Ticket to sanity: Me, alone, in my car, on my favorite road
A few minutes past the Outlet Mall, past the worst named pretty town in the world – Oxnard – the Pacific Ocean magically appears on your left. Surfers bob in the waves, friggin’ dolphins jump around and on a clear day you can see both the Channel Islands AND a bunch of off-shore drilling platforms. Okay, so paradise comes with a price.
On the other side of the freeway are hills that are either lushly green, dusty brown or wet and sliding onto homes. Now farm stands start to pop-up, heralded by adorable hand-painted signs for just picked avocados and tomatoes and fresh-caught tilapia. Tilapia? When I saw that sign I pulled over to the side of the road and Googled it. I was told that it was found in waters off Egypt, China and Papua New Guinea. I realize the internet has made the world closer but not tilapia-close. I was tempted to buy it anyway because what’s the worst that could happen? I’d get food poisoning and lose 3 pounds? Where’s the tragedy in that?
Cooler heads – and an increasingly full bladder – prevailed and I drove on to Santa Barbara.
There’s something unbelievably cool about knowing where you’re going in a town you have no reason to know. Which is not to say I know SB like the back of my hand, but I do know enough that if I get lost, I can find a street I’ve heard of and get to where I’m headed.
My first stop is for a bathroom and coffee. I like the Santa Barbara Roasting Company although if it were the Los Angeles Roasting Company, I’d probably never go there. The patrons are pretty evenly divided into yoga ladies, aging surfer dudes, students, young professionals on their laptops and homeless people. This being Santa Barbara, the only way you can tell them apart is that the homeless people tend to take their coffee on lawn chairs they’ve set up in the Handicapped Parking spot.
Oh, here’s an important tip for the road trip: lower your Ladies Room standards or stay home. Who among us hasn’t overpaid for a Smart Water just to get the Starbucks bathroom key? The john at my SB coffee spot makes the Starbucks toilet look like an operating room. But because I’m on the road, I hold my nose, avert my eyes and take as little time as possible doing as little in the bathroom as I possibly can.
I once knew a guy, a total clean freak, who found himself needing the bathroom at off-brand gas station. He entered by opening the door with his elbows and locking it with his butt. When he finished, he decided to kick the urinal flushed. Alas, his kicking skills were lacking and he fell flat on his back on That Floor. He burned his clothes, shaved his head and marinated in Clorox for a week.
Back to Santa Barbara. I see the doctor, I leave feeling better, blah blah blah hooray for modern medicine. I could get lunch but it’s only 10:30, which has never stopped me before but part of the fun is getting back home with a half-day to live your regular life.
I get back in my beloved Prius, happy that I’ve used so little gas, sad that I still can’t figure out how to track my miles per gallon in this car. Like I said, smug and superior are good colors on me. Annoyed with my instrument panel? Not so much.
Forty-five minutes north of LA, the freeway slices through vast fields of onions, strawberries, pumpkins and whatever it is that grows under those little white canopies. (Note to self: when my son gets married, if I can’t find a cheap Chuppah to rent for the ceremony, see about holding it at the McGrath Family Farms of Camarillo. They’ve got a bazillion canopies.)
The only drag – and it’s big drag – is that with all that produce, there are all those migrant workers bent over crops or running (I swear, running) back to the trucks with baskets of freshly picked whatever. So here’s what I do: I roll down all my windows and shout “Thank you!” I’m sure this means a lot to them. Probably not as much as a clean place to sleep or earning the living wage, but I’m glad to help in my way! Plus, when I buy produce, and yes, I’m one of those people who only buys locally unless, you know, I want bananas or a nice nectarine in February, I eat every last bit because I know how happy that would make the migrant who got a herniated disc picking it for me.
I pull into my driveway and check my phone for messages. When my husband/best friend/dental hygienist asks why I didn’t pick up earlier, I just say “Oh, I had a doctor’s appointment.” No one needs to know where it was or how much fun I had getting there.
That’s only for me to know. Well, me and Adele and Aretha and, during the holidays, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.