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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
               Wednesday, October 16 2002 

Sentimental journey—The South Coast and Lompoc

If Buffalo is known as the "armpit of the nation," Lompoc might be the armpit of California, or at least of far-flung Santa Barbara County. Actually, it's an inviting, neat middle-class town of under 50,000 people ("small town" in California reckoning), the home of the westernmost Federal Penitentiary on the continent (and which I've never caught sight of) and Vandenburg Air Force Base. Its status as "armpit" is geographic; it is located in one of the most geologically interesting points in California, where the South Coast meets the West Coast, and the abrupt upcroppings of the local mountains are as rough as any I've ever seen.

Driving through Lompoc just for a diversion on a road trip about 20 years ago I discovered that a number of motels in town were advertising prices to rival those found only on the "Southern Route," old Route 66 and its current Interstate incarnations, across the nation. I immediately became a big fan of Lompoc. Though it's about 40 miles from Santa Barbara city, it's close to some of the best state beaches in California, which offer miles of surf and sand for beach hikers like myself.

That's where, and why, I spent my first night of this sentimental journey, arriving around 4 p.m. Over the years the motel best prices have risen from under $20 to a base now of $34, but it still beats most Motel 6 rates by a mile (the one here is now $35). I had the previous weekend set up an account with Tmobile, which provides wireless Internet connections at most Starbucks coffee shops. There were Starbucks advertising the feature in Santa Maria, about 20 miles north of Lompoc, and Goleta and Isla Vista, 30 miles south. This would be the way I'd continue sending my nightly Postcards to the Nanty Glo list and updating my Xnmp news and media site.

After a few months of living in the city of Santa Barbara in the fall of 1968, my bride and I moved out to Isla Vista, which is the "student ghetto" of UC Santa Barbara. Rents were relatively low and it was where the action was for a fledgling campus ministry. The Vietnam War was raging, and becoming hotter and hotter on the homefront, as war protests at campuses like Santa Barbara's escalated to full-scale riots. Isla Vista, a year or two after we moved there and after our first child had been born, was the site of rioting that resulted in the shooting death of a student and the burning of a branch of the Bank of America to the ground. Like the area near UC Berkeley, it's a place where time seems to have stood still since those days; long-haired hippies still dominate, though like before the war boiled over, they are more likely to be surfers today than drugged wild-eyed political partisans.

I loved the energy and enthusiasm of Isla Vista and its residents when we lived there and would have spent my life there, but my wife didn't like either the turmoil or the constantly predictable weather of Southern California, so I looked for a more commodious clime, which took us to the much-different Stanford University and its much more upper-class adjacent town, Palo Alto. It turned out to be a very good move for the ministry and the marriage, so there are no regrets, but I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Isla Vista and appreciate the fact that it remains much like I remember it year after year, decade after decade. And that's why I went there to Starbucks to send the first dispatches on the tour.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Today's groaner

The majority of tourists who visit Egypt are senior citizens. Egypt must be a senile experience.

—Sent by Connie Cox

Thought for today

Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.

—Helen Keller

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