The Intentional Tourist
Text & photos by Shannon Kelley Gould
Once you’ve lived in S.B. for any length of time, there are certain things you come to avoid. But in the interest of dodging tourists, are we missing out on some of the best our town has to offer? It’s entirely possible, I discovered recently, when I decided to play tourist for a day.
My first stop was Wheel Fun Rentals, where I signed my life away in exchange for the keys to a cherry-red “Scoot Coupe,” the low-to-the-ground, GPS-guided mini-me of motorized transport. The first time I spotted one of the little guys tooling around town, after determining that, no, it likely hadn’t escaped from the nearest Golf ’n’ Stuff, I found myself torn between wanting to point and laugh, and wanting to boot out the driver and take it for a joyride. So when Wheel Fun invited me to take one for a spin, it didn’t take long for me to enlist a partner in crime and get on board. After handing us our helmets (alas), Wheel Fun’s Christian Clark hooked up our navigation system and gave us the lowdown on the controls, which work like those of a pared-down motorcycle. We hopped in and set out.
My cohort took the first shift at the wheel, and after taking off wildly — and in the wrong direction — steered us onto Cabrillo Boulevard. We were laughing so hard it was rather miraculous we managed to stay on the road, but somehow, we did. The navigation system came to life, directing us toward Montecito, and telling us about the sights we passed along the way over a perfectly cheesy surf music soundtrack. After a minor incident involving the parking brake, we disembarked for a surfside stroll at Butterfly Beach. Pushing the car back out into the street (there’s no reverse) was slightly hazardous, but we got it done unscathed, and headed up to the Mission, with yours truly at the wheel. More hysterics ensued as I tried to steer the thing, which is so lightweight the slightest breeze bats it around as though it were made of plastic, which it is. Anyway, a short Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride-style jaunt later, we arrived at our second destination. We relaxed on the Mission lawn for a bit and talked to some folks up from L.A., before heading out again. Perhaps unwisely, we decided to take Alameda Padre Serra back down to the water, which was great, if being in 100 percent control of your vehicle doesn’t rank that high on your list of chief concerns.
We cruised along Cabrillo again, this time turning onto Stearns Wharf, earning all manner of amused looks. We met several tourists and a couple of locals, and were enthralled at all the Santa Barbara tchotchkes to be found in the souvenir shops. When my note-taking pen suddenly crapped out on me, I was lucky enough to find a new one in mere seconds — and not just any old pen; this one boasts that I’ve been to Santa Barbara, and has my name emblazoned across it, too.
Eventually we made our way to Shoreline Café, and had a good laugh at the questions the hostess asked before seating us: patio or beach? sun or shade? But sitting there, enjoying chips and guacamole with our toes in the sand, we sure felt like we were on vacation.
Maybe those tourists are onto something.
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