Hello Friends and Family,

1977 Santa Cruz

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Los Gatos and Saratoga are long-established towns at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains. As such, they have numerous back roads leading into the mountains — which are infinitely more fun to travel (when you have the time) than the more heavily-traveled Highway 17. Also, instead of huge chain hotels and restaurants, both are well populated with smaller, quaint establishments. If I recall correctly, La Hacienda Inn was where I stayed after transferring to CDC in California while looking for a permanent home.

On those back roads, one can find scenic stops where you can view Silicon Valley when you are still on the eastern side of the mountains or the north end of Monterey Bay when on the western side.

Oh look! Another one of those transplants from the Midwest escaping from the cold weather to enjoy the lovely northern California climate.

Even though we are only minutes (driving time) from massive urban sprawl, up here the trees dominate. It's nice and quiet too. All you hear are the birds and the gentle winds rustling the leaves of the trees.

If you continue west, eventually you arrive at Santa Cruz. Wikipedia describes the city as "known for its moderate climate, natural environment, coastline, redwood forests, alternative community lifestyles, and socially liberal leanings. It is also home to the University of California, Santa Cruz, a premier research institution and educational hub, as well as the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, an oceanfront amusement park."

I was immediately drawn to the Boardwalk because of my memories of the Ocean City Boardwalk not far from where I was born — a place that my family visited often because so many of my mom's family lived on the Eastern Shore of Maryland — only a short 20-minute drive from the ocean.

The Santa Cruz Boardwalk is family-operated and has been entertaining locals and visitors since 1907. It is the oldest amusement park in California and one of the last seaside amusement parks on the US West Coast. The Giant Dipper roller coaster and Looff Carousel are both National Historic Landmarks and the entire Boardwalk property is a California Historic Landmark.

One of the reasons for its success (in my opinion) is the evolution of the attractions which modernizes the appeal for the younger crowd while retaining the nostalgic elements for adults. For example, note the log ride in this view. I don't remember any log rides from my youth (oh so many years ago) but every amusement park has one today (even Disneyland).

Like the Ocean City Boardwalk, this one has a wide sandy beach for folks to pitch a blanket and catch some rays. For sure, this photo was not taken during summer vacation for the school kids — otherwise, it would be hard to find a spot for your blanket.

I love the Coconut Grove Casino Arcade that dominates one end of the Boardwalk. The story that I read said that there never was gambling in the "casino" — more of a penny arcade and now more of a video game hangout. But the building also featured ballrooms that highlighted "name" entertainers — maybe they still do.

Also, I must point out that when I was taking this picture I was standing on the Santa Cruz Wharf. It is noteworthy that it allows vehicles as well as pedestrians. Parking meters collect modest fees for those who want to dine at the restaurants or visit the tourist shops on the Wharf. It is also a fun place to visit.

Looking to the north (again from the Wharf's vantage point), is a small cove that is great for jogging, walking your dog — and, when the waves are right, surfing in all its various forms.

Panning a bit to the left, this last shot reveals West Cliff Drive or at least the houses standing there. It is one of my favorite places to walk (or drive if you don't have the time or ability to walk that far).

Santa Cruz — one of my favorite spots.

Life is good.

B. David

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