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Santa Barbara: Stearn's Wharf and the Art Walk

Ty Warner Sea Center
Ty Warner Sea Center

I have a love-hate relationship with Santa Barbara. On the one hand, it is a pretty little town, filled with pretty people doing pretty little things. On the other, Santa Barbara is quirky and set in her ways, with a “take me or leave me” attitude that can, at times, grate on one’s nerves.

For example, my Santa Barbara relatives refer to “Las Cah-NAIR-ass Road” even though the road is Los Carñeros with a tilde over the “n.” Similarly, they direct me to “Call-yay Ree-AL Street,” which is actually Calle Real. What is perhaps most disturbing is that pretty much everyone you meet in Santa Barbara bungles the street pronunciations, and if you try to correct them, you are met with a quizzical expression and the retort, “But that’s the way we say it in Santa Barbara!”

Another quirk to the city is that directional navigation, as we know it, is turned upside down. In Santa Barbara, the ocean is to the east, and the mountains are to the west. And once you get that figured out, there are still other pitfalls. If you are headed south on 101 and take the first State Street exit, it doesn’t actually take you to State Street – you end up on Hollister. My Santa Barbara relatives explain that this makes perfect sense: the first State Street exit is really the exit for the exclusive enclave of Hope Ranch, and State Street can only belong to Santa Barbara.

If you manage to find the correct State Street, the one that leads you east to the beach and to Stearn’s Wharf, park on the wharf itself and visit the Ty Warner Sea Center, an interactive sea life aquarium. There, a cheerful docent will reach into a tank, wrestle out a baby shark, and let you touch it.

Spend an hour or so at the Sea Center, then walk out to Cabrillo Boulevard which fronts the wharf and see the Art Walk, which takes place every Sunday. The artists there are happy to talk, to tell you about their art style and about the countries where they grew up. On a recent visit, we met artists from France, Austria and Loony World.

Crazy Art Guy, as we dubbed him, works in clay and metal, creating simple, colorful and amazing sea creatures for the garden. Gathering a crowd around him, Crazy Art Guy began his talk by describing his art process, and then soon took a left turn into Crazy Town and warned that if we didn’t collectively get our shit together, we could kiss our asses goodbye. Stay in school. Don’t use drugs. Be sure to visit the website.

When you leave Santa Barbara, and you hit the five minutes of traffic on the way out of town, consider this: my Santa Barbara relatives consider this a traffic jam, and complain that it often takes a whole ten minutes for them to commute to work. Santa Barbara: love it, or hate it.

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Ty Warner Sea Center
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I have a love-hate relationship with Santa Barbara. On the one hand, it is a pretty little town, filled with pretty people doing pretty little things. On the other, Santa Barbara is quirky and set in her ways, with a “take me or leave me” attitude that can, at times, grate on one’s nerves.

For example, my Santa Barbara relatives refer to “Las Cah-NAIR-ass Road” even though the road is Los Carñeros with a tilde over the “n.” Similarly, they direct me to “Call-yay Ree-AL Street,” which is actually Calle Real. What is perhaps most disturbing is that pretty much everyone you meet in Santa Barbara bungles the street pronunciations, and if you try to correct them, you are met with a quizzical expression and the retort, “But that’s the way we say it in Santa Barbara!”

Another quirk to the city is that directional navigation, as we know it, is turned upside down. In Santa Barbara, the ocean is to the east, and the mountains are to the west. And once you get that figured out, there are still other pitfalls. If you are headed south on 101 and take the first State Street exit, it doesn’t actually take you to State Street – you end up on Hollister. My Santa Barbara relatives explain that this makes perfect sense: the first State Street exit is really the exit for the exclusive enclave of Hope Ranch, and State Street can only belong to Santa Barbara.

If you manage to find the correct State Street, the one that leads you east to the beach and to Stearn’s Wharf, park on the wharf itself and visit the Ty Warner Sea Center, an interactive sea life aquarium. There, a cheerful docent will reach into a tank, wrestle out a baby shark, and let you touch it.

Spend an hour or so at the Sea Center, then walk out to Cabrillo Boulevard which fronts the wharf and see the Art Walk, which takes place every Sunday. The artists there are happy to talk, to tell you about their art style and about the countries where they grew up. On a recent visit, we met artists from France, Austria and Loony World.

Crazy Art Guy, as we dubbed him, works in clay and metal, creating simple, colorful and amazing sea creatures for the garden. Gathering a crowd around him, Crazy Art Guy began his talk by describing his art process, and then soon took a left turn into Crazy Town and warned that if we didn’t collectively get our shit together, we could kiss our asses goodbye. Stay in school. Don’t use drugs. Be sure to visit the website.

When you leave Santa Barbara, and you hit the five minutes of traffic on the way out of town, consider this: my Santa Barbara relatives consider this a traffic jam, and complain that it often takes a whole ten minutes for them to commute to work. Santa Barbara: love it, or hate it.

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Comments
8

Santa Barbara beaches actually face south, not east and our mountains are to the north, not west.

June 22, 2009

1, you took the words right out of my mouth.

June 22, 2009

1, #2, yes, I believe this "east" issue is precisely the root cause of Mr. Okagaki's problem. The "east" beach is "east as opposed to other beaches", but not because it is facing east (there is no "west" beach, but that's a separate discussion).

The concept of "east" beach not facing east, however, may be an advanced one, and I am certainly glad that we can provide a clarification on this important subject.

June 22, 2009

I'm having some trouble trying to decide if this article is about Stearn's Wharf and the Ty Warner Sea Center, or traditionalist Santa Barbara Residents' proclivities of pronunciation. It's too bad you didn't stop by La "COOM-bra" plaza while you were here, instead of La Cumbre. But I digress.

Now let's clear up the many misconceptions the author has written about:

The State Street exit from Southbound 101 (So signed because U.S. 101 is primarily a north-south route. It's signed the same way in the San Fernando Valley) takes you to the only State Street in town. State Street does not become Hollister until after the Union Pacific Right-of-Way crossing, just before Modoc Road, west of the offramp. State Street then travels due east to Calle Crespis, where it turn 45 degrees in a southeast direction, ending at Stearn's Wharf.

There is no part of Hollister nor State that enters Hope Ranch. La Cumbre Road is the official entrance to Hope Ranch, where it becomes Las Palmas Drive.

There is a west beach. It's the small part of sand between Stearn's Wharf and Harbor. East beach is anywhere between Stearn's Wharf and the Childs Estate.

Finally, the author's tongue-in-cheek assessment of Santa Barbara traffic further belies their lack of local knowledge. For any given weekday rush hour, or any time between 5 and 10 pm on a Sunday, you can expect to sit in at least 10 to 20 miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic between Santa Barbara and Mussel Shoals, on two southbound lanes. Having commuted myself, I can personally tell you it can take over an hour to make the 35 mile drive from Santa Barbara to the Ventura city limit, construction nothwithstanding.

That being said, I'm still confused whether this article was an endorsement or critique of Santa Barbara life. But at least we've cleared a few things up.

June 23, 2009

Thank you sbdude! I do not find K.A. Okagaki piece flattering to Santa Barbara. I am wondering why he uses his relatives to sum up everyone in/from Santa Barbara. I do not like that he says "pretty little town, filled with pretty people doing pretty little things" I hear this in a condesending tone. He is also as you pointed out incorrect on his information. I spent most of my life in Alaska and then moved to Santa Barbara. I consider both places my home. I am glad that Okagaki is not from her nor lives here. I hope his relatives move too so that he never has to come here. Thanks again sbdude for correcting the errors- Proud of Santa Barbara, Heaven on Earth.

June 23, 2009

Ditto on #1's comments

Moreover, Los Carneros (the rams, the sheep) has no tilde

Stay in San Diego, loser!

June 23, 2009

I've been here 39 years and have never heard "Las Cah-NAIR-ass Road" ever in my life except from a tourist? It's LOS CAR NAIR OSE Road.WTF??

Muahahaha! “Call-yay Ree-AL Street,” Yeah...it's always been KAY(like the 1st syllable of kayak) KI-YA-RE-al.

Who is this Okagaki doofis?

June 23, 2009

He made it to Cabrillo. Good thing he didn't also run into Carrillo or Castillo.

June 24, 2009

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