The Intentional Tourist
Text & photos by Shannon Kelley
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
Maybe those tourists are onto something.
Where will your peeps be? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.