As I have mentioned in this series of posts, one of my objectives for this trip to visit my parents was to be my mother’s transportation for the days that I was at home. She had decided to stop driving about a month ago. On her “bucket list” was to go to Santa Cruz Boardwalk to ride the Merry-Go-Round. What could be better then mounting a wooden horse with the Wurlitzer Music swirling around you with your 86 year old mother on the horse next to you?!
Better, lets add some family. My wife’s niece and her son live a few blocks form the Boardwalk. Sunday looked like the day for a beach lunch and Merry-Go-Round ride.
Now, as I wrote in my last post, Expiration Date, other family happen to be in town for my uncle’s funeral. Several wanted to drop by Sunday morning, visit for a bit, then head over to sit with my father at lunch. We easily adjusted the time frames for our Merry-Go-Round ride.
After hugs and farewells, we were on our way on highway 85 to 17 to cross out of the Santa Clara valley and over the Santa Cruz mountains to the beach. We were a bit concerned about the typical mid-Sunday “beach traffic”, even though it was late October. However, we were a bit puzzled to find that the traffic was coming away from the beach. Hmmmm. Odd. But, I have not lived here for 32 years, so maybe traffic patterns are different.
But, inbound, bumper-to-bumper traffic on 17 from the Saratoga to as far as we could see along 17 and 1 interchange, as we buzzed right into Santa Cruz and found parking only a block form my niece’s house and only two blocks from the Boardwalk? Soon enough, we would learn that, with fires north and south, and high winds that day, PG&E had turned off the electricity along the coastal mountains… except for the blocks around the Boardwalk!
We caught up with my niece and her son, walked over to the beach-side sandwich shop for salads and hot dogs with sauerkraut. That will power you for a Merry-Go-Round ride.
We walked back along the beach volley ball section of the beach, hearing a DJ and watching salsa dancers, seagulls, and racketty-bang of the rides on the Boardwalk and screams of people who pay to do this to themselves (there is a reason that the Merry-Go-Round was the only ride we chose to take).
A ways up the Boardwalk, we came to the indoor circle of horses, white, brown, black, with gold posts and multi-colored reigns. Mirrors reflected the lights as we chose our horse, saddled up, and laughed. Around we went, maybe five minutes or so. Round-round-round. Lights. Music. Laugher. We at 86, 58, 40, and 13. Pure silliness, at any age. An hotdogs too!
Time to stop spinning and drive home. Only a few blocks from the Boardwalk, we entered the middle ages with internal combustion engines. All of the stop lights were out. It reminded me of driving (though I was only a passenger) in Cusco, Peru, just a bit more civilized as we slowly approached, one set of vehicles at a time, the line of the intersection, looked this way and that, then gunned the engine to zip 50 feet to the bumper of the vehicle that was stopped just the other side of the intersection.
Fortunately, having grown up in the area, I noticed at the second intersection toward the freeway-parking lot, that we were at highway 9, an old route over the mountains. Let’s ditch the traffic and risk and adventure. A Round-A-Bout way home you might say.
Zoom. We were off the slow uphill grade through Felton, Ben Lomand, Boulder Creek, all the way up to Big Basin State Park, and Skyline Drive. We had hardly a car in front or behind us. But, only a 1/3 of a tank of gas. Oh, of course the gas station would be closed, no electricity, along the way. Yet, three businesses were open in each town: the Liquor Store. Go figure. No lights. No football. No restaurants. Guess getting boozed up (and other activities that might follow) was the option. See you in the delivery room in nine-months.
We passed them by, noticing the line of pine needles, twigs, and small branches that had accumulated on the center line from the wind and vehicles using this route as we were. Then we began to see larger branches down, off the road, then on the road. Fortunately, we came upon only one downed tree, blocking only one lane, with no on-coming traffic. Up, up, up. then down, down, down. By the time we drove into Saratoga, in the valley, one and a-half hours later, the lights were on.
But, for my mother, in an unplanned way, this drive was a great reminiscence of camping trips, when her family would travel from Concord to Big Basin on two-lane roads in the 1930’s – 40’s, or we as a family would go to Mount Herman retreat or take the train in the redwoods of Henry Cowell State Park (I remembered the banana slugs more than the train).
The next time your 86 year old mother asks to ride the Merry-Go-Round, hop on for the ride… then take a backroad home.