Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Santa Cruz Boardwalk: A trip down memory lane and a few other roads

June 26, 2013
Morgan Hill, California
Coyote Valley RV Resort

pam and eve at pams weddingJune 25 was our 14th wedding anniversary. This year is a milestone for me because very few of my family members have been able to get past
thirteen years, including me in my first marriage. I couldn't find a photo of Vic and me from our wedding day on my laptop, but here is one of me on this happy, happy day. We chose a simple way to commemorate the occasion with a lovely lunch with Vic’s sister in the historic Gold Rush era town of Sonora at the Diamondback Grill. I had never been to the town of Sonora and found it quite delightful. It happened to be perfect weather again, about 80 degrees with a lovely breeze; we were lucky as it can get quite hot in this part of California.

We spent the following day in Santa Cruz, a place where Vic spent many days on the beach and Boardwalk as a teenager. This was my first trip to Santa Cruz, a place I always associated with surfing for some reason only to discover the waves there are not very good for this sport. The drive from our park was less than an hour mostly on State Hwy 17. About eight miles of it were curvy with one climb and a 6% grade. You could do easily do the trip in a motorhome, so we were also on the lookout for future places to stay if we wanted to come back in the motorhome someday.

It was forecast to be a hot day in the valley with temperatures in the high 80s, but the temps at the coast were at least ten degrees cooler, an ideal day for strolling the Boardwalk and spending some time on the beach. We learned that the Boardwalk celebrated its 100th birthday in 2007 making it a few years older than its East Coast rival, Coney Island. The size of the amusement park at this historic place surprised me. I imagined something like the Santa Monica Pier which this place greatly exceeded in size and style.

Gotta say that neither of us is drawn to spending time at amusement parks, but this place is special. I think it has to do with how artfully they kept the nostalgic feel of the place while adding a fun mix of contemporary attractions such as a reverse bungee ride, and two weather simulation rides: the tornado and the tsunami among several others. The park still has many updated classic rides like the tilt-a-whirl, the wooden roller coaster, bumper cars, and Ferris wheel.

The beautiful backdrop of a mile long beach where you can have a picnic after going on rides certainly adds to the festive atmosphere. Although the beach itself was more crowded than we would like, we enjoyed walking along the shore taking in the beautiful scenery and watching diverse beach activities.

There is no cost to go on the Boardwalk, but a ticket for unlimited rides was about $60 or you could buy individual tickets for the rides. If we were here with the grandkids, this grandma would be going on all the rides, especially the roller coaster, but Victor is not a ride guy at all. Woe is me—not too fun to go alone but I thoroughly enjoyed taking photos of others getting their thrills.

The place was immaculate, everything was well-maintained, there were no long lines, and best of all you escape to the beach or nearby San Lorenzo River in minutes. We were very impressed with the variety of things to do here and have already planned to bring the grandsons here next year in the motorhome and experience a classic amusement park that is part of their grandpa’s past.

As we walked around, Vic described to me what the Boardwalk used to be like in the late 50s and early 60s. First of all, it was much smaller, but the indoor area where they now have a miniature golf course and hundreds of arcade games used to have an Olympic size indoor pool called The Plunge. Vic admits he never went in The Plunge because they did not heat the water. I was way more of a water baby than he was as I grew up on Midwest lakes and rivers waterskiing and swimming any chance I could get. There were lots of vintage photos of the park on display so I was able to see the park as it was in days of old. Looks like a place I would have loved to spend time.

The Plunge was transformed into a miniature golf area the year that Vic graduated from high school in 1963. Here is what The Plunge area looks like now.

Other random history--the first of many Miss California Beauty Pageants was held on the Boardwalk in 1924. There was also originally a casino and dance hall here called Cocoanut Grove where bands like Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Lawrence Welk used to play. Oh how I wish they had ballrooms like this for dancers today to experience such a place. The casino itself burned down in 1904 and was replaced with the indoor area that now holds the ballroom, the miniature golf, and indoor arcades. They have turned the original dance hall into a venue for weddings, dance parties, and conferences.

Apparently, there were surfers here at the beach back then but I didn't see any on our visit. Maybe the waves were bigger or maybe these guys just thought it was cool to pose with their long boards.

Other than the beach itself, Vic’s most vivid memory of the Boardwalk was the Fun House which, sadly, no longer exists, but they have kept a few of the relics from the Fun House to put on display such as this one of Laffing Sal.

Another thing Vic liked to do here as a teenager was ride a giant wooden slide that you had to go down on a burlap sack. He said everyone would leave their shoes at the bottom and climb the stairs to the top in their socks with sack in hand. I asked him how high the slide was and he recalled, “It seemed like it was pretty damn high, probably a couple of stories.”  The ride down took you up and down hills, a rolling trip to the bottom where most everyone (adults and kids who were old enough) would get right back in line. Vic said, “It was never just a one time thing.” We found a photo of the old slide on display but the folks in this photo had their shoes on. Vic thinks they were dressed up for the photo opp.

Vic also liked the part of the Fun House where you had to walk in a barrel. He says the real challenge was getting across to the next activity while still standing instead of resorting to a crawl.

The other vintage rides he remembers enjoying were the original bumper cars. Check out these classics then and now.

Fortunately, Vic had an old photo in his jewelry box of himself at the beach back in those days with a few buddies. He hadn't told me he was also a Life Guard at the beach here until he showed me the photo.

We also discovered a mural that depicted what the streets along the Boardwalk looked like back then. Notice how much the mural romanticizes what the streets actually looked like in terms of traffic and the actual photo was from at least a decade earlier.

A few more then and now comparisons.

After spending a few hours at the Boardwalk and on the beach, we decided to get away from the tourists and enjoy a quiet lunch outside at a French bakery recommended to us by a woman in our RV park. It did not disappoint at all. Kelly’s French Bakery is in a renovated industrial section of Santa Cruz with a lovely landscaped patio nestled alongside some wine tasting shops . (The only downside was all three wine bars were closed ‘til the evening hours.)

Gorgeous loafs of bread and pastries greet you. This place brought us back to the feeling of France where we spent our honeymoon fourteen years ago to the day—perfect.

We had tasty Parisian salads on the patio and split a dark chocolate French custard cream puff for dessert. As the next day was a traveling day, we also thought to get a breakfast treat, a croissant bear claw for Vic and a pear ginger scone for me. This was the kind of day that reaffirms this lifestyle in every way.

Next up—a 480+ mile PD style day en route to a 10:10:10 RV Resort in Canyonville, Oregon.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Visiting Vic’s old stomping grounds

June 20-25, 2013
Morgan Hill, California
Coyote Valley RV Resort

A big challenge in coming to Silicon Valley in a motorhome is where to stay. We planned to spend most of our time here visiting with Vic’s sisters and his mother who are in the Sunnyvale area. Last year when we visited, we decided our best option was to stay at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose.  We had full hook-ups, a quiet spot in the park and the price was good (about $25) but the surrounding area was pretty sketchy and, or course, there no extras. This year the RV section of the fairgrounds is closed due to construction so that was no longer an option. After doing lots of research on our RV Parks app cross-referenced with RV Park Reviews, we decided to try a place about thirty minutes from Sunnyvale: Coyote Valley RV Resort.  It has a 10:10:9  rating from Trailer Life with good reviews all around. 

The park turned out to be almost as nice as advertised—more of a resort feel than most—although what they call their deluxe sites are quite cramped and have no picnic tables. Other than the narrow site, the place is well run with lots of work campers touring around in golf carts guiding folks into their sites, picking up garbage and recycling (yay!) and troubleshooting as needed. The setting is also quite pretty and relatively quiet even with a few nightly trains that pass by (something I like as it reminds me of my childhood home). They have a saltwater pool and spa which are decent but there is not enough pool furniture and the pool itself needs a good cleaning or repainting. A fair amount of folks on their 127 sites seem to be long term residents who work in the nearby tech industry but they have strict regulations about RVs being less than ten years old or meet management approval. The landscaping is also pretty and well-maintained; as a result, the place looks quite inviting. The price for a weekly rate on the deluxe site (least expensive) is $350 plus tax and $10 per dog, so it is on the high side for our budget but our alternatives were quite limited.  (Good thing we had a free week in my nephew’s driveway in San Diego to help lower our average cost for a campsite as most California parks are high this time of year.)


Another BIG PLUS for our location is our drive to Sunnyvale takes us past a Trader Joe’s where Vic can get his bucket of cranberry oatmeal dunkers, a drive-through Starbucks where he can get his no water, non-fat chai latte to wash down his dunkers, and a Costco where we can stock up on our Brookside dark chocolate acai berries.  A perfect trifecta for us full-timers who value the luxury of finding these indulgences close by.
vics treats
Vic spent most of his childhood in the Bay area as he was born in San Francisco where he lived in the Sunset District until he was two when his family moved back to Cleveland, his father’s hometown, for five years. The winters were a bit too rough for the family and there were more employment opportunities in San Francisco so they moved back to The Avenues where Vic used to play in Golden Gate Park and ride the streetcars around the city as a nine and ten-year-old. 

His family then moved to the suburb of Santa Clara, about fifty miles south of SF, an area that was just beginning to transform from farm country to new subdivisions. This was a time when Hwy 101 was just a two lane road!  Vic’s family stayed in Santa Clara for about ten more years until he and his two sisters all graduated from Buchser High School. When Vic was in college at the University of Idaho, his parents moved to Sunnyvale and a few years later his younger sister settled there with her husband where she has lived for the past forty-one years! Her home is only about a mile from the Cupertino Apple Campus at 1 Infinite Loop, so you can imagine how much the area has grown and changed since the halcyon days of the 1950s. It’s interesting to go down memory lane with Vic when we visit this area and learn about the changes that have taken place the last 60+ years.
One of the sadder aspects of visiting here is that Vic’s ninety-year-old mother is now in a care facility. She hardly recognizes him anymore. I can’t imagine how difficult that is for Vic as I never had to witness this kind of decline with either of my parents. They passed quickly which I am grateful for even though I was less prepared for their death. What else is there to do but accept the situation and look for the silver linings.
vic and eulah
A cute story about visiting her these past days is that she has not lost her desire for ice cream—a “trait” Vic has definitely inherited.  Vic fed her some chocolate ice cream for an afternoon treat the first day we went to see her and her body language alone showed how much she enjoyed it, then she confirmed that it tasted “real good.”  One day we were there when she had her lunch and she ate her vanilla ice cream first.  At this point, why not?  Simple pleasures can mean so much.

On our third day here we took a trip into the city to see Vic’s nephew, his wife, and their five-month-old baby boy. They live in an apartment right in the heart of San Francisco on Van Ness Avenue while they are waiting to close on their new home in Mill Valley, near Sausalito. We had a wonderful afternoon with them seeing the baby and celebrating the purchase of their new home with champagne—well, that was my excuse anyway.  (Okay—let it be known—I love champagne. I always keep a chilled bottle out of the conviction that a girl should always be ready to celebrate something. Oh, and Marianne, if you are reading this, you are now to blame for my new obsession with  Pop, Pommery's drink-out-of-a-straw champagne. I am jealous of you once having a boyfriend who said he would always keep you in Pops. . . . Hint hint to Victor. It’s our wedding anniversary this week.)
colby collage 1
Sorry, no graceful way to segue out of that digression. Another major focus during our time here is the dogs. Vic’s sister Sandy is responsible for us owning two Portuguese Water Dogs as she breeds them and has been highly involved in the Northern California Portuguese Water Dog Club. She is also semi-responsible for us having Rico as the agreement for taking our first dog, Jetta, who was two at the time she became our dog, was that she have one litter of pups of which Rico was the first-born. We swore we wouldn't keep a pup but you can see how well we stuck to our promise. Could you let someone else take this fluffball away from you?


My sister-in-law has Jetta’s mother, her nephew (Rico’s cousin), another stud dog named Garth, and an eighteen-month-old female named Sonya.  Portuguese Water Dogs (called Porties) almost went out of existence until they were somewhat rediscovered in the 70s. The breeders have been very careful about keeping the lines healthy and pure. The breed became a little more popular when the Obamas brought their Portie Bo into the White House. The fear was that they would become too popular, but, fortunately, that hasn't happened. In our travels, we see way more Labradoodles and Goldendoodles which seem to be quite the trend for people who want non-shedding dogs. 

While we were in town, Sandy took us out to Oakdale (near Sonora) where her dog handler and groomer lives. Our dog Jetta spent about a year with him when she was getting her championship, so she went crazy to see him and be back at his place. And, lucky for us, he had time to groom her the way she should look as my attempts to groom the two dogs fall quite short of his Edward Scissorhands expertise.

Our last day here we were going to take a day trip to Monterey and do the famous 17 Mile Drive along the Pacific Coast but after reading some reviews about the construction going on and housing that has filled in some of the views, we decided to save it for another time. (We have both traveled it before years ago.) Instead, we went to Santa Cruz, one of Vic’s favorite beaches when he was a teenager. They have a boardwalk with a carnival-like atmosphere somewhat akin to the Jersey shore. Stay tuned for our trip down Vic’s memory lane.