It’s been a while since I’ve actually written about Santa Barbara going-ons. Just like Presidents’ Day weekend, my sister and her family gave in to the temptations of the Mediterranean climate, sandy beaches, and delectable eateries that Santa Barbara has to offer. They woke up early Saturday morning and drove through the Central Valley and along the coast for another fun weekend in Santa Barbara.
Now, the apartment Kierstin and I live in is, to put it mildly, cozy. Technically, it’s not even one bedroom. If the fire inspector were to come in to post a “maximum occupancy” sign, I think the number 6 would be pushing it. Our small, narrow kitchen barely fits two people, which makes cooking dinner a hazard for bruised elbows. The floor space in the living room is almost non-existent after we threw in Simba’s cage and our furniture – not to mention our keyboard, telescope, and bikes that need their place, too. There is a loft for our bed and bathroom, making our apartment a bit more spacious than a typical studio but still definitely not a family home. It’s comfy for two, but when my sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew come to visit, it’s not exactly roomy.
Last time they visited, my niece didn’t come. I was shocked how much of a difference one extra child makes. Before, Ethan could be entertained by one person while the others could take a break. This time, it seemed like you couldn’t escape; you’d finish playing with one only to have the next waiting to be entertained. Still, there was nothing to complain about the weekend. It was more exhausting than last time, which might have some lesson hidden for Kierstin and I, but it was evanescent. We had a lot of fun and love the chance to visit with family and include them in discovering our city.
They arrived in the afternoon, and we grilled hot dogs on the porch. Afterwards, we all walked down to the nearby park. It’s a huge park that covers three square blocks: one block is a garden with winding paths, native plants, and a pond filled with ducks and turtles; one block is a giant field that is often used for local festivals; and the last block has what has been dubbed “Kid’s World”.
Now, sometimes playgrounds seem massive as a child, and you return when you’ve grown up only to find that what you once thought was a massive castle is a dinky, half-sized dollhouse. Kid’s World would not have this effect. It’s safe to say that I’ve probably peaked – literally, in terms of height – but had there not been 50 screaming kids and the implicit prohibiting by the name (it’s Kid’s World, not Heart-of-a-kid’s World), I might have wanted to conquer the slides or tackle the monkey bars myself.
Instead, we watched on the sidelines while Ethan and Julia climbed around the playground. We devoured sliced mangoes from a local street vendor and played Smashball in dirt. Kierstin even saw (or she claims she saw) a B-list celebrity. After the kids were tuckered out, we walked back home to grill shrimp, enjoy drinks, watch movies, and relax for the evening.
The next day started with a trip to the beach. “June gloom” had arrived early, but cleared up mid-morning, making it a great day for a sunny beach adventure. Kierstin and I used to be exclusive beachgoers to Leadbetter Beach in Santa Barbara. Leadbetter is great for skimboarding, and it’s not really a tourist-y beach so we typically could let Simba run off-leash without getting into any trouble. There was a huge storm this winter, though, and the waves crashed hard, sweeping away a lot of the sand that makes low-tide skimboarding possible.
So, one weekend Kierstin and I tried out Hendry’s Beach, which is an off-leash dog-friendly beach. It’s a little farther of a drive and the waves aren’t as good, but the sand is flat, which is perfect for getting speed and attemping tricks. Plus, Simba loves romping with new friends at Hendry’s. With a picnic lunch packed, we all drove out to Hendry’s Beach, dogs included. There was skimboarding, sandcastle-building, Smashball-ing, and other beach-y activities. Ethan and Julia splashed in the tide. Kierstin, Justin, and Erin laid out in the sun. Simba and my sister’s dog, Zoe, played with (or barked at) the other dogs. The kids even sat on my skimboard and let the force of the waves nudge them around or let me pull them along the water. We even buried one of the group in the sand!
I fondly remember times as a child where either one parent or a friend or a relative would come kidnap me for the day to do something fun. It sort of felt like the rules were thrown out the window; a chance to test boundaries and live a little freer. My parents had some friends that once took us to McDonald’s for breakfast in the morning. I don’t even like much fast food anymore, but being spoiled like that still sticks with me today. So, I volunteered Kierstin and myself to watch the kids in hopes of maybe forming some good memories and to give Erin and Justin a chance to discover State Street on their own.
Kierstin and I wanted to take the kids to a local trampoline gym, but we didn’t have their parents’ signature. Luckily, a plan B had already been in place, so we drove over to Zodo’s bowling alley. I took a while for me to find a good swing (if you can call it good – 30% gutter balls over the first half of the game isn’t anything to brag about). Kierstin took even longer, but Julia was in top form. From the third frame, she started taunting, “You’re gonna get beat by a girl!” And sure enough, we all did.
Kierstin trailed the entire time, but picked up a strike on the last frame to extend her chances and nearly beat all of us but only mustered enough of a comeback to earn second place. Ethan, meanwhile, would have needed a downhill lane to strike any pins but managed to get by using a ramp the alley had available for kids. We also played a few arcade games and won some tickets to buy prizes. I did some quick math and had an “adult” realization: those cheap plastic prizes are not worth the tokens spent to earn them. Nevertheless, I think it could be easily argued that the memories formed are more valuable than a couple bucks.
We had to get downtown to meet Erin and Justin for dinner. Ethan and Julia brought their bikes and scooter and so I grabbed my longboard, which I almost never ride. Kierstin insisted I would fall, but luckily I made it through the night mostly unscathed. We met Justin and Erin at Santa Barbara Brewing Company, a massive restaurant and bar in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. From the street, you can peer into the windows of the kitchen where empty kegs are stored, stacked from floor to ceiling. We tried out some beers on tap and scarfed down thick, juicy burgers.
On our way back home, Ethan wanted to zoom uphill on his scooter, but Julia struggled to pedal up the incline. Justin offered to push her bike, and I rode my longboard alongside Ethan, trying to help him navigate through the crowd by constantly warning other pedestrians of an otherwise imminent collision. The task of having to push (and not ride) a couple of wheels apparently overwhelmed Justin, who then became quite the site for onlookers. It was a comical combination: a man towering over 6 feet tall riding a pink bike made for a little girl. “That must be the dad”, said some diners from a restaurant patio as the three of us whizzed by, racing and laughing. Erin, Julia, and Kierstin took turns on my longboard by having me push or pull them up State Street as they nervously shouted to not let them fall. The climb up the hill back to our apartment was a fitting conclusion to the weekend; it was hilarious, fun, and fast just like the last two days had been.