Hit the Road, Jack!

After our recent trip to Vegas, I am thinking of provoking the Covid-19 demons with another road trip. It’s fun to travel, and my predilection for wanderlust has been seriously subdued by the pandemic.

I don’t think I can get Martine interested in another desert destination—even though she liked the Vegas trip—but there are other less arid possibilities like Catalina, San Diego, Santa Barbara, or the Santa Ynez Valley and Solvang. I’ll just have to put my thinking cap on.

Actually, there is one desert trip that Martine likes, which we have taken twice: Up U.S. 395 along the Eastern Sierras and the Owens Valley. To see what a rich target this is, check out this California Through My Lens website.


Birds at OstrichLand USA in Solvang, California

Back in the days when there were places to go and when coronavirus was not rampant in the land, Martine and I liked to visit Solvang, about three quarters of an hour north of Santa Barbara. There was a great bookstore (the Book Loft), yummy Danish smorgasbords, Santa Inez Mission, great cookies, and OstrichLand USA.

Ostriches are considered part of the order of Struthioniformes, which includes, in addition to ostriches, kiwis, rheas, emus, and cassowaries. At OstrichLand, there are ostriches and emus.

There is something confrontational about ostriches. One would never consider petting one without risk of being attacked by a sharp beak. You can feed them, but many visitors are afraid to. They’ll take your proffered food, but only while casting a baleful glare at you.

Joshua Trees in the California Desert

Although they are not native to the Southwest, I think of ostriches the way I think of desert cacti: One would no more pet an ostrich than hug a cholla cactus or a Joshua Tree. They’re interesting to look at, but not pleasant to touch.

Getting Off Our High Horse

Miniature Mare and Her Foal

Miniature Mare and Her Foal

While we were in Solvang last week, Martine made a request to visit the Quicksilver Ranch, where miniature horses are raised for sale. Huell Howser had done one of his famous “California’s Gold” episodes about the place.) We chose a good time to go because all the mares and their foals that were between six and eight weeks old were herded into a pen, from where they had their hooves cut back and their manes trimmed. According to one of the ranch hands, all the foals had already been sold and were being taken care of until they were old enough to be separated from their very protective mothers.

Wherever the foals went, the mares followed closely, as in the above photograph. Although signs were posted all over the fence warning of what could happen if someone tried to pet the horses (their fingers could be chomped), Martine couldn’t resist petting the foals on the back, as in the photo below.

Martine Petting Foal

Martine Petting Foal

In fact, Martine was so intent on looking at all the little horses that, after two and a half hours, I finally convinced her to leave the ranch without sneaking one or more of them away with her. (After all, I had planned to visit the Book Loft, which always had a few titles that beckoned to me.)

I wondered what kind of people bought the little colts. According to the hands, they were scattered all over Southern California. Although I didn’t say, I had the feeling that most of them went to the spoiled rotten kids of super-rich families. I can’t imagine the horses liking that very much. I am sure that they would love having Martine to play with them and take care of them, but I’m afraid that a horse wouldn’t go well with our two-bedroom apartment in West Los Angeles. Maybe, when we buy ourselves a ranch….

In the Land of the Bakery Vikings

Martine, Bloodthirsty Viking, and Me

Martine, Bloodthirsty Viking, and Me in Solvang

As I mentioned in my last post, Martine and I left town last Thursday for my niece Hilary’s wedding in Paso Robles. There will be plenty of wedding photos later, but we let my brother Dan’s neighbor Dennis take all the wedding pics: By the time I was ready (I was the officiant), the lighting was starting to go. Whenever we visit my brother in Paso, we usually like to break our trip in Solvang, a hundred plus year old Danish colony in Santa Barbara County. The town is crawling with bakeries (see the cookie tubs in the window to Martine’s left in the above photo. It also has a great bookstore called the Solvang Book Loft, where I bought two Gabriel Garcia Marquez novels. For Martine, it is also the site of the Quicksilver Ranch, where miniature horses are raised for sale.

In the next week or so, I’ll show you some of the pictures I took of the miniature horses and their colts. They were incredibly cute—and they let Martine pet them (even though she wasn’t supposed to!).

We got back to Los Angeles this afternoon. Our feeling was one of relief, because after we left Solvang, the temperature shot up to over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit and stayed that way until we approached our coastal area, where the temperature is twenty-five degrees cooler.