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The Rewards are Many

Steve Cook is back with his column Santa Barbara by Bicycle

Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated to ride when the weather is turning and it’s a bit cold out. This morning I woke up early and decided to ride to Carpinteria and back for a workout. As I headed down the hill to cross the Westside towards the beach, there was a chill in the air, and the clouds were dropping a few sprinkles on me. I suppose the nice thing about living on a hill is that you think twice about cutting the ride short and going back. It’s much easier to just keep those pedals turning and head down to the flatlands.

Sunrise at the Harbor
Sunrise at the Harbor

Upon reaching the harbor the sunrise was stunning so I pulled over to take a quick photo. If you look closely (click on the photo), you can even see the pelicans rising over the sandbar, and someone in the foreground sharing the same view.

Onward towards the Bird Refuge, then up over Channel Drive, out the bike path and past the Biltmore, through South Jameson, across the freeway, on North Jameson continuing on to the Ortega Ridge bike path. That path is so nice as it cuts the hill climb down to nothing compared to having to climb the winding road up the ridge as in years past. In fact, I no longer feel guilty taking this easy shortcut!

Continuing through Summerland to Via Real, and into Carpinteria, crossing the bridge at Santa Ynez Avenue, then heading East on Carp Ave. It always amazes me how nice Carp is to ride in — people give me plenty of clearance when passing, and don’t rush to cut me off with dangerous “right hook” turns like they sometimes do in Santa Barbara. As I passed the post office my odometer hit 15 miles and I decided to take the next right on Concha Loma, then headed back over the Eighth Street bridge (walking over the bridge, of course). This is a great little pedestrian bridge that was rebuilt a few years back right over the unique Carpinteria creek. The creek leads to the marsh on the beach — if you ever have a chance, head on down Linden Avenue to the State Beach Park and stroll along the beach for some great sights and ocean views.

Getting back on my bike, I continued on Eighth Street until Linden, then turned right on Linden, and left onto Carp Ave to take the same route back to Santa Barbara. The nice thing about this ride is that it’s generally flat. The hills are not sharp and are easy to climb, and the downhills allow a bit of speed to make up the time lost climbing them.

The one thing I’d like to talk about in depth is a particular challenge riding westbound on Cabrillo Boulevard by the Bird Refuge. I ride on the road as the multi-use path is encumbered with walkers, runners, strollers, pavement cracks and debris which is not too amenable for riding at speed. So, I ride on the street, legally, in the traffic lane.

However, when I get to the S-curve I need to keep an eye in my mirror for trucks approaching behind me. I cannot depend on the 3-foot to pass law alone when it comes to my safety. I’ve had two close calls in the last couple of months on this curve with trucks passing me “in the lane” instead of changing lanes to pass. This morning it was a Marborg truck with a large roll-off bin mounted on the back. This truck takes all 12-14′ of the lane width — there is no room for any other vehicle, in this case a bike, to occupy the same lane. This is a four-lane road and there is plenty of opportunity to change lanes to pass, but if I’m too far to the right trucks and other wide vehicles can make the wrong judgement call and pass in the lane. In September, a Berry Man company truck missed my head with its mirror by inches during a same-lane pass. This can prove to be fatal, as it was for Matthew O’neill up in Foxen Canyon a few months back. Lane positioning is an essential tool for a bicyclist to guide other vehicles and help them make safe passing decisions.

When I see a truck approaching from the rear, I “take the lane”, centering myself in the right-most lane, thus causing the truck to make the proper (and legal) decision to change lanes to pass, or to slow down and wait for a safe time to pass. I used this technique last week when I noticed a truck and horse trailer approaching from the rear as I was riding Highway 150 east of Carpinteria. This persuaded the driver to slow down, and pass when there was no hill blocking their visibility or oncoming traffic. The driver slowed and waited. They did not honk or express any anger — they understood my safety was paramount. When they passed me I waved in thanks to them and they waved back to me. In each case it may have cost the other driver 1-5 seconds at most to wait for the safe and proper time to pass. This is not too much to ask of others on the road to keep traffic accidents at a minimum. Here, you’ll find some good details on the 3-foot to pass law; some of the laws that pertain to bike riding in California; and lastly, some good tips for courteous cycling.

All-in-all it was a great ride and I’m glad I didn’t turn around just because it was 50 degrees outside and threatening rain. Had I done so I’d have missed a sweet sunrise, a 31 mile workout, and a pleasant walk over the Eighth Street bridge.

SB to Carp and Back
SB to Carp and Back

If you’re interested in riding and want to know how to get started, consider taking a class from a League Certified Instructor at the Bicycle Coalition. If your business or organization would like to have classes taught onsite, please contact me at

Read more about Getting Around Santa Barbara by Bicycle in my blog: or follow me on Twitter: SantaBarbaraUpClose

I’ll be looking for you on the road. If you see me on my ElliptiGO bike, say Hi!

This Date in Local History: Stearns Wharf Fire

Just before 10 p.m. on Wednesday, November 18, 1998, a fire broke out on Stearns Wharf near the Moby Dick Restaurant. Immediately a four alarm fire was declared and every firefighter in the city responded. The whole wharf was made of wood and the planks are soaked in creosote which acts as a wood preservative. Unfortunately creosote is also highly flammable.

According to one account, firemen drove their fire trucks right onto the burning wharf to the edge of the fire. Then armed with chainsaws they cut out a section of the wharf between them and the fire, and made a stand. Their strategy worked. The Harbor Restaurant and gift shops were saved. Lost were the Moby Dick restaurant and two other businesses. The mayor immediately declared without hesitation that Santa Barbara would promptly rebuild the wharf as fast as possible.

Our Life with Pearl Chase

One of the great Pearl Chase stories was published by Santa Barbara View in November 2010 and it is worth sharing again, with all the comments from over the years! Provided by Cheri Rae who has authored a must-have book, Miss Pearl Chase: First Lady of Santa Barbara.

Memories shared by Penny and Terry Davies, who owned the Earthling Bookshop and worked with Pearl Chase to defeat the El Mirasol condominium project.

In 1966 our family arrived in Santa Barbara and quickly we fell in love with the jewel on the Pacific. The first house we lived in was in a tract in Goleta. In 1967, we moved to the old Parsonage next to the downtown Unitarian Church. We loved living downtown. Our three children thought we had surely come to live in paradise.

One night there was a knock on our front door. A man who we did not recognize had a petition that he was circulating around our neighborhood. It was supporting two high-rise condominiums to be built on the old El Mirasol Hotel property across the street from the church. When we inquired who was behind this project, we couldn’t get an answer.


We knew this was a big mistake, having seen other towns that had been destroyed by high-rise buildings. We felt helpless and didn’t know what to do. Then, a friend mentioned Pearl Chase. We had no idea what we were in for.

We called up Pearl Chase, who lived in the neighborhood, and told her about the petition. “I’ll be right over,” she said. When she came to our door, we knew here was a greater presence than the small white-haired lady who stood before us. She immediately took charge. She confided to us that this project was “a kick in the stomach by her friends”. Her friends were Thomas Storke, (owner of the News-Press) and Louis Lancaster, (owner of the SB Bank and Trust).

Our association with Pearl was an eye-opener for us “newcomers”. She worked seven days a week for the beautification and preservation of Santa Barbara. She told us that when she graduated from Berkeley, she arrived home and stepped off the train full of disgust. She was ashamed of Santa Barbara’s dirt roads and vowed then and there to devote her life to the city she loved.

She had always gathered people around her who had similar goals, as she did when she formed a group called “Santa Barbara Plans and Planting.” She had a little office downtown where she sat at her desk like a queen.

But she had never had to face a battle like this one

In our battle to keep Santa Barbara low rise, we attended endless council meetings under her direction, and tried to inform the public using her media savvy. Pearl and her small group founded SAVE OUR CITY (SOC) as a focal point for community support.

To see Pearl Chase in action with the City Council, very clearly making her viewpoint known was a lesson in power projection.

When we heard that the City Council was going to give a variance to the builders, we were shocked. We decided to advertise and ask for public financial support to take our case to the courts. We asked for money for our legal fees and the people of Santa Barbara responded enthusiastically.

One woman wrote to us that she was postponing her kitchen renovation, and sent the kitchen money to SOC. John Sink became SOC’s attorney. Two years from the day that the petitioner came to our front door, the courts decided that the so-called variance did not conform to the zoning laws, and found against the high-rise project. Pearl was a very happy woman and we and all the members of SOC were proud to have worked with her.

The site of the old El Mirasol Hotel is now a beautiful garden
, thanks to the generous donation of Alice Keck Park, and the tireless efforts of Pearl Chase.

Cruise Ships Bring More than Revenue

This April, The Crown Princess brought nearly 60 passengers who had been stricken by the norovirus to Santa Barbara. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Norovirus is a very contagious virus that can infect anyone. You can get it from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The virus causes your stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed. This leads you to have stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea and to throw up. These symptoms can be serious for some people, especially young children and older adults.” Yesterday, the same cruise ship brought 172 infected people to Los Angeles. It was the fourth recent outbreak and leads to the question of the week:

Take A Moment to Appreciate Pearl Chase

Very few cities possess the natural beauty, civic pride and historic charm of Santa Barbara, but it didn’t just happen by accident. The city of Santa Barbara, as we know it, was shaped by thoughtful stewardship and tireless advocacy—and no one did more than Pearl Chase, who was born on November 16, 1888.

As we remember her birthday, please take a moment to honor the woman who did so much to shape and preserve the city of Santa Barbara. Visit a few of the sites she protected, and enjoy the sights still here today.

Walk along Chase Palm Park, and give thanks to her stewardship that kept development away from this coastline and preserved this extraordinary view of the ocean open to everyone. Take a moment to read the plaque honoring Pearl Chase and her brother Harold.

Stop in at the Courthouse and take a look at the bronze bust of Miss Chase inside the building that she inspired. The plaque reads:

Dr. Pearl Chase (1888-1979)
Citizen leader of Santa Barbara for 70 years in community development, conservation, historic preservation, social responsibility and the arts.

Take a stroll through the ruins of Mission Historic Park, which were saved thanks to her leadership in organization a committee that had the vision—and the ability—to raise the funds to protect the environment and approaches to the mission. As Miss Chase noted in an oral history in 1971, “The location of the Mission in Santa Barbara, upon a hillside above a steep creek, which was known as Mission Creek for many years, is almost fantastic….” She continued, “We have tried consistently to take advantage of the fact that several of our most valuable historic buildings are in an urban area, but we don’t want them to be swallowed up by it.”

And take a moment to ponder what could have been at the bucolic setting of Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden—and the rest of the city—if Miss Chase hadn’t led the effort to prevent construction of two nine-story condominium towers on the site.

PS: Add to the list of places to appreciate Miss Chase: The Santa Barbara Persidio and La Purisima Mission. Besides her support of Spanish Revival architecture, she was instrumental in the outlawing of billboards and the regulation of signs in Santa Barbara.

Sandpiper Sunset Clouds

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
Sandpiper Sunset Clouds
Sandpiper Golf Course is one of the best places I can imagine to spend a few hours, especially this time of year when the sunsets are really getting spectacular. There is something about their beautiful little slice of our coastline the clouds seem to do particularly magical things just as the sun hangs low in the sky to highlight their amazing texture and beauty.

-Bill Heller

Happy Birthday Pearl Chase

classic pearl chase with flower 80 years oldToday we celebrate the birthday of Pearl Chase, which ought to be a day of recognition in this city that owes her so much. So much of the natural and architectural beauty we see around our community is directly attributable to her influence and vision.

In her day she wielded great power, but never held political office. Throughout her long life she was honored by organizations and individuals near and far. In her later years, the community gathered for commemorate her milestone birthdays.” – Cheri Rae

New Street Signs for Santa Barbara

Local Views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

Regarding the new street signs the city is putting up. I walked around the corner and took these photos towards Castillo Street from 400 west Montecito street.

I find these new signs awful, ghastly might be better. Did the Sign Committee approve of these?

EcoFacts: Waste as a Cultural Signifier‏

Weekly column by Barbra Hirsch

Eco FactsAs we approach Thanksgiving and the holiday season, I hope to explore our notions of abundance and waste. Just a little bit!

The word waste plays a huge role in recent human civilization. It is meaning-full – as a noun – trash or garbage, or a failed opportunity; and as a verb, to squander or destroy. Archeologists and anthropologists of the future will find much to say about human civilization in the last century or so by our garbage, our landfills, our wasteful use of resources and perhaps our wasted human potential seen in retrospect.

How was it that in the last century, we, especially in this huge nation, became a society of wasters? Those who were born before the Depression had a different idea of the use of goods, water and energy. I am grateful for my mother’s influence on me in these ways. Her parents lost their wealth in the crash and then struggled for the rest of their lives. Everything had its own inherent value, like a piece of clothing passed down again and again, Things were used until their useful life was over, and then they were often turned into something else, because what went into them often still had some value.

The decades after WWII brought such material wealth with it, and with it came waste. As things were mass produced and dropped in price, their value dropped too, waste became much more justifiable. Our resources in this great land were so plentiful, seemingly endless, and their cost low, so the waste could happen in industry and production just as easily as in the home. Everything came easily. Easy come easy go.The landfills were far from our homes so we need not be reminded by the amount and contents of our trash. And things became a much bigger part of our lives.

We have come to be defined by our possessions. Whether or not we are materially wealthy, buying things has become a chief form of entertainment. We have been surrounded by abundance and now our closets, garages, storage units and landfills are full. But as Thanksgiving approaches we usually realize that most of what we have to be grateful for is not the stuff in our closets.

Live and Let Live

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150One of our neighbors passed away last week. His name was Richard Springer; he was 73 years old, a gentle soul who found his final home on a quiet street on the East side, just a few blocks from downtown. In the old-fashioned neighborhood lined with modest bungalows, Richard parked his early-model silver-gray and red Toyota minivan and lived there for 16, maybe 18 years, no one is quite sure.

He lived right across the street from the Victoria Market, the little corner store that has been a fixture in the neighborhood for decades. When the little kids who grow up here are old enough to walk to the market for an ice cream or a cold drink, it’s almost a rite of passage to sit on the little bench outside and savor the moment. The view from the bench has long included Richard’s home. It’s been as much a part of the scene as the tall palms that framed it, and the brilliant bougainvillea that formed a colorful backdrop.

richard's spot[2]It’s jarring now that it’s gone. Although there is a makeshift memorial there, with flowers and artwork marking his spot, it just looks empty.

He moved that minivan every Monday morning, carefully staying one quick step ahead of the street sweeper. And he reminded neighbors to do the same, saving them hundreds of dollars in tickets. That van was once towed away by the police, when Richard was out on one of his long walks around town. Ruby, one of the owners of the Victoria Market, begged the officer not to take it, but her words fell on deaf ears. She ended up paying the $480 in impound fees, and Richard promised to pay her back—not an easy feat on his limited income—and in time, he did.

Richard was born in Ohio; he grew up on a farm, and liked the connection to nature that simple life provided. He once traveled to Alaska and served as a cook’s helper, and had spent some time in the Bay Area. He served our country in the Army as a medic.

neighborsSo it was fitting that on Veteran’s Day, neighbors gathered to share memories of Richard, to pay respects for his service, and for the life that he lived. Ruby and Shala of the Victoria Market, who were his surrogate family members for years, hosted the event attended by more than 30 neighbors who offered their observations: “I always gave him a nod; I felt like I knew him,” said one neighbor who exchanged brief moments with Richard when he walked past. “You could always tell what kind of a day he was having from the look in those blue eyes.”

Another noted, “He was spiritual without being religious. He was almost like a monk, at peace with himself and with the neighborhood.”

A neighbor who had frequently enjoyed wide-ranging conversations with Richard observed that he was an avid reader who was “thoughtful and intellectual.” He arrived with a book tucked under his arm, one that Richard had loaned to him. Titled, “Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance,” it is a collection of highbrow essays about medical ethics, procedures, and health care by award-winning medical writer Atal Gawande. Richard was skeptical about modern medicine, particularly after treatment at the VA hospital. Remembering that Richard frequented the library, he noted that he was there to read the books, not just to pass the time.

Others recounted personal characteristics that Richard had: his long, purposeful strides, his penchant for cleanliness, down to his shined and polished shoes; the red bandana or the straw sunhat he often wore. His kindness in trading organic fruit and avocados with neighbors, and bringing flowers when Ruby had surgery; his concerns about politics, the environment and global warming; his interest in technology, with his iPod and the solar panel on his van.

Richard was not homeless; he chose to live a very simple life rooted in the community, making his rounds on foot to Farmers’ Market, the Cabrillo Bathhouse, Trader Joe’s, the library and the Courthouse. He mostly kept to himself, bothering no one, and in this neighborhood, no one bothered him. We were good for each other in this way. In his quiet and dignified way of living, he taught many of us to rethink our beliefs. As one neighbor observed, “His presence was very important; he bent, broke some stereotypes and provided us with a different perspective. We went way beyond tolerance into acceptance.”

Another agreed, “I saw him all the time, and unlike a lot of the other guys around town, there was very good energy around him.” Clean, sober, respectful and kind, Richard Springer was a part of our cherished neighborhood, and he is missed. May he rest in peace.