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Road Trip - Santa Barbara and the Oregon Coast

It's been another long break between posts, biggest contributor to that is: I got a puppy! He's a black lab named Denali. He's a total goober and has taken up all of my free time the past few months, and it has been and continues to be the best thing for me. My Dad picked him up on Cape Cod in mid July and I flew him back home to Seattle at the end of July and we've been having a great time ever since.

Denali right after being picked up from the breeder

Our first big adventure, if you don't count flying across the country, was a spur of the moment road trip down to Santa Barbara, CA, with a few friends I know from UVM. I never really thought I'd visit Santa Barbara, always thought it was fancy (and it is), but when you have a free place to stay with good friends and the pup is allowed, there really isn't any reason to say no. So I loaded up the Subaru and off we went.

We caravanned down in three cars with three dogs. My friends have two dogs, Maisie and Merlin, and they were great with Denali. Merlin is kind of like Denali's grandpa and Maisie is almost like his big sister. I should also mention that my friends used to live in Ventura so they know the Santa Barbara area quite well and were able to show me around.

Our first morning in CA, we drove south down the coast on the 101 to Mussel Shoals to a dog friendly beach. This was Denali's first time at the beach and he was pretty excited to be running free with Maisie and Merlin. Denali was definitely nervous about the waves crashing and the moving water, but overall he learned that it was all good from watching Maisie and Merlin. After about an hour of chasing them around, he had made it to belly depth. Successful first experience if you ask me.

Great day to be on the beach with the pups!


We then drove out to Ojai and grabbed some breakfast at a bagel shop before driving back to the house for a quick recharge before the evening. I went for a short run around the neighborhood, lots of very expensive homes and estates in the area, we were definitely staying in one of the richer suburbs. It was interesting how the roads were all lined with wood chips, the horse ranch community is very prevalent and the wood chips are better for the horses to walk on through the neighborhood. I dodged quite a bit of horse poop on my run.

That night, we made rice bowls, packed them into some coolers, grabbed some Topo Chico mineral water seltzers, and drove up a forest road to one of the ridges overlooking Santa Barbara. The forest road we wanted to drive out on was closed due to wildfires and extreme fire danger, so we back tracked and found a good spot to park and set up some chairs to enjoy the sunset. It was probably the most relaxing dinner I have had since being in the Arctic Circle in Alaska eating steak out of a gold pan.

Day two I was on my own as both of my friends had plans. I set off to the Mussel Shoals beach again for day two of water exposure training with Denali. It was a bit more difficult with just him and I as he didn't have other dogs to follow around and keep him distracted from eating seaweed and other nature finds. We made it out into the water about the same distance as day one, which was great because he seemed comfortable following me into the water until he got up to his belly. We ran back and forth, worked on some sit, stay, and a few attempts at fetch. Denali did well in five minute spurts between snacks and then would lose all focus and tried to eat seaweed, there's only so much you can do with a puppy.

Before playing in the ocean...

After playing in the ocean

After the beach, we drove further south on the 101 to Ventura. I wanted to walk out on the pier and tucker Denali out so he would sleep through the evening while we went out in Santa Barbara. We walked the whole Ventura pier, meeting a few people along the way. It was hot and this was one of his longer walks, and he stayed close and didn't pull much on his leash the whole time which was awesome. Denali learned how to drink water from a water fountain too, something I'd never done with a dog before.

Surfers out in the distance enjoyed a great midweek day on the water

We went out in Santa Barbara that evening. First stop was Municipal Winemakers to share a bottle of wine before a pizza dinner at Lucky Penny. Good wine, good food, good friends, and good times all around.

For day three, we drove to Los Angeles, a place I never thought I would visit by choice. My friend's brother and sister live outside L.A. so it made sense to take a day trip to visit them. First stop, Beverly Hills. The sun was out and it was pretty incredible to see all the homes built into the hill sides and canyons. Beverly Hills is definitely what it's talked up to be, I never realized there were so many other coves, canyons, and hillsides along the outskirts of L.A. though, it was pretty crazy to see.

Denali had never been fully submerged in water, but he was coaxed into launching himself into the pool! He went full send, went all the way under, came up a little freaked out, but we were right there to help him along. He did a little bit of swimming after that, supported and close to the edge for an easy out, and had a major case of the zoomies outside of the pool.

It was a successful day for Denali and I really enjoyed visiting L.A. for the day. I don't think I could ever live there, but a weekend trip could be in the future.

I opted to start driving home on day four. My friends had plans and, as great as California is, I was ready to get back to Seattle and the greenery of the PNW. However, I wasn't going to take the fast track home, I drove up the 101 to Santa Cruz, then meandered my way into Oregon for the night.

The pacific coast is gorgeous. I was in coastal fog for most of the morning on day one but, even with that, there were plenty of incredible views. Day two of driving home was spent on the Oregon coast, the iconic Oregon coast. It was another great day with amazing views and lots of narrow, cliffside, winding roads. The photos below don't really do it justice, you really need to make the drive and see it in person.

Finished off the road trip by driving over the biggest bridge I have ever been on, the Astoria-Megler bridge, which was an experience by itself. Spanning the brackish waters where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, this bridge feels like it is several miles long. It isn't quite that long, but it is the longest truss bridge in North America, so that's pretty neat.

All in all, it was a successful road trip. Denali did great in the car and in the water, and learned quite a bit about being off leash from hanging around his dog friends Maisie and Merlin. More updates to come on the adventures of Denali, next post will be about his first camping trip a few weeks ago!

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