Wrapping up 2022 in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties

Our final trip of 2022 commenced a short distance up the coast in Ventura County, California. We camped for three nights on the Rincon Parkway, along the old Pacific Coast Highway between Ventura and Santa Barbara. This is a wild experience because you open your front door onto the Pacific Ocean, where we were treated to bottlenose dolphins passing by, beautiful sunsets, and views of Santa Cruz Island and Anacapa Island, parts of the Channel Islands National Park.

The view from our campsite
Our motorhome and car at our campsite next to the beach

While on the coast, we decided to take advantage of our proximity to Ventura Harbor, so we ventured out on a 3-1/2-hour Wildlife Cruise with Island Packers, the concessionaire for Channel Islands National Park. Heading out to Anacapa, we encountered a lone sea lion on a buoy, several common dolphins swimming in the boat’s wake, and loads of pelicans, gulls, cormorants, sea lions, and harbor seals on and around the three islets of Anacapa Island.

Common dolphins swim next to the boat.
This sea lion posed as we went by.
Pelicans in the air and gulls on the rock
Sea lions sun themselves at Anacapa.
Arch Rock at East Anacapa

The absolute highlight of the cruise was spotting three gray whales in the middle of their 5000-mile journey from the Bering Sea of Alaska to Baja California.

One of the gray whales starting to dive
The tail fluke of a gray whale can be 9 feet wide!
Breathing through its blowhole

A peaceful beach walk right from our RV rounded out this first full day of the trip.

Leilani walks on the bluffs above the beach.

The next day we drove to the Foster County Park and hopped on our bikes to ride the Ojai Valley Trail (19 miles round trip). It was mostly uphill heading toward Ojai, so we were pretty tired by the time we got there, especially me.

A beer stop at Ojai Valley Brewery followed by burgers at Ojai Beverage Company gave us the fortification to ride back down.

We woke up on Christmas morning with a beautiful view of the ocean and a balmy day ahead of us (unlike much of the rest of the country).

These bottlenose dolphins were a wonderful Christmas present!
Christmas morning at the beach

We hooked up the car to the RV for a short drive north along Highway 101 through Santa Barbara, past several state beaches, and through a portion of Los Padres National Forest to arrive at our destination for the next week (Flying Flags RV Resort in Buellton). This area is known for Solvang (Danish-themed nearby town), the wineries of the Santa Ynez Valley, and boating and fishing at Lake Cachuma, which we explored the next day.

Merry Christmas from Buellton, Flying Flags

Highway 154 past Lake Cachuma leads to Paradise Road, which took us back into the hills and windy roads of Los Padres NF, where there are lots of national forest day use areas and not very many visitors at the end of December.

Our lunch spot on Paradise Road, next to the Santa Ynez River

A drive around the campground at Lake Cachuma (always checking out possible campgrounds for future trips) gave us some great sightings of two acorn woodpeckers and their stash of acorns in the telephone pole.

Acorn woodpecker and acorns
We always enjoy seeing deer!

It was good that we had that exploration day because the next day it rained steadily (which we desperately need in California right now). We did make it down to Santa Barbara for lunch at Lure Fish House with our friend Rolf from our World Impact days. Rolf is notorious around SB for his harrowing shark encounter a few years back (click here to read his wonderful article).

Rolf in the rain

Our friends Kim and Suzie brought their trailer up for a few days, so we did some exploring together, first heading to the La Purísima Mission State Historic Park in Lompoc, which is one of the largest and most well-preserved of the California missions. We were introduced to the history of this area through their extensive visitor center and a knowledgeable park volunteer. The mission was established in 1787 and thousands of indigenous Chumash lived, worked, and died there over the next several decades.

Viewing the main buildings of the mission

The state park has a number of animals similar to those who were kept there during the time the mission was active—steers, sheep, and chickens—along with less-domesticated creatures, like ground squirrels, California scrub-jays, Western bluebirds, and acorn woodpeckers.

California Scrub-Jay
Western bluebird
Townsend's Warbler

The buildings of the mission were restored by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, even authentically creating adobe bricks for the mission’s buildings. La Purisima is considered the most complete mission complex of all of California’s missions, so if you can only visit one mission, this is the one!

The inside of the church is simple and pretty.
The intact mission buildings are long.....
And the oak trees are old!

The buildings are structured so you can look inside and see how the people might have used looms, woodworking tools, an olive press, ovens, and everything needed to feed and care for thousands of people.

A loom for weaving--such hard work!
Cindy explores the olive press.

While it kept threatening to rain the next day, we decided to proceed with our reservation for e-biking and wine tasting with I Bike Santa Barbara. This was a good decision, as we only encountered a few minutes of sprinkles and had a wonderful day exploring the area. None of the four of us had ever ridden e-bikes, but after a quick lesson by owner William, we easily got the hang of it.

Cindy and Hank are ready!
Kim and Suzie on their e-bikes

On our 16-mile loop, we rode past a lavender farm with some very old olive trees and a miniature horse farm (so cute!).

We stopped in the Danish-themed town of Solvang for some bakery refreshments before heading out to Ballard Canyon, where rolling hills, coast live oaks, and acres of vines kept us enthralled.

It's a good thing we don't live close to Solvang, or I would weigh a whole lot more!
Yes, it really was this green! So beautiful after all the rain. That's Hank's green jacket up ahead.

Oh yeah, and the goats removed from Catalina Island are enjoying a happy retirement here (along with some friendly alpacas), courtesy of a member of the Wrigley family (think gum and Chicago Cubs).

A goat transplanted from Catalina Island (or maybe a descendant)
Are the alpacas there to keep the goats company or vice versa?

I loved the e-bike because it made going uphill a breeze and I could (mostly) keep up with Hank. After dismounting from our bikes, we headed to Rancho Olivos Olive Oil for some yummy olive oil tasting, followed by wine-tasting at Brander Winery & Vineyard, the very first vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley. Then a short drive took us to Rideau Vineyard for a gourmet lunch provided by our host (William) and a second round of wine-tasting. It was a great day (even with the threat of rain) and we highly recommend this outing for those of you traveling to Santa Barbara or the Santa Ynez Valley.

Olive oil tasting
Wine tasting
And lunch

Having a whole week up here meant that we could have a more relaxed pace than we sometimes have on our travels. So after a busy Thursday, our Friday was relatively mellow. We did, however, make it to Ostrichland, where we fed and observed ostriches and emus, weird and funny enormous birds.

Check out the blue neck on the emu!
A face only a mother ostrich could love!
These birds are huge!

Around the corner from our campground in an industrial area was an unassuming eatery that came highly recommended by our friend Rolf, so we had to enjoy at least one meal at Industrial Eats. The place was packed and had great sandwiches!

New Year’s Eve was another rainy day, so we stayed inside and organized the RV. Kim and Suzie came over for games, dinner, football viewing, and watching the ball drop in New York at 9:00 p.m. Pacific time (so we didn’t have to stay up until midnight!). Happy New Year!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

For our last full day in the RV, we headed out on a scenic drive of Drum Canyon Road (very narrow and windy), and then on to one of our favorite places in California, Pismo Beach, to check out the monarch butterflies, which are in great abundance this year.

We also enjoyed one of our favorite barbecue places, Ribline (in Grover Beach–thanks, Kirk, for the recommendation). And for our last wildlife fix of the trip, we drove over to the San Luis Pier at Avila Beach, where the sea lions were lounging and the sea otters were being their cute selves. 

On the San Luis Pier, one of the best places to view sea otters.
Sea lions on the float near the pier
Getting our sea otter fix for the trip!

Huell Howser created California’s Gold segments on this part of the Central Coast and Santa Ynez Valley. Because we had watched a segment on the El Camino Real bells, we had to take a couple of photos of the famous bells along U.S. 101 (the Historic El Camino Real). It was a great conclusion to a relaxing 11-day trip!

Here is a 4-minute video summary of our Ventura/Santa Barbara trip.

Dedicated to Peter Mochrie and George Marshall, fellow travelers and explorers–rest in peace!

8 thoughts on “Wrapping up 2022 in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties”

  1. Hi Hank and Cindy, I can’t believe how many wonderful sites and experiences you packed in! Your campsite on the beach looked like paradise. Also, Ostrichland is now on my bucket list now that I know it exists. Happy travels:)

    • Carrie, You would love Ostrichland and all the beautiful vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley (not far from Santa Barbara). I see another California trip in your future! Thanks for writing!

  2. Hi Cindy and Hank,
    You both know how to “see” what is around you – to explore and appreciate the beauty in the sites so often passed by. Fabulous adventures and pictures. I especially appreciated Rolf’s story of untethering to land – and to life’s supposed perfections.

    With hope for more in 2023,

    • Thanks, Diane! We appreciate the opportunity to share our adventures with friends and family. Thank you for taking the time to read and write back! I agree, Rolf’s story is amazing!


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