I had never been to that part of the California coast: Vandenberg Air Force Base. Now I have.

Well, that's about it. Thanks for reading.

For some reason (perhaps it's because I was flying into Santa Barbara instead of a big airport like LAX) I flew the entire trip on “regional jets”, i.e., little more than puddle-jumpers. It was noisier and cozier than I like to see it but I got there.

I drove north on 101 where it meets highway 1 and took that to Lompoc where my hotel was. The entire time I was there, it rained on me. Sometimes it was periods of showers interspersed with periods of sun and sometimes it was a downpour all day. I don't recall it raining like that for the entire time I lived in the bay area but that was in the middle of a long drought so perhaps rain is normal this time of year. I was traveling with a coworker who was new to me but who I got to know; we found some common ground and got along very well.

We showed up at Vandenberg on our first day running a few minutes late. I am never late but that morning, I had misplaced the rental car agreement that was necessary for me to drive onto base. By the time I retrieved it, we were half an hour late for our meetings. Normally that would be no big deal since meetings of government reps and contractors are legendary for wasting time. But not at Vandenberg. My presentation was about halfway down the agenda and I figured I'd be 11:00 at the earliest. Well, we walked in, sat down, and then *boom* there was my first slide up! I tried to walk up there and do it with aplomb – like I meant for it to happen that way. I did OK but I don't think I came off as Dr. Expert or anything. My partner tells me that I didn't embarrass myself.

We tried some of the local restaurants which were pretty good. I've learned from others to avoid Chili's and what-not since you don't get any flavor for the local area that way. I've been to some really good mom-and-pop type places and so have learned to look for them. I also found some excellent stores. I stopped at a music store to inquire about the rental of a guitar to occupy my spare time. They didn't persue this particular business model but the guy who worked there was so interesting to talk to that I spent over an hour just playing the various guitars and yakking. It was the time of day when almost no customers come in so neither of us felt bad about it. I even bought something just because it was a pleasant visit and it was in one of those old renovated downtown buildings.

I ran across another similar shop in the form of a bookstore down the block from the music store. Again, I spent a long time chatting with the proprietor. I only broke it off when my cell phone went off and it was Mel calling to chat. So I chatted with her as I strolled up and down the street in the cool weather.

I had three days like this. It all went pretty smoothly. We got done early enough that I could have gotten home early if I had been able to get a flight out. But no. I was briefly dissappointed until I realized that I was stuck for a day in one of the prettiest parts of the United States during one of the prettiest times of year. The rain was no barrier to enjoying anything. So I decided it was time for a road trip. My partner had already left earlier due to a family committment so I was on my own. I went a bought a car-charger for the cellphone and headed due east on highway 246 towards Buellton. The hills of central California are really pretty this time of year and I rolled the windows down and took in the scenery and fresh air of the wine country – except when it rained.

I stumbled onto the little town of Solvang which is like Eureka Springs, Arkansas with better parking. I never knew that there was a little town up there in the hills that had re-built itself in the image of an old Danish village and filled the place with bakeries, bookstores, and whatnot. I bought handmade chocolates at one shop and had fish and chips at another. I visited the motorcycle museum. All in all, I spent several hours there wandering around the streets.

I left reluctantly but it had started to rain on me pretty hard so I kept going east until I ran out of road and then went north towards Los Olivos and on to Santa Maria. By that time my new car charger had blown a fuse for some reason so that plus the late afternoon hour made me turn south back towards Lompoc where I had them fix my charger. I also spent some time laying on my bed in the hotel looking out at the rain while reading my ever-present paperback. I had chosen “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac but kind of lost interest in it after awhile and switched to a Patrick O'Brian seafaring adventure.

I had to wake up super early to make my 6:30 am flight out of Santa Barbara so I was up by 3:30 or so. It was raining quite hard as I drove out into the murk. Highway 1 was closed due to earlier mudslides so I had to take the alternate route through Buellton. I finally found my way into Santa Barbara in the dark and rain but, amazingly, could not find a gas station to refill the rental car. After stopping to ask at a Motel 6, I finally found one. But the little convenience didn't have much to eat except donuts. Donuts don't do much for me as breakfast but I made do. I got some good coffee though and then spilled it on myself. But I smelled pretty good after that.

I got to the rental car place and discovered that Santa Barbara is *not* the city that never sleeps. The rental car place wasn't opening until much later so I dropped the keys into the box and hoped for the best. The lot was about 100 yards from the terminal building and it was raining harder than ever. Somehow, I managed to spill hot coffee on my hand and step in a puddle. One wet foot and the whole day to go! I went on into the terminal building. It was filled with wet, sleepy people and a few extremely upset toddlers. They had been woken up before their time and thrown into a strange situation and were not happy about it.

We boarded the plane, all us wet, sleepy adults and the crabby toddlers and then we sat. I had noticed that in the terminal building that most of the passengers possessed abnormally large suitcases. I personally heard three people get told they were going to have to pay extra to ship all their stuff. As a result, we discovered that the plane was overweight. With the short runway, heavy rain, and all that crap, we were not allowed to take off and the crew were trying to figure out what to do. In the end, they pulled off to the side of a taxiway and sat there burning off fuel until the weight was in limits. I thought we would never leave. I looked out the window and saw some ducks swimming in the water next to the taxiway and noticed they were going faster than we were. Finally we took off – using every single inch of runway.

The pilot told us that we would make up the time and I think he did it at DFW airport by not slowing down from the moment his wheels touched down until we stopped at the gate. Normally, a stop at DFW is plagued by much taxiing and waiting but not this time. He exited the runway without apparently applying the brakes; we all leaned into the turn like you do when you're in a car that takes a curve too fast. The wheels didn't squeal but they must have been close. There was none of the usual orderly procession along the taxiways – we headed in a straight line to the gate and came to an abrupt stop.

So we made it. During all this time, the onboard toddlers had been yelling at the top of their lungs with protest but finally they were released from their enforced captivity. It was over. I didn't care; I had brought earplugs and so was happily reading away and taking the occasional photo out the window.

My flight to Tulsa was much less eventful and finally my puddle-dampened foot was beginning to dry.

So it was in interesting week. I made dozens of photos. Perhaps one day I'll do something with them. But not tonight.

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