I blame those frisky young whippersnappers, David Crosby and Graham Nash, but neither Janet nor I were ready to rock too early today after the excesses of the previous evening. Eventually, we set off on the 74 mile drive to Santa Cruz, joining the Skyline Boulevard at the top of Fulton at Ocean Beach.
Despite the clear blue sky and slowly warming sun, waves crashed onto the beach in swift succession as we passed the Sunset district with its attractive multi-coloured houses that reminded me of Burano in the Venetian lagoon, San Francisco Zoo and Fort Funston as we hit Highway 1.
As we drove through Pacifica, Half Moon Bay and Pescadaero State Beach, increasing numbers of surfers could be seen preparing their boards, ironically to ride waves significantly less turbulent than those we had left back at Ocean Beach. The Cabrillo Highway, which is the acknowledged name of this stretch of Highway 1, is a lovely road with wonderful shoreline vistas, but it is not conducive to speed, particularly if you get stuck behind a slow truck or Winnebago or, as we did, spend lengthy waits at a number of roadworks created by the Devil’s Slide Tunnels Project. This, combined with the warm sunshine, had a distinctly somnolent effect on both driver and passenger.
The most poignant sights on the journey were the signs denoting the “Tsunami Evacuation Route”, a reminder of the damage that had been caused to this part of the coast in the aftermath of the recent Japanese earthquake.
As we entered the Santa Cruz city limit lunch was foremost in our minds, so we headed straight for the famous Boardwalk - mistake! The unseasonable weather had fooled us into thinking that the world renowned seaside complex would be throbbing with action, but, of course, it was still off season. A total of two gift shops, one amusement arcade and a couple of fast food outlets were the only establishments open to the public, and many of the rides were subject to undergoing maintenance work. The beach. like many others in the immediate area, contained a lot of wooden debris, further evidence of the recent high waters.
We decided, therefore, to head for downtown Santa Cruz. In fact, we spent nearly four hours there, enjoying the friendly, laid-back atmosphere pervading the clean, tree-lined main street that contained some fine shops, including an outstanding independent bookstore. Street musicians and artists were prevalent, as was the occasional beggar – even they were “smarter than the average” San Franciscan panhandler. We had lunch at the Chocolate cafe - warm chicken sandwich with pesto, mozzarella and peppers for me and sesame chicken salad for Janet. The food was delicious and service was prompt and pleasant. Moreover, the seats outside were a real suntrap.
My San Francisco Giants / Gratefiul Dead t-shirt, only purchased in Haight-Ashbury on Sunday, excited a great deal of admiration in this bastion of the counterculture, including several “nice shirt” comments and a couple of slightly dopey smiles in my direction. I managed to buy another Dead t-shirt here, with the American Beauty logo, as well as the one CD that I had been coveting for some time, entitled Crimson, White and Indigo, a three CD plus DVD package of a concert in Philadelphia in 1989. With tax I paid $42 instead of the near $70 being quoted even on Amazon in the UK. The cashier, who was sporting a Dead t-shirt, was thrilled that I had bought it, saying that he had been waiting for someone to buy it as it was ” awesome”. A conversation about the Dead’s visits to the UK ensued.
The most disheartening part of the trip was the imminent demise of Border’s Books, yet another branch in the chain set to close. It was pitiful to witness the first floor (the second was completely closed) with its vasy empty spaces and pleas for customers to not only buy its products but also the fixtures and fittings. There was one silver lining however – it was possible to stock up for your winter fuel with a bulk purchase of Sarah Palin‘s America At Heart book at a 60% discount.
We headed back north as late afternoon clouds took over momentary custody of the skies. Surfers were more evident than they had been this morning. We decided to stop for a drink at Half Moon Bay, but, given that it was turned 6pm by the time we got there, it too was virtually closed. However, we did manage a coffee at the friendly San Benito House saloon and restaurant.
The final leg of our journey home was a little more interesting than we had expected or planned. Thinking we would rejoin the coast road back to Ocean Beach we found ourselves hurtling along Highway 1 in the direction of the Golden Gate Bridge. Resolving to avoid that embarassing detour I decided that we should try a even more embarassing detour by turning right off the road. Darkness had descended which added to the sense of being lost and panic stricken, although I was convinced (sic) that we would eventually veer back towards the city. My confidence was sorely tested as we passed unfamiliar names like Sloat and Portola, but once we had brushed Twin Peaks on our left, it started to return. As we turned down the hill the view of the City was a new and astonishing one, which made the anxiety of the past ten minutes almost bearable.
The sight of the enormous rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza on Castro Street brought mutual relief, and we cut off Market and returned to the apartment to gratefully consume the pizzas we had bought at Half Moon Bay.