Cambria to Santa Barbara: Murals, the Funk Zone, a Kayak

Yesterday, I had a beautiful but uneventful drive from Cambria to Santa Barbara. Sometimes I need to remind myself that travel is mostly not about events. It’s a lot of feeling the moment and the place, which can mean inspiration, wonder, disgust, reverence, fear or omg even boredom. And, like the rest life, travel is trying things that don’t always work out.

For example, when I arrived in Santa Barbara yesterday, I went to see the Mural Room in the Santa Barbara Court House. and found it has been closed because of the pandemic. I feel a connection to that room because I once had the great privilege to conduct a hearing there when I was an administrative law judge. The hearing involved a residential customer’s allegation that a utility had overcharged him by $15,000. We learned in the Mural Room that, in fact, he’d been overcharged and also that he was wrong about the amount. Luckily for him (in more ways than one), I knew more than he did about utility regulation, so my decision gave him almost twice what he’d asked for. Ha ha!

The Mural Room was painted by Samuel Sayer Groesbeck in 1929 and depicts — with some artistic license — Santa Barbara’s history. Stock photo.

Having missed out on seeing the Mural Room, I thought I’d check out the murals in Santa Barbara that aren’t closed because they are outside. The one I wanted to see most was painted in a cave about 1,000 years ago by the Chumash Indians. The Chumash considered the cave a doorway to another realm. Perfect. I headed north out of town on the San Marcos Pass, which should have been my first clue, and turned on to Painted Cave Road. After less than half a mile, the road became the poster child for my fear of narrow mountain roads hanging over steep cliffs. I am mostly not a fearful person but I was shaking when I started backing down that road to find a way to turn around. I considered abandoning the car and finding someone else to drive it down, but I did it! After congratulating myself for my courage, I thought about how my lack of courage would keep me from standing at the door way to another realm. Please pretend I took these photos of the cave walls.

Today, I looked for murals in Santa Barbara’s “Funk Zone,” which actually has almost no funk — mostly places to drink and eat in billion dollar buildings.

This is the only funky thing I could find in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone and I’m guessing  the city is preparing to condemn it.

I gave up on murals and I went for a wonderful hike…in the lowlands.

I kayaked in the Santa Barbara Harbor…my first solo paddle!

And I found a mural…





  1. Recognizing ones fears, confronting them,… and then fleeing is a reflection of your robust moral courage, hard earned maturity, and intimate self-awareness.

    – Pogo, circa 1958

    P.S. Great pics to match your great story! Multi-million dollar funkiness just doesn’t compute. And congrats on the kayak experience! I turned turtle too many times to count on my first solo. 🙂

  2. The question is who took the pic of you kayaking?! Did notice the pic of the “funk” does have the word EWE! Love the story about the hearing! Bravo! I’m seeing a slight change in my skin color…a greenish hue…ALL your fault!

    1. The photographer was the most handsome surfer boy you have ever seen. Elias. And if you are turning greenish, I would love a travel partner. And this trip may turn into something completely open ended so….anywhere you want to go.

  3. Wow, when I was a student teacher about 40 years ago, I lived on Painted Cave Road and used to jog to the cave. You brought back many memories for me, Kim. I love that you look for murals everywhere, and hikes, and new adventures every day. ¡Buen viaje!

    1. Wendy, you have been so many places I have visited, including some that are quite out of the way! I am grateful to know someone who has been to the cave! Weirdly vicarious!

  4. Love Vic’s quote too! Nice amble for you with a dash of serendipity. I look forward to feeling free to do likewise post -Covid. I’ve actually never been to Santa Barbara. Up and down the coast but not there.

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