in a quick morning workout before the house really came alive, and then we (his wife Catherine and I) set off on our adventure.

We went to learn about the local, infamous dunes and the folks who have set up shop out there over the years.  Since the furious spring wind was making the roads out to the dunes from the visitor’s center impassible, we moved on to stop number two – the Loofa farm!

Growing season is in full swing down here, so we passed hundreds of acres of strawberries, spinach, artichokes, etc, along with the hundreds of field workers plucking the bounty for our dinner tables.  I think it would be fascinating to do that job for a few weeks.  I can’t imagine how different it must be from my farming experience harvesting small bits of a variety of crops.

So, yes, loofas!  Who knew?!  I had one, long ago, on a stick, in the shower.  I didn’t know where the spun fibers came from, but I figured it was done by a machine somewhere.  Not so!  A loofa is basically a giant zucchini.  It grows on a squash vine, dies, dries up, the skin falls off, the seeds fall out, and you’re left with an “exoskelton” of what was.

Slice it into six-inch sections, and you have a “loofa!”  Apparently, those you buy in stores are heinous.  I felt the difference, certainly.  Most would think “soft loofa” is an oxymoron.  According to the believable proprietor, loofas from outside the U.S. (most.  All if you’re a chain-store shopper) have to be drenched in chemicals before they are allowed through customs.  As a result, they end up feeling like any fiber soaked in bleach, etc. would probably feel like.  Ick!  Yes, I bought one.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Next stop: wine country!  Little did I know, the valley outside Santa Maria is home to vineyards who are fancy enough to stake a claim to fame as the main setting for the movie “Sideways.”  Cool!  Tim and Catherine’s roommate, Tony, works at Firestone where many-a-scene was filmed, so we got to visit the members-only wine and taste on-the-house.  It was fun!  I also learned why the wine glasses my parents left with us have coon-skin caps.  Fezz Parker – often better known for his role in Davy Crockett – has a winery in the same area.  Hence, “Davy Crockett’s” famous cap festoons most of the paraphernalia.  Later that night I was like an excited little schoolchild ready to share my discovery with Pat.  Turns out he already knew.

Final stop: famous Santa Maria strawberries!  We found a roadside stand staffed by a young blonde woman doing her homework and bought two delectable pints – one for their upcoming anniversary trip and another to feed Adrian.  Santa Maria success!  I’m having lots of fun so far and have seen so many gorgeous places.  I wish Pat was here to share it with me!



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