In late February, Karen and I flew to California to play a lot of golf, visit wineries, and visit my sister and her family. We flew into Santa Barbara, and drove to our first stop, Alisal Golf Ranch and Resort, just outside of Solvang. It is located about 10-15 miles from Santa Barbara and the coast, in the Santa Ynez mountains. The area is beautiful and the (dude) ranch is very interesting. It has loads of animals, including more than 100 horses, and is a working cattle ranch. But it is also a resort and has the requisite pool, spa, library, dining facilities, and two golf courses: the Ranch Course and the River Course.
Just prior to our arrival, California had horrific rain and flooding, and Alisal was not spared. The rain stopped just a day or so before our arrival, and we were lucky to have avoided the weather during our entire trip. The Ranch Course was partly flooded, and we could only play nine holes on that course, and while normally it is a golf cart course, due to the wetness we had to walk it. The River Course was in better shape, but even it was severely damaged, with key bridges on the course completely washed out. It was an adventure. But we enjoyed it greatly.
The ranch is rustic, but very clean, and well kept. We had a little cottage whose porch overlooked a little stream. At least, when there is no flooding it was little. It was a raging stream during our visit. The cottage was very nice. In keeping with the ranch motif, there was no TV, except in the library, where I confess Karen and I took a little TV fix in the evenings.
All of our meals were included at the ranch. We were assigned our own table and the food was every good, as was the included wine. Service was excellent, as well. We started the days playing golf. Our bags were shipped directly to the ranch from our club, RiverCrest Golf Club and Preserve, by ShipSticks. That was a very good experience, and not the first time we used ShipSticks. We ate lunches in town, generally, and spent the afternoons touring wineries and doing tastings. All in all, a very enjoyable few days.
The little town of Solvang:
We went from Alisal to the Ojai Resort and Spa (pronounced "Oh-Hi"). Ojai is a spectacular 5-Diamond resort, one of 100 in the world. Both Condé Nast and Travel & Leisure rank it as one of the best hotels in the world. It deserves its ranking. Our room was excellent, the view was unbeatable, the golf course was terrific, the food, the spa, and the ambiance were all wonderful. If you get the sense than I liked the Ojai Resort, you’ve been paying attention. We played golf with my sister and brother-in-law, and a bit by ourselves. Then ShipSticks picked up our clubs and returned them to our RiverCrest course. No fuss.
We toured some more wineries in the area and tasted. At he Byron tasting room in Los Olivos, we found that they were adding a “Nielson” label to their brand. We joined their tasting club and now have a case of wine shipped to us several times a year. The wines are premium and they come directly to our door. And, yes, this is to my home in Pennsylvania, formerly the home of the most restrictive alcoholic beverage laws in the country. Now they have been relaxed, and direct shipment is a benefit.
Chuck swinging the club at Ojai (notice how relaxed he is - not); and Karen above a very well-protected Ojai hole:
Finally, we spent a few nights with my sister and her family in Carpenteria, about 10 miles south of Santa Barbara. My nephew, Dean, was there to visit with us, and that was delightful. We all played "No Peekie" cards, and laughed all evening. Art and Nina took us to a really excellent sushi place named Sushi Teri, if I recall correctly. We all took a walk along the beach where they live and saw dozens of seals sunning and birthing. Remarkable.
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