At the beginning of October, we took a trip for the first time since October 2019. I put off posting about it because shortly after we left, the Alisal Fire started and burned around 17,000 acres near where we were visiting.
It was a little difficult to write about our enjoyable trip to California while the Alisal Fire was not contained.
We left that area on Thursday, October 7 and the wildfire started on Monday, October 11. We stayed in Buellton and spent significant time in Solvang, both of which were close to the fire. The highway that brought us to and from the airport had been closed for several days so we were a mere 4 days removed from being unable to have gotten home. It’s a sobering reminder of how terrible the drought in California has been and how unpredictable and dangerous the wildfires have become.
Holly’s family chose Solvang because they have been there (and the neighboring areas) often and have an affinity for it. Since we hadn’t all gotten together in some time, it seemed like a natural gathering place. Holly’s dad and youngest brother live in Arizona, her other brother lives near Seattle, and we’re in Philadelphia so we needed a good destination to meet up.
I had been to Solvang twice before, once in 2010 when Holly and I attended a conference in Monterey (where we had met) and made a larger trip out of it, stopping in Big Sur and visiting a friend in Carpinteria as well. The other time was in 2017 after we went to a wedding in nearby Goleta.
For this recent trip, we initially had planned to head out to see some of Holly’s family in March of 2020. Because of the Covid pandemic, we postponed the trip a few times before finally committing to go in October. We had made our plans during the summer when the pandemic situation was starting to look better and before the Delta variant took hold so it was a bit disconcerting to travel after the number of daily cases returned to last winter’s numbers.
The plan was to stay at an AirBnB in Solvang, but a week before our reservation, AirBnB canceled our reservation. That part of the plan was handled by Holly’s dad, and, luckily, he was able to get us rooms at Pea Soup Andersen’s Inn just a few miles away in Buellton. This was my 2nd time staying there. Holly and I and one of her brothers stayed there during the 2017 trip.
The cancellation of our AirBnB was not the only drama around the trip.
We had a flight from Philadelphia to Santa Barbara that connected in Phoenix which was scheduled to leave Philly at 12:20 pm. When we woke up that morning, probably around 7:00, we each had gotten an email from American Airlines saying that the plane coming to Philadelphia was going to be late, and we would miss our connecting flight. They booked us on another flight leaving Philadelphia at 3:40 and then on a later flight out of Phoenix.
We confirmed the change on their website and then started having a leisurely morning since we had plenty of time before the 3:40 flight. However, Holly then got a call from American Airlines saying that the original flight was actually going to be on time, and they asked if we wanted to switch back to our original plans.
That original flight was scheduled to get us to Santa Barbara a little after 5:00 where Holly’s dad and 2 brothers would pick us up. The later option got us to Santa Barbara around 8:30 which isn’t all that late, but the earlier flight was more convenient and appealing so we switched back to the original schedule.
We then had to rush a little to get to the airport but managed to get there in plenty of time and saw the plane get in on schedule.
It seemed like everything was going to work out.
However, there was then an announcement that they couldn’t start boarding because they were waiting for one of the flight attendants to arrive. We waited nearly an hour, and the flight attendant never showed, but, luckily, another flight attendant volunteered to work the flight.
We finally boarded and were in the air, but our connection was at risk.
When we landed in Phoenix, we had to rush from our arrival gate to the departure gate. Part way there, we heard them announce the last call for passengers. We were close enough when they then made an additional last call that we were able to wave to them to let them know we were there, and they let us on our flight.
It was a rough re-introduction to flying after having not done so since June 2019 for our last trip to California.
We got to Santa Barbara on time and met up with Holly’s family as planned. The Santa Barbara Airport is one of the smallest airports I’ve been to and charmingly so.
It felt great being back in California again.
After we dropped off our bags in our room at Pea Soup Andersen’s Inn, we walked over to Pea Soup Andersen’s Restaurant, which is just across the parking lot, with Holly’s family for dinner. I had never been there before but had a rather comforting, post-travel, open-faced turkey sandwich, preceded by their famous pea soup and an appetizer of pickled herring that we all shared.
Dinner was nice, but we were exhausted from our travels and eager to call it a night.