A LUCKY REGION... is fortunate to have one city or town or valley or destination that draws weekenders, those day-trippers who want to soak in the sights and/or have a glass of wine and/or a great plate of pasta and/or some pastries and enjoy art, people-watching, architecture, and maybe some nature, too (beach, hills, vineyards qualify). But what to do when you have a stretch of the state absolutely teeming with terrific weekend-y places, the kind of villages that burst with pleasant ways to spend an afternoon? Well, you preen a little, of course, but if those villages are a bit further apart, you preen less and brainstorm on ways for visitors to enjoy several of the region's treasures without driving. The Santa Ynez Valley has been at the forefront of the whole park-your-car idea in recent years, finding ways either through specific businesses or municipalities to truck visitors around in a see-more-of-the-area way (without paying a bundle to do so). The latest entry has just arrived, in early July, and it will please people who want to do both Santa Barbara and some of the Santa Ynez -- say, Los Olivos or Buellton or Solvang -- all in a day without making the driving between the American Riviera and wine country towns on their own. Meet the Clean Air Express, a bus that's been running between particular places in the area, but never between Santa Barbara and a trio of Santa Ynez villages.
ON A SATURDAY... we should add. But that changed on Saturday, July 11 with the debut of this new line of the Clean Air Express. This route is Saturday-specific, we should note, and the motor coach ride each way is seven bucks, meaning you'll have more cash for that glass of pinot in Los Olivos or an aebleskivver in Solvang. Is there Wi-Fi on the bus? Yes, so there's no reason for you not to tell all your pals the jealousy-making things you're up to while you ride. Are there a few start and leave times? There are, including, in case you're wondering, one at Andersen's Pea Soup in Buellton. Is this the way you fill up your Saturday with two not-so-close areas of a region brimming with beautiful spots? This is a great way to do that, if you want to lessen your own driving (and pump up gazing at pretty vistas through bus windows). For more info on your motor coach Saturday get-to-know-this-area outing, beep-beep your bus in this direction.