Hello Friends and Family,

Santa Cruz, Part 4

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Each of the entrances from Beach Street has grand signage to welcome you to a day of fun on the Boardwalk including rides, games, food, and drink. There used to be such seaside amusement parks at many locations on both coasts. The Santa Cruz Boardwalk is the oldest in California and one of the last on the west coast.

I grew up on the east coast and I have many fond memories of the Boardwalk at Ocean City, MD. So even though we are a continent apart from my home area, there is a bit of nostalgia here. For instance, Laffing Sal is almost identical to the very similar animatronic figure at Ocean City — both with the same name and laughing all day long for the tourists. The Ocean City version is now housed in the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum (on the Boardwalk) where one can push a button and hear her laugh again just as she did when I was a kid. Unfortunately, her mechanics are kaput so she is stationary as she laughs. Fortunately for Santa Cruz, their Laffing Sal still moves in concert with her laughter.

Of course, what modern Boardwalk would be without rides, the more and the wilder, the better. This is called the Undertow which is a single car roller coaster where the four-person car (two forward, two backward) rotates during the ride so you change from riding forward to backward. According to the Boardwalk's website, "Buckle up for some unexpected thrills as Undertow's crazy turns and sudden drops will push you to the edge…and back! Catch your breath and try it again because Undertow's unique design ensures that no two rides are ever the same. Start facing forward or start facing backward, depending on the weight and position of riders, your speed and rotation change every time!". Lots of screams coming from this direction.

Some of the riders on the Double Shot don't look too comfortable. The carriage explodes off the ground to the top of the tower, pauses then drops the riders in a free fall halfway down. It then hesitates followed by acceleration back to the top and a free fall to the base. Some of those riders looked like they wanted off — NOW!. According to the website, this provides a wonderful view of the Pacific Ocean and the area surrounding the Boardwalk — but I'm guessing most of the riders did not notice or appreciate the sights.

Ah, this is a little tamer — the Sky Glider. I love the website's description, "Leave the crowd behind as you glide far above the Boardwalk in a private world with incredible views. A great way to take in all the sights, sounds, and smells of our classic seaside amusement park." BTW, look for the caveman riding toward my camera position (carriage with a red roof).

The Fireball looks to me like a simulator for training astronauts. The ride swings the brave ones up into the air and spins them around subjecting them to powerful G-forces and dizzying heights. There was probably lots of screaming but they were too far away to be heard clearly.

Time for a traditional Boardwalk ride, the Giant Dipper — the fourth oldest coaster in the U.S., continuously operating in its original location. It first began carrying thrill-seekers in 1924 and more than 66 million riders have experienced the thrill. It was built by Arthur Looff with a vision of a “combination earthquake, balloon ascension, and aeroplane drop.” Incidentally, his father, Charles I.D. Looff, built the Boardwalk's antique carousel complete with hand-carved animals. Both attractions have been designated National Historic Landmarks by the U.S. National Park Service.

Logger's Revenge is a tamer sort of roller coaster. Once your log is pulled to the top, it is a peaceful float until you get to the drop-off.

The downhill slide feels like free fall until you hit the water trough at the bottom — and water sprays in all directions. Take care to protect your camera if you choose to enjoy this one.

Looking out from the Boardwalk, one can see hundreds of beachgoers who are enjoying the natural beauty of Santa Cruz Beach. You'll notice that there are not many people in the water — the water is just too cold for most of us — probably in the mid-sixties the day that I shot this photo. This is the result of the California Current bringing colder water from the north to this more southern location. Wetsuits are a must for any prolonged time in the water.

Also, notice the seagulls flying all over the beach and ocean. In fact, there is one in the lower-left quadrant that appears to be the size of a Pterosaur (any of the flying reptiles that flourished during the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods of the Mesozoic Era, some 252.2 million to 66 million years ago). It's really not that big, just a trick of perspective — otherwise, the guy standing there would be in for a very bad day at the beach.

At the far end of the beach is a sandstone formation and the San Lorenzo River which empties into the Pacific Ocean at this point. The river water is probably a bit warmer than that in the Pacific Ocean at this point — a great place for the kids to play without worrying about the temperature or the waves.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com