It was a great time....one of the things that made it so fun was that I rented a GPS that was pre-loaded with the location of attractions and restaurants and so forth, and so it was really easy to get around. I loved the Garmin GPS so much, that I bought one for myself when I got home! Yay! More adventures in store!
I flew into San Jose on a Friday night and drove to Santa Cruz that evening. The next morning, I drove along the Monterrey Bay area towards Carmel-by-the-Sea. The area is full of beautiful farmland...I liked seeing the rows of strawberries, artichokes, and cabbages, all being harvested by what looked like migrant farm workers.
I made it to Carmel-by-the-Sea in time for a walking tour offered by the Carmel Heritage Society. The tour was led by Kay Prine, a very spunky older lady who had grown up in Carmel. She informed me that she was in a hurry that day, because she was hosting her 69th High School reunion party that afternoon. The tour started at a historical house that had a museum within it. Among the exhibits were pictures of Kay herself, when she was a teenager in one of those cute, very modest, old-fashioned swimming suits. I enjoyed Kay...she led us around town like we owned the place...making the motorists wait for us as we crossed the streets. Here's a picture of Kay, showing us the box where the milk man left his deliveries.
Carmel is a very beautiful and quaint place. Here's one street where they have three styles of architecture right next to each other:
To maintain the beauty there, the town has very restrictive ordinances...some so restrictive that it is almost comical. For instance, you must have a permit to walk around the town in high-heeled shoes (probably because they don't want to be sued by people who trip on cobblestones). Because each property owner is responsible for the sidewalk in front of their place, there is a great deal of variety in their sidewalks...some of them are very artistic, others not. Here's a photo of one portion of the sidewalk that has embedded tile:
During the tour, some people wanted to join our group (of about 6 people), but Kay informed them that there were city ordinances restricting the size of groups walking around town, and so they were not invited to join. She told us about the rule that no graves can be in the town, although they did make one exception for the town dog named Pal. She showed us the city park where they used to have problems with homeless people sleeping until they decided to turn on the sprinklers there each evening. Clint Eastwood lives in Carmel and was once the mayor. I read in the local newspaper that there's currently a controversy about street lights...they are prohibited in Carmel, but one organization (it was a community center, I believe) wanted to install street lights for people's safety when they left evening events. The city council reluctantly agreed to allow the lights, as long as they were on only once or twice a month, and only during the time people would actually be leaving the building. So, all that beauty does have a dark side....I appreciate it on a short visit, but am glad I don't live there.
Here's a photo of the Biblical Gardens that surround one of the local churches. Each plant has a label with its name and the scripture reference where it is mentioned:
Here's another shot of some of the beautiful architecture there:
Next I headed to the Carmel Mission (officially named San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo Mission), which was founded in 1771 by Junipero Serra, who also founded several other of the California Missions. It's one of the most beautiful missions I've seen. Here you can see the fountain in the large courtyard (now used as a school) with the Church in the background.
The Church was being used for a wedding, so I wasn't able to go inside, but I did enjoy watching the wedding party organize themselves for the grand processional. Here's a photo of the cute little flower girls:
I was very interested to see that the graves in the cemetery were lined with dinner-plate sized sea shells. Here's a shot of the graves next to the chapel.
Next I made my way to Pebble Beach, which is a world famous golf course that sits on a little peninsula on the south end of the Monterrey Bay. You can pay a $9.50 toll to drive on the "17 mile road" that takes you around the golf course, past the huge mansions, and along the beautiful coastline. Here's a shot from that:
Santa Cruz is a big surfing town, with some of the best and biggest waves in the U.S. They have a surfing museum, housed in a cute little lighthouse, that explains how surfing was introduced to the area from Hawaiians in the 1930's. Originally, they used enormous (like 15 foot long) surfboards, and gradually moved to smaller and lighter ones. It looked like the development of a wet suit was a big breakthrough, because the area can be quite cold. Here's a photo of the surfing museum:
I had thought of signing up for a surfing class, which is scheduled around the time of the tides, but the surf school website said that there were no good times to surf that day...the optimal tides were all during the darkness hours. I did get a chance to watch some people surfing, just off the cliff from the surfing museum, and that was quite entertaining. Here's a video of a guy surfing...I wasn't much of a cameraman on this, but at least it will give you a sense of it.
I enjoyed visiting the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, a famous amusement park right along the beach. Two of its rides--the Giant Dipper roller coaster and a Carousel--are National Historic Monuments. It was a kick to ride them....I'm not usually the screaming type, but I found myself screaming for most of the Giant Dipper ride. If you were on one of the outer horses on the carousel ride, you could grab a ring from machine that held them out towards you each time you went around and try to throw the ring into a target (a clown's face) a little further around where you'd be rewarded with lights and buzzers if you hit the target. Here's a view of the Boardwalk from the nearby Municipal Pier.
Sunday I went to church at the Santa Cruz ward, and enjoyed all the friendly and welcoming people there. I also spent some time visiting the campus of the University of California at Santa Cruz, where the buildings are nestled into the middle of a redwood forest. As I was walking around the campus, I happened to see a man standing on his head, talking to two young women who were taking notes. I snapped this quick photo (sorry it's so blurry...I was working fast to capture the moment):
The girls noticed me and so the guy came down from his headstand to say hello. I asked if he was a yoga instructor (since the only adult I know who stands on her head much is my yoga instructor), but he wasn't. He's a recreation management instructor....so anyway, you don't see that every day!
One of the fun surprises of the trip was to stumble across a Buddhist monastery (the Taungpulu Monastery) as I was driving through the forest on my way to Big Basin Redwood State Park. There was a big sign with two arrows--"Pagoda" one way and "Monastery" another. That triggered my curiosity, and so I parked my car and quietly walked up the steep hill towards the Pagoda. Here's what I found--not just one, but two gold domed pagodas:
One of them was a shrine that you could enter, with a fancy doorway.
This sign was on the shrine door:
The shrine was locked, and I didn't see a single soul. Walking around the quiet and peaceful place reminded me of the Buddhist friends I made in my kung-fu class...my teacher was a Buddhist monk and several of the top students were his disciples. I respected them a great deal and tried to approach the pagoda at this forest monastery with respect also.
When I reached Big Basin Redwood Park, I went on a walking tour with a volunteer ranger. She was very good and entertaining, and had us eat huckleberries, role play as if we were trees during a storm, and so by the end of the tour, all 10 of us or so were good friends and knew a little about each other. I liked seeing the enormous trees named the mother and father of the forest (one of them was as tall as a football field and was 70 feet around at the base!). Here's a little video about a very interesting hollow tree that is still growing:
From there, I drove on a narrow road with lots of tight curves back towards San Jose. I stopped at this viewpoint, and some nice motorcycle guys took this photo for me: