I never knew I could become attached to a road, but I discovered on our usual Friday afternoon drive to Santa Ynez that a road can, indeed, make it on the list of "Things Christine Feels Affection For". This road in particular is Highway 154, also known as San Marcos Pass, which connects Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley. Last month, when all the heavy rains hit, there was extensive damage done to the 154 and word was out that it would be closed for six months. We could still get home by staying on Hwy. 101 after Santa Barbara - and it was still a lovely drive that hugged the ocean most of the way - but the 154 had become our portal from the hectic pace of life in LA to HOME. From Santa Barbara the 154 climbs up a windy road and offers spectacular views of Santa Barbara on the left. Then you head to the right and down a bit, and suddenly you see the wide open, pristine beginnings of the valley, all oak tress and rolling hills. Once I see that view, all the cells in my body re-align and I breathe easier. Getting to that point on the 154 is always my favorite moment on the drive.
I was therefore not too pleased when I heard of the road closing, but I honestly didn't think much of it because, hey, what can you do? It wasn't until Friday afternoon when we heard from a friend that the 154 was open that I realized how much I missed this particular drive home. We initially couldn't believe it was true, and kept our eyes peeled for the huge "Road Closed" signs that had been on the 101 since the rains. As we approached the 154 exit, there were no signs, so off we went. The entire drive up was especially beautiful, as all the rains had turned everything a vibrant green and Lake Cachuma was sparkling blue, more full than we had ever seen it. Once we reached the last long stretch of road before our turn off into Solvang - which is flanked by two enormous fields on each side that are full of deer every time we drive by - we were ecstatic. The sky was truly spectacular, as if Mother Nature was celebrating with us and giving us the most memorable drive home as possible. (Pictures coming soon.)
When I first moved to Santa Barbara in 1995, I swore I would never leave. I had found the most beautiful spot on earth and that was that. Buying a house and moving up here in the summer of 2003 was a totally spur of the moment decision, and I am so happy I did it. Santa Barbara will always have a very special place in my heart, but there is something deeply peaceful about this valley. Friends and family come stay at our house and are inspired to nap, laze around, relax, daydream, enjoy nature and sit still. Every weekend when we come home, I am re-energized, grounded and made whole again. My life might be in LA right now, and in many ways my heart belongs to Santa Barbara, but Santa Ynez is where my entire being is at its most calm and peaceful. I have moved enough times in my life to know that I have the ability to create a home wherever I am, but I believe this valley has some kind of special charm that will always exist. Here I am safe, and here I have the clearest connection possible to my very own heart.