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URBAN HIKE

Urban Hike: Upper West Side
updated: Feb 12, 2011, 9:30 AM

By Stacey Wright and Peter Hartmann

What do incorrectly spelled street names, an abandoned Elmo, graffiti at the train tracks, a Sapote tree, barnyard animals, unique and historical homes, an extraordinary birdhouse and a hoarder's condemned home have in common? The Upper West Side of course.

We urban hikers continued our quest of walking each and every street within the city limits of Santa Barbara. All 256 "centerline miles" of them to be exact. And so, with the thoroughness of a window washer, the inquisitiveness of a 5-year old, and the dedication of an Edhat staffer, this week we hit the streets and once again headed into the West Side.

This neighborhood's motto must be "The Upper West Side - Where History and Reality TV and Collide".

We hiked parts of the following streets: Modoc, Mission, San Andres, Pedregosa, Gillespie, Robbins, Pampas, Oak, Eucalyptus and Islay. We decided to walk these streets so that we could make more progress on the Westside. Sundays on the Westside are always very pleasant.

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The weather the morning of this hike was about 65 degrees and sunny. The walk was flat and easy.

We started our urban hike by walking past the 1872 farm house sitting on the corner of Modoc and Mission. There we spotted a giant Sapote tree which was laden with fruit. As luck would have it, the owners were outside whitewashing the fence...very Tom Sawyer. When we asked about the tree we were told that although it's quite productive, the inhabitants of the property haven't yet figured out what to do with the interesting fruit the tree bears.

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We also noticed an interesting variety of farm animals, including a horse, chickens and turkeys.

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Continuing along our route, we found our way onto the railroad tracks at the end of Oak Street. There, much to our horror, we found Elmo, lying supine along the tracks. Peter rescued him by placing him upright in a safer place.Also along the tracks, we saw a variety of graffiti, some of which Stacey thought looked quite artistic. At the risk of showcasing turf war images or gang banger garbage, Stacey has decided to share the photo she took. We don't appreciate graffiti on the streets of Santa Barbara, nor do we think it's appropriate to glorify gangs, but in this case Stacey believes this to be an artistic expression, much like the graffiti on the walls at Butterfly and Summerland Beaches. Peter is unrepentant in his belief that graffiti is as artistic as litter. He's not interested in any mural, unless it's a mosaic...more of that on another hike.

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We found a lot of interesting things in this charming residential neighborhood. In keeping with the theme of history meets the bizarre, we stumbled upon a house that has obviously been the home of a serious hoarder, long, long before hoarding became fashionable.

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When we got to the corner of Pedregosa and Gillespie, Peter started consulting his map. In boredom, Stacey looked down and noticed an unusual spelling of the street name. After pointing it out to Peter, he immediately noticed that not only was one street misspelled, but the cross street was too! This was an Urban Hikers first. Really exciting for these hikers!

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At the same corner, we found the stamp of the contractor who apparently poured the cement. We suppose his name is Wicks, but it could be Wickes, Wiks, or even Wacks. A few blocks away, we spotted a very official and well spelled concrete stamp. We were very impressed that this sidewalk, despite being well used over many decades looks to be in perfect condition.

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On the way back to our...gasp...car, we passed a few more really remarkable houses. One appeared to us to be a quaint, sun-lit farmhouse and down the street a perfectly unique bird house.

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The last of the interesting houses that we stopped to check out was a stone encrusted house, which looked to be a combination of Wild West meets Mexican Marvelous.

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We spoke to Angel, the owner of the stone house, and he explained that he had taken what was an ordinary wood house and modified it to look like the houses in his hometown of Jalisco, Mexico. A house painter by trade, he set to work about 2 years ago embellishing the house in his spare time. His reverence for his parents and hometown motivated him to create this unique abode…unfortunately, Angel's parents, too old and frail to travel to Santa Barbara, have only been able to enjoy the house through photos he has sent them. We loved the individuality of this home and were especially fascinated by the cactus gardens, complete with miniature dinosaurs and plenty of reptiles.

We came to the Upper West Side to continue what we'd already started, and left feeling like we'd just taken a twisted stroll down Mayberry RFD. As usual, we encountered many surprises on this hike. So, as always, we encourage you to go out into the world, hike the streets of our town and above all expect the unexpected.

P.S. We've had a couple of questions about having hikes open to people who follow our blogs. In response, we want you to know we plan on having at least one public hike in the future. Specifically, the last hike we make - a hike into De La Guerra Plaza - will be open to everyone who wants to join…perhaps that hike could even mark the beginning of another urban hiker's quest to walk the town…? But for now, these more solitary hikers relish the "alone" time we spend together, and swear by the therapeutic benefits the hikes provide.

 

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