June 2016 was a pretty big month for the Adkins clan. Our daughter graduated high school and Tim retired on the same day!
After the graduation festivities with friends and family, Tim and I took our first “untethered” trip together to kick-start his retirement. To be honest, he has been away at work for 24-76 hrs at a time when he was a firefighter, so hanging out together without a tight window of time is a new experience for both of us. So far, so good!
Tim is a winemaker and loves trains so we took Amtrak out of San Diego direct into Santa Barbara, then rented a car and drove to the Santa Ynez valley. We bought business class seats — it was worth it! This is a busy route, particularly in the summer months. The train was completely full and every seat in Business was reserved.
You get a little extra leg room, complimentary newspapers, coffee, juice and pre-wrapped pastries in the morning and a “snack pack” with munchies and one free water, wine or beer delivered to your seat. The route is mostly along the coast and is quite a lovely ride. The nearly 5 hour journey goes by faster than you think it will. Leaving San Diego, sit on the left side facing north to get the best oceanfront views as you roll north through Del Mar, San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente and eventually Ventura and Santa Barbara. We went the week that the Sherpa Fire was going and we didn’t experience any smoke or ash, just a whiff of smoke, once in a while. From the Santa Barbara train depot we walked .3 miles to Avis and rented a car. It’s a 40 minute drive to Santa Ynez.
We stayed at the surprisingly upscale Santa Ynez Inn in the center of the small town of Santa Ynez, within walking distance to wineries and less than a mile from the Chumash Casino Resort where there is a very nice spa and casino. Mid-week has great discounts and most of the local tasting rooms are open 7 days, but check first as some are not and others are reservation only. Our first floor room had extra-high ceilings, a quaint courtyard patio and very large bathroom with jet tub and a gas fireplace in each room. Also included are daily breakfast, happy hour with tastings from local wineries and a dessert bar.
A friend from Solvang (yes, people really are from Solvang) gave us a short list of her favorite tasting rooms and also a few nice spots for dinner. A great local tip she shared was heading first to the fantastic El Rancho MarketPlace where you can pick up snacks and picnic supplies. Try the BBQ Tri-Tip sandwich!
We took our time meandering through the various wineries and will cover our favorites in future posts. Cheers! — Cynthia