So here we are smack in the middle of 2021, the unofficial start to the Roading 20's -- 21st Century Edition. I don't know about you, but for me 2021 just feels...more, somehow. Like the world has been freshly-washed and hung out in the sunshine. All the good things seem magnified. Lunches, graduations, shopping trips and vacations feel more joyful than I remember them. Strolling around outside feels even better than I remember it did in 2019 and 2020.
Perhaps taking a year off from normal life reset some kind of magic button and we're realizing the joy in things we once took for granted, or even resented, Exhibit A being close proximity to our fellow man. Or maybe it's finally casting off the fear of sickness and death now that we're all (mostly) vaccinated. This all being the case, this summer should be one for the books.
I took my first post-pandemic trip a couple weeks ago, from Oregon to California. Even the airplane ride was nicer than I remember; flight attendants noticeably less bitter and resentful, in-flight pretzels that seemed fresher and crunchier. Is that even possible? We flew direct from Portland to Santa Barbara, and I have to admit I felt a wave of joy wash through me when I stepped out that quaint little Spanish tiled air terminal and smelled that warm and windy air again. And bonus points to you, California, for not being on fire at the time.
We spent a couple of days in Santa Barbara, a place where I spent a good deal of my weekends back when I lived in Los Angeles, and what amazed me was how little it changed -- well, the waterfront and beach, anyway. I know the city has grown, but it's still quiet at the beach on weekdays, and still a magnet for the most physically fit and beautiful Californians who dwell among us, the water just as warm and the temperatures just as lovely.
After a couple of days there we headed north to Paso Robles, where we spent the next five days reconnecting with old friends, enjoying the sunshine, and visiting all our old haunts. We ended in Cambria almost as much as Paso Robles, just because, well, Cambria is always a fun place to visit, and the hiking around that area can't be beat.
Paso Robles has changed a lot since we left, and not necessarily for the better, but we did get to enjoy some ziplining in Santa Margarita and the Sensorio light show outside Paso. Downtown Paso is a bit worse for the wear, and so many old stores have been replaced with bougie piano bars, expensive rustic-looking restaurants and boutiques I couldn't even count them all.
In a way, seeing all that gave me some closure with leaving, because sometime in the three years since I'd been gone I think I'd idealized it a bit, and seeing the reality of it reminded me that while 2012 Paso Robles WAS a town I loved living in, 2021 Paso is not. There's just too many inconveniences that come from living in a "wine country destination," so I'm happy we got out when we did. But it has become a true tourist destination now, which is probably great for the local economy.
Safe to say, we've just begun our traveling now that it's safe to move about the country. Our next excursion is heading to Walla Walla, WA for some touring around and wine tasting. It will be interesting to see how it compares to Paso Robles in terms of pricing and accommodations. But with our mid-week airfare to Santa Barbara just $89 bucks each way, I'm thinking my old escape destination of SB may live again as my new one. I could certainly see sticking my toes in the sand and warm water some mid-February morning and forgetting all the clouds and rain of the Willamette Valley.
So stay tuned. Like many of you, I think we're going to have a fantastic 2021, doing all the old things but maybe in a new, and more appreciative way.
|Took the train back...beautiful scenery!|