When I received an invitation from Toyota to test drive the new 2014 Toyota Highlander I was thrilled, and when I found out we would be doing so in Santa Barbara, California this winter, I couldn’t RSVP fast enough.
I’ve been driving Toyota Highlanders for six years and have had two three year leases. I know the first and second generation make and model very well, but having seen the photos and press, the 2014 Toyota Highlander was the one I wanted to test drive.
Santa Barbara is a beautiful, affluent California city, endowed with beach fronts and views, hilltop homes and remarkable “city bustle.” Here is where the “who’s who” of “who’s who,” including my favorite author Sue Grafton and actor Rob Lowe, call home. There is another famous icon that resides in Santa Barbara and that is Oprah Winfrey. Unless you’ve been living under a rock or were born yesterday, you know who I mean.
I decided that I would make my 48 hour long test drive of the 2014 Toyota Highlander a mission to find Oprah in the city of mission architecture and goodwill stores that resemble Bergdorf Goodman. The mission style buildings, developed after the earthquake of 1925, housed everything from dry cleaners, real estate offices and Starbucks making me want to become a barista just to stay in town.
I am neither a stalker nor paparazzi, but merely curious after finding a photo of her 85 million dollar home online. I thought how hard would it be to find a mansion of that size in a county that spans a thousand square miles and then just casually drive by? I assumed it would be on top of a mountain and so the drive began. And didn’t everyone in Santa Barbara know Oprah, served her at restaurants, did her dry cleaning or wrapped a gift or two for her TV guests?
The 2014 Toyota Highlanders were lined up in perfect order on the Canary Hotel driveway. I persuaded a fellow journalist to join me in the search for Oprah and off we went. We drove past a number of banks thinking she might be making a deposit or withdrawal that day. Of course, we figured she had “people” who did that kind of stuff for her, but I had heard from a friend in Phoenix that her in-laws see her running mundane errands, such as grocery shopping, in Santa Barbara. It was with this thought in mind that we slowed way down as we passed the local Ralph’s supermarket, which by the way looked like a church, complete with terra cotta roof and, I swear the shopping carts were made of gold. However, we didn’t see Ms. “O” at the deli counter.
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