By Donna Polizzi
One of my favorite movies is Rain Man. The movie features two Hollywood mega-stars in dueling leads. Raymond Babbitt, one of two main characters, played by Dustin Hoffman, is a middle-aged, institutionalized autistic man with a scorching case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Ray is an idiot savant who can add with the accuracy of a calculator. Charlie Babbitt, the other main character, played by Tom Cruise, is Ray’s hyper-driven, wheeling dealing and irrepressibly self-centered, younger brother who kidnaps his older brother to settle a financial score with their recently deceased wealthy father, who, of course, leaves his entire estate to his autistic son, who has no concept of money.
Both performances are nothing short of spectacular. But Dustin Hoffman won the Oscar for his performance and Tom Cruise wasn’t even nominated. The reality, though, is that while Cruise’s performance was one of the best of his career, Hoffman’s performance playing a disabled man was so believable, that many people forgot Cruise was even in the movie.
I was recently reminded of this film when thinking about one of Santa Barbara County’s under-appreciated cities. The City of Lompoc. The Lompoc Valley is sometimes forgotten, despite having one of the most important military assets in the world, the most extensively restored missions in California, world-class wineries, some of the most beautiful fields of flowers anywhere in the world, pristine beaches, coastal bluffs, endangered birds, and other rare species. To borrow from the immortal words of comedian Rodney Dangerfield, the Lompoc Valley gets no respect.
The hillsides covered in vibrant flowers, and scenic rolling vineyards are breathtaking.
Perhaps the Lompoc Valley fails to receive the attention it deserves because it eclipsed by too many shining “stars.” Millions of tourists from all over the world come to visit Santa Barbara or Pismo Beach and all too often these same travelers aren’t aware that if they travel a few extra miles they can explore some wonderful places in the Lompoc Valley. Do you enjoy hiking? La Purisima Mission State Park, founded in 1797, sits on nearly 2,000 acres of parkland, which is home to more than 20 miles of hiking trails. Do you like flowers? Come to Lompoc in from May through early September and you’ll feast your eyes on patches of vibrant colors as you drive through the Lompoc Valley – you’ll see Bells of Ireland, Stock, Larkspur, and Delphinium.
Do you like the beach? Jalama Beach, located 30 minutes from downtown Lompoc, is nothing short of an amazing spot for surfing, bird-watching, picnics, and fishing. If you are a photographer, Jalama Beach has gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. You’ll love Ocean Beach and Estuary…Ocean Beach boasts one of the most beautiful shorelines in California. If you are an amateur bird-watcher and nature photographer, flock to this destination (pun intended), because you’ll see all kinds of migratory seabirds.
The “Wine Ghetto” in Lompoc is a fun and interesting place to visit. It is a unique collection of tasting rooms and wine cellars. It is located off Pacific Coast Highway, a few minutes from the center of town, and he has over 20 boutique tasting rooms to choose from. Several wineries are located adjacent to the town, within the valley, with daily tasting and wine tours. Two of my personal favorites are Babcock and Melville.
I recently hosted a United Way fundraiser at La Purisima Golf Course, at 3455 E Highway 246 in Lompoc. It is a spectacular 18 hole, impressively beautiful, world-class, championship course. Count on Lompoc exceeding your expectations. Have your friends drive…or you can drive… If you’re “an excellent driver”.