Santa Cruz Stories and Tips

Hand-Written Journal Entry for Santa Cruz

Flowers and Ocean Photo, Santa Cruz, California

This IgoUgo journal entry picks up where my written journey ended in San Francisco. My wife and I had spent a couple of days in the city by the bay and were now heading for Monterey Peninsula. This entry begins as we are in a rental car just heading out of San Francisco.

California Route One, or The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), started as a six-lane super highway and then gradually turned into two-lanes as it went through some pretty woods (we rolled down the windows to catch the pine scent) and then spilled out toward the ocean.

We encountered some beautiful ocean vistas and steep sea cliffs as we drove down PCH at a pretty good clip (about sixty miles per hour). Things slowed down at a series of stoplights at Half Moon Bay along the San Mateo coast. We went by some strawberry and artichoke roadside farmer's stands, but didn't stop. We were also tempted by the Half Moon Brewery, but we kept on.

We continued down through Pescadero with steep and jagged coast on our right and horse farms and ranches on our left. A couple of hours later we came to the city of Santa Cruz.

I got off of ROute One a bit early when I saw a sign that read "Natural Bridges State Beach". This to me sounded like a great photo waiting to happen and since it was a clear day and the park was apparently around the corner. I followed the brown signs. In about five minutes, I had the car in a large parking lot overlooking a beach and the crashing sea.

It took me a while to find the natural bridge because we were standing at an angle where you couldn't see completely through the hole. On closer inspection, I could see the waves crashing through the middle of a great rock quite a ways out into the ocean. To the right of the rock was a sandy beach where people were enjoying the sun.

I asked the guy at the park collection fee booth for some information and he hurriedly threw some pamphlets at me and said he really needed to go to the bathroom. I took this as a cue that we could get in the rest of the park for free while he left his post unguarded. We got in the rental car Escort and whizzed by the gate.

There wasn't much to the park. We parked next to the closed "Information and Welcome Center" to learn that the famous monarch butterflies only stayed in Central California from OCtober to March at the latest. That meant that we wouldn't be able to see them in Pacific Grove, a.k.a. "Butterfly City", either.

We exited the park, going the other way past the ranger gate. The guy still wasn't back from the bathroom. He must have been sick. We headed along the shoreline past a lighthouse where we parked and took a photo. In the distance I could see the Santa Cruz Fisherman's Wharf and Boardwalk. You could see the outline of the rollercoaster from far away.

We went along a nice residential drive with cool houses until we were in Santa Cruz proper. I reversed and circled, finally settling on a parking spot three blocks away from the Boardwalk. Toni dumped a bunch of quarters in the meter and we walked the distance to the the Boardwalk.

We entered through a huge building labelled "Casino" that contained all kinds of arcade games and an eighteen hole putt-putt course. We uncustomarily skipped the mini-golf (my wife and I have an ongoing battle of putt-putt tournaments) and headed out onto the crowded Boardwalk.

The Boardwalk had all sorts of amusement rides: a chairlift that sails you over the Boardwalk, three rollercoasters, a haunted house, and a scrambler thing that flipped you upside down, just to name a few.

There were also many games of chance, such as the baseball/milkbottle throw, squirt-gun in the clown's mouth to pop the balloon, the rubber balls to make your thoroughbred horse run game, and the basketball shot. Toni, of course, spied the skee-ball machines and immediately traded a five dollar bill for a kajillion tokens. I have to admit that she is really good (she was varsity at college). Unfortunately, the machines that we were using were from the time of the Truman Administration and didn't always work in our favor. In the end we had fifty-three tickets, which was still short of the sixty needed to get some really ugly beads. We donated our tickets to the next little kid.

We had planned to go to the Fisherman's Wharf for food, but we instead decided to eat from one of the Boardwalk vendors. We got a sausage and peppers sandwich, a foot long cheese bread stick, a corn cob on a stick, and a diet Coke (watching my weight) from one vendor and ate then in the blazing sun on picnic benches next to the basketball shot. After that we got some cut green apples with gooey caramel sauce from a different place and ate that at a table near the beach itself.

We walked a bit on the beach and then headed back to the car. It took me about ten minutes of heading into an unknown direction before I linked up again with Route One south.

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