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.


  1. why congrats and happy 14th...

  2. Happy Anniversary!

    What a nice trip down memory...I so love the vintage photos and how nice to see a comparison. I can't imagine growing up in a place like that...what fun!

    Have to say, a pear ginger scone sounds I confused or do you like ginger pancakes too? Anyway, sounds like a yummy way to wake up the taste buds....but I would take the bear claw!

    Safe travels! Looking forward to your posts on Oregon!

    1. Good memory about the gingerbread pancakes! Yes, I love anything with ginger. The scone had candied ginger pieces with dried pears. Vic is pretty much the opposite; hence the bear claw or more traditional cinnamon roll would be his choice.

  3. Happy Anniversary! So glad you made it past that unlucky 13:)

    I so enjoyed going down memory lane with you. Posting the vintage photos really helped with picturing "the good old days!" It must have been so much fun for you listening to Vic relive his youth. What a surprise to discover he was a lifeguard! You did capture my idea of a perfect amusement ride. That little guy "driving" his boat in the water would suit me just fine!!! Definitely taking the grandsons is a wonderful idea.

    You now have some wonderful memories to take with you on your travels until next visit.

    Travel safely today. Boy, that is a very long day! Can't wait to see the 10/10/10 park. Sounds like my idea of a park and I love Oregon.

    1. Whoops, I guess I should have been more overt about the lifeguard joke. You did know I was joking, right?

  4. Happy Anniversary! Love the oldie but goodie pictures.

  5. Happy Anniversary to you both!! What a great place to celebrate. Terrific pictures of what looks like it was and is a fun place to spend time. So glad it did not disappoint. I'm always almost afraid to go back to places I loved oh those many years ago for fear they will have been ruined by "progress".

    Even for a 10-10-10 park, which I am very anxious to see, there is no way Jose that I could do a 480+ mile trip in one day. Hope it goes well and you arrive safely.

  6. Happy Anniversary...loved the pics!

  7. Happy Anniversary...enjoyed your memory lane trip !

  8. Congratulations!!
    I've lived in San Jose since 1941 and experienced all those Santa Cruz memories...yes what fun we had.
    Will be celebrating our 68th anniversary in September and now have a 30 foot trailer parked permanently at Thousand Trails in Morgan Hill. You could have stayed here...membership not required. Nice spots to camp and an Olympic size pool. Fun place for kids....maybe next time for you.

  9. Happy Anniversary ... and here's to many more. You were a lovely bride on that special day. I like both of your "hat" pictures. I'm not much for crowds, but that boardwalk sure looks like fun ... although, like Vic, I'd be staying away from the rides. Some of the historic pictures remind me of the luna park we used to go to as kids in my hometown in Turkey ... on a much smaller scale than the one you visited.


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