Two weeks after our respective flights to the east coast, we loaded up the car on a Friday afternoon and made our way to Santa Barbara and the Best Western Plus Santa Barbara for a weekend of bike riding and to see the Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit at the Arlington Theater. We stayed at this property back in 2019 and looked forward to a nice visit just a few blocks away from the concert venue. The largest movie theater and principal performing arts venue in town, the Arlington was built in 1931 on the former site of the Arlington Hotel, which was destroyed following the 1925 earthquake.
Normally the Best Western here would be out of our price range, but this is Santa Barbara where you might as well add $100 a night to any hotel charge just to stay in the central part of town. We were lucky to get a good rate of $171 a night, likely as it was the off season, and then were even more pleasantly surprised when we discovered that we had been assigned a ground floor kitchenette, that is a large main room with an attached smaller kitchen.
Our original plan for dinner that night was to drive up to Isla Vista for pizza at Woodstock’s, that place of memory from Jessica and Kris’ college days. But the traffic that caused us to add another hour to our drive from Los Angeles put a damper on that and so we opted to just go next door to the Live Oak Café where we’d had a nice dining experience our last time here.
We’d started with a glass of wine in our room and so continued with that theme, particularly as our stay at the Best Western provided us with two free glasses of wine, both of us opting for the Kinderwood Merlot. Joanna ordered the Pacific Rim Bacon Fried Rice Bowl, and I went for the Chicken Piccata. Both were excellent and portion sizes generous enough that we each took not quite half of our meals back to the refrigerator in our room to be enjoyed later. Coupled with the good food is very reasonable pricing, just $32 for the food portion of our meal.
The next day, Saturday, was concert day and so we scheduled an easy bike ride to start it off, pedaling down Bath Street until it became a one-way street against us, then jogging over to De La Vina which we would ride some distance before hopping over to State Street to land at the shoreline. From there it was straight south on Via Real all the way to Carpinteria.
We stopped for a snack at the crowded Lucky Llama Coffee House, where a group of local musicians were performing some well-known tunes. I grabbed a seat outside while Joanna stood in line for a large latte and pastry, which we would enjoy while listening to the musicians in front of us. Finishing up, we continued south on Carpinteria Avenue until we reached Rincon Road (Highway 150) and the overpass for Highway 101 which would take us to the turnoff for Highway 192 (Casitas Pass Road).
Now pedaling north, we passed by nursery after nursery, many with open fields of blooming plants until we reached Nidever Road, where a left turn took us a short distance back to Via Real at the Santa Barbara Polo and Tennis Club for our return to Santa Barbara and the Best Western.
Our plan for the rest of the day would be to go to Isla Vista for our pizza meal at Woodstock’s and then hang out until it was time to head to the Arlington for the concert. The drive on a Saturday afternoon was much easier than it would have been the day before and we soon parked a block or so away and walked to the restaurant. Opened in 1982, this is the third location in what would grow to be a chain of seven locations, all situated near a college campus.
We ordered a couple of beers, a pint of M. Special Sabado Tarde Tangerine Ale for Joanna and a liter of Firestone Walker 805 for me to accompany our 12-inch mushroom and sausage pizza. Our fondness for this place comes from it being the first meal we enjoyed with Jessica when we helped move her into her dorm room at UCSB, and it would be our last meal on the day she graduated. Memories like those always make the food taste just a little bit better.
Later, about an hour before the doors opened at the Arlington, we drove the mile there and parked a few blocks away and then walked to the Santa Barbara Public Market, a food hall since 2014 when it opened in what had been a Safeway built in 1959 after it replaced a market that had stood on the corner since 1934. We each got a from The Garden, the halls beer garden, and enjoyed watching the crowds of people that surged past us as we drank.
It was soon time to go, and we walked a block or so to the Arlington and soon found our seats for what would be a very good show. We last saw this band in Charlotte at one of its smaller outdoor amphitheaters and since then, they have released a couple CDs of new music, much of which was featured during the performance.
The next morning, we took advantage of a take-out breakfast from the Live Oak, ordering online and then walking across the parking lot to pick up our order of a toasted classic bagel with cream cheese and bowl of oatmeal (Steel-cut oats with fresh blueberries, strawberries, and bananas. Served with steamed milk and brown sugar on the side). The best part of it all, the tab came to just $9 plus tax.
Still a little groggy from a late night, we took off on the bikes for our ride that day, a repeat of one we did with friends a year or so ago. We parked at the Pea Soup Anderson hotel and then made our way up Avenue of the Flags onto a frontage road that after a few miles, came to a dead end. There we crossed the 101 and rode it up to the Highway 154 offramp where we jogged to Zaca Station Road which after some time, took us to Foxen Canyon and the steep climb over a ridge and descent into Los Olivos.
To extend the ride we turned onto Figueroa Mountain Road and took it all the way to the former site of Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. Turning around we backtracked to Los Olivos and into Solvang for the final few miles to the car, where we quickly cleaned up and drove back Los Olivos for a Turkey and Brie on Sourdough sandwich at Panino (we’ve enjoyed this sandwich a number of times in the past), which we polished off sitting at a table in the park across the street from the restaurant.
Finished, it was now time to head over to the corner of Zaca Station and Foxen Canyon for our scheduled tasting and wine club pick up at Andrew Murray Vineyards. It was a beautiful afternoon and we thoroughly enjoyed sitting at the refurbished outdoor tasting area under the shade of large oak trees. It was a nice finish to a good day, and we happily returned to the Best Western for a quiet remainder of the day. Still full from the earlier sandwich, we simply polished off our leftovers from Friday and turned in early.
The next morning, we packed up for the drive home and then hit the Live Oak for a final breakfast of Lemon Zest Brioche French Toast (Sliced Brioche, fresh strawberry, blueberry, cardamom whipped cream, and pistachio) for Joanna and as usual, the Garden Veggie Omelet (Spinach, Kale, Cherry Tomato, Zucchini, Red Pepper, and Onion) for me. It was the perfect way to end a delightful weekend away from home, engaging in those pursuits we so enjoy, good food, bike riding, and live music.
Best Western Plus Santa Barbara: https://bestwesternplusencinainnsuites.reservationstays.com/requests/JOSpiMwkXMm9rRQB3T1znw/hotels/1G4zN5lq
Jason Isbell: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason_Isbell
Arlington Theater: https://thearlingtontheatre.com/
Live Oak Café: https://www.liveoakcafe.com/
Lucky Llama Coffee House: https://www.facebook.com/LuckyLlamaCoffee/
Santa Barbara Public Market: https://www.sbpublicmarket.com/
Andrew Murray Vineyards: https://www.andrewmurrayvineyards.com/
My wife and I have the same interests: good food, bike riding, and live music!I always enjoy your emails.–Dale Swindler