California Day Two: Agua Dulce to Carpinteria by Bill Pike

Daylight came early on Tuesday morning. I know I slept, but I knew we needed to be organized and ready for our next departure. So, I started getting out of bed.

Abby and Art’s daughter, Rachel, her husband, Garth, and their two children, Charlotte and Grayson, were already up. They had flown in a week ago from McKinney, Texas. Abby and Art’s son, Parker, his friend, Brandy, and her son, Tyrell, had flown in from Hawaii, and they were stirring too.

After some chitchat and a great bowl of oatmeal, Abby started getting us ready for the ride up to Carpinteria. Just shy of a two-hour ride, Carpinteria is a beach town 12 miles south of Santa Barbara.  Abby had worked her connections and found two houses within easy walking distance to the beach that could accommodate all 13 of us.


Gradually, we were organized. Vehicles were stuffed with the necessary junk for our four nights in Carpinteria. The youngsters were heading out first. Betsy and I were riding with Abby and Art, and we had one important job to do—drop Lucy, the irresistible family dog off at the kennel.

With Lucy dropped off, Art drove to California State Highway 126 and the trek north started. Near Ventura, the 126 funnels into the famous U.S. Highway the 101 along the Pacific coast.

Farming towns like Piru and Fillmore fill both sides of the highway with active and inactive fruit tree farms and an assortment of other crop plantings. Weather worn fruit stands pop up every few miles with most featuring oranges and some strawberries.

As we close in on Ventura the Pacific Ocean comes into view on the left side of the car, and the hills and mountains cast a back drop on the right. Art, a native Californian, points out to us in those time and weather scarred hills where last winter’s wildfires changed the landscape and sometimes lives.

California has always intrigued me, but I never have thought I was carved out to live here. For me, I narrow the worrisome part of California down to the three S’s: shake, smoke, and slide.

On this morning, the Pacific is sparkling shades of gray, blue, and green with the white foam of cresting waves adding to that palette. The Ventura County Fair is taking place, and at one exit our movement along the 101 is slowed.

While in the back of my mind, I’m worried about being away from my work for two weeks, I have been quietly excited about visiting Carpinteria all summer.

Pretty soon, Abby is telling Art the exit to take, and Carpinteria is right in front of us.  We drive into the downtown section and work our way to the two houses. Slowly, we unload items into their proper locations, and then it was  time to think about some lunch.

From one of the houses, we took an easy walk to The Spot. This tiny location reminded of a food truck that had been permanently locked into a prime corner location for locals and beachcombers. We placed our order, paid in cash the only transaction accepted, and waited for our number to be called. No pun intended, but our food “hit the spot”.

After lunch, our youngest daughter, Elizabeth had arrived. She had taken a bus from LAX. We picked her up at a local shopping center.

At some point during the afternoon, we gradually found our way to the beach. Carpinteria bills its self as the safest beach in the world. I have no way of confirming that for you, but carved out like a half-moon between two inlets, it seems to be in a perfect location. Loaded with plenty of sand and a level walk to the ocean lots of people were enjoying its charms this afternoon.

Boogie boarders, paddle boarders, kayakers, surfers, body surfers, and swimmers were in the water, water that for the Pacific was warmer than usual.

After the beach, a few of us made the quick walk to the Island Brewing Company. Nestled in a parcel of connected commercial buildings, this local favorite has a sun drenched, open air tasting room, and twelve beers on tap.

We enjoyed the hospitality, the beer sampling, and the conversation.

Soon, we were heading back to the house near the community garden and the train stop for the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner. Abby had warned us that the track ran right through Carpinteria. The blasts from the train’s horn and the rumbling of its steel wheels had already greeted us earlier in the afternoon.


Abby had organized a dinner of pork carnitas with all of the trimmings. Those packed tortillas were delicious.

It had been a long day for all of us, but a good first day.

My east coast clock sleep time was calling me. I was ready to call it a day, and walk back to the other house.

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