Trip Report: ~24 Hours in San Luis Obispo (SLO), California
This trip was booked in a sporadic moment to do something in Southern California for a weekend. It was a cheap ticket, and an impulse buy that I knew I could do semi-cheap. Also, I needed to get away — 75 days on the dot of not going on a plane or a trip (aside from Moab) was too much. Even if it was only ~24 hours is better than nothing. Exams lined up with the travel schedule, so everything looked good to me!
I could either go south to LA, or head North to see a buddy from high school. Having little interest in going to LA (I look at it as something I can do on a long layover between connecting flights sometime), I opted for North (free place to stay). With that, I had approximately 24 hours in San Luis Obispo (SLO) to hang out, do college like things, see Kevin, and eat something that came from the sea. I did not eat something from the sea, but that is alright. Next time.
Saturday, November 8th, 2014:
Fly Frontier to Santa Barbara. Hang out for three hours near UCSB campus for food and people watching. Catch Amtrak to SLO. Spend night with Kevin.
Sunday, November 9th, 2014:
Fly United in the afternoon. SBP (San Luis Obispo)-LAX-DEN.
How to Do It:
I got an alert from TravelZoo that Frontier had some $15 flights one way on select days to various places in the country. One of them was Santa Barbara, CA. I bought the ticket thinking I could cancel free within 24 hours if I wanted, but ended up keeping the ticket.
From here I could go north or south, as SB was too expensive for hostels ($65 is NOT a hostel, even if you claim you are) so I opted to go North to see Kevin. He always said that it was nice, and I would have to check it out. Looking at ways to get to SLO from SB, I had the option of Amtrak, Greyhound or trying to bribe Kevin to pick me up and provide beer in collateral (BEER IS A CURRENCY). Kevin wasn’t in, my flight got in too late to take the Greyhound, so Amtrak it was. I was completely okay with this, as I really want to take a long haul Amtrak and Greyhound someday (I have my reasons, in short, think about how many people traveled that way a mere 50 years ago). The train cost me $31, and I earned some Amtrak points that will come in use someday.
For the return, I was flying out of San Luis Obispo. I had a $500 voucher from my trip to Verbier in March that I still hadn’t touched. Looking at flights on a simple Kayak search I found one ways to DEN for $164. That is not unreasonable when you are not really paying for it. If it was some high amount of money I would not have done it. Flight times were convenient in the evening, so I booked it. I decided to route through LA instead of San Francisco because I would get slightly more miles…But I could have gone to the AMEX lounge that just opened if I went through SFO (probably would do that next time so I can get a meal and some good food between flights. Oh well).
Total Pre Booked Transport: $46.
The Outbound Flight:
Denver, CO (DEN) to Santa Barbara, CA (SBA)
I had not flown Frontier in years, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Last time was on Flip, the dolphin, coming back from Austin, Texas in high school. Anywho, I started my trip by visiting the Admirals Club, a credit card perk that I have (after building my credit) which alllows me access to all of the American Airlines Lounges. Since I needed to print a few things, and had some time to kill, I hung out for a bit. The Denver AC is nicer than others I have been to, for a domestic lounge.
Sitting bitch (middle) seat is not my favorite, but I was too cheap to spend $3 to reserve my seat ahead of time, lucky for me the flight wasn’t full anyway, so I got an aisle. I was expecting Frontier to be the Ryan Air of the US. I was wrong. They did not check for carry on bag sizes, sell raffle tickets over the intercom, or really pester you in any way. If traveling light, I would fly Frontier again in a minute, especially if the ticket is 15 bucks. To the people that complain about Frontier: go online and read their baggage policies and thought process behind their business strategy. It’s all right there.
Also, as a side note, if you are going to sit by the window and prevent other people from looking out said window when the biggest canyon in the world is below you, you should learn a thing or two. Regardless, I got a little glimpse and it looked sweet. I have not flown west in years so this was a nice little treat.
View of the airport.
My flight got in 3.5 hours prior to my train, so I figured why not check out these “Cali Girls” (as if we don’t have enough) at UCSB, (actually I just wanted food, because food is great, and where there are college students, there is always cheap, good food. Spectating might have been partially involved as well). I didn’t have a car and was too cheap to take Uber, so I walked. Along the 15 minute walk from the airport you get some interesting smells coming from the water sanitation facility as well as some “mary”-ish smelling containers. Finally, I was at Goleta beach.
After snapping a few pics and enjoying the vast expanse of the Pacific, I decided to ask some guys that were kickin’ it on a picnic table where a good place to eat something was, and they instantly recommended Freebirds: “home of the Monster Burrito.” They provided this suggestion after I accepted a Stone IPA and some other random things. We will call these random things the bowlrito. Being on the ground for 25 minutes and seeing the beach, being offered a beer and the bowlrito and a recommendation for a dank burrito place left an awesome first impression of Santa Barbara. I will come back.
I was now on a quest, a quest to find Freebirds, which was said to be in a “over the hill that way direction.” I walked “over the hill” straight through campus. I have to say, after walking through this campus I really realize how nice CU is. Not that UCSB is not nice, it is just not as nice (although there were some nice trees).
After walking for a good mile, I ran into some British girls (OF ALL PEOPLE, WHY IS IT ALWAYS THE BRITISH?!) whom I asked for directions. I have to say, these were not the best directions, as they were described as “when you see the tunnel turn right and then go left somewhere after that.” Eventually, after navigating the sorority row, I found Freebirds.
Anchors in Friendship……..
This place just looked good. The Monster with Chicken it was, and let me tell you, it was awesome. This place had it on lock: a burrito the size of a buff fore arm for 9 bucks? I’ll take it. To indulge even further I positioned myself outside looking at the street. Life was good.
I knew the train station was not walking distance so I used Uber. Initially there was a surge (higher fees because of higher demand) going on, so I waited a bit for the surge to disappear. I was linked with Lacey. She drove a Mazda 3 and was very personable for our 3.5 mile trip. Uber is awesome because I still have yet to pay for a fare. Part of this trip was covered by some previous credits and then the AMEX Offer (on your American Express card they have offers that you can sign up for to save some money, Uber was one of them) that I signed up for covered the rest.
Goleta Amtrak Station.
Next was the train. I was probably a bit too excited for this train ride, simply because I have never taken Amtrak before. Amtrak is kind of awesome, and this short 2.5 hour trip confirmed the idea of taking a long distance train to be wonderful.
The seats were large and very comfy, and the overall train was very efficient, minus being 22 minutes late. I was impressed by the train here, and would love to take a nice transcon journey to watch the landscapes roll by — think about how many people did that back in the day, and tell me that would not be awesome.
Upon arrival in SLO, Kevin picked me up, showed me around, and then we crashed.
In the morning Kevin showed me some parts of campus that were not really visible the night prior. Notable mentions were The Hanger and Architecture Graveyard. This place was cool. A bunch of random architecture projects scattered around the hills, some of which were rather Gaudi-like, who is kind of the man. Curvy buildings are groovy.
Inside the Shell House, my favorite from the Architecture Graveyard. If only it weren’t abused!
From there we went to a dank sandwich shop called High Street (ironically, it is addressed as 420 High Street). These sandwiches were bomb, once again proving that college students know a thing or two about good food for the relatively inexpensive budget. It kind of makes me want to go Anthony Bourdain style for college towns, cruising around the country and eating in the finest college eateries around the country. Maybe a new prospect? Who can I visit next?
After kicking it at some friend’s house, we went to the beach and hung out for a bit before I was off to the airport, with a stop at the SLO Donut company first. This place was money, probably the top 2 donuts I have ever gotten in my life. 2 because I got 2 donuts.
SLO airport is awesome, I thought Nantucket was small, but this one is indeed smaller. No need to show up more than 20 minutes prior to departure.
EMB 120. My ride to LAX.
Our flight home was connecting in LAX. From SLO to LA was late, causing a tight connection and the sporadic run through to switch terminals. 8 people were connecting to the Denver flight on my small puddle jumper flight (in other words more than 40% of the people on board!), causing them to hold the plane a few minutes past departure. All worked out fine though and it was a pretty uneventful flight home, minus seeing some cool snow covered mountain peaks by moon light and heavy chop (turbulence) coming into Denver. I was seated in Economy Plus (from my UA Silver status), which is nice to have a few extra inches for some extra room.
SLO is pretty awesome. It has a not as busy as Boulder feel, that is close to the beach with some pretty darn good amenities. Definitely will try to visit on a longer trip next fall, hopefully with our entire friend group. Maybe next time I won’t be on antibiotics so I can indulge more in college like festivities!
Side Note: Any comments, feedback, or what you want to see in these trip reports would be great. This is my first one, and I want to know what you think.