Friday, August 19, 2016

A Short Trip to Pseudo-Denmark

Publishing traditionally has short Fridays in the summer. Of course, we'd lost that at Marvel during the bankruptcies, and my current company isn't strictly a publishing endeavor now that we moved to Burbank, but miraculously, this tradition moved with us.

Unfortunately, working in a deadline industry means you can't really take this benefit, but I did manage to take two short Fridays over the summer of 2016.

One was for the trip down to Catalina when BBF was in town. The other was so I could head up to Solvang and Santa Barbara for a night.

Solvang is a somewhat goofy tourist trap with a Danish theme. I'd heard mixed reviews, but was still curious. At least, it reputedly had a good bookstore, so why not check it out?

I took a Lyft up to the Burbank Amtrak station, which is next to the airport. My phone decided to spazz right when I was ordering the Lyft, and I nearly missed the Amtrak, but fortunately, the train was a few minutes late.

I ordered some Amtrak microwave special for lunch, which discouraged people from sitting next to me as the train sped west to the coast. I watched out the window with curiosity--these towns were all places I could live and commute to work from. Chatsworth...Moorpark...Oxnard. 

Eventually, the train halted in Santa Barbara, where I transferred to an Amtrak-chartered bus for another hour or so up to Solvang. We passed billowing smoke from a huge fire and I thought about one of the women from work taking yesterday off to rescue animals with her truck. A donkey had died. She hadn't taken it well, but who would?

The bus pulled up in Solvang in the town center, and I rushed over to the town mission, which closed in a half-hour. I needn't have worried. One benefit of traveling alone is speed. I was through the mission in 20 minutes.

My concern with Solvang was its early closing time, so I delayed checking into the hotel until I'd walked down every block I found and gone into every open store. I stopped for a coffee at a Danish cafe.

Solvang reminded me of Swakopmund, Namibia, in that way where Swakop is more German than Germany--it's stuck in time a bit, affected by the notion of how things SHOULD look rather than evolving the way a European city would. The kitschy factor was pretty funny, with windmills (um, isn't that more Dutch) and clogs and the little mermaid. The bookstore housed a genuinely interesting Hans Christian Andersen exhibit.

I can't say I was ready to stay a week. In fact, I was pretty well done with Solvang by the time I finally collapsed into my hotel room at twilight.

Which was why Saturday morning was so amusing. I went to catch the local bus to Santa Barbara, along with four others, and it simply never showed up. We called numbers, spoke to people. No one could explain why the bus never materialized, though we did receive quite a few apologies. I had four extra hours to wander the streets of Solvang before the Amtrak bus finally showed--I bought a ticket to one stop past Santa Barbara, since riding the bus without the train transfer is forbidden.

And I wandered State Street in downtown Santa Barbara for around four hours, before collapsing onto the Amtrak in exhaustion.

One bit of good fortune though--the Amtrak was running quite late, which put me back at the Burbank airport exactly when the bus to Hollywood showed up. Otherwise, I'd have had to go to Union Station and backtrack on the Red Line.

I won't be heading back to Solvang, Santa Barbara, or any of the train stops along the way anytime soon, but I'm pretty pleased with amount of touristing I got through this summer.

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