“Sometimes the best things are unplanned” James always says this and I always make fun of him.  I especially love to say it back when either:  a) it really is the case, and we have had a wonderful time, or b) the time we didn’t plan ahead, when we should have, and ended up paying $250 to stay in a HOJO on Labor Day weekend b/c there were no other rooms available-anywhere!   (And yes, this really did happen!)

This weekend was the perfect example of not planning ahead but somehow things truly did end up perfectly and I don’t think we could have orchestrated a better weekend  However, it was too bad for James, as he had planned to go skiing in Vail with some great friends of his and both ended up not being able to go.  We made a few phone calls and did some quick packing (repacking for James), and hit the road for the Central California Coast. The tricky thing about traveling up the coast is going through LA, so we took a little break in Laguna Beach to wait for the traffic to die down.

Strolling along the boardwalk, we fell in love with this cute little town as we watched the sun, big and bright, set into the ocean.

We walked in and out of great shops with some of the best home décor, as wonderful smells from nearby restaurants wafted through the air!

Finally, settling into Nick’s for dinner, we enjoyed the hustle and bustle, as we sat completely content in the corner and peopled watched over our local brews and tasty dinner!

With the traffic much lighter, it wasn’t long before we arrived, in one of my favorite California towns, Santa Barbara!  James’ cousin, Rob and his wife Susan were nice enough to put us up for the night.  As we arrived rather late, we quietly crept in through the front door.  After a short conversation with Rob, we headed for our room and crashed for the night!

The next morning, we enjoyed their son, little Anson,  as he ran through the room, introducing us to his building blocks, his tricycle and his master skills in the rocking chair!  We relished in an amazing breakfast on the front porch, the breeze ever so perfect, completely satisfied in conversation with Rob and Susan.  We couldn’t have asked for a better morning.

Back on the road, we headed to El Capitan State Beach to reserve our camping spot for later that night.

We found the perfect spot on a cliff overlooking the ocean, with waves crashing below, we set up our tent.

Driving through the Los Padres National Forest, we are surrounded by mountains on either side.  So beautiful!

We find our way to Los Olivos a  quaint little town with one street lined with wineries and the perfect spot for us to stop for lunch, Panino.  After ordering inside from the large selection of sandwiches on the menu board, we find a table outside among the cyclists who have paused for a break from their century ride!

The Gainey Vineyard is located in the Santa Ynez Valley, the heart of Santa Barbara’s wine country.  The entrance drive is lined with bare vines down both side of the drive, ready for a new season.  We take in a quick wine tasting before heading down the road to check out another winery before the day ends.  The Sauvignon Blanc was our favorite here.

James decides he will get in a little bike ride before partaking in yet another wine tasting at Sunstone Vineyard & Winery. I drive and meet him there.  Patio tables outside with a nearby tent serving the first tasting of wine, we quickly get a glass and enjoy the sun resting on our cheeks.  We walk around the land, different areas to take in as little black cat keeps eye over the place.  We head inside for a few more tastings and then back to the front for our last.  We enjoyed the 2006 Doce Da Alma, their desert wine, and our favorite one there.

Just up the street, we head to our final winery, Kalyra, a funky little winery with an Australian spin.  We enjoy these wines and the lively atmosphere as people pack in at 4:30 to get in their last tasting for the day.

Recommended by James’ cousin, Rob, we head out to find Happy Canon Trail.  It’s said to be a beautiful country road with little traffic.  James on his bike and me driving and stopping every five minutes because I want to photograph everything on this beautiful road, we are about the same pace.  It was more beautiful than we expected.

The sun begins to set and so we put the bike back in the car and decide to head back to Santa Barbara for a relaxing dinner at a cozy little sushi place.  We unwind and talk about how thankful we are for this weekend that we almost didn’t get before we head back to our campground and settle in for the night.

The next morning, we’re up and packing, ready to head out for breakfast.  We find a popular joint back in Santa Barbara,  Mesa Cafe & Bar. The outdoor patio was just what we were looking for!

After enjoying our breakfast, we decide we want to do some hiking in Ojai.  On our way there, we approach Carpinteria, where my cousins live and decide we should stop and see if they are home!

Downtown Carp.  Love this quaint little downtown.

Last minute and totally unexpected, we drive by their house and see them outside.  Excitedly, we pull over and rush up their driveway.  We hadn’t seen them since we were all together in Atlanta for Christmas and are happy they are home.  We chat for a while about the weekend and an amazing upcoming trip for my uncle that involves three weeks of sailing!  Too cool.  They mention an amazing hike in Monticeto with a waterfall at the end and immediately, thoughts of hiking in Ojai are forgotten.

Cameron (7) and Caden (9), my cousins, are up for doing the hike with us and we pile into the car with pure joy for this unexpected adventure!  They take the lead on the hike and direct us where to turn when there is a fork in the trail.

We climb rocks, hold up other rocks, admire the butterflies and talk about places we love, just happy to all be together and share in this beautiful day.

They lead us back to their house and Kiki, my aunt, is home from her adventurous weekend.  She completed her 9th Catalina Marathon!  ROCK ON!  I’m impressed!  We quickly visit before deciding the next time we get to see each other and James and I head out to grab lunch.  In downtown Carpinteria, we settle into the perfect lunch spot recommended by Kiki and the kids, Crushcakes.

Back on the road, we head home and are extremely thankful for our unexpected weekend.  We were able to do and see so much and even were able to spend time with both of our families!  Sometimes the best things really are unplanned!