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By request from my wife, Sharon, we took a train ride to Santa Barbara for her birthday. We left around 10
a.m. on Friday, 2/9/18 and after an uneventful rail ride, paralleling Hwy. 101, we arrived to Santa Barbara Amtrak station near our
seven hour arrival time. Amtrak has improved greatly through the years.
To say that the ride was uneventful
was a small stretch of the imagination. All the way to Santa Barbara there was a troop of Chinese students ranging from around seven
to fourteen years of age. It appeared that these students had never been away from their native land, and had never ridden a train.
If I had a dollar for how many times the doors to the parlor car was opened and closed by these travelers, who were kids being kids,
I would be rich man. One man referred to the children as being, "rude little buggers" especially when they would appear right in front
of him and just stand there not allowing him to go forward. I did not understand what he meant until I tried to go to the snack bar
downstairs and encountered one of the older students blocking the aisle. I said, "Excuse me!" twice without a response! The third
time I finally tapped her on the shoulder and asked her "could I please get by!" She, reluctantly, stepped out of my way. Maybe there
are so many people in China that they do not have time to use manners. Or maybe, she did not understand what I was trying to convey.
On their behalf, I must say, that they tried helping a young mother, who was also on the train, with an unruly two year old. They
kept her child pretty busy jumping her up and down and making sure she did not fall down the stairway to the lower deck. This mother
and child sat directly in front of us.
The ride down did not allow us to enjoy the shoreline that was promised
in the brochures due to thick fog.
Upon arrival at the Amtrak station, we summoned an Uber lift to the bed and breakfast hotel where we were
to stay. The lady driver was very talkative, but informative. She mostly talked of the recent fires and subsequent mudslides as a
result of the denuding of the local hillsides south of Santa Barbara. These slides closed Hwy. 101 coming from the south of Santa
Barbara causing quite a stir among the merchants in S.B. Their businesses suffered significantly as there was a slowdown of traffic
traveling south on 101, and a complete halt of traffic from the south. Some businesses, especially ones in Montecito were completely
destroyed in the mudslides. One of note was a barbershop where most of the policemen in the area went for haircuts. This was a time
of share and share alike. A local winery, that had suffered some minor damages, invited the barber to set up shop in a corner of the
winery, and thus, was able to resume business as usual. Local policemen were invited to enjoy a glass of wine while having their locks
Back to the Uber driver! She spoke of being a close neighbor of Oprah Winfrey where her family had
owned an estate for as long as she could remember. When fire fighters arrived at her home, they could not get to most of the property
because the pool had been filled up with silt and mud. Footing was too uncertain for them to do her much good. The family is still
waiting to be able to move back in to their home, if ever!
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival
was taking place as we arrived there. This festival was a boon to local commerce as festival goers traveled from all points to attend
this yearly event. Running for two weeks, ending February 10, brought record crowds to see silent movies, newly filmed shorts, and
new blockbusters such as Winchester Mystery House. Crowds could be seen stretching all the way around the block in order to attend
the many offerings. The food we consumed on the local wharf, and adjoining restaurants, was very good! Adjacent to Upham House, where
we stayed, was Louie's Bistro who employed one of the best chefs I have ever encountered.
Much has been written
about the fires and mudslides, but to say that Santa Barbara and neighboring Montecito was not able to bounce back would be an understatement.
Our Uber driver was a case in point. She was thankful to have survived the mudslides with her life and to be able to have employment
to tide her over until such time that she can resume a normal life. Others we encountered had similar tales to tell and were also
thankful to be alive.
The accompanying photo of the old Magnolia tree is a symbol of the stalwart and tenacious
nature of mankind's refusal to just lie down and give up when tragedy strikes. Santa Barbara, and Montecito, is busy picking up the
pieces and, "with God's help, to quote the Uber driver, we'll survive!"
Our return trip to San Jose was enjoyed
on a glorious sunshiny day. The promised shoreline was very visible and we were able to see the promised sights. The dining car food
was passable and palatable. The trip north was more organized, with time to reflect and with much thankfulness that we, up until now,
have the blessings we possess, the ability to still move around, and the freedom to go and come as we please.
May it be so for years to come in the Land of the Free!