Going Home… on my Old Road
I came up with the name Old Road Brand based on a collection of my Grandpa Dean’s old gas station road maps from the 1950’s-80’s. Recently, I made a pilgrimage to the place I spent my formative years.
While I was visiting my old hometown Montecito (Santa Barbara), it occurred to me I was traveling down my very own “Old Road”, California state highway 192. My stretch of this highway (through Montecito) is commonly known as East Valley Road and Sycamore Canyon Road.
By the looks of it, you’d never knowingly associate this stretch of road as any kind of highway. It is an often-winding stretch of two-lane road that is nestled against the foothills of the Santa Ynez mountains. From the sand of the beaches on the pacific, it is a marvel of nature to observe. Easily taken for granted if you were a kid on a two-wheeler living there, but much appreciated by the (same) now middle-aged kid.
I made the visit as part of weekend to help my parents transition their car business as a result of their location being acquired by the city of Goleta. I had told an old friend that one day I would show up to a Sunday morning Cars & Coffee event in Montecito Upper Village and show Old Road Brand to a new audience. Jeff Clark operates Montecito Customs @montecito_customs located in what was known for years as Roy Jensen’s Chevron. Jeff is doing numerous great things including selling exotic and unique cars, larger scale graphic work for cars and industrial projects, plus custom builds among other things. Not bad for a snot nosed kid who was always at our house hanging out with my brother. Heck… I even consider Jeff my “other little brother” (who is like 6 foot 6 inches).
Montecito (93108) is technically a part of Santa Barbara. These days, people associate it with Oprah and Prince Harry. It has always been a place where TV and movie stars had getaway homes just far enough away from LA. “Locals” had a saying… “LA Go Home” which for years was hand painted on the last southbound overpass on 101 in Carp (Carpinteria). Growing up in Montecito, you looked at the place as your own “adventureland”. Whether you were hiking up on Mountain Drive, skateboarding down Cold Springs Road, or trying to evade Jacques while entering the Miramar. About Jacques… for those who know, you know. For everyone else, he was the gatekeeper of the old Miramar Hotel (now the site of the Rosewood Miramar Beach). Located on the beach, Jacques was a native Frenchman who roamed the property a on rusty beach cruiser wearing only a Speedo, a hat and a tan. His one job was to chase “Cito Rats” (aka locals) off the property with his one trusted line in a French accent “Are you a membarrr?” This guy was legend, and if you were not a member… He was an ass.
These days, the Rosewood security team resembles a mash up of James Bond 007 meets clean cut guys from my mid 80's fraternity composite. I don't think Jacques and his Speedo would cut it with today's clientele!
While hanging out at the Sunday morning Montecito Cars & Coffee, I started getting hungry. I decided to take another step back in time to pop into the Montecito Village Cheese and Wine Shop @montecitogourmet to grab something to eat. When I was growing up there, a visit to “Wine and Cheese” (for some reason we reversed it) for a sandwich was a “festival for the nostrils”. I remember two things about it. . I recalled the owner had a English accent, and that the place always smelled of amazing cheeses. In fact, years later when I go places where with awesome cheese, I am transported back in time to the old “Wine and Cheese” shop. I was assisted by a young guy named Patrick Braid. We struck up a conversation and It turns out that man I recall with the accent (New Zealand as it turns out) was his dad John. Patrick now runs the shop, which has a tremendous goodwill following, and has even bigger plans with local gourmet products called Montecito Brands.
Before I left town… I decided to make another trek down “192” memory lane to see my old road again. My folks were flipping houses in the 80’s before it became a thing on @HGTV, and my drive down East Valley Road led me past several places we lived, or actually, places that I had to find when I came “home” periodically from college. There were other memorable attractions, including the Jackson Ranch where my grandparents once lived, and my dad and his siblings were raised. The “WEE” bridge over Romero Creek. WEE was the sound you made when you sped up to try and catch a little air. My dad would always drive fast over this narrow bridge, and us kids would squeal WEE! This bridge has long since been retrofitted to modern standards, which has engineered out any possibility of WEE. Further up the road at the corner of East Valley Road and Hot Springs Road is Mt. Carmel Church. Here was the place where I met lifelong friends in Boy Scouts. I also nearly got hit by a car while on a bike out in front of Mt. Carmel! Then one other time, also while on bike, I saw and waved to President Ronald Reagan as he smiled, waved, and passed by in a fast moving motorcade.
Further up the road on Sycamore Canyon is Cold Spring School. We had just moved to Montecito just before the start of 6th grade. This began a lifelong connection to people I am still connected to even today.
The simple act of taking a Sunday drive stirred some long forgotten, but deeply held fondness and remembrance of formative days on my very own “old road”. Take this ride with me, and give the video below a spin.
Tags: #montecito #oprah #RosewoodMiramar #192 #RonaldReagan #EastValleyRoad #Knollwood #Birnamwood #OldMontecito #montecitocustoms #montecitowineandcheese