I am not on the payroll of the California Travel & Tourism Commission, I swear. But as if the weather in general were not splendidly un-wintery enough, here's some of what I encountered a couple of hours west and north of Los Angeles, by aiming for Santa Barbara and then more or less aimlessly wandering. My daughter Kate provivded a perfect iPod score, dominated byFour Tetand the soundtracks ofJungle BookandCarnivle.
* Miles and miles of orange groves, with roadside stands where you could buy a big box (100 oranges?) for $10.
* Unwitting sculpture: four ten-foot boulders, apparently just pulled out of the ground, strapped onto the flatbed of an 18-wheeler.
* The brightest organge and yellow wildflowers I've ever seen, and fields in the Ojai Valley so intensely green -- chartreuse! -- that they looked like an image on which the color had been digitally tweaked. Ironically, this digital image understates the unnatural intensity.
* Friendly cattleand an unpeopled lake called Cachuma.
* The 200-year-old Spanish mission in Santa Barbara, where I had the sinful thoughts that it would make a fantastic hotel,and that I'd really like to buy one of their doors.
* The tourist-trappy town of Solvang,which made me somewhat embarrassed about my Danish ancestry.
And then it was back down to Los Angeles via Malibu, and -- after getting pleasantly lost in South Central and East L.A. -- dinner in Chinatown, with a driving tour afterward of L.A.'s 'downtown' district, which seemed like a would-be SoHo/TriBeCa in, say, Cleveland.