Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tar Babies

Our original plan was to drive north and do some wine tasting in the Santa Ynez valley (thanks for the recommendations, Slackmistress and QIR) but by the time we made it through SB we decided we weren't feeling up to it. We did drive a little ways north up the coast, enjoying the view, then turned around and went to the Santa Barbara Mission.

The restrooms at the mission have chalkboards inside with a note that says "If you must write something, please do it here" which really amused me. I got some cool photos that I am going to try to get on the internets so I won't talk about it too much now, only say that it was a neat experience, and also say that man, they really need to update some of their displays.

After we were finished at the mission, we called my sister who told us where we might find restaurants that wouldn't cost 8 arms and 6 legs like the ones on posh State Street (she directed us to Goleta, where we ended up just getting sushi and a wrap to share from Trader Joe's). We did some more TJs shopping - stocking up on chocolate supplies for us, plus buying a few things for the next day. My sister had another graduation to attend, but she told us how to get to her house (right on the beach, on Student Row in Isla Vista) and where to walk to have a nice beach experience. We dropped off some stuff at her house, carefully avoiding all of the students packing and moving (apparently, everyone has to vacate their apartments at once, during the same weekend as graduation, so the neighborhood becomes a complete madhouse, and is the only place I've ever seen someone on a bike pulling someone sitting in an office chair down the street). Up the street we walked, through a park and down a path, and found some stairs that led down to the beach.

It's been some time since I walked on the beach with no other time commitments or other things to do, and many years since I walked on a beach in Southern California (where the water is slightly less cold than in Northern California). We took off our shoes and found all kinds of treasures as we dodged large bundles of washed-up kelp, rocks, shells, and other beach detritus that helps differentiate Northern from Southern CA (all the beaches I've been to in SoCal had WAAAAY more stuff on the sand than in NorCal). We passed a large dead elephant seal, skirting around so as not to get too close, and Dan nearly stepped on a large dead fish that was missing its eye (surely the tastiest bit, we decided). We sat for a while on a sunbleached log and watched people surf, Dan snapping action shots while I made interesting shadows on the sand with my hands and a heart-shaped shell I found.

A surprising thing was the overwhelming smell of asphalt on some parts of the beach, and the tar that washed up along the shoreline. We did our best to avoid it, and saw how it covered large rocks and small pebbles, a black ugly stain on an otherwise beautiful scape. I wondered if there had been a recent oil spill as we rounded the bend and came across a rock with a piece of iron ship embedded, rust streaks dripping down the rock like paint. The rest of the beach was less interesting, and we wiggled our toes in the shallows, and then a few waves came up faster than we expected and we got a little wet around the hems of our jeans and shorts, respectively. My leg grew tired, the one that is still healing, so I asked if we could go back. We walked all the way back, stopping to inspect the iron grown into the rock once more, splashing through the water and just next to it because it was easier for my leg to walk on packed wet sand than on powdery dry. And then a wave came up and soaked the back of my jeans up to my butt. Awesome.

Past the dead fish, the tar, and the seal corpse, we climbed slowly, wetly, and sandily up the steps to the cliff, where we stopped to put on our shoes. At which point we realized the bottoms of our feet were covered in tar, despite our valiant attempts to avoid it. I had been wearing sneakers with no socks and so after I scraped what I could, I put my shoes back on, resigning them to a tar-filled afterlife. Dan had socks to go with his shoes, so he only ruined a pair of socks. As we walked back to my sister's house, my family pulled up in the Prius, having driven four adults plus luggage down 101 from the Bay Area. My mom and cousin, my sister and her fiance, all gave us hugs and joined us at Laurel's only to realize her roommate had left and Laurel was still at the other graduation. Dan and I were wet, sandy, and tarry, while my family was tired of the long drive and wanted to relax. So we drove down to Carpinteria to our hotel, through more ugly traffic.

There was some sort of mixup at the hotel that I'm still not clear about, but they doubled the price my mom was quoted and were generally nasty all around, so instead of two rooms for that night, we had to all sleep in one. Six adults. Two queen-size beds, one ridiculously small and uncomfortable pull-out couch. We lounged in the room and discovered the one good thing, three little premoistened towelettes in the bathroom labeled "tar-off" (note to hotel in Carpinteria: excellent idea!) so Dan and I were able to remove the tar from our feet. I removed my wet, salty, sandy jeans and changed into a skirt. We sat around the room for a while, the six of us, and found a place to eat dinner when Laurel and her boyfriend drove down to join us. (a passable Thai food place, at which only a few of the diners enjoyed their meals). Laurel informed me that there hadn't been an oil spill, that tar comes up naturally out of the ocean along that part of the coast, and it's pretty much impossible to avoid small particles in the sand.

After dinner, we bought a small variety of items at a liquor store, giggled over three sizes of tequila that came in the most phallic bottle I've ever seen, and retired to the hotel room for an hour or two before Laurel and her boyfriend left and the rest of us got ready for bed. Six adults in one hotel room, sharing one bathroom, good lord. Needless to say, most of us slept terribly, especially Lissa and Curtis who ended up putting the pull-out couch mattress on the floor and piling blankets on top (they were the only ones who could both fit on such a small mattress, but I understand neither of them really slept). I slept, but had nightmares all night.


Monkey McWearingChaps said...

Ding them on and yelp, dude. They sound like they deserve it. I freaking HATE when they pull that "no it's really double" thing on ya.

Yea, the tar is natural here. There's an interesting book G gave me (his favourite, apparently) as a gift when we first started dating. The novel itself is a potboiler but there was a shitload of interesting California history in it. The tar (brea) occurs naturally in SoCal on land and off the coast. Back in the day people made a LOT of money extracting oil down here. Think also, La Brea tarpits.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

oh sorry, the name of the book is California Gold. It's really a crappy book in terms of the writing (even he admits it) but it's chockfull of California history.