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Destination: Sunny Santa Barbara

By Jane Cassie

"I Love This Bar," Toby Keith croons out to his score of radio fans, and while snuggling deeper under eiderdown, I consider my own rendition of his popular country hit, "I Love This Bed." Through blood-shot tired eyes, the digital bedside clock glares a brutal 4:30 AM, reminding me that it's well past the time to be on the move. Not to the bars that Keith boasts about, and not back to my blissful dreamland state, but en route to the sensational seaside destination of Santa Barbara.

Horizon Air now offers non-stop flights from Seattle, and in three short hours, after the brief connecting flight from our Vancouver home base, we'll be replacing our 'wet coast' weather for some American Mediterranean sunshine. Although it's torturous rising before the birds, the early take off will permit more basking time on that glorious beach. Yes, it'll definitely be worth it, but only if we're on that plane!

"We're late, Brent!" I holler, while shaking my husband from a snoozing slumber. "We have to leave in five minutes or we'll miss the flight! The California sun may patiently wait to tan our pale hides but the airplane will not."

Vancouver International Airport is about forty five minutes from our home (as the crow flies) but add a steady stream of early bird commuters and night-hawk truckers to the freeway flock and the thoroughfare operates more like a snail's pace.

We weave through the web of sedans and semis, adopting precision road skills that Parnelli Jones and Mario Andretti would be proud of, and feel grateful that we'd pre-arranged our airline tickets.

Booking Alaska and Horizon flights is virtually a snap, whether done in person, phone, or through their web site with the click of a mouse. Normally, I print off my emailed confirmation before diligently copying it to my trusty palm pilot. Arranging this Horizon flight, however, had been such a simple process, I had decided to delete the printing part, and just transfer the information directly into my electronic day-timer. My entire life seems to be stored in the palm of my hand and it's all backed up on both my PC and laptop. The info's easy to retrieve, so why duplicate and add extra work? Simplify, right? What could go wrong?!

We squeal into the long-term parking lot with virtually no time to kill and, in spite of the frosty car tops and icy roads, beads of sweat trickle from my brow. My heart rate is doing double time and I feel like I'm on energy overload, in spite of sleep deprivation.

"Good morning, Mr. & Mrs. Cassie," the check-in attendant welcomes, after we present her with our passports and a detailed apology for our tardiness. Efficiently she enters our names and flight number into her computer, then looks up with a smile. "You're certainly eager to get to Santa Barbara, and I can understand why. It's a wonderful destination for a weekend getaway." We both nod in agreement, not wanting to elaborate on small talk. "But I'm afraid you're about twelve hours too eager," she continues. With stunned expressions, we both look at her quizzically.

"Although your flight is scheduled to depart at 6:20, it's PM, not AM."

I feel the color drain from my face and my legs weaken, as if they're suddenly made of rubber. Stomach butterflies start doing back flips and an instant bout of anxiety fills my inner core. It's obvious that I'd goofed up when transferring the flight time into my day-timer, and although it would not be an arduous task to go back home to our blissful bed, then return refreshed twelve hours later, it's hard to conceal our disappointment.

Offering another hospitable smile, the ticket clerk comes to the rescue. "Let's see what other flight options we have here," she responds optimistically. "We want to get you to Santa Barbara before today's sun sets."

She knowledgeably accesses the options on her screen and after a few minutes, comes up with a solution. "There's a flight with two available seats leaving for Seattle in fifteen minutes. And then shortly after you land in Seattle, one of our new non-stop services will be departing for Santa Barbara. You'll have to go on stand by for that one, and making the connection will be a tight squeeze, but with a bit of luck, you'll be tanning by ten."

Just the thought of being enveloped in California's warmth establishes our decision, and we feel like giving her a big hug before racing gate-ward for the Horizon flight. "No thanks needed," she responds. "Just have a great trip!"

The connecting jaunt to Seattle is virtually a hop, skip and jump, and before touching down, there's just enough time for a fresh cup of brew and biscotti. Although we have fifteen minutes between flights, the departing gate for Santa Barbara is a good clip away, and it feels like the clock is ticking faster than my palpitating pulse. Wings seem to sprout from our sneakers as we dodge a variety of slowpoke plodders. Mom's carrying young tots, pilots accompanying crew attendants and handholding couples whir by our field of vision. Our pace accelerates as we scurry through the percolating crowds, past luxury-loving travelers who saunter insouciantly toward their next destination and along the main arteries of Seattle's airport that are clogged with more adrenaline than that of an Olympic superstar.

I can feel my heart pounding in my chest, and when the destined departure gate is eventually within sight it seems to move immediately into my throat. Aside from another smiling Horizon hostess, the entire area is vacated of all fortunate Santa Barbara bound passengers. "You must be the Cassies," she greets, "We were hoping you'd make it. Fortunately there's room for you both on standby, and with no to time to spare, might I add. It's time to take off. Welcome aboard!"

It's obvious that service is of key importance to Horizon Air, for moments later it continues above the clouds at thirty thousand feet. And in the comfort of their Bombardier jet while sipping Chardonnay, my heart rate returns to it's once resting state as we travel, well ahead of schedule, en route to sunny Santa Barbara.

Getting to Santa Barbara:
Horizon Air links the Pacific Northwest to Santa Barbara by offering its daily nonstop service on their 70-seat Bombardier CRJ-700 jet from Seattle and Portland.
Read more about it: and

Horizon Air has grown to become the nation's eighth largest regional airline, serving nearly 5 million passengers last year. Horizon serves 44 cities throughout Washington, California, Idaho, Arizona, Oregon, Montana, and British Columbia and Alberta. Together, Horizon Air and sister carrier Alaska Airlines serve more than 80 cities throughout the West and are subsidiaries of Alaska Air Group, Inc.

Jane and Brent Cassie are a travel writer/photographer team. Follow their other adventures on their website -