My mom was incredible again--we were driving away from the hotel at 5:15 am! One big reason we wanted such an early start was to try to get through Los Angeles before the morning congestion bogged us down for hours. And thanks to that and my brother's wonderful route suggestions (and his getting up at 6 am to check traffic reports for us) we got through with a minimum of delays.
Stopped for gas in Thousand Oaks, which reminds me in name of Geren's hometown of Three Oaks. =) Made such fantastic time throughout the morning that when we reached the city of Santa Barbara on the Pacific, we decided we could spare the time to stop and look around.
The weather was delightful and the beach was gorgeous. Fun to see sandpipers and other shorebirds running around. I also found a shell that was dull grey on the outside and a blaze of mother-of-pearl within, but most of what was washed up was kelp and stones--found a really neat one for my boss, I should have taken a photo of it!
We ended up taking a slightly longer visit than intended, due to my mom needing to use the restroom and my getting off the highway at random and ending up in the industrial portion of the city. Still, we eventually found a Jack-in-the-Box (ubiquitous in California) and I got a delicious eggnog shake out of the deal. Also extremely grateful for the AAA tourbook, as it had a partial map of the city and I might have been blundering around blind for a very long time trying to find the highway without it!
From there, made good time again, heading away from the coast, with a stop to take in beautiful Lake Cachuma and the snow on the mountains beyond.
Our destination was the utterly unique town of Solvang, located in the middle-of-nowhere. It was founded by Danish settlers who wanted a warmer climate, and the whole center of town is done in that style, including some decorative windmills. We had so much fun shopping at the bakeries (got Danish butter cookies for my coworkers) the candy stores, the fantastic Christmas store stuffed with handmade items, many from Europe, and trying to find a place to eat that we hardly took any photos of the wonderful surroundings. Time flew past, and the visit was definitely a highlight of my vacation.
There was a toy store there with a whole bunch of Hansa plushies from Europe. And among them, the Griffon vulture I'd been ogling on eBay for a couple years. This time I didn't hesitate. That lovely vulture reminds me both of my visit to Solvang and the scene in book 4 in which 'he' plays a part. Very, very happy I bought him!
After that, a scenic drive from Solvang to San Simeon back on the Pacific. Our hotel room on the second level gave us a lovely view of the ocean and the sunset. But we couldn't tarry to enjoy it as we had tickets for the evening tour at Hearst Castle.
No photos from me, as I'm not allowed to publish them, and flash photography isn't allowed there. But the place itself, in location, landscaping, architecture, and art, is so incredible I don't think anything could compare unless I visited some still-furnished castle in Europe, perhaps. We went back Saturday morning, so more on that in that post!