Quote of the Day:
“We pay little Maylasian kids ten cents a day to make this stuff. We can’t just GIVE it away.” –Joel, Adventureland (2009)
TB and the whole gang rose early last Saturday and were greeted by gently swaying palm trees, partly sunny skies and temps in the mid-sixties. Ahhhh, Ca-li-phone-ya…..memories of the previous day’s travails had already faded.
We commenced to road trippin’ up the coast stopping off first in Santa Barbara. Why Santa Barbara? Two reasons: first, lunch. Rock Star picked us out a fine deli serving lots of locally sourced, organic goodness with which to picnic in the park above the Pacific. But more importantly, we stopped to check a mark off our 1000 Places to See Before You Die list. It is considered base and amateurish in certain traveler circles to visit places simply to check something off a list, but I do it, sometimes, not always, you can’t pigeonhole me. But I am a slave to lists you know. Plus, the places are usually worth seeing, even if the value is only to achieve cocktail party conversation superiority by saying, “I’ve been there. It sucks. Don’t go.”
In Santa Barbara we saw the old Mission set up by the Franciscan monks back in 1786. We spent about a half hour there, skipping the ten dollars a head tour, but enjoying the grounds and the beautiful view. It was pretty cool–definitely worth the thirty minutes.
Continuing our journey, we eventually neared San Simeon and Hearst Castle. Hearst Castle is not only on the list of 1000 Places, it is also a recommended stop from almost anyone who has ever been there. We skipped it. However we did pause along the side of the road to photograph the castle’s resident zebras grazing alongside the cattle. Not something one sees on a daily basis in North America.
Eventually we reached Santa Cruz, some 360 miles from Los Angeles. This is where I realized the second big mistake, but not the biggest by far, of the trip. I booked a suite at the Beach Street Inn. Our suite included one bedroom and one bathroom. For seven people. Fortunately there were two queen pullout sofas, so we all could sleep. But it would’ve been nice if I’d read the room description more carefully.
Other than being a bit smallish, the hotel was charming, it’s personnel friendly, and it’s location perfect–right across the street from the beach and wharf and about a block from the Boardwalk Amusement Park. We were blessed with two cool, sunny days, two excellent breakfasts and the sights and sounds of the classic California beach town. The sounds, in particular mark the Santa Cruz beach as unique–imagine the shrieks of children at a carnival blended with the rumble of it’s wooden roller coaster, accented by never-ending surf and the call of seagulls, punctuated by the echoing bark of sea lions sunning beneath a pier. A more pleasing cacophony you may never experience.
What I loved about Santa Cruz was the friendliness of its people and it’s tourists–people were quick to engage yet not intrusive; it’s mid-20th century cottages and colorful gardens, the dearth of mansions and condos hidden behind beach blocking walls; it’s complete lack of chain restaurants, drug stores, and big boxes; it’s easygoing mixture of families and their saltwater taffy with weed-smoking college kids on the beach; it’s authenticity. I loved the Beach Boardwalk, having seen these campy parks on tv and the movies, but never in person. We rode the Ferris Wheel and the Bumper Cars and bought a tee-shirt and ate the churros and garlic fries, but most of all we rode the finest carousel in the world–a century old masterpiece complete with a game within the ride where you have to throw brass rings into a clown’s mouth while riding your filly. It’s a far more manly way to share a merry-go-round with your little Scamp than I have ever seen. And I threw the ring down the clown’s gullet with relative regularity, an accomplishment in which I take an inordinate amount of pride. They call it the happiest town in America. I can see that.
Well, that was Santa Cruz. On to Big Sur tomorrow and my biggest mistake of the trip.