August 2, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 245: Fragmentation

    July 31, 2015, Prescott- I had a lot of time to think, today, about the recent controversy over whether it is possible to care about animals, when so many people are suffering.  This is the dream of the charlatan:  Get people fighting over compassion, like toddlers over toys.  Then, with everyone screaming at one another, ad nauseam, achieve the power-building agenda, sight unseen.

    For the record, I care, equally, about wild animals, fetuses, children, teenagers, women’s sense of well-being and dignity, men’s sense of being relevant, maintaining a healthy environment and a healthy diet, and  my own personal growth.  It is called living a full and balanced life.

    No one, not the advocates of one cause or another, nor their opponents, nor least of all the wirepullers, who would be thrilled to see total confusion and lack of progress, lest their seats of power become upended, will get me to favour one of the above, to the detriment of the others.  We can’t care about everything, simultaneously, but we can take time for each – just as we eat at certain times, then do our jobs, then rest, then exercise, then play with our children or pets, then read,  then sleep.  What parent worthy of the name exclusively attends to one of their children, and ignores the others?  It is the same with the various aspects that present themselves to us.

    I care, intensely, that whales  and lions are being slaughtered for sport; that people are videotaped making glib comments about dead fetuses (though the authenticity of these videos is suspect); that armed criminals can blend in with mothers and children, cross an international border (for a second time, after having been deported) and kill innocent people at point-blank range; that religious zealots can oppress people, at will; that many women, and more than a few men, feel disempowered by capriciously-applied rules and regulations.

    I was born caring, and will stay that way.

July 31, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 244: Ninety-Nine

    July 30, 2015- Today marks the only birthday of an uncle-by-marriage that I remember from my childhood. John Ellsworth “Ellie” Reilly would have been 99 years of age today.  Uncle Ellie and Aunt Hazel were my godparents, during my Roman Catholic upbringing, and had their birthdays within a few weeks of one another.  Aunt Hazel would have no part of us knowing her birthday, but always made a fuss over her husband’s, so the next-to-last day of July was always a big event.

    Ellie was the youngest of five children, and despite being of slight build, had an Irish temper that put the fear of God in those who needed to be set straight.  I was one of the lights of his life, so that fear found me, via another source.  Uncle worked in a meat-packing plant for about twenty years, then arthritis set in, President Nixon expanded the SSDI, and Ellie found himself minding the house, while Aunt Hazel worked a payroll job at the G. E. plant.  They never had much, but their house was always the venue for family gatherings, at Christmas time.  The two of us Godchildren got a few bucks around then, also- that was the Reilly way. Hazel and Ellie also got me started with National Geographic Magazine, at age 9,and I’m still a member of NGS, 56 years later.

    I recall one summer when I was about twelve, such a tactful age, that- I mentioned to Ellie that some of the people about town were speaking uncharitably of the houses on his street.  His eyes narrowed, but he said nothing to me- though my Dad gave me what for, a day or two later.  Nonetheless, the next time I walked over to visit, I noticed the yards west of theirs had been tidied up.  I know Uncle and Aunt had a well-kept yard, because I kept it nicely.

    Uncle Ellie passed on in 2002, as Fall was making its own turn for the worse.  He would sound off about all manner of current events, but I seldom heard a word about his ailments.  Truth be known, his was a generation that regarded ailments as private business.  He chose to spend his time, once left off of the Job Train, reading all manner of books, fiction and non-fiction, when he wasn’t prognosticating which dog would win at the Wonderland Race Track.  It was a life lived honestly, and he remains one of the most beloved men of my youth.

    I will remember, for all time, our intense and somewhat heated debates over the efficacy of the Nixon Administration, and after August, 1974, he humbly owned up to having been far too trusting of his fellow Republicans.  Of course, once Mr. Reagan got in, and we were on the same side again, he smilingly called the turn of events- “The Irish Revenge”.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that my view of RWR was tarnished somewhat by Iran-Contra.

    John E. Reilly was, nonetheless, a  classic, unto himself.

July 30, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 243: Film Festival

    June 29, 2015, Prescott-  Wednesdays are days for me to look back at the week to date, and recall what I have missed yacking about. The Prescott Film Festival took place for five days, last week.  Like other such gatherings, the PFF presents the works of budding cinematographers and veteran producers, alike.  Sometimes, there is a theme to a Festival.  This year, I noticed a fair number of entries dealing with social trauma, and positive ways to face the issue.

    I attended Sunday afternoon’s presentation:  “The Starfish Throwers”.  It featured three very different souls, who dealt with the needs of the destitute, in their respective cities.  A young man in Madurai, India, despite resistance from his family, focused on feeding and grooming the residents of his city’s sidewalks and roadsides.  A retired teacher in Minneapolis, using some of his own resources, and donations from food banks, prepared several freezers full of sandwiches to give to that city’s homeless.  He spent his nights, year-round, checking on the men and women, and making sure they were in a shelter, on the worst of the winter nights.  A young girl, with her family’s steadfast help, grew vegetables and fruit, on some garden plots around Summerville, SC, and prepared the food to give to that area’s needy.

    In each case, there were the naysayers, whose position was, essentially, “Hey, we’ve got ours.  Let the lazy ones work for theirs.”  In each case, the naysayers were roundly ignored.  In Madurai, a housing shelter, with skills training and modern hygienic facilities, was built by the young man’s foundation.  In Minneapolis, growing numbers of people, from residents of retirement homes to school children, became involved in the food preparation and distribution efforts.  When the retired teacher needed time off to take care of his health needs, the director of the YMCA stepped up and covered for him.  When the girl was confronted by a critic, she expanded her efforts to include feeding elderly cancer patients, who, in turn, gave her unequivocal support.

    This film didn’t win the Festival’s “Best Picture” vote, but it reminded me, again, of the potpourri of ways we can help those less well-off than us.  Few of us have unlimited funds that we can just donate to whoever asks.  Each of us, though, can throw a starfish back in the sea, in our own way.

  • The Road to 65, Mile 242: Friends Are Us

    July 28, 2015, Prescott- Get used to this byline; most of my posts, especially during the week, will be “Prescott”.  I tend to get more free-wheeling with these, as my travel blog readers disappear.

    More about the topic of friendships:  A friend in another state recently said same-gender friendships are very important (partly in response to my comment about having a large number of women friends).  The choice is not apples or oranges.  It’s a healthy mix of the two.  When I socialize with groups of people, there are men, with whom I discuss some aspects of life; women with whom I discuss other aspects of life; and “mixed” groups, where the conversation is general. None of these are confined to “safe” topics.

    My best friend, for thirty years, was my late wife.  We had no secrets, kept no grudges and worked together on just about everything.  My next-best friend was a man, with whom I could also discuss just about anything, over the 31 years we knew one another.  He was also very honest, in a loving way and guided me through some very rough patches after Penny’s passing.  Mike could say “No, you don’t!”, when acquiescence would have easier, but less authentic.

    I have many friends, around the continent, and a few in Europe, Australasia and southeast Asia, with whom I can discuss a variety of topics, get honest feedback and correct things as I need to.  I am also here for them, in that way.  This list is not a gender-heavy or age-heavy roster.

    There is one woman friend, here, with whom I am collaborating on a venture.  Our friendship is more “sibling-ish” than anything else, with plenty of free-wheeling discussion and any illusions either of us had of romance were dispelled early-on.  Were she to meet a good man, tomorrow, and at long last have a life relationship, I’d be the first to congratulate.  There was a time in my life when I had to deal with distraction issues.  Over the past year or so, especially since having visited Europe, I see these issues for what they are:  Impediments to real friendship.

    I guess it’s largely a matter of maturing, and clearing one’s inner eye.

  • The Road to 65, Mile 241: Unbound

    July 27, 2015, Prescott- As I sat in my living room recliner, this morning, my upstairs neighbour assumed his usual stance, midway up the stairs, and stared at me through the window, for a few minutes, then went on his way, when I nodded at him, with a slight smile.

    A bit later, I checked e-mail and found a rather officious note from a friend in another community, instructing me as to how I was to do a certain task, with which he is loosely involved.  I also noticed some people getting on another friend’s case, for the way she was dealing with a recent loss.

    One of the odd things about being in a relatively unstratified society is that many of us create our own stratification, with ourselves atop the fray.  I am uncomfortable, any more, with coming across as a Know-It-All, or as some sort of ad hoc authority figure sitting on an imaginary Ivory Throne.  There have been times when I was inclined to stick my nose in others’ business, and none of those has ever ended well.  Likewise, I am very much disinclined to accept adjudication from anyone other than the police, the administration of the Baha’i Faith, my landlord or a legitimate supervisor on a job in which I’m engaged.

    Years ago, we left South Korea, rather than submit to the supervision of a self-styled “CIA agent”, who turned out to have no ties to the Central Intelligence Agency, which was not at all pleased with his ruse.  He had cultivated friends in high places in the Korean hierarchy, though, which made things rather uncomfortable for us. I have had run-ins, a few times since then, with self-appointed authority figures.

    Our son has described Penny and me as “free spirits”, and to some extent, I still am, even with her being in the Spirit Realm.  I don’t have much, other than my own well-being, with which to tend, though a situation is looming in the background, later this year and into next, which could be a game-changer.  I will have more to say about that, as time goes on.  For the present, though, I feel unbound, free to accept any task or opportunity that comes my way, so long as it is not impoverishing or leads me to become a burden to others.

July 29, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Miles 239-40: Random Thoughts on A Lazy Weekend

    July 25-26, 2015, Prescott- There was, on purpose, little on my agenda this weekend.  I went to a devotional gathering on Friday night, and caught up with my Chino Valley friends.  The meal is always great.  Actually, I end up with two meals, as the Veterans’ Potluck, where informal attendance is taken, happens the same night as the devotional.  I have the heart, and a discretional-enough eating habit to attend both events.

    Saturday gave me time to think, long and hard, about friends.  I know who the true ones are, here, online and in other parts of the country.  Those who have come and gone, at least meant well, initially-but fear, personality differences and age gaps can put a damper on any number of friendships. I was glad to have spent time with my faithful friends in California, Nevada, and Oregon and to have made a few new friends here and there in Alaska.

    I have an outside chance to work for the Red Cross, though the word is that the folks in Washington already have someone picked out for the vacancy.  We will carry on, regardless.

    This morning, (Sunday), I sat and bantered with the Old Major for a bit, then joined my Baha’i friends at Goldwater Lake.  It’s a fine, wooded, fishing reservoir, south of town, and we have gathered there, once a year, for a Cowboy Breakfast.  I don’t have leather boots or a Stetson, but I did bring the sausages for grilling.  One time, a couple of years back, I brought my solar oven along.  We tried toasting bread in it and ended up with sliced hard tack.  Heck, that’s part of a chuck wagon, right?

    Book wise,this summer, I have finished Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Crota, Death and White Diamonds, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, and Looking for Alaska, and am a bit more than halfway through Seven Years in Tibet.  Ive mentioned most of these before, but making a total list looks a bit better.

    I have developed a habit of deleting most e-mailed requests for money.  Along the same lines, I am getting rid of my land line phones, soon, since the only calls I get on them are from solicitors.  My true friends and family all have my cell # number.

    It was a nice weekend- little noise and the Second Wild Woman of the West, who frequents the bar & grill next door, wasn’t throwing any temper tantrums.

July 28, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 237: Back From California

    July 23, 2015, Prescott- I rose early in Barstow’s Motel 66, and looked around for a breakfast spot.  There were all manner of little convenience markets and small fast food establishments.  Yet, breakfast for me, as often as possible, has to be a balanced meal.  When I am home, that usually means cereal with milk and fruit.  When I am on the road, anything less than a Denny’s, or preferably, the local morning gathering place,  is unacceptable.  Barstow’s morning spot is Jenny’s Grill, a full-service Mexican restaurant, that offers American breakfasts, as well, with a twist:  Chips and salsa appear on the table, before the beverage.

    I am a good sport about such things.  When in a pizzeria, in South Korea, kimchi accompanied the meal.  In many countries, breakfast is merely the first serving of what one also eats for lunch and dinner.  We norteamericanos are rather spoiled, in that vein.  I did find pico de gallo to be agreeable, as the first thing down my throat, this morning.  After all, tomatoes are a fruit, and many people like tomato juice as a morning beverage.  So, given the choice of pancakes, French toast, omelets, etc., I thought back to when I visited Laredo, three years ago, and ordered a chorizo omelet.  I find you can’t go wrong with good chorizo.  Jenny’s has good chorizo.

    The owner/maintenance lady/housekeeper, at Motel 66, is also tech-savvy, and got the balky WiFi connection up and running, twice, when the local cable people pulled the plug on us.  I would gladly stay here again, especially if I head out this way during Spring Break, next year.

    The drive east was uneventful and not unpleasant, with some sort of cool air reserve coming through the vents, even though I did not have the A/C on.  My spirit guides surely are good to me. Despite the bridge collapse, on I-10, to the south, I did not see any appreciable increase in traffic, on I-40. Once past Needles, I stopped for gas, at Golden Valley, AZ, for a fill-up that was under $40.  Then, it was non-stop to base camp, and unloading the car, around 5 PM.  After walking down to Rosa’s, for her special dumplings, in pomodoro sauce, and a frozen yogurt at Frozen Frannie’s, I was officially back in town.

July 27, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 236: Back to California, Day 6, Part 3- A Resilient Queen

    July 22, 2015, Santa Barbara- Mission Santa Barbara is the sixth  California mission I have visited, and only the second I have visited twice, along with San Diego de Alcala.  The first time scarcely counts, though, as the interior had closed.  The same is true of Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, which was about to close when we got there, in 1997.

    Yet, let’s get back to the splendidly restored Santa Barbara, “Queen of the Missions”, and another erstwhile casualty of the earthquake of 1925.  The community knew only one thing to do, afterwards, and that was to rebuild.

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    Even with its modern ambiance, Mission Santa Barbara exudes a strong spirituality, especially in its courtyard garden.

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    The Tower at Pisa has nothing on this olive tree.

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    This garden font was operating on trickle mode, enough to show the tenacity of the “Queen”, whilst also showing sensitivity to the overall situation in the State of California.

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    This Mission is one of several which has one public entrance, through the gift shop, where a cashier collects the $8 fee (for adults, 18-64).  The restoration work has all come from visitors’ fees, so they’ve been put to good use.

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    The bell tower, and much of the northern section of the Mission, are off limits to visitors.

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    As with other Spanish colonial structures, the walkways are shored up by exposed beams, in the ceilings.

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    Various small chapels are dedicated to Mother and Child, throughout the periphery of the Mission Church.

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    St. Peter is shown, honouring his suffering Lord.

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    The cemetery dates from the 1770’s.

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    Garden plots and funerary chapels are common here.

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    The doorway to the Mission Church is guarded by three skulls, so as to prevent malevolence from entering the sanctuary.

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    Silence is maintained here, as the church is an active parish’s place of worship, first and foremost.

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    The framed flat column is a unique feature of Mission Santa Barbara.  At least, I’ve not seen it in any other missions.  It is intended as a place to make offerings.

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    Chumash art is found throughout the Mission, as well.  This chandelier anchor also guards against demons.

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    The Chumash are among the first Indigenous nations to share their painting skills with Europeans.

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    In the museum rooms, details of daily mission life are made clear.  This is a depiction of the friary kitchen.  It reminds me of its counterpart at Mission San Luis, in Tallahassee.

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    Between the Mission Church and the museum, Christ is depicted as a man of strength and courage, comforting Mary Magdalene.

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    This aqueduct was the place where Chumash workers would bathe, and wash their garments.

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    Although La Huerta, the signature garden of Mission Santa Barbara, was off-limits, the Olive Trail Garden, as well as the Courtyard Garden shown aforehand, were open to visitors. I have become quite enamored of anything bright red, on this trip.

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    It was hot, being mid-afternoon, so I bid farewell to the Queen of Missions, with a nod to its place in the skyline.

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    Thus, my northward journey to the south-facing coastline began to wind down.  Eastward ho!  I drove to Santa Clarita, the recently incorporated (1987) conglomeration of San Fernando Valley communities, due east of Santa Barbara, and opted for the familiar format of Chili’s,in the Newhall section, as a dinner venue, foregoing a brief plan to head into the Saugus section of town, for a meal at Los Angeles County’s oldest restaurant.  It was getting too late,but next time out- Saugus, CA will be on the itinerary.

    A few hours later, via Palmdale and Victorville, I made my evening destination of Barstow.  Motel 66 is a clean and eminently affordable Mom & Pop west side establishment, and I don’t need anything more. Tomorrow, I will head back to home base, through the familiar Mohave Desert and uplands of Yavapai County.

  • The Road to 65, Mile 236: Back to California, Day 6, Part 2- A Majestic Courthouse

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    July 22, 2015, Santa Barbara- Like the Spokane County Courthouse and Tarrant County Building, in Fort Worth, Santa Barbara County Courthouse is the majestic centerpiece of its city’s downtown.  There are several architectural gems in the central core of this breathtaking mission city.  They are eclipsed by the hall of justice.  The building is a reconstruction of the first Courthouse, which was destroyed by the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquak

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    No detail, interior or exterior, goes unattended by the Courthouse’s housekeeper.

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    This mural, by Marge Dunlap, is actually on the front of the County Engineering Building, adjacent to the Courthouse.  It is, according to the artist's description, as abstract piece, showing trees as sentient beings that stand guard over the house.  There is no reason given for the two moons.

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    The Spirit of The Ocean Fountain was turned off, in keeping with the spirit of dealing with the drought.

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    Various miniature sculptures and filigree adorn all areas of the exterior.

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    Murals are found throughout the building, giving equal presence to the indigenous Chumash people and to the Spanish who settled among them.

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    Tapestries line the wall, outside the central Court Chamber.

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    In the  former County Supervisors’ room, now called the Mural Room, lies a more elaborate series of murals, showing the Spanish subjugation of the Chumash and other parts of Santa Barbara history.

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    Here is the first floor lobby.  Note the Moorish influence, in the ceiling design.

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    The Spanish also continued with Romanesque features, which appealed to the designers of the 1927 reconstructed Courthouse.

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    More Moorish influence appears in the ornate blue and gold ceiling.

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    ,

    This ceremonial planter is one of my favourites.

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    Finally, here is another section of  Santa Barbara history, in the Mural Room.

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    Here are a couple of other random samples of Spanish influence, on the architecture of the early 20th Century American residents of Santa Barbara.

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    Despite its sprawling nature, Santa Barbara gave me a very comfortable, cozy feeling, as I walked about downtown.  Two miles east, the “Old Mission” awaited.

July 26, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 236: Back to California, Day 6, Part 1- The South-Facing Coast

    July 22, 2015, Santa Barbara- The south-facing coast of California has fascinated me since I first came upon Santa Barbara, in 1980. My family only caught fleeting glimpses of the area in 1992, during a business trip to Santa Monica, and again in 1997, on our return from a visit to Santa Cruz.  It was enough, though, to make Refugio Beach a favourite and to make a personal vow to visit the interior of the “Old Mission”, as the residents here refer to Mission Santa Barbara, two miles from downtown.

    The day in this salubrious area will be posted in three parts: First, Lake Casitas, Carpinteria and the beach around Stearns Wharf are the foci of this post.  Next, I will present the grand Santa Barbara County Courthouse.  Lastly, the stage will be occupied by the Mission.

    As I stated earlier, this is the only part of the California coast that faces southward.  A compass on Stearns Wharf illustrates this.

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    I began the day, though, with a brief stop along the northern edge of Lake Casitas, a reservoir and fresh-water fishing mecca for local residents.  The lake had been down, severely, over the past three years.  It looked a tad healthier today, from what I had seen in earlier photos.  Still, it has a good ways to go, and so a good, wet monsoon, followed by an El Nino soaking, would seem to be in order.

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    Carpinteria is the first beach town that greets the traveler, coming northward into Santa Barbara County.  My main focus here was brunch, so I stopped at Jack’s Bistro and Famous Bagels.  Being from the East Coast, I am fussy about my bagels, but the pancakes here are delicious and Daisy was a very nice server.

    I took about a half-hour to look around downtown.  Beach-wise, my main focus would be Stearns Wharf, so I did not pay to stop at Carpinteria State Beach.  What caught my eye near Jack’s was the largest known Torrey Pine.

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    The town is named for the industrious nature that the Spanish noted in the Chumash people.

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    The historical museum did not open until 1, which would have set me still for two hours, and I was itchy to get to the Santa Barbara Courthouse, a marvel of architecture and interior art.  So, here is the south patio of the museum.

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    The branch library, across the street, also has a Spanish flair.

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    Santa Barbara’s main beach is a volleyball mecca, and there were at least five matches going on, as I walked from my parking spot to Stearns Wharf.  The tide was low, so there are no dramatic scenes in this post.  Nevertheless, the harbor is a beehive of activity and Stearns is one of the few wharves onto which one may drive, if that is your wish.

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    The downside of the harbor is evident here.  There are three oil platforms on its outer edge.

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    Earlier energy quests inspired this “Moby Dick” depiction, by Beth Amine.  Her original work was lost, when Stearns Wharf burned in 1998.

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    Santa Barbara decorates its roundabouts well, especially downtown.

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    Here is a bicycle roundabout, near the Volleyball Courts.

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    If I get back here sometime on a mini-jaunt, the focus would be on Refugio Beach and Goleta.  For this trip, though, spending more time downtown was in order.