Going Up Country

SandpiperNote: this is only a partial entry since I’ve managed to not really get much blogging over the past few days. The usual suspects—staying in a place with only dial-up, having my hands full with other stuff whilst on vacation—are to blame. To make up for it, check out all the neato pictures of spring break on my flickr feed (or try the yummy slideshow version).

If memory serves, when I left you last, I was on Highway 1 just outside of Malibu. The road goes through Point Mugu, a state park that looks like it could have been the backdrop for innumberable westerns, up past a Navy airbase (probably a good place for planespotting, if you’re into that sort of thing). The road heads on up into Oxnard, which is mostly notable because it was the cheapest place to buy gas ($2.25 for unleaded) I found until I hit Santa Cruz three days later.

Oxnard is a odd little town that seems part bedroom community, part farm. Coming in to town, you go through dry dusty plains dotted with subdivisions. Because of construction, there’s a slight detour where 1 merges with 101 that takes you through seemingly endless lettuce fields on the way to the ocean and then back to the freeway.

Just north of Oxnard is Ventura, which is mostly famous for giving the former governor of Minnesota his name. Further on up is Carpenteria, which I experienced as a blur of houses and sea from the freeway, and then Santa Barbara. Upon recommendation from just about everyone I spoke to (thanks to Jen, Amy, Abby, and Eldrid), my first stop in Santa Barbara was a taco stand.

This, however, is no ordinary taco stand: this is the legendary La Super-Rica, beloved, by of all people, Julia Child (yeah—St. Julia, in the later years of her life, tired of those bitter Massachusetts winters and headed to the sunny shores of Santa Barbara1). It’s a small shack in quiet working-class residential neighborhood, not far from the beach; there’s no obvious sign, only a line of people out the door. It’s the kind of place you can drive right past if you’ve never been there before. Guess what: I drove right past it the first time.

I’ll admit that I was a bit apprehensive about eating at such a highly-recommended place—how could it possibily live up to the hype? It is, after all, a taco stand.

It is said that deeds speak louder than words, and I guess that all I have to say is that I ate lunch there… and then I ate lunch there again, a few hours later.

1The allure of southern California2 seem to have a special effect on food writers; the insanely great Jeffery Steingarten, a life-long New Yorker, has a house in San Diego.

2Depending on how you define it, Santa Barbara is either the southern edge of the Central Coast or the northern edge of Southern California. I’m not entirely sure why it matters—or why it can’t be both, much the same way that Monterey serves the same function for the nothern edge of the Central Coast/Northern California.